Sunday, June 28, 2009

How the Mighty Have ‘Fallen’

(Thank you, Rita Obanil and Stratworks, for the tickets. Some spoilers ahead.)

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a big, loud sequel with a few cool parts and more than its share of WTF moments.

The good parts? Shia, Megan, and a few action scenes.

The headscratchers:

1. Many of the Transformers still have overly detailed designs, so it gets difficult to figure out who’s talking, and who’s doing what in scenes that show more than one robot. Optimus Prime, for example, looks like he’s got a zillion tiny flecks for parts; it’s hard to discern (a) if he’s hitting a similarly over-designed enemy with his fists, and (b) where that blow connects, if he is. At least Bumblebee and the Twins have clearly defined shapes and prominent colors.

2. Several Primes had to sacrifice themselves to create an easily penetrable chamber for the Matrix. No serious security measures or booby traps. The Matrix supposedly cannot be just found; “It must be earned.” Then the Fallen, the most unworthy of all Transformers, just snatches it from Sam Witwicky.

3. Mikaela lets her leg get humped by a small Decepticon. “At least he’s loyal.”

4. The Autobots don’t have an official interim leader in case Optimus Prime bites the dust. And they were just depending on the possible resurrective properties of the Matrix.

5. We really did not need to see John Turturro’s butt.

6. Optimus’ “corpse” wasn’t put on the ground gently by the humans; he had to be unloaded from midair in an undignified manner.

7. Decepticons can transform into humans, but they only thought of placing one “fembot” near their target.

8. Suddenly, Sam Witwicky has been destined for greatness all along.

9. The revived Prime gets extra parts and weaponry, but instead of looking impressive, it looks like he’s got junk haphazardly clumped on him.

10.You’d think that the Decepticons would have a brilliant plan, like relentlessly attacking the Autobots (and their allies) at different fronts while they were leaderless. Instead of taking advantage of Prime’s temporary death, they showed a lack of strategy and military tactics, and didn’t even put up an impressive fight in Egypt. They just depended on the Constructicons to swallow whoever got in the way. Overconfident fools.

‘Ice Age 3’: Jurassic Perks

The cuddly mammals’ herd expanded in the last “Ice Age” installment, and they’re about to welcome a new member to their unique family this time. Mammoths Manny and Ellie are expecting a baby, which sends old friends Diego and Sid thinking about aging and parenthood, respectively. They all share an unexpected adventure when they discover the existence of real, live dinosaurs, mistakenly thought to be long extinct.

The dinosaurs’ survival, and the secrets behind their hidden world aren’t revealed, but it doesn’t really matter. This third part in the series of animated movies fits well and has its own feelgood dynamic. The characters are mostly how you remember them, but they’ve matured a little.

We see less of barren tundras, and more of the lush lost land. A richer color palette is used; the introduction of the warmer environment and its richly textured reptile inhabitants offers new and solid designs.

“Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is simple but manages to elicit good, hearty giggles. The Simon Pegg-voiced Buck, a less-than-sane weasel adventurer, adds spontaneity and an extremely contrasting personality.

Also, acorn-hunting Scrat finds love. Or does he?

Fun stuff for all ages.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Endless Family Portrait

Dream, Death, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny, Despair, Desire.

I did this drawing of the Endless siblings some weeks after reading the entire Sandman series. I like the enmity between Morpheus and Desire, and Destruction’s attempts at creating art.

“Desire, Despair, Desire… so many monsters.”

Kaskade, Dance Floor Maestro

(Published June 20, PDI-Super)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Electronic artist Kaskade was in Manila again for a series of shows last week, his third time in the country.

“I love the Philippines,” enthused the 38-year-old dance artist-producer. “I think my music works really well in this country. You guys have a passion for songs, for songwriting and singing, which in dance music is becoming a rare thing. It’s more rhythm-driven. But my music is more melodic and lyrical so I think it’s a good fit for the Filipino people.”

Kaskade is Ryan Raddon, who grew up in Northbrook, Illinois. He began using the stage name in 2001. He is currently touring the globe and performing in packed venues, constantly grateful for being exposed to all types of cultures.

“It’s amazing. It blows me away. I mean, here I am, sitting in the Philippines. Next month I’m gonna be touring Europe for four weeks. I will probably play somewhere between 25 and 30 different countries this year. I’ll play around 120 shows. Dance music, electronic music, is extremely universal. People like to dance.”

Describe how your music has evolved.

I think it’s always lyric-driven music, but the production style is always evolving. My first album “It’s You, It’s Me” came out in 2002. It was very much like chill, ambient, with some deep house stuff. I still make a lot of those, but I definitely had more big room songs cross over into the club world.

How do you choose singers, and have you recorded your voice for your music?

I’ve tried to sing myself but I never released anything with me singing on it! I write music and then I just have a session singer come in and just sing. I find one that will match. I have an idea of what I want it to sound like. I write the lyrics, come up with the melody, and then have somebody sing it.

What’s easiest to write about?

I write about night life and night life culture, and about falling in and out of love. With electronic music, it can be pretty abstract, which is cool. It’s definitely something I really appreciate.

After finishing a song, when is it ready for recording?

Oh, it’s never perfect. I just get out what’s in my head and that’s good enough for me. I make stuff for myself. I’m a pretty selfish artist.

Describe the process of choosing songs for remixing.

I have to like the original song. If I don’t like it, I won’t remix it. Stylistically, I have to feel like it will fit and re-translate into the club track. And I have to have enough time to do it, which is a huge thing. I’m on the road so much, sometimes great opportunities come along that I have to pass on because I don’t have the time.

Which are your favorites?

Recently, I remixed Plumb’s “In My Arms,” which is on my latest mix CD The Grand. I really like the way it turned out. It came together super-quick, too. I heard the song, and had an idea. And it worked really well! David Morales, the song “Here I Am,” the final product I was really happy with. Dude, I can talk about remixes forever! Seal’s “Amazing”… Britney Spears’ “Break the Ice,” I love playing that one.

Which dance artists are you listening to?

Eric Prydz, I’m a huge fan of his music. David Guetta’s new track is awesome! I love Justice, MSTRKRFT… there’s a lot of guys doing cool stuff right now. Everybody has their own little niche. They’re making music that’s contemporary, but it also plays in a night club.

How do you select songs for sets?

It’s a tough thing to make the selection. I don’t wanna play too much of my music; it seems over-indulgent. But I wanna play enough ‘cause people came to hear my tracks. It switches every night. That’s the great thing about a live show. It’s so fluid.

Describe the global dance scene.

It’s massive. It’s crazy. It’s healthy. We don’t really have a lot of radio play all over the world; it’s mainly internet-driven. It’s still difficult to find the artists ‘cause they’re independently marketed. There aren’t huge budgets; it’s not Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake, where they have millions of dollars to advertise and tell the general public. It’s still a niche thing. The thing that’s so surprising is the people really want it. There are huge arena shows that I played all over the world. There’s a huge demand for this music, but the big soft drink companies haven’t figured out how to market this stuff, so the major labels aren’t involved yet.

What’s the most important thing about creating dance music?

Just be true to yourself. I always tell new guys coming up to me: “Create your own sound. Don’t copy. Come up with your own thing, your own niche, and master that.” When I started doing music, everyone was doing this one sound. I was inspired by that but I did my own thing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jenny Sparks, Electric Blue

I finally read Warren Ellis’ and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority. I remember getting the first issue of that in 1999, the same day Gerry A. and Leinil Yu called me up to hang out at a nearby mall. The place still had a Comic Quest, and I was still doing and submitting weekly drawings to Whilce Portacio for evaluation.

I only bought that issue, and only recently read the rest of the title and some related issues of Stormwatch that a friend lent me over two years ago. I love Ellis’ big, clever action scenarios and the way Hitch illustrated them spectacularly and consistently. I’m just not too impressed with lines that accompany the Carrier bits, like “moving downwake through the Devachanic Realm at a speed of 25 dreams per second,” which sometimes come off as pretentiously abstract.

The Mark Millar-Frank Quitely issues were likewise entertaining. The situations were slightly more brutal and shocking. But the characters’ conscious and smugger declarations of badassery became off-putting from time to time. But like in Ellis and Hitch’s run, the antiheroes figured in epic-scale conflicts, and the title was a nice alternative to wholesome and traditional superteams’ exploits.

Speaking of traditional heroes, I went to the Annual Toy Con at Megamall last Sunday and got a loose Superman Blue (from the DC Universe set) at a low price. Awesome. It’s quite poseable, thanks to many points of articulation. I like how Grant Morrison played with Electric Blue Superman back in the day. Oh, hmm, wonder who’d win in a fight between him and Jenny Sparks.

I also got a loose Mysterio, a figure that I wanted to buy years back, but it disappeared fast when the Spider-Man sets went buy one-take one. It has a nice gimmick; it reminds me of the Man-E-Faces toys from the classic and revived He-Man lines because of its changing head. It’s a nice addition to my Marvel Legends villains.

The last time I bought action figures was about a year ago, also at the toy con, if I’m not mistaken. Yay, toys!

Loving ‘How I Met Your Mother’

“How I Met Your Mother” isn’t “Friends,” but some storylines might’ve worked just as well if they were used in the old sitcom. The dynamic is a little similar, in that a number of disparate friends get into romantic or career milestones (or mishaps), and themes of the week often get explored well in each episode. It’s not “Friends” for a younger generation, but a large part of it is about getting by with a little help from one’s friends.

Characters like romantic Ted (Josh Radnor), lothario Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), longtime lovers Lily and Marshall (Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel) and practical Robin (Cobie Smulders) regularly hang out in a bar, mainly because they’re bored with coffee places. Ted, Barney and Robin explore the dating scene, while Lily and Marshall experience the ups and downs of staying together.

As the show progresses, plenty of opportunities are creatively tapped for expounding on the five characters. Flashbacks help define them; the show’s title refers to future Ted’s long, unending recollection of events leading to his momentous meeting with the mother of his kids. His narration (voiced by Bob Saget) is a device that helps hold together narrative jumps, and almost always shares wisdom as the folly-filled stories unfold. These tales are often touching, insightful and, yes, funny. The writing has steadily improved, guest stars are used wisely, and the main characters are people you’ll understand well and root for.

As for the titular “Mother” character, she has yet to make a real appearance; the shows’ creators are probably saving the big reveal for its final season. In the meantime, Ted and company’s connected tales are about the pursuit of happiness and contentment, and the lessons learned along the way.

Pensive ‘Pelham’

A ruthless hostage-taker (John Travolta) openly communicates with a subway dispatcher (Denzel Washington), who tries to negotiate the safe release of several passengers. “The Taking of Pelham 123,” directed by Tony Scott, is a decent hostage thriller; there are notable performances by Washington (as a flawed, aging family man) and on occasion, Travolta (when he’s not being over-the-top). James Gandolfini is okay as an erring politician, but his squeaky, Jay Leno-esque voice here gets distracting. The music and text graphics (“11 minutes left,” etc.) are sometimes intrusive, as well. While the drama loses consistency because of such factors, “Pelham” still works because of the solid focus on character examination.

Assemble Your Action Figure Army

(Published June 14, PDI-Super)

Monsters, aliens, heroes, villains… the toy collector can create and re-create epics via fantastic plastic

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Photos by Benedict S. Bartolome

It’s a pretty normal sight to see grownups in toy stores purchasing action figures for themselves, especially in recent years.

Grown men and women have become staunch toy collectors, appreciating the sculpture-like quality of favorite film or comic book characters.

Some superhero fans have been able to amass toy incarnations of their favorite crimefighters and even their corresponding arch-foes. Many of these intricately painted figures range from six to seven inches in height, and possess multiple points of articulation. Film or TV characters immortalized in plastic are also sought-after items; many collectors praise the toys’ faithfulness to actors’ likenesses.

Some hobbyists are satisfied with just looking at their unopened figures, while others rip through the packaging, play with the toys a little, and pose them in display shelves later. Action figure aficionados, whether belonging to one category or the other, frequent toy sales and occasional toy conventions. Chase or variant editions, loose (unpackaged) figures, and cheaper-than-usual items often become part of the treasure trove.

Here are some popular action figure sets that form mini-armies:

Marvel Universe

Marvel Legends figures, which debuted in 2002, have a number of movable parts that allow a variety of poses. These usually have accessories or weapons that also previously appeared in the comic books. Dozens of characters have become action figures in a number of releases, and those who started collecting early can create teams like the X-Men, Avengers, and a massive battalion of supervillains. Certain Marvel Legends waves have extra figures that can be assembled once completed. Marvel Select figures have less articulation and are slightly taller than the usual Legend, but both toy types have similarly detailed paint jobs and can be grouped together if opened.

DC Universe

DC Direct figures aren’t as playable as super-articulated toys, but they’re beautifully sculpted and painted. These usually have pegged display bases, shaped like specific logos or mastheads. Like many Marvel toys, the DC Direct toys are often inspired by existing comic books. Teams like the JLA, the JSA, Teen Titans and Green Lantern Corps have been translated to DC Direct figures already. The newer DC Superheroes line is similar to Marvel Legends, in that the figures are fully poseable and a bonus figure can be created when a set is completed. Smaller versions of several characters are already appearing as DC Universe Infinite Heroes action figures.

Film and TV

While not action figures in the traditional sense, Transformers toys are similarly fun merchandise; there are various toy lines that continue to attract devotees of the different shows, as well as action figure collectors. The Star Wars figures, approximately 4 inches tall, also have a devoted fan base. Completists and casual buyers are still getting a barrage of Star Wars characters inspired by the movies, the new TV show, and even the comic books. Other memorable properties that attracted toy geeks were the Lord of the Rings series of films, and the relaunched He-Man show, to name a few.

Horror and fantasy

McFarlane Toys specializes in fantasy and horror figures. Back in the mid-‘90s, McFarlane started releasing finely crafted, statuesque Spawn figures, characters created for his comic book or exclusively for the action figure series. Eventually, McFarlane Toys also did Movie Maniacs (bogeymen from flicks like “Friday the 13th,” “Psycho,” “Scream,” etc.), dragons, and even star athletes and rock gods. While they have very limited movable parts, the ornate designs often overpower the lack of playability. The different fantasy figures can form warring hordes of monsters and warriors from different time periods and realities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bart and Conner Redux

Impulse and Superboy were among the few characters created in the early ‘90s that didn’t reflect the darker tone of the era. They remained uniquely fun, at least until the end of Young Justice and their own solo titles. They developed into more “serious” characters when they became Teen Titans. Eventually, Bart Allen and Conner Kent were killed off.

I always felt that those deaths were wasteful and unnecessary. But DC’s rectifying those mistakes; the back-to-back resurrections in Legion of 3 Worlds were indeed memorable moments for fans of the two heroes.

As for other DC teens who met their doom, like Osiris and Marvin, they’ll probably be back, zombiefied, in the upcoming Blackest Night crossover. It’s resurrection season at the Big Two; Marvel’s dead mutants are expected to rise en masse in the X-Force title (where prominent mutant-hating humans were also reanimated last year).

Kid Flash and Superboy won’t be regressing into their more fun, younger selves--we just have to look at the back issues for that feelgood charm--but they’re back, after being sidetracked by mortality. Bart’s in the Flash: Rebirth mini, and Conner will be in a new title shared with the Legion. I hope that writers that understand them--Mark Waid and Joe Kelly, respectively--eventually pen new adventures, and make them grow further.

Metro Station has arrived

(Published June 11, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


American electropop band Metro Station was formed in 2006, but discovered only after its song “Seventeen Forever” topped MySpace Music’s Unsigned charts.

Composed of Mason Musso (vocalist, rhythm guitarist), Trace Cyrus (lead guitarist, vocalist), Anthony Improgo (drummer) and Blake Healy (keyboardist, bassist), Metro Station recorded a self-titled, 10-track debut album that landed in various music charts. The band’s gigs at Ayala Malls continue tonight, 7 p.m. at TriNoma and tomorrow, 6:30 p.m. at Alabang Town Center.

Describe your music style, and name your biggest influences.

Mason: We call it synth-pop; that’s the easiest way to describe it. For the album, we were influenced by a lot of ‘80s music, and one of the biggest was a band called Postal Service. We were also influenced by New Order, Depeche Mode, and OMD.

Trace: Mason and I really got into this electronic-style music. We were into going to clubs. We wanted to accomplish getting the atmosphere--how people dance to your music--and we feel that we found that with our music.

Trace, did you always intend to make music different from your dad’s (Billy Ray)?

Trace: I’ve always wanted to do music ever since I was a child. But I didn’t know I wanted to do electronic music until I met Mason. I was making songs on my acoustic guitar; he was making different types of songs…

How do you divide singing duties?

Trace: We found this easy method. We figure out what part of the song is gonna be sung better by which singer. Mason has a totally different vocal style. We were working on a song the other night. It’s like, “You should sing this part.” and “I should come in here.” It’s just agreed upon.

What subject is easiest to write about?

Mason: Women.

Trace: Girls, relationships--it’s a big thing. We just try to write about anything that’ll reach a large number of people. If kids can’t relate to it, there’s no point in writing it.

Blake, how different was it before you joined the band?

Blake: I went to Los Angeles, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with music, and I happen to get into a really great situation with these guys. I feel really lucky.

What’s the most important thing about making music?

Mason: Love what you’re doing.

Trace: As long as you know you’re happy, nothing else should ever matter.

What’s the best thing about being in Metro Station?

Trace: I have my best friends with me and I’m making music so it’s the best of both worlds. These guys are my new family.

‘Generation Kill’ goes to war

(Published June 9, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Gripping and occasionally grim, the HBO miniseries “Generation Kill” recreates the early days of the US’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. Based on the book by former Rolling Stone correspondent Evan Wright, the series follows the troops’ activities and missions that the writer witnessed.

The 7-episode series gives an oft-uncomfortable but revealing view of how Marines tasked with leading the invasion lived and carried out orders. Viewers are given a variety of human sides to the conflict, personalities that often clash off-mission. Strong language goes hand-in-hand with grimy visuals, recreating discomfiting, even off-putting situations.

But these depictions of actual events and people still ingratiate. Lee Tergesen (“Oz,” “Desperate Housewives”) plays Wright, who, like the viewer, welcomes the transparency, but isn’t quite prepared for things that happen. Riding a Humvee with Sgt. Brad Colbert (Alexander Skarsgard) and Cpl. Ray Person (James Ransone), Wright learns about chain of command, cultural differences in the ranks, and life-and-death encounters.

Episodes of “Generation Kill” have their share of unexpected humor, however. Moments of levity and realistic conversations help keep minds off the heavy stuff. Dramatic scenes that replicate the strife or show casualties of the crossfire also feel authentic, and are distressing and difficult to watch.

Structurally, the mini-series doesn’t follow typical formulas; it meanders sometimes, becomes chaotic without warning, and doesn’t necessarily end with cliffhangers. There are sympathetic figures, but it takes time to get attached to such characters. Different psychological profiles are offered; for different reasons, some of the men from the battalion treat the task at hand as one big adventure.

“Generation Kill” evokes uneasiness and can be numbing at times, but it documents and explores this side of the war quite effectively.

Two episodes of “Generation Kill” air weekly on Sundays, 9:00 p.m. on Max. The first two aired June 7.

Valid Question

My nephew saw me preparing to leave for an assignment earlier:

Nephew: Where are you going?

Me: I’m going to interview someone.

Nephew: For the newspaper?

Me: Yes.

Nephew: Do they say “Next!”?

Me: What do you mean?

Nephew: When they don’t want to answer, do they say “Next!”?

That made me laugh. I told him that the people I talk to don’t do that, and they’re usually nice. Or pretend to be, because it’s for the paper, but I didn’t tell him that anymore.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pop Confessions, Present-Day Women

(Published June 6, PDI-Super)

Three artists create inspired, relevant and chart-topping music

Text and illustrations by Oliver M. Pulumbarit

They’re cute, creative, and they’ve got confessions to share. Born in the ‘80s, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Lily Allen are among the current crop of music sensations with inescapable presences, their catchy songs steadily attracting attention through radio airplay, music video rotations, even ring tones.

Some female singers in their late teens and early ‘20s have offered a range of perspectives that different listeners related to. Former teen pop darlings Debbie Gibson and Tiffany made somewhat clean, love-themed ditties over 20 years ago, while Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple gave gritty, edgy accounts of their lives as young women in the ‘90s. Not long after came Britney Spears and her ilk, with mostly bubblegum-flavored odes to young love and heartbreak.

Whatever the genre or style, the pervading quality is honesty. Aside from relatable lyrics, many of Swift, Perry and Allen’s songs have memorable hooks or accessible melodies.

Taylor Swift is becoming less known as Joe Jonas’ ex, thankfully, and is getting more attention for her music. The 19-year-old previously recorded a self-titled country album, which had a bunch of hits in the US, including the ballad “Tim McGraw.” It was named after her favorite male singer. Back when she was just a kid, the young singer-songwriter always dreamed of performing her own songs. She experienced rejection along the way, but won acceptance and acclaim, eventually.

Her current album, “Fearless,” further proves that the attention is well-deserved. The collection of pop-country songs traverses a gamut of emotions, revealing relevant insights and colorful imagery. Bittersweet high school life is vividly shared in “Fifteen” (“In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team, but I didn’t know it at fifteen.”). The title track is an upbeat, carefree tune about finding someone special, while “White Horse” is a ballad that appealingly wallows in regret. Other songs in “Fearless” are similarly well-told stories with a distinctly youthful touch.

Katy Perry, meanwhile, became popular last year thanks to the bi-curious anthem “I Kissed a Girl.” It wasn’t easy getting noticed before that; it took some time before she recorded her debut pop album “One of the Boys.” It’s hard to imagine now, but the kooky 24-year old previously sang in church, and even recorded a Christian album. Now often clad in threads spanning bygone eras, Perry unleashes a wild side through opinionated songs from her well-received album.

And “One of the Boys” is one addictive set of pop-rock curiosities. Perry’s big voice is commanding, and her fast songs sound Pat Benatar-esque. “Hot N Cold,” “Waking Up in Vegas” and “If You Can Afford Me” are playful, free-spirited, and lovingly retro, while accessing a contemporary attitude. Slower tracks such as “Thinking of You” and “Lost” culminate in power ballad crescendos.

Perry certainly is an artist who knows how to attract attention, one whose musical growth will be worth witnessing.

As for Lily Allen, she’s the English singer with uncompromising, sometimes controversial views. These translate to more adult-oriented lyrics, and the occasional deployment of f-bombs. She had a successful debut a few years ago; the single “Smile” became a chart hit in the UK, and was quite popular in different countries.

Her current album “It’s Not Me, It’s You” utilizes different music styles, and reflects the singer’s openness on a variety of topics. Her girlish, lilting voice often disarms, so it’s a little shocking when songs enter unexpected territories. She doesn’t mince words, especially in “F*** You,” where she speaks against homophobia (“So you say it’s not okay to be gay, well I think you’re just evil”). The song repeats a simple but unforgettable line (“F*** you, f*** you very, very much”). Also, Allen discloses about her disappointment over a lover who can’t satisfy her in “Not Fair,” and sings about a woman’s unhappy life--the absence of a man and a good career--in “22.”

Popular music isn’t what it used to be. These are some of the women who share parts of their lives, and their unique perception of the world.

Mark Meily, Movies, TVCs

(Interviewed Mr. Meily last week. Found out that he’s an old friend’s brother. Anyway, this is a slightly longer version of the article published June 7. Also, would like to clarify that one sentence--“Crying Ladies,” which starred Sharon Cuneta, received acclaim locally and in film festivals abroad. --somehow ended up as: “Crying Ladies,” which starred Sharon Cuneta, and which received acclaim locally and in film festivals abroad. Um… anyway, here’s the article.)

Mark Meily: Movies easier to make than TV commercials

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Mark Meily started directing TV commercials in 1991, and still enjoys the job 18 years later. He says he loves the creativity involved in making ads, although he does get the itch to express himself in another medium occasionally.

In 2003, he started directing movies. “Crying Ladies,” which starred Sharon Cuneta, received acclaim locally and in film festivals abroad. More recently, Meily won Best Director in the 25th Star Awards for his historical drama “Baler.” The 41-year-old currently has four film scripts in development, and continues to freelance as a TV commercial director.

Describe your rapport with actors during ad shoots.

It’s always easier to work with actors, mainly because they’re experienced. They’re very flexible. Mas madali nilang naiintindihan. Meron ding magagaling na non-actors, but my experience with actors is different.

Would Greenwich’s “Cheesy” TV commercial fall in this category?

You have two experienced actors, John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, who have worked together for a long time. May chemistry na sila. Wala silang diva attitudes. During breaks, nakikipaglokohan pa rin. It was very low-pressure; we weren’t stressed when we were shooting.

How has directing TV ads helped you as a filmmaker?

TV commercials are harder because you have stricter standards to follow. I’m not saying mas mababa ang standards ng feature film. You play within certain parameters. The advantage in doing feature films is that it’s your own creation. You can apply all your artistic principles. TV ads are always a collective effort. Doing TV commercials is the best film school in the world. It’s always great to start your career in directing as a TV commercial director, because you get the best equipment, you work with the most creative people, and of course, you have the best food!

What can you say about actors you’ve worked with?

Jericho Roles, Sharon Cuneta, John Lloyd and Bea are intelligent actors… You’ll know an actor is intelligent when you mention a film or a scene and they know what you’re talking about. Like, “It’s Angelina Jolie in ‘A Mighty Heart,’ when her husband died.” Si Anne Curtis, nagulat ako, kuha niya. Si Sharon Cuneta, I tell her, “Gong Li in the film ‘Ju Dou.’” Sagot ni Sharon, “Alam ko na ‘yan, Direk.”

How have indie films changed the local film scene?

Back in the advent of independent films, independent filmmakers started getting actors that are known but not necessarily famous because they could not afford big name stars. Eventually, they became famous. In effect, mainstream actors and actresses see roles that they want to do. So unti-unti, si Judy Ann Santos, Piolo Pascual started doing independent films. It’s a badge of success, “I’m not just a star; I’m an actor.”

Content-wise, how are movies changing?

The audience has become intelligent. The problem sometimes with mainstream cinema is, nauuna ‘yung artista. “We have to make a film for so-and-so. Love story, set in an advertising agency.” Doon nangyayari ang scriptwriting. Sa independent films, the screenplay comes first, and then they look for actors.

Describe your dream project.

My dream project is a historical film about the voyage of Magellan, from the point of view of a slave who came from Southeast Asia, probably the Philippines. When Magellan arrived in the Philippines, this slave was able to communicate with the locals. Also, there were seven mutiny attempts in Magellan’s voyage; many Spanish sailors didn’t join the Battle of Mactan because they knew it’s a suicide mission.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Wet and Windy, Interview With an Occasional Vampire

It was The Summer That Never Was. Yeah, the season blinked away, just like that. Not that it’s gonna be any different when it stops raining; it’ll be hot, as usual. Messed-up weather aside, I’ve been busy. So here’s a quick enumerated recap of Summer ’09 and the last few days.

1. No endless summer nights, just summer rain (or rain in the summertime). Okay, the song references are relevant. But it’s been pretty quiet, not at all like summers past, when I felt like I’m on vacation. I look at blog entries from 2005-08, and things were quite different. Oh well. Times change, and I’ve changed.

2. Finally finished Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and related mini-series.

3. Became a substitute tutor at home, for a week.

4. Fell in love with How I Met Your Mother. I now adore the five main characters. Guest appearances by Bryan Cranston, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, James Van Der Beek, Britney Spears, Morena Baccarin and Enrique Iglesias were a plus.

5. Am rereading my old Legion of Superheroes comic books, thanks to Legion of 3 Worlds.

6. Discovered songs, old and new, that appeal to me: Fifteen (Taylor Swift), Daysleeper (REM), Please Don’t Stop the Rain (James Morrison), Turn the Radio Up (Eric Carmen), F*** You (Lily Allen), Good Monsters (Jars of Clay), Thinking of You (Katy Perry), Lovers are Losing (Keane), Use Somebody (Kings of Leon), The Park (Feist), etc.

7. Worried about health matters, mine and a family member’s.

8. Was among people invited to a roundtable phone interview with someone from True Blood.

9. Watched the return of Conan O’Brien. Glad that he’s back. It’s good that Andy Richter’s working with him again, but his laughter during Conan’s monologue is almost as intrusive and grating as Kevin Eubanks’ during Jay Leno’s opening jokes.

10. Am finishing stuff derailed by unexpected events. Hope to work on a new project soon.

Dean Winchester and a Slash Fan

In Supernatural’s season 4 episode “The Monster at the End of This Book,” The Winchester brothers discover a series of novels mysteriously based on their lives. They also discover that the books have fans:

Dean: There are Sam girls and Dean girls, and… what’s a slash fan?

Sam: As in, Sam slash Dean. Together.

Dean: Like, together together?

Sam: Yeah.

Dean: They do know we’re brothers, right?

Sam: Doesn’t seem to matter.

Dean: Ah, come on. That… that’s just sick!

Bwahaha. Classic. Season four’s been good, so far. The show still has very few strong female characters, though. There’s a new one who hasn’t been seriously hurt or killed, and I hope she stays unharmed and an important figure.