Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hot wheels, vexed vehicles

“Cars 2” is a differently paced sequel; it zooms away from its more Lightning McQueen-centric roots to focus on the accidental espionage escapades of Tow Mater, the unsophisticated best pal. But Lightning (voiced by Owen Wilson) still figures in a character-building plot when his friendship with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is tested during the globe-trotting adventure.

Race champ Lightning is still competitive and is pitted against the snooty Francesco (John Turturro), but Mater’s more unconventional scenarios lead to more imaginative and action-packed situations. Unexpectedly befriending sleek secret agents who mistake him for one of their allies, Mater finds himself in the middle of dangerous missions and equipped with advanced weaponry and gadgets.

While some may bemoan the focus on Mater, “Cars 2” is still quite entertaining despite and because of the shift. The accidental spy concept is hardly a new one, but it’s given a fresh and vivid spin, enlivening the “Cars” realm with more conflicts, dueling characters, and intriguing conspiracies. We also get to see more of the world that Lightning and company inhabit, so there are more enticing visuals and humanlike cultures depicted.

It’s not as heart-tugging or emotionally imprinting as most Pixar offerings, but it doesn’t have to be. The simple, easily digested messages concerning friendship are there, overshadowed quite nicely by the more immediate and amusing vehicular caper.

Tough Tennant

David Tennant, erstwhile time-traveling Doctor, will be in the Fright Night remake. It’s been a while since the last Doctor Who season he appeared in (which neatly tied loose ends and was perhaps the most epic among the more recent storylines), and it’s cool that he’s playing an updated version of the vampire hunter originally played by Roddy McDowell. I miss Mr. Tennant; he really should appear in more movies and TV shows.

Metal Worship

Hmm. If there’s a Pope car character in the “Cars” universe, is there a Jesus car too? They have equivalents of churches in their world, so they have religious icons. Understandably, they’re not showing them, but they’d probably look bizarre and somewhat depressing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tyler Posey: ‘Teen Wolf’ gone wild

(Published Aug. 22, PDI Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“I’ve been working since I was 6,” revealed Tyler Posey, star of the hit MTV monster drama series “Teen Wolf.” In a recent phone interview, Posey talked about nabbing the titular role and working on the show, loosely based on fantasy-comedy films that starred Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman.

“I’ve been working my entire life. My dad is an actor and a writer. He used to take me to movie sets. It was odd for a 4-year-old to hang out for 12 hours at a time and not complain … My dad got me into auditioning when I was very young,” he said.

As a child actor, Posey played Jennifer Lopez’ son in the 2002 rom-com “Maid in Manhattan.” He eventually appeared in TV shows “Smallville” and “Brothers and Sisters.” He also co-founded, and is the vocalist and guitarist of a pop-punk band called Lost in Kostko. Now 19, Posey plays Scott McCall, the star lacrosse player hiding a savage, lycanthropic side.

“This is definitely the biggest role I have ever done,” he said. “I love it because the attention that I’m getting is just mind-blowing. I’m having so much fun; I’m happy all the time!”

The actor-musician believes that the new series stands out from the ongoing barrage of monster-fantasy programs. “Most of the other shows tend to focus on one genre, the horror or scary aspect or the drama. Even though our show is a one-hour drama, we focus on the romance, the action, the comedy, the scariness — we put all these different components into one mold and create a really cool show.”

Posey also finds playing a werewolf enjoyable, but admitted that being on the makeup chair for two hours is the most grueling part of the job. He hopes that the popularity of werewolves won’t wane, especially now that a second season is being planned.

“Werewolves in our show are completely different than anything else that’s going on right now. I think they’ve always been pretty popular because it’s such an outrageous concept. You can do whatever you want with it, you have so much freedom. I really think that people cling to that because it’s so out of the ordinary. I think it’ll be around for a while, hopefully!”

His uneasiness during the makeup process aside, Posey disclosed that he’s very comfortable working with his costars, especially Crystal Reed, who plays Scott’s love interest Allison. “Crystal, she’s beautiful,” Posey enthused. “I get paid to make out with a hot girl all day!”

The werewolf character requires him to be shirtless a lot, so he sticks to a strict routine to stay in shape. “My fitness regimen is pretty extreme at some points,” Posey said. “When I’m back in LA, I go to the gym about three days a week. I have a trainer — he kicks my butt, he works me out like crazy! It always feels like I’m gonna throw up afterwards, but afterwards that feeling goes away, I feel really good. Without him, I wouldn’t be as fit as I am right now. The other part of my regimen is I eat a lot of pizza and unhealthy food. And for some reason, I just do a couple of sit-ups and the bad food goes away!”

“Teen Wolf” airs Mondays, 9 p.m. on AXN Beyond.

Jo and Stefani

After the simpler visuals of “Edge of Glory,” Lady Gaga appears in a video that brings back the showy costumes and imagery. She gets to play a cyborg and a mermaid in “You and I,” but I find two other new personas more fascinating: the simple, piano-playing blonde, and the male character “Jo Calderone.” It’s another good song, too; it’s a nice change of pace, sound-wise, a lighter but emotive track that gradually builds up to a powerful climax. Oh, Taylor Kinney, a.k.a. Uncle Mason the werewolf from Vampire Diaries, is in it, too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Attack Of The Clowns

Comedic and creepy clown consortium!

Jack-In-The-Box (Astro City), Mechano Hulk (Marvel), Binky (Garfield), Slapstick (Marvel), Clown Assassin (Marvel), Clown (Marvel), Hyena (Amalgam), Fizbo (Modern Family), Krusty (Simpsons), ‘Salvation’ Clown (Cranberries video), Pennywise (It), Obnoxio (Marvel), Jojo (Jojo’s Circus), Harley Quinn (DC), Joker (DC), Clown (Spawn), Chuckles (Toy Story), Ragdoll (DC), Ronald McDonald (McDonald’s), Joker’s Daughter (DC).

‘Love’ makeover

In the simple but sweet “Crazy Stupid Love,” Steve Carell plays the lovable cuckold Cal Weaver, pitied and made over by womanizing Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). Now dashing and stylish, Cal moves on, attempting to distance himself from his wife of over two decades, Emily (Julianne Moore).

Jacob, meanwhile, is a familiar face in the dating scene, almost always ending up with gorgeous women he charms at the club. But one he fails to win over is the elusive Hannah (Emma Stone), who knows better than to fall for the incorrigible playboy’s worn-out pickup lines.

It’s easy to identify with a couple of the characters; from the unrequited to the heartbroken, they’re evenly and strategically used. Cal’s young son (Jonah Bobo) pines for the babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), who’s smitten with someone else. It’s easy to understand and empathize with the unhappy wife, but it’s also easy to root for the wronged spouse.

Carell inspires guffaws as the awkward geek-turned-ladies’ man, even when he does sound and act like Michael Scott from “The Office” sometimes. Moore gives her role tangible dimension and humanity, complementing Carell’s character surprisingly well. Marisa Tomei adds comedic panache to the equation, even though her overly excited character, like Kevin Bacon’s eager paramour role, is pretty caricaturish.

There are a few convenient coincidences, and some situations become too unreal to really “fit” the story, but “Crazy Stupid Love” still emotionally connects and engages.

Inevitably icky

Extra-gory and disgusting, “Final Destination 5” doesn’t really offer anything new, but the horrible freak accidents are made even more vivid in 3D. If anything, it’s suspenseful enough to keep its squeamish audience glued to the screen. The solid build-ups plus the train wreck-ish attraction lure enough, making viewers uneasy but unmoving witnesses to the characters’ inevitable fates.

Like in its previous installments, the story centers on a group of “unexpected” survivors of a tragedy which supposedly upset some cosmic balance by escaping their doom. After the “miraculous” survival of a disparate group, each person shuffles off the mortal coil in disturbing ways. In this latest chapter, a young chef (Nicholas D’Agosto), the recipient of a strange premonition, keeps some of his friends from perishing during the collapse of a bridge, but they soon discover that the traumatic experience is just the beginning.

Except for the main guy, most of the characters are unlikeable, but it’s still distressing to see them bite the dust in such repulsive ways. 3D magnifies the shocking visuals; the flying debris and shrapnel during the opening credits don’t really warn you of the sickening death sequences to come. More violent clips from previous “Final Destination” films are given the 3D treatment during the end credits as well. But by that time, you’ll be desensitized, and a little ashamed that you actually sat through the unamusing carnage-fest.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your Choice

I found some of my old Choose Your Own Adventure books. Good to know they’re still pretty intact, probably untouched for about two decades in that old shelf. My favorite was “House of Danger,” which has a geeky, white, freckled teen adventurer. I didn’t pay much attention to those details before; as a kid, I just automatically accepted the male persona, because I knew that other Choose Your Own Adventure books had female perspectives.

Reading it now, I’m discovering that they really are for younger readers, in the sense that grown-up me isn’t as “adventurous.” While my younger self chose without truly thinking about the possible consequences--and choosing the more dangerous routes often led to more exciting stories--I now choose the more sensible, smarter options. When I “played” it a few times last week, I approached most situations in that book with skepticism and caution. I did read where the other choices led after my adventures ended, just to see how differently things went.

It’s cool that some details were entirely and deliberately different. The truth behind a character’s identity in “House of Danger” changes from tale to tale. The primary mystery story can shift into science fiction, crime, or horror stories, depending on the choices the reader made. Those well-drawn black and white illustrations also accompanied the stories nicely, and made certain descriptions clearer.

I’m glad that these books are being reprinted, albeit with different covers, according to the CYOA Facebook page. Anyway, I found a funny parody image posted on Tumblr. Behold.

Days Go By

Interviewed a History Channel host last Thursday. Interviewed a chef yesterday. My DeviantArt gallery received its 5,000th fave two days ago. So yay.

Haven’t been getting enough sleep. Must do that soon. I’ll just post a quote relating to art and worship. I’m not a fan of Marilyn Manson’s music but I really like what he said some time ago:

“I think that art is the only thing that’s spiritual in the world. And I refuse to be forced to believe in other people’s interpretations of God. I don’t think anybody should be. No one person can own the copyright to what God means.”

Darker, more chaotic ‘Camelot’

(Published Aug. 15, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


A darker, grittier interpretation of the Arthurian legends, the series “Camelot” focuses on the trials of a young King Arthur, who must replace his recently deceased father Uther and fend off attacking usurpers. Familiar characters are made more human and cast into a more treacherous and chaotic world, which may make viewers forget the mythic figures’ predestined roles from time to time.

It tweaks the common mythology: the cruel King Uther (Sebastian Koch) was poisoned by his vengeful daughter Morgan (Eva Green), whom he exiled to a distant nunnery when she was a child. But another heir to the throne is revealed and retrieved by the king’s sorcerer Merlin (Joseph Fiennes). Raised by commoners, the carefree Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) is baffled by the revelation, but eventually accepts it and accompanies Merlin to a partly ruined stronghold. The structure was built by the ancient Romans, and is now known as Camelot.

Arthur is declared king in the nearly uninhabitable fortress. He is challenged by his half-sister Morgan, but after failing to take the throne by force, she resorts to sorcery and duplicity while guided by her scheming nun mentor, Sybil (Sinead Cusack). Arthur begins carving his own legend, marshaling forces loyal to his father and winning over skeptics after uprooting the enchanted “Sword of Mars.”

The 10-episode series has very few similarities with the ongoing fantasy show “Merlin,” which mostly offers more escapist fare. “Camelot” is often dreary and discomfiting, primarily because of its depictions of more violent situations. But the characters are still imbued with unpredictability despite countless prior reinterpretations. Merlin, for example, is portrayed as perplexingly moody and flawed. In one episode, careless mistakes he made during his acquisition of the sword Excalibur end in tragedy.

Some slow-developing subplots require patience, but there are noteworthy portrayals. Claire Forlani surprises with her sexy turn as the kind and impassioned widow Queen Igraine. Scene-stealing Eva Green’s disgruntled Morgan ultimately makes watching the show rewarding; she’s deliciously over-the-top as the commanding coup plotter, but amazingly subtle when showing her vulnerable side. Among all the “Camelot” characters, Morgan is rightly the most imposing, her dark but intriguing revenge story a crucial contrast to Arthur’s more “ordinary” tale of transformation.

“Camelot” airs Tuesdays, 9 p.m. on AXN Beyond.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just Awww…

Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka and their twin kids. Cuteness overload.

‘The Killing’ a nail-biting puzzler

(Published Aug. 14, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Inspired by a successful Danish TV show, the American murder mystery series “The Killing” dramatically follows the investigation of a horrific and puzzling crime. Like “Twin Peaks” and “Veronica Mars,” the show has a female victim whose demise brings attention to the various suspicious characters in her community.

The body of high school student Rosie Larson is found by homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), whose impending retirement is delayed by the new investigation. Linden is joined by rookie detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who helps sniff out clues and possible suspects. Emerging details point to different angles, painting Rosie as someone with more complicated secrets than the average teenager.

“The Killing,” set in Seattle, Washington, is unlike typical police procedural programs with cleanly solved crime mysteries of the week. The show takes its time, elaborating on that single case while also focusing on the detective protagonists’ lives.

Initially, it does a good job of creating a paranoid atmosphere. At times, it seems that certain suspects are definitely and inescapably guilty, only to be cleared by incontrovertible evidence. That becomes routine for a few episodes and the intertwined stories of the seemingly unrelated characters intrigue.

Frustratingly, the identity of the killer won’t be revealed until season two, according to reports. Despite a finale that doesn’t answer important questions, and actually inspires new and tougher ones, season one still has cohesive elements.

The moody visuals enthrall and the layered characters present interesting conundrums. There are outstanding performances by Enos, Kinnaman, Billy Campbell (as a beleaguered politician) and Michelle Forbes (as Rosie’s grieving mother), as well.

Its macabre mystery isn’t as oddly engrossing as the ones in the aforementioned shows, but the puzzle-solving still becomes involving whenever sad or sordid details are revealed.

“The Killing,” previously on Jack TV, now airs on Fox, Sundays at 9:50 p.m.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Smurfing USA

It’s quite baffling that some of the live-action, Hollywoodized versions of beloved ‘80s cartoons barely focus on the main characters. The “Transformers” movies gave more attention to its human character Sam Witwicky and his messy foibles than the culture of the titular alien robots. To a lesser extent, the second “Chipmunks” movie had the human co-stars’ unnecessary romance angle.

“The Smurfs” pretty much goes the same route; the “three-apples-high” blue creatures find themselves in the modern world, specifically in present-day New York, affecting the lives of the loving couple they come in contact with. Instead of exploring Smurfs lore, their first film adventure detours into human family drama territory, becoming more concerned with the career and home situations of spouses Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays).

Harris and Mays are unquestionably good (you do forget that he regularly plays TV manslut Barney Stinson; you also forget that she’s “Glee’s” obsessive-compulsive guidance counselor Emma), but we really didn’t need to see their characters. We didn’t need to see the Smurfs in New York, either. Time spent focusing on characters like Patrick’s boss (played by Sofia Vergara, who sounds and acts like her “Modern Family” character) could’ve been used to develop the chosen Smurfs.

This live-action treatment gets redundant after a bit. A fully animated film should’ve been greenlighted instead. The colorful scenes depicting the goings-on at the hidden Smurf village in the first couple of minutes show possible Smurf-centric storylines that should’ve been pursued and utilized. “The Smurfs” isn’t a bad family flick, it’s just that the film really isn’t about them at all.

“The Smurfs” opens today in Metro Manila.

Emperor’s New Clothes

My friend Niki Yarte posted this on his Wall:

“I swear: Some bloggers should never be allowed to write or to be read or to even profit from it. Yes, this copywriter is heavily offended.”

My thoughts exactly. Well, that’s how the Net’s changed everything; while there are outstanding and worthwhile blogs and sites, there are also those that are just too painful to read. It’s especially puzzling that some bloggers even get invited to events despite knowing next to nothing about the rules of grammar. But then again, in this age of short attention spans and competitive publicity machineries, everyone--or, anyone with internet access--is being utilized to sell, publicize, even casually talk about all sorts of products. Some may dismiss proper grammar as unimportant in their blogging, but that’s just laziness. If they wish to be taken seriously, they’d consciously find ways to improve and communicate their ideas better to their readers. Or, if they really find it difficult to write in English, eh di mag-Tagalog na lang.

Mothers of Reinvention

I can’t remember where I got this cool picture, exactly, but it’s been posted at different sites for a while. Pop stars Lady Gaga and Madonna watched a fashion show last year, which must have blown the minds of the other attendees.

Anyway, Madonna’s reinvented herself countless times since the ‘80s. With every album, she takes on a new identity, transforming and evolving with her new music. Gaga’s reinvention, at least attire-wise, is almost daily. It’s perpetually Halloween for her, so I’m wondering, will she get sick of it one day? Years from now, a more mature Gaga, performing her music in less attention-grabbing outfits, even “regular” clothes--is that possible?

It’s interesting that both inspire with their music and with their views. Gaga, of course, champions the underdog, especially gay people, while Madonna’s largely about liberation and female empowerment. Musically, as with everything they do, they can’t win ‘em all. Revered folk goddess Joni Mitchell likened Madonna to Nero, “the turning point” for the supposed dumbing down of pop music.

Country-folk singer Jewel, however, acknowledged the importance of Madonna in a 1997 Rolling Stone interview: “My favorite quote is Liz Phair’s. She said, ‘Madonna is the speedboat, and the rest of us are just the Go-Go’s on water skis.’ Madonna paved the way in so many ways. She was never afraid to break down taboos… she taught a lot of women of my generation to believe in what you’ve got.”

Singer-songwriter Tori Amos, in a separate interview in the same issue, also recognized Madonna’s significance: “Madonna is social. The music is not really important. The music was a backdrop for her. Please understand when I say this that it doesn’t take away at all from her emancipation. A woman called Madonna--it was very important that that happen.”

I like that both Gaga and Madonna sometimes challenge listeners of their music, and viewers of their videos with their use or interpretation of religious iconography. Anyway, I do hope that they collaborate on something. It just has to happen.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Simian superiority

A gripping and solid prequel to the science fiction classic “Planet of the Apes,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” imaginatively reveals the secrets behind the primates’ unprecedented dominance.

Cleverly connecting the eventual uprising of the simians to an experimental medical breakthrough, “Rise” is parts monster and disaster flicks, with some pet-family drama thrown in for good measure: Pioneering scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) tests a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease on monkeys, which results in an intellectually evolved ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis), whom he secretly raises like an offspring.

The transformation of Caesar is carefully documented; eventual interactions with other apes and their abusive human captor (Tom Felton) become pivotal learning experiences that inspire the intelligent monkey to hatch a daring plot. No surprises there, of course, the monkey rebellion is a given, but momentous details leading to it are sensibly divulged.

Immensely affecting are the parent-child dynamic between Will and his ailing father (John Lithgow), and the similar bond between Will and Caesar. Caesar’s dramatic evolution and his instigation of an unthinkable revolt are emotionally engaging, expressively aided by seamless special effects. A dark fable that frightens as much as it enlightens, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” makes sense of what has gone before, but also gives us reason to care for its mythology.

Alive and Kissing

Getting smoochy and slashy.

Cat, Bat, Snake

Selina and Talia somehow manage to capture Bruce, but maybe that’s just what he wants them to think.

Hornhead Loving

A temporary, three-way truce between Elektra, Matt, and Mary.

Wonder Heartbreak

Wonder Girl says she’s happy for Superboy and Red Robin, but being around her ex and her almost-boyfriend is killing her.

Espionage, ‘Nikita’-style

(Published July 31, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Thrilling and tautly reinvented, the spy action-drama series “Nikita” borrows concepts from its similarly titled 1990 film predecessor, expanding on the suspenseful conflict between a rogue female agent and the sinister organization that created her.

The spy-assassin Nikita, portrayed by nimble Maggie Q (“Live Free or Die Hard”), now sabotages the operations of the covert mercenary agency Division, which previously trained and unleashed her on unsuspecting targets. But Division also killed the innocent civilian that Nikita fell in love with while she was undercover, which led to her escape and revenge mission.

As part of her plot, Nikita plants a mole, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), a young woman falsely accused of murder. Also victimized by Division, the formerly drug-addled Alex was secretly rehabilitated and trained by Nikita to resist the conditioning of the group, which plans to turn her into another assassin.

From within the Division facility, Alex is able to relay information to her “sensei” Nikita, who manages to whip up all sorts of trouble for her former masters.

“Nikita,” developed by executive producer Craig Silverstein, focuses on two strong female characters, giving the show unique and broad perspectives. The war is being waged on two separate fronts that routinely converge through specific encounters and even integral flashbacks.

The complex back story unfolds weekly, significantly enhancing the characters, including Nikita’s reluctant friend and Division agent Michael (Shane West).

The show’s more suspenseful sequences are consistently paced and often complemented by tightly choreographed stunts.

Story-wise, the mole angle is reminiscent of the double-agent situation in the early seasons of JJ Abram’s spy show “Alias,” but “Nikita” has an intriguing take on the infiltration. Also noticeable are the similarities to Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse”—the hidden Division headquarters also has clean but claustrophobic interiors, where young and attractive recruits are often assessed and “programmed” by shady overseers.

Comparisons aside, the reimagined “Nikita’s” espionage conflicts are inveigling, and it’s quite easy to sympathize with and cheer on this new breed of action heroines.

“Nikita” airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on ETC.