Friday, October 28, 2011

Costume, Critter, Candy 2

Happy Halloween!

New drawings, set two of two.

Frankenstein Vs. Franken-Castle

DC’s patchwork man versus Marvel’s reanimated vigilante. I wanted to draw this since last year.

Ten Jokers

I chose just ten: Hyena (Amalgam), Joker (New 52), Joker (Elseworld’s Finest), Joker (The Dark Knight Returns), Joker Junior/Tim Drake (Batman Beyond), Joker/Martha Wayne (Flashpoint), Joker (Main/New Earth), Bianca Steeplechase (Thrillkiller), Joker (The Batman), Joker (1,000,000).

Young Justice Halloween

Superboy and Impulse didn’t have normal childhoods, so Robin and Wonder Girl suggested that they go trick or treating together.

LNA, Demidragons

Lexy, Nance and Argus as fantasy warriors. It’s the annual Halloween cosplay, and this year, they’re trying out something different. Lexy is Bladesmith (the impervious swordsman!), Nance is Shadowdance (the shapeshifting spy!), and Argus is Reignbow (the alchemist archer!). Happy Halloween!

Siblings get filthy—and rich

(Published Oct. 30, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“Dumpster-diving” brothers Jimmy and John DiResta have no problem getting their hands dirty, rifling through people’s discarded items. They transform garbage into “classy junk” that become profitable collectibles.

“Whatever we find, we let it decide what it wants to be,” Jimmy told Living Stars in a phone interview. “We find it, we fix it, we sell it,” added John. Their penchant for scavenging and recycling could be traced back to their father’s “addiction” to flea market items. On Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Money” (Thursdays, 9 p.m.) they demonstrate their combined expertise turning trash into cash, which they’ve been doing for years.

How different are your design sensibilities?

John: Jimmy teaches design at a visual arts school in New York City. His furniture designs are really wild. Compared to them, my pieces look like Fred Flintstone made it. His designs are more interesting but I’m funnier.

What specific knowledge and skills are most useful for you?

Jimmy: I have an education in design and all my life I’ve been designing and building. I taught myself welding [and] using woodworking tools. You need to have a certain love to get started and a tenacity to figure things out.

John: I’m married 23 years with three kids, three dogs, a rabbit. That’s my education.

Have fans created stuff inspired by your show?

Jimmy: I haven’t seen any finished pieces, but a lot of people are always asking me how I made this or that.

What’s been the toughest thing to redesign, so far?

John: We tried to reinvent the pogo stick.

‘Time’ bandits

Time really is money in the science fiction-drama “In Time,” written and directed by Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca,” “The Truman Show”). In this radically changed reality, the archetypes remain the same, but as with most of Niccol’s other worlds, the film shows deeper truths about humanity and society.

This alternate, futuristic realm has familiar social divisions and ills, a flawed place where time has become the main currency. A person’s remaining days can be seen as a glowing digital display on the forearm, telling just how much time is left before the body expires. Time is much desired, as people can be eternally youthful, or can accomplish much for themselves or their families.

Protagonist Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) knows just how precious it is because he’s no stranger to harsh realities growing up. “Inheriting” the near-immortality of a wealthy bar patron (Matt Bomer), Will soon spends his newly acquired time on different thrills, and is introduced to the privileged but bored young woman, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).

“In Time” takes its sweet time when fleshing out the main characters, which are actually simple and typically Romeo and Juliet-esque. They go on Bonnie-and-Clyde-ish time heists, redistributing the wealth a la Robin Hood. While avoiding the smug thug Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) and the unrelenting time cop Raymond (Cillian Murphy), Will and Sylvia become outlaw heroes, their activities expectedly affecting the ages-old system. Despite its predictability, it’s still a smart and insightful film, one worth spending some time and money on.

“In Time” opens today in Metro Manila.

Age Difference

It’s that time of the year when I reflect on my life again, at least more than usual, since I’m going to be older again soon.

I’m still discovering the difference between growing up and growing old, but more importantly, I’m learning the importance of knowing when to be accepting, and when to be defiant.

I’m still not a religious person, and I don’t claim to know everything. That’s just how I am. It still irks me when some people preach “enlightenment” to me or claim that their gods are speaking through them. You have beliefs, fine. But don’t tell me I’m doomed because I don’t have or want the same belief system.

I still consider myself lucky to be living in this particular age. Art can be seen quicker, information is mere clicks away, and communication is much easier. Everything’s become files on different formats. But I consider myself fortunate that I’ve been exposed to traditional, old school disciplines as well.

I know how heartbreak feels. You get over things and move on, eventually, because you don’t really have a choice sometimes. But pain can be fuel, and you’ll realize sooner or later that you should cherish and enjoy what you have.

I continue to be grateful. I’m glad that I can both write and draw. I’m glad that after writing for work, I can relax my mind by switching to artist mode, which allows me to use a different set of instincts. I’m glad that I constantly learn new things, whether it’s a technical ability or information that I can use later.

I’m thankful for my loved ones and real friends, generous people who are just there to inspire and teach me. I don’t know if I contribute anything to their lives, but I thank them for bearing with me and my temperaments. I also thank my bosses, who trust me enough to do the job.

I prove myself every day. I can say that I continue to work hard. I didn’t have opportunities handed to me by influential relatives. I didn’t sleep with anyone to land a job. I didn't destroy anyone to accomplish my goals. I always wish I could be better at the things I do, but I also congratulate myself when I feel I deserve it. It’s healthier that way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

‘Real Steel’: Hugh Jackman, robot whisperer

(This appeared in the Oct. 16-31 issue of The Fortnightly.)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

In the predictable but moving science fiction-sports flick “Real Steel,” Hugh Jackman plays loser robot-boxer operator Charlie Kenton, whose estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) reluctantly reunites with him for the duration of one summer. Sure, the iffy trailer didn’t really promise anything spectacular, and its brief shots of fighting robots looked silly. But the Shawn Levy-directed film pleasantly surprises; its effects-enhanced action parts gel seamlessly with the ingratiating father-son yarn.

In that reality, Charlie was a competent boxer, but human fighters were eventually replaced by remote-controlled, mechanical ones. He tried adapting in vain, entering his robots in matches at the oddest venues, but they almost always end up in pieces. Charlie also ends up owing people (some of them scummy, shady types), but he manages to sneak out on them just in time. Everything changes with the arrival of Max, who isn’t exactly thrilled to be spending time with his absent and mostly self-centered dad. Max later discovers a discarded sparring robot, Atom, whose “shadow” function allows it to imitate the movements of humans in its proximity.

It proceeds as expected. Max upgrades Atom by integrating some parts from the surviving components of defeated robot boxers. Soon enough, Atom is trained by his “coach” Charlie. The automaton starts boxing bouts with dance numbers, motion-capturing Max before fighting in small competitions. Atom becomes a sensation, attracting the attention of fans and foes alike.

“Real Steel” lets Jackman play another flawed but redeemable man’s man. Charlie is initially a fellow you wouldn’t want to deal with, an unreliable, disconnected guy who has no compunctions whatsoever with signing away his custody rights for the right amount. He is, however, charming, especially to Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), his boyhood friend, trusty mechanic, and occasional cuddle-buddy. Jackman gets to do some action scenes via his “coaching” gig, but he’s also impressive in less-rowdy and more emotional scenes.

He shares a good rapport with promising young actor Goyo, who resembles former child actor Jake Lloyd a bit. Goyo’s plucky Max doesn’t get irritating; his impish but often-resourceful character is properly conveyed, and complements Charlie well.

The fantasy-scifi elements connect adequately with the familiar and familial tale, the technological wonders just mostly presented as advanced and expensive gizmos that don’t really radically change society’s basic human relationships outside the ring. The boy and the robot share an “Iron Giant”-ish bond, but strangely enough, the machine’s “secret” isn’t really clearly expounded on.

Anyway, it doesn’t really focus on the details and science of the robot fighters’ tech. The robots look and move great, though, their slam-bang fisticuffs engaging enough whenever they’re focused on. Those flashy moments balance out the underdog and redemption drama, making “Real Steel” surprisingly steely.

Legion of Plastic Heroes

Oh, wow. Legion toys! Back in December of 2005, I blogged, “DC Direct, please make more affordable figures with more points of articulation like the ones Toy Biz is doing. Please do it soon. You've got over seventy years' worth of characters at your disposal. Start with the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes. Fanboys and fangirls the world over will eat 'em up. You'll make lots of money.”

Almost six years later, it’s not DC Direct but Mattel that’s releasing an incredible-looking action figure set of the pre-Crisis Legion. Sweet. But it’s priced at US $180. Man. I won’t be getting it; I quit collecting action figures some time ago, but I’m still finding it great that there’s a Legion set! So fricking cool!

‘Glee’ back to basics, gayer than ever

(Published Oct. 17, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Season Two of the uber-popular “Glee” series can best be described as uneven, its story lines and guest appearances sometimes derailing proper character development and plot progression. While some characters were very clearly developed, such as gay teen Kurt (Chris Colfer), some members of the New Directions glee club practically disappeared into the background, only focused on again when performing less-significant or perfunctory tasks.

The on-again, off-again feud between the group’s mentor Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) has also gotten tiresome and forced. Every truce is short-lived, as Sue always finds inane reasons to torment the glee club. She’s despicable one minute and unbelievably generous the next, making it harder to take the character seriously. Sure, it’s “Glee,” but she’s just gotten way too cartoony!

The show, however, sensitively tackled religion, sexuality and bullying in some of the better-written episodes last season. Kurt’s growth is constant and consistent; his best moments are easily those that involve his insightful discussions with his straight dad (Mike O’Malley), confrontations with the closeted gay bully Karofsky (Max Adler), and interactions with his first boyfriend Blaine (Darren Criss).

One of the gay-friendliest ongoing American shows, “Glee” also revealed in the previous season that the mean and manipulative cheerleader Santana (Naya Rivera) is a lesbian and has real feelings for her best friend Brittany (Heather Morris). Also, Kurt and Blaine’s relationship was focused on a lot, the couple’s scenes often neatly accompanied by reimagined songs, including Criss’ popular version of “Teenage Dream” and the pair’s memorable rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

The first three episodes of the third season are addressing story concerns more, finally focusing on long-ignored characters like Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Mike (Harry Shum Jr.). Core relationships are being emphasized, and some rivalries are being utilized, at last.

But Rachel (Lea Michele) needs to be toned down a bit. She’s gotten really annoying for being overly competitive and selfish—remember when she sent potential rival Sunshine Corazon (Charice Pempengco) to a drug den? And now she’s running for class president against her friends. Rachel’s not a character you’d always root for, so let’s hope the writers remedy that before she becomes truly irredeemable.

Music-wise, “Glee” needs more original songs. There’s no shortage of good covers by the cast, but there are opportunities to create and launch more exclusive music.

The addition of Criss is a wise move; the charismatic and gifted actor-musician is contributing substantially to the show. Hopefully, the winners of the “Glee Project,” Damian McGinty and Samuel Larsen, will also add positively to the existing dynamic.

“Glee” season three airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m., on ETC and Jack TV.

Loki won’t be low-key

Tom Hiddleston was interviewed by CBR about portraying Loki again in the upcoming “Avengers” movie. Very intriguing. He describes working under the direction of Kenneth Branagh in “Thor,” and more recently, Joss Whedon in “Avengers.”

“The thing about the two of them is that they actually share more than you might first imagine, weirdly. Joss is a huge Shakespeare buff and Ken’s actually a closet comic book fanboy. True story. But also they both have a kind of pan literacy about storytelling and mythology and literature and comics and they understand classic tropes of storytelling, narrative arcs… and they’re also both just immensely passionate people. Really good at leading, really good at inspiring actors and all of that stuff. So… everyone has a different artistic fingerprint. Ken has a very classical warmth about him… and I think ‘Thor’ is both warm and classical in tone and Joss is really interested in comedy, as well, within a Sci-Fi context. He had this huge canvas where superheroes are teaming up to save the world, and he’s brave enough to make it funny.”

That reminds me of Joss’ handling of Buffy and Firefly. Now I’m really interested. Can’t wait for May, 2012.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Costume, Critter, Candy

Halloween drawings! Set one of two.

Black Lanterns Vs. Marvel Zombies

The reanimated corpses of DC heroes meet the hungry ex-heroes of a doomed Marvel reality.

Endless Glee

A teenage Dream is singing “Teenage Dream,” backed up by his warbling siblings Desire, Destruction, Death, and Delirium.


Nigh-unstoppable alien berserker!

Sister Grimm Vs. Black Alice

Teen magic-wielders Nico Minoru and Lori Zechlin fight before becoming BFFs.

Mild mirth

Classic Disney cartoon characters return in the short and silly “Winnie the Pooh,” an effective reminder that most animated films from bygone eras used to be simpler--narratively and visually--but are still quite imaginative. While contemporary animated features are usually faster-paced, intricately rendered, and much, much louder, the new “Winnie the Pooh’s” uncluttered style and laid-back vibe offer viewers something else entirely.

Barely an hour long, the film reintroduces the honey-loving bear and his (stuffed) animal friends, each possessing a distinct personality: Winnie is nice and determined, if quite dim; Tigger is confident and hyperactive; Eeyore is lethargic and defeatist, and so on. Their shared adventure first involves replacing Eeyore’s lost tail, which later leads to other less-expected but funny quests.

“Winnie the Pooh” is cute but often strange; adults with some familiarity may view the characters and their predicaments differently now. Its lack of a fourth wall becomes integral to the story; words and letters creatively become part of some scenes. The characters seem to have dimness in common, but in this innocent and kid-friendly world, their shared naivete inspires most snicker-worthy situations.

The film could’ve been longer; even preceded by the animated short “The Ballad of Nessie,” the film still feels too short. Despite that, it serves as a clear enough introduction to Pooh’s uniquely simple but comfortable world. By the way, stay during the end credits and wait for an extra scene.

“Winnie the Pooh” will be screening exclusively at Ayala Cinemas starting Oct. 19.

Grand, ghastly ‘Game’

(Published Oct. 13, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


It may take the uninitiated some time to identify with and root for likeable characters in the dark fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” which is based on the fan-favorite “A Song of Ice and Fire” books by George R.R. Martin.

The various inhabitants of a medieval-looking realm have a long and complicated history: Ned Stark (Sean Bean) is a just and trusted right-hand man to King Robert (Mark Addy), ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. One of their exploits involved usurping the throne from a mad king, whose children were exiled to a distant territory.

One of the exiles, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), arranges the marriage of his sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), to the nomadic warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) as part of the scheme to amass an army and return home.

Unknown to the king, his wife Cersei (Lena Headey) has been having an incestuous affair with her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The secret was revealed in the first episode, its discovery by Ned’s son Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) becoming the catalyst for a number of pivotal events.

Despite having several unsympathetic characters, “Game of Thrones” has intriguing underdogs that stand out in most episodes: Ned’s illegitimate son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is a brave, selfless warrior; Ned’s tomboyish daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) speaks her mind and aspires to be a great swordswoman; Robert’s dwarf brother-in-law Tyrion (recent Emmy winner Peter Dinklage) is a cunning strategist.

“Game of Thrones” has a grand tale, but there are pacing and editing hitches. Anticipated scenes are sometimes left out, while some parts noticeably drag.

But the first season creates a vast, often violent world with clashing cultures and politics, and ghastly supernatural creatures. Its scandals and betrayals also stir things up accordingly. The warring factions have been established, and some characters have already lost some battles (and their lives)—heralding an even deadlier, more epic “game” in the next season.

“Game of Thrones” will have a season one marathon on Oct. 15, 10 a.m. on HBO Signature, and on Nov. 12, 10 p.m. on Max.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Words and Pictures

Been writing advertorial copy and reviews for days, so it’s relaxing to just switch off and draw, read, and watch TV shows and videos. Oh, I just saw the new Avengers trailer. Man, I can’t wait. Please, please be awesome.

Speaking of awesome, I gotta announce this. Some of my movie reviews will be appearing in The Fortnightly, a new publication available for free at upscale shops, hotels, resorts, and hospitals, among other places, according to Editor in Chief Lester Hallig. My other movie reviews will be exclusively written for my blogs, and my other articles and reviews continue to appear in the Entertainment section of the Inquirer. My thanks to all the cool and generous people who continue to ask me to write for them.

Mutant Fission

The Schism mini is over. Woverine leaves Cyclops’ mutant island nation Utopia and plans to start the mutant school in New York anew, to be called The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning this time.

I’m just wondering, how many students will it have? Some of the Young X-Men were seen leaving with Logan, so they’ll probably continue their schooling, which was interrupted by anti-mutant attacks and their move to San Francisco.

I’m still siding with Cyclops; with very few remaining mutants, the younger ones need to be more involved in their kind’s protection and survival. I hope that Cyclops will deputize background characters (Avalanche, Stinger, Alchemy, etc.) and make them full-fledged X-Men to compensate for the departure.

The indie film that could

(This appeared in the Oct.1-15 issue of The Fortnightly.)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Megahit comedy “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” distinctly fuses gender identity topics with fantasy situations, a daring combination that mostly works. Co-written by Raymond Lee, Michiko Yamamoto and director Jade Castro, the film is campy and caricaturish, and while it doesn’t pedantically lecture its viewers on sexuality and gay empowerment, it does enlighten through its creative handling of gender topics.

Its protagonist Remington (Martin Escudero) used to mock obvious and suspected gay men when he was a kid, until he was “cursed” to become a homosexual by a mourning stranger (Roderick Paulate). Just when the older Remington finds himself attracted to a pretty lass, Hannah (Lauren Young), he changes from manly kanto boy to effeminate queer almost overnight! Soon enough, he’s well-versed in gay-speak, and is sexually drawn to his male best friend, Jigs (Kerbie Zamora). He gets doubly confused when he realizes that openly gay men in his town are being targeted by a bizarre serial killer.

“Zombadings” is largely about the sudden transformation of Remington; the titular gay zombies only appear and wreak havoc much later. The film has undoubtedly sparked discussions on the genetic factors and the fluidity of sexuality, but the story declares that either you are or aren’t. Remington is, or was straight, considers gayness a burden until he discovers that it’s not bad and almost accepts it. But Hannah convinces him that he’s meant to be straight, presumably because she fancies him, so they race against the clock to find a similarly mystical solution to the “problem.”

While it often equates gayness with fey mannerisms, it still has some “butch” characters in Jigs (who can be categorized bisexual) and a few closeted men. Escudero is pleasantly surprising as the dichotomized Remington; the actor embodies the hunky teen heartthrob one minute, and the swishy, sashaying diva the next. It’s amazing that he can pull off both expressively.

Zamora is charming as the tricycle driver and Remington’s oldest buddy. He’s a little uneven, acting-wise; an important revelation during that intense staircase scene with Remington needed better delivery. Still, Escudero has more chemistry with Zamora than with Young, although the straight couple still comes off as cute and believable.

The project benefits from the involvement of Janice De Belen and John Regala, who play a cop and a panciteria owner, respectively. The actors shine as Remington’s understanding and supportive parents, and figure in some of the more absurd moments. Just as outstanding is Paulate, who plays a gay character once again, but one that’s shrouded in mystery. Eugene Domingo, as Hannah’s grieving mother, also delights with her somewhat enigmatic character.

Situations depicting Remington’s sexuality-shifting are consistently hilarious. The onslaught of the zombies, however, dampens the hilarity a bit. The climactic confrontations could’ve gone smoother, too. “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” is far from flawless, but it still mostly entertains and endears with its strange and silly take on gender identity crisis.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Imprecise ‘Number’

It’s easy to like Anna Faris. Seemingly devoid of vanity, she makes wacky, dumb or clumsy characters watchable and even endearing, some forgettable movies notwithstanding. She similarly brings the bubbly blonde Ally Darling to life in the romantic comedy “What’s Your Number?”—it seems tailor-made for her as well, as she has a seeming comfortability with awkward situations. She’s still able to offer necessary depth, despite some scenes that some may find less than flattering.

And it’s a slightly offbeat rom-com role: Ally’s non-stop bombardment of embarrassments stems from her reaction to a fashion magazine article about the average number of sex partners. She tracks down her exes with the help of her ever-flirty musician neighbor Colin (Chris Evans), whom she helps with ditching one-night stands the morning after. She hopes to end up in wedded bliss with one of her former lovers, but she discovers to her dismay that there’s always a dealbreaker.

“What’s Your Number?” is formulaic and predictable; if you’ve seen the trailer, you practically know the sequence of events already. Still, it isn’t dull, as Faris and Evans (not a bad tandem) are joined by Blythe Danner, Faris’ real-life spouse Chris Pratt, Andy Samberg, and Joel McHale, among other actors in small roles.

In true romantic comedy fashion, the touted pairing eventually find themselves falling for each other, but routinely, some lies have to be exposed first. Things subsequently become serious and tedious, but it manages to elicit a few more laughs just before it ends.

It has adequate characterization, making the main characters’ bond appreciable. Faris does well, as usual, Ally’s generally improbable situations aside. And the movie’s silly but often perceptive tackling of the sex issue amuses, even when you already know some of the funniest parts.

“What’s Your Number” opens Oct. 5 in Metro Manila.

Secret monster showdowns

(Published Oct. 3, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Like most successful fantasy TV shows, “The Vampire Diaries” has its own unique mythology. Now on its third season, it can only be truly appreciated by viewers who followed it from the very beginning. The characters have gone through several major changes, and the show has evolved far from its simpler teen romance-monster drama roots.

Season one introduced and developed vampire siblings Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), both smitten with the human teen Elena (Nina Dobrev), who resembles their lost vampire lover Katherine (also played by Dobrev). Together with a few trusted friends, Elena discovers the long-hidden history of their town Mystic Falls, which also happens to be home to werewolves, witches and monster-hunters.

It was pretty derivative, but the show turned darker and layered by season two. The second season’s nearly epic stories often brought the more heroic characters together to fight a war against a barrage of powerful foes. Mystic Falls was besieged by the remorseless Katherine, scheming sorcerers, vengeful werewolves, and undying “original” vampires. The romance angles were still there, although not as focused as the battle strategies and unfolding intrigues (one big revelation after another involving the villains’ connected pasts).

Season three of “Vampire Diaries” starts with the bloody rampage of Stefan, now the henchman of his former enemy, the vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus (Joseph Morgan). Deceased characters from the early episodes also return as phantoms visible to Elena’s brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen). Elena and her allies are still reeling from their last supernatural showdown, which scarred each of the combatants differently.

“Vampire Diaries” is humorless, unlike other ongoing monster-centric shows like “Teen Wolf” and “True Blood.” Its mythology has also become so complex that the current episodes may alienate new viewers. But its consistently serious tone, its intricate vampire lore, and its ever-expanding menagerie of beasties continue to reward unflinching devotees.

“The Vampire Diaries” season 3 airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m., on ETC.