Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Super Men

Characters inspired by the Superman archetype: Omni-Man, Sentry, Superior, Samaritan, Majestic, Supreme, Icon, Captain Marvel, Hyperion, Gladiator, and Apollo.

Red, white, new

The barrage of superhero flicks continues with the summer actioner “Captain America: The First Avenger,” about Marvel Comics’ iconic, flag-draped World War II patriot. Chris Evans’ second Marvel superhero role, his umpteenth genre character portrayal, is a snug fit, impressively resembling the indomitable Steve Rogers from the source material.

Captain America’s origin is generally faithful to the lore, enough to make the fanboys happy, but accessibly told for the non-comic readers: Steve was a lanky weakling, patriotic but severely limited by his own body. Strengthened by the experimental serum developed by a genius German scientist (Stanley Tucci), Steve is given the Captain America identity, and eventually proves himself a formidable fighter and strategist. He later comes face to face with the Nazi madman Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), wielder of arcane weaponry.

Joe Johnston’s “Captain America” has heart and focus, both absent in the recent “Green Lantern,” but like “Thor,” the action sequences could’ve gone longer and better. The Red Skull’s Hydra henchmen, with their generic stormtrooper look and scifi technology, seem plucked from the “G.I. Joe” movie, and don’t exactly make for great action adversaries. The hero’s fight with the Skull lacks complex choreography and impact, as well.

Cast-wise, it’s competent: Tommy Lee Jones as the scene-stealing Col. Phillips and Hayley Atwell as feisty Peggy Carter both have complementary rapports with Evans. Sebastian Stan is also capable as Cap’s sidekick Bucky; the character isn’t the costumed “mascot” here, but is also a fine fighter. Tucci is sublime as always, and Dominic Cooper’s brief but memorable appearance as Howard Stark (Iron Man’s future daddy) charms.

“X-Men: First Class” is still the best comic book movie of the year, unquestionably. “Captain America” is much less dramatic and involving, but it’s mostly a decent and fun flick. And yes, stay and check out the “Avengers” teaser trailer after the credits.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Martian Manhunting

Saw the John Carter trailer. Costumes too conservative. Was hoping for a sexier, Frazetta’d-up look. Taylor Kitsch, a.k.a. Gambit from the 2009 Wolverine flick, is playing the titular hero created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Disney film’s trailer sort of reminds me of last year’s Prince of Persia. The movie will be out next year.

‘Merlin’ reimagines major characters

(Published July 24, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Contributor

Characters from the Arthurian legends get the “prequel” treatment in the British fantasy series “Merlin,” centering on the famous sorcerer several years before he became Camelot’s sagacious mage. It’s not exactly “Smallville” meets “Harry Potter,” but the show depicts the heroic feats of a young wizard and a young knight destined for greatness.

Merlin (Colin Morgan) hides his innate mystical abilities when he moves to Camelot, where magic is strictly prohibited by the reigning King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head). Sorcerers, regardless of age or allegiance, are arrested and publicly executed. Merlin becomes the assistant to the trustworthy court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson), and is immediately hired as Prince Arthur’s (Bradley James) servant after saving him from a vengeful assassin.

Unlike in old myths and other interpretations where Merlin was much older than Arthur and somewhat manipulative of the future king, the show’s versions of the characters are nearly the same age who initially disliked each other. Refreshingly, this iteration of Prince Arthur is already a skilled warrior and sometimes an infuriating jerk. But Merlin discovers their shared destiny and covertly uses his abilities to protect him.

The love angle between Arthur and the servant girl Guinevere (Angel Coulby), known simply as Gwen, is developed during the second season. The future royal spouses, interestingly, befriend and fight alongside the recurring character Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera). The future knight is instrumental in ruining their marriage and the prophesied fall of Camelot.

But the most engaging among the reimagined characters is Morgana (Katie McGrath), portrayed in most legends as a powerful villainess. Formerly the kind-hearted ward of King Uther, Morgana secretly discovers and accepts her magical nature, gradually transforming into a sorceress who plots the king’s defeat in the show’s darker episodes.

It has its silly comedy episodes – like when an ensorcelled Uther marries a troll-woman - but most stories are serious adventures, made lively by dramatic conflicts, competent action sequences and flashy special effects (there’s a dragon character voiced by John Hurt). Merlin and Arthur’s early heroism and exploits, together with Morgana’s metamorphosis, amusingly expound on their connected and inescapable destinies.

“Merlin” Season 3 airs Fridays, 9 p.m. on Diva Universal.

Too darn tame

Disney’s “Prom” is an oddity. On the one hand, its super-safe, ultra-clean story is a break from the racy teen comedy-dramas; on the other hand, it’s so normal that you’re reminded of your own very tame and uneventful prom. So while it’s quite relatable, it’s not terribly exciting and the teen characters’ eye-rolling predicaments barely make us feel genuine concern for them.

Understandably, the upcoming prom is a pretty big deal for them; they’re high schoolers, after all. The overachiever Nova (Aimee Teegarden) finds herself smitten with bad boy Richter (Thomas McDonell), who dislikes the fuss surrounding the event. The other characters are couples and couples-to-be, all racing against the clock to either prepare or look for dates for prom night. A sizeable part of the movie is about their puppy love dramas and going to the party with the “right” person.

It lacks any real escapist element, and it’s devoid of some real-life high school situations—there are no clich├ęd bullies or mean girls, thankfully, but there’s no mention whatsoever of sex or other “rebellious” behavior. “Prom” is strangely familiar, but it also feels like an overly sanitized alternate reality with no real pressing conflicts.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bugle Boy

Cool-looking “The Amazing Spider-Man” pics from Entertainment Weekly. Emma Stone does look like Gwen Stacy, and Andrew Garfield looks kinda puny but adorkable enough a la Peter Parker. As for the new suit, those changes aren’t too much of a departure; it’ll probably look better in the movie (I’m reminded of the not-so-photogenic yellow and blue jumpsuits from “X-Men: First Class,” which actually looked good, especially when the heroes were in motion). More than that, though, I hope that it’s a good reboot, and that a perfect Mary Jane (and Felicia Hardy!) will be cast eventually. It’ll be out in July, 2012.

Crystal Reed, horror fan turned ‘Wolf’ lover

(Published July 17, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Contributor

“I feel that art is gray – there is no black and white or right and wrong,” said American actress Crystal Reed, who stars as Allison Argent in MTV’s new supernatural drama “Teen Wolf.”

In a recent phone interview, Reed expounded on pursuing an artistic path after quitting her studies at Detroit’s Wayne State University. “I auditioned for the prestigious BFA conservatory program,” she said. “They were very strict about the methods of acting, very particular about how we do things and I started questioning whether or not it was the right place for me, and whether or not [one] truly needed a degree to be an artist.”

Reed moved to Chicago, where she pursued theater and improv opportunities, and eventually landed roles in “CSI” and “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.” She appeared last year in the sci-fi flick, “Skyline,” and will be seen in the coming comedy, “Crazy, Stupid Love.”

She describes the re-imagined “Teen Wolf,” loosely based on the 1985 film that starred Michael J. Fox, as “a thrill ride.”

How is the new “Teen Wolf” different from the original film?

I did watch the original before I knew I was even part of the new show. I love it! I think it’s great. But I think the major difference is that our show is really scary, and the original was quite funny. In the original, when Scott turns into a werewolf, everybody claps for him on the basketball court. But in our show, Scott (Tyler Posey) is hiding the fact that he’s a werewolf. Also, the center of our show is Allison and Scott’s relationship, and everything really revolves around that.

Were you a monster/horror genre fan before this?

I’m a huge fan! My favorite scary movie is “Rosemary’s Baby.” I think Mia Farrow is incredible. I watch it over and over. But growing up, I would always watch “Tales From the Crypt.” I was never allowed to, but I would watch that, and “Child’s Play.”

How is “Teen Wolf” different from shows with werewolves like “True Blood” and “Vampire Diaries”?

I think “Teen Wolf” is in a category of its own. I’m a huge “True Blood” fan and I think it’s incredible. Alan Ball is a genius, the acting is phenomenal and the show has nudity. If we were to compare, I think the biggest difference is that “Teen Wolf” is funny and it still feels like it’s original. Jeff Davis, the creator, really wrote the characters in a way that they seem authentic, especially the relationships, the friendships. You just believe them. It feels like these kids are really going through these things. It’s funny, scary and sexy, and those things set it apart from those shows.

Why do you think werewolves are popular nowadays?

I think it’s popular because the idea that something so bad could possibly have a good side to it – you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. People want to explore stuff like that!

“Teen Wolf” premieres July 17, 9:00 on AXN Beyond.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2 Cool 4 Super-School

Super kids today...

Avengers Academy and Initiative

Academy recruits and Initiative graduates, current and erstwhile trainees of the Avengers: Finesse, Reptil, Cloud 9, Komodo, Veil, Mettle, Striker, Hardball, Trauma, Butterball, Hazmat.

Teen Titans

Teen Titans, the post-One Year Later and Final Crisis rosters combined: Bombshell, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Static, Ravager, Miss Martian, Blue Beetle, Kid Eternity, Kid Flash, Red Robin, Aquagirl.

Young Avengers

The Young Avengers roster, plus young Avengers from the team’s different incarnations: Stature, Wiccan, Iron Lad, Vision, Rage, Hulkling, Scarlet Spider, Speed, Hawkeye, Patriot, Mastermind Excello.

Born Free to Follow Your Heart

My thanks to the original posters and owners; I found these posted on Tumblr blogs:

Yeah, why are the homophobes ignoring Leviticus 19:27?

Sir Ian the conqueror!

Never change for the unthinking idiots.

Hogwarts, war zone

Iconic fantasy hero Harry Potter’s big screen adventures end with the bittersweet second installment to “The Deathly Hallows,” showcasing the final climactic battle between the magic-wielding forces of good and evil. It’s been an eventful journey for Harry and his friends; their shared missions, growth and adeptness in the mystic arts have been vividly chronicled across the span of eight films.

And it’s an epic showdown at Hogwarts, as Voldemort’s forces finally attack the school harboring the young fugitive mage, who’s been busy looking for items essential to his arch-enemy’s ultimate destruction. While the earlier films focused on the students’ magical education, they are now tested in an actual battleground, fighting for their very lives during the daring school siege!

The spellbinding saga’s beloved and reviled characters are characteristically portrayed memorably by their respective actors, and it’s especially elating to see previously unseen confrontations and interactions. Most of the supporting cast get their shining moments, either in fight scenes, flashbacks, or even the “afterlife” sequences. “Deathy Hallows Part 2” certainly will keep fans of the films charmed by appearances of some deceased characters.

Heavy in action and effects wizardry, this last film has a few quiet scenes revealing important truths behind some of the puzzles in the preceding parts. While it gets jarring to suddenly be thrust into some lengthy and relatively calm scenes when the film is mostly dominated by depictions of tumult and destruction, there’s clarity in storytelling and it’s better-paced than the first “Deathly Hallows.” The conclusion to the spectacular mystic war satisfies, and the brief but enchanting epilogue will leave fans of the franchise wanting more.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Gay Families are REAL

If you do a Google Images search of “gay family” (with quotation marks), most pictures that appear depict exactly that. Then there’s that weird “Family Gay” image of Stewie and Brian Griffin. But the most out-of-place photo of all is the one in the upper right corner, showing a group of kids wearing shirts promoting a homophobic site. The bigotry of the adults in their lives being imprinted on such innocent children is just horrid.

Still, there’s hope for them yet. Perhaps in the future, some of those children will realize that homophobia, not gayness, is wrong. Perhaps by that time, other kids being warned by their “holy” religious leaders against homosexuality and gay relationships will realize that condemning others based on their gender identity is immoral. Maybe future generations will be more accepting of gay unions, and will automatically recognize the bonds between gay people and their families.

To those who say that gay people, gay families, and gay relationships are “disgusting,” “masagwa,” “kadiri,” or evil, shame on you. Shame on you, you self-righteous guardians of “morality” and promoters of destructive hive mentality. You encourage self-hate when you spew your insecurities. Read your “holy” books well. You say that it’s written there that you can condemn gay people, and it is, but you ignore other similarly dubious and utterly idiotic passages altogether. Gayness isn’t a sickness or a disorder. Just because a family has a less-active father doesn’t mean that a child will end up gay. And please, telling gay people that it’s “okay to be gay” while telling them not to “practice homosexuality” because you label it “sinful” basically means that you don’t accept them at all. What idiocy!

Times have changed; the pink triangle is now a symbol of gay empowerment, reversing its original meaning and purpose (it was a badge used for identifying gay people in concentration camps back in World War II). The recent New York gay marriage legalization and the Baguio gay weddings are moving victories. But it’s disappointing that homophobia in the country immediately reared its ugly head, accompanied by similarly ugly anti-gay union signature campaigns and shameless meddling by avowed celibates. Many committed gay couples want to get married to avail of the rights and benefits that straight couples get, but more importantly, to express their love for, and devotion to each other. But the bigots keep repeating the same old verses.

I’m reposting part of what Republican (yes, Republican!) and anti-Prop. 8 lawyer Theodore Olson said early last year:

“The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it… When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.”

What They Said

Self-explanatory stuff, images from Invincible # 80 and Spider-Girl # 5. Funny because they’re true.

X-Men # 1, 20 Years Later

Oh, X-Men # 1. It’s been two decades! I remember getting my copy of the issue from a comic shop in Makati and bringing them and Uncanny X-Men # 281 to school for my friends to read. I was so excited; my favorite artists back then were Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio, who were the regular pencilers for Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor, respectively. I liked the revamped look of the characters and the fact that they were split into two X-teams, gold and blue.

Jim Lee is now Geoff John’s artist on the new, rebooted JLA title, which will be out in print and digital formats by August 31. The DC Universe is being relaunched, changing the existing continuity, according to the recent FAQ release. 52 titles will be released, all first issues. DC doesn’t want to call it a reboot, because it’s “a launch.” If costumes, concepts and histories are changed at the same time, then it’s a reboot. Sheesh.

Anyway, the first time I read news about it, I initially thought, “oh, another Heroes Reborn.” Jim was involved in that too, when Marvel updated the Fantastic Four and the Avengers for a year before reverting them back to “normal,” back in the late ‘90s. I felt that it was another stunt, but the FAQ states that these upcoming changes will stick and be around for “years” to come. The revamped JLA, I’m not excited; Jim’s style looks ordinary now and the designs don’t really stand out anymore. I hope he still improves, though, storytelling-wise and design-wise.

Of all the titles being rebooted, I’m most interested in the two Legion titles. I’ve gotten used to the team being retooled and reimagined, and each incarnation “counts,” as seen in the Legion of 3 Worlds mini, so I’m looking forward to that.

Back to the X-Men. I still read the various X-titles. I still like the characters and mythology, and appreciate how they’ve evolved all these years, thanks to various talented creative teams. The succeeding eras that rekindle childlike enthusiasm include the Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon runs. I respect Mike Carey too; he’s currently writing X-Men: Legacy, which started out as the aforementioned adjectiveless X-Men. It’s now 250 issues old.

Shatner as cranky but redeemable ‘Dad’

(Published July 3, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Contributor

Family ties are renewed every week in the sitcom “S#*! My Dad Says” (or “Bleep My Dad Says”), starring William Shatner as the grumpy, divorced and gun-toting Ed Goodson, whose recently unemployed writer son starts living with him after running out of options.

Ed and Henry (Jonathan Sadowski) barely communicated in the years prior to the new arrangement, so each has to get used to the new housemate’s quirks. Because of Ed’s perpetually cranky disposition, Henry initially hesitated asking to stay temporarily at his dad’s place.

And while Ed’s not one to mince words, he finds it hard to express his own feelings, and be more openly welcoming of Henry. The former military doctor, however, recognizes the opportunity to be a better father to his more communicative child, a former magazine writer. Henry is given a new mattress and moves in, finally forming a closer bond with his deliberately incommunicado parent, as well as with his half-brother and neighbor Vince (Will Sasso).

Shatner’s mostly deadpan delivery of biting one-liners almost consistently charms, even when the routinely situated punch lines don’t always work. It’s not Shatner’s first time in a comedic setting; the veteran actor appeared memorably in the sci-fi sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun” and in a number of riotous “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” sketches. But the show is something else entirely. It grows on the viewer, especially since the family-centric situations are easily relatable and the dad’s ongoing mission of “redemption” offers insights into generational differences.

Sadowski is competent and comfortable as the twenty-something son getting introduced to his doctor-gardener father’s seemingly odd customs and routines. “MADtv” alumni Sasso and Nicole Sullivan (as Henry’s sister-in-law Bonnie) are essential components to the comic equation, providing the foil to the oft-awkward father-son tandem.

Co-created by “Will and Grace” progenitors David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, among others, the show sometimes tackles gay issues. Ed becomes more sensitive to a gay waiter, Tim (Tim Bagley), whom he befriends, hires as a maid, and also treats like a son. Ed’s petulant but straightforward behavior (plus his tendency to make a fool of himself) surprisingly attracts confident women, including a popular self-help guru played by Cybill Shepherd.

It’s not always laugh-out-loud funny, but the show usually succeeds in evoking hearty smiles, and even tugs at the heartstrings from time to time.

The show airs Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. on Jack TV.