Friday, November 27, 2009

‘Christmas’ Spirits

“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” is Robert Zemeckis’ sparkly, somewhat overdecorated take on the classic Charles Dickens tale about the proverbial holiday epiphany. Jim Carrey voices a couple of characters, including the iconic cheapskate party-pooper Ebenezer Scrooge. The message doesn’t get lost in the flashy flurry of bells and whistles, but the pacing can be trying for young viewers. Animation-wise, it’s the usual sleek motion-capture extravaganza, but strangely, some of the faces have that dead-eyed, glazed-over look from “Polar Express.” Scrooge and a few other human characters, however, are rightly expressive and lifelike, while the visiting specters are distinctly, imaginatively designed. This “Christmas Carol” isn’t the way you remember it, but it’s still a decent interpretation despite losing focus from time to time.

Day at the Museums

This picture was taken 20 years ago, outside the old Ayala Museum. This was during the Art Club’s daylong field trip; we visited a number of Metro Manila museums. That’s me, in the striped gray shirt and acid-washed jeans, holding a rolled-up copy of Uncanny X-Men # 245 (I dropped by the Goldcrest branch of Comic Quest during the break). I haven’t heard from some of those guys in years, but the networking sites have made the world smaller, so I “see” old schoolmates occasionally.

Anyway, this was a fun day, one of the few really good ones in high school.

Uncanny Misunderstanding

The misunderstood superheroes meet some of the strangest ones in “X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas,” by Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan. It’s a good thing that it’s only a two-parter, because stretching it to more would be too forced. The Agents’ teammate Venus is missing, so they “borrow” Cerebra, meaning they steal it from the X-Men, which of course is not a very bright idea. The confrontations could have been avoided had someone from Atlas quickly stated their intentions, but no, it would’ve been over in less than a page. So it’s one fast-paced melee after another, before a backup flashback sequence and the necessary explanations make sense of the confusion. It’s still an okay read; fans of both teams, and artist Pagulayan (who handles busy fight sequences quite well) will be pleased.


I’m still bothered and baffled by the sickening atrocities in Maguindanao. I recoil every time I hear disturbing new details about them. They’re just… unimaginable.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gay Filipinos and Rainbow

(Published Nov. 21, PDI-Super. By the way, check out Super reactions to the Comelec-Ang Ladlad controversy.)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Photos by Libay Linsangan Cantor, Ferdinand Mendoza and Bem Uychinco

Just how aware are gay Filipinos of their rights?

One gay organization, the Rainbow Rights Project (or R-Rights), helps educate gays and straights alike by spearheading discussions about the Filipino LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

Founded in 2005 by law graduates from the University of the Philippines, R-Rights has evolved to include volunteers from different colleges and organizations. Current president and legal rights activist Angie S. Umbac is elated that the group is working closely with various gay groups and that their combined efforts help people talk about issues faced by gay Filipinos.

“We co-sponsor forums with the other LGBT organizations,” says Umbac. “We often seek them out for their expertise that R-Rights does not possess. We build alliances that cross political fences. We focus on legal rights and policies, but in order to address well the needs of the community, it is imperative to know the community well. That is why our forums are interactive; we learn from each other.”

R-Rights has co-sponsored 17 forums, so far. The “Dyke Dialogues” have talked about lesbian relationships and dynamics, among other topics. The discussions, funded by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, have been held at Cagayan De Oro, Baguio, and Cebu.

Other projects include the Pink Card, which protects gay patrons of bars and restaurants from harassment, and discussions on transgender concerns and the suicide risk among gay youths.

“Gay Filipinos are very innovative,” says Umbac. “Faced with many adversities, they make do with what they have, and do it with such flair and ingenuity. They carry their pain privately, but they can surprise you with their strength and resilience. And because of what we know of gay Filipinos, we’ve learned to never take anything for granted. We’ve learned to be respectful, to be ready to learn from others.”

What are lawmakers doing to protect gay rights?

“Bills have been filed on LGBT rights since the 11th Congress, but there is still no national law,” Umbac laments. “The Anti-Discrimination Bill has had no significant movement. However, there are successes among local legislators. In Quezon City and Albay, Anti-Discrimination Ordinances have been passed. The passage of these can be credited to the active LGBT groups in those areas. LGBT-friendly provisions are also contained in the Quezon City Gender and Development Ordinance.”

For some gay men and women, accepting their homosexuality may be difficult. Some seek acceptance and support from their families and co-workers, while others easily accept their sexual orientation, regardless of what people may think.

Umbac is glad that there are many openly gay parents who are now raising their own families in the Philippines.

“There is love and respect between the parents and the child, and for each other,” she says. “I have seen this picture in many gay families and I have observed how ideal they are. It takes a village to raise a child, and the LGBT community looks after its own. The child and his or her parents are assured of a strong support system. Each child in a gay family is wanted and loved. Some hetero families are not this lucky.”

And R-Rights will keep talking about gay relationships, families, and related topics in upcoming projects and activities.

“R-Rights just launched the Rainbow Radio Pilipinas. Also, if funding permits, we’ll be having a Legal Rights LGBT forum in Davao, and Dyke Dialogues on topics like lesbian art and lesbian visibility in Philippine literature.”

For further information on R-Rights visit, or email

Devoted Deviant

I’m finally posting old and new drawings on Deviantart. Do check ‘em out.

Undead Now

Back when “Dead is dead” was decreed, the deceased Marvel characters actually filled a decent-sized Handbook. But now, out of the 43 characters in the Book of the Dead 2004, the following have reappeared in some of Marvel’s books, alive and kicking again:

Bucky- He survived after all and is now Captain America.

Graydon Creed- He was reanimated by Bastion using the Magus.

Cypher- Doug Ramsey is alive for the Necrosha event.

Destiny- Like Cypher, she’s among Selene’s resurrected, enslaved mutants.

Gilgamesh- I’ve yet to read last year’s Eternals series, where the Forgotten One returned.

Hawkeye- Clint Barton was killed twice and revived by Wanda Maximoff, and is now Ronin.

Magik- She’s back with the New Mutants.

Mockingbird- She didn’t die, after all, just replaced by a Skrull.

Odin- Thor’s father is shown fighting Surtur in the afterlife, in the early issues of the current Thor title.

Harry Osborn- Harry returned during the much-criticized “One More Day” story.

Jean Grey- It’s been hinted at that she has reincarnated as mutant messiah Hope Summers, who’ll be returning as a grown woman soon.

Pyro- The character is among the recently revived mutants.

Thor- After Ragnarok and some time off, Thor is back.

Thunderbird- He’s alive again and is Selene’s lackey.

X-Man- Nate Grey just showed up in the new Dark X-Men series.

‘Ninja’ Hurtles

Some spoilers ahead.

Bloody and frenetic with cartoony violence, “Ninja Assassin” stars Asian actor-pop singer Rain as Raizo, a kickass killer who goes against his years-long programming. Directed by “V for Vendetta’s” James McTeigue, the film has good enough action scenes; stoic Raizo wields his kusarigama and katana with finesse and artistry. But there are some major deletions that affect and weaken some sequences. The threadbare revenge yarn doesn’t help give the protagonist a tangible personality, too. And, it’s unintentionally funny in some parts, especially the scene where law enforcers finally attack the long-hidden sinister ninja school. To its credit, though, “Ninja Assassin” gives a taste of the badassery you missed during the ninja fights in, well, “GI Joe.” The nimble death matches aren’t totally inventive, but they’re fun enough.

“Ninja Assassin” opens next week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

‘Young Avengers’ go dark

“Dark Reign: Young Avengers” is a 5-issue miniseries that co-stars the original YA team and a new one composed of rookie analogues of old Masters of Evil members. Written by Paul Cornell, scribe of the short-lived but excellent Captain Britain book and some of the best episodes of the revived Doctor Who show, “Young Avengers” showcases characters that don’t follow the same set of rules as the original team of “sidekicks.”

While it’s a simple adventure that mostly focuses on some of the new adventurers’ questionable intentions, it has memorable ruminative moments, and introduces a rivalry that’s worth developing. Standout characters like Enchantress (a dumb blonde mystic) and Coat of Arms (a pretentious but intelligent artist) deserve to be seen more, preferably as guests (or potential new members) in future YA storylines. Speaking of which, where is that YA ongoing? Cornell is clearly a capable writer; if he were to take over, the characters would benefit from his guidance and storytelling ability.

The art by Mark Brooks is decent. His faces sometimes confuse, because they look too alike (Melter and Executioner, when the latter isn’t masked, etc.). There aren’t many variations in facial expressions, too. But his figures are solid and dynamic enough, and the costume designs are attractive.

Disgusting Comelec Commissioners

This is an example of people using their religious beliefs to persecute others, specifically the gay community.

Comelec Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Elias Yusoph, and Lucenito Tagle rejected gay organization Ang Ladlad’s petition for partylist representation because they believe that homosexual practice “offends morals,” and homosexuality is “against Christian and Muslim faiths.”

They added, “Should this commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith.”

How brazenly offensive and idiotic. Gay people are not here to corrupt people and turn everyone else into homosexuals. Homosexuality is not a handicap or a threat. And how dare those commissioners consider gay people as lesser beings, undeserving of the same rights or representation as others. That’s immoral. They conveniently forget, or ignore, the fact that there are gay people in their ranks. They can’t deny that. Those bigots really should be impeached. They’re an embarrassment.

Just Randomness

Thoughts on stuff this week:

1. Saw funny clips of Taylor Swift on SNL, where she played Kate Gosselin, Kristen Stewart, and Shakira in separate sketches. Hilarious stuff, especially the Twilight spoof and the musical monologue. What a great week for her; she also emerged a big winner in the recent Country Music Awards. She and Taylor Lautner, werewolf boy from Twilight, are dating. They’re a cute-looking couple. Girl Taylor is 19, while boy Taylor is 17.

2. Ooh, so Carrie Prejean has a solo sex tape, which she sent to an ex-boyfriend. The controversial ex-Ms. California has spoken against gay marriage, and champions Christian values. Well.

3. I’ve been listening to some mashups on youtube. My favorites so far are “Bleeding Love Story” (which seamlessly meshes Leona Lewis’ vocals with the music of Taylor Swift’s Love Story), and Every Car You Chase (which nicely combines verses from Snow Patrol and the Police’s songs). Awesome. Reminds me of old ‘80s remixes and 12-inch versions of songs.

Doomsday, ‘2012’

Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster flick “2012” is your typical summer/holiday blockbuster, where the geek gets the girl, divorced parents fall in love again, and you keep getting reminded that family is important in the midst of the ultimate life-changing catastrophe. Be that as it may, it’s not as bad or dumb as you might expect; if anything, it’s pretty bearable and sometimes, pleasantly distracting. The horrific, human-level consequences aren’t always shown, so it’s not exactly burdensome. The spectacular effects illustrate the apocalypse-scale destruction of the Earth, the digitally enhanced visuals imbued with power and, strangely, an unusual beauty. You can’t help but look at every massive scene of doom, and go, “THAT’s how the end times would look like.”

Friday, November 06, 2009

‘Astra’ City

The two-issue “Astro City: Astra Special” is a nice breather from the long Dark Ages storyline, focusing on grown-up Astra Furst shortly after her college graduation. The young super-heroine’s tale, about her not-so-desirable celebrity status and re-examination of purpose, could’ve been told in one 32-page issue, but it’s still a worthwhile read. The story isn’t as affecting as the Beauty one-shot, but the two-parter reintroduces Astra as a character with depth, while giving a broader view of Busiek’s mythology. Brent Anderson quirky style fits, as usual, and the eye-catching magazine cover layouts on Alex Ross’ paintings make these books stand out visually.

Godric and Eric, Sires and Makers

Finally watched episodes of 24 and Dollhouse. Season 7 of 24 was mostly unpredictable; the first five episodes were quite boring but the succeeding episodes were really good. Jack Bauer is still a badass, and interestingly, a female FBI agent counterpart, Renee, is introduced (yeah, she tortures an assassin for the greater good). Previously unseen scenarios, like the White House hostage situation and Bauer’s shaky alliance with the FBI, made it feel like old times, which is a good thing. Kim Bauer wasn’t held hostage, at least not for long, this time.

Dollhouse is okay. I wish Eliza Dushku displayed more range, however. The personality shifts aren’t always noticeable; I’d say Jennifer Garner convincingly slipped into more distinct identities in the old Alias show. I loved Dushku in Buffy and Angel, and among my favorite episodes is the one where her vampire-slaying character Faith switched bodies with Buffy Summers. She did that impressively. I hope she’ll really play different roles memorably in the show’s new season. Anyway, I’m glad that Amy Acker, formerly of Angel, is a recurring guest.

Speaking of vampires and TV shows, I enjoyed True Blood season two a lot. I feel that some storylines could have been expanded, and others shortened, but I did like the addition of new characters and the fleshing out of some supporting ones. Ancient vampire Godric (right) is an enigmatic, almost messiah-like figure, and it would be interesting if the character’s contribution to the series’ vampire history were shown, in addition to important parts of his centuries-long connection to Eric Northman.

It’s great that the vampire mythology of True Blood is already rivaling that of Buffy and Angel’s twisted family trees. The bonds of immortality and bloodlust--Godric and Eric; Lorena, Bill and Jessica, etc--somewhat mirror the Whedonverse’s vamp connections (Master sired Darla; Darla sired Angelus; Angelus sired Drusilla; Drusilla sired Spike). The dynamics between the characters are strangely appealing; the younger vamp’s loyalty and kinship (or even sexual attraction) to his or her Sire/Maker, and vice versa, are intriguing relationships.

It’s good that True Blood is taking vampires to places--the district factions and the unstable coexistence with humanity angles--where the Whedon vampires didn’t. I like that the series is also featuring different characters from legend. The man-monster encounters also remind me of Supernatural’s focus on creatures from lore, but the tone and approach are different, obviously. I hope season three introduces more of them, and more undead romances and rivalries.

‘Patient X’ sickly

(Published Nov. 1, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Derivative and almost devoid of genuine tension, “Patient X” is Yam Laranas’ new horror-action flick, in theaters mere weeks after “The Echo,” the Hollywood remake of his local film “Sigaw.” The bogeymen this time aren’t restless apparitions, but a group of modern-day aswang.

Expectations are unavoidable; Laranas has a gift for creatively melding mood with uncluttered storytelling, after all. But “Patient X,” while it has some creatively composed visuals, has a pretty thin story, and centers on some pretty two-dimensional characters.

Richard Gutierrez plays a doctor, Lucas, sole survivor of a horrendous vampire attack a few decades back. He soon comes face to face with the murder suspect, the regenerating Guada a.k.a. Patient X (Cristine Reyes), imprisoned in a hospital basement. Not surprisingly, Guada’s husband Marcus (Elvis Gutierrez), a fellow vampire, brazenly attacks the hospital.

It quickly becomes a cat-and-mouse, divide-and-conquer monster flick that we’ve seen many times before, sadly. It’s tricky enough to have vampires as the villains; there aren’t many fresh takes on them. They’re no different here--just hungry, taunting and violent beasts with human-like emotions.

The chaos is pretty by-the-numbers. The situations are too worn-out and procedural that it becomes difficult to care for the characters. It doesn’t help that every time Gutierrez shouts, it feels half-hearted and unconvincing. TJ Trinidad, as the vengeful cop who punishes the undead, does okay. But his character is pretty slow when it comes to vampire-slaying.

Perplexing and patience-testing, “Patient X” isn’t an unnerving screamer at all. It’s not without interesting imagery, but again, it gets difficult to suspend disbelief. It gets weird when an attraction between Gutierrez and Reyes’ characters is implied. As for the vampires, the iterations here--with their perpetually bared fangs and beastly grunts--are quite flat and predictable. You just know exactly when they’ll attack, how they’ll behave, or when they’ll get what they deserve.