Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kevin’s Getting Married

Here’s the cover to Life With Archie # 16, the special issue where Kevin Keller gets married! Yup, it’s a gay and interracial marriage. The Life With Archie series has a continuity separate from the main Archie-verse; the characters are older and more mature in that title. The comic book will be released in January, 2012.

‘Feet’ don’t fly

“Happy Feet 2” has solid and vivid animation, but it isn’t as memorable or as moving as the first movie. Dance-happy penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) is back, now a dad to shy and awkward Erik (Ava Acres). Erik and friends meet old and new denizens of neighboring habitats, and must figure out a way to save their penguin kin trapped by unscalable walls of ice.

Pop star Pink replaces the much-missed Brittany Murphy, which works music-wise, but the late actress made Gloria a more real and empathic character. The grown-up Mumble isn’t really as important anymore, since focus has shifted to his familiarly unsure son. Robin Williams makes things lively with his voice portrayals of characters Ramon and Lovelace, while Sofia Vergara is easily recognizable as the initially uninterested love interest Carmen.

The movie recreates themes of identity and purpose, this time also oddly pondered by marine characters Will and Bill (Brad Pitt Matt Damon), as well as Sven the “flying penguin” (Hank Azaria). Many of “Happy Feet 2’s” characters get to learn from their various interactions, but somehow, there aren’t many emotionally connecting moments. As for the “heartsongs,” the movie’s song selection is more “miss” than “hit.” “Rhythm Nation” feels too forced and there’s Erik’s cringe-worthy ode to Mumble—but it’s not entirely dismissible, as there’s an inspiring and apt cover of “Under Pressure.”

Roy Likes Junk

Roy Harper, a.k.a Speedy, when he revealed his reason for trying out “junk” in the ‘70s. The hero became drug-addicted again before the DC Universe rebooted. It’s funny now because the term “junk” refers to something else these days, and may give his confession an altogether different meaning.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chris Messina, a storytelling vessel

(Published Nov. 20, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Actor Chris Messina believes that his career is moving “slowly, and probably at the right tempo.”

Messina, 37, started acting in the mid-1990s and appeared on episodes of “Law and Order” and “Six Feet Under.” His recent film credits include roles in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia.” He recently appeared in nine episodes of the acclaimed legal drama “Damages,” starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne.

Describing the creative and production team of “Damages” as “super-terrific, smart guys,” Messina said he was pitched a character after he made a specific request. “I told them that I had no interest being on their show as a lawyer wearing a suit and tie,” Messina told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “I was looking to do some other stuff. They pitched me the character Chris Sanchez.”

Messina revealed that Chris Sanchez was a soldier who served in Afghanistan and later worked for a security firm. The role required a lot of research. “I wanted to try my best to portray a soldier as truthfully as possible,” he said. “I felt pressure, a responsibility to get it as right as I could.”

Working on the show initially felt daunting. “It’s very nerve-wracking because they’re a family, not only the actors, but the creators and the crew. They’ve worked together for three years so you want to be welcomed to their family. But I was lucky because Glenn Close and Rose Byrne and all the [others] were very welcoming!”

Messina finds it “interesting” that his acting jobs continue to give him opportunities to become “vessels” to tell stories, whether on TV or film. He also appreciates the growing number of acclaimed and consistently well-crafted programs. “It’s just a different time,” he said. “It’s the golden age of television. I think there’s mostly better stuff on TV that’s coming out than the movies. Where was once independent film, I think it’s now television.”

His co-star Close, known and praised for her film roles, successfully made the transition a few years ago. She was an endearing and empowering presence behind the scenes, according to Messina. “She’s amazing,” he said. “She has a love for acting that I really admire. I would always ask her questions about films and plays she did. She’s very kind. She’s a real leader of that show. She represents the kind of work ethic that is required on that show.”

The father of two young kids sometimes feels “exhausted and beat up” after portraying his “Damages” character. But being part of this cast specifically taught him an important lesson: “To listen – you constantly have to remind yourself to stop and to listen,” Messina said. “The writing of the show happens so quickly that new pages are coming at you. So I guess one of the biggest lessons was to embrace the style, structure and fast pace of it all and not to get frustrated and angry. I like to prepare; I could prepare for years and still not feel ready. On this show, you never felt ready but you have to embrace that.”

Messina hopes to portray a different character someday, one that he can develop for a couple of years. He also considers directing a “very interesting” option. For now, he’s grateful for his opportunities, even if he’s not as immediately recognizable as some actors.

“I feel like I’m the guy that people often stop at the street and say ‘I think I know you!’ or they know I’m an actor but they don’t know where I’m from. There’s something great about that in a way. I don’t want people following me with cameras. I don’t want that kind of life!”

The fourth season of “Damages” premieres on December 9, 11:30 p.m., on AXN Beyond.

Press Con Confessional

I found this image above from a link posted by the Huffington Post site. I love what gay-friendly filmmaker-actor Clint Eastwood said in a recent GQ interview (or just click the image to read the unbleeped quote):

“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don’t give a f—k about who wants to get married to anybody else. We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a big deal out of. They go on and on with all this bulls—t about ‘sanctity.’ Don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”

Speaking of gay stuff, I just found out a few days ago that local actor Eddie Garcia, who’s played countless tough guys since the ‘70s, admitted to having experimented with homosexuality when he was a teenager. He revealed this during the press conference for “Praybeyt Benjamin” last September, according to reports. At the same event, his co-star, 31-year-old actor-rapper Carlos Agassi, admitted to having had a serious gay relationship when he was in his teens. That relationship, he said, made him “a better person.”

It’s cool that Carlos sort of came out through this revelation. I don’t know if he considers himself straight (or bi, or whatever) right now, but his confession should help gay teens, or even adults struggling with their sexuality, accept or appreciate their situations. Thank you, Carlos.

Somehow, I’m not as surprised to learn about Mr. Garcia’s tidbit. I don’t think of him as being brusque or boorish like his manly man roles in real life; I don’t know him or how he behaves behind the scenes. But his fuss-free disclosure just makes me accept it. So he was a horny teen who did a guy (or guys). Not a problem. I respect him for being an acting luminary, and I respect him even more now for his honesty.

Expert says man is not on sharks’ menu

(Published Nov. 21, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“I think there’s this morbid fascination with animals that can potentially eat us,” opined shark expert Dr. Vic Peddemors, who is featured in Discovery’s Shark Week’s “Summer of the Shark 2” and “Great White Invasion.” As head of the shark research section of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industry, the scientist initially studied seaweed and eventually ended up working on dolphins and whales before focusing on sharks.

“I probably spent about 15 years studying dolphins and whales,” Peddemors said in a recent phone interview. “When I first came to Australia after being based in South Africa, 50 percent of my time was spent studying sharks and 50 percent, studying dolphins. Now that I’m working at New South Wales Fisheries, it’s all sharks. I also deal with investigating shark attacks that occur in New South Wales.”

Peddemors also advises on additional protocols that should be put in place to protect people within the proximity of shark attacks. He stated that sharks don’t really know what humans are. “We are not on the shark’s menu,” Peddemors said. “A shark has evolved over 400 million years to feed on fish, crustaceans or dolphins. They don’t know what we are. We live on land. They don’t encounter us.”

Still, sharks sometimes mistake humans for prey. Peddemors added that the Shark Week programs intend to shed light on some species’ feeding and hunting habits. “Before the ‘Jaws’ series of films, the amount of fear was far less than what it is since the ’70s,” he said. “So these new films being developed by the various agencies such as Discovery Channel are really going a long way to dispel some of the fears and myths around sharks and shark attacks.”

Peddemors said there are approximately 400 species of sharks; some live deep in certain bodies of water, while some live near the surface. After years of studying them, however, the scientist has yet to see anything that’s particularly unusual.

“We notice that when I put cameras onto sharks, fish will often come and they’ll almost run themselves on the shark. It looks like it’s using the rough skin of the shark as sandpaper to get rid of parasites. That was really interesting because you sort of think that fish is going to get eaten by the shark.”

Peddemors has important advice for those who might find themselves near sharks. “I’ve noticed that if you can see the shark, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to come to bite you,” he said. “So if you can see the shark, you’re probably in a good position. If a shark does come too close to you, swim at it. It turns around and it swims away. I know it’s a strange thought to most people, but it definitely works. If nothing else, hit it on the nose. The nose of a shark is full of very sensitive organs. And so you bang it on its nose hard enough, it’s probably going to turn around and leave you alone!”

Among the many kinds that Peddemors observes, his favorite species is the “timid” tiger shark, even after one unforgettable encounter. “My personal, more frightening encounter with sharks was seeing a tiger shark coming straight at me with its mouth open,” he recounted. “[It’s] a little bit disconcerting. But basically you’re in the water, you’re in their domain and you have to stay cool, calm and collected. And in that case I was able to push the shark out of the way and leapfrog over its back! That’s probably one of the scariest things I’ve encountered!”

Shark Week programs start airing tonight at 10 on Discovery Channel. Specials include “Jaws Come Home” (Monday), “Summer of the Shark 2” (Tuesday) “Rogue Sharks (November 23), “How Sharks Hunt” (November 24), “Great White Appetite” (November 25), “Great White Invasion” (November 26) and “Killer Sharks” (November 27).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Same Time Zone, Better Time

I don’t travel much, so it was especially exciting when I was assigned to cover the True Blood junket in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. After nine years of writing for the paper, being offered to do an assignment outside of the country felt validating. I thank my editor for thinking of me, specifically. My companions, colleagues from other broadsheets and accommodating PR agency people, had a grand, grand time. I also thank HBO Asia for that opportunity, and the nearly 3-day vacation.

Halloween evening, we got to The Peak via the tram and had dinner. The view of the Hong Kong cityscape was incredible; I wish I had clear pictures that captured the coolness of the light show. City lights aren’t normally colorful, but in that postcard-pretty area, many buildings had moving, and even changing colored lights. When we got out of the restaurant, it was chilly and windy, like Baguio at night. Back at the Mandarin Oriental, I switched to Star World, E! and HBO when I wasn’t listening to the live-streamed ‘80s and ‘90s radio stations. My sleep was shorter than usual but it didn’t feel like it because the room was very comfortable.

Day two was busy but definitely fun. I ate and ate. Had awesome breakfast at Clipper’s, located at the mezzanine level of the hotel. We interviewed Joe Manganiello in groups about an hour later. Joe is a gigantic guy. It’s cool that he was more candid when he was answering my questions. When all three groups were done, there was a press conference for non-participants of the roundtable interviews at another room. Lunch was yummy. I had my money changed at the IFC mall, which my companions and I visited only briefly. I stayed out for a bit, rested at the park behind the Mandarin, and just looked around.

I bought snacks and Chinese comics, a.k.a manhua, from some newsstands. I don’t speak or understand the language, but the art is incredible. I discovered manhua about 15 years ago, during my first visit to Hong Kong.

I just took photos of the buildings some blocks from the hotel. I got back to my room, freshened up and rejoined the others for the dinner and HBO-organized party later that night. Joe was the event’s special guest. That was a fun night. People were drinking and some got tipsy. I ate a lot of finger foods, and drank a glass of wine and a bottle of Tru Blood, which was actually a carbonated orange drink. I went to the hotel gym at a little past 11 (I had the place to myself), and had a quick workout before deciding to go back to my room. Dipped in the heavenly hot tub while listening to retro pop stuff, before calling it a day. Man, what a relaxing night.

During our last day in HK, some of us joined a quick trip to Lantau Island, previously known for being the site of a penitentiary, but is now popular for Hong Kong Disneyland and an airport. We didn’t go to those places; we just viewed a monastery and took pictures of the Giant Buddha from that area below, and while in a cool and breezy cable car. We got back to the city less than an hour later and ate lunch with other Asian writers. We got to the airport in the afternoon. I was feeling sleepy but giddy, missing the place even before the plane took off.

Twi-ing harder

“Twilight” gets sexed-up and weirdly grownup in “Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” as eternally youthful vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson) and monster-bait Bella (Kristen Stewart) tie the knot. It may seem like a blur to non-fans of the book and the movies, but rabid fans will undoubtedly see and enjoy this latest installment, radical change in status quo notwithstanding. Team Edward “winning” this round doesn’t mean that it’s bye-bye dogboy Jacob (Taylor Lautner), as the character’s still integral to the sappy monster equation.

This time, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “Kinsey”) steps in, helping shape the more “mature” exploits of the primary characters. “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” isn’t anything spectacular; none of the “Twilight” saga films can really be described that way, and this latest part isn’t exactly much of an improvement.

The penultimate chapter feels stretched, oddly uninteresting despite radical and momentous shifts, particularly Bella’s transformation from brooding schoolgirl to giddy wife, expectant mom, and so on. You’ll be reminded of how thin its mythology is when the hunky werewolves and the rich vampires find something new to fight over.

It’s an hour and forty-plus minutes of characters smooching and canoodling, agonizing and blaming, and arguing over pacts, a strange pregnancy, and what have you. There are also scenes of Bella and Edward playing chess, which looked and felt really iffy. The previous part, “Eclipse,” improved the character dynamics a bit, but they’re still hard to care for now, even with new and more desperate situations.

Bite-sized romances in TV rom-com

(Published Nov. 14, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Each episode of the comedy-drama anthology “Love Bites” manages to tell three separate but somewhat related stories, mostly short but sweet rom-coms that get to the point in less than 15 minutes each. With regular cast members and several recurring guest actors, the show created by Cindy Chupack (“Sex and the City”) introduces new characters and relationships weekly.

Becki Newton plays Annie, a pregnant chef, while Greg Grunberg and Constance Zimmer play loving spouses Judd and Colleen. Those three regular characters are sometimes the focus, although they sometimes just hover in the periphery. There are smart stories about relationships, and there are silly but endearing ones about miscommunication and incompatibility.

The better-presented ones waste no time in telling a clear and concise tale, concluding satisfyingly and with some sense of finality. The heavy but ultimately optimistic “Goodbye Boob” centers on a tattoo artist (Steve Talley) who’s attracted to an art gallery owner (Laura Prepon), unaware that she’s about to undergo a mastectomy. Another short, “Cutlets,” is more escapist and cute, about Annie’s blind date with a weirdo, and her “rescue” by a kind stranger (Matt Long).

The more comedic stories, nonetheless, offer interesting takes on different relationships. The show can go in unexpected directions; it amusingly elaborates on an interracial gay couple’s engagement announcement foibles in one story, and the “ninja vanish” tricks of a man who’s just into temporary intimacy in another.

Chupack called the short-lived show a “successful little miniseries” when it was cancelled. “Love Bites” did offer a small, shared world that’s connected by universally relatable relationships and their inherent complications. Each three-story episode isn’t always a perfect set, but the outstanding stories are easily memorable and often end with feel-good panache.

“Love Bites” airs Mondays, 12 a.m., and Tuesdays, 9 p.m. on 2nd Avenue

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Joe Manganiello, alpha werewolf

(Published Nov. 9, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Italian-American actor Joe Manganiello’s first day in Hong Kong was, in a word, hectic. Shortly after arriving at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and having breakfast, he gamely conversed with Asian entertainment writers for HBO Asia’s “True Blood” press junket. He was to appear for interviews in other venues as well.

Manganiello (mang-gun-yellow), 34, admitted he was a comic book “addict” as a kid in Pittsburgh. He said he shoplifted “huge stacks” of Spider-Man comics, which he returned to the owner many years later. Interestingly, he landed the role of teen bully Flash Thompson in the 2002 “Spider-Man” film.

The actor then played recurring TV characters in “How I Met Your Mother” and “One Tree Hill,” but he is best known for his noble werewolf character Alcide in “True Blood.” Alcide returns in Season 4 (Thursdays, 10 p.m.), set a year after the events of Season 3.

“I think this is the best cast in television or film ever assembled,” he said. “I put it up against any movie or TV show that I’ve ever seen. Most of the actors are seasoned theater veterans from around the world. They’re all just iconic. And the characters—you don’t see an Alcide, a Pam, a Lafayette on any other show. It’s really just amazing.”

Towering at 6’5”, Manganiello used to borrow the school camera to shoot kung fu-gangster movies with friends. He acknowledged the show’s “very human” godlike beings and noticed a similarity between creator Alan Ball and a famous playwright. “I came from a classical theater background,” he said. “[The show] is very Tennessee Williams. In the deep South, very hot, very passionate. Everyone wants to kill or sleep with each other. Alan to me feels a lot like Tennessee Williams. I really do think that if Williams were around today, he’d be Alan Ball, writing about vampires and werewolves!”

He revealed that growing up was tough because he was a sensitive and artistic kid, but he was “born into a very big body,” so he was encouraged to become athletic. He expounded on some real-life alpha male traits and other qualities similar to his alpha wolf character.

“I always played sports growing up. I was the captain of the football team, basketball team, volleyball team. I think that was a role I was always thrust into. As far as dating goes, I believe it’s a guy’s job to protect his girlfriend. You open car doors; you pick them up and pay for the date. I’m a traditional guy in a lot of ways.”

Alcide is also very protective of Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin. “Sookie is a catalyst that forces him out of the house and gets him in trouble,” Manganiello said. “There’s a hero that emerges when he does that, but there’s also this monster. That’s a very fascinating character for a man to play, someone who’s so strong, vicious and animalistic, but also vulnerable and sensitive. A character like that, that’s a home run!”

The potential Alcide-Sookie pairing elicited favorable fan reaction, partly resulting in Manganiello’s continued appearance. “I think he’s the perfect guy for Sookie,” he enthused. “Like many of the fans, I want to see them hook up. Totally! We’ll have puppies! They only signed me for six episodes [initially]. On that show, if they don’t like you, they’ll kill you! When they invited me back, I was really excited and just so happy that people were responding to my character.”

Manganiello also described his scenes with Sam Trammell and Marshall Allman, who play shape-shifting brothers, as “really fun.” He added, “I think Sam and Alcide make a great duo. They could have a show where they solve crimes. Vigilantes! I like the dynamic a lot. There’s really heavy stuff going on. And it was great to work with Marshall. He’s such a great actor, and the stuff we got to do was gut-wrenching. In Season 4, there is a lot of fighting between shape-shifters and werewolves, so a lot of sides get picked. In the end, I really felt a lot for these characters.”

As for taking his clothes off, “It feels a bit like being a competitive swimmer: Before you get in the water, it’s cold, you’re wearing something very little. But once they yell ‘action,’ I’m a werewolf. I’m not embarrassed. There’s a sound guy with a microphone crouched right at about my butt level. There’s my wolf (Thunder) sitting there. And it’s broad daylight, too!”

Counting actors Robert De Niro and Gary Oldman and filmmakers Tim Burton and David Fincher among his idols, Manganiello is thankful for the opportunities to meet and work with people he respects and admires. He will be seen in coming movies “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (with Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez) and “Magic Mike” (directed by Steven Soderbergh).

“I’m so excited,” he gushed. “I feel like I’m just at the starting line. The amazing thing about ‘True Blood’ is that the entire industry in Hollywood watches it. So I’m constantly running into producers and directors. I just met Darren Aronofsky. I’m a huge fan. He came up to me to introduce himself. I worked with Chris Rock; I quote him on a daily basis. I was fighting my way through this crowd to go say hello and tell him how big a fan I was. Before I could say anything, Chris grabbed my hand and told me he loves the show. And I became friends with Paul Reubens! Stuff like that is just incredible!”

(Photo by Oliver Pulumbarit)

Thriller ‘Elite’

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

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Action star Jason Statham previously starred in some competent but ultimately simple and time-killing movies, usually playing over-the-top, almost indestructible characters. In “Killer Elite,” based on the controversial book “The Feather Men,” he gets to portray Danny Bryce, an efficient assassin who retires for a year, but is persuaded into taking on another mission. Statham’s characteristically slam-bang action antihero has a more human side this time, his less-smug and more centered demeanor often belying his immensely dangerous capabilities.

Danny belongs to a close-knit group of hitmen tasked to eliminate a target in Mexico. Danny leaves behind the team after that particular job, feeling guilty because their victim’s child witnessed their operation. He eventually starts life anew in Australia, but his checkered past catches up with him a year later. His longtime ally Hunter (Robert DeNiro) is in the custody of an ailing sheik, and will only be freed once Danny’s newly assigned targets have been disposed of.

Supposedly based on actual events, “Killer Elite” intriguingly presents amoral, desensitizing figures, characters that don’t deserve any sympathy. But because most of them are humanized, or given different opportunities to illustrate that they might be more than just killing machines, the characters become appealingly enigmatic. That’s especially true in Danny’s case; he manages to keep his emotions compartmentalized and his “normal” and violent lives separate. But it’s only a matter of time before those things change.

The assassins are actively pursued by Spike Logan (Clive Owen), a determined and relentless ex-SAS agent who wants answers. Spike’s involvement keeps the killers on their toes, and he’s tough enough to engage Danny in fisticuffs.

Hard-boiled and gritty, the film has more than its share of blazing bullets and bloody encounters. Some action scenes could’ve been tighter, but most sequences work effectively.

DeNiro has a couple of solid scenes where he kicks serious butt, his elderly but fast-moving character no slouch at all in the gun-toting department. The actor also ably provides his character some welcome duality; Hunter is a father figure to Danny, their bond a strange but interesting dynamic that is emphasized a couple of times.

Statham looks more serious here than in previous movies; he’s stoic half the time, but gets to cut loose in his element. Statham’s experienced assassin character gets to inflict a lot of damage, no surprise, but the situations are less improbable this time. He gets to explore a different life with his girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski), but the break is typically short-lived.

Owen delights with his presence, the versatile actor credibly pulling off the badass swagger while offering a clear contrast to the guns-for-hire. Also impressive is Dominic Purcell, almost unrecognizable with a Village People-esque moustache, and quite scary in one of “Killer Elite’s” darker moments.

Spider Duo

I knew it! The new, Tron-ish substitute costume gets worn by another character with spider powers in the last part of the Spider-Island arc. Also, I didn’t expect that old character to be back, but he’s better than ever. I don’t think he’ll be wearing the new costume for long, though. I’m assuming he’s the new Scarlet Spider being touted in some preview images.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hong Kong Halloween!

Just sharing a few pics from the True Blood junket, a.k.a. my awesome HK vacation. My thanks to my editor for sending me, HBO Asia for inviting and getting us there, Joe Manganiello for the generous answers, and Virtusio PR for being there! I miss the place, the room, the company, and the free food immensely.

Tru Blood drinker

Joe the Giant

High-cholesterol breakfast! Love the buffet at Clipper’s.

Tru Blood, type O Positive

I only used two pillows

View from my 21st floor window!

Sink TV

Radio TV

Reflection on closet mirror

We stayed here!

6,000 Faves!

My DeviantArt gallery’s gotten a total of 6,000 faves as of two days ago! I thank fellow artists and art lovers for faving my stuff, and the DA groups for including them in their galleries! Yay!