Saturday, May 28, 2011

But I Know This Much is True

Teaser image for True Blood Season 4: Sookie and her monster admirers. I want her to end up with Alcide the werewolf because he’s genuinely nice to her. Those other two, not so much and pretty ho-hum. Anyway, hope to see Godric and Tommy again. Jessica and Lafayette, I like how they’re being developed. But Tara’s getting boring, hope she did leave Bon Temps for good in the previous season finale.

Choice Words

Yeah, when? This is something from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Bizarre, rib-tickling ‘Adventure’

(Published May 26, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Weird animated shows are commonly found on three cable channels airing US cartoons, but “Adventure Time” is easily among the weirder and more entertaining ones. There has been no shortage of unusual-looking characters in recent years, and bizarreness has practically become the norm, but “Adventure Time” can be counted as one of the rare ones combining odd visuals with rib-tickling concepts.

Reminiscent of the gross and juvenile trappings of “Ren and Stimpy” and the offbeat and trippy world of “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Adventure Time’s” approximately 11-minute stories are mostly absurd and escapist.

Its primary characters are Finn the heroic human and Jake the shape-changing dog, who both look like simple, child-designed doodles. They live in the Land of Ooo, fight threats like the princess-abducting Ice King, and find themselves in exotic locales such as the Candy Kingdom, Freak City and the Swamp of Embarrassment.

Finn and Jake are an inseparable duo and loyal friends to the science geek Princess Bubblegum, the infant creature Jiggler and the half-rainbow, half-unicorn Rainicorn, among other unique denizens.

Creator Pendleton Ward believes that the “Adventure Time” characters resonate with viewers because the show has “a sense of realism in how the characters feel and react to their world,” letting the audience “enjoy the silly characters while feeling empathy for them when they get emotional.”

That’s especially true for some recurring and single-episode characters; they’re developed just enough to have discernible personalities to match their very specific obsessions. And the silliness is never-ending, just like the main characters’ impromptu quests.

While the stories themselves are sometimes nonsensical, the potent combination of weirdness, memorable exchanges and even the occasional bodily function joke keep every episode of “Adventure Time” funny for the more adventurous kids and escapist grownups.

“Adventure Time” airs Saturdays (8:30 a.m.) and Sundays (9 a.m.) on Cartoon Network.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Urban Species

Bats, spiders, and teenagers. Three drawings.

Welcome To Gotham

A mix of past and present (and deceased) Gotham knights: Huntress, Robin, Batman (Bruce Wayne), Red Robin, Batwoman, Azrael, Batman (Jean Paul Valley), Spoiler, Catwoman, Batman (Dick Grayson), Oracle, Orpheus, Question, Batman (Jason Todd), Batgirl.

New Mutants: The High School Years

The entire pre-Cable roster, teleporting: Cannonball, Magma, Shadowcat, Warlock, Magik, Karma, Boom Boom, Skids, Rusty, Cypher, Rictor, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Mirage.

Spider Squad

Arachnids Assemble! Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Scarlet Spider (Patrick Van Patrick), Spider-Ham, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Boy, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin), Spider-Girl (May “Mayday” Parker), Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly), Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon), Venom, Arachne.

Slower ‘Tides’

The blockbuster fantasy-epic trilogy “Pirates of the Caribbean” made troves of money in the previous decade. A fourth part, “On Stranger Tides,” now surfaces and replicates to an extent its action-comedy formula, but it also reminds us that watching those first “Pirates” movies wasn’t always a smooth-sailing experience.

Like its predecessors, the simple adventure is unduly complicated. “On Stranger Tides” still focuses on the often-amoral and fey buccaneer Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), prone to missteps but still quite the resourceful adventurer. The previous parts were padded between plot points, and this new story also treads almost aimlessly between important scenes, but at a much slower pace.

Jack’s back, still the way you may remember him but now figuring in new exploits minus pirate pals played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. He’s joined by the feisty Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a mystery woman from his muddled past, and later finds himself on a quest to find the long-hidden Fountain of Youth with the menacing Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

Bloom and Knightley were integral to the previous equation and their better moments are much missed. Oddly, however, background characters like the captive mermaid and the preacher (Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Sam Claflin) eventually stand out, pleasantly distracting and functioning as the requisite potential lovers. Jack still amuses but gets tiresome after a while. There’s less swashbuckling fun, and the film is characteristically and unnecessarily long, sinking and swimming at expected intervals.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hudas Not Pay

Just some caps from the new Gaga video “Judas.” Interesting song, a verse kinda sounds like something from “Paparazzi,” but it’s still damn catchy. Like late-‘80s Madonna, Gaga knows how to freak out the more conservative Catholics.

The video has biker characters named Jesus and Judas, and Gaga’s a Mary Magdalene-esque figure whose loyalty is torn between the two. Not as uber-flashy as in her previous videos, the costumes and choreography are still view-worthy. Oh, and Norman Reedus from “Walking Dead” plays Judas. YouTube viewers unceasingly discuss or are scandalized by the lyrics. Interestingly, “Born This Way” continues to scandalize homophobic commenters, as well.

Speaking of Gaga costumes, a bunch of artists’ dream designs were posted on the nymag site last week. Here’s Jim Lee’s drawing. Kinda looks Witchblade-esque. He mentioned that he wanted a “contemporary superhero” feel to it. Um, sorry, but meh.

Oh, this post’s title was inspired by a high school memory. A classmate wrote “God Knows Hudas Not Pay” on the chalkboard when there was no teacher around, referring to those punny jeepney decorations. A nun, who was roaming the halls, discovered it much later. She freaked out and angrily asked the class, “Sino’ng nagsulat nito?!”

Everyone knew who wrote it; there was just one guy writing on the board, but nobody judased on him. The nun left, almost Old Testament-y furious.

Crowning achievement

Colin Firth entertains with his award-winning turn as a stammering heir to the throne in “The King’s Speech,” recalling King George VI’s long and arduous battle with a speech impediment, and his sometimes-shaky bond with his driven therapist (Geoffrey Rush).

While not as compelling and creatively crafted as its Oscar rival for best picture “The Social Network,” the Tom Hooper-directed “The King’s Speech” is solid and straightforward. This particular biopic’s focus on the fight to overcome personal barriers ingratiates, lack of narrative surprises notwithstanding. Exceptional performances by the small, brilliant cast inspire easy and rewarding viewing.

Helena Bonham-Carter manages to deliver a subdued and elegant performance as Elizabeth, the very supportive wife of the future king. The unending Tim Burton and “Harry Potter” film roles aren’t exactly her most subtle characters, but she makes us remember that she’s an incredibly versatile and gifted actress.

Firth and Rush’s characters share a fantastic rapport. Rush plays Lionel Logue, who has unrealized dreams, but he nevertheless has unyielding optimism and loyalty, a perfect foil to Firth’s struggling stutterer.

“The King’s Speech” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive.

Sweet Nothings and Endings

Nothing much happening, just keeping up with work that’s piled up in the last couple of days. My room needs a new plastic shelf, and my Christmas tree’s still up. I’m still fighting those freaking, ever-intrusive ants. I finished watching season 2 of the original “Skins,” which was super-angsty. I actually wept, albeit quietly, for some characters. I wanna exercise more but the heat is discouraging. People’ve been complaining about the energy-sapping weather even at night, and so have I.

I watched “Priest” last night with John. Pretty simple and average. Wish it had a more creative title, though. The title’s taken; “Priest” by Antonia Bird was a controversial film back in the ‘90s. Anyway, the new film is about a vampire-hunting warrior priest who disobeys self-righteous and power-mad “holy” leaders of the Church. Interesting that Cam Gigandet and Stephen Moyer play humans here instead of vampires. The “Matrix” and “Underworld” influences on the action choreography are hard to miss.

I’ve been thinking about selling some of my action figures. They’re loose figures, but maybe I can sell them as a set. I dunno which ones yet. Looking at my toy shelf, I see some that I can part with, and some that I still have some attachment to. I look at my collection now and think of how the last decade moved quite fast for me. Anyway, it was a good hobby, it can take a toll on your wallet, but it positively diverts you.

Think I’ll watch the American version of “Skins” tonight on MTV. Oh, I’ve been enjoying the weird but funny Cartoon Network show “Adventure Time,” about the silly exploits of the boy-hero Finn and his best bud, the shape-changing dog Jake.

‘Office’ routines, romances and rivalries

(Published May 15, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Still among the better-written US sitcoms on television, “The Office” continues to explore the hilarity of workplace dynamics, but also manages to sneak in serious and heartwarming moments.

Now in its seventh season, the weekly “mockumentary” further elicits laughs through well-developed characters, romances and rivalries. The 9-to-5 grind is made extra-challenging by Michael Scott (Steve Carell), regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, whose delusions and lack of smarts and tact often unsettle his employees.

But Michael is unquestionably driven and manages to get out of scrapes, sometimes with the help of friends. His subordinates recognize his need for attention, and often humor him just to get things moving.

There were a couple of notable changes in the previous season—the wedding of Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), and the birth of their child. Dunder Mifflin was bought by Sabre, a printer company headed by Jo Bennett (recurring guest star Kathy Bates). Michael had a short-lived relationship with Pam’s mother; and Andy (Ed Helms) and the new receptionist Erin (Ellie Kemper) also got together. It got complicated, however, after Erin discovers Andy’s previous engagement.

Season 7 has interesting subplots involving Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Angela (Angela Kinsey), and Ryan (BJ Novak), established characters that didn’t get much attention previously. Michael’s cool and quirky ex Holly (Amy Ryan) also returns; she’s probably the only woman who totally gets him.

Remarkably portrayed by Carell, Michael is a unique and iconic goofball. The current season is also Carrel’s last, so expect a different, but hopefully a similarly hilarious and dynamic next season, when Michael Scott’s replacement takes over.

(“The Office” airs Saturdays, 9 p.m. on JackTV.)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Gaying Up Archie

Kevin Keller, sole gay guy of the Archie Universe, was introduced in an issue of Veronica last year and reappeared as a guest character again just recently. He’ll be appearing in his own miniseries in June, which will also introduce his family. Yup, his dad’s a general. Kevin’s pretty cool; he’s got an appetite for junk food that rivals Jughead’s and he’s become Veronica’s new cultured and thoughtful bestie. The gang's been accepting of him, as well.

‘House’ queen of awkward

(Published May 8, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn is best known for playing the lead character in the Emmy-nominated TV series “Joan of Arcadia,” which ran for two seasons. But Tamblyn, now 27, has since taken on other TV and film roles. She was briefly in “127 Hours” as a backpacker befriended by James Franco’s character and, more recently, med student Martha Masters in the medical drama “House.”

In a recent phone interview, Tamblyn revealed that her “House” portrayal was enjoyable not only because she does “awkward characters well,” but because she was able to base her role on a real person.

She related: “When ‘House’ creator David Shore and executive producer Katie Jacobs came to me with this character, I said, ‘Oh that sounds like my friend Meredith.’ Of course, the character is an exaggeration of Meredith in a lot of ways, but I always like to say it’s homage to her brilliance – and her beauty!”

Before her “Joan” years, Tamblyn was a child actress who debuted on the soap “General Hospital.” A decade and a half later, she observes that the entertainment industry has changed significantly.

“The industry is developing in a positive way, but it’s harder times than ever as far as the film market is concerned. You see a lot of fantastic actors who normally wouldn’t turn to television; it’s not desperation, it’s the quality of the work. Television has definitely escalated that quality. At the same time, television is also very scared to try anything new. The fascinating thing about ‘House’ is that it’s been able to maintain its unpredictability. It’s mildly terrifying, sort of the anarchist of episodic medical shows.”

Tamblyn found it “heartbreaking” that her previous series, “The Unusuals,” which co-starred Jeremy Renner, was cancelled after only 13 episodes. She considers guesting for several episodes on the established and long-running “House” a rare opportunity: “It was great to come into a place where everyone knew the character they were playing. They were still interested in what they were doing as actors. It’s a very exciting environment.”

As for artistic inspirations, she enumerates a few that have genuinely affected her. “I’m more influenced by comedic actresses, though I consider myself mostly a dramatic actress,” Tamblyn said. “Parker Posey – I did a film with her a couple of years ago. She’s one of the greatest movie actresses. Amy Poehler is really interesting. Diane Lane is really great.”

Tamblyn has been writing poetry since she was 11. “That’s something (‘House’ lead star) Hugh Laurie and I bonded over a lot, because he’s a musician and songwriter,” she said. “He gave me a copy of his new album and I gave him some new poems. It was a very giving and creative friendship.”

The actress-poet is thankful to her co-stars for the welcoming atmosphere. “When I left, Hugh threw me a surprise goodbye party. He invited everybody. I was really blown away!”

(“House” season 7 premieres May 16, 10 p.m., on AXN.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Antisocial Network

Fine-looking Iron Man alternate cover, inspired by the famous The Social Network poster. So fricking cool.

Mighty Avenger

The Kenneth Branagh-directed “Thor” is a competent live-action version of one of Marvel’s most popular superheroes, adapting and tweaking a more simplified origin--comic fans will notice some similarities to the “Ultimates” iteration--which makes it very accessible to those unfamiliar with the mythology.

Gone are the Donald Blake secret identity and Jane Foster from the olden days; here, the former is mentioned as a separate, absent character and ex to the latter, who’s an astrophysicist instead of a nurse. Chris Hemsworth fits the role quite impressively, while Natalie Portman’s giddy but gutsy Jane balances out the imposing braggadocio of the Norse thunder god. Anthony Hopkins’ Asgardian All-Father Odin is closer to the stern and serious deity from the comics; he exiles his son to learn humility among mortals and casts an Excalibur-ish spell on Thor’s mystic mallet Mjolnir.

Suspension of disbelief may waver from time to time, however. The two separate worlds of Asgard and Earth don’t always feel like “real” and coexistent worlds. We barely see enough of Asgardian culture to really appreciate who the Norse gods are and how they figure in the bigger picture. One early scene doesn’t depict interaction between the warrior-gods and mere mortals, and we don’t really see the cosmic ones’ involvement or influence on Earth culture later, aside from being chronicled in mythical stories. What have the Asgardians been doing between that flashback and now? And what do they do between royal festivities and other revelries?

Anyway, “Thor” is part of the larger “Avengers” tapestry, meaning the character will be appearing next in the Joss Whedon-helmed film alongside other iconic Marvel heroes Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America, among others. One Avenger makes an exciting surprise appearance in “Thor,” and another connection to upcoming Marvel movies is revealed after the end credits. While not as entertaining as the first “Iron Man,” the thunderous “Thor” does a decent enough job of re-introducing the character to a wider audience, and further expands an intriguing shared universe.

Screaming anew

The “Scream” trilogy spawned a few imitators in the ‘90s, but none had the wit, solid characterization, or pop culture-analyzing commentaries of the successful slasher-whodunit series of movies. Over a decade later, surviving characters played by Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette return in “Scream 4,” a timely--if uneven--revival of the popular horror franchise.

So it’s Sidney Prescott, now an author of a well-received autobiography, returning to Woodsboro and reconnecting with former reporter Gale Weathers and her husband Sheriff Riley. The trio survived three previous massacres together and they're now targeted by a new Ghostface, who could be any one of the many characters surrounding them.

“Scream 4,” directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson again, is understandably a must-see for fans or completists, and the new puzzle is almost as intriguingly presented as the previous murder mysteries. But some of the characters this time are just too flat; sure, they ought to be shrouded in mystery, but some are just too dull to be taken seriously. Suspense is also a little thin, as the body count accumulation can get very monotonous. There are iffy moments when revelations are made, as well, and it doesn’t help that some scenes have been toned down/censored in the version showing in local cinemas.

Like the older “Scream” films, this fourth movie has younger actors comprising most of the cast, including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Kristen Bell, and Anna Paquin, to name a few; some are more integral to the plot than others, but the cameos are nevertheless funny. The film still satirizes, and despite its glaring flaws, it offers a clever and edgy commentary on the evolution of fame and fear in the time of immediate connectivity.

Young and Restless

Ah, Skins UK, one of my favorite shows ever! This here’s Maxxie (a talented gay dancer) and his schoolmate Tony (a manipulative, bi-curious guy who reminds me of QAF’s Brian Kinney with a more elfin Sean Faris face). I’ve only seen the first season, but man, it’s really absorbing stuff. I haven’t seen the Skins US version; MTV’s showing that in a few weeks. Hmm. I doubt it’ll be as shocking and racy, but I might watch it eventually.