Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Vicious Vaycay

Commission. Black Widow's holiday is cut short by agents of Hydra, the Hand, AIM, and mercs Deadpool, Taskmaster, Bullseye and Lady Bullseye.

Books and Browsing

Magazine illustration, 2002. Markers and water color on vellum.

Parallel Universe Abed

Me and Abed in the mornin'! Fun guy, that Danny Pudi. This was taken last week at the Fox office in BGC. Danny was promoting the fifth season of Community. He was quite hyper during the fan meet. On his Captain America cameo (I didn't include this in my article, so I'm sharing here): "It was fast! (laughs) It was amazing. It was a few minutes. But it was great ‘cause it was the Russo brothers!"

Laudable liberator

Far sturdier than “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the spy thriller sequel “The Winter Soldier” continues the patriotic superhero’s solo saga post-“Avengers,” although he gets by with a little help from his combat-ready friends.

The freedom-fighter Cap (Chris Evans), his Avenger teammate Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a new ally codenamed Falcon (Anthony Mackie) face the combined forces of corrupt SHIELD agents, old foes, and the enigmatic assassin Winter Soldier.

While this sequel, directed by Joe and Tony Russo, veers away from the humor and generally flippant dialogue and atmosphere of “Avengers,” its serious, slightly darker tone works well, especially since Captain America’s “man out of time” conceit can be worked quite effectively into a more espionage-themed story. Joining SHIELD on a rescue mission, he gets close enough to question the organization’s operations, suspecting that something is amiss. He is proven right almost immediately, of course, forcing him to go rogue.

However unoriginal that may sound, as it’s basically an overused spy flick/novel plot, it is translated excellently, just the same. Now that the origin story is out of the way, “Winter Soldier” also gradually realizes the Captain America character’s potential; in the contemporary setting, he stays unwaveringly and staunchly devoted to fighting for universal liberty. He’s seen the perversion of ideals before, and armed with that unique insight, he has a clearer view of the chaotic present than most.

Tightly executed and edited action choreography result in credible stunts; the tense fisticuffs between the heroes and their hordes of adversaries are incredible. (The short Batroc versus Cap fight is especially exciting. And oh, yes, cool live-action Batroc!) Costumes- and visuals-wise, Cap gets to wear the cool “stealth” uniform inspired by his Super-Soldier iteration from the comic books, while Falcon, inspired by his more soldier-y Ultimate version, glides smoothly and figures in some amusing aerial battles. Winter Soldier is also an ominous presence, his metal arm blending in and actually looking menacing, thankfully!

Evans is given more opportunities to be more human and relatable—the actor’s grown into the role quite well, his Steve Rogers/Captain America a somewhat more nuanced and respectable figure this time. Also, while a less flashy character than many comic-to-screen brethren, Cap performs feats that are heroic but “attainable,” a costumed adventurer concerned with serving and protecting civilians, which is refreshing.

Major changes introduced here will affect the SHIELD TV series, and it’s good that a character that debuted there gets some screen time, if briefly. “Winter Soldier” also has two extra scenes, one during the mid-end credits (wow!) and at the very end (that one’s okay), capping the film satisfyingly. 

Objectifixation, Thirteen

Got these from Planet X last month. The last issue of Dark Avengers, the Red Wedding-esque War of Kings first issue, and Adventure Comics starring the pre-New 52 Legion Academy.

Game of the Generals. Found these last Sunday, but I don't know where the wooden boards are. My friends and I used to play it back in college.

More comics from last month. Daken beds a Hollywood actor; the New Mutants take a breather and party in Madripoor.

 Chocolates! Yummy event freebie.

Wiccan and Scarlet Witch.
“Mom, you’re in Avengers 2! Cool. Maybe they’ll introduce me next time!”
"Hah! Dream on, kid."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

JLA-Avengers, 1998

World's Greatest Heroes versus Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Dec. 1998.

Armies fall and ‘Rise’

Gory and unrelenting, “300: Rise of an Empire” continues the saga of noble Greek warriors bent on repelling conquering invaders led by the “god-king” Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).  It’s both a prequel and sequel, interestingly, to Zack Snyder’s 2006 opus, which is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel.

Directed by Noam Murro, “Rise of an Empire” quickly and brutally establishes itself as a worthy successor, its valiant protagonist Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) a suitable replacement, ably filling the void left by the fallen Spartan Leonidas (Gerard Butler). The Greek general rallies like-minded allies to fight Xerxes’ seafaring forces, enemies led by the blade-wielding assassin Artemisia, a vengeful and manipulative figure—albeit a sympathetic and tragic one.

The film, while understandably violent, often becomes excessive; one scene where a horse tramples a background character’s face is just unnecessary. As for other visual aspects, the sweeping fight scenes on land and sea are well-aided by stunts and digital trickery. Like the first film, this actioner employs striking, painterly hues; whether filtered or enhanced, there’s a general artificiality that works and connects to the controlled ambiance of the first “300.”

Artemisia is a scene-stealer, thanks to Eva Green, who plays yet another menacing villainess effortlessly, and quite devastatingly. Artemisia lures with unbridled fury and ferocity, a beautiful and unapologetic adversary that keeps the film lively.

Lena Headey returns and impresses as the steel-willed widow Queen Gorgo, narrating the tale with verve while preparing her own battalion for a pivotal encounter. Stapleton, meanwhile, engages as the brave new hero, who—while not as commanding as Leonidas, and delivers less memorable and inspiring pep talks—still makes an energetic and inspired debut.

Shielded

Thanks for the shirt, Jay G. Really enjoyed the movie.

Abbamania enjoys performing ABBA's 'complex' songs

(March 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

An Abba tribute group that has performed across the globe, Abbamania formed in 1998, its members originally from Poland, England, and Scotland—“mutually” drawn to the music of the 1970s Swedish pop group.

“We have been touring for 14 years, and are excited to return to the Philippines,” said Abbamania member Steven Galert in an email interview.

Galert and groupmates Ewa Scott, Sharon Fehlberg, Adam Robertson, Gareth Whitehead and Lee Brady performed in the country last April.

What do you find most memorable about your visit last year?
Having never been to the Philippines, we were a little apprehensive. As things turned out, we were fantastically received. The audience was great; they sang and danced along with us. It was a fantastic experience.

Do you communicate with the ABBA members?
We have not had any direct contact with ABBA members; however we have heard through the grapevine that … they believe our performance is up to the high standard they would expect. We’ve communicated a number of times with their record company through the years, though.

How would you describe ABBA’s music?
The music of ABBA is timeless … The songs are pop classics, and a lot more complex to perform.

What’s the best thing about being Abbamania?
We get the opportunity to perform some of the best songs from the 1970s and 1980s. We’ve built a great following of our own all over the world … we enjoy our portrayal of the group and the way we deliver their songs.

What musical training did you have prior to this?
Every member of the group holds either a degree or master’s degree in music. The members have been performing from a very young age. The mutual love of ABBA’s music has drawn us all togther.

(Abbamania will perform at the Solaire Resorts and Casinos on March 21 and at the Plenary Hall of the PICC on March 22. For tickets, call Ticketnet, 9115555; SM Tickets, 4702222; Ticketworld, 891-9999.)

Self-aware, hazy 'True Detective'

(March 21, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

True Detective,” the much-discussed new HBO Original series, recently wrapped up, concluding creator-writer Nico Pizzolatto’s first gritty and alluring crime baffler. (A “True Detective” marathon will air on HBO Signature on March 30, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

In the series, Louisiana detectives investigate a bizarre murder, uncovering many long-hidden and disturbing truths about its underbelly. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as uneasy partners Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, respectively, it also wisely zeroes in on these protagonists’ toxic frailties.

Swirling with smoky visuals and a perpetually foreboding atmosphere, the series routinely flashes back to the puzzle-solving scenes from 1995, when Detectives Cohle and Hart started working together on the case. The scenes are narrated over by their older (2012) selves during separate police interviews; the ex-cops are called in to elaborate on the closed case, as a possible copycat has surfaced with a penchant for similarly styled atrocities.

The eight-episode series inveigles from the outset with its tight melding of indelible visuals and strong characterization. Cohle is immediately introduced as a disarming enigma: His younger and older versions are seemingly at odds at first, but once the old stories fill the gap (and there are details that flesh him out exceedingly), it’s easy to reconcile the calm, self-aware pessimist with his more haggard, world-weary self.

McConaughey is remarkable as Rust Cohle from the get-go; the character is an obsessive investigator who occasionally unleashes thought-provoking critiques on religion, and even roughs up lowlifes behind his partner’s back to get answers. Cohle’s unrestrained snark and hazy dealings with shady figures keep him unpredictable, and McConaughey is fully committed to bringing him to life.

Harrelson as the “simpler” cop understandably has less bombastic scenarios, but the actor is no pushover. He gets to shine—a lot!—as Martin Hart, who blames his work for “changing” him, claiming that it has led to unavoidable indiscretions. The flawed family man character is the perfect foil to the quirky Cohle, their love-hate relationship a solid and appealing dynamic.

As for the murder mystery itself, it is sturdily executed, but it comes off as hodgepodge and too contrived at times—perhaps the much-missed “Dexter” spoiled us with snappier crime-solving techniques and myriad jaunts to the psyches of serial killers that the “True Detective” mystery seems a tad simple and considerably less-immersing now. Still, most of the answers make sense, if less grand than expected.

The series will have a second season, according to reports, but will introduce a new crime mystery and will not feature the same characters and actors. It has big shoes to fill; the initial season of “True Detective,” while it has uneven pacing and has its share of storytelling flaws, massively explores its characters while inquisitively raising existential points. It is supported immensely by fine acting and fantastic imagery, a winning combination that makes it hauntingly memorable.

Wheels a Fortune

Not my car. BMW exhibit at Westgrove. (Or was it Greenfield? I forget.) Back when I wrote Ayala Land advertorials, circa 2004.

First Fan Art

Impromptu cabinet cleanup yielded this and other decades-old stuff (including embarrassing teen-written journals). This was drawn in 1984, when I was 11. I used ballpen and crayons on oslo paper. I copied existing poses.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy. The Dan Abnett-Andy Lanning era, circa 2009/War of Kings. Full pencils. The roster: Adam Warlock, Groot, Bug, Gamora, Drax, Mantis, Quasar, Moondragon, Major Victory, Jack Flag, Cosmo, Star-Lord, and Rocket Raccoon.

The Doctors Will See Each Other Now

1996. Pencil and ink practice page. Doctors Strange and Fate investigate a mystical disturbance. 

Bedimpled

Profile pic elsewhere. This was taken a couple of weeks ago.

'Suits' star helps in typhoon relief

(March 12, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“Prior to this show, I wore suits only to funerals and weddings,” said “Suits” actor Gabriel Macht during his Manila visit last weekend. “Now, I try and wear suits for interviews, too,” he told the Inquirer. “[Otherwise] my personal style is basically board shorts, jeans, T-shirts and combat boots!”

Macht granted interviews Sunday morning at Fairmont Makati. He had flown Saturday afternoon to Ormoc, Leyte, to help spread awareness of telecommunications company Globe’s “Project Wonderful,” a relief program for “Yolanda” survivors. 

The actor led the ceremonial rebuilding of small stores, and was shown around recovering communities by Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez. Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Sex and the City.” He had some prominent film projects in recent years; he portrayed the titular masked crime fighter in 2008’s “The Spirit,” and UN security agent Robert Pryce in 2009’s “Whiteout.”

He landed the “Suits” gig in 2011, playing the cunning and snappily dressed lawyer Harvey Specter, mentor to the brilliant rookie Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams).

Excerpts from the Inquirer Entertainment’s one-on-one:

How affecting for you was the visit to Ormoc, and how did the people respond?
It was an incredible experience, very inspiring. I’m humbled that I was able to [help]. We put a sign up for a woman who owns a sari-sari store. Just to see the people smiling and excited, that was very [rewarding] for me. Just going to the sugarcane fields… I feel that rebuilding is in full [swing]. People [will soon] get back on their feet.

Harvey Specter is the character you’ve played the longest; how does periodically returning to it feel?
It’s great. The writing is still solid. We’re going into new areas of his life. In these back six episodes, we deal with Harvey getting into a romantic relationship with Scottie (Abigail Spencer). We’ve seen that he’s sort of a commitment-phobe and it’ll be interesting to see him being her boss as well.

You’ve acted since the 1980s. How has the industry changed?
When I started out as a kid, I was under the impression that wherever you start, it’s where you’re gonna finish—if you’re a film actor, you [stay one]. Now, there’ so much crossover; you can do a bunch of films, then a TV series, then go back to film…
And now, with social media, it doesn’t matter where people get their content. Some find it excellent to watch a show on their phones. It’s exciting to see where all these will lead to.

What projects interest you between seasons of “Suits”?
I work seven months a year… commuting every weekend to see my family. When I’m on a hiatus, I feel that’s really my time to spend with them.

What is the significance of “Suits” now?
It’s super-accessible; it’s one of the most-pirated, most downloaded shows in the whole world! What can I say? It’s a joy to be part of a show that is really connected with audiences all over the world. 

Would directing an episode interest you?
I am going to direct an episode in Season 4; I’m looking forward to that.

How would you describe your relationship with Patrick J. Adams?          
We’re having a great time! Before we started working, we made a commitment to each other that we wouldn’t create a diva-like/big-ego environment. I think that has splintered out to the other [actors]. When you’re working with an ensemble, you become a family, in a way.

Are you comfortable now with lawyer lingo?
Yeah! I’m learning eight to 10 pages a day. The legalese is difficult but there’s a learning curve and it’s getting more natural as we move forward!

(New episodes of “Suits” will air starting March 19, 9 p.m. on Jack TV.) 

Legal Action Figures

Me and the dudes from Suits. Patrick Adams was in Manila last year. Met Gabriel Macht last Sunday.

I Know This Much is True

Cyberdimensional updates.

Feb. 18. Pizza! #thankssender
Feb. 21. Headache at work earlier (coworker said I looked pale and like I had blush-on on), But paracetamol kicked its butt. #betternow
Feb. 22. The other night, my friend and I had a great time talking about nepotism, pseudo-tastemakers, and dreadful divas over drinks and pulutan.
Feb. 24. Sent my friend a link to someone's badly written movie review while on the landline. He read it aloud; we both laughed so hard repeatedly.
Feb. 24. And you wanted to dance. So I asked you to dance. But fear is in your soul. #duranduran
Feb. 26. That feeling when you accidentally bite your inner cheek while eating. #yargh
March 1. Michael Cudlitz (Abraham in TWD) played the zombie jock in the Buffy ep The Zeppo. What!
\March 3. Saw the Looking ep where Jonathan Groff's character is crushing on Ears.
March 4. Blushed when a coworker remembered something I did in a past incarnation. That was cool. Anyway, I wish I could see myself blushing, but I grab my mirror too late every time.
March 4. Allan Heinberg's been writing and producing for Looking. Good. He's in his element.
March 5. One thing you realize when you're older? You may have paid your dues, but you never stop proving your worth. Never.
March 6. I understand how we can come off as vain and utterly self-important. But that's how social networking has changed things. I pick and edit what I post, and speaking only for myself, I'm comfy with sharing "happy" stuff and skipping those that detail personal agonies--usually. It's just a fraction of who I am and what I do, and these days, I'm also appreciating things that don't make it past the keyboard.
March 7. My editor just told me that I bring out the maternal instinct of some people at work. Hehe.
March 7. Also, she congratulated me for becoming regularized, and officially, "a slave." :)
March 7. True Detective, you better have a great season ender/big reveal. Loving your craziness, so far.
March 9. Met and interviewed Gabriel Macht. Tall, charismatic guy. He'd have made a great Captain America. But he was an okay Spirit.
March 12. Pizza! Again! Yum.
March 13. Finally had the gym membership renewed. Worked out longer and did more reps, as I won't be there as often as before. I feel good. Body's gonna ache all over in the next coupl'a days. Gonna hurt so good.

Lucy Meets Van Helsing

Stoker's Dracula book illustration thesis plate, 1993. One of the few things from college that I actually kept. Lucy meets Van Helsing.

Goshdarn Geekboy

Second year college, 1991. It didn't matter that I was a complete and utter failure at basketball in high school (I wouldn't say I was bad at sports, altogether; I discovered that I was good in softball and arnis, eventually). I met good, trustworthy people who were similar to me in ways that matter, who were just as geeky and restless. 

'Korra' mythology expands tremendously with 'Book Two'

(March 12, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

A sequel to Nickelodeon’s hit, acclaimed cartoon series “Avatar: The Legend of Aang,” “The Legend of Korra” boldly continues the saga of an element-controlling being who now lives life anew as a heroic teen girl.

The first season of Korra, “Book One: Air,” introduced the titular teen heroine, who has mastery over three elements but has yet to control air. Korra is the current reincarnation of the powerful Avatar, and must be mentored by the Airbender Tenzin, son of the deceased Avatar Aang. 

Headstrong but noble, Korra found herself getting distracted a lot during training, and ended up joining a sports team that mainly used element-“bending.” The other two members of that trio, brothers Mako and Bolin, became friends and allies against the nonpowered Equalist forces, led by the enigmatic Amon.

The initial season had its share of mystery and tension; it bravely threw its characters into situations that further established this new Avatar’s world. As an expansion of the previous world, it worked very well; it was easy for devotees from way back to get into this equally imaginative sequel series.

But the resolution to the Amon arc was paced too hurriedly, ultimately coming off as rushed and prematurely concluded.

While the first season’s conflicts were too easily resolved—Korra even went messianic for a bit and restored the powers of neutralized Benders—it made one wonder, how else could Korra be challenged, and grow as a character?

“Book Two: Spirits” addresses such apprehensions. Korra is still a teen, the most powerful in existence, but she’s still fallible and quite naive. The new season brings new conflicts from another unexplored place: the spirit world. She and her friends are sorely tested when nonhuman entities cause disturbances in the physical plane, but the chaos is connected somehow to Korra’s past, and will ultimately figure in a war that will challenge the Avatar like never before.

Visually, “Book Two” retains the steampunk-era look, dazzling with a synthesis of classic Asian architecture and blossoming technology. Adding to the new advancements is the “mover,” or movie, the creation of which will impact the people of Republic City significantly. One of the cast members becomes a “mover” star, resulting in some of this season’s funniest, most charming moments. 

As for the main heroine, Korra learns much this season, not only about growing up (she still has boy problems), but her combined heritage as well. The action-packed and surprisingly thought-provoking “Book Two” brings her to heretofore unexplored territories, and insightfully explores not only her checkered family history, but the Avatar’s complicated origins as well.

(“The Legend of Korra: Book Two” airs weekdays, 4:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon.)

Objectifixation, Twelve


Marky Mark, Saturday Night Fever-ish. Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes action figure. Extremely limited articulation, but good likeness. This was before poseability was a big thing.
X-Factor-Fantastic Four crossover, Dec. 1987. Ms. Marvel is now disfigured and Thing-like, but she accepts her latest misfortune after she meets the Beast, who loses his mind every time he uses his super-strength.

Brought Sam Guthrie to my workstation yesterday.
"Ah sure ain't in Kentucky no more!"

Dead Girl and other deceased heroes reappear in the miniseries. I can't remember much about it, except that Doctor Strange, it is revealed in this issue, has hemorrhoids. But he is healed by the end of the series.

Legion! Back when he only had a few personalities and years before he was categorized as an Omega-level mutant. One of his personalities, a pyrokinetic, resembled Jubilee. By Claremont and Sienkiewicz.

Ang sarap mo... #singleentendre #doubleburger #armynavy

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Marvel U by Teen Me

1990. I Made my own Marvel posters when I was a teenager.

'Girls' won't be 'Sex and the City'

(Feb. 23, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

LONDON—“We were all in our 20s once and I don’t think we have a shortage of those stories,” said “Girls” executive producer Jenni  Konner, explaining the source of its characters’ unending pratfalls to journalists during a roundtable interview.

Apatow, Konner, and Dunham in a press event last January.
“It see seems to really strike a chord [anywhere],” she said, but  clarified that while many involved in the sex comedy show’s creation were fans of “Sex and the City,” the main characters “don’t grow up to be those girls.”

The grittier and considerably less fancy “Girls,” which recently had its third season launch here, is coexecutive-produced by filmmaker Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”).

“Judd is like our Charlie, like in ‘Charlie’s Angels,’” Konner said. “He’s in LA with an incredibly clear perspective that we don’t always have, because we’re right next to it. He reads every script; he watches every cut. He calls us, ‘You have to shoot that again.’ [We’d say,] ‘Come on, we’re so tired.’ ‘No, you know you have to reshoot that.’ And we do.”

On the show’s creator, writer-director-actor Lena Dunham, Konner described her as “really truthful and candid.” Dunham, who plays the beleaguered writer Hannah, is also an executive producer. “Lena learns how to do things…If she spends 10 minutes in this room, she’s gonna know how to be a journalist tomorrow. She’s very quick!”

In a separate interview at the launch, Dunham related that the success of “Girls” could be attributed to the focus on the stories, and staying uncompromised. “These girls behave in ways that [some] people don’t want girls to behave. And so we’re always thinking about that, but at the same time we’ve chosen not to [make changes] because of what a certain audience doesn’t want to see.”

On actress Zosia Mamet, who plays the finicky student Shoshanna, Konner described her as “really different” from her character. “It’s a big, incredible stretch for her and she’s really good. I’ve seen her in ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Kids are All Right,’ two vastly different parts.  [She’s a] fine, reality-based actor.”

“I think that Shoshanna’s best feature is that she does everything sincerely, without apologizing for it,” said Mamet in another interview. The daughter of playwright-filmmaker David Mamet, however, added that her character has a weakness that she related to. “Her worse feature is, she’s just f—ing anxious all the time. I’m a worrier. I’m from a family of worriers. I’m sure that’s gonna shorten my life,” she said.

Allison Williams plays the oft-unsure but eager Marnie, whose job changes every season. “Allison is a wonderful control freak and I love her,” Konner said. “Her beauty is insane…she seems to get more beautiful by the second.”

“At this point, Marnie and I are very different,” Williams revealed during her turn. “That’s really fun for me to play. The writers thought that I could pull it off; it’s such a compliment. She has no idea why this has befallen her and who couldn’t want her. ‘Why am I working in a coffee shop, like Hannah?’ Her life is so different from what she thought it was going to be.”

Jemima Kirke, who plays the volatile eccentric Jessa, was unable to attend the launch. According to Konner, the actor can be as unpredictable as her character: “I can never anticipate what will come out of her mouth…[but] she’s very different from her character, too. She’s married and has two kids, leads a very different life, but can access that character so brilliantly. Jemima is a complete natural.”

The Brit-American Kirke proved herself a patient person, unlike the irritable Jessa, Konner said. “We have to tell our camera guys, ‘OK, we have enough of those [shots]. Because they just fall in love with her and will do 15 takes of her waking up in the morning. She’s stunning!”

(“Girls” airs Sundays, 10 p.m., on HBO Signature.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

When imagination and humor interlock

“The Lego Movie” does justice to the seminal and popular series of toys, and then some! It's an animated flick that's inspired and inspiring—it’s so unrelentingly imaginative, the laughs just keep coming!

Whether you played with the interlocking toy bricks or not, or just have some familiarity with Lego or its related products, the movie is accessible, not to mention visually attractive. Written and directed by “21 Jump Street’s” Chris Miller and Phil Lord, it has colorful and busy cityscapes and connecting realms, and looks like a combination of countless existing toy sets. The characters’ movements are “limited” by their size and lack of articulation, which adds to their charm. Their drawn faces—the squiggly lines and dots—are animated and expressive. And the story? It’s trippy and insane.

A regular guy, Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is destined for greatness, according to a mysterious prophecy. He finds himself joining the resourceful Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), her wizard ally Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and her boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett)—yes, Batman and a few other DC characters are in it—to fight the merciless Lord Business (Will Ferell).

Several characters from different universes also appear; there are brief appearances by Han Solo, Gandalf, the Ninja Turtle Michaelangelo—you get the picture. There are Lego people versions of some historical figures alongside those fantasy characters too. It’s a strange and welcome mix of realities, coalescing into this one place where they fight the main villain's subjugating forces. And there are intriguing twists along the way, making the adventure doubly fun.

Parodying the darkness of the Batman mythos; rib-ticklingly joking about Green Lantern’s odd turn as an outcast; introducing cute and crazy characters—“The Lego Movie” has everything covered, and as its permeating song goes, “everything is awesome.” You’ll love it to pieces.

Not-so-secret terrain

The coming-of-age drama “Geography Club” offers the familiarity of self-discovery and the search for identity, its gay teen characters embodying how difficult—and glorious—that time may be for those considered “different.”

Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) and Kevin (Justin Deeley) are a pair of hunky, closeted gay boys who hit it off quickly, easily passing off as straight and blending in with the cool kids. Their secret is discovered by the Geography Club, actually a cover for a handful of misfit students, gay kids who meet and hang out for support.

“Geography Club,” according to those who read the book, has many details that are different from the source material. As its own entity, it’s a pretty simple, straightforward movie that, while not exactly consistent and solid, manages to transmit obligatory feelgood messages.

Russell comes off as a tangible guy, fearful but hopeful, and fresh-faced Stewart ably makes him interesting through most of the movie. The other characters, Kevin included, are developed, albeit not as much as the main protagonist, and understandably so.

The film, however, feels short and mainly uneventful—the gay discovery situations and their eventual empowerment resolutions are quite predictable, save for a few details like the unusually accepting parent characters, and one teen's decision not to pursue a life of openness. 

Unseen Memento

1995. Art from the unpublished, 13-page "Werewolf" story by Dave Uy, which he wrote for Alamat's Memento Mori.

'Tying the knot was really something bigger than us'

(Feb. 14, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

It was the end of the search for “the one.” Not that now-married filmmakers Rodolfo “Jun” Robles Lana Jr. and Perci Intalan intuited it when they met 11 years ago.

“A friend said one day, ‘I have a friend who has a friend—he feels na OK kayo,’” recounted Lana, script supervisor and creative director for GMA 7 dramas, including “My Husband’s Lover,” last year’s gay-themed hit. “A few days later, I got an e-mail from Perci, introducing himself. It was a funny letter.”

Perci Intalan and Jun Lan (Photo by Kristina Williamson)
Added Intalan, a former TV5 executive, “We met in 2003; I was an executive producer for Disney in Australia at the time, but I was based in Hong Kong.”

That first meeting happened during Intalan’s vacation in Manila, after about a month of e-mailing back and forth. “We hadn’t talked up till then, not even by phone,” Intalan related, “but we hit it off. I stayed in Manila the whole length of my vacation, four weeks. Neither one of us went into it expecting anything, but we were very comfortable with each other. The test was when I had to go back to work. He followed me to Hong Kong soon after. I guess we both realized we wanted to be with each other more often.”

 Lana finished Communication Arts in University of Santo Tomas; Intalan, Communication in Ateneo de Manila University. Similarities in their circumstances, plus the “nurturing” support of friends and relatives, made acceptance of their sexuality easy, the couple said. Before that, they both had relationships with women.

Intalan recalled, “Maliit ang mundo namin. We had girlfriends in college—mine knew one of his!” Lana said, “My exes and I are still friends. One of them is now a lesbian!”

“My [straight relationship] ended because the love ended,” Intalan volunteered. “But I was serious with her. I didn’t have a gay relationship until years later.”

Lana’s story is “the same—parehong-pareho kami.” He offered an explanation: “I believe that sexuality is fluid; you go with the flow. Some people are scandalized by this notion. But that’s how I am… right now, I can’t imagine myself [with a woman].” Of the early days, he remembered, “I was so in love, I had bouts of jealousy. Now, we’re calmer. Each one is able to pursue other passions and interests.”

Intalan agreed, “Yes, those were the fragile years. Now, kung baga sa puno, matibay na.”

Husbands Intalan and Lana (Photo by Alexis Corpuz)
They are both 41. They marked their tenth anniversary in July last year, posting photos of mementos on Facebook. “So many posts,” Intalan recounted. “There was a picture of the old phones we used to correspond with, a picture of rings… Jun suggested the caption, ‘You’re cordially invited.’ It was just a joke [but] a lot of people started congratulating us. We thought, why not [get married]?”

Three months later, on Oct. 14, they tied the knot in one of their favorite places in  the United States, Central Park in New York City. Prior to departure, they hosted a big dinner for their families here, since not all of them could go to the US.

“I was really nervous,” Lana said of the big day. “I suddenly understood why people became emotional on their wedding day—because of what it symbolizes. Being surrounded by those who truly cared about us was quite overwhelming.” Intalan recalled feeling “so much love—even from total strangers who congratulated us!”

The marriage is legal only in the United States, and the couple admitted that residing there one day was not far-fetched.

“I have gay friends in long relationships. One friend was in a 30-year relationship until his partner died,” Lana said. “The surviving one was left with nothing; it was tragic. I certainly don’t want that to happen to us.”

Added Intalan, “Going to New York [to be wed] was a symbolic gesture. We didn’t think of it at the time, but the idea that we were doing it where it was legal and official… it felt good.” They didn’t need to change surnames, he said, “but we did joke about combining them: IntaLana.”

 Lana would find that their wedding was “something bigger than us.” After the ceremony, he said, strangers would come up to him and say how much it meant to them.

Married life has been a breeze, so far. They’ve lived together since 2004, and have two toy poodles named for their favorite Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

They described their domestic setup as “normal.” Intalan admitted that he can’t cook, so his partner does, “sometimes.” (More often than not, though, they have food delivered to their condominium unit.) “In short, we’re really just like any straight couple. We clean the house, take care of the dogs… and the place is just as often messy as it is orderly!” said Intalan. “But Jun is more of a city person,” he said. “He likes the vibe of a lot of people. I’m more introverted. When we take a vacation, his choice is Boracay; ako, sa bundok.”

Lana said he wants a kid “someday.” They’ve discussed it, he said. “When we’re ready… when I can just concentrate on making films and taking care of the child.”

The couple worked together on the award-winning films “Bwakaw” (2012) and “Barber’s Tales” (2013)— Perci was producer and Jun was director. They’ve switched “roles” for “Dementia,” a forthcoming thriller starring Nora Aunor.

They have nothing planned for today, as they routinely avoid crowds. But they’re sure to celebrate Valentine’s on another day.

They both feel “fortunate” that they were already self-aware when they met, and wish for other gay people to be strong and more accepting of themselves. 

Intalan’s counsel: “Don’t feel pressured to come out until it’s time. Don’t feel pressured to find the right one. It takes a while.”

Lana agreed. “And I have a message for anyone [pressuring LGBTs to come out], regardless of whether they’re sure of who they are, or still confused: Be a little kinder.”

Amalgam, 1998

Old drawing of Amalgam characters, merged DC and Marvel superheroes. I was kinda obsessed with this temporary universe back then... well, just like I was with a lot of mainstream comics stuff during that and later eras.

'Naked and Afraid,' castaways survive

(Feb. 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Nude castaways are challenged to survive in the wilderness, forced to rely on their wits and a few crucial objects in the Discovery reality series, “Naked and Afraid.” Two strangers are partnered and evaluated before and after they embark on their three-week survival journey—there is no cash prize, but those who survive it are rewarded with “pride and a sense of accomplishment,” according to the Discovery website.

Sans clothes, the “survivalists” are marooned and tasked with making the most of a given location. They are accompanied by a camera crew but are given their own recording devices. Should the pair decide to quit for whatever reason, they can be taken off the location by the crew.

The episode “Island From Hell” epitomizes the way an unexpected environment can pinpoint the vulnerabilities of normally strong individuals. Jonathan Klay is a former Marine and bodyguard, while Alison Teal is a surfer and frequent traveler. Immediately, Jonathan is almost incapacitated by the heat, his body getting heavily sunburned just a few hours after his arrival on a small island.

This makes Alison take over, whipping up a makeshift minishelter and foraging for food for herself and the reeling, immobilized Jonathan. Eventually, he is well enough to help out and digs up an area for potable water. Impatiently, he drinks the   unboiled water but later has to deal with the disastrous and embarrassing consequences!

Alison, while strong-willed, is tested when she experiences pain brought about by her monthly cycle. The isolation also affects her during this vulnerable period.

A producer denies that the show is “exploitative” but the title does get people curious. Certain body parts are blurred accordingly and the uninhibited castaways sometimes wear pieces of clothing that they discover at the locale.

As a “survival” series, “Naked and Afraid” adequately shows the importance of resourcefulness and practical skills, while reiterating that unexpected factors can just as easily render its subjects inactive or uncooperative.

Transformations are jarring, as drastic weight loss and a generally unkempt, desperate appearance marks the end of the survivalists’ grueling adventure. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned on teamwork, planning and practicality.

For a show that takes place in a span of several weeks, only the most important events are encapsulated in hourlong episodes. It rapidly shows the changes in the participants’ bodies and behavior, while singling out the necessary developments.

(“Naked and Afraid” airs Wednesdays, 2 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Discovery.)

Textbook Case

Me as a grade school student, sneaked into an elementary textbook by a friend. Circa 1997.

Objectifixation, Eleven

Kang the Conqueror actually defeated the Avengers in this special "Nuff Said" issue, a story without words. Kang destroyed Washington DC, but George W. Bush was whisked away before that attack. The failure to save countless civilians sent Thor crying, his pain manifesting a storm. The Wasp, the team's leader, officially surrendered after the devastation. From Kurt Busiek's long "Kang War" arc.

Witty Waterstones plastic bag. Wonderful Piccadilly bookstore. 

Too many New Warriors! A couple of the members eventually "graduated" into the Avengers and X-Men. Firestar joined both teams.

We got fortune cookies at the eve of the Chinese New Year. Fortune cookie wisdom’s interesting.

Lego Movie folder. The movie was great. Awesome, even! Loved Benny. "Spaceship!"

Coffee! Thanks, Sir Mag.

Jellybeans! Bought this at Heathrow Airport.

Wiccan and Sub-Mariner.
“King Namor, would you be interested in a date with a nubile Young Avenger like me?”
“You mistake me for my bisexual friend Hercules, Wiccan. Namor the First only fraternizes with females, whether they be human, Atlantean, or Plodex--or a tentacled fish queen from Tabula Rasa! But I draw the line at redheads.”
            

'Girls' star finds show 'like life'

(Feb. 10, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

LONDON—“It’s such a gorgeous city but we’re not here for long,” said “Girls” actor Allison Williams at the start of a roundtable interview. The third season of the popular HBO series was launched here; most of the main cast members and executive producer Jenni Konner participated in separate group interviews.

Williams plays Marnie, the disillusioned young woman who keeps experiencing romance and career foibles. “Luckily, mistakes that Marnie made are ones that I don’t have to make,” the actor-singer said. “I also learn a lot from playing her.”

The daughter of “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams and TV producer Jane Stoddard-Williams, she graduated from Yale and was a member of the university’s improvisational comedy troupe. Williams appeared as Duchess Kate Middleton in a humor website’s sketch series, “Will & Kate: Before Happily Ever After,” shortly before getting the “Girls” gig two years ago.

At the launch, Konner described Williams as a “control freak” who made her a packing list for London. “I can write a gazillion packing lists for Jenni until I’m blue in the face,” Williams said, mentioning that it suggested the type of pants to wear during a long flight, among other things. “But when it comes to my own packing, I crumble. It’s embarrassing.”

Have you experienced Marnie’s problems?
Not all at once, but definitely in bits and pieces. There were moments when I first moved out to LA. I would walk around the ocean and weep. I quickly auditioned for “Girls”…I didn’t know it was going to work out the way it did.

How real do the show’s situations feel to you?
If it didn’t feel real, no one would pay any attention. But it feels like life. I watch it with my friends. There [have been] some scenes where one of them goes, “You have to pause it! I need a second.” Because some [parts] feel too real, even to me. That’s one of the goals of our show, to feel real.

What does Marnie’s taste in men say about her— and do you see it evolving?
It says a lot about her in that she’s utterly unpredictable. Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) is one of the most abhorrent people I can imagine. And yet there’s something in him that almost every girl I know can [find] annoyingly attractive.
Charlie (Christopher Abbott), I think, is an easier explanation. They met in college; he makes her feel comfortable…and she enters a phase where she’s not interested in that anymore.
There’s a really good one in the third season. That’s all I can say about that.

What changed after the success of “Girls”?
Not as much as you probably think…It’s so manageable and sweet when people come up to me. At the end of events, we go home, get to bed at a reasonable hour, I think by 11. Our ideal evenings are so lowkey that I shrink back down to size and stay grounded. Friends and family help us not to lose our minds or get big heads.

Did you have a backup plan?
I didn’t. I grew up with two parents who were like you guys; they wanted truth, fact, information. When I understood what they did and wrapped my head around it, I thought, “Oh my gosh, what a cool profession that I could never do, and I will leave to you to do.” My brother (Douglas) is a sportscaster so he’s kind of a shade away from what my parents both do. I think it happened quite naturally formyself. I had to make it work. It was fundamental to my success. It was very scary and a lot of pressure.

(“Girls” airs Sundays, 10 p.m. on HBO Signature.)

Jack Jones promises 'beautiful ballads, true stories'

(Feb. 7, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Grammy-winning American singer Jack Jones is doing two Valentine shows in Manila. The 76-year-old crooner performs at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Feb. 13, and at the Manila Hotel Tent on Feb. 14.

Jones got his big break in the late 1950s, when he was signed by Capitol Records, which released his debut album. By 1961, he was signed to the label Kapp Records, which produced his next albums. Two songs from that era, “Lollipops and Roses” and “Wives and Lovers,” earned him Grammy awards for Best Pop Male Performance.

Jones has recorded over 50 albums. Some of his other hits are “The Impossible Dream,” “Lady,” “She,” “Let Me Be the One” and “Love Boat Theme.”

He has appeared in TV shows, musicals and movies, and most recently had a cameo in “American Hustle.”

Jones granted the Inquirer  this brief e-mail interview: 

How did your involvement in “American Hustle” come about?
I flew to Boston, where we recorded the soundtrack and shot the scene over the last Easter weekend. Director David O. Russell had me sing “I’ve Got Your Number.” He wanted me physically in the scene, saying he had written the story with the song in mind.

What elements combine to make the perfect love song? Which song embodies that?
Passion, sensuality, and commitment. “If,” by David Gates (of the band Bread).

What gestures may be described as romantic?
Taking my wife all the way to the Manila Hotel for Valentine’s Day and singing to her!
 
What is the most important lesson that performing has taught you?
Don’t get lost in your own world! When you’re on stage, the world belongs to your audience.

What can fans look forward to in your Manila shows?
Beautiful ballads, true stories, hits. I was nominated for five Grammys, won two, and all of them were romantic songs—many of them are in my latest CD “Live in Liverpool,” which has a bonus track, a new recording of “The Lorelei.” This version will be available only in the Philippines.

(“Jack Jones in a Valentine Concert” tickets are available at Ticketnet Online and Viva Concerts. The Manila Hotel show will benefit “Yolanda” survivors. Tickets are available at Manila Hotel. Call 5270011 for information.)