Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Month, 7-10

LNA Villainy
This year, they’re dressing up as horn-y cartoon villains: Lexy as Draco, Nance as Maleficent, and Argus as Venger. 

Nine Goblins
Spider-foes united! Hobgoblin (Phil Urich), Green Goblin Construct, Menace, Green Goblin (Harry Osborn), Hobgoblin (Jason Macendale), Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley), Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), Demogoblin, and Gray Goblin.

Enigmatic Equalist leader Amon, arch-foe of Avatar Korra and the Benders.

Legend of the Dark Mite
This was inspired by the Batman story from Legends of the Dark Knight # 38 (by Alan Grant and Kevin O’Neil, Oct. 1992). Batman’s otherworldly fan Bat-Mite brutally confronts criminals in his monstrous vigilante form.

And that’s it for this year’s spooky art set. Happy Halloween!

New channel offers global, festival favorites

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

Another new cable channel offers an alternative to those that showcase Hollywood movies. Designed to appeal to Asians, CinemaWorld airs films from around the world, with non-English language movies subtitled to make them accessible to more viewers.

CinemaWorld executive vice president James Marturano elaborated on the frequency of exclusive cable debuts during the launch at the Draft Gastropub in Taguig: “We’ll be premiering 15 to 17 new movies each month. The basic lineup right now is about 70 movies per month. It’s a good mix.”

Co-founder and CEO Suarina Chua added that the channel would feature mostly newer films, primarily because CinemaWorld is an HD channel. Chua clarified: “[In the case of] movies made after 2000, you get them more in HD than in standard definition. We want to give more contemporary [content]. We could bring in movies from the ’90s, for the right reasons—for example, if we’re doing a director’s retrospective.”

Marturano said Asian viewers liked more “current products,” based on observations that he and Chua had made during their lengthy stints as HBO Asia executives. “That’s not to say older movies aren’t good. We try to keep [the selection] current and fresh.”

The channel’s eclectic roster includes well-received movies from Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and Asia. CinemaWorld’s “Saturday Festival Picks” focuses on acclaimed projects exhibited in Toronto, Berlin and Cannes, among other notable festivals.

“We’re kind of purists,” Marturano said. “It is also our aim to make sure that movies are seen the way they were intended to be seen without interruption, without all the other stuff on the screen. We like full credits. We’d like to air uncensored films… we’ll get there someday.” Meanwhile, he promised this much: “A really clean, clear, classy look.”

Chua also described the presence of Philippine films in the lineup as inevitable. “I’ve been asking everyone here (in the country) for help, to recommend some great Filipino movies,” she enthused.

(CinemaWorld is available to Cable Link’s Metro Manila subscribers and will eventually become part of SkyCable’s channel roster.) 

Expressing faith through songs written in ‘Crooked Lines’

(Published Oct. 29, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Based in Los Angeles since 1999, acclaimed Singaporean singer-songwriter Corrinne May has just released her fifth album, “Crooked Lines.” It is rife with personal songs about soul-searching and motherhood.

But in a phone interview with the Inquirer, the 39-year-old Corrinne (born Corrinne Foo May Ying) revealed that expressing her faith through her songs wasn’t always a comfortable process.

“I’m Catholic,” she said. “Catholic or Christian, it’s the same to me. Before, I wasn’t sure how people would react to my more spiritual lyrics. I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable with sharing my beliefs, but that’s how I feel now with some of the songs in ‘Crooked Lines.’ I’m writing what I know.”

Corrinne was named by her mother after Ray Peterson’s 1960s hit song “Corrina, Corrina.”

Her own lilting folk-pop music has been described by some as “Lilith Fair”-ish, and her songs and vocal style compared to Canadian singer-songwriters Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell, as well as Taiwanese-American artist Vienna Teng.

Co-produced with husband Kevin Hoo (who also played the cello and piano on some songs), “Crooked Lines” is the culmination of Corrine’s hiatus. She took a few years off to take care of her daughter Claire, and eventually recorded material for the album when her child was asleep or preoccupied. She wrote all the songs, and played the piano and acoustic guitar on a number of tracks.

The artist is currently at a crossroads whether to settle down in the United States or Singapore.

“It’s difficult,” Corrine said. “We don’t know how [things will work out] yet.”

She is, however, very appreciative of the continuous support of relatives, who help out during her shows and work-related obligations.

The self-proclaimed “old school” artist is also thankful to her “deep-thinking” fans, who have remained devotees through her musical evolution. Some new songs inspired by her daughter include “In My Arms” and the titular song “Crooked Lines,” in which little Claire sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” toward the end.

If and when Claire also pursues music as a career, Corrinne said that she would definitely support it.

“She’s starting to understand what I do now,” said Corrinne. “After one show, I brought her to the stage. She said ‘boo!’ on the microphone. The audience laughed and then she said ‘boo’ again!” 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Love Machinery Part One

Cool Random $#!+, with a new title. Halloween edition!

Walking Dead press kit. And barbecue sauce freebie! It has a tag that says "It goes well with the living and the DEAD."

Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe, monster and magic-themed editions. Werewolf looks like he’s touching Dracula’s knee on the left cover, for some reason.

Christmalloween. Peacefully coexisting decorations. 

Buffy Watcher’s Guide. Intriguing behind-the-scenes information, smart episodic analyses, and well-written essays.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula trading cards. I was so obsessed with the Francis Ford Coppola-directed movie almost 20 years ago. Bought other related merchandise like the comic adaptation, a magazine, and an effects book (which a classmate borrowed and never returned).
Reanimated characters Zombie Spawn and Deathlok.
“We got your zombie apocalypse right here!”
“Actually, it’s highly likely that a Zombie Apocalypse, that is, a zombified En Sabah Nur, exists in one of Marvel’s many realities.”

Lucid ‘Lawless’

Based on the fictionalized tales surrounding actual moonshine-making siblings, “Lawless” is a gritty Prohibition-era gangster flick, centering on the chaos escalating in a sleepy Virginia county. The Bondurant brothers—Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf)—are visited by the corrupt Special Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce), who’s been demanding cuts from the county’s bootleggers.

Written by singer-songwriter Nick Cave and directed by Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat, the oft-grim “Lawless” is inspired by the book “The Wettest County in the World,” authored by the siblings’ grandchild Matt Bondurant.

Portraying the Bondurants as a tight band with contrasting personalities, the film shines on universal familial aspects. The Bondurants are galvanized in the face of impending judgment, uncowering rebels in an increasingly numbing, topsy-turvy world.

The clear-cut villain, Rakes is a hateful adversary, glaring with despicable smugness. Pearce is magnificent as the well-dressed but eerie character, the ultimate embodiment of urban blight and corruption. He becomes more disgusting with every appearance, and you can’t wait for him to get his just desserts.

“Lawless” is pretty by-the-numbers and mechanical, but is nonetheless solid and complemented by its well-chosen actors. Hardy, Pearce and LeBeouf are especially textured and absorbing, while Gary Oldman has a smaller, darkly comic character that still makes his remarkable presence known.  

“Lawless” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive.

Halloween Month 6: The Darths

Sith Lords Darth Tyranus, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and Darth Sidious. 

Fruitless loops

Whether you deliberately skipped the trailer or not, it helps to not know some story details about  “Looper” prior to viewing, as major revelations are best seen during the screening itself, devoid of preconceptions and judgments. Some spoilers will be revealed in this review as well, so stop reading if you’ve yet to watch it.

An action-scifi movie, “Looper” examines a time travel quandary, but not without inspiring bewilderment and a few nagging questions. Focusing on a particular Looper (an executioner who disposes of people sent back from the future), the story follows Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who fails to get rid of a time travel escapee, Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Joe is from a divergent future timeline, his life in shambles after a mysterious mob boss, “Rainmaker,” begins disposing of former Looper agents.

Quickly noticeable are Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetics-altered features; it becomes clear soon enough why he’s got an obviously fake nose. Yes, he’s the younger Joe, and the actor does look a bit like Willis thanks to the alterations.

But similarities end there; Old Joe is on a Terminator-esque spree to change or eliminate his future, never mind that the past he ‘s stuck in is different and is already automatically changed by his presence alone.

The details of time travel are better off not talked about, as emphasized by both Willis and Jeff Daniels’ characters. That excuse, however, just makes the inquisitive viewer wonder about the veracity of the time travel aspect even more.

The “Back to the Future” trilogy was able to explain and utilize the concept tremendously, while the “Terminator” films skirted details pertaining to the time machines’ (and travels’) limits. It’s a complicated subject, sure, but in this case, some explanations are necessary.

In “Looper,” a separate future timeline is clearly established, the one that Old Joe lived in and was sent back from. Young Joe and Old Joe have no memories of certain people—Old Joe doesn’t know about the telekinetics Young Joe is about to meet, etc., which means that Old Joe should’ve stopped right there because it obviously isn’t his own timeline, and his presence there already affects Young Joe significantly. His doomed future happened, all right, but not because of this particular reality.

But no, he has to embark on a vague and dreadful mission, and Young Joe unwittingly and inevitably discovers the truth about some future villain, who we never really see in Old Joe’s world.

It’s also unclear how the two Joes share a physical connection. The two are separate entities, so it’s confusing when something that happens to Young Joe’s body affects Old Joe. It gets frustrating.

While there are interesting concepts initially, the story is far from perfect. There are captivating performances, yes, but “Looper’s” mythology is pretty shaky and confusing, making it hard to be truly invested. 

Blood, Life, Eternity

Status updates.

Oct. 15. Finally finished True Blood season five. Hmm. Better than the previous season, but it isn't without really absurd scenes and subplots. Anyway, I enjoyed the Lilith-addicted Authority. They'd totally and hastily eradicate the Volturi AND the Original vamps from Mystic Falls. But they'd probably meet their match in the Angelus-Darla-Drusilla-Spike quartet.
Oct. 17. Dropped by the Walking Dead season three launch earlier. Very promising first ep. Season three's going to be really dark. Fox will be airing it starting Saturday.
Oct. 17. I used to be religious when I was younger. Attended Mass and Bible studies often. But I soon realized that they weren't for me. I wanted more. I felt that the Gods they were touting didn't benefit me spiritually, and that they were limited and limiting. So I stopped believing.
Oct. 17. Be that as it may, I've been learning to coexist with others who don't share my non-belief. Life's too short to argue about who created what, or what's waiting for us when we die. Although I do get pissed when people impose their beliefs on others.

New Asian channels for horror, action fans

New Asian channels for horror, action fans
(Published Oct. 21, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Filipino fans of the action and horror genres now have two more “excitement-oriented” cable channels to watch.

Andy Chang, Celestial Tiger Entertainment’s (CTE) senior vice president for marketing, says the KIX and Thrill channels specifically have Asians in mind.

At the recent launch in Shangri-La Makati, Chang told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that KIX and Thrill, already airing elsewhere in Asia, would fill voids in Philippine cable channel lineups.

“Action and horror are the most popular genres in Asia,” Chang said. “We’re going to comply with local rules, but we’ll also try to show what we want.”

KIX and Thrill have been in the Philippines since last year, Chang added, but he clarified that the launch follows a significant milestone: “Late last year, the company that originally launched KIX and Thrill merged with another company, Celestial Movies. It’s like a brand new start. It was previously focused on distributing and getting the channels there. Now, people need to know about these cool programs. We’ve invested millions tying up programming.”

The Hong Kong-based CTE is a joint venture between Saban Capital Group, Celestial Pictures, and Lionsgate Entertainment. Saban and Lionsgate’s equally operated Tiger Gate Entertainment merged with Celestial Movies in December 2011, resulting in CTE.

Chang said that wasn’t part of a “very specific strategy,” but it was still good timing: “We have multiple channels and, because of that, we have to pace our campaigns. Now is just a good time. For October, Thrill is focusing on Halloween!”

KIX’s programs include “Top Gear Korea” (adaptation of the hit motoring show), “Bellator Fighting Championships” (showcasing mixed martial arts fighters), and “Lingerie Football League” (featuring scantily clad female athletes).
“It really is about how tough those women can be,” Chang said. “There’s a reason that ‘Lingerie Football’ is a growing league—people take it seriously!”

Thrill is set to air the British series “Bedlam,” and the Asian horror movies “Tormented,” “Fragrant Night Vampire,” and the Yam Laranas-directed “The Road,” among others. “Thrill is for whenever you feel like watching horror, and we do have some TV series in the pipeline,” Chang said.

(KIX and Thrill can be seen on SkyCable, Cablelink and Destiny.)

‘Boardwalk Empire’
Season three of the Emmy-winning HBO series starring Steve Buscemi airs every Wednesday, 9 p.m. on HBO and 8 p.m. on HBO HD.

‘Superhuman Showdown’
Contortionists, champion eaters and other people with extraordinary abilities push themselves to the limit in Discovery Channel’s “Superhuman Showdown.” The series will air Mondays, 10 p.m., beginning October 15.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Month 5: Morganne

Morganne. Heroic, present-day inheritor of Morgan LeFay’s magic and monsters.

Extrapolated exodus

The latest Ben Affleck-directed project, the gripping “Argo” recalls the ordeal and rescue of US Embassy workers hiding in Iran over three decades ago.

Six American diplomats narrowly flee the US Embassy building in Tehran, which was soon overrun by enraged Iranian protesters. Evading the subsequent hostage crisis, the Americans find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home.

Enter Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA extractions specialist who concocts an elaborate plan to sneak the hidden Americans out of the country. Utilizing resources and Hollywood connections, Mendez uses a bogus science fiction movie, “Argo,” to create new identities for himself and the six diplomats. They’ll pretend to be a Canadian film crew reviewing locations for the movie!

Very well-paced, “Argo” is a serious nail-biter, even for those who may have prior knowledge of, or a familiarity with the real events that inspired the film. Affleck’s latest directorial endeavor presents a vast, circuitous conundrum that stuns and shocks.

Balancing the dark, agoraphobic chaos are the comic, comely trappings of Hollywood, where “Argo’s” absurdities make complete sense. Supposedly jumping the scifi film bandwagon, “Argo’s” designs are heavily inspired by “Star Wars” and “Flash Gordon.” The faux film’s producer (Alan Arkin) and effects artist (John Goodman) aid and abet Mendez in the delicate mission, providing the incredible story a lighter and differently revealing side.

Affleck is competent as Mendez; he’s mostly stoic and collected, but still manages to come off as very human during the planning and execution of the mission. Affleck’s still a little vain, yes--he slips in a few seconds of himself shirtless again. Attention to other details is impressive; the director manages to wrangle the complex aspects of the strangely real “Argo” enterprise and deliver a tense and thrilling getaway caper.

“Argo” will be in Philippine cinemas starting Oct. 17. 

Cool Random $#!+ Part Twenty

AvX: Daredevil vs. Psylocke.
“This ninja chick will be hooking up with me after the war.”
“Pig! I can hear your thoughts! Wait, what? Really? Black Widow, Elektra, Typhoid Mary, Echo, Black Cat, and former adult film actress Karen Page? I’m telepathically sending my number!”

Music heals. Words save. You are loved, Charlie. Thank you.

Dessert storm! Cakes galore.

Batman and Orion.
"His name was FORAGER!!"

Cap, Cyke, Wanda.
"You're ignoring the Scarlet Witch's crimes altogether, Cap. We're not too different. She was controlled by Dr. Doom and the Life Force entity. She depowered millions of mutants. A number of them died without their powers! She also killed three of your Avengers teammates. And you let her go scot-free! Did you even build a hex-proof cell? No? Oh, wait, I get it. You had a thing. Slow clap, Captain. Slow clap!"

Reflect, Rejuvenate

Status updates.

Oct. 6. Re: AvX #12 Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers! Captain America orders the arrest of Cyclops and the former Phoenixes. But weren't they possessed like the Scarlet Witch? She killed teammates while under the control of Dr. Doom and the Life Force. She depowered millions of mutants, which also led to some deaths. And the Avengers NEVER locked her up after they found her.
Oct. 8. Saw Darren Criss' piano-accompanied performance of Teenage Dream on Glee. Great that he sang that again, two years later. Wow. Guy's a star.
Oct. 8. Dear gym janitors, I don't know what part of a towel on the cubicle door means it's unoccupied and you can freely barge in.
Oct. 9. Scott Summers is the new Wanda Maximoff.
Oct. 11. Watched a couple of True Blood season five episodes. A lot of WTF moments... but Pam is, as always, awesome.

Swimmingly realized

Mostly upbeat and uplifting, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is parts romantic comedy and drama, with some brief dark moments thrown in for good measure. Starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt as colleagues working on an ambitious project, the film is directed by Lasse Halstrom and based on the book by Paul Torday.

Contacted by consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt), British fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) initially rebuffs the idea of introducing salmon-fishing into the Yemen, citing the limits presented by the region.

Practically dragged kicking and screaming into the seemingly impossible and foolhardy task, Alfred eventually (and expectedly) changes his mind. Harriet introduces him to Muhammad (Amr Waked), the sheikh financially backing it, coincidentally a fan of Alfred’s fishing accessory invention.

And then there’s the manipulative and clever press secretary Patricia Maxwell (the ever-delightful Kristin Scott Thomas), orchestrating events like a puppet master, prepping the Yemen project into a public relations triumph.

It takes time for sparks between Alfred and Harriet to fly, as their contrasting private lives slowly unravel; the former is stuck in a dull marriage while the latter worries about a missing soldier boyfriend. Their unlikely friendship, however, is immediately believable. As constant work companions, they become great friends despite their dissimilar personalities.

While the romance angle between the pair isn’t without obvious flaws (i.e. Harriet’s questionably speedy recovery and new attraction), McGregor and Blunt are an interesting and very watchable duo. The film engages and inspires; its culture and science-steeped world is enhanced by a healthy smattering of characters sharing the universality of hope.

“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Halloween Month 4: V and Rorschach

V and Rorschach. Alan Moore’s vigilantes team up and kick ass. 

Different beautiful people populate ‘Diva’

(Published Oct. 7, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“It’s a great show about identity,” said actress Brooke Elliott, who plays a supermodel reincarnated into a plus-sized lawyer on the comedy-drama series “Drop Dead Diva.”

Elliott plays Deb, a recently deceased model whose soul immediately inhabits the body of another recently dead person, the brilliant lawyer Jane. The shallow Deb inherits Jane’s knowledge and responsibilities, and learns to view life differently.

Describing the hit show as “a lot of fun,” Elliott discussed the character’s evolution with the Inquirer and other Asian publications during a recent phone interview.

“I’m a mixture of both characters,” she said, relating to Deb’s “girly” qualities and Jane’s more serious inclinations. “I love to laugh. I made sure Deb had that [trait]. I can relate to Jane, too…I was good in school, so I can understand being book-smart.”

Elliott, 37, took up Musical Theatre Performance in Western Michigan University. Prior to “Drop Dead Diva,” she appeared in touring productions “Beauty and the Beast” and “Wicked.”

She now sees her TV character differently, appreciating its evolution through the years.
She related: “I’ve gotten to know her over the four seasons that we’ve done. I love how she’s grown. In the first season, she really struggled with wanting her own life back. She just was refusing to accept anything about Jane’s life.”

But Deb doesn’t feel trapped and hesitant anymore. “I’ve really enjoyed seasons two to four, how she’s actually accepted [her new life] wholly. She’s seen how great this life can be and how beautiful she is. I really love that. She’s grown so much. Deb isn’t as close-minded and shallow as before!”

Elliott added that it was also fun to portray a more acclimated and comfortable character. She admitted she wasn’t sure if fans could relate to the self-esteem issues tackled on the show.

“The point would be to watch it without having to think, ‘Wow, she’s not a size zero!’—that’s just how that person looks like,” she said. “In terms of young girls, I hope they’re getting to see different types of beautiful people on TV. We don’t all fit in the same tiny box. They can be wonderful and they don’t have to starve themselves! Hopefully, that’s coming across.”

As for the fantastical aspects of the show, Elliott stated that she believes in life after death: “Could something like this happen? I don’t know. Maybe there are people walking around us [who are in such a situation]. I do believe in an afterlife, for sure.”
And if given a choice, she knows specifically where to reincarnate: “I would love to go into a man’s body. I would love to know what they’re thinking, feeling, what they go through, how society pressures them, to look or be a certain way. I’d just love to know what’s going on in a man!”

(Season four of “Drop Dead Diva” airs weeknights on beTV, 8:30 p.m.)

‘Minute to Win It’
Contestants take part in 60-second challenges in season 2 of the game show “Minute to Win It,” airing 6:10 p.m. weeknights on Fox.

‘Phineas and Ferb’
“Phines and Ferb” are genius brothers creating everything they can imagine during their never-ending summer. The animated series airs weeknights, 6:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Disney Channel.

Halloween Month 3: Jeannette the Banshee

The immortal Jeannette, member of the Secret Six and lover of the mercenary Deadshot.

All the Rage

Status updates. 

Sept. 30. Avengers # 30. Really, that's an AvX tie-in? A double-page spread of the heroes fighting the Phoenixes, then 18 pages of Hawkeye and Spider-Woman bickering while dealing with Mr. Negative and his goons? Yecch.
Wolverine and the X-Men # 17, while not a tie-in, is pretty awesome. It's a Doop-centric story and Mike Allred's the guest artist! Also enjoyed the latest Avengers Academy issue. Sad that it's getting canceled. I'm gonna miss that title.
Oct. 3. Meanwhile, the RH Bill and the Anti-Discrimination Bill are gathering dust and cobwebs.
Oct. 3. Bought Perks of Being a Wallflower book. Bawled and laughed just a few pages into it. Precious and powerful.
Oct. 4. Avengers Vs. X-Men # 12. Okay, no spoilers. It's pretty bittersweet; figured it would end that way. As for the side that won, that was made clear about three issues back, and when Marvel announced a bunch of new and revamped books. Glad that it's over.
There's sort of an AvX-ish issue of Avengers Academy out now, too, guest-starring the Jean Grey School kids. Again, I'm gonna miss this consistently fun title. One issue left.
Oct. 6. Saw horrific Halloween bogeymen masks at the mall. None of lying, thieving, incompetent politicians, though.

A Cross to bear in ‘Bourne Legacy’

It continues the concepts and characters established in the previous “Bourne” films, which starred Matt Damon as the titular rogue spy, but “The Bourne Legacy” moves on with Jeremy Renner as its primary renegade agent.

Renner’s undeniably a good fit; in the span of barely a year, he’s had prominent roles in action blockbusters “The Avengers” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” And it’s really no surprise that he’s taken over as Aaron Cross, another agent who rebels against his masters in “Bourne Legacy.”

Tony Gilroy, meanwhile, was the screenwriter of the previous “Bourne” films, and has taken over as director, exhibiting a penchant for establishing mood and atmosphere.

After a major expose on CIA activities, retired US Air Force colonel Byer (Edward Norton) orders the termination of potential enemies and loose ends. Agent Cross is targeted with other enhanced participants of the covert program, and he’s running out of chemicals essential to his survival.

His search for chems leads him to a scientist, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), similarly targeted for surviving an attack on medical experts involved in the maintenance of operatives. Together, they elude their well-armed pursuers, figure out the location of a drug plant, and prep for a trip to—you guessed it—Manila!

“The Bourne Legacy’s” Philippine sojourn gets to highlight familiar locations, some of which are nowhere near each other, but routes are re-imagined in the movie to support some chase scenes.

Dozens of Filipino extras move alongside the main actors on busy sidewalks, a cramped overpass and a factory. Established local actors John Arcilla and Lou Veloso briefly figure in some key scenes.

The Manila scenes give the film an interesting visual texture. There’s a lingering shot that contrasts houses of the poor with looming buildings in the background, a startlingly common enough sight here. Cross and Shearing’s dealings in the congested city streets and narrow alleys, however, become tediously predictable.

Like Jason Bourne, Aaron Cross is basically an operative who has deft mastery over countless abilities. Excellent sniper? Check. Formidable hand-to-hand combatant? Check. Skilled passport forger? Double-check! You automatically root for him, but it also becomes easy to dismiss dangers to the character’s near-superhuman well-being.

Still, Renner gives Cross necessary dimension. “Legacy’s” action sequences aren’t as memorable as some of those in the Damon-starrers, but they’re competently executed. And while “The Bourne Legacy’s” abrupt, less-than-stellar denouement makes one more than a bit baffled, the mythology has expanded, decently shaping a new crosshairs-evading protagonist in Aaron Cross.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Freedom is a Four-Letter Word

Panels from Alan Moore and David Lloyd's "V for Vendetta"

What a sad day for the Philippines. As of today, Oct. 3, the Cybercrime Law is in effect. Netizens are protesting its controversial and vague online libel clause, which poses a real threat to free expression. How ironic and tragic that we’ve been reminded the horrors of Martial Law during its anniversary just a few weeks ago, only to be sucker-punched by a hastily approved law that’s looming with potential for abuse.

Stop voting for those responsible for this heinous fiasco. Learn from this terrible lesson.

Infinite wisdom

High school outsiders unite and celebrate their misfithood in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” an enchanting coming-of-age drama directed by Stephen Chbosky, author of the acclaimed source material.

“Perks” touchingly chronicles the freshman year of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a well-read kid who’s used to disappearing in the background. Not allowed to join her cooler older sister (Nina Dobrev) at the cafeteria table, Charlie keeps mostly to himself, but is noticed by the friendly English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). Charlie soon meets older schoolmates, the step-siblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who introduce him to their circle of like-minded wallflowers.

Charlie’s story pierces and permeates, brought to incredible life by Lerman. Charlie’s wide-eyed innocence, his terrific and terrifying discoveries, and his sharp observations are made real by the talented young actor, who looks like he’s aging in reverse. Lerman perfectly exemplifies his vulnerability and fire; whether he’s struggling or reveling, we see pieces of ourselves clearly embodied in Charlie’s life.

His cheery introduction to music and his new friends’ eccentricities capture those seemingly endless moments, rewound and played over and over again in his teen mind. And “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” also resonates thanks to its careful blending of songs with momentous revelations, enhancing Charlie’s experiences delightfully. 

Vacation, all they ever wanted

“Taken 2” is the inevitable sequel to the successful 2008 action-thriller starring Liam Neeson. The actor returns as former operative Bryan Mills, who relentlessly tracked down and rescued his missing teen daughter from a human trafficking ring in the first film.

The sequel brings Bryan, ex-wife Lenora (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to Istanbul, where vengeful forces connected to his previous mission stalk and pursue the trio. Trapped and abducted with his former spouse, Bryan manages to contact his daughter, who’s narrowly avoiding pursuers of her own.

Simply put, it’s “Die Hard” meets “24.” It’s basically about a well-trained, lone hero, pitted against almost impossible odds and fighting for the lives of his beleaguered loved ones. The sequel pretty much has the same dynamic, with Bryan Mills soldiering on despite his enemies’ numbers and the grave scenarios he finds himself in.

Because it’s a sequel, it’s easy to anticipate what happens next, and “Taken 2” does conform to a familiar formula. It also doesn’t make one worry for the main character; Neeson’s Bryan is unkillable and ever-efficient, like most of Willis’, Norris’, Sutherland’s, and a bunch of other action icons’ characters. Still, the close-quarter fisticuffs and chase scenes are sturdy, and the imperiled family’s shared agonies are harrowing.

Emotional spectrum

In “The Hunting Party,” a disgraced journalist (Richard Gere), his old colleague (Terrence Howard), and a network executive’s relative (Jesse Eisenberg) team up and hunt for the “Fox” (Ljubomir Kerekes), an elusive war criminal responsible for countless atrocities in Europe.

“The Hunting Party” mystifies, almost defying categorization because of its hybrid nature. A political thriller with darkly comic and staggeringly dramatic parts, the film manages to elicit almost every emotional reaction to its complicated situations.

Gere impresses with his layered portrayal of Simon Hunt, a reporter recovering from a very public meltdown. Simon, who’s seen firsthand the aftermath of the Fox’s attack on a helpless village, convinces Duck, his former cameraman played by Terrence Howard, to accompany him and find the hated figure’s whereabouts. Eisenberg completes the “hunting” team and plays Benjamin, basically the same awkward young geek he’s portrayed pre-“Social Network.”

The film has its solid, disconcerting moments, affecting primarily with its grim depiction of war and its unsavory details. The trio searching for the political leader offers some breezy buddy comedy, but there’s also heart-wrenching drama that calibrates them into a committed group of justice-seekers. The constant shifts in tone take some getting used to, but they keep the venture a bit unpredictable.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Halloween Month: Candy Run

The Runaways and Julie Power go trick or treating. Old Lace is not amused. 

Cool Random $#!+ Part Nineteen

Sorcerers Supreme Stephen Strange and Gandalf, seconds before the big fight.
"Kind sir, I've been crossing dimensions for hours and I seriously need to use a Middle Earth restroom right about now."
"You shall not pass!"

Yan Yan knockoffs. Dip-A-Snack, Nyam Nyam, and Yum Yum. Hee hee. They taste almost the same.

Relics. I totally get that Perks moment when the mix tape would run out of space just before the end of the last song.

Man-Thing meets Human Torch.
"Dude, how'd you make me Flame On?"

Magik and Kitty Pryde.
"AvX is getting kinda boring. It's already the teaming-up part. Hey, Kitty, you're dating Iceman now? Think you're too good for my brother?!"
"Go to hell, Illyana. Oh, wait. By the way, it must suck to fall for Spider-Man's really dumb trick."

Chronal Credibility

Some status updates.

Sept. 23. Wondering about Starburns' story.
Sept. 23. Wow, Death of Superman was two decades ago. I miss that character. Not really digging the New 52 version.
Sept. 24. Tired of staring at the monitor. Daydreaming of beaches and buffets. Thinking of money.
Sept. 28. As someone who was never one of the "cool" kids, I related to the drama of "Perks of Being a Wallflower." Parts of the film made this grown man cry. School was depressing half the time, but it's also where I found great friends, true loves, and most of all, myself. And the music that kept me company all those years ago periodically provided an escape, like I was part of something truly special.

Halloween Month: Marauders, Circa 1986

Mr. Sinister’s assassins, the Marauders, arrive at the Morlock tunnels and begin their hunt. The roster: Vertigo, Harpoon, Riptide, Scrambler, Scalphunter, Prism, Blockbuster, Arclight, Sabretooth.