Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Undefeated Pantheon

JLA, Circa 1998
New drawing. One of my fave Justice League rosters, the Morrison-era team. Roll call: Green Lantern, Zauriel, Orion, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Oracle, Flash, Big Barda, Superman, Huntress, Steel, Aquaman, Batman, Plastic Man.  

Precious, plucky princess

Merida isn’t like the early Disney princess at all, that’s pretty evident since “Brave’s” first trailer. The firstborn child of a kindly king and a duty-bound mother, she values her freedom, always poised to hit her targets with well-aimed arrows. The new heroine sports unruly red hair, rides like the wind, and distances herself from all things prim and proper.

Much like most female characters from more recent reimagining of fairy tales, Merida is independent, and doesn’t need a man to rescue her. That becomes a problem, of course, when her mother announces that she has to pick from three suitors as part of her royal duty.

“Brave,” preceded by the cute, sparkly “La Luna” short, joins the modern gallery of animated features with princesses that break the mold. Merida’s more feminist mindset butts heads with the Queen’s focus on traditional rites, which creates the main conflict, and resolving that involves serious skewing of family bonds. It’s a tough, tricky situation that the film doesn’t tiptoe around.

Thankfully, the process is imaginative enough; the visually vivid film doesn’t devolve into a soapy emo-fest about a failing mother-daughter rapport. In true Disney tradition, the family gets into more complicated, more fantastical imbroglios, aside from their obvious predicament.

The message might be understood more by older kids and older viewers regardless of gender, but “Brave” successfully transmits it, un-muddled. It’s something to ponder over, what with lingering attitudes hereabouts that still favor the constricting, limiting ideas of yesteryear. Merida may not be the first princess to express independence, but the character and her story matter, inspiring with attainable feats and inherent bravery.

“Brave” will be in Metro Manila cinemas starting Aug. 1.

Cool Random $#!+ Part Fifteen

Spider-Man versus the Sinister Six.
"Ow... where are the Avengers when you really need them?!"

AvX: Black Widow versus Domino.
"Domino, I'm in the 'Avengers' movie! Good luck on landing a spot in the next X-movie!"
"Eff off! I was in the cartoons!"

Walking Dead Survivors' Guide. The Marvel Universe-ish handbook miniseries. So many dead characters.

The Illuminati!
Namor: "Imperius Rex! Our miniseries revealed that the Beyonder is no sentient Cosmic Cube!"
Dr. Strange: "By the Hoary Hosts! The Beyonder is a mutant!"
Mr. Fantastic: "A mutant Inhuman!"
Iron Man: "Yes, a super-powerful mutant Inhuman."
Prof. X: "A super-powerful mutant Inhuman that Black Bolt forgot about."
Black Bolt: "F@%* this S#!+."

Zosia Mamet, down-to-earth bicoastal 'Girl'

(Published July 31, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I’m like the polar opposite,” says American actress Zosia (zah-shah) Mamet, who currently plays Shoshanna Shapiro, a health-conscious and “Sex and the City”-obsessed character on the HBO series “Girls.”

The 24-year-old daughter of filmmaker David Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse nonetheless sees Shoshanna as one of the more lovable and relatable characters she’s portrayed. Landing the role also meant that she had to adjust to life in two contrasting cities.

“I’m bicoastal,” Mamet told the Inquirer in a recent phone interview. “I live in LA but I work in New York half of the year.”

She addressed comparisons to “Sex and the City,” acknowledging its influence and female-empowering themes. “I think ‘Girls’ is told in a gritty and honest way,” she said. “They’re very different in tone and in the issues they address. I definitely think our show is a little grimier than what was going on in ‘Sex and the City’— that was a brilliant show. I grew up watching it.”

Mamet is surprised to run into other fans of “Girls,” aside from 20-somethings who can relate to Shoshanna. “I had some very different people come up to me that I wouldn’t expect, like an older guy in the subway today,” she revealed. “‘I love your show!’ Oh, funny. [I replied], ‘I wouldn’t have pegged you [for a fan]!’ And 15-year-old girls come up to me!”

Playing Shoshanna truthfully, Mamet said, requires her to be a team player. She credits her “wonderful writing team, directors, and incredible producers” for guiding her. And she finds it crucial to treat her character with respect.

“I just try not to make her too bright,” she said. “Shoshanna, I think, is initially kind of shallow. So it’s really important not to judge her.”

Mamet admitted that she finds fame pretty odd, but she’s generally unchanged by it. “I’m a very down-to-earth person. It’s weird having people recognize me.”

As for artistic influences, she declared that she has none: “I don’t really have any of that. It’s just people that I work with … I’m really so blessed with an amazing crew. It’s a really wonderful place to work. They’re my inspiration!”

“Girls” airs Mondays, 11 p.m. on HBO.

‘The Newsroom’
“The Newsroom,” created by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) and starring Jeff Daniels as troubled news anchor Will McAvoy, premieres tomorrow, 9 p.m. on HBO.

“Grimm,” an action-fantasy series, follows the crime-solving adventures of cop Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), descendant of the Brothers Grimm and supernatural detector of disguised monsters. The show airs Fridays, 8 p.m. on Jack TV.

Encapsulated Enlightenment

July 12. Tired but I'm working, yeah.
July 19. Exhausted from HK trip. Wanna sleep more, but The Dark Knight Rises beckons.
July 19. So. The Dark Knight Rises. I really enjoyed it, a few iffy things notwithstanding.
July 22. Wet weather is forcing me to work. Dammit.
July 22. Re-read One Night in Purgatory last night. Still pretty good. And the sound of real rain in the background added to the experience.
July 22. Can't get that Conor Maynard song outta my head.
July 23. Finally relaxing after many hours of transcribing interviews.
July 25. Was texted last week by someone doing publicity for a mall. Basically, she announced an event for today, but it wasn't an invitation. To paraphrase: "We are having an event on Wednesday. We are only contacting select broadsheets. It's a special event. Anyone you can recommend from the Lifestyle section?"
I ignored it. Really? You're gonna brag about your event and ask me to suggest someone? And then she texted again, early today. The text this time was an invitation, for that specific event. Like a fricking afterthought. Ignore and delete.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Patriots and pretenders populate ‘Homeland’

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

Gripping in its portrayal of present-day paranoia, the series “Homeland” masterfully creates foreboding scenarios surrounding an impending terrorist attack on American soil.

Loosely based on the Israeli series “Hatufim (Prisoners of War),” the show was developed by Howard Gordon (former “24” show runner) and Alex Gansa (“X-Files,” “24” writer). It stars Claire Danes as CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison, who strongly suspects that a rescued US Marine sergeant, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), was converted by his terrorist captors and is tasked with a major mission against the United States.
“Homeland” easily establishes an uneasy yet believable atmosphere in the early episodes. Carrie, secretly suffering from manic depression, spies on the former prisoner of war through strategically placed surveillance cameras in his home. Convinced that he’s become a traitor after eight years in captivity, Carrie and a few trusted colleagues watch and wait for evidence that will confirm her suspicions.

Danes’ character presses on when she fails to find concrete proof. As someone who considers herself partly to blame for missing the clues to the 9/11 attacks, Carrie atones by taking talk of new threats seriously. She crosses the line at some point, doing the unthinkable to get her suspect to reveal the truth behind his survival.

Lewis as Nicholas/Nick Brody intrigues; there’s an inherent ambiguity to the character that makes it difficult to identify his true allegiance. Forced to assimilate back into his old life, Nick profoundly changes the lives of his stunned family, who all moved on long ago.

His wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) has begun dating his friend Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), who also assumed that Nick had been killed a long time ago.

The effective portrayals constantly engage viewers; Danes and Lewis were recently nominated for lead-acting Emmys in the male and female categories. The series itself was nominated for outstanding drama series.

And throughout its first season, questions are answered satisfyingly, while new mysteries are raised amid revelations of red herrings, duplicities and scapegoats. Emotionally inveigling, “Homeland” keeps us guessing and gives us convincing reasons to keep watching.

“Homeland” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Five delectable movie treats

(From the July 16-31 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Whether in reality-inspired or fantastical settings, food, cooking, and eating can be rich subjects that inevitably inspire discussions on other connected topics. The art of preparing mouth-watering meals and desserts, and a variety of dining experiences are appetizingly depicted in the following films:

‘Ratatouille’ (2007)
Remy is a rat with a talent for creating culinary masterpieces. With the help of the clueless human Linguini, the rodent pleases with adventurous dishes. This deftly written animated film captivates through its lovable characters, including a jaded food critic named Anton Ego, who is delighted by Remy’s irresistible ratatouille. The impressed critic also has a memorable commentary on criticism and artistry.

‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (2005)
Just desserts await the unruly and insufferable kids visiting weird Willy Wonka’s candy factory, but kind-hearted little Charlie is ultimately rewarded with a sweeter life. Tim Burton’s colorful and characteristically bizarre interpretation charms with its candy-trimmed, otherworldly visuals, while sating with its timeless messages.

‘Eat Drink Man Woman’ (1994)
The Ang Lee-directed Taiwanese film explores the drama between family members who routinely gather for Sunday dinner. An aging chef, the father of three grown daughters, attempts to bond with his problematic children over the weekly smorgasbords. Relatable and incredibly nuanced, Eat Drink Man Woman tackles “basic desires,” as well as various human connections.  

‘Julie & Julia’ (2009)                    
Based on “two true stories,” Julie & Julia imaginatively connects the stories of two women who share a love of cooking and food; one tale centers on innovative and ever-giddy TV chef Julia Child, while the other is about ambitious food blogger Julie Powell. Julie has the daunting, self-appointed task of cooking 500 of Julia’s recipes within a year. Their parallel stories converge quite satisfyingly, while the drama and humor flavor Julie and Julia’s separate triumphs accordingly.

‘Chocolat’ (2000)
A single mother, Vianne, opens a chocolaterie in a quiet town, immediately attracting potential friends and foes. Chided for her non-conformist ways by conservative townspeople, Vianne nevertheless gains true friends and loyal customers.  Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, this sinfully tasty film playfully examines the dynamics of filial and romantic bonds, aside from tackling the liberating effects of good confections. 

Wall-crawler whets viewing appetites anew

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

Ten years after the debut of the Sam Raimi-directed “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire, a reimagined film universe emerges with the release of “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The darker film stars “The Social Network’s” Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker, the iconic teen outcast who gains spider-powers and becomes New York’s masked and oft-misunderstood superhero.

This solid reboot, directed by “(500) Days of Summer’s” Marc Webb, is still inspired by the comic book source material (including Marvel Comics’ newer Ultimate version). Peter Parker is initially a bullied, a somewhat rebellious but promising teenager, still baffled by his parents’ abrupt departure when he was really young.

Raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), he eventually uncovers clues to his parents’ mysterious exit. He gets in touch with his father’s old colleague Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), a brilliant scientist mentoring Peter’s crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

A fateful visit to the restricted part of Connors’ laboratory leads to accidental contact with a mutated spider, which gives Peter extraordinary strength, agility, and the ability to stick to walls. As with previous interpretations of Spider-Man’s origin, he enjoys his superpowers, but learns to use them responsibly after Uncle Ben’s tragic demise.

“Amazing Spider-Man” restarts the franchise competently; it benefits immensely from its cast, giving a fresh look at characters that have been reinterpreted over the years. Garfield perfectly fits the dichotomized role; he’s especially moving during heartbreaking moments with Field, Stone, and Denis Leary (who plays Gwen’s father Captain Stacy).

It’s not as finely made or as fun as 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”—which was a vast improvement over Raimi’s first, semi-clunky Spider-Man film—but The Amazing Spider-Man is still a worthy and promising new spin on the mythology. Let’s hope that it avoids the mistakes of the convoluted mess that was “Spider-Man 3.”

As for this version’s first villain, Dr. Connors, a.k.a. the reptilian menace dubbed the Lizard, works surprisingly well. The scaly antagonist figures in a couple of fast-paced sequences that look superb in 3D. The well-intentioned character makes a smart and savage opponent for the wall-crawler.

Fans of the comic books might appreciate Gwen Stacy as Peter Parker’s love interest here. Readers may also feel a sense of dread for the character, because she was a doomed figure in the comic version. Whether that tragedy will be adapted into a future chapter or not is still unknown at this point, but it’s certainly good that Gwen gets to shine as an independent, intrepid character in this new story.

And while it has a more serious tone, “The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t humorless, although we’ve yet to see the titular hero develop into a constantly wisecracking crimefighter. But the quintessential underdog superhero is definitely back, spectacularly web-swinging into big screen fisticuffs anew. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Knight rises and shines

Christopher Nolan’s gritty and more realistic take on DC Comics’ quintessentially human superhero ends with “The Dark Knight Rises,” the part that aptly concludes the trilogy—and its darker mythology—with a bang.

The Nolan films re-established a more serious Batman, accompanied by more reality-based trappings, and familiar concepts with more plausible backstories. After the first two acclaimed films, the caped crusader returns for a final time, the character’s more “mature” handling offering more audacious ideas that have yet to be seen in the source comic books.

Two iconic villains from the comics debut in fantastic fashion. The elusive cat burglar Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) makes her presence known to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who is now reclusive and has long retired his Batman identity.

The other antagonist is Bane, a mysterious masked warrior who violently introduces himself to Gotham City. Bane’s scheme is a grand, circuitous plot to flush out the outlawed Batman, humiliate him, and conquer Gotham. Like in the comics, he breaks the Bat’s body and spirit. He’s also vicious and merciless, but unlike in the book, he’s not a Venom junkie in this movie. Oh, and he’s far from the blubbery mess that appeared in Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin.”

Bane, self-proclaimed “Gotham’s reckoning,” and Catwoman, thief extraordinaire, are prominently featured, both unanticipated elements that affect Batman staggeringly. The resultant chaos ultimately impacts Wayne’s secret weaponeer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), businesswoman Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and thousands of helpless Gothamites.

“The Dark Knight Rises” has a grandiosity to its design that mostly translates to excellent character dynamics, while profoundly analyzing the purpose of Batman and the other characters, whether friend or foe. There are iffily executed situations, however, but they don’t mar the storytelling too much.

The siege and liberation of Gotham effectively translate into an astounding epic, while Bruce Wayne’s deeper reassessment of his quest for justice and recovery take place concurrently. It’s a glorious ending to this particular series of films; it still disturbs as much as it awes, and there’s a real, satisfying finality to the dark superhero’s saga. 

Howdy, Hong Kong

Return to Hong Kong, July 17-18. My colleagues and I went there for the press launch of Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco. We watched it at Hong Kong’s Asiaworld Arena that first night in Lantau. There will be performances in Manila next month. My thanks to my editor, Stratworks and Hoopla for the awesome HK visit!
Yummy airplane

We stayed there!

Cable car sighting

Hong Kong Airport

Unhealthy breakfast

Breakfast dessert

Yellow light

Really comfy bed

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Peter Parker’s Dream

Spidey, web-swinging with the loves of his life, Mary Jane and Gwen. 

Timothy Olyphant finds ‘Justified’ rewarding

(Published July 15, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I was too tickled just to have the opportunity to play an Elmore Leonard character to worry about anybody’s expectations,” actor Timothy Olyphant said during a phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Olyphant is currently playing Raylan Givens, a Kentucky-based US Marshal in the acclaimed series “Justified.” He was nominated in the Lead Actor category of the 2011 Emmy Awards for playing the character, which previously appeared in crime novelist Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole.”

The actor played former sheriff Seth Bullock on the gritty drama “Deadwood” from 2004 to 2006. Olyphant sees no similarities between playing that role and his current lawman character.

“[Seth] wasn’t all that funny,” he said. “The big difference between playing that character on ‘Deadwood’ and playing Raylan, in terms of the tone of the show is it’s much more delicate, it’s funny. Elmore’s got a soft touch for him. Elmore’s all about being cool.”

The 44-year-old actor added that helping flesh out the author’s character is a unique opportunity. “His characters, you can put them anywhere in the world,” he said. “There’s something I find very comforting being in an Elmore Leonard story; you just feel like you’re in good hands.”

He also finds working on “Justified” for a third season enjoyable. “More or less, I just enjoyed the heck out of the vibe of the show,” he gushed. “I find it so funny. It’s such a broad, big scope of hostilities in terms of characters you can have on the show.”

Olyphant expounded on the favorable working conditions: “It’s just an incredible group of actors…and, by the way, [there’s also] an incredible group of writers and directors. Every day, five days a week, I’m working with great people. That doesn’t come that easy and often in my line of work so I really do appreciate it. The best thing about this show is that there’s not a lot of drama. Everybody’s pretty cool; everybody knows their lines. Everyone seems pleased to be there.”

Los Angeles doubles for Kentucky in the show. Despite the long work days (usually from 6 a.m. till “the sun goes down”), Olyphant is indefatigable. “The wonderful thing about this job and my involvement in it is that when you’re in the thick of it, there are just endless amounts you can put into it and it’s just terrifically rewarding,” he said.

Olyphant is also appreciative of other TV appearances and movie projects. His acting career started in the mid-’90s. He prominently appeared in “Scream 2,” “Go,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” and “I Am Number Four.” He also played the titular character in the 2007 action flick “Hitman.”

“It’s been pretty steady. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been working a long time, no major drama along the way…Every year it seems I could get my hands on better and better material. I’ve had my share of good things in both [TV and films]. I feel like in the last four or five years, I’ve been allowed to work on some great material in both mediums.”

(“Justified” season three will air Sundays, 9:50 p.m., starting July 15 on BeTV.)

Cool Random $#!+ Part Fourteen

AvX: Rachel Summers owns everybody.
"I was a Phoenix host too, b*tches!"

"Woohoo! They're planning a Justice League movie!"
"Don't get too excited, Wally. They'll probably get Barry Allen for that."

Baby Blues compilation. Got this last May. I read the comic strip religiously. I automatically look at that, Pugad Baboy and Ben whenever I see the Inquirer's comics page.

The Phoenix Five!
“We are fire, and life incarnate! Now and for a few more issues, we are Phoenix!”

Painful obstacles, uplifting remedies

(From the July 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Movies about health struggles can sometimes be difficult to watch, but the good ones ultimately reward with valuable insight on courage or endurance, whether there are miracle recoveries depicted or not. While there are countless films that celebrate life amid pains, here are six health-themed movies that inspire or uplift.

The King’s Speech (2010)
   The stammering heir to the throne is initially hesitant with confronting his speech impediment, but a devoted actor-turned-therapist helps the future King George VI overcome it. Colin Firth’s stuttering king and Geoffrey Rush’s determined therapist form an admirable rapport, and ultimately learn much from each other’s perseverance.

Patch Adams (1998)
   Inspired by true events, the film delves into the life of Hunter “Patch” Adams, an older medical student whose unconventional ways and extraordinary enthusiasm earned him the respect and admiration of patients and colleagues alike. Robin Williams’ incredible performance as the accessible and inspiring Patch Adams alternately moves and amuses.

The Cure (1995)
   Two kids, one of whom is suffering from AIDS, become best friends and travel far for what they think is a cure. Exceptionally affecting portrayals by the late Brad Renfro, Joseph Mazzello, and Annabella Sciorra (as the sick boy’s mother) make The Cure a memorable tearjerker. It’s hard not to bawl by the last 15 minutes! It also inspires with its depiction of true friendship.

As Good As It Gets (1997)
   Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin is a rude and insufferable author with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Things begin to change after he’s forced to take care of a hospitalized neighbor’s pet, and he later becomes friends with people he has nothing in common with.

Philadelphia (1993)
   Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning role as an AIDS-stricken lawyer dealing with homophobia and misconceptions about the disease illustrated the unimaginable hardships that victims of discrimination go through. But his character’s courage through such grueling challenges and his medical situation is undeniably empowering.

I Am Sam (2001)
   An adult with a mental condition raises a child for a few years until some misunderstandings lead to their forced separation. Sean Penn impresses with his portrayal of a father fighting for custody of his daughter despite his stunted mental development. The film’s heart-tugging and heartbreaking moments are flavored by competent remakes of Beatles hits.

Quick Glimpses

Status updates, compiled.

June 24. Starting to love the old, old REO Speedwagon song "Keep On Loving You."
June 28. "Patience is like bread I say. I ran out of that yesterday." ♫
June 28. Twenty years of Little Earthquakes.
June 29. Watched Amazing Spider-Man last night (or earlier today--it was a midnight screening). Enjoyed it. A solid reboot. Will write a proper review later.
June 29. Discovered that taking the MRT at 5 p.m. is not a good idea. There's no such thing as personal space. Felt like I was dry-humped by people I'll never be interested in.
July 3. Nakakasawa na 'tong ulan na 'to.
July 8. Batman na next week.

Animal magic, fun fable

(From the July 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Misfit animals take center stage anew in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, easily the most enjoyable installment of the successful series of animated movies.

While the first two parts established (and re-established) the lovable bipedal characters as unique or misunderstood creatures adapting to new environments, this third movie starts with Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) feeling homesick in Africa and stating the animals’ desire to return to their old zoo habitat in New York.

Alex and the other three animals--Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer)—enlist the aid of their old allies, the penguins, lemurs, and monkeys. But the trip to New York isn’t as smooth as they envisioned, and the oft-displaced beasts now find themselves fleeing from an obsessed huntress, Captain Chantale DuBois (Frances McDormand).

Their globe-trotting adventure brings them to various famous locales; to escape their pursuer and her loyal agents, the group of animals persuade their way into a traveling circus.

More animals are introduced, resulting in new situations and dynamics, but attention to the main characters doesn’t diminish. Madagascar 3’s new characters include Vitaly the Tiger (voiced by Bryan Cranston, who’s virtually in every other movie lately), Gia the Jaguar (Jessica Chastain), and Stefano the Sea Lion (Martin Short).

It’s especially delightful when different new ideas work, such as the main group’s handling and revamping of the circus. Their action-packed encounters with the Terminator-like villainess DuBois are likewise entertaining, providing them a much-needed and unforgettable antagonist.

 Animation-wise, the impeccably rendered characters still move fluidly and figure in more detailed settings than in previous adventures. There’s also the addition of the neon palette used in some circus scenes.
The movie gets extra-vibrant when the circus troupe performs thrilling Cirque du Soleil-ish maneuvers to Katy Perry’s overplayed self-esteem song Firework! Old and new beasties get to shine in that and other kinetic sequences, as well.

And if you only barely remember the first two Madagascars, it really doesn’t matter; this third offering is the one that really makes the viewer care for many of the characters. Nicely paced, colorful, and fun, Madagascar finally gets its act together. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Zappy Zeitgeist

Robin and Batgirl           
Young heroes in love! Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, way back when. One of my fave comic book couples ever.
Mutant celebrity strike force! The late, lamented members of the team formerly known as X-Force: Doop (although he’s somehow back), Henrietta Hunter, El Guapo, U-Go Girl, Phat, Vivisector, Orphan, Dead Girl, Anarchist, Venus Dee Milo. 

Linking Lincoln to lore

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” absurdly reimagines the historical figure into a butt-kicking, monster-slaying action hero, but the absurdity is quite tolerable and sometimes, even entertaining. It does, however,get tedious when focusing on the American president’s historical milestones.

Charismatic Benjamin Walker’s translation of Abraham Lincoln eases the viewer into this more kinetic, fantasy-oriented version of America’s past; we get to see the young Abe as idealistic but not exactly the honed political figure yet, although he eventually undergoes the transformation. Revenge-driven, he musters up the courage to hunt down and face a vampire that attacked his home when he was a boy.

Abraham is trained and recruited by a professional vampire hunter, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who assigns the extermination of disguised targets at human-populated locations. This uneasy alliance will last long after Abraham pursues other interests. Meanwhile, a vampire leader from New Orleans, Adam (Rufus Sewell), plots the downfall of the chaos-besieged nation.

It actually isn’t hard to get into it; director Timur Bekmambetov tells the story clearly, and original author Seth Grahame-Smith is the film’s screenwriter. The less-than-complex vampire mythology introduced in “Abraham Lincoln” mostly borrows from established monster myths, but is easy to accept and suspend disbelief over.

While the slow pace gets pretty uncomfortable around the last half-hour, “Abraham Lincoln” has its share of respectable vampire-hunting action sequences, including a horse chase and confrontations in a train and on the battlefield. The film could’ve been so much more, but this simple experimentation still amuses during those few, really clever moments that connect facts to fantasy. 

‘Veep’ creator finds humor in American politics

‘Veep’ creator finds humor in American politics
(Published July 1, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“It’ funny, I don’t think there has been a satire on the actual presidential and vice presidential system,” said Armando Iannucci, creator and executive producer of the new HBO comedy “Veep.”

“I think in America at the moment, there is a lot of disillusion, a lot of frustration in the electorate—issues that aren’t really being discussed. I think [it’s time to expose] those weaknesses within the system,” Iannucci explained in a recent phone interview. “It feels like it’s the right time to do that.”

The multi-awarded Brit comedy writer/producer previously worked on the acclaimed political sitcom “The Thick of It.” He said he knew at once that actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus would be perfect for “Veep’s” American Vice President Selina Meyer.

“While writing the script, we thought that we wanted to write [in] a female vice president,” Iannucci said. “After we did, we then thought, what we need is a really, really good comedy actress. I met up with Julia and she was incredible. I thought we were gonna chat for 20 minutes, but we talked for three hours, making each other laugh, making up new ideas on the spot. I didn’t know she had grown up in Washington and knew its whole background.”

On account of her work in such sitcoms as “Seinfeld” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Louis-Dreyfus understands how this kind of character works, said Iannucci. “She knows what it’s like to be someone who, as soon as she comes into the room, knows what people are talking about. And they are looking at her, and so she’s got to stay smiling. So she knows what someone like Selina has to go through.”

Research for the show required Iannucci to spend three weeks in Washington. He had “great access,” he said, as he was shown around the West Wing section of the White House. He got to converse with chiefs of staff, office workers and communications staff members.

“It’s not so much what they said, it’s what they were like,” he recalled. “We made notes about the type of people they were. We realized that, for them, it’s normal to ask someone they’re meeting for the first time, ‘So, who do you know?’ Everyone is networking.”

Iannucci was approached by HBO to create “Veep,” and was given free rein on the show. “It’s happened in the past to people who have done films in the UK or Europe,” he pointed out. “Hollywood just said, ‘We love what you do; can you come and do something for us? Oh, by the way, can you do it our way, though?’ But HBO was great.”

“Veep” starts airing tomorrow, 10 p.m. (Monday), on HBO and 9 p.m. on HBO HD.