Wednesday, June 30, 2010

‘Bored’ sensitive but revels in silliness

(Published June 30, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


The characters of the HBO comedy “Bored to Death” seem to be in the middle of transitions, stuck in their respective ruts and figuring out that perplexing stage in their lives.

Created by acclaimed comic book writer Jonathan Ames, the series mainly focuses on an uninspired author, also named Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman of “Rushmore”), who’s dumped by his girlfriend because he’s an alcoholic and a pot smoker.

Capable of eliciting mild snickers at the right moments, “Bored to Death” also illustrates the desperation of Jonathan’s boss George (Ted Danson), a magazine editor who occasionally feels the need to escape his gruelling routines. Jonathan’s best friend Ray (“The Hangover’s” Zach Galifianakis), meanwhile, is a comic book creator trying to keep up with a demanding girlfriend.

Impulsively, Jonathan advertises himself as an unlicensed private detective online. Misadventures ensue, of course, but he’s able to solve some cases.

He lets his friends tag along from time to time, and is able to spend his time wisely. These don’t inspire him enough to start writing a second novel, however, and the deadline is looming.

These somewhat successful men are accessible and familiar, especially when they’re dealing with—or ignoring altogether—their insecurities. There’s no alpha male posturing, except between George and his most despised rival (guest star Oliver Platt). There’s an unspoken but pervading sense of brotherhood, and the show distinctly ponders the career and relationship dilemmas of men.

The actors create a laid-back synergy, imbuing their semi-vulnerable characters with charm and believability amidst the ridiculousness of some situations. The characters of season one are given substance, indelible personalities and quirks.

A little “Seinfeld”-ish in its attention to minutiae but having a comedic beat of its own, it is insightful and touching despite unabashedly reveling in silliness and eccentricity.

“Bored to Death” season one airs two episodes weeknights at 9 until July 2 on HBO Signature.

Super-Villain Team-Up 2

More Marvel rogues! Set 2 of 2.

Freedom Force- Spiral, Blob, Stonewall, Super Saber, Pyro, Destiny, Mystique, Crimson Commando, Avalanche

Alien Adversaries- Supreme Intelligence, Queen Veranke, Broodqueen, Prince Jakal, Magus, Ord, Deathbird, Dire Wraith-“Torpedo”

Avengers Foes Assemble- Michael Korvac, Thanos, Beyonder, Morgan Le Fey, Count Nefaria, Kulan Gath, Kang, Super-Adaptoid, Ultron

The Hood’s Gang- Griffin, Hood, Mandrill, Answer, Piledriver, Bulldozer, Thunderball, Jigsaw, Madam Masque, Scarecrow

Wolverine’s Enemies- Mister X, Deadpool, Silver Samurai, Omega Red, Romulus, Lady Deathstrike, Cylla

Mutant Hunters- Bastion, Cameron Hodge, Ahab, Cassandra Nova, William Stryker, Predator X, Donald Pierce

Vanilla ‘Twilight’

“Twilight’s” mythology is far from solid, but the third film, “Eclipse,” somewhat tries to fix that by fleshing out some of the decorative background characters. So expect some pretty interesting flashbacks that elaborate on the seemingly less significant Cullen clan members, and information that makes some sense of the werewolf-vampire rivalry.

However, the monster love triangle is still central to the enterprise; vamp-boy Edward (Rob Pattinson) proposes to monster magnet Bella (Kristen Stewart), who has feelings as well for wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner). The escalation of the enmity between the Sparkly One and the Shirtless One finally amuses, and even when it’s clear that Bella truly has the hots for one of them, she just doesn’t want the other preternatural lad to leave.

“Eclipse” is actually bearable and has clearer storytelling; by now, those that watched the first two films know the parameters of the fantasy-drama. There are still some eyeroll-inducing moments, but “Eclipse” is better edited than its predecessors. The once-dour dynamic has also improved, thanks to Jacob and Edward’s sometimes-funny verbal jousting. Action-wise, the short battle between the good guy monsters and a new vampire army is mesmerizing chaos, the busy conflict a welcome respite from the stretched and often uninvolving emotional duels.

(Thanks to Mae V. for the invites to Tuesday’s preview at Glorietta 4. To order Ayala Cinema tickets online, drop by

Boy Story

Just something I drew some weeks back. Cowboy lovin’.

Cristine Reyes thrilled to be dating

(Published June 27, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Actress Cristine Reyes is thrilled to be going on a date with the winner of a beer brand raffle promo, where one of the prizes is a Boracay weekend with the 21-year-old ABS-CBN talent.

“I’m really excited because I’m not dating anyone at the moment,” said the 2009 FHM Philippines’ Sexiest Woman, in Filipino, shortly after the press conference at Outback Glorietta 4 in Makati. “Single ako, promise.”

Reyes, who previously appeared as the lead character in the teleserye “Eva Fonda” and in the horror flick “Patient X,” showed off her curves in a pair of Colt 45 TV commercials announcing the “Vava-Vroom win a date” promo. She is glad that staying fit has its rewards.

“I’m dieting. Seryoso. I eat anything I want, basta in moderation.”

Reyes will be appearing opposite Zanjoe Marudo in ABS-CBN’s “Precious Hearts Romances” titled “Kristine,” based on the series of romance novels by Martha Cecilia.

“I think it’ll run for six months,” she said. “It’s a drama-love story. I’m playing Jewel Fortalejo, a hacendera. We’re always taping in Batangas.”

Making the news last year as among those trapped by Tropical Storm “Ondoy’s” floods, but later rescued off her roof by actor-friend Richard Gutierrez, Reyes said that she’s more prepared for similar calamities.

“Before Ondoy, I bought a new house, but it just happened that I was still in the old one when the weather disturbance happened,” Cristine related. “Now I’m ready for typhoons because I got a house in a high place. Nobody lives in our Marikina home anymore. My mom moved with me to Batasan, Quezon City. If a challenge comes up now, I can handle it better.”

Reyes described sister Ara Mina as a “very supportive ate.”

“I think she’s proud of me, pero hindi sa mga kalokohan ko. She’s proud when she heard na nag No. 1 ako sa FHM. Proud siya na may bago akong pagbibidahan sa ABS-CBN.”

She also wants to star in a war epic, where she can do her own action scenes and stunts. For now, she’s happy with the opportunities she’s getting and is more conscious of her actions.

“When I was just starting, waldas talaga ako. But I’ve learned to save, to invest. I also learned to watch what I do, because I’m a rowdy person. I have to be tame na in front of people.”

As for her dream guy, Reyes wants someone independent and capable of defending her: “Gusto ko mature guy. Marunong na sa buhay.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heroic Aging

Two new Avengers titles that recently debuted, Secret Avengers and Avengers Academy, show promise. The Secret roster is cool; I like the addition of first-time Avengers Valkyrie, Nova, and (irredeemable) Ant-Man. Meanwhile, the Avengers Academy book is intriguing. Glad that Hank Pym, Speedball, Quicksilver, Tigra, and Justice are in the book regularly, as teachers to a half-dozen new students/potential Avengers. These aren’t exactly Young Avengers-ish teens, as the first issue reveals. I just hope the Initiative graduates become recurring guests, or supporting cast members. They deserve full-time Avengers memberships already.

Ordinary ‘Knight’

Tom Cruise is cocky as hell and almost creepily smug as rogue Agent Roy Miller in the action flick-romantic comedy “Knight and Day,” which has average doses of rapid gunfire and cloying sexual tension. Co-star Cameron Diaz plays car connoisseur June Havens, who easily falls for the dashing mystery man, only to discover that he’s a dangerous guy, maybe even a trigger-happy maniac.

Between flying bullets, a crash-landing, and multiple vehicular collisions, an unlikely but expected friendship is formed. She’s attracted to the stranger who may or may not be crazy, but manages to get them out of impossible jams; he needs to keep her safe from heavily armed pursuers. And they’re many, from former agent allies to unrelenting goons. Roy has tricks up his sleeves, and consistently manages to evade enemies, with freaked-out (and sometimes unconscious) civilian in tow.

Cruise and Diaz don’t really come off as a believable on-screen couple; their intimacy is devoid of sparks and translatable excitement. They’re supposed to exude hotness, but they practically transmit an asexual vibe. Lack of romantic credibility aside, the pairing isn’t entirely a bad one. If anything, they look like they’re at ease with each other, and are having fun during other scenarios, perhaps the result of the actors previously working together in another film.

“Knight and Day” proceeds formulaically, its globe-spanning adventure only partly giving it a sense of immensity and immediacy. The mechanical action sequences are mostly bloodless, and the stunts aren’t exactly new. But, somehow, this average popcorn flick/rom-com doesn’t get truly boring, and it’s not difficult to stay with it till the end--although it does get corny from time to time, especially when one character repeats exactly what another previously said in a similar situation. Hate when that happens.

Mortality, Tranquility

A former classmate, Haziel, passed away yesterday. According to some forwarded texts and Facebook posts, she had cancer.

I didn’t know her well, but I knew enough that she was good to me. We were classmates twice, back in grade four and third year high school. She was one of the tall girls when we were kids, but I think we were the same height during junior year.

I remember an afternoon when a few of my friends and I were just hanging out after classes near one of the school’s basketball courts. I don’t remember why, exactly. Haziel was there too; I’m not sure if she was waiting for her boyfriend at the time or not. But she was looking for When in Rome’s “The Promise” on her radio-walkman. The song was new then, and a number of stations where playing it periodically.

She then asked me to walk with her around the field, and I did. I don’t remember the conversation, but I do recall that walking with her felt pleasant. One friend later commented that we looked comfortable with each other. I didn’t think about it too much, but every time I think of Haziel, that’s what I remember the most.

I’m playing the video of “The Promise” as I write this. Goodbye, and rest in peace, Haziel.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Invincible Scott Pilgrimage

Been a busy week. Was able to interview Cristine Reyes last Thursday. Got some freebies, including a shirt, a cap, and four cans of Colt 45. Will give the beer to my dad, because I don’t feel like drinking. It’s been over a year since I last drank beer, I think.

Anyway. I’ve been enjoying Robert Kirkman’s Invincible (thanks for recommending, Chris Carrabba!). It’s a fresh take on superheroes, which means it’s fun and unpredictable--remember the feeling when you first read the classic Spidey issues? I was only familiar with Kirkman’s darker Walking Dead stories, so this cleaner, more optimistic book is quite surprising.

Also, I read most of the Scott Pilgrim books, and am eagerly anticipating the movie adaptation. I’m not sure about Michael Cera, but he’s done enough awkward characters, so I hope it works. Also, I hope Kieran Culkin does Wallace Wells, Scott’s gay roommate, justice.

Here’s Brandon Routh as one of the evil exes of Ramona (Scott’s girl). Coolness. But the guy really should play Superman again.

‘Toy Story 3’: Forgotten playthings, fun memories

Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the endearing playthings return to the big screen triumphantly in “Toy Story 3,” a moving and worthy addition to the successful series of movies. The time finally arrives when the toys’ owner, Andy, prepares to leave for college, signaling a turning point in the sentient collectibles’ secret lives. They find a renewed sense of purpose at a day care center, where they meet a number of toy residents. “Toy Story 3” delightfully reminds us of growing up, moving on, and sacrificing for the happiness of others. By the Story’s end, you’ll choke up, smile, and feel grateful.

‘PGT’: Variety saves a patience-trying 3 hours

(Published June 18, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Photo by Rodel Rotoni

“Too Much Love” didn’t kill Jovit Baldivino; it made him a weepy champ.

The first “Pilipinas Got Talent” grand winner received an overwhelming number of text votes (48.81 percent), beating 11 other finalists in the ABS-CBN reality-talent show. The 16-year-old BatangueƱo, who has been compared to Journey vocalist Arnel Pineda, sang Queen’s “Too Much Love Will Kill You” on last Saturday’s grand finals show, and again after he was declared winner the next night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Baldivino brought home P2 million; runner-up dance groups Velasco Brothers and Baguio Metamorphosis, P100,000 each.

The last two nights featured finalists with disparate abilities, much like the show’s foreign progenitor and counterparts, so it was an interesting mix of singers, musicians, and non-musical artists (specifically, a magician and a ventriloquist).

These finalists performed with Gary Valenciano and bands Kjwan and Sugarfree, among other guests. Those that did not make it to the top three received P50,000 each.

Saturday’s show ran over a patience-testing three hours, but the diversity of talents kept us from tuning out and dozing off. The three judges, Ai Ai de las Alas, Kris Aquino, and Freddie “Boss FMG” Garcia, didn’t have criticisms for the finalists; in fact they were all-praise during the finals night.

While some may disagree with a number of their comments--not everybody gave sterling performances--the trio generated an odd, train wreck-ish dynamic.

De las Alas typically injected humor into her comments, and has gushed openly about the Velasco Brothers’ energetic dance numbers for weeks. Aquino has invited the group more than once to perform at brother (and President-elect) Noynoy’s inauguration. Characteristically, Aquino also managed to sneak in unexpected (expected?) comments that put “FMG” on the spot by suggesting that he should finance the funds-challenged Baguio Metamorphosis in a dance competition abroad.

A man with very few words, Garcia often came off as leaden and too formal, overshadowed by his two more vocal and sometimes gauche co-judges. Perhaps he balances out that equation, but he needs to be more descriptive for TV.

The RP version’s Ant and Dec counterparts, hosts Luis Manzano and Billy Crawford, performed their tasks ably, almost seamlessly segueing contestants’ well-wishing kin, performances, and judges’ comments.

“PGT” has showcased truly talented contestants—Baldivino, singer Ingrid Payaket, and multi-instrumentalist Jeline Oliva, to name a few—and their 15 minutes of fame shouldn’t end here. It’s clear we’ll be hearing again from some of the finalists.

While many of them deserve show biz careers, some need honing, and should consciously make effort to improve. May the next season of “Pilipinas Got Talent” have a shaken-up judges’ roster, and let’s hope the program reveals more unconventional, but similarly attention-grabbing talents.

Replays of the grand finals and awards night air on Studio 23, 6 p.m. on Saturday (June 19) and Sunday (June 20).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Put on a Poncho

One of my favorite Sheryl Crow songs is “If It Makes You Happy,’ from her self-titled second album. I’ve chosen some of her songs in karaoke booths before, and I must say that they’re quite difficult to sing--doubly so for me, because I can’t sing, although that hasn’t stopped me from doing that repeatedly in those arcade booths.

Anyway, some words to “If It Makes You Happy” are totally different. “Put on a poncho,” however, was the oddest misheard line in the song, and in its place there’s “Put on a porn show.”

Man, that’s funny. The imagery in my head is totally different now. And the song feels sadder, somehow.

‘A-Team’ no pitiful fools

Consistently fun and endearing in ways the recent action flick “The Losers” wasn’t, this modern-day, big-screen incarnation of the old TV series combines a witty script with a respectable cast. Sure, it’s got the cobwebbed, predictable framed-agents-strike-back plot, but the actors are utilized enjoyably, especially Liam Neeson (charismatic leader Hannibal) and “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley (crazy pilot Murdoch). Rowdy and unabashedly silly, this new, differently flavored A-Team is a-okay, their first adventure peppered with its share of nutty and explosive bits, among them a hilarious sequence involving a freefalling tank.

Kiddified ‘Karate’

Jaden Smith stars as the titular character in this functional remake. But in this version, the boy, Dre, moves to China with his mom (Taraji Henson), and is menaced almost immediately by a group of mean schoolmates skilled in kung fu. Jackie Chan plays Dre’s effective mentor Han, figuring in a frenetic, creative martial arts melee scene, and later adding dramatic pulse to the decent endeavor. The new Kid inspires differently; 12-year-old Smith impresses as the determined underdog. The film is long, “Poker Face” feels old and has gotten boring, and you’d wish that they’d expounded on the evil kung fu teacher’s motivations. But “Karate Kid” still rewards and entertains, espousing the importance of diligence and determination to younger viewers between quick kicks, flips, and parries.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

‘Dashboard’ music: Primal scream

(Published June 1, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


American band Dashboard Confessional’s sensitive musings and playful melodies stand out in the ever-expanding alt-rock scene, winning over listeners other than “emo” kids in recent years.

Composed of vocalist/songwriter/guitarist Chris Carrabba, lead guitarist John Lefler, bassist Scott Schoenbeck and drummer Mike Marsh, the band from Florida played a one-night show Thursday at the TriNoma Mall. In this Philippine Daily Inquirer interview, its members talked about musical growth, comic books, and “honest” songs.

How was opening for Bon Jovi like?

Carrabba: I always liked Bon Jovi, but I didn’t expect to be able to watch them about 65 times and have my mind blown every night.

Name some of your biggest influences.

Carrabba: Most of my influences are relatively unknown besides bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan. Three of us come from the very underground indie rock-punk background, and one of us is strictly pop.

How has the band’s style evolved in 10 years?

Lefler: “Alter the Ending” sounds like four band members working together. It’s like we’ve finally figured out how to make our different influences and backgrounds work together.

Carrabba: I’ve always felt that we were much better live than on record; this album is the closest we’ve got. It’s closer to the roots than, maybe, “Dusk and Summer” was. There’s something very vibrant about “Alter the Ending.” It’s the truest representation of us finally being the band that we are on stage.

Which comic books would your music best accompany?

Carrabba: That (writer) Robert Kirkman, he’s my favorite guy – anything of his. I would say “Walking Dead.” I like “Haunt.” I’d say “Invincible” is probably the best. There’s an optimism in that book.

How would you differentiate female and male fans responding to your music?

Carrabba: We have more female fans than male fans, and I think that’s helped us get more male fans. Early on, I realized that these guys were coming to meet girls at our shows. We’re just lucky that they also like the music.

Lefler: Chris and I would comment on these things every time. We’d see these tattooed kids in the front row. They have a tear in their eye and they’re singing their hearts out, something you’d never expect!

What makes listeners connect with the band’s songs?

Schoenbeck: A lot of times we say things that people are afraid to say. It’s like primal scream.

Not My Legion

After reading the thick first issue of the Legion of Superheroes, I just missed the “Archie” Legion more. This pre-Crisis team just doesn’t interest me. Maybe the title will get better. But nah, I won’t be following it. And speaking of comic book-collecting, some titles I regularly buy have ended (Mighty Avengers, Initiative, Dark Avengers), or will be relaunched (X-Force), so that leaves Secret Avengers, Avengers Academy, Secret Six, and the occasional Marvel Handbook and other miniseries. The Justice League of America title, I’m not enjoying it. I liked the creative team revamp and the Titans graduate members, but the book lacks focus and keeps tying in with event crossovers. Huh.

‘Casino Royale’: Maximum Bond-age (2006)

(Published Dec. 10, 2006, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


While the casting of Daniel Craig as Agent 007 was met with skepticism not too long ago, his recent portrayal in “Casino Royale” is proof enough that the actor, indeed, has a future as iconic spy James Bond. Craig, who has previously appeared in “Tomb Raider” and “Layer Cake,” doesn’t look at all like the more sophisticated, more spruced-up former 007s. He’s blond, has distracting cup-handle ears, and mostly looks like a bully, but because the material gave him an edgy, contemporary roughness, he’s just perfect for this revamp.

This sixth actor to play Bond is convincing and a compelling presence, too, as he’s able to show sides to him that make him more sympathetic and less cocky. As we’ve seen a parade of numerous, hard-hitting TV and movie super-spies in recent years, “Casino Royale” does away with some of the camp, and restructures 007’s world into a more serious, more timely post-9/11 environment.

The arsenal of high-tech gadgets has been discarded for now, although the technology shown here is much more realistic, and still very much cutting-edge. The focus is mostly on Bond’s sparer, back-to-basics approach in tracking down, or interacting with prey that he must eventually take down, and he does that well with his more available resources.

That includes his ability to charm women; this new incarnation still does that well, and Craig injects a newer, tough-guy appeal into him. He’s paired with the equally intriguing Vesper Lynd (Eva Green from “Kingdom of Heaven”), a feisty, analytical treasury official tasked to accompany him during an undercover assignment that involves casino gambling. Green is just right; she’s given plenty to do, and the characterization makes her among the more interesting, more memorable Bond girls.

Speaking of the women in Bond’s filmic life, Judi Dench is still delightful as the ever-infuriated M. As Bond’s boss, she’s regretting the agent’s recent promotion, because while tremendously promising, he has a tendency to recklessly go on unsupervised missions. Still, Bond is undoubtedly the best agent for the job, and he’s sent after a big-time, high-priority crook named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Bond engages the tear duct-impaired bad guy (he weeps blood, sometimes) in a poker game, which is easily the film’s slowest, most disengaging part. It’s not the best way to explore his foe’s villainy--he’s sorely lacking in dimension for most of the movie--but Le Chiffre gets to do truly despicable things later during a torture scene, anyway.

“Casino Royale,” directed by Martin Campbell (“Vertical Limit,” “Mask of Zorro”), imaginatively reintroduces the super-agent. And just like the latest installment of other long-lasting film franchises where actors playing the protagonists can be replaced, it rejuvenates the property anew for changing times and audiences. With Craig as the new, differently dashing, occasionally grouchy, and somewhat more vulnerable James Bond, pop culture’s premier super-spy has gotten more relevant and exciting again.