Saturday, January 30, 2010


1. I miss Conan. I remember watching him in 1996, when our cable was new. We got to watch the show twice a week, every Saturday and Sunday. It was easy to like him; he went out of his way to make people laugh with sketches that were just insane. I regularly looked forward to the show, excited in a way I never was for the preceding talk show, whose host I found bland and nowhere near as funny as Conan. It was great that JackTV eventually got the Late Night show and aired it five times a week, about five years ago.

Anyway, it’s been over a week since Conan left the Tonight Show. It’s still fun to see his “I’m With CoCo” Facebook page increasing by dozens every few minutes. As of this writing, there are 884,330 fans, people from all over that he entertained and inspired through the years.

2. I won a Where the Wild Things Are poster (the version below), signed by the director and cast, in a raffle held at last Friday’s preview screening. Cool poster. And what a sad but beautiful movie.

3. It’s been a good month for superhero comics. Secret Six is fun and crazy as usual, but I’m missing Nicola Scott. The JLA roster is changing, and it looks promising. And I love that Marvel’s Dark Reign is finally ending. It’s basically a retread of the original Thunderbolts’ first year; Norman Osborn and his villain posse masquerade as heroes, but that’s about to end with the Siege event. I like the related Avengers Initiative and Mighty Avengers stories. In three months, the Avengers books will be ending, to be followed by a revamp. Initiative is rumored to become “Avengers Academy.” Interesting.

‘24’ Season 7: No shortage of merciless villains for Jack Bauer

(Published January 31, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


After a season of dreadfully predictable and rehashed storylines, action series “24” re-ignites with a renewed sense of immediacy in its seventh season. Kiefer Sutherland portrays iconic Jack Bauer once again, the no-nonsense agent who’s gotten really good at averting terrorist-caused catastrophes.

Season seven immediately starts with interesting revelations. CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) has been disbanded, so Jack learns of an impending attack from the FBI. Bauer’s former co-worker and friend Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), long thought deceased, is alive and kicking, and may be masterminding a new terror attack. But Almeida is undercover and covertly working with former CTU do-gooders Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Bill Buchanan (James Morrison).

Just as intriguing is the concurrent arc involving new US President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). Initially unaware of a plot to destabilize her government from within, President Taylor is about to send troops to a chaotic African country. Calculated and vicious attacks soon threaten her, her family and countless Americans on that fateful day.

The cast of “24” is partly revitalized due to the addition of President Taylor, as well as FBI tech geek Janis Gold (Janeane Garofalo), and determined FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching). The new dynamics, especially the new characters’ interactions and uneasy alliances with Bauer, revive and spice up tension, reminding us that despite his continued defiance of rules, he relies heavily on the assistance of a few trustworthy allies.

The season doesn’t have a shortage of contemptible villains. Bauer regularly encounters merciless adversaries, from disposable henchmen to disguised assassins. But some of his most dangerous foes this time include General Juma (Tony Todd), whose forces took the President hostage inside the White House, and Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight), who commands a well-armed and imposing private army.

“24” is mostly well-paced, although there are a few cliffhangers that hardly pique interest for succeeding episodes, and scenarios that ultimately translate as unnecessary padding. Still, much has improved, and longtime fans will especially appreciate the return of familiar faces and continuity ties to previous seasons. While Jack Bauer may not change much, the character is clearly defined as a fallible, hardened hero, racing against time and doing whatever it takes to take down the most reprehensible miscreants of the day.

Season seven of “24” previously aired on C/S 9. Season eight airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m., on RPN-Solar TV.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Earth’s Mightiest III

My last Avengers set. These are drawings of the remaining members, including Jarvis, but excluding Moira Brandon.

EAST COAST AVENGERS: Members associated with the New York-based team. Mr. Fantastic, Sersi, Invisible Woman, Edwin Jarvis, Black Widow, Black Panther, Beast, Hellcat

WEST COAST AVENGERS: Some Wackos and related Avengers. Firebird, Human Torch, Vision, Machine Man, War Machine, Two-Gun Kid, Moon Knight, Living Lightning

FALLEN AVENGERS: The (temporarily) deceased ones. Captain Marvel, Thunderstrike, Dinah Soar, Marrina, Swordsman, Gilgamesh, Whizzer, Dr. Druid, Yellowjacket

NINETIES AVENGERS: Members inducted or active in the ‘90s. Stingray, Darkhawk, Sandman, Demolition Man, Magdalene, Iron Man (Teen Tony Stark), Swordsman, Deathcry, Masque


‘Tooth’ hurts

Man, The Rock in a tutu. More cringe-inspiring than cute, “Tooth Fairy” is another of Dwayne Johnson’s kid-friendly endeavors. He plays fading hockey player Derek Thompson, punished by fairies for dashing dreams. As a tooth fairy, he learns to respect people and fairies more, and makes others believe in their dreams. The End. Well, that’s pretty much it. It’s unabashedly goofy and corny, but kids that pay attention might pick up a thing or two about following dreams. Maybe.

Languid ‘Legion’

Angels we have heard on high, swarming bugs all o’er the plains. There’s angel-on-angel violence in “Legion,” which is a watered-down, fright-free mash-up of “The Prophecy,” “The Terminator,” and “Night of the Living Dead.” So, there’s a heaven-spawned conflict that spills over to earth, a prophesied child of importance, and a legion of zombie-like humans possessed by angels--angels! Paul Bettany portrays a former angel turned buff, badass mortal, who gives his enemies hell by shooting ‘em up. There’s a stunt sequence where his angel arch-foe does wing fu while Bettany’s character does Matrix acrobatics. That’s about it; scenes leading to, and after that confrontation don’t have as much energy or choreography. The apocalypse mythology is also very loosely done, making it hard to give a damn about this version of the end times.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Team Conan

“And I want to say to the kids out there watching, you can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.” -- Conan O’Brien, in last week’s Tonight Show monologue

I faved a few Conan drawings at DeviantArt, and posted one of my own (above) last night. I’ve been a fan of the guy for a long time, and Robert Smigel’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

The late night talk show debacle has led to some interesting jab-filled monologues, and I must admit that I’m enjoying them. David Letterman is making fun of Jay Leno and an NBC exec, while Leno jokes about Letterman’s intern fetish. I still feel sad about Conan’s situation, but I’m glad that Rosie O’Donnell, Patton Oswalt, and Howard Stern have spoken up and sided with him on the controversy (look for the audio recordings on YouTube). I listened to their take on the drama, and yeah, they pretty much paint Jay Leno as the Big Bad in all this.

I suddenly became a fan of Jimmy Kimmel’s, because he totally owned Leno during his “10 @ 10” appearance.

Leno: What’s the best prank you ever pulled?

Kimmel: I think the best prank I ever pulled was I told a guy that, five years from now, “I’m gonna give you my show.” And then when the five years came, I gave it to him, and then I took it back almost instantly.

Leno: Ever order anything off the TV?

Kimmel: Like NBC ordered your show off the TV?

Leno: What’s the most number of lapdances you’ve had in one night?

Kimmel: Strippers, I don’t like in general because you have this phony relationship with them for money, similar to that when you and Conan were on the Tonight Show together, passing the torch? You know what I’m saying.

- - - -

Man, Kimmel is awesome. Anyway, if Conan really does leave NBC soon, I hope his new show on another network does really well.

Unusual Defender of Gay Marriage

I enjoyed reading Republican Theodore Olson’s very articulate article, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value.” The author is speaking out against California’s anti-gay Prop 8. Some excerpts:

“The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.”

“Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?”

“Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.”

“When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.”

Read the entire article here.

Weird science, fun music mark ‘Phineas and Ferb’

(Published Jan. 15, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


In the Disney cartoon series “Phineas and Ferb,” the titular characters are well-meaning genius stepbrothers whose super-inventions let them do practically anything. On separate occasions, they’ve built a city-wide roller coaster, constructed and ran a restaurant in their backyard, and even lifted the lost land of Atlantis from the ocean floor using their scientific creations.

“Phineas and Ferb” was co-created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, who previously worked on other animated shows like “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Simpsons.”

Inquisitive Phineas and laconic Ferb are egghead siblings that get along. They quickly transform their outlandish ideas into reality, much to the annoyance of their older sister Candace, who thinks the brothers’ activities are potentially disastrous, or are getting her in trouble. But evidence of their big science adventures often conveniently and totally disappears.

The boys’ inventions aren’t always a secret. In the heartwarming “Mom’s Birthday” episode, they unintentionally upstage Candace’s birthday gifts with their hi-tech greeting card and other gadgets, but they let their sister shine by showing a video of her performing an original song called “Mom, It’s Your Birthday.”

The kids’ adventures are made livelier by catchy tunes, including the ‘80s-inspired “I’m Lindana And I Want To Have Fun” (sung by the kids’ mom, a one-hit wonder), and the touching ballad “Little Brothers” (which makes Candace recall good times with the younger kids). Songs help enhance the stories, adding depth to various characters’ perspectives.

Each episode of the family-friendly series also focuses on Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus Perry, secretly Agent P, who pursues the mad scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Agent P always thwarts his arch-foe’s nutty schemes, and returns to his unsuspecting owners near the end of every story.

Clean humor, charming music and “impossible” science add up to short but sweet episodes, a working formula that makes the colorful and feel-good “Phineas and Ferb” pleasantly diverting for kids and older viewers.

“Phineas and Ferb” airs nightly at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Disney Channel.

Skittish ‘Squeakuel’

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel” is cute but unmemorable. The squeaky little pop stars take a hiatus after a show-stopping accident sends their human guardian (Jason Lee) to the hospital. The cuddly critters go to school and are introduced to female counterparts, the Chipettes (who originally appeared in the ‘80s animated series).

Story elements are rehashed, while the situations are, understandably, kiddie cartoon-predictable. The song selection is semi-hip--the girls performed “Single Ladies” and “Hot N Cold” (but no, the line “you PMS like a bitch” wasn’t sung). The new version of “We Are Family,” while relevant to the movie’s sibling drama, isn’t a very catchy one. And like the first movie, “Squeakuel” ends rather abruptly (despite the extra comeuppance scene). It’s of little consequence, a diverting movie that tries to appease multiple demographics, but is ultimately one that they’ll forget about.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Titans Will Clash

My, what a spoiler-ish poster. But it looks damn good.

“Clash of the Titans” was among my favorite movies when I was a kid. I remember owning the action figure version of Thallo, a minor character. This new movie stars Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson as Perseus and Zeus, respectively. I do hope they have a modern version of Bubo the cute robot owl.

Rescuing a ‘New’ Avenger anew

Some spoilers ahead.

In New Avengers Annual # 3, another member is held captive by Norman Osborn and company. Shortly after the imprisonment and liberation of Luke Cage, Ronin attacks the Dark Avengers by himself, and is eventually captured (in The List: Avengers one-shot). This inspires practically the same divert-and-rescue tactic all over again, and the New Avengers embarrass Norman and the pseudo-heroes once more.

Be that as it may, it’s a solid issue with impressive art by Mike Mayhew and Andy Troy. What’s with the altered cover image, though? Jessica Jones’ face looks better in this promo piece (right) than in the final product, where she looks a little constipated.

Yes, Jessica Jones is back as Jewel, a nice, if unsurprising, addition to this Avengers team. It’s good to see her fighting alongside other tough heroines in this story.

The last page isn’t exactly a shocking cliffhanger, because anyone who knows about the Siege event knows about the return of a certain patriotic hero to the team. A good ending and a good read, just the same.

‘Sherlock’ owns

Clever and edgy, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” re-imagines the brilliant detective in an adventure that brings him head to head with some of his most ingenious foes. Robert Downey, Jr.’s street-smart, dauntless Holmes marvels; the character’s inventive crime-solving methods and calculating mind are focused on, aside from his personality quirks. Downey is joined by Jude Law (as the questioning but devoted sidekick Dr. Watson), Rachel McAdams (as stealthy Irene Adler), and Mark Strong (as the mysterious Lord Blackwood). Enigmas are unraveled and/or debunked creatively and humorously, but a few story ideas are smartly left out, possibly to be explored later in a “Sherlock Holmes” sequel.

‘Zombieland’: Hilarious survival guide

Jesse Eisenberg reliably plays a geek again in “Zombieland,” but this time his virginal nerd follows his own set of rules to survive a world subjugated by an undead plague. Sidesplitting one moment and moving the next, the movie refreshingly caricatures the archetypal brainy loser, the badass action hero, the untrusting female, and the cunning kid. There are unnecessary sequences, and the climactic amusement park scenario unfolds and ends conventionally, but the non-stop irreverence and Bill Murray’s appearance make “Zombieland” a special treat.

‘Brave and the Bold’: A brighter, chummier Batman

(Published Dec. 31, 2009, PDI-Entertainment)

Based on the DC comics team-up book from several decades back, the animated TV series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” has a friendlier, more easy-going Dark Knight. His adventures aren’t strictly confined to Gotham City this time, as Batman saves the world with some of the famous and obscure heroes of the DC Universe. Their temporary alliances are formidable, and they trounce some of the strangest and toughest super-foes.

The deliberate retro look utilizes a brighter color palette and more offbeat designs, giving the show a fun, playful vibe. This chummier Batman is more accessible to younger viewers, but is charming and solidly written enough that adults can enjoy it as well for its full half hour.

Voiced by Diedrich Bader (formerly of “The Drew Carey Show”), the latest incarnation is open to mentoring young new crime fighters, such as the Blue Beetle (in one episode, it’s said that Robin is grown up, and is the protector of another city). Batman is also more competitive this time; he has a friendly rivalry with recurring guest hero Green Arrow.

Both comic book geeks and the unfamiliar will appreciate the choice of team-ups. In a musical episode, the singing villain Music Meister (the excellent Neil Patrick Harris) is confronted by Batman and the fetching heroine Black Canary. In other engaging episodes, the Caped Crusader is joined by the space-faring Adam Strange, the shrinking adventurer Atom and the sea king Aquaman, among others. Opening sequences inventively compress other partnerships into exciting mini-adventures that run for only about two-and-a-half minutes.

While it’s nowhere as grand as the old “Justice League Unlimited” series, “Brave and the Bold” has its own tone, and focuses on variety. The mixing and matching works and the stand-alone episodes are easy to get into. Batman is part of a bigger whole here, and is glad to acknowledge it.

“Batman: The Brave and the Bold” airs Sundays, 9 p.m., and Mondays, 5 p.m. on Cartoon Network.