Sunday, March 28, 2010

Toon Tandems

Something different this time. My interpretation of some fave cartoon characters.

PHINEAS AND FERB is a wholesome, fun, show. The characters are genius stepbrothers.

SPY GROOVE, a short-lived MTV animated series, aired about ten years ago. Naughty, funny stuff. These are Agents Number 2 and 1.

Meaningful Musings

Here are some of my favorite pop/rock lyrics that talk about spirituality (or its absence), question organized belief, or decry religion-caused injustices.

“TEEN FOR GOD,” DAR WILLIAMS. The sun burns down, leaving God's bright stamp on Peach Branch Horse and Bible Camp, where we're splashing in the water, joined in song, swimming with the Spirit the whole day long. I'm a teen for God. God is watching, teen for God. The girls have looks and the girls have rules. They came here from their Bible schools. They can make you pay attention to the way you dress and eat, make you trip over your own two feet. And they kneel down on their towels at night, their nightgowns glow with a holy light. And we pray for the sinners and their drunken cars wrecks, and vow that I'll never get high and have sex. I'm a teen for God. God is watching, teen for God. And God made every leaf on every tree, each grain of sand, God has a plan for what we're meant to be. I gotta wait for God. Dear Lord, I plan each day, the things I will not do or say. But I'm driven by a passion. Is it only there to tame? It fills my heart and it calls my name, and this world that you made for us, I know, I know, is dangerous. So I ride a lot of horses, and I never even swear. Sorta like praying, I'm just not there. Oh God. God is watching. But God made love, God made the rivers run. And cowboy boots and bathing suits, and the foreskin dries in the sun. You gotta help me, God. Help me know, four years from now, I won't believe in you anyhow. And I'll mope around the campus, and I'll feel betrayed, all those guilty summers I stayed. But then I'll laugh that I fell for the lure of the pain, of desire to feel so pure. And I'll bear all the burdens of my little daily crimes. Wish I had a God for such cynical times. Far from today, but for now, I'm a sacred vessel. Rip me open. I spread your word like a milkweed pod. I'm a radio station, your holy transmission. Even more, like a lightning rod, I'm a lightning rod, a teen for God.

“THE MAGDALENE LAUNDRIES,” JONI MITCHELL. I was an unmarried girl. I'd just turned twenty-seven, when they sent me to the sisters for the way men looked at me. Branded as a Jezebel, I knew I was not bound for heaven. I'd be cast in shame into the Magdalene laundries. Most girls come here pregnant, some by their own fathers. Bridget got that belly by her parish priest. We're trying to get things white as snow, all of us woe-begotten daughters in the steaming stains, of the Magdalene laundries. Prostitutes and destitutes, and temptresses like me. Fallen women sentenced into dreamless drudgery. Why do they call this heartless place Our Lady of Charity? Oh charity! These bloodless brides of Jesus, if they had just once glimpsed their groom, then they'd know, and they'd drop the stones concealed behind their rosaries. They wilt the grass they walk upon. They leech the light out of a room. They'd like to drive us down the drain at the Magdalene laundries. Peg O'Connell died today. She was a cheeky girl, a flirt. They just stuffed her in a hole! Surely to God you'd think at least some bells should ring! One day I'm going to die here too and they'll plant me in the dirt like some lame bulb that never blooms come any spring. Not any spring. No, not any spring. Not any spring.

“SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN,” POISON. Well, I see him on the TV, preaching 'bout the promised lands. He tells me “Believe in Jesus,” steals the money from my hands. Some say he was a good man. Lord, I think he sinned. “Twenty-two years of mental tears,” cries a suicidal Vietnam vet who fought a losing war on a foreign shore to find his country didn't want him back. Their bullets took his best friend in Saigon, our lawyers took his wife and kids, no regrets. In a time I don't remember, in a war he can't forget. He cried, "Forgive me for what I've done there, ‘cause I never meant the things I did.” And give me something to believe in, if there's a Lord above. And give me something to believe in. Oh, Lord, arise. My best friend died a lonely man in some Palm Springs hotel room. I got the call last Christmas Eve and they told me the news. I tried all night not to break down and cry as the tears rolled down my face. I felt so cold and empty, like a lost soul out of place. And the mirror, mirror on the wall sees my smile, it fades again. Sometimes I wish to God I didn't know now, things I didn't know then. Road, you gotta take me home. I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street like bodies in an open grave, underneath the broken old neon sign that used to read “Jesus Saves.” A mile away live the rich folks and I see how they're living it up. But while the poor, they eat from hand to mouth, the rich are drinking from the golden cup. And it just makes me wonder, why so many lose, so few win.

“PENDULUM SWINGER,” INDIGO GIRLS. I meet you for coffee. We get together periodically. I got a bad case I can't shake off of me, the fevered wandering round, wondering how it ought to be. If you work in the system, you see possibilities and your glistening eyes show the hell you're gonna give 'em when they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman. I dream like a mad one, brutal fantasies I catch as catch can. I'm a psychic and a laywoman. I see love and I like to make it happen. What we get from your war walk, the ticker of the nation breaking down like a bad clock. I want the pendulum to swing again, so that all your mighty mandate was just spitting in the wind. It doesn't come by the bullwhip. It's not persuaded with your hands on your hips, and it’s not the company of gunslingers. The epicenter love is the pendulum swinger. She is. She is. She is. It's fine about the old scroll Sanskrit, Gnostic gospels, the Da Vinci code a smash hit. Aren't we dying just to read it and relate? Too hard just to go by a blind faith? But they left out the sisters. I’ve been praying to a father god so long I really missed her. The goddess of benevolence, and you should listen to your mama if you have a lick of sense left. Pushed under by the main press, buried under a code of dress, relegated by the Vatican, but you can't keep a spirit down that wants to get up again. If we're a drop in the bucket, with just enough science to keep from saying fuck it, until the last drop of sun burns its sweet light, plenty revolutions left until we get this thing right.

“BREAD AND CIRCUSES,” BILLY BRAGG, NATALIE MERCHANT. Crowds gather round, kneeling at the feet of common thieves. Hungry for the word but God would never speak through such as these, who offer healing hands and balms and redemption if you would cross their palms. They'll tell your troubles to the Lord for how ever much you can afford. Hands holding hands, in the circle of the sinners and the saved, memories that linger from the cradle, placing puzzles in the grave. No mortal skin and bone can live on bread and circuses alone. The spirit needs must drive the mystery of why we are alive. They look in their Book and they read but their cold hearts say, "Follow me." Dance in the dust in the frenzy of the desperately in need, led by the voices of the men who invoke ritual to hide their greed. Come every tongue, every eye across the crumbling earth and cracking sky. The gates of hell stand open wide but the path of glory you walk single file. These men make a cage for the very souls that came here to be free then they turn off their lights, fold their tents they're fixing to leave. They'll close their Book and leave but you'll remain still in pain.

“HEAVEN,” BRETT DENNEN. Beyond the rules of religion, the cloth of conviction, above all the competition, where fact and fiction meet. There`s no color lines, castes or classes. There’s no fooling the masses. Whatever faith you practice, whatever you believe. Heaven. What the hell is heaven? Is there a home for the homeless? Is there hope for the hopeless? Throw away your misconceptions. There’s no walls around heaven. There’s no codes you gotta know to get in, no minutemen or border patrol. You must lose all earthly possessions, leave behind your weapon. You cannot buy your salvation and there is no pot of gold. Heaven ain`t got no prisons, no government no business, no banks or politicians, no armies and no police. Castles and cathedrals crumble, pyramids and pipelines tumble. The failure keeps you humble and leads us closer to peace.

HBO relives World War II

(Published March 29, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Members of the press and entertainment bloggers recently toured historic Corregidor Island as part of HBO Asia’s “The Pacific” miniseries launch. The new HBO series, co-executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, chronicles the other pivotal battles fought during World War II, as seen from the perspective of three American soldiers.

Attendees of the launch viewed a light and sound show about the fall of the Philippines to Japanese forces in the dimly lit Malinta Tunnel. After the half-hour presentation, clips from “The Pacific” and its behind-the-scenes footage were unveiled in one of the tunnel’s dark corridors. Short interviews with Hanks, Spielberg, and the actors revealed intriguing facts about the show, which is being touted as “the most expensive HBO miniseries ever made.”

“The Pacific” was created by the same team behind the critically acclaimed miniseries “Band of Brothers,” responding to requests by American veterans who fought in the region during the war.

Based on memoirs and original interviews, “The Pacific” stars James Badge Dale (“24,” “The Departed”), Joe Mazzello (former child actor from “Jurassic Park,” “The Cure”), and Jon Seda (“Ghost Whisperer,” “Oz”). The three play Marines Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge, and John Basilone, respectively. Basilone, who served in the Philippines for three years and was a boxer, would later be known as “Manila John.”

New episodes of the ten-part series will be shown weeks after the US airing. Two episodes of “The Pacific” premiere April 3 at 9:00 p.m. on HBO and HBO HD; subsequent episodes air Saturdays at 9 p.m.

Winning ‘Wimpy’

An ambitious kid aspires for popularity, but he quickly discovers that just surviving middle school is far from easy. In this live-action version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” underdog Greg (Zachary Gordon) tries to stand out in a campus populated by nobodies, overachievers, and morons, the awkward transition to adolescence and the need for validation presenting a number of giggle-worthy scenarios. The precocious pre-teen comedy is cute, and addresses conflicts by plying the obvious routes. While “Diary” isn’t always focused, the characters--Greg, and especially Robert Capron’s Rowley--are lovable, and their familiar missteps are quite amusing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

X-Men: From Xavier’s School to Utopia

My 12 X-Men drawings, composited into one image. My thanks to X-storytellers Claremont, Byrne, Simonson, Simonson, Sienkiewicz, Kelly, Morrison, Whedon, David, Davis, Fraction, Carey, Kyle, and Yost for inspiring me.

Nature’s secrets find ‘Sanctuary’

(Published March 22, PDI Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Mythical beings and creatures from folklore secretly exist and fight for their survival in the intriguing science fiction-adventure series “Sanctuary,” created by Damian Kindler (“Stargate SG-1”). A hidden haven provides a number of rare and extraordinary species shelter and protection from various threats. Run by the enigmatic Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), the Sanctuary becomes home as well to new employee Dr. Will Zimmermann (Robin Dunne), formerly a misfit forensics psychiatrist mocked for his outlandish theories.

Will is introduced to dozens of wondrous and unsettling characters, collectively called “Abnormals.” These include a telepathic mermaid, an intelligent sasquatch, mutants, and a bunch of sentient non-humans. Will acclimates quickly and becomes an integral part of the Abnormal-saving operation.

Despite its slowly paced first few episodes, “Sanctuary” grows on the viewer, primarily because of its focused mythology. Helen Magnus is a 158-year-old scientist who has dedicated her long life to rescuing and researching about undocumented life forms. Her former lover and patient, the teleporting John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl), went insane and became Jack the Ripper. Druitt recently returned and has met his young daughter, the combat-honed Sanctuary operative Ashley (Emilie Ullerup).

“Sanctuary” also takes advantage of its nearly endless menagerie of Abnormals, tying snugly with bits inspired by fiction and history. Episodes in season one that easily stand out are the 2-part “Revelations” (Helen and Druitt team up with Sherlock Holmes and the vampiric Nikola Tesla), “Instinct” (an ambitious reporter witnesses a Sanctuary mission), and “Requiem” (an organism that destroyed countless mermaids takes over Helen in a submarine).

The show’s eclectic group of characters and creatures is reminiscent of the diverse mystical biosphere of “Angel” and the rogue’s gallery of “Torchwood.” While earlier episodes’ special effects are a little clunky, the quality of digital wizardry and prosthetics has gradually improved. The variety of characters in “Sanctuary” allows for numerous story possibilities, and so far, some interesting angles are already being explored admirably by the show’s writers.

“Sanctuary” airs on Sci Fi every Friday (9:00 p.m.) and Saturday (11:00 p.m.).

Sunny Day, Everything’s A-Okay

My fave summer-themed songs, or songs associated with summer. I’ve more than 18, but I had to narrow it down for this list.

“Coming Up Close,” Aimee Mann- Driving in the summer, falling in love… poignant stuff.

“Big Tall Man,” Liz Phair- She sings from the perspective of a man who’s “winning, spinning.” Lively and picturesque. “Sand and the beach. Rocker panel.”

“Stockton Gala Days,” 10,000 Maniacs- Sprightly summer song from the “Our Time In Eden” album. “Violet serene like none I have seen, apart from dreams that escape me.”

“Summer Of ’69,” Bryan Adams- Before Adams became popular for his sappy ‘90s love ballads, I loved some of his ‘80s pop-rock songs, especially this one.

“Nightswimming,” REM- I bought the Automatic For The People cassette tape and adored the song the first time I heard it. What a nicely soundtracked summer.

“Summer Rain,” Belinda Carlisle- From the excellent Runaway Horses album, the song is easily one of Carlisle’s more danceable, resonant tunes.

“Rain In The Summertime,” The Alarm- Summer rain again. Always a fun and infectious track.

“The Adventure,” Angels and Airwaves- Anthemic, swooping, optimistic. “Life’s waiting to begin.”

“Beauty On The Fire,” Natalie Imbruglia- While it doesn’t conjure up images of summer lyrically, the music and the video (watch the official one posted on YouTube) just makes you wanna take a cool dip.

“Upside Down,” Jack Johnson- Johnson’s cool, clear voice and laid-back music are calming, and that’s especially true here.

“Dusk And Summer,” Dashboard Confessional- Man, this is beautiful and bittersweet.

“Mystery,” Indigo Girls- The Girls are poetic as usual, and this is one of their more creatively worded love songs.

“Summertime,” The Sundays- “Romantic Piscean seeks angel in disguise.” Love that line.

“All I Want,” Joni Mitchell- Soothing and uplifting, this lovely song just takes you away.

“Something To Believe In,” Bangles- Serious, atmospheric, and not sung by Susanna Hoffs, the song is breezy and just about perfect.

“Boys of Summer,” Don Henley- The words are a summer mantra; it doesn’t lose its meaning and you feel it every time you sing along.

“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover,” Sophie B. Hawkins- Love the percussion parts and the words. Sexy combination.

“I Will Remember,” Hard Rain- Classic new wave tune, a finely written and executed number about remembering the season. The extended version is just as powerful as the original.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nation X 2

More merry mutants. My X-Men drawings, set 2 of 2. Thanks to Benedict for scanning.

Young X-Men: Hellion, Dust, Mercury, Rockslide, Cipher, Surge, Blindfold, Stepford Cuckoos, Prodigy, Anole

Fallen X-Men: Phoenix I, Banshee, Anodyne, Thunderbird, Icarus, Synch, Wallflower, Moira McTaggert, Illyana Rasputin, Firefist, Skin

Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Girl, Cable, X-Man, Forge, Jubilee, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Havok, Bishop, Chamber

Marauder X-Men: Gambit, Polaris, Sunfire, Frenzy, Lady Mastermind, Mystique, Omega Sentinel, Sabretooth

All-Different X-Men: Thunderbird, Joseph, Sunpyre, Magneto, Omerta, Stacy X, Maggott, Marrow, Husk, Wraith, Cecilia Reyes

Gifted Youngsters: Wind Dancer, Onyxx, Angel, Gentle, Loa, Trance, Beak, Indra, Artie Maddicks, Sammy Pare, Leech

‘Front Act’ indulges niche geek crowd

(Published March 21, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Geek humor and spontaneous exchanges abound in the weekly “Front Act,” an “alternative comedy show” hosted by young local funnymen Stanley Chi and Mike Unson. Mostly free-flowing and often treading the line between lowbrow and highbrow humor, the 30-minute show manages to elicit laughs--consistently in some episodes, sporadically in others--through safe but creative comedy.

Co-produced by Jako De Leon (TV host Joey De Leon’s son), “Front Act” has a flexible format that accommodates a variety of antics. Guests in one edition included MTRCB chair Marissa Laguardia, who gamely joined the hosts in a short but funny sketch about censored expletives, and even briefly appeared in one of the interview bits. Politicians have also appeared, chatting with the hosts, the exchanges often showing some interesting unguarded moments.

The better episodes have lengthy interviews with established comedians such as Vic Sotto and Jun Urbano (who generously talked about the creation of his “Mongolian Barbecue” character Mr. Shooli). Interviews with “characters” like deejay Ramon Bautista and Guru Shivaker are less absorbing, but still funny in some parts.

The show also indulges a niche geek crowd. Guests like cosplayers and a ventriloquist have talked about their respective crafts. Sometimes, Chi visits events like movie previews and fantasy-themed conventions, primarily to ask random attendees “Tambytes,” which can be valid or trick questions of the week (“Ano sa Tagalog ang ferris wheel,” “Ilang dwarves ang kasama ni Cinderella,” etc.).

Chi is confident and quick-witted when it comes to such conversations. Unson, meanwhile, is a talented standup comic; short clips showcasing his observant, self-deprecating humor cap off some episodes. As for the show’s other gags, they mostly work. Puppets resembling the hosts sneak in some laughs while thanking sponsors in the “Shameless Plugs” portion. However, another puppet sometimes appears, spouting puzzling witticisms that sound like inside jokes.

Despite the short running time, “Front Act” is able to cram in a number of regular segments. They’re not always funny, but the team does what it can with what it’s given. The show has untapped potential, so perhaps with an extra half hour and some careful fine-tuning, it will discover and utilize unexplored comedic territory.

“Front Act” previously aired on TV5.

‘Book’ clubbed

“The Book of Eli” stars Denzel Washington, dirtied up as the titular warrior-wanderer in a post-apocalyptic world we’ve seen many times before. Surviving with the help of a sleek machete and a rare book, Eli encounters undesirables along the way, including a Bible-hunting megalomaniac (Gary Oldman) who intends to use the nearly extinct tome as a weapon. The film becomes interesting when it points out the danger of controlling the masses through organized belief, and when it suggests that the last devastating war was probably inspired by a clash of faiths. While the no-holds-barred action sequences help in augmenting the importance of the book in Eli’s possession, there’s a preposterous twist that makes the perilous (and Zatoichi-esque) journey questionable. All in all, this “Book” offers a simple scavenger hunt adventure; it’s not always a good “read,” and apart from that one big reveal near the end, the vicious skirmishes are its most memorable moments.

Double Vision

Two things:

1) Went to Corregidor last Wednesday for the launch of HBO’s new World War II miniseries The Pacific. I was one of about 40 people invited to the event; it was only an hour and a half away via a Sun Cruises boat. Corregidor Island is a beautiful place, a breezy, sight-filled destination that’s also rich in history. Our tour guide was witty Armando, who gave us important information on the once-besieged island. We attended an educational 30-minute light-and-sound show about the momentous conflicts in the area at the Malinta Tunnel. In one of the site’s dark corridors, we sat down to watch behind-the-scenes clips of the show and interviews with co-producers Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and the show’s actors. After lunch at the Corregidor Inn, we visited ruins, a museum, and different scenic spots. On one hill, the buildings of Roxas Boulevard can be seen. After hours of exploring Corregidor, we headed back home, tired but giddy. I’m thankful to HBO Asia and Virtusio PR for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about the place, which I only previously knew from textbooks, postcards, and short TV-magazine stories.

2) A message from Mae Vecina:


In its quest to bring complete customer satisfaction, the Ayala Malls Cinemas redefines the movie experience as it brings to fore the latest buzz in filmmaking technology. Digital and 3D can now be fully enjoyed at the Ayala Malls Cinemas, adding a new brand of excitement to discriminating Ayala patrons. And as the Ayala Malls Cinemas open more digitally-equipped theaters, more moviegoers can now have a truly delightful day at the movies.

With the Dolby Digital Cinema technology in place, viewers get an improved theater experience with its high quality image and sound. It delivers vivid colors and a sharper, clearer image from every seat in the house. Excitement is heightened as pictures are enhanced. And with the latest 3D technology, moviegoers get to see life-like amazing sense of depth, making viewers feel as if they are in the midst of the scenes happening on screen. Complementing this highly advanced visual treat is the theater’s captivating sound system. With all these state-of-the-art technology and the distinguished Ayala brand of customer service, moviegoers are in for a blockbuster experience.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

‘Dollhouse’: Instant personality makeovers

(Published Mar. 15, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


The sci-fi series “Dollhouse” imagines a world where a secret organization runs a classy, hi-tech escort service, their human “Dolls” transplantable with a variety of personalities.

Imprinted with the knowledge and behavior of other people, the Dolls can be programmed for rescue missions and investigative work, as well.

The characters can become all-new ones, but the same technology that gives them different personas and talents deletes memories of their recent activities and escapades.

Numerous possibilities are explored in the short-lived series created by Joss Whedon, who’s best known for TV shows like the beloved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” its spinoff “Angel,” and the space western “Firefly.” Unlike his previous shows, however, “Dollhouse” doesn’t have a clear-cut heroine; Echo (Eliza Dushku) is the default docile personality of the show’s main Doll. But Echo occasionally rebels against her programming, and wonders about her real identity and life before the Dollhouse.

While Dushku commendably played reformed bad girl Faith in Whedon’s older shows, she isn’t as consistent with the multiple personalities of Echo; sometimes she’s adequate, but other portrayals don’t get the dimension they deserve. Still, the good interpretations outnumber the iffy ones, and rooting for Echo is easy. And as with Whedon’s previous shows, other intriguing characters enhance the mythology.

Echo’s fellow Dolls, Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman), are similarly malleable and routinely given specific demeanors, accents and quirks, as requested by wealthy clients. Meanwhile, the Dollhouse branch’s boss, Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams), is made charismatic by her duplicity and moments of vulnerability.

Pondering the importance of identity and purpose regularly, the series also descriptively tackles relatable what-ifs. The storylines are mostly unpredictable and clever; the show’s tone shifts consistently without losing coherence.

From an action thriller episode to a tense murder mystery, and even a funny misadventure, “Dollhouse” reliably manages to keep its mystique intact. The steady introduction of multiple characters through the same cast of actors also keeps situations pleasantly challenging.

“Dollhouse” airs Saturdays, 10 p.m., on RPN-Solar TV.

‘Cry for Justice’: League disassembled

Ramifications of the mini Justice League: Cry for Justice were spoiled about a month prior to its last issue in the regular Justice League book, also by James Robinson. But that’s only a fraction of the stunning conclusion; there are still some surprises in the last two issues of the seven-parter. Before all that, the reader has to endure the first five meandering, less-interesting issues and blog-like commentary by the author (pages that could have been devoted to the expansion of the story, maybe even the inclusion of Batwoman, as previously planned). Still, Robinson’s insights are valuable, and there are short, helpful character histories by Len Wein. Robinson introduces a more proactive team fighting a more invincible Prometheus. Mauro Cascioli provides vibrant artwork; Scott Clark later helps out the artist, his simpler style noticeable but still colored to look as painstakingly rendered. Not a bad miniseries, but it could’ve been told in fewer issues.

Iron Mashed

Placed second in last Sunday’s Iron Man Mind Mash, during the toy launch of the movie sequel held at SM Megamall. My fellow contestant, Patrick Lauron, won first prize after answering the tie-breaker question correctly in the last round. Always a worthy opponent, that guy. If I remember correctly, this is the fourth trivia contest that we joined, and in all of them, we both ended up in the final round. He won one of the newly launched figures, while I got a small Mark VI figure. My thanks to Cybertron Philippines for a fun game, and the picture above.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Nation X

Homo Sapiens Superior. Children of the Atom. My X-Men drawings, first of two sets.

Excalibur: Micromax, Captain Britain, Meggan, Feron, Juggernaut, Daytripper, Pete Wisdom, Sage, Cerise, Kylun

X-Factor: Shatterstar, M, Strong Guy, Longshot, Siryn, Layla Miller, Madrox, Rictor, Darwin

Astonishing X-Men: Phoenix, Armor, Storm, Cyclops, Colossus, Emma Frost, Beast, Shadowcat, Lockheed

X-Force: Archangel, Vanisher, Warpath, X-23, Domino, Hepzibah, Elixir, Caliban, Wolfsbane, Wolverine

New Mutants: Warlock, Cannonball, Sunspot, Magma, Karma, Boom Boom, Skids, Magik, Cypher, Mirage

Utopian X-Men: Northstar, Cloak, Namor, Psylocke, Iceman, Pixie, Dazzler, Professor X, Dagger

Heroes Hitting Homophobes

Some scenes from Marvel and DC comic books depicting gay bashers getting punched or kicked by superheroes:

Shatterstar (X-Force 49, 1995): Witnessing the beating of a gay guy in an alley, Shatterstar is taunted by the attackers (“This your girlfriend, Mary?”). He quickly knocks them out without using his bladed weapons. Last year, it was revealed that Shatterstar, like his X-Factor teammate Rictor, is bisexual.

Northstar (Uncanny X-Men 392, 2001): Openly gay mutant hero Northstar is repeatedly insulted by an unabashed homophobe, new teammate Paulie Provenzano. Paulie’s invulnerable, but hyper-fast Northstar soon punches him into unconsciousness. Later, Northstar saves Paulie’s life during a mission, and the latter becomes less antagonistic.

Green Lantern (Green Lantern 154, 2001): An enraged Kyle Rayner pursues three homophobic thugs who beat up and severely injured his assistant and friend Terry Berg; Green Lantern breaks one guy’s wrists and pummels the others soundly.

The Spectre (Spectre 45, 1996): While not a superhero in the traditional sense, the Spectre is a godlike entity that punishes wrongdoers. In this issue, he fights and defeats a gay-bashing pseudo-angel, actually Reverend Dinswoode, who encourages his followers to inflict violence on gay people. He brazenly proclaims himself “God’s good right arm.” The Spectre’s powerful punches disarm the deluded bigot.

Way out of ‘The Box’

In “The Box,” Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a married couple, visited on an unusually bad day by a disfigured stranger (Frank Langella) with a bizarre offer. If the spouses agree to press the button of a box-shaped device, someone they don’t know will die, but they’ll get paid a million dollars. Director-screenwriter Richard Kelly’s film is a circuitous science fiction puzzle that inevitably becomes overly complicated, but despite the high-faluting conundrums, it touches on thought-provoking philosophical angles when details on the bigger picture are gradually revealed. That grand, out-of-the-box design isn’t executed flawlessly; it gets uncomfortably campy along the way, and answers to some bafflers are still too cryptic. However, the couple’s smaller-scale, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” drama pushes all the right buttons.

“The Box” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive opening on March 10.

‘Alice’ unchained

An imaginative visitor to Underland returns as a fated heroine in “Alice in Wonderland,” an enchantingly color-drenched, trippy vision directed by Tim Burton. Now grown up, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is joined by oddball allies the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), among other dreamlike denizens. They must end the mad reign of the freakish, rampaging Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). Brimming with Burton’s typical visual trimmings, the film easily treads a stylishly cartoony and artificial landscape, but some situations in the “unreal” world become repetitive and/or feel unnecessary. Some characters lack dimension, as well. Still, it’s easy to get attached to Alice, who must also fight encumbering tradition in the real world. Also, Depp and Carter are delightful, as always.