Thursday, June 26, 2008

If She Knew What She Wanted

Watched Wanted last night at Rockwell. It doesn’t resemble Mark Millar’s comic book at all! But it’s damn sick fun. The action sequences are crazy! Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov kicks ass. So do Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy!

Definitely one of yesterday’s highlights for me. Not at all odd, like when the chatty but funny cab driver, a guy who’s probably younger than me, gave me a 20% discount card for a motel, hours earlier. He really didn’t explain why. Bizarreness.

‘X-Force’ looks and feels sharp

This is where those New X-Men writers, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, moved to after their belatedly enjoyable run. They’d have done something interesting to Young X-Men had they continued writing about the fun team they established previously, but instead, they’re doing this book, about Cyclops’ secret proactive task force/assassin squad. The concept’s a little silly at first; the team that debuted in the mega-X-over Messiah Complex consisted of clawed mutants or trackers. But it felt right, somehow, and that first mission wasn’t bad. Well, not that bad for the surviving members.

With Caliban dead and Hepzibah recovering from injuries, the team currently consists of Wolverine, Warpath, X-23 and Wolfsbane. They’re not all natural killing machines (especially Rahne Sinclair and James Proudstar), but they’re soldiers assigned to do the dirty work. But even if it’s composed of major mutant fighters with years of training, one of the members gets captured and kidnapped in front of the rest of the group.

Blame it on the lack of superpower diversity! A long-range energy blast or mind-powers would’ve been handy in such a situation, but no, they’re all stabby brawler-types. But that said, it would’ve happened anyway even to your regular team of superpeople (and it has, many times over).

The fights get really bloody, hence the parental advisory label. So it’s clearly not your regular X-book. But the title is something for devout X-fans, as the writers themselves are obviously fanboys. The good kind! They use story elements that are steeped in continuity, but they avoid making it feel cluttered for the reader. Those with knowledge of X-lore, however, will find the twists and turns engaging and nostalgia-inspiring. One resurrected villain leads to the return of another old, forgotten one, and that paves the way for more plausible resurrections. The cliffhangers get better each issue.

Clayton Crain’s art looks good; he’s done much better painted stuff some years back but it’s still uniquely his style. It gets too dark, sometimes, and his Wolverine mask looks a bit awkward, but it doesn’t get awful. His art mostly captures the atmosphere of the story, which is complemented by a sharp sense of design.

In just four issues, the war between Xavier’s former students and the Purifier bigots have escalated; the stage is set for some really big and bloody battles, and it looks like this small team is the only one that can prevent the extinction of mutantkind at this point.

It’s a good, entertaining read. But eventually, the roster needs to expand and change. The repetitive cutting, slashing and stabbing will get old, inevitably.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

‘Urduja’: Familiarity connects, distracts

(Published by PDI-Entertainment, June 23, 2008. Pic from Wikipilipinas.)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


It’s not surprising that the makers of the local animated feature “Urduja” opted for a Disney-esque feel, because it almost instantly connects with viewers familiar with the classic cartoon movies. Before the advent of digitally rendered animated films, the better ones that employed the old 2-D look usually captured the grace, motion and beautiful simplicity of their human elements quite effectively. “Urduja” seems like a long-delayed Filipino homage that has its own flavor, but it also heavily exhibits the grating quirks of other films that came before it.

“Urduja” tells the story of an independent, feisty warrior princess faced with the usual challenges, its titular character based on the legendary heroine from Pangasinan who supposedly existed centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards. The only daughter of the ailing tribe leader Lakanpati (voiced by Eddie Garcia), Urduja (Regine Velasquez) questions her role in her community. She even speaks her mind on some traditions that highlight gender inequality.

The story centers on her desire for emancipation from conformity, very much like the ‘Disney heroines in the 1990s. Directed and written by animator Reggie Entienza, “Urduja” has romance, drama, songs and nicely paced action bits, too. Some computer-aided effects mesh favorably into a few scenes, as well.

Princess Urduja confidently beats up hoodlums from a rival tribe, and even one lazy and abusive husband. Consistently strong-willed, she stays true to her feelings for a foreigner, the Chinese pirate Limhang (Cesar Montano), even when her people scoff at their blossoming relationship. She’s actually betrothed to the proud and ambitious Simakwel (Jay Manalo), but finds him quite dull and boorish.

Technically, it’s well-done. Apart from the native setting and the use of Tagalog, “Urduja” benefits from the services of the local actors who lend their voices to the project. They collectively sound familiar, of course, but are able to create new personalities.

However, the movie distracts at times, and unfavorably, because it’s too inspired by the Disney formula. The characters remind you of those in “Mulan” and “Pocahontas.” The goofy but menacing snake here looks like the one from “Jungle Book,” but with a different color scheme. Stock characters, situations and resolutions abound. From start to finish, it’s easy to anticipate a person’s moves or lines, exact moments of betrayal and the last-minute saves. We’ve taken this journey too many times.

Sidekick characters like Kukut the mouse (Michael V) Tarsir the tarsier (Allan K), and Urduja’s friend Mayumi (Ruby Rodriguez) provide requisite comic relief. Kukut and Tarsir’s Taglish quips can be really funny, but some jokes pull you out of the story. It’s strangely enjoyable, however, when they say “haller,” “biyahilo,” “H.H.W.W.” (“holding hands while walking”), or some Pinoy pop culture reference (like when Mayumi describes Limhang as “maginoo pero medyo bastos”). In that regard, the film feels more like a live-action Pinoy comedy.

Despite its flaws, “Urduja” is a commendable effort. It seriously shows that Filipinos can, and should. But next time, hopefully, big projects ventures such as this should really break out of the mold, the better to give audiences more freshness and excitement.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Top 40 Fave Comic Book Moments

Toshi did his own list. Here’s mine. While I have a lot of favorites (probably hundreds!), these are the ones I can remember right now. On other days, the ranking’s different and there are added and removed items. But today, this is how it is.

1. Cyclops lashes out with his fully controlled optic blast. “To me, my X-Men.” (Astonishing X-Men)

2. Michonne elaborately gets even with the Governor! (Walking Dead)

3. Captain Jetman gives Smax permission to break someone’s neck. (Top Ten)

4. The Confessor makes the ultimate sacrifice while exposing a conspiracy. (Astro City)

5. Teary-eyed Butterball looks at a photo of his proudest moment. (Avengers: The Initiative)

6. Buffy gets really cozy with a subordinate Slayer. (Buffy Season Eight)

7. Mockingbird lets her stalker, the Phantom Rider, fall to his death. (West Coast Avengers)

8. Deadpool punches Kitty Pryde to get Wolverine’s attention. (Deadpool)

9. Rachel Summers fights the Beyonder in vain, but never quits. (Uncanny X-Men)

10. Ozymandias explains his plans in detail. (Watchmen)

11. Swamp Thing rescues Abigail Arcane from hell. (Swamp Thing)

12. Morpheus’s formerly condemned ex-lover reincarnates as a boy. (Sandman)

13. Batman and Wonder Woman share a kiss before dying at the hands of the League of Ancients. (JLA)

14. The Thunderbolts are revealed as the masquerading Masters of Evil. (Thunderbolts)

15. Northstar publicly announces that he’s gay. (Alpha Flight)

16. Majestic gives TAO the punishment he deserves. (WildCATS)

17. Lobo beats the tar out of Santa Claus. (Lobo Paramilitary Christmas)

18. Kabuki bites off and swallows a part of her pinky. (Kabuki)

19. Jean Grey discovers Emma Frost and Scott Summers' psychic affair. (New X-Men)

20. Prometheus throws Oracle out her tower’s glass clock. (JLA)

21. Aunt May and Peter Parker talk about his secret identity for the first time. (Amazing Spider-Man)

22. Oracle and Calculator face off in one room during a techie convention. (Birds of Prey)

23. After long hours of torment, the Secret Six bust out of the Crime Doctor’s torture chamber. (Villains United)

24. Shikari is reunited with the lost Legionnaires. (Infinite Crisis)

25. Arseface vows revenge on Jesse Custer. (Preacher)

26. Evey reads the letters of Valerie, a concentration camp prisoner. (V for Vendetta)

27. Deadpool, stuck in the past, masquerades as Peter Parker. (Deadpool)

28. Alcoholic Warbird tries to fly to space, fails miserably and turns to the bottle once again. (Avengers)

29. The Runaways are betrayed by one of their own. (Runaways)

30. Superman knocks out Thor with one punch. (JLA-Avengers)

31. Superman beats the Hulk. (DC Versus Marvel)

32. Mephisto reclaims the Scarlet Witch’s sons Tommy and Billy. (Avengers West Coast)

33. She-Hulk furiously confronts her evasive former teammate Starfox, who may have used his “date rape” powers to seduce her and other women. (She-Hulk)

34. Peter Parker publicly unmasks. (Civil War)

35. Thor beats up Iron Man for cloning him. (Thor)

36. Adam Warlock is deemed unworthy to handle the power of the Infinity Gems by his fellow cosmic beings. (Warlock and the Infinity Watch)

37. Cyclops reveals a secret conversation between his teammates to his captor, Kruun. (Astonishing X-Men)

38. Manitou Raven says “Inukchuk” for the first time. (JLA)

39. The Hulk almost effortlessly trounces team after team of X-Men. (World War Hulk: X-Men)

40. Young Matt Murdock slaps back a bullet with his first billy club. (Daredevil: Man Without Fear)

Sharing Diva Space

I’ve always wondered about how awesome-sounding a Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos collaboration would be. I remember being blown away by their music back in the early ‘90s. They’re piano-playing singer-songwriters with disparate styles and musical approaches, so I often imagined them doing something really arty together, singing respectively penned verses and creating a keyboard and string-heavy arrangement as a unit. I can see the misty music video, the women dancing or twirling around their campfire like Three Fates or three sister Muses, singing about life, emotion, or disruption emotively, descriptively, liltingly. I dunno, I daydream about these things, sometimes.

Sarah sang with Jewel and the Indigo Girls a while back, in one of the Lilith Fair shows. The folk ballad’s called “The Water Is Wide,” and it’s just damn lovely. Unlikely duets (like the thrilling U2-Mary J.Blige remake of “One,” and Keith Urban and Alicia Keys’ live rendition of “Gimme Shelter”), and cause-oriented collaborations have always fascinated me. And speaking of gatherings, I saw a clip of Sarah and the Lilith performers singing and sharing lines from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” after one show years ago. Perhaps it’s the fact that such unbelievably gifted artists are together under one roof (or on an open stage) that appeals to me first. I like seeing them, to quote Madonna on collaborations, “share diva space.”

Back to the trio of rock muses. Here are my illustrations of the women and some quotes.

Sarah McLachlan:

“(Lilith Fair) wasn’t any social commentary thing. It was that I thought it’d be fun. That’s it! Nobody wants to hear that! They want me to be this big political/social innovator. I kind of became that by error.” (Entertainment Weekly, June 19, 1998)

The storm keeps on twisting, you keep on building the lie that you make up for all that you lack. (“Angel”)

I would be the one to hold you down, kiss you so hard. I’ll take your breath away. (“Possession”)

Tori Amos:

“I’ll manipulate a song the way I want to ‘cause I just like it that way. It’s like I’m saying to the muse, ‘Look, if you don’t want my input, go to Jewel.’” (Rolling Stone, Nov. 13, 1997)

Girls you’ve got to know when it’s time to turn the page, when you’re only wet because of the rain. (“Northern Lad”)

I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets, looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets. (“Crucify”)

Natalie Merchant:

“I’ve never met a groupie. I think I have a totally asexual aura. I tend to attract earnest poetry majors who just want to tell me they appreciate my work.” (Rolling Stone, Nov. 13, 1997)

Instead of love and the feel of warmth, you’ve given him these cuts and sores that don’t heal with time or with age. (“What’s The Matter Here”)

These are the days you might fill with laughter until you break. These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face. (“These Are Days”)

Plus! More dream three-way collaborations:

Billy Joel, Regina Spektor, Vienna Teng

John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson

Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner

Leigh Nash, Dan Haseltine, Tiffany Arbuckle

Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Prince

Ryan Tedder, Ben Gibbard, Chris Carrabba

Michael Stipe, Bono, Robert Smith

Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Joan Osborne

Dar Williams, Jewel, Suzanne Vega

David Gray, Heather Nova, Aimee Mann

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Multiversal Magnificence

Crisis’ Dr. Light illuminates

No, not the perv creep. The female Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi, from the Crisis on Infinite Earths Series 3 line, is an okay figure. I finally got her at almost half the original price at the recent Toy Con. While she’s not really Asian-looking except for the skin tone, and my particular figure has thicker right eyelashes and doesn’t have earrings, it’s still a nicely made toy with 15 points of articulation. Nice sheen on the gloves, boots and cape, too.

Toying with Alexander Luthor

At last! Alex Luthor, a.k.a. the guy who masqueraded as Lex Luthor in Villains United, goes on sale. DC Direct’s Infinite Crisis Series 1 toys are a fine set, and Luthor is a good-looking plastic version of the character. The gold paint is great and the 11 points of articulation are just right. The “wig” or the attachable thick retro hair looks weird, though, because it looks too puffy on top. That accessory aside, this figure captures the majesty and seemingly innocent façade of the insane and powerful super-villain.

Hobby Haul Happiness

De-stressed a little at the gym last Friday. Lifted weights, sauna’d, steam roomed and used a number of arm and chest exercise machines. The next day, getting all sweaty wasn’t as pleasant an experience at the mightily packed annual Toy Convention at Megamall. I had to walk around the Megatrade Hall to look for nice stuff, and it got a little too crowded at times. Still, the huge crowd was a given and being there was quite a fun experience. I was able to find a few action figures at bargain prices (finally, the female Dr. Light, Alex Luthor and Superboy Prime!). I wanted to buy more but, drat, I had to save for other things. Lotsa fellow nerds enjoyed the plethora of pleasurable plastic poseables. Had to change into my new uber-nice Marvel geek shirt, some time later:

I met up with fellow toy collectors JC and Cyrus, who got themselves bagsful of goodies by the early evening. Benedict was cosplaying as the Transformers’ Prowl, but too bad I wasn’t able to take pics of him transforming. People loudly cheered thrice while he did that onstage. The best costume award this year was given to the guy who dressed as MODOK (or Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, below)! I clapped and cheered. You just have to see his tongue flitting in and out of his grotesque mouth!

There’s also Hard Gay, who’s been at every major hobby event these last few months. That’s his shtick; he’s the provocatively dressed and named cosplayer. I saw one girl shriek when she saw him. I don’t get the fascination, but, well, he’s a fun fellow who gamely poses for people. And it’s a different pose each time!

It was a fun event. Wish I had some extra cash to get some of the sweet-looking loose figures, but I’ll probably find them in some of the toy shops eventually. It’s been months since I bought an action figure, and it was fun to have such an event that catered to me and my fellow toy lovers.

Friday, June 13, 2008

From great to okay ‘Sex’

(Published June 10, Philippine Daily Inquirer-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

A few years after the successful and satisfying conclusion of the groundbreaking HBO comedy “Sex and the City,” Carrie and her gang of independent, stylish women return for a giddy silver screen reunion. It moves the characters forward, just like the bold and beloved series did weekly. It also rewards longtime fans with new romance and relationship witticisms, even if there are some really annoying scene deletions.

The four friends have changed, but are expectedly acclimating to their new lives at points where the series practically left off. Sex columnist and author Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is making big plans with her beau Big (Chris Noth); once-cynical lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is busy being the wife and mother; romantic curator Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is now the perfect wife and mom; formerly promiscuous PR gal Samantha (Kim Cattrall) continues her relationship with young actor-model Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis).

A short but lively recap of the quippy quartet’s history is woven into the opening credits, for those unfamiliar with their past TV lives. Of course, it’ll be appreciated more by those with a broader knowledge of the show. The film is fan-pleasing enough that some flaws can be overlooked; the reunion extends past the screen and onto the devotees. The big-screen jump is comfortably handled by Michael Patrick King, who previously penned and directed several “SATC” episodes years ago.

The “Sex and the City” movie engages just like the TV series, where the foursome’s characters provide different angles on a particular intimacy subject per week. Their different, thematically connected experiences still keep things busy without getting convoluted. While it feels like watching an extended arc, or the equivalent of a marathon of about seven 22-minute episodes, the movie doesn’t tackle as many subjects as its TV progenitor excellently and concisely did. Here, there are parts that feel stretched and padded, even when the story takes place within the span of several months.

Still, the storylines this time exploit some conflicts: Carrie experiences a déjà vu of her turbulent past with Big. Samantha holds back urges for other hot men, and distracts herself by getting a furry pet. Miranda’s partial domestication is suddenly challenged by her spouse’s revelation. There isn’t much going on with Charlotte, but she gets the chance to be the comic relief in some tense (and contrived) situations. The comparisons to the show’s better-written stories are unavoidable, but again, you don’t mind that much if you’re a fan. There are a few things it does differently, though.

Carrie’s given ample characterization; you see her change and come to big realizations, sometimes without her ever-dependable and truth-seeking voiceover narrations. And Mr. Big is given some depth, at last, even when that makes him less mysterious and even more prone to making bone-headed decisions.

It’s far from smooth viewing, though. The deletions of scenes are distracting; you’ll get perplexed by the jarring cuts and wonder what you just missed. The ruined buildups of several scenarios will make you wince and feel a little insulted.

“Sex and the City” tackles pretty much the same kinks and love issues as the seminal show. They don’t go the scandalous “Desperate Housewives” route, but there’s enough realistic post-dating drama that gets fleshed out here. And while there is a noticeable absence of lovemaking, “Sex and the City” still favorably discloses on female empowerment, the search for happiness, and yes, intimacy beyond the physical kind.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

‘21’: Fleecing Las Vegas

(Published June 12, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Fresh-faced and multi-talented Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe”) stars as a math genius-turned-calculating casino fixture in the pretty mechanical drama “21.”

Some transparent life-game metaphors don’t really equate to anything really mind-blowing in the film, directed by Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”), and inspired by the bestseller “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich.

But it plays some cards right.

Beguiling in some parts and plain puzzling in others, “21” allows Sturgess to exhibit his acting range further, as he plays one of very few characters with solid and faceted personalities in the entire film. There’s narrative clarity, but it clings to a pretty rudimentary structure that gets dull on occasion, too.

It’s easy to appreciate the once-naïve nerd’s gradual cocooning into someone who conquers card tables and a hot woman’s heart, but it’s a belated coming-of-age sojourn we’ve witnessed a few times before. Still, while the story’s far from being exceptionally thrilling, it succeeds in capturing some important nuances.

Shy college student Ben Campbell (Sturgess) discovers that his mathematical expertise can spare him some financial burdens when he’s recruited into a secret club by his charismatic professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). Ben reluctantly joins the small band of cool misfits, but soon finds himself drawn to the idea that he can easily win big money. Blackjack is a “beatable” game, said the professor, so Ben hones his unique aptitude for counting cards. He’s only going to pretend that he’s gambling later.

The motley crew of casino raiders train for this complex and covert endeavor, but the visualization and execution of this process is quite confusing on our end. A montage of scenes depicting numbers and code words become flashy gobbledygook, comprehensible only to that small circle of brainiacs.

So the tricks are math whiz-exclusive and you’ll pick up the gist later in succeeding scenarios. As a viewer, though, you’d still feel left out.

Ben and Micky have an involving protégé-mentor dynamic; their somewhat similar mindsets and conflicting personalities keep shared and separate scenes intense. But while Sturgess and Spacey are given lots to do and layers to explore, the other characters are just flat and underdeveloped.

Laurence Fishburne as a casino’s gruff security head is a tad entertaining but too caricaturish. Kate Bosworth looks doll-like, but her beauty-and-brains persona lacks a hook. And the rest of the nerds, well, they’re just non-entities.

Dockin’ with rovin’ Rovilson

(Published June 11, PDI-2bU/Lifestyle)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
2bU Contributor

TV host and former “The Amazing Race Asia” contestant Rovilson Fernandez recently transformed into a living mannequin at the Dockers Power Plant Mall outlet.

For several minutes, he posed with two models at the shop’s display window, grinned for onlookers and lenspeople, and danced a cool permutation of “the robot” and miming (well, there was actual glass, but he didn’t really touch it).

The 34-year-old Fernandez, sporting the latest Dockers threads, later confessed that he’s a clothes-modeling newbie. But he loves learning new things, so doing that for the launch of new products was a worthwhile experience.

He mentions that aside from the “Amazing Race” gig, he’s had many chances to be spontaneous and to try out things.

“My first show was ‘Lakbay TV,’” he says. “It’s funny because they still air episodes where I still have hair. I honed my hosting there and in ‘Game Plan.’ That’s my niche: sports and travel.”

“Dockers khakis are basically for consumers who are youthful, definitely outgoing,” says Dockers Brand Leader Bobet Romualdo. “We believe Rovilson depicts that character. This product line is a balance between work and relaxation. He depicts the K1 man: He’s free-spirited, relaxed and he’s genuine!”

Here, Rovilson talks to 2bU about living a fun, adventurous, eyes-wide-open life.

You’ve obviously had tougher challenges before, but how did modeling that way feel?

It’s just funny; I was talking to Peter, one of the models, and I said, “Modeling is so hard.” I give much respect to them and their craft. Modeling is very tough. It’s an honor to be chosen. I’ve never done that--glass window modeling--before. So I thought it was pretty cool.

Any similar experiences where you did photo shoots like this before?

Never. They said 20 minutes. Us three models up there, we were counting down the 20 minutes. It was pretty tough but we had a lot of fun.

How do the clothes fit you and your lifestyle?

I just love the easy fit. It’s casual and it fits a lifestyle that I’m quite accustomed to. I don’t like flashy items; I’m a jeans and khakis guy. It’s perfect for me. Easygoing, casual, durable, and behind the name is quality. It’s also fashionable. It’s a 24-hour outfit.

You lived in the US before transferring here. What have you learned about Philippine life and Filipinos?

Oh. Wow. Gosh, in the eight years of living here, I’ve learned that money isn’t everything. I love living here. It’s a great place. There’s so much potential, not just for the Philippines but for Asia. You’re gonna be seeing the Philippines in the next decade, in all facets: media, business, travel… The peso’s doing great now. And Pinoys, in general, what they want is to have a good time. They want the easy route on how to do things. Can’t fault them for that, and I’m one of them!

How was joining TAR-Asia a beneficial experience, aside from the obvious region-wide exposure?

It was a dream come true! Shows like “Gameplan,” and “Lakbay TV” taught me well. The Philippines and the TV shows Marc and I did taught us to be successful. So our way of giving back to the country was to do well, to represent the country as best we could, to always be proud and carry the flag. I think we showed that, and demonstrated that Pinoys are hardworking yet happy-go-lucky people.

You and Marc worked well together. Did each of you have quirks that you had to accept, onscreen and off?

Nothing weird about that guy, except his sense of humor, but that’s what I love about him. His sense of humor is fantastic. We’ve been friends for a long time; we get along quite well and we both like the same things. We like a good laugh. We love traveling, we love adventure and we’re both competitive. He was the best partner.

Speaking of partners, you’re seeing some right now.

I’m quite smitten over a girl from the Race. We’re meeting each other. Long distance is tough, but we’re accepting of our careers and our situations. It’s fun!

What sports are you into right now?

I’m definitely into adventure racing. I like it because it combines these different disciplines: biking, swimming, hiking. And it’s always outdoors. I get bored easily, playing just one sport. This one combines a lot of disciplines so it’s a great sport for me. Joining “TAR,” which is the pinnacle of adventure sports, it was a dream come true.

What are you looking forward to doing now that it’s over?

I’m executive editor of Maxim magazine, so that’s my day job. I love Maxim. It’s a brand I grew up with. I think I represent the Maxim man. On top of that, I’m slowly getting sucked back to TV. I thought I was done with it. But thankfully, the success of the show has opened a lot of doors for Marc and I, not just locally, but regionally. So we’re fortunate.

What do you tell people who wish to follow in your footsteps?

Just be persistent. It took me eight years in the business to get to where I am now. Never give up on yourself. Always have faith in your abilities. Make a lot of friends, and remember, don’t burn bridges. The person that you’re in the trenches with one day will be your boss the next. Other than that, have fun!

Damn Restless

Exhaustion’s been creeping into my head. Haven’t been getting enough sleep, and I’ve been feeling tired even after I wake up these last couple of days. And there are times when I can’t doze off, even when I desperately want to.

I try not to worry. But I do ask myself if I’m doing the right thing, if my efforts count, if I should even bother. I ask myself where and when I’m getting the next paycheck, what I’m gonna eat tonight and how I’m gonna make my money last for the next few weeks. But don’t get me wrong. I love being a freelancer and the arrangements it offers me.

I know that other people have it worse, that they’ve problems on a scale unimaginable to me, but I’d say that my concerns are just as valid, and I can still acknowledge that we’re all struggling with whatever it is that life throws at us.

I know things are gonna get easier, but I wish they’d get that way sooner.

I’m f*cking tired.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mission, Volition, Television

Ancient colored art. These are mostly published magazine and newspaper illustrations from five to six years back. That cartoony self-portrait, I did after a trip to Banaue years ago, but I didn’t send it to get published with an article I wrote (my first and only Travel section contribution). Check out the Multiply album for more of the drawings.

Anyway, looking at this set brings back memories of some good times. Whoa, I forgot about the Maui Taylor (with Wendell Ramos and Jordan Herrera) caricature, which I did for a really short-lived mag.

Thanks to John for the scans, by the way.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Just Astonishing

No spoilers. Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men # 1 ends Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s immensely entertaining run. This 25th issue has over 40 pages of story, but it’s an easy read as usual. I was stunned, impressed and saddened. That’s happened only about thrice this year for me so far, with Walking Dead # 48, Avengers: The Initiative # 12 and Astro City: Beautie.

Goodbye Whedon and Cassaday. Thank you for making the X-Men kick ass again.

Flashback: LNA

It was early July in 2001 when I proposed my Lexy, Nance & Argus comic strip to Pulp’s Vernon Go and then-managing editor Annie Alejo. I consider landing that space and staying there for nine high-profile months a very good thing for me, as it opened some important career doors, eventually. I got to contribute to the sister publication, MTV Ink, shortly after my first few published installments. I used a different writing style for the comic book reviews section, naturally; I think that when I started Lexy, I also began to consider writing seriously.

Even before I drew a page of LNA, I kinda knew what I wanted to do, but I actually hesitated. My old friend John offered wise advice, as he’s wont to dispense from time to time. He didn’t know what I had in mind and I didn’t share it, but he just reminded me that above all else, “Story is King.” I knew that, I’ve always known that, but I needed to hear those three words. He told me to seize that opportunity to tell a story. I did some pretty forgettable comics back in college (a superhero project that, eek, starred the old barkada, and a painted fantasy comic book thesis). But John knew I could do it, that I’ve learned much between college and that specific point.

And so I did 18 pages for Pulp all those years ago, the first act of a bigger story. There were more things that I wanted to say through it, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I just hoped that I’d be able to finish it someday.

Four years ago, a new friend, Benedict, asked if it would continue. I did promise that it would be compiled with new material when act one finished back in September 2002. Continuing it had always been at the back of my mind; Benedict pushing me to finish it actually made me pull out my old scrawly notes, stuff I’d written soon after the initial publication. They had very specific, sprawling semantics on how the story details connected, and I was glad that I was finally able to do new pages between writing jobs.

Work, of course, consisted of writing entertainment and lifestyle reviews and reports for a broadsheet. In 2002, I only had my Pulp and MTV Ink work as existing writing credits, but my old editor (the late Louie Camino) kept me around as a regular contributor. My work there led to writing for a PR agency, where I’d mostly do copy for property developer press releases. I am thankful that all these years later, I still continue to contribute and learn from doing work for the paper and the agencies. As a freelancer, I learned how to adapt to the needs of the job, and I keep discovering things that I like about writing.

I started blogging in 2005, partly to plug the Lexy, Nance & Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll comic book. I also did an ashcan of spot cartoons, LNA: Family Album, to promote it (here’s a page).

The following are things about it that I blogged about years ago, for the curious:

LNA, genesis:

When I was given the chance to try out for Pulp’s comics section, I knew that whatever I’d be creating must have its own edge and voice. I have a number of stories in my head, some of which involve a big, epic superhero setting, but space constraints didn’t exactly allow for what I had in mind originally. So I tapped into something universal, something that I hoped would make people notice and pay attention. And this was “Lexy, Nance and Argus,” about the joys and pains of people who didn’t conform with society or tradition. From there, I understood how I wanted to present it.

I’ve hundreds of characters, but when I knew what I wanted to create and what kind of story I should tell, those three protagonists surfaced. It was easy to write them at that point. They had to be distinct from each other and relatable.


Not necessarily. There are certain scenes, thoughts and ideas that might be considered things I believe in or have experienced, but I’d rather not talk about the specifics for the sake of keeping the story’s mystique intact. That way, my readers can still separate me from my work, and can keep guessing if what they’re reading is taken from reality or just creative fabrication. It’s part of the whole writing deal.

Reader response:

A few letters I have received, presumably from young people, tell me that they have been empowered by it. They have been moved or touched by what they have read, and identify with the difficulties that the characters have had to go through. Mostly, the intention of the comic book is to provoke thought, to challenge people’s old notions about inclusion, family, and sexuality. If they feel positively affected by it, then I feel that I’ve done my job of getting my messages across.

But some adults were freaked out by it. Some have even called it porn. Anyway…

It’s very encouraging that there were people who believed in it, who waited patiently for the actual comic book to come out all those years later. Many of the reactions were very particular about their favorite parts or characters (even psychic Jim--in the drawing above--has some fans, yay!), while others listed it in their Friendster, Blogger, or MySpace profiles (sometimes alongside Bob Ong books and stuff by local comics luminaries). Also, three different people compared it to Box Office Poison, which I hope to read soon.

I’m glad that it’s gotten mostly favorable reviews and reactions from different readers--students, authors and teachers--in blogs and in publications such as PDI, Inquirer Libre, Manila Bulletin, Cosmopolitan, Icon, and FHM. Margie Holmes, Danton Remoto, ProGay’s Oscar Atadero, and the book’s fans had great, heartwarming things to say about it too (check out the LNA Reviews link!).

Thanks to everyone who bought a copy or reviewed it!

Monday, June 02, 2008

‘Speed Racer’: Candy-colored car caper

(Published May 30, Philippine Daily Inquirer-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Bursting with candy colors and deliberately artificial-looking, “Speed Racer” is a big popcorn movie revolving around racing and fast cars that, strangely, has some problems with pacing. Filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix”) offer their take on the beloved ‘60s cartoon series, a fun and engaging enough new world that’s drenched in trippy special effects and made lively by hypnotic cinematography.

But those eventually wane when things slow down, particularly when its family-friendly drama bits turn sappy and didactic. Not that it’s entirely that way. The character development of the driven main hero Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is done captivatingly, his childhood memories imaginatively entwined together with his present-day angst and brooding personality. Those flashbacks are creatively presented on the screen, comic book-like in its utilization of foreground and background imagery.

“Speed Racer” re-introduces an oddly cool family, the Racers, whose love for racing and cars is established early on and repeatedly. Pops (John Goodman) makes the snazziest, fastest automobiles in his garage, while Mom (Susan Sarandon) is ever-supportive of the guys and can handle anything with her expertise in diplomacy, cooking pancakes and making sandwiches. And Spritle (Paulie Litt), Speed’s younger brother who’s more into food than cars, is the impish but loyal fan.

Speed’s hero-worship of a deceased older brother and racing champ, Rex (Scott Porter), still drives him to compete. The promising driver attracts the attention of Royalton Industries’ head honcho (Roger Allam), who tries to lure the young man into joining his roster of cared-for “thoroughbreds.” But sure enough, Speed politely declines, preferring to stay independent. Subsequently, the naïve Racer discovers some disheartening truths behind the business, and must stave off some threats (like gun-toting henchmen and yes, ninjas!) with the help of his family and butt-kicking girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci).

It’s a comprehensibly told story, although it tends to wallow and linger too much every time it touches on Speed’s pathos. He’s mopey almost all of the time, but thankfully, that’s contrasted by Trixie’s bubbliness and reckless optimism. Pops, meanwhile, comes off as a well-meaning stage father. The Racer family has endured the loss of one of their own, and the father-son arguments make sense.

Still, it’s about 30 minutes too long. The flashy racing bouts, however, are a welcome visual treat, reminding one of the fun and rambunctious Pod Race in “Star Wars Episode 1.”

The zooming cars dueling on hazardous tracks are a sight to see, but the races soon become numbing. The special effects are something to admire, making the impossible incredibly real, even when faster-paced scenes or techno-meshed backgrounds defy the laws of physics.

The humor is odd, but your kid companions will undoubtedly get it and enjoy it.

Despite some screeching moments, “Speed Racer” is still worth seeing. But don’t rush.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

‘Lady in the Water’: Fairy tale fluff

(Old review. Originally published July 24, 2006, PDI-Entertainment. I’m looking forward to the filmmaker’s latest, “The Happening,” showing within the month.)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Since “The Sixth Sense,” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has pursued his own artistic vision, creating generally profound layers in his characters’ enigma-filled realities. His ideas aren’t that original, but he gives his own spin on established mythologies, so whether they’re ghosts, aliens, and other unusual beings that defy human comprehension, he knows how to make us believe, scant information on them notwithstanding. That is still true with “Lady in the Water,” although this time, it takes us time to get reeled in because it follows a more offbeat, more fairy tale-like structure.

The story is simpler and approached with a looser sense of logic in that sense, and requires huge leaps of faith on our end. As with his other films, the lead character reels from tragedy in “Lady”, but a fateful encounter with otherworldly creatures changes his monotony forever. After apartment superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) rescues a “narf”—or sea nymph--named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) from a pursuing mythical beast, he and a few select apartment residents must band together to help fulfill her mission. By helping out through designated roles, these misfits are ultimately saving the human race as a whole, at least according to some old legends.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan film if he didn’t insist on appearing in it. His screen time here is considerably longer and more crucial, as he plays an aspiring author destined to influence a future world leader. That’s when things get really iffy; his presence on-screen is a distraction. There are things you just can’t suspend disbelief over, like that character, and Story’s trippy claims that she’s from an undersea world (everyone takes her word for it without ever seeing her monster attacker). The voice of reason comes from a skeptical character much later in the movie, but by then it doesn’t really matter. Again, it’s like a simplified bedtime story that doesn’t bother with necessary details.

But the script is well-written in parts, particularly those involving an all-knowing, surly film critic character (Bob Balaban), who vocally points out the allusions of events and people to Cleveland and, well, to himself. Too bad the assemblage of characters here is at times disaffecting and too contrived. Among them is a kid who sees Story’s future by staring at cereal boxes (eh?), and a petulant woman who knows all (all!) the key characters and symbols of the narf legends by heart. There are many convenient plot elements that help Story—and the story!—move forward, including a timely placed deus ex machina that predictably lets the characters wriggle out of the whole mess unharmed.

It ends too abruptly, although it doesn’t spoon-feed the ceremonial fare-thee-wells anymore like it did during most of the movie. Howard’s partly amnesiac Story is just okay, but she appropriately radiates an aura of divinity, even when she’s immobile most of the time. No, we really don’t see her world, which probably would’ve spiced things up visually.

While it’s not the usual Shyamalan twist-filled crowd-pleaser, “Lady in the Water” is still about humanity and the human condition, even when they’re forced to commune with the bizarre. It isn’t that big a departure from his other fantasy-laced films, but it lacks some of the more complex puzzles and rewarding resolutions that his other, better-written films have believably presented.

Another Sun-Soaked Season Fades Away

My sleeping schedule’s outta whack again. I’ve been grabbing the chance to sleep when I can, since work has been unpredictable these last couple of weeks. Lack of z’s notwithstanding, it was an okay summer. Not as eventful as last year, but nevertheless a good one. Learned a bunch about different businesses through work for the agencies. Been itching to draw and tell a story through comics again. Been questioning life and its perplexing mysteries again, too.

Anyway, some recent things:

1. Saw Sex and the City. Wow, they made it a PG-13 movie (or R-13, as it’s called in SM theaters). The deletions were annoying; still, I suppose one way for it to make money is to have it shown at SM’s cinemas, too. But then again, it’s originally geared for adults, and it’s damn puzzling to watch it with jarring cuts. Oh well. I mostly liked it, though; it wasn’t perfect, but it ran like a multi-episode marathon. I missed those characters.

2. Got some Tori Amos CDs. Thanks, Sherwin! Am enjoying the Across the Universe OST double CD Mark lent me, too, aside from the music I got last week.

3. Good comics this week: Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men, X-Force # 4, All-Star Superman # 11, New Avengers # 41, Final Crisis # 1 and Young Avengers Presents Stature. Last week, Christos Gage’s awesome Avengers: Initiative came out, too. And the summer had its share of mostly tightly written stuff, such as JSA, the first two Secret Invasion issues, Drew Goddard’s ongoing Buffy arc, and the Marvel Handbooks (the Marvel Atlas, Ultimate Handbook, and Iron Manual). It’s a great time for superheroes.

4. Been eating some chocolate pasalubong. Reese’s peanut butter cups are still fricking addictive. Sweet.

5. Saw 21. Across the Universe’s Jim Sturgess is still damn charismatic and talented. And it’s funny how his character blindly follows a beckoning stranger (a classmate) from the library into another room. Weeks later, he follows the same guy, now a friend, into a restroom cubicle. It’s like he was expecting something else, really.