Friday, December 30, 2011

Yearender, Apostrophe Eleven

Pretty good year. In 2011, I:

- worked a lot. I thank all the people who gave me work. I was busy and I often learned new stuff.

- couch potatoed and enjoyed Walking Dead, Adventure Time, Warehouse 13, Skins (UK), Being Human (UK), Dexter (Season 5), Merlin, Awkward, The Middle, The Office, and Nikita.

- watched dozens of movies. My thanks to those who invited me to previews.

-  added 47 drawings to my DeviantArt gallery (now with 6,700+ faves) and other blogs. Thanks to Tumblr bloggers who reposted and credited me for my drawings.

- worked out. Lost some weight for a while, but eventually regained some pounds back after the gym membership expired. I wish I retained some healthy habits. I miss the machines, sometimes. And some of the people there, yeah.

- listened to some old and new songs over and over again, including The Like’s “Release Me,” Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out,” Linkin Park’s “Waiting for the End,” Rihanna’s “California King Bed” (yeah, I know, I don’t like her music but that’s the exception), Billy Bragg’s “Airline to Heaven,” Pink’s “F—kin’ Perfect,” REM’s “Photograph,” Guster’s “Do You Love Me,” Train’s “This Ain’t Goodbye,” and Melee’s “The Ballad of You and I.”

- asked Crystal Reed, Joe Manganiello, Tyler Posey, Mark Dacascos, Stephen Amell, Ping Medina, Chris Messina, and other celebs some questions.

- blogged regularly. Wrote blog-exclusive content, and reposted my published articles.

- went to Hong Kong for an assignment. I was extremely comfortable there. I got good feedback for stuff I did, too. I really miss the place.

- bought and read dozens of comic books. My faves include Avengers Academy, Uncanny X-Force, Secret Six, Schism, Wolverine and the X-Men, Invincible, Thunderbolts, the Marvel Universe Handbooks (Blockbusters, Vampires, History of the Marvel Universe, Fantastic 4: 50 Fantastic Years, Defenders), and The Walking Dead: Survivor’s Guide.

My sincere thanks to the people who made life easier in 2011. May 2012 be more peaceful and prosperous. Happy New Year, friends!

Eleven Gay Comic Book Moments of 2011

A couple of gay comic book characters had some significant moments in 2011. Eleven panels, clockwise from top left: Stark Resilient’s Pimacher and Cababa reveal their relationship; the rebooted Midnighter and Apollo meet; Bunker debuts; Daken hooks up with actor Marcus Roston; Scandal proposes to Knockout and Liana; Striker comes out; Kevin Keller recalls defeating homophobes in a race; Northstar temporarily frees Kyle Jinadu from mind control with a kiss; Gravity Kid and Power Boy discuss career options; William and Rick come out to Invincible; Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer kiss.

Looking forward to Kevin’s 2012 wedding and other milestone events. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ferocious Feline

Thanks for the supercool Catman action figure, Benedict! I love it. Deadshot won’t be lonely anymore.

Truth-seeker plays sharpshooter

(Published Dec. 28, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I’m the guy who never misses,” said actor Ping Medina, describing his role in “Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story.”

“Piring was a sharpshooter, based on a real person, and there was a real Asiong Salonga gang,” Medina elaborated during an interview at his restaurant, PenPen, in Cubao.

Medina, 28, son of veteran actor Pen Medina, first gained notice as an actor for his role in the well-received 2005 film, “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (he played the titular character’s older brother). He has since appeared in numerous independent films and teleseryes, a twist he didn’t anticipate after he stopped attending his Communication Arts classes almost a decade ago.

 “I got honorably dismissed from college around 2002,” he recalled, laughing. “Ateneo sets grade requirements. I’m not fit for formal education. After that, I was just wandering, looking for something I was good at. I dabbled in scriptwriting. I also started painting, and sometimes contributed to magazines. I acted in all sorts of student films. If my dad had theater as training ground, I had student films.”

Ping considers himself lucky to have landed the role in “Maximo.” He learned about the project when his mother, Chupsie, forwarded to him a casting announcement. “My dad didn’t have any hand in that,” he said. “He’s not the type to impose. [When I stopped studying] he was just, ‘Kung ayaw mo nang mag-aral, huwag ka nang mag-aral. Sayang pa ang pera kung babagsak ka lang.’”

Ping’s first professional acting credit was a role in the Marilou Diaz-Abaya-directed “Jose Rizal,” when he was just 13. He and his father both played Paciano Rizal. “It’s something that fell on my lap,” Medina revealed. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna earn like P2,500 a day.’ Back then, that was a lot.”

Father and son would eventually play younger and older versions of a character again, this time on GMA 7 fantasy shows. He felt the pressure of proving himself further when people began comparing.

“I guess I didn’t really mind until this one time … After ‘Maximo,’ I experienced a certain degree of fame. I felt that people now expected something from me. My first mainstream role was in the TV show ‘Etheria,’  prequel to ‘Encantadia,’ which made my dad a household name, having played the villain Hagorn. People were telling me, ‘Your dad is really good so you have to be really good, too.’ That was the first, but also the last, time I was pressured about comparisons to my dad.”

Two of his younger siblings recently started pursuing acting careers as well. “Alex and Viktor are doing indie films. My brothers don’t really ask for advice. I myself don’t ask my dad, although sometimes we talk about good films, good shows … My sister Japs has also expressed interest but she’s studying Architecture. I think she’s the best actor in the family.”

Medina previously appeared in a number of drama shows, including ABS-CBN’s “Tayong Dalawa” and “Green Rose.” His latest acting gig, “Asiong,” required him to be on the set for 24 shooting days, spread across four months. He now considers it his favorite project.

“Acting-wise, I learned a lot from the old-school guys, like Dennis Padilla, Phillip Salvador – they’re something else,” Ping said. “They have so much to teach you. They’re amazing at their craft and they’re amazing people.”

As for dream roles, he has only one right now: “Jose Rizal – I’ve done Rizal before, for ABS-CBN’s ‘Imortal: Anino’t Panaginip.’ I’ve wanted to do a full-length portrayal since … Among local actors, I’m the closest to him in terms of looks.”

Medina continues to observe his father’s No. 1 acting rule: “It has to come from the truth.” Now an established actor himself, he gives advice about the craft: “Go out of your comfort zone. Try new things, meet different people, go to different places – these will expand your range!”

(Photo by Oliver M. Pulumbarit)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dash Away All

Have a safe and happy Christmas, readers. Whatever the season means to you, enjoy it with your loved ones.

I just started relaxing after a busy coupla weeks. I’ve been catching up on stuff I’ve been meaning to read, while listening to old Christmas songs in the background, both secular and religious (which I don’t really relate to anymore, but some of them are really catchy). For some different holiday tunes, drop by YouTube and check out George Michael’s “December Song,” Vienna Teng’s “Atheist Christmas Carol,” Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagans,” The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” Heather Nova’s “Always Christmas,” Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and Billy Idol’s “Yellin’ at the Christmas Tree.”

Have fun, and enjoy the Yuletide break. 

Exciting eleven: 11 films that entertained us in ‘11

(From the December 16-31 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

   What a good year for movies and movie fans. It’s a tough and tricky yearend list to make, since there are dozens of films that made us laugh, cry, think, and yes, actually shell out some hard-earned dough. Whether you agree or disagree (or agree to disagree), here are eleven entertaining movies that you should’ve seen in 2011. In no particular order:

The Adventures of Tintin
   Excellently capturing the spirit of the beloved comic book series by Belgian storyteller Herge, “The Adventures of Tintin” is an exciting, fast-paced translation by Steven Spielberg. Vividly animated, it conjures up classic tales while still very accessible to those unfamiliar with the exploits of intrepid boy reporter Tintin.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
   This fine prequel also serves as a reboot, making sense of the simians’ dominance in its various prior incarnations. Expounding on the science fiction films’ mythology, the film is made even more effective by its heartbreaking family drama.

X-Men: First Class
   The year’s best superhero movie isn’t “Thor” or “Captain America.” Marvel’s mutants return in bombastic fashion; they’re not quite the unsung superheroes that we’re familiar with yet, but this film depicts the momentous formation of the X-Men during the Cold War. Michael Fassbender memorably plays Magneto, giving him necessary grit and dimension.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
   Harry Potter’s former school becomes a war zone! The young mage and his loyal allies fight the forces of Voldemort for the last time, and not everybody survives the conflict. The most action-packed installment of the series, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” spectacularly and bittersweetly concludes Harry’s saga.

Real Steel
   Forget the iffy trailer, “Real Steel” is actually a fun scifi-sports flick. Yes, it’s predictable, but this particular meshing of dazzling effects with relatable drama works well. It depicts a world where everything is familiar, except for the fact that robots have replaced human boxers in the ring. The automaton duels are impressive, and the underdog-redemption drama pleases.

127 Hours
   Based on actual events, “127 Hours” centers on athletic Aron Ralston’s agonizing ordeal in a Utah canyon. The Danny Boyle-directed film boldly illustrates the harrowing details of Ralston’s struggle against the unmoving boulder that pinned his hand during a nature trek. James Franco’s performance mesmerizes.

   A father’s worst nightmare is realized when his daughter is victimized by a cyber-predator. It’s depressing and discomfiting, and rightly so. Consistently compelling portrayals by Clive Owen and Liana Liberato make this relevant drama poignant and affecting.
Arthur Christmas
   Not your run of the mill Yuletide stocking-stuffer, “Arthur Christmas” imaginatively reinvents the Santa Claus myth, resulting in an exciting and brilliant caper. Aglow with colors and entrancing imagery, it amusingly introduces the wacky Claus family, a nice mix of lovable and intriguing characters.

   A deadly teen is unleashed on her deceased mother’s tormentors, discovering truths about her past and her family along the way. “Atonement’s” Saoirse Ronan perfectly embodies the balance of focus and vulnerability, figuring in gripping action scenes with Cate Blanchett, who plays a merciless CIA operative.

Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington
   Gay topics are rarely tackled insightfully, but this local hit indie does just that, and riotously, too. The campy comedy utilizes hilarious scifi and fantasy elements, but the most enjoyable thing about it is Martin Escudero, whose gender identity transformations are gut-busting and endearing.

The Tree of Life
   Audaciously told, “The Tree of Life” ponders existential questions repeatedly through an American family. Perplexing but often enlightening, Terrence Malick’s film challenges with its pace and effects-enhanced images, but his unconventional, unbridled storytelling is admirable.

Oliver M. Pulumbarit reviewed movies for the Philippine Daily Inquirer from 2002-2008, and continues to write entertainment reviews and reports for PDI, his blog “Alternatural Thoughts,” and The Fortnightly. 

Still unraveling the ‘Bigfoot’ enigma

(Published Dec. 23, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“We have been doing Bigfoot expeditions for years,” Matt Moneymaker, president and founder of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “We have been taking people out to places where there had been sightings, and we’re the only ones who still do that.”

In the Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot,” the group searches for the elusive titular creature (also known as Sasquatch, Yeti or Abominable Snowman) and goes on a cross-country expedition intended to answer questions posed by the old, baffling mystery.

Investigating what witnesses consider as Sasquatch sightings, Moneymaker and his crew interview locals and examine evidence – activities that bring them to some possible forest habitats in Georgia, Washington, and Alaska, among other places.

“We’re not talking about a single mythical thing/monster figure,” he said. “We’re talking about a species that people have spotted in different places around the world.”

The “biggest worry” of the team is getting injured in the woods at night. “We worry about getting a stick in the eye, which can happen very easily when you’re sneaking around in the woods and chasing things in the dark in a forest. Then the next things obviously are mountain lions, big cats. Big cats are far more dangerous.”

The Bigfoot has long been described as a very tall, hairy creature that partly resembles an ape and has humanlike movements. Sightings have been reported in Malaysia, Northern Vietnam, India and China, aside from the United States. There have also been a couple of hoaxes, according to Moneymaker, but the researcher stated that there are also records of eyewitness accounts dating back to “hundreds of years.”

“It goes back way beyond; the faking didn’t start until the late 1960s, but there are very good descriptions of these things in artwork and stuff going back to the 1800s in the United States.”

Many supposed sightings turn out to be glimpses of bears or other animals, but these don’t dissuade the group from continuing their mission. “That’s what we try to investigate. When we go out, when we talk to witnesses or we go to a location, there are a few things you consider in those situations,” Moneymaker said. “It’s the circumstances and it’s the person. It’s just like what a lawyer would do in court. What you believe you saw, is that what really happened? So we have to analyze it that way and you end up still with a lot of them where there’s no way they could have been looking at a bear.”

Moneymaker added that more people from all over the world now believe in the existence of the enigmatic species. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I guess [it means] they’re hearing, not just that some people in some place [believe] in something, but that some people in some place are saying they’re seeing something. That’s what’s happening here. It’s not a matter of ‘Do a lot of Americans believe they exist?’ No, but the amazing thing is how many Americans claim that they have seen one up close or from a distance. That’s the fascinating thing because it continues to happen. After you have a certain amount of witnesses, then you really have to listen to what they’re saying, if they’re all describing the same thing.”

And if a live Bigfoot were to be discovered, caught and studied, it would significantly affect human beings. “Here’s the analogy: the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by some archaeologists in the 1920s had this very big impact in the West where all of a sudden there was this huge sudden appreciation of the antiquities,” Moneymaker explained. “I think it will definitely create a resurgence of appreciation for the natural world, maybe the ancient world, too. It’s a benefit to you. It’s a very healthy thing and it really makes you appreciate your own land, wherever it is, in a way you wouldn’t have done before because you would never have made the effort to go to some of these wild places if not for these things.”

“Finding Bigfoot” airs Mondays (9 p.m.), Wednesdays (6 p.m.), and Saturdays (10 p.m.) on Animal Planet.

‘Tintin’ triumphant

(From the Dec.16-31 issue of The Fortnightly)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

One of the year’s most anticipated animated features is a visually lavish and thrilling interpretation of Belgian creator Herge’s beloved comic book series. There are reasons to get excited for “The Adventures of Tintin,” among them the involvement of master filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, the movie’s director and co-producer, respectively.

It’s not exactly the way one may remember the characters or stories, but “The Adventures of Tintin” easily captures the essence of the seminal series. Those unfamiliar with the comics need not worry; this particular adventure is still pretty accessible. The opening credits impressively encapsulate some of the intrepid titular hero’s exploits and backstory. Enough details are shared, keeping the uninitiated interested and curious, while fans of the books will immediately appreciate the familiar elements and recognize parts inspired by the classic stories.

Ditching the comics’ unique cartoony look and utilizing more realistic but stylized visuals, “Tintin” looks incredibly tangible, but still accentuated by more pleasantly “unreal” and exaggerated components. We still glimpse Tintin’s classic look briefly through a street artist’s caricaturish rendition, which amuses the friendly-looking CGI version as well.

We’re introduced to young reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell), whose purchase of a model ship attracts unexpected trouble. The theft of the item and the ransacking of his place, followed by his discovery of an old scroll, are urgent mysteries to be solved; Tintin and his trusty fox terrier Snowy soon find themselves crossing paths with the wealthy and suspicious Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

After some skirmishes involving Sakharine’s henchmen, Tintin eventually meets the oft-inebriated Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, in his nth fantastical portrayal), who may have important answers to some of the puzzles. Tintin and Haddock figure in more life-threatening conflicts, racing against time to unravel their adversary’s baffling agenda.

The film’s brisk pace still allows for ample characterization, introducing essential and tangential figures that make this particular world appealing. The bumbling detective twins Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and their pickpocket-catching assignment are hilarious. Smarter than those two combined, Snowy is no regular pet, contributing greatly to Tintin’s missions as the resourceful and unwavering sidekick. Some minor characters may be focused on in later chapters, should sequels manifest.

Animation-wise, the motion-capture effect makes most of the characters expressive enough. The lifelike quality of the faces also impresses, as there are more subtle expressions. It mostly avoids the eerie, dead-eyed look of more realistic CGI characters from movies like “Polar Express.” The scenes brim with detail and are unceasingly vivid, but there are times when you’d wish for better-trimmed action scenarios.

“The Adventures of Tintin” is smart and extravagantly presented, regardless, proof that there’s more to comic books than superheroes. It should inspire new fans to look up and read the characters’ imaginative and entertaining classic adventures. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Putting Up Reindeer

Three families, one season. My holiday drawings, 2011. Happy Christmas!

Batcave Xmas
The Bats celebrate Christmas before the rebooting of their universe. Attendees: Kate Kane, Alfred Pennyworth, Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Helena Bertinelli, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, Barbara Gordon, Damian Wayne, Stephanie Brown.

Babies, It’s Cold Outside
Wanda is finally reunited with her twins Billy and Tommy.

Endless Snow
The Endless siblings’ reunion turns frosty. 

‘Filipinos can really draw,’ says cable network exec

(Published Dec. 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“There are lots of Filipino kids who are incredible at drawing,” enthused Silas Hickey, Hong Kong-based Cartoon Network Asia Pacific creative director.

Hickey visited the country in March to scout for animation industry talents, and recently returned to promote various Cartoon Network projects such as “Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood” and “Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens.”

He was a guest speaker at Animahenasyon 2011, the annual Filipino animation festival held in November. Hickey also shared updates on his talent search at a press conference in Quezon City.

“People here can really draw,” Hickey said. “It’s interesting. Has everyone been to art schools or is it just like anyone can draw? In terms of animation, Hanna-Barbera used to be here; they had a training program. But it’s not just those people. There are studios on the outskirts of Manila, little houses and stuff… it’s really incredible.”

His first visit yielded other “really exciting” discoveries. “There are some incredible established studios in the Philippines,” Hickey said. “[There are many] very skilled animators here. We are continuing negotiations with some of these larger studios, to perhaps work on some of our Cartoon Network properties. We need to tap into that. That’s what we’re trying to do since I came here in March. We’ve had some very successful meetings, met some really wonderful people in the industry. We have plans to work with these more established studios as well as individuals.”

Hickey also talked about the Snaptoons (Short New Asia Pacific Cartoons) program, an ongoing regional project aimed at discovering new, original content. “How that works is there’ll be some sort of solicitation that goes out mainly to professionals,” Hickey said. “We’ll approach studios, animation professionals, directors and writers, and we’ll ask them to submit ideas. It’s not free; we pay them to do that. We’ll make those into ‘shorts.’ If it’s successfully received, we’ll consider making that into a telemovie or a series.”

“There’ll be a solicitation to sort a Philippine Snaptoons,” he added. “There’s something like that on the horizon. Actually, what we’re considering is to have a regional Snaptoons; we can also [include] Korea or Japan.”

Hickey observed that Filipinos have unique advantages. “The thing that’s always encouraging about the Philippines is we do get lots and lots of material [from Filipinos],” he said. “There really is a sort of understanding of western culture.”

Many successful original properties debuted in the shorts format, according to Hickey. “Johnny Bravo started as a short. It’s a great concept and there’s a lot less risk if you have that concept, rather than just launching a multimillion-dollar series.”

Hickey has advice on content-creation, specifically the parameters of irreverence: “It’s case by case; you can’t do certain things in India that’s totally fine in Australia. You have to be very sensitive, very careful that you don’t make any mistakes.”

He added that kids primarily want entertainment, so certain things must be avoided. “We don’t want to make content that comes off as sounding preachy. Kids don’t like it,” he said. “Contemporize it in some way. Really write a story and characters with export potential in mind!”

Hopefully Epic

Here’s the cover to Avengers Vs. X-Men # 0, prologue to the 12-issue biweekly series scheduled for an April release. Looks promising. So the Scarlet Witch survives the Children’s Crusade mini. She and Hope Summers (who seems unaware that she’s linked to the Phoenix Force), will be key figures, according to reports. I hope the two X-Men teams set aside their differences temporarily so they’ll be strong enough to face the multiple Avengers teams. A definite winner will emerge, according to Marvel EiC Axel Alonso. The two teams fought a few times before, during the ‘80s Avengers Vs. X-Men mini and more recently, during Children’s Crusade, among other stories. Anyway, it’s a long series, so I hope that the creative teams cover every possible story angle (including Storm, Beast and Wolverine’s loyalties), and come up with only relevant tie-ins. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All-star algorithm

Like the cheesy but somewhat diverting “Valentine’s Day,” the Garry Marshall-directed “New Year’s Eve” crams a zillion stock romance, comedy and drama plots, this time centering on several New Yorkers celebrating (or ignoring) the season’s revelries.

And like “Valentine’s Day,” there are stars galore, playing uber-generic characters. Zac Efron plays a spunky delivery guy bringing Michelle Pfeiffer’s stressed record label employee to fun places; there’s the initially annoyed pair of neighbors played by Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher; there’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s single mom character chasing after her rebellious daughter, played by Abigail Breslin. And that’s just about half of the main goings-on.

The star-studded roll call also includes Hillary Swank, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert DeNiro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Josh Duhamel, and Sofia Vergara (playing her “Modern Family” character again in her third movie this year), among others. There are other unannounced actors making brief appearances as well, such as John Lithgow, Yeardley Smith, Joey McIntyre, and Alyssa Milano.

Some separate stories ultimately connect; there are those that satisfy with their simplicity and feelgood denouments, while others are just shallow and cloying rom-coms we’ve seen past the nth time. It still mostly amuses when you’re not distracted by the parade of celebs, and works quite well in giving a generally sentimental overview of the occasion.

Accomplished ‘Mission’

Top secret agent Ethan Hunt’s big screen adventures aren’t exactly memorable for giving him a distinct, likeable personality; you don’t really root for him because he’s a relatable or dramatically appealing character. The “Mission Impossible” movies primarily showcase stunts and complex action choreography, and we don’t really care for the agent’s welfare because there’s no doubt whatsoever that he’ll survive them all.

The “M:I” movies’ plots are pretty simple, often convoluted by story details that allow for more kinetic scenarios. That’s still true with the fourth movie, “Ghost Protocol,” directed by acclaimed storyteller Brad Bird. But thanks to the previous film, Ethan Hunt now feels more human, exuding more identifiable qualities than the stoic super-spy in the first and second movies.

It still sticks to tradition action-wise; Tom Cruise gets to wall-crawl Dubai’s Burj Khalifa building in one of the film’s many tense moments. The high-tech espionage still pleasantly mystifies, the Impossible Missions Force a tight team comprised of agents portrayed by Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner.

Bird’s first live-action film mostly impresses, although some initially interesting sequences become tedious. The antagonists start as interesting characters, but ultimately become flat and boring.

Still, the lively components outnumber the dull. The film benefits from the inclusion of Pegg, who plays the team’s resident tech guy-turned-field agent. The other operatives’ backstories also make us care for them, even Hunt. As for the mission itself, it’s a typical interception-retrieval job, but it’s made a little more urgent and desperate when the small team becomes the sole active IMF group. And “M:I – Ghost Protocol” has big, sweeping shots made for IMAX screens, enhancing and establishing some scenes quite sharply.

Oh, Christmas Tree

I didn’t disassemble my Christmas tree earlier this year, and covered it with taped newspaper pages until early November. Wow, where’d the time go? It’s almost mid-December already. As people close to me know, I don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday; I’m not a Christian. What I do like are the colors and festivities of the season and the extra time spent with loved ones. The season reminds me of many happy times with my family and friends.

‘History’ in a nutshell

Forget that ordinary-looking cover; “History of the Marvel Universe” is actually a satisfying and informative read, summarizing decades’ worth of stories into a 48-page one-shot.

Uatu the Watcher narrates the main/616 reality’s superhero history, some momentous events accompanied by existing illustrations. It’s a nice compression that doesn’t go into the complicated and confusing origins of certain X-characters, their clans and their scheming arch-foes. It’s accessible enough for the new Marvel fan, but older readers will still enjoy the almost Marvel Saga-esque organization of shared histories.

Monday, December 05, 2011

New ‘Hung’ man says he’s ‘extremely open-minded’

(Published Dec. 5, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Actor Stephen Amell is gaining popularity as the busboy-turned-gigolo Jason, a new character introduced in HBO’s sex comedy series “Hung.” Amell, 30, considers the role “pretty tame” compared to some previous ones, including a violent werewolf and a killer.

The Canadian actor appeared as the villainous werewolf Brady in a few episodes of “The Vampire Diaries.” Before that, he had parts in the teen drama series “Degrassi” and gay-oriented shows such as “Dante’s Cove” and “Queer as Folk.”

He’s having the time of his life playing Jason, rival to “Hung’s” main male prostitute Ray, played by Thomas Jane. Amell revealed during a recent phone interview that it wasn’t a difficult role to play because he has no hang-ups about sexual matters.

“I’m extremely open-minded,” Amell said. “I think that whatever people want to do in their sexual life, it’s their private life for a reason. Whatever decisions they make, whether talking about same-sex couples [or] mixed couples, it doesn’t matter to me.”

The character is likewise open-minded, Amell added. “One of the things about Jason that we learn from the season is that he’s not opposed to working with male clients. Jason’s character is straight, but that doesn’t always matter in the gigolo world.”

Amell finds working on TV shows likable for a variety of reasons, and he considers landing a regular role especially rewarding. He appreciates the different dynamics that each show offers him. “I was on ‘Vampire Diaries’ for only a couple of episodes,” he said. “One of the main differences is that we shot that in Georgia. The cast has to pick up mostly from Los Angeles and they have to move out to Atlanta. So you get a more familial atmosphere out there. But I like each show’s vibe for different reasons.”

The “Hung” experience isn’t very different, cast-wise. “I got along great with everybody,” he said. “We had seven different directors this year. I got along great with them and Thomas Jane, Anne (Heche), Rebecca (Creskoff) and Analeigh (Tipton), the main actors I worked with this year. It’s a real nice crew. It’s a first-rate group of people.”

Amell portrays a 25-year-old busboy who gets discovered by Lenore (played by Rebecca Creskoff), who pimps him as part of a revenge scheme. Amell gets naked in a number of scenes, but being a regular cast member also means that he’s learning new things about acting. He’s now “coming into scenes with an open mind.”

“If you go to a scene and you’re locked into the way that you’re gonna do it, you’re a little inflexible,” he explained. “The way HBO sets up the production schedule, you have a lot of time to explore different things in the scene. Being flexible and trying things a bunch of different ways are really helpful exercises. That’s what I learned the most, put yourself in the hands of the director, and trust that he is going to craft the best performance for you.”

As for Jason’s competitiveness, Amell can relate. “I used to be very competitive in high school and through university,” Amell recounted. “I’m a little bit more relaxed now. But if it’s good competition and it’s worth being competitive about, I definitely get competitive!”

Career-wise, Amell is seeing changes brought about by his prominent character. “I’ve noticed slight differences,” he said. “I think hooking a role on ‘Private Practice’ was directly a reflection of people enjoying my work on ‘Hung.’ So I’m noticing a bit more connectivity in what I’m doing. That’s really exciting because the idea of doing a good job in one place and having it get me a job somewhere else—as an actor, my main goal going into 2012 is I want to work as much as possible. Every single day that you’re on set, you learn new techniques about acting for the camera, you work with new directors and actors. Those things are critical.”

He added that it’s been a very busy year, and learning has been constant: “I’ve had almost a hundred days on the set, working,” he recounted. “I’m very happy with where my career is!”

Two episodes of “Hung” season 3 will air back to back Monday night at 11:55 p.m. Subsequent episodes will air Mondays after the 10 p.m. movie on HBO.

Strike Anywhere

Cool confirmation time: Christos Gage recently revealed via CBR that Julie Power a.k.a. Lightspeed from Power Pack is bisexual. The Avengers Academy writer talked about the character liking guys when she was a kid, and girls as a teen. It was heavily hinted at in the Loners miniseries a few years ago. But wait, there’s more! Striker, the student often hitting on female classmates, will be coming out as gay!

I knew it. I felt that the author put clues in his origin issue (AA # 5), mainly, the statement that he was “bored” with the girl groupies that Norman Osborn gave him. I always felt that he was gay. There’s another hint that actually reinforces it; Striker opted to talk instead with Veil after she kissed him in that same issue.
Speaking of gay stuff, my “Super Gay DC” drawing’s gotten 101 notes over at Tumblr. Gail Simone even reblogged the image and commented, “Yay, a bunch of my dearest kids are on there!” That is so cool. She was referring to Scandal Savage, Liana, Knockout, Creote, and Olympian. It’s also cool that she also commented on my first “Gay DC” drawing last April: “I love this. Thank you so much for drawing and posting it! That girl there with the awesome hair? THAT’S SCANDAL SAVAGE, baby!”

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Winter wunderkind

Some incredible truths about Santa Claus’ yearly gift-giving trips are revealed in Columbia’s warm and endearing “Arthur Christmas,” a modern and inventive take on the beloved mythical figure. Santa’s miraculous Christmas Eve feats and the people (and elves) behind them work like clockwork, but one unexpected mistake may ruin it for one nice child.

Standing between a happy Christmas morning and certain disaster is Arthur Claus (voiced by James McAvoy), clumsy grownup son of the current Santa, Morgan (Jim Broadbent). Arthur, however, is a kind-hearted believer in his father’s mission, helping out by responding to kids’ letters in the mailroom. His brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) has been running operations efficiently for years, while Santa Morgan has become an old figurehead unfamiliar with the new system. It’s revealed that the Santa Claus identity and responsibilities are given to worthy successors, immortalizing the much-revered character.

Vibrant, solidly told, and often visually busy, “Arthur Christmas” just might be the most heart-warming animated feature of the season. Its story is simple but smart; it tugs at the heartstrings during anticipated and unexpected moments, and has enough lovable and lively characters amid all the glittery tinsel and flashy colors.

One glitch during the preview screening was the uneven audio; sometimes the voices are loud enough, but there are times when the volume of the voices lowers, overpowered by the background music and sound effects. Hopefully, that’s just a problem exclusive to that screening.

“Arthur Christmas” opens Dec. 7 in Metro Manila.

Yuletide Pride

Two big team-ups, two new drawings.

Super Gay Marvel

LGBT Marvel heroes, anti-heroes, villains and civilians. Marvel’s got more than 34, but these are the confirmed, in-canon ones. This is a sequel of sorts to a drawing I did last April, dedicated to the creators who introduced or developed these characters.

Roll call: Spider-Woman (Exiles), Xavin, Lucy In The Sky, Northstar, Freedom Ring, Anole, Sunfire (Exiles), Flatman, Bloke, Destroyer, Shatterstar, Beast (Exiles), Rawhide Kid, Vivisector, Karma, Union Jack, Graymalkin, Mystique, Destiny, Living Lightning, Frenchie DuChamps, Colossus (Ultimate), Hector, Jackpot, Phat, Hulkling, Wiccan, Marlo Jones, Quasar, Moondragon, Northstar (Ultimate), Rictor, Daken, Victoria Hand.

Super Gay DC

A gathering of 34 lez, gay, bi, and trans heroes, villains, anti-heroes and civilians from the DC Universe (or Multiverse). I didn’t include Vertigo characters; I’ll probably do that drawing someday. Anyway, this is also dedicated to the comic book writers and artists who made this superhero universe a little more colorful.

Roll call: Bunker, Apollo, Starman, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, Extrano, Comet, Tommy Jagger, Fauna, Obsidian, Power Boy, Tasmanian Devil, Hero Cruz, Houston, Donner, Ice Maiden, Gravity Kid, Knockout, Josiah Power, Thunder, Batwoman, Catwoman (Holly Robinson), Grace, Olympian, Scandal, Liana, Pied Piper, Terry Berg, Midnighter, Creote, Question, Maggie Sawyer, Gannon Malloy, Blitzen.

‘Gumball’ infinitely cute, weird

(Published Dec. 2, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Cartoon Network’s “The Amazing World of Gumball” can be counted among the few shows that successfully utilize bizarre concepts while connecting with its more familiar and universal qualities.

Meshing together 2D, 3D animation and live-action parts, “Gumball” immediately stands out as its own world. Disparate designs coexist; the traditional-looking or “flat” animal characters can be seen mingling with digitally rendered and textured beings on “real” suburban streets.

Its titular character Gumball Watterson is a blue cat-boy figuring in nonsensical but entertaining exploits. He and his best friend Darwin, a bipedal fish boy who used to be the family pet, have some of the oddest adventures at school and at home. Every story unceasingly focuses on the young characters’ naivete and their world’s more unusual aspects.

Gumball has to save the surly, puppet-like neighbor Mr. Robinson from unknown “assassins” in one story. In another inane tale, the boys’ friendship is tested, reiterating their incompatibility with schoolmates such as the rich athlete Tobias and the limbless balloon-boy Alan.

In one of their funniest misadventures, Darwin becomes the cloud-girl Masami’s unwilling boyfriend, while Gumball finds himself attracted to Penny, a peanut girl with antlers.

The attraction theme is again explored hilariously in another story. Gumball runs out of fresh clothes so he’s forced to wear his mother’s wedding gown to school! His classmates don’t recognize him and think he’s a cool girl, and Darwin falls in love with “her.”

Fans of “strange” comedy cartoons such as “Adventure Time” will appreciate the concise but self-contained episodes. Thriving on unrelenting nonsense and unconventional visuals, “Gumball” is consistently and satisfyingly silly and surreal.

The animated series airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

Fine Whine

Some people rant on a regular basis; I seem to ignore things that annoy me till they practically bother me at the same time. So here are some current peeves and complaints, in one fell swoop:

1. If you’re going to text or talk on your phone, don’t do it in a busy corridor. You’re slowing down everyone behind you, dumbass.

2. I wish invitational screenings would really start on time. I wish organizers would close the doors on latecomers and slow-moving guests, or just start without waiting for them. Let them fumble for seats in the dark.

3. Don’t ask me to do something for free, and support a cause that I don’t believe in. I need to pay my bills and eat, too. And don’t assume that I’m on your side when it comes to certain issues. Do your freaking homework.

4. Stop preaching in the bus. Stop guilting people into handing you money, thinking that it’s what your deity wants. Don’t bother me with your envelopes and leaflets either, self-righteous creep.

5. Those bothersome people asking about credit cards at the mall, I am this close to pushing them out of the way and telling them to f—k off.

Nursery rhymes gone rogue

(From the Dec. 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

One of the more memorable characters from the uber-hit series of animated movies “Shrek,” the suave swordscat Puss in Boots now gets to save the day in his own self-titled adventure. “Puss in Boots” is both a spinoff and a prequel, revealing much about the beloved cat’s early days. Sans his wacky “Shrek” cohorts, the outlaw Puss (voiced again by Antonio Banderas) is joined by intriguing, all-new characters.

The bipedal adventurer finds himself searching for fabled magic beans, now in the possession of Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). But they’re not the innocent and ill-fated kids from the nursery rhyme anymore; they’re both burly, mean adults. Puss encounters the masked thief Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) during the mission, and is surprised to discover that his formidable new opponent is working with a figure from his past.

Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) is “back together again” and offers his estranged friend an alliance against the keepers of the legendary beans. Their quest ultimately involves the retrieval of a fowl that literally lays golden eggs. But Puss only knows part of the plan, and finds himself in deep trouble not long after that particular job.

“Puss in Boots” has more appealing character designs than most of the “Shrek” films, which had simple and less-imaginative concepts, with the exception of the titular spinoff character. From the cat “extras” to the main cast, and even the grotesque villains, much thought is put into the visuals. Animation-wise, it’s typically gorgeous and intricately rendered, although the dimly lit scenes are really dark and difficult to see. That seems to be the case with some 3D and non-3D films being shown here lately. The visual quality is nowhere near as vivid as in the trailers, for some reason. It’s a recurring problem (possibly a calibration issue?) that has to be addressed by local cinemas soon.

Anyway, “Puss in Boots” manages to flesh out the main character quite impressively. Even those unfamiliar with the movies he previously appeared in will feel that they didn’t miss much. Puss is introduced anew as the roguish cat who hooks up with smitten felines, runs from furious cat owners and the law, and nobly risks himself to save lives.

Frequent collaborators Banderas and Hayek share a noticeable and comfortable bond, making the cartoon tandem quite easy to like. Kitty is also an appealing character, not only because she possesses nearly superhuman (or superanimal) speed and stealth, but also because she treads the line between heroine and villainess. She’s still cool even after she expectedly chooses a side.

Galifianakis, best known for the smash adult comedies “The Hangover” and its sequel, doesn’t sound like his amnesiac man-child character from those movies, thankfully. He’s pretty unrecognizable, which is a good thing. He gives surreal life to Humpty, who isn’t exactly the same after surviving the traumatic fall that was only partially chronicled in the old rhyme.

“Puss in Boots,” storywise, is pretty average; the high-stakes adventure is predictable, but there’s solid characterization. Kids and grownups, and old “Shrek” fans, will find Puss’ first solo caper pleasantly diverting.