Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloweener 2010

Different monsters, a party, and the annual LNA Halloween masquerade.

Heroic Marvel Bogeymen: LEGION OF MONSTERS (Man-Thing, Morbius, Manphibian, Werewolf By Night) and HOWLING COMMANDOS (Clone of Frankenstein, Sasquatch, Living Mummy, Gorilla Man, Vampire By Night, Warwolf).

Heroic DC Bogeymen: CREATURE COMMANDOS (Lucky Taylor, Vincent Velcro, GI Robot, Matthew Shrieve, Dr. Medusa, Warren Griffith) and SCARE TACTICS (Grossout, Slither, Screamqueen, Arnie Burnsteel, Fang).

Halloween Skullebration! Bones, chugs, harmony! Skull-exclusive party attended by Mr. Bones, Taskmaster, Atomic Skull, Green Skull, Negative Man, Ghost Rider, Red Skull, Skeletor, Blue Knight, Death, Black Mask, and Blazing Skull.

Moore’s Maniacs: Alan Moore’s beautiful monsters, a trio of traitors and tricksters. Ultima from Top Ten was secretly a junkie who later rampaged at Neopolis’ superpolice station. Ozymandias from Watchmen betrayed his former allies as part of a grand plan to unite almost-warring nations. And TAO (Tactically Augmented Organism) manipulated his fellow WildCATs into fighting in a super gang war he orchestrated, among other sneaky things.

LNA Halloween 2010: Retro Robotic! Lexy, Nance, Argus, Jim and the kids dress up as familiar animated figures from the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Happy Halloween!

‘Ben 10’ evolves into a celeb hero

(Published Oct. 28, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Shape-shifting teen Ben Tennyson continues to protect the Earth from extraterrestrial and homegrown goons in the animated “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien” series. Ben now fights tougher, more relentless menaces that threaten him and his family using a new gadget that evolves his alien forms into their “ultimate” versions.

But one challenge he didn’t expect is becoming popular. In the episode “Fame,” a young fan gathers and posts evidence of Ben’s secret battles with different enemies online, so the teen hero has to deal with becoming an instant celebrity. Criticized by some for the destruction resulting from his fights, but beloved by his grateful and astonished fans, Ben is becoming more aware of his responsibilities.

The absence of a secret identity, however, brings the paparazzi and super-villains to his doorstep. In the episode “Hit ‘Em Where They Live,” Ben’s parents are stalked by three vicious foes. But their plans are thwarted resoundingly by Ben, his superpowered teen partners—his cousin Gwen and her boyfriend Kevin, and his grandfather Max.

Co-created by a group of mostly established comic book writers, the successful “Ben 10” initially centered on a 10-year-old Ben Tennyson; in “Ultimate Alien” the main character is now 16, tries to balance school and heroic duties, but still tries to have fun using his superpowers. In one of the lighter episodes, he discovers the folly of dividing himself into three beings (to simultaneously watch a movie, watch a friend’s tennis match and go on a mission).

“Ultimate Alien” introduces new characters, strikingly designed “ultimate” alien identities and the villainy of the enigmatic Aggregor. The show possesses a more serious tone, but its elaborate action sequences dazzle and the comic book drama makes it accessible.

“Ben 10: Ultimate Alien” airs Sundays, 10 a.m., on Cartoon Network. “Ben 10: Alien Force” airs Sundays, 6 p.m.


I attended “Tron Night,” which was a 20-minute preview screening of select scenes from the “Tron” sequel, last Thursday night at the SM North Imax. It was okay. The more complex virtual world in this film looks more appealing, of course; there are nicely designed machines and other technology lined with characteristically cool light patterns.

I’m not a fan of the original film, though; I remember watching it when I was about nine or ten, and getting really bored about half an hour into it. It looked good, but I tuned out eventually. I do hope that the sequel is an improvement over the original movie, storywise, and that there are more unpredictable action sequences.

Anyway, actor Garrett Hedlund, who plays the character transported to another dimension (and a combatant in a flashy gladiatorial duel), looks like a younger clone of Jensen Ackles, but with not-so-perfect teeth. By the way, there was a raflle and I won a Tron yoyo and a neon blue baller band. “Tron: Legacy” opens Metro Manila-wide in December.

‘DCU Halloween” treat

The 48-page one-shot “DC Universe Halloween 2010” isn’t as fun as previous Halloween specials, but some of its stories are amusing enough, and not necessarily for kids only. The eight-pagers that stand out: “Trick For The Scarecrow” (two kids in Bat-costume capture and punish the Scarecrow), “Medusa Non Grata” (Miss Martian and Blue Beetle meet a trick or treating Klarion), and “Time Or Your Life” (a costume party is gatecrashed by Flash and Frankenstein). Nice cover by Gene Ha, but there’s no Solomon Grundy story, and those particular Teen Titans don’t appear in the issue.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bear Grylls on surviving the unthinkable

(Published October 24, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Survival expert, TV host and author Bear Grylls knows how it feels to be in a life-threatening situation. He survived a fall after his parachute malfunctioned years ago. The intrepid explorer also repeatedly found himself in unpredictable environments while filming the popular Discovery Channel program “Man vs. Wild.”

Grylls, 36, revealed in a recent teleconference that his new show is “Worst Case Scenario,” scheduled to air in December. The six-part series tackles different dangerous and potentially lethal situations (plunging elevators, shark attacks, etc.). The host offers expert advice on how to survive them.

How intensive is training for every episode?
When I’m home, I train every day for these things, an hour in the morning when I get up. But it’s just been a big part of my life, I suppose, training since my Army days. I’m not naturally fit. I need to work hard on all these things. So, yes, I do a lot of running, circuit training, and then yoga, and combine that a lot.

How about the emergency training?
A lot of it is the same skills that I use on “Man vs. Wild.” It’s about being inventive, determined and having a sense of humor in difficult places. But a lot of it is common sense and trying to think laterally and keep calm in that big moment.

For “Worst Case Scenario” we do a briefing the day before filming. They give me a kind of broad overview of what we are doing but without the details. Then I get thrown into the next day and have lots of cameras on it and they film it, and just let it all run. Then the end of it is either kind of all there or it isn’t, in which case we’d do it again.

Have you experienced a real worst case scenario?
I’ve had a lot of real case ones. I’m trying to think of the ones we did on the show. I’ve been mugged before; we did that one on the show. I’ve had brake failure before, not quite as severe as we did on the show, but I’ve had that. I’ve gotten stuck on mountains where you can’t go up, can’t go down. I’ve had falls, I’ve had parachute failures. I’ve been chased by dogs before in the military, which was kind of pretty scary.

After doing it all, what’s left to explore?
Loads. The more of these I do—the more places we go on “Man vs. Wild,” the more scenarios to do for “Worst Case”—the more I realize we live in an extraordinary world and there are so many huge wildernesses and difficult, crazy, hell-holes of swamps around the planet. It’s hard to kind of scratch the surface, really. So, I think the limiting factor is always a human factor, which is me, rather than the wildernesses or the worst case scenario. I’m the one that gets more and more battered and covered in scars.

“Worst Case Scenario” begins airing on Dec. 8, 11 p.m., on Discovery Channel. “Man vs. Wild” airs Saturdays, 9 p.m.

15 Comic Books Meme

Tagged by Yvie. I chose 15 comic books (graphic novels, minis, monthlies, etc.) “that will always stick with” me. There’s definitely more than 15, but these are the ones I can think of now. Tag yourself if you wanna do this.

(The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.)

1. Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)

2. Stuck Rubber Baby (Howard Cruse)

3. Top Ten (Alan Moore and Gene Ha)

4. Avengers (Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, Steve Englehart, Dan Slott runs)

5. Alpha Flight (John Byrne)

6. JLA (Grant Morrison and Joe Kelly’s runs)

7. Uncanny X-Men (Chris Claremont, first run)

8. Sandman (Neil Gaiman)

9. Stupid Comics (Jim Mahfood)

10. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Various; original, deluxe, current)

11. Crisis on Infinite Earths (Marv Wolfman and George Perez)

12. Legion of 3 Worlds (Geoff Johns and George Perez)

13. Avengers-JLA (Kurt Busiek and George Perez)

14. Astonishing X-Men (Joss Whedon and John Cassaday)

15. Astro City (Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson)


Watched “The Other Guys” last week. It’s a hilarious odd couple-cop flick starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson also appear as reckless, property-damaging partner cops. Michael Keaton plays their boss, Captain Gene Mauch, a reasonable guy who sometimes inserts TLC song references into his statements. His character also has a second job at Bed, Bath and Beyond, “so my kid can go to NYU, explore his bisexuality, and become a DJ.”

Funny stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

High-tech avenging with teen ‘Iron Man’

(Published Oct. 14, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Genius inventor and weapons designer Tony Stark gets animated in the sleek “Iron Man: Armored Adventures,” but it’s not the partying playboy from the comic books and live-action movies. This Tony Stark is mostly a no-nonsense teen, surrounded by other younger versions of familiar figures from Marvel mythology.

As with previous incarnations, young Tony Stark is dependent on life-preserving technology, but in this iteration, that’s after surviving a plane crash that took his father’s life. Donning a battlesuit he designed, Tony fights crime as Iron Man and gets introduced to a number of costumed villains. He also tries to acclimate to his new life as a high school student.

Similarly adjusted to fit this new take are supporting characters James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Pepper Potts. Rhodey is his best friend here, now a tech-savvy kid assisting Tony in combat or rescue missions by relaying crucial information from their secret mini-base. Pepper Potts is now an insufferable motormouth, but she’s not entirely annoying; she’s actually brave and independent. And, unknown to the gang, the new rich classmate Gene Khan is the Mandarin, one of Iron Man’s most formidable foes.

This new “Iron Man” balances straightforward hero-versus-villain scenarios with relatable and even humorous school situations. Tony, despite his brilliance and resources, is awkward at social interactions. It’s not the suave, womanizing Tony Stark at all, at least not yet. Still, he’s already adept at fighting super-villains, and is comfortable with the role of protector.

Animation-wise, the clean, vivid style allows intricate and kinetic battle scenes. As for the different armors worn by Iron Man’s enemies, most are impressive and updated versions. However, despite its aptly hulking presence, the Crimson Dynamo should have predominantly sported the color red instead of white. And speaking of designs, the kid characters wear the same casual clothes to school every day (an animation shortcut), which gets distracting. They look okay, but perhaps some tweaking of the color schemes and details can add variety.

Imperfections aside, the first season is often engaging. “Iron Man” is tightly plotted and very contemporary, and a good re-imagining of the armored Avenger and his high-tech exploits.

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” Season 1 episodes can be viewed on

Real ‘Life’ ensues

Holly and Messer (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) loathe each other, but they “inherit” their mutual friends’ baby (and house), so they have to learn to coexist peacefully and become replacement parents. Maybe they’ll even enjoy each other’s company eventually. Of course they will; even if you didn’t see the trailer, it’s a given that they’ll fall for each other in true rom-com fashion. The end.

Well, not quite. “Life As We Know It” is a heavier-than-usual romantic comedy in that the two potential lovers suddenly have to undergo radical lifestyle changes, mature almost overnight, and understand previously unheard-of responsibilities. Actually, much of the comedy comes from the assemblage of wacky neighbors. And the romance part? It’s actually iffy; the first time Holly and Messer got really intimate was after she accidentally got his bike destroyed, so there’s guilt and indebtedness involved.

But yes, despite the unusual circumstances, it doesn’t always feel that it’s a forced pairing. It’s not quite a regular date movie, though. Sure, it’s cute, seeing hot single people hit it off after much struggling, but the new parents’ complicated situation keeps reiterating that raising a child is a tough and serious job. Parents might be able to relate to it and the sacrifices depicted. It sort of forewarns younger couples, so it’s probably helpful in that regard, but it’s not a regular feelgood romance-fantasy. One may feel a little drained after watching it; it almost feels as if you helped the protagonists raise the child from scratch as well, a rewarding but exhausting experience.

“Life As We Know It” opens October 20 in Metro Manila.

‘Heroic’ analysis

Steve Rogers’ thoughts on the current Heroic Age and the Marvel U’s diverse costumed heroes are shared in an impressive character guide filing the former Captain America’s opinions on over 180 crimefighters, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as ratings of each person's heroism, Handbook-style.

“Heroic Age: Super Heroes” is a nifty 64-page one-shot with three character entries per page. Previous event guide books written using the perspectives of Tony Stark, Quasimodo, and Victoria Hand offered differing insights and worked well as sourcebook companions to their respective “regimes.” But “Super Heroes” is the most entertaining book of its kind to date. It’s the first of two issues; the next is devoted to villains and will be out next month.

A few revealing assessments: Rogers believes that Rogue would be perfect as Thunderbolts leader if Luke Cage decides to leave the team. He doesn’t trust Gambit and considers him an “unapologetic criminal.” He’s impressed by Nova and Cyclops’ transformations into “generals.” And he’s “horrified” by the existence of Cyclops’ hit-squad X-Force.

Monday, October 11, 2010

‘Social’ studies faces behind Facebook

“The Social Network” recreates and sometimes embellishes events surrounding the development of online juggernaut Facebook, focusing mostly on the top networking site's creation, early evolution, and controversies. Visionary filmmaker David Fincher triumphantly teams up with analytical Aaron Sorkin (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) and an astonishing cast, resulting in a creative merger that stuns and delights.

Inspired by Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Millionaires,” the film recalls pivotal points in Facebook’s history. Brash but brilliant, tech nerd and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) decides to create an exclusive networking website and is eventually accused of intellectual property theft by some Harvard students (twins played by Armie Hammer). His closest friend and disgruntled colleague Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) also sues him after being forced out of the company he co-founded.

Yes, there are many things to “like.” Fincher masterfully tells the story, as expected, his visuals often coalescing with a permeating tenseness. Sorkin’s splendid script captures the nuances of conversations; the screenwriter’s penchant for revealing exchanges and arguments is ever-present. And the scratchy, almost foreboding score by occasional collaborators Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor appropriately discomfits.

Eisenberg astounds with his portrayal; his patronizing, unapologetic Zuckerberg is parts underdog, anti-hero, and calculating mastermind. And Garfield, the actor chosen to play Spider-Man in the next movie, is a revelation. His character believably and dramatically evolves amidst the crumbling friendship and subsequent treachery.

“The Social Network” opens Oct. 27 in Metro Manila.

Blood and Bullies

Comedienne Kathy Griffin talks seriously about gay suicides and bullies:

“So let’s talk about these bullies. I just don’t think they came up with this anti-gay bias on their own. They weren’t born with it. The politicians, the so-called religious leaders, and the pundits who have made careers out of saying being gay is wrong or immoral, or that gays have somehow ‘less than,’ they all have blood on their hands. Yes, all you anti-gay public figures, and you know who you are, you have the blood of these dead teens on your hands.”

I agree. More of her message here.

Here There Be Dragons

A few dragon portraits for Halloween month.

Fin Fang Foom!

Tiamat, the hydra-like dragon from the ‘80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.

Morningbright, from Alan Moore and Zander Cannon’s Smax miniseries.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I’m saddened by the humiliation and suicide of 18-year-old American student-violinist Tyler Clementi, whose intimate activities with a male companion were webcast by a roommate. His death is among the rising number caused by cyber-bullying; he’s also another gay kid who took his life after being subjected to homophobic taunts. Rest in peace, Tyler.

I’ve been looking at videos, those of Ellen DeGeneres and other gay people’s (as well as straight ones’), reactions to the tragedy and advice to suicidal or bullied young people. There are several “It Gets Better” videos on YouTube. Some recall bullying incidents and the crushing small-mindedness of people around them. But they also share how things changed after school, and how their former tormentors have become irrelevant.

It’s disappointing that the other powerful, blatantly homophobic bullies hide behind piety; religions and supposedly religious people continue to preach against homosexuality. The Vatican and its Church leaders vocally and brazenly condemn it, just one of a number of things the avowed celibates meddle in, while ignoring or covering up real atrocities and abuses committed in their own back yard.

If you’re a young gay person, be strong. Life does get better.

‘Vampire Diaries’: Books, beasts and bloodlust

(Published Oct. 4, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Derivative but intriguing, the monster drama series “The Vampire Diaries” properly utilizes an attractive and talented cast. Developed by Kevin Williamson and based on a successful series of books, the new show also manages to weave its own vampire mythology despite some unoriginal concepts.

In season one, a good vampire, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), finds himself drawn to Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a high school cheerleader resembling his old lover. Elena, an orphaned teen who therapeutically confides in a diary, is likewise attracted to Stefan. Enter Stefan’s sinister vampire brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), who notices the girl’s resemblance to Stefan’s old lover—and his. The brothers suspect that Elena is a descendant of Katherine, the vampire who manipulated and “turned” the siblings over a century ago.

The bitter rivalry between two monsters over one human girl reminds one of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and even “Twilight,” while the “immortal love” angle initially feels like an iteration of the scenario from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

Those obvious similarities aside, “Vampire Diaries” has characters that keep things appealingly circuitous, even edgy. Elena’s brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is an ex-druggie who discovers their ancestor’s vampire-hunting journal. Elena’s best friend Bonnie (Katerina Graham) is a powerful sorceress who learns of her family’s part in the banishment of Katherine’s vampire army in 1864.

From vengeful monster-exterminators to long-lost biological parents, “Vampire Diaries” manages to turn some preposterous or dubious plot twists into compelling story lines.

Stefan’s brooding and Damon’s incessant swaggering get occasionally tiring, and some characters ultimately lack dimension or are just obvious plot devices. Still, the distinct figures in the blood-streaked tapestry outnumber the flat ones, and there won’t be any shortage in conflict and drama any time soon.

“The Vampire Diaries” airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m., on ETC.

Endearing, engaging ‘NCIS’

(Published Oct. 3, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The successful crime drama series “NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service)” continues to strike a balance between dread and optimism, as well as humor and action. A mysterious, Navy- or Marine-related death almost every episode is solved by an intrepid group of investigators, experts in their respective fields sharing a familial bond.

The seventh season of “NCIS” simultaneously debuted on August on six cable channels. In the season opener, the NCIS agents embark on a daring rescue mission after tracking down their missing teammate, special agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo).

Based in Washington, DC and led by Jethro “Boss” Gibbs (Mark Harmon), the small but efficient NCIS Major Case Response Team is composed of Ziva David, Agent DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), and Agent McGee (Sean Murray). Crucial to solving their cases are forensics specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) and chief medical examiner Ducky Mallard (David McCallum).

The friendly rapport between the characters counterbalances the discovery of grisly crimes and the revelation of sordid secrets in their subsequent unraveling.

Stories aren’t merely problem-solving scenarios; characters get to shine regularly as sides to their personalities are developed. A few cases have focused on, or are tangentially related to tragic events from Jethro Gibbs’ past. The snappy repartee and occasional bickering between DiNozzo and McGee keep things from becoming dreary.

The show recently spawned a spirited spin-off series, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which has its own dynamic and atmosphere.

“NCIS” season 7 episodes will be shown on Oct. 7 and 8 (8:15 p.m.) and Oct. 9 (8:20 a.m.-11:20 a.m.) on Fox. “NCIS: Los Angeles” airs Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. on Studio 23.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Marvel-DC: Vampire War!

Halloween art month! I hope to draw more monsters and masqueraders in the next few weeks. We start with some of the Big Two’s nocturnal bloodsuckers. Fang fight!

MARVEL VAMPIRES: Morbius, Lilith, Wolverine (What If), Bloodstorm, Vampire By Night, Baroness Blood, Deacon Frost, Xarus, Topher, Jubilee, Baron Blood, Dracula


DC VAMPIRES: Batman (Elseworlds), Vincent Velcro, Looker, Gustav DeCobra, Andrew Bennett, Roderick, Screamqueen, Crucifer, Dagon, Dracula, Mad Monk, Marius Dimeter

Out of time, out of ‘Town’

Ben Affleck stars in and directs “The Town,” a crime drama-heist flick about a masked gang’s thieving activities and the resultant romance between one of them and their unwitting former hostage.

Affleck competently plays complex thug Doug MacRay, who genuinely falls for bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), the last person he needs to have a relationship with. His old friend and gangmate James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) disapproves of it for obvious reasons, while a tenacious FBI agent (John Hamm) sees Claire as a key component to the capture of the daring daytime robbers terrorizing Charlestown, Boston.

While not entirely gripping, “The Town” is sturdily crafted, which comes as no surprise since Affleck previously proved himself a capable and talented director with “Gone Baby Gone.” He knows how to handle pacing; quiet character-shaping scenes are just as affecting as cacophonous ones. As simultaneous actor and director, he successfully contributes to the sulky mood, and tells the story without being overly flashy. He includes vanity shots that show off his sculpted body, but they’re brief.

As for the precarious romance angle, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s only a matter of time before the deception is discovered and the situation deteriorates. This variation is still skilfully and stably told, even when story elements and narrative routes become quite familiar.

"The Town" opens Oct. 6 in Metro Manila.

Stinging Venom

Old friend Benedict a.k.a. Benom gave me this smashing action figure. It’s Mac Gargan, former Scorpion and current Venom, back when the symbiote-clad character sported a scorpion-like stinger and red eyes. Very McFarlane-esque monster toy, but fully poseable and playable. Thanks, Dicky.