Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lin Beifong!

Metalbending Chief Lin Beifong, top cop of Republic City’s police force, daughter of Toph, and protector of Avatar Korra.

Daddy issues and home runs

Clint Eastwood, who recently baffled with his unscripted rambling during the US’ presidential campaign, returns to more familiar territory, portraying an aging grump somewhat reminiscent of his acclaimed “Gran Torino” role. Eastwood’s elderly baseball scout Gus is similarly gruff and stubborn, but is considerably lighter in “Trouble With the Curve,” a decent, if formulaic sports-family drama/rom-com.

His vision failing, Gus is assisted by his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who learned to spot talent in the company of her dad and his colleagues when she was much younger. She eventually bemoans the fact, however, that she grew up without him around, the estrangement an unspoken topic until she has to spend some time with him during a short break from her busy work schedule.

This can be described as an anti-“Moneyball” film, as it scoffs at the idea that underused players are recruited based on calculable data. Gus and Mickey’s presence on the field reveals the importance of instinct and experience. Their main naysayer Phillip (Matthew Lillard) is Gus’ cocky co-worker who thinks highly of his own supposedly infallible recruitment process.

“Trouble’s” romantic comedy elements are pretty run-of-the-mill; Justin Timberlake plays baseball player-turned-scout Johnny, who hits it off quite effortlessly with the very knowledgeable Mickey. The romance angle is a bit overshadowed by the more pressing sports drama, but it’s undeniably cute, offsetting the recurring seriousness with necessary, flippant lightness. And speaking of light moments, there’s also Eastwood’s unintentional but timely reference to interacting with furniture; there’s a table that elicits his character’s grouchy side.

“Trouble With the Curve” opens today.

Believe, already

“Rise of the Guardians” is a lushly rendered, if repetitive animated flick that brings together a number of powerful culture-inspired beings. Long thought imaginary, these Guardians are faced with a similarly mighty menace, and must add a new member to their ranks, the mischievous Jack Frost, to help combat the impending threat.

There are cool interpretations of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and the aforementioned Jack, but oddly enough, they’re characters you hardly care about. While they’re beautifully and impeccably animated, these more action-ready iterations don’t really have personalities and moments that make them likeable, except perhaps Jack, whose heroism was made clear, although quite belatedly, in a flashback.

Again, while it’s very distinctly and colorfully presented, “Rise of the Guardians” becomes extra-monotonous. The characters keep drumming “Believe!” and “Find your center!” into your head; there are scenes that meander and drag, and 3D format-perfect characters that drone endlessly about details that just keep the simple plot from moving forward.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Love Machinery Part 3

Book Sale find. Santa's Twin by Dean Koontz. It's about Bob, Santa's vile sibling. The illustrations by Phil Parks are gorgeous. There's a hidden snowman in every painting.

The Double Decker. Yummy, filling, potentially lethal.

"Woohoo! The Avengers won AvX! We assimilated Rogue, Havok, Sunspot and Cannonball! Wolverine's totally my b*tch! Avengers, Avengers, everything's Avengers! Ready for 2015, Batman?"
"Bring it, boy scout. By the way, I totally beat you in DC Versus Marvel."

Cyclops goes dark.
"F@*k this $#!+!!!"
Grant Morrison-era JLA issues, circa 1998, featuring the "Big Guns" roster.

Melodic, Ecstatic

Status updates compiled.

Nov. 15. Watched Twilight last night at Glorietta. Snickered every time Noel Fisher (a.k.a. Mickey, the self-loathing gay bully from Shameless) spoke like the Count. He played Vladimir, a Russian vampire.
Nov. 15. Need to replace my earphones. Sound's on and off in one of them. They, and my player, are very useful during my workout, since the music at the gym just isn't my cup. Earlier, while "Starships" played loudly in the background, I played Blondie's "Maria." Needed to avoid cringing at "higher than a motherf*cker."
Nov. 17. Reading the DP 7 TPB, by the late Mark Gruenwald and Paul Ryan. It compiles the first nine issues of the old New Universe series. Thank you, Book Sale.
Nov. 17. It rarely happens, especially since I've met and spoken with famous, talented people thanks to my job, but I'm reduced to a gushing fanboy whenever those that I really respect and admire--just a few actors, filmmakers and comic book creators, actually--respond or react to something I said or posted.
Nov. 20. Was awake for over 24 hours.

‘The New Normal’ tackles real gay concerns

(Published Nov. 22, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Reflective of contemporary gay issues, the American sitcom “The New Normal” wryly, and quite creatively, presents a nontraditional family unit, tackling a variety of subjects important to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

Cocreated by “Glee’s” Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, “The New Normal” easily “out-gays” the already diverse hit TV musical series. This more gay-centric show is about a loving couple, the fey TV producer Bryan Collins (Andrew Rannells) and the masculine gynecologist David Sawyer (Justin Bartha), who hope to have their own child.

They find a kind, sympathetic surrogate in single mom Goldie (Georgia King), who wishes to study law after giving birth, and provide a better future for her tween child Shania (Bebe Wood).

While gender identity and same-sex relationships were wisely and commonly tackled in beloved, long-gone programs like the drama “Queer As Folk” and the sitcom “Will and Grace,” this new show has a snappy, sardonic tone.

“The New Normal” may be controversial, but it depicts situations that real gay couples, not only in the United States, experience. The show’s focus on the committed couple and their extended, nontraditional family makes it very timely and insightful.

It’s not without the requisite despicable characters. Ellen Barkin steals scenes as the bigot Nana Jane, Goldie’s grandma. Nana is reminiscent of “Glee’s” over-the-top coach Sue Sylvester, only meaner and less caricature-ish. Her acerbic rants often contain racist and homophobic remarks offensive to the gay couple and Bryan’s assistant Rocky (NeNe Leakes).

The half-hour series quickly established a comfortable dynamic in the first two episodes. Quirky Shania has formed a bond with her mom’s new friends and sees them as role models and guardians. Nana repeatedly menaces relatives and new acquaintances, but signs point to her temporary but occasional redemption.

While it sometimes resolves problems too neatly and quickly, “The New Normal” is mostly a feel-good, mature sitcom that aptly discusses the normalcy of, and challenges faced by, nonconformist families.

“The New Normal” airs 8:30 p.m. Sundays and 4:30 p.m. Fridays on 2nd Avenue.


Movie marathon
A total of 200 participants joined Star Movies’ third movie marathon, an endurance contest held at the Resorts World Newport Cinema, Pasay City.

The P150,000 cash prize was split among five winners—Ria Hernandez, Cathleen Andersson, Natalia Ortega, Lesly Yiu and Dominic Cruz.

The cable channel’s annual 16-hour event required competitors to watch a series of movies. Contestants who fell asleep or took bathroom breaks were eliminated.

“A lot of people are able to hold their bladder and concentrate for an extended period when watching movies,” said Jude Turcuato, Fox International Channels territory director for the Philippines. “We created some new physical challenges. Contestants were required to participate in circuit training, yoga, ride stationary bicycles and run on a treadmill.”

Season 2 of the critically acclaimed drama series “Homeland,” starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, airs Saturdays, 9:50 p.m. on Fox. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Secret Six!

The mercenary group Secret Six (plus two former members): Ragdoll, Knockout, Bane, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Scandal Savage, Catman, and Jeannette. I miss the group and the monthly title; there was a time when it was the only DC book I was buying.

Finally, an ending

Her days as a lovestruck schoolgirl long over, Bella Swan finally chose the Sparkly One over the Shirtless One in the previous “Twilight” movie, “Breaking Dawn – Part 1.” Marrying the vampire Edward Cullen was pretty much expected of her. The event went quite smoothly, but the couple had a hell of a honeymoon because of a rapid miracle pregnancy.

Bella had to be turned into a vampire, and is a new undead mother to a CGI-altered baby in the next and final chapter, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” the easiest installment of the series of movies to watch, thanks to a lesser focus on the cloying and unnecessarily prolonged romance angle.

While the prior parts only gave bits and pieces of the supernatural societies in the “Twilight” realm, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” finally gives a bigger, surprisingly intriguing picture. A clearer view of that world’s vampire denizens reveals the variety of powers and personalities, making the mutant-like factions curiously appealing, perhaps for the first time.

As for the climactic action scenes being teased in its trailers, there are magnificently executed battles to be had. But there’s also a twist that may make one feel cheated immediately after. Still, the exciting, no-holds-barred fisticuffs and confrontations are the movie’s most satisfying parts, with super-vamps (a water bender among them!), a werewolf pack, and some undead elders making it an epic melee.

New additions to the cast include Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”), Noel Fisher (“Shameless”), and Rami Malek (“24”) among many others, prominently playing vampire allies to the Cullen clan. Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart do significantly less strained emoting here, thankfully. It’s easy to bid adieu to their characters, but at least this last part has less of the cheesy, sappy, lovesick hooey that made its predecessors a chore to watch.

(Thanks to Mae V. and Ayala Cinemas for the invites to the preview screening at Glorietta last Tuesday.) 

Essential, Incidental

Some status updates and minutiae.

Nov. 7. Listening to Boy Meets Girl's old hit Waiting For a Star to Fall. Song makes you wanna dance with the love of your life.
Nov. 10. Just watched the "Hunky Santa" music video. Haw.
Nov. 10. Dunno what Marvel Now relaunch titles I'll be getting. Exhausted from the big events. Maybe I'll rest a bit and get Essentials and TPBs. The new Avengers book drawn by Jerome Opena looks sweet, though.
Nov. 12. Yeah, the Cyclops-Emma Frost relationship had to end someday. But Bendis is writing it, so boo!
Nov. 12. Many comic book characters I grew up with, whose adventures I read religiously and happily purchased, are barely recognizable now. Sigh. These sudden reboots, revamps and relaunches are super-tiring, Marvel and DC.
Nov. 12. I really don't like the design of those water dispensers with long, protruding cylinders. And annoyingly, many people at the food court press their ill-fitting, used water bottles against those cylinders, probably oblivious that they're transferring germs on them. Ick.
Nov. 13. Feels great, sleeping off stress.

History of mankind in just 12 hours

(Published Nov. 12, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“It was an enormous challenge to undertake such a bold idea, to tell the entire story of humanity within 12 hours,” said History vice president for programming and development Julian Hobbs in an exclusive phone interview with Inquirer Entertainment.

Hobbs, executive producer of the ambitious 12-part “Mankind: The Story of All of Us,” admitted to some inevitable oversights, but insisted that certain exclusions were justified. “We focused on shared tipping points, key moments in which humanity unlocked certain powers that made us what we are today,” he said.

Among these “shared” moments are key inventions and transformations that affected humanity, like the harnessing of fire and the introduction of agriculture. Narrated by actor Josh Brolin, “Mankind” required an “enormous” amount of research.

“Before we started filming, we spent a year consulting dozens of leading historians around the world to come up with this list of key moments,” Hobbs elaborated. “We filmed in China, Africa, the United Kingdom—it literally was a global production.”

Historical consultants were present during filming to ensure accuracy.

Hobbs wanted the docu-drama series to appeal to all, not just to history buffs: “We worked to create a very populist form of telling history. To make history come alive for people, you must re-create those moments and immerse the viewer in the excitement, the dangers and the stakes!”

“Mankind” premieres November 14 at 9 p.m. on History.

*   *   *
On CinemaWorld this month are “A View of Love,” starring Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin, and “Chocolate Kisses,” starring Luca Argentero of “Eat, Pray, Love.”

CinemaWorld is available on Cable Link, and through the a la carte subscription or the HD Movie Package of SkyCable. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

X-Men: Utopia

Responding to threats posed by Norman Osborn’s Avengers and X-Men, and anti-mutant protests in San Francisco, Cyclops galvanized the diminished mutant community and established Utopia, a sovereign island nation. The unified X-Men repelled Osborn’s forces, as well as subsequent invasions by Bastion’s Nimrods, Selene and her resurrected mutant army, Xarus’ vampire hordes, and a Plodex monster, among others. Utopia recently fell after a war with Captain America’s Avengers. Some of the X-Men active during the period: Cloak and Dagger, Queen Ororo of Wakanda, Magneto, Cannonball, Dazzler, Northstar, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Cyclops, King Namor of New Atlantis, Rogue, Colossus and Shadowcat.  

Doomsday consolation

Whether Steve Carell is playing a cuckolded husband in “Crazy, Stupid Love,” a heartbroken gay man in “Little Miss Sunshine,” or a more ruminative Michael Scott in season seven of “The Office,” the actor makes brooding underdog characters likeable and sympathetic.

Playing a serious and perpetually perplexed insurance salesman, Dodge, in the bleak but ponderous rom-com “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” Carell is solid and easily endearing, as the character is somewhat similar to those previous roles. What’s really different this time is everything else; faced with impending doomsday in the form of an approaching asteroid called Matilda, Dodge feels hopeless and friendless. But his silent suffering bizarrely escalates after meeting the flaky English neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), who later joins him on an unplanned road trip.

“Seeking a Friend” is an intimate, effects-free film that’s able to use its actors’ strengths effectively. From their clashing of personalities to the inevitable blossoming of their friendship, these are characters that form a believable rapport. Knightley is especially pleasing as the optimist and romantic with deep familial bonds, surprisingly a good foil to the more mature Carell’s pensive and jaded character.

The unlikely friendship becomes a curious attraction; while there are comedic parts, the film’s more serious moments provide depth and cohesion, intimately delving into the pains and pleasures of Carell’s latest underdog.

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive. 

Love Machinery Part Two

Ancient Image Comics! Happy 20th, Image!

"I'm the Scarlet Witch. I was an Avenger until I became a villain in Marvel's big events Disassembled and House of M. I killed Vision, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye."
"I'm Sentry. I was a hero until Dark Reign. I killed my fellow Avenger Ares during
the Siege event."
"I'm Cyclops. I was the leader of mutantkind until I went crazy during Avengers Versus X-Men. I killed an important mutant character. And now the writer involved in all those crossover events will be handling two X-books. Good luck, X-Men and X-fans!"

Avengers Academy. Sad this pleasantly diverting title had to end.

"Yes, I'm the 'child' of Xavier and Magneto! Happy now, slash fans?!"

Thanks for the cake, Jollibee! Got to it just in time this year. :D

Rewind, Recognize

Status updates, et cetera.

Nov. 3. Hindi ko nahabol yung Alex Cross. Nagdadalawang-isip kung panonoorin yung Tiktik.
Nov. 3. Bendis on two X-Men books. No.
Nov. 3. I've very few memories of stuff that happened when I was 13. I just remember the comic books I read and some school stuff. The class danced to Propaganda's "Duel" as part of the high school integration/initiation program. We were dressed as albularyos.
Nov. 5. While I was waiting to pay at the bookstore, the lady behind me suddenly coughed at my neck! Really inconsiderate and gross. I audibly cussed (like a milder Deb Morgan), dug my alcohol spray from my bag, and spritzed.
Nov. 5. “Being recognized has to do with insurance benefits, hospital visits, and other benefits that are not available to gay couples but are available to straight ones. There are these ads that are running now in Washington State that say, ‘You can be pro-gay and be anti-gay marriage.’ No you can’t! That is a bigoted position.”--Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie vocalist.
I agree with this!
Nov. 5. Less than a month to save or move Multiply pics and entries. Must remember.

Flashy gnashing

Some spoilers ahead.

“Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” is often visually entrancing, the action-comedy flick by writer-director Erik Matti an atmospheric and painterly showcase at certain parts. The foreign influences are obvious; the action scenes and slow-mo shots of leaping, whipping vampire slayer Makoy, played by Dingdong Dantes, look inspired by sequences from Zack Snyder’s flashy epics.

The creature designs are admirable, but the effects don’t always do them justice. Even more distracting, however, is the monsters’ derivativeness. The film’s vampire antagonists, while involved in some focused action scenes, lack the necessary backstory to be truly effective. First off, there’s no real elaboration on the tiktik bird’s relation to the vampires. There aren’t explanations on how the vampire tribe can daywalk, either, but the time element seems important during their attack on the home of Makoy’s pregnant lover, Sonia (Lovi Poe).

It’s also unclear how the creatures can chase a speeding vehicle, but can be outrun by humans. Also baffling is the supposed amping-up of the vampire group by their leader (Roi Vinzon), but their stronger, more feral forms easily succumb to the snack Boy Bawang! And just as frustrating is the absence of a credible reason why the monsters are deathly allergic to the buntot-pagi whip.

As for other gripes, the human characters sometimes react so slowly in oddly paced scenes—i.e. Makoy’s weird hostaging of Bart (Ramon Bautista) outside the house, and Nestor’s (Joey Marquez) annoyingly delayed reaction to an attack on his wife (Janice De Belen), among other incidents.  

Its lack of a unique and stable  monster mythology keeps it from becoming intriguing; the foes wouldn’t be forgettable and flat had there been clearly established origins and acceptable reasons behind their limitations.

Be that as it may, the film has some (intentionally) funny scenes and catchy banter. But it’s quite hard to like and care for the characters, heroic or not. 

The undead walk anew

(Published Nov. 5, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The hit horror series “The Walking Dead” returns to the small screen, several months after the conclusion of its second season.

The fan-favorite cable adaptation of creator Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book, “The Walking Dead,” is back for a third season.

Its first new episode was launched locally at the Enderun Atrium in Taguig last month.
Airing on cable channel Fox in the Philippines mere days after each episode’s United States premiere, the show features a more hardened band of human survivors during an unrelenting zombie apocalypse.

The group of survivors, led by former cop Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) discovers a possible new sanctuary—an old prison now overrun with undead guards and convicts. Rick and his group, armed with zombie-smiting weapons, efficiently deal with the perpetually hungry occupants.

Meanwhile, resident sniper Andrea (Laurie Holden), who gets separated from the group, is aided by the katana-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira). The two tough women also seek a fortified haven, evading herds of zombies during their long foraging treks.

Season three will introduce a new human “tribe,” led by the mysterious Governor (David Morrissey).

Fans of the comic book have been eagerly awaiting the addition of Michonne and the Governor to the live-action series, as the characters figure in some of the source version’s darker storylines. But it isn’t always patterned after the monthly title; different exclusive changes and previously unseen characters often keep the show unpredictable.

“The Walking Dead” airs Saturdays, 8:55 p.m. on Fox.

‘True Blood’ season five
The fifth season of supernatural drama series “True Blood” airs Thursdays, 10 p.m., on HBO.

The show stars Anna Paquin as telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, and Stephen Moyer as her erstwhile vampire lover Bill Compton. Season five introduces the mystery of the vampire “goddess” Lilith. 

Just Desserts

(Published Nov. 4, Sunday Inquirer Magazine)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Photo by Alanah Torralba

He burned the pancake during the second elimination round for “Junior MasterChef Pinoy Edition,” not exactly an auspicious beginning for aspiring chef Jobim Jalbuena.

The dish was simple enough, but he didn’t know how to use the induction cooker, said the 14-year-old, of the appliance that he would wind up endorsing for Meralco as an energy saver in the kitchen.

But life has a way of turning around for this fourth placer in the ABS-CBN reality cooking show who was named after Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Brazilian composer of “The Girl From Ipanema.”

It was his older sister Audrey who had wanted to join the show, but she was overage, Jobim recounted.  So instead, she signed him up online.

Fortunately, Audrey’s interest in food rubbed off on the younger Jalbuena who confessed that he had always wanted to cook and become a chef.

But he had to beg his mother Wendy to allow him to join the contest based on a British game show that in turn spawned an Australian version for young hopeful chefs.

“She knew it was like a reality show and feared that it could change our lives and the lifestyle of the family,” recalled Jobim.

The auditions called for would-be contenders to bring a dish of their choice, and Jobim chose salmon fish cakes with tartar sauce.  The burnt pancakes came next, but fortunately, he was allowed to redo it, said his dad Ricky.

After the audition came the immersion, when a crew visited potential contestants at home to tape their cooking rituals.

“The crew liked that he was so clean,” Wendy said. “He kept saying, ‘Excuse me, I need to have this washed. My mom kasi (expects it)… we don’t have helpers.”

That helped get Jobim in.  Forthwith, he had to be driven from Makati to Marikina several times a week except for Wednesdays when the contestants had tutoring sessions.

“That was very thoughtful of the network,” noted Wendy. “The (production people) spoke to the Education department where they learned that the young contestants were entitled to 40 days of absences.”

Xavier School too was super supportive, added Ricky.  “Xavier has been pushing innovations in education.  It helped us have a more open mind (and see) this contest as an opportunity to learn.”
It was an opportunity grabbed by Jobim’s other siblings as well. “Later, my other kids started watching cooking videos and learning to cook. (The contest) opened our eyes to the different ways you can raise your family,” said the older Jalbuena.

But landing just fourth in the contest was painful for Jobim and his family who admitted to having difficulty adjusting after their long, shared experience.

“After the finale, we told Jobim, ABS-CBN has plans,” Wendy recalled. “But he said, ‘I don’t wanna be an artista!’ He wanted a title. He really takes cooking seriously and it took us months to recover. Jobim felt that he failed the people who supported him.”

Still, Wendy acknowledged that the network was supportive of the young contestants and knew how sudden fame could affect them.  Thrust into the spotlight with their success or failures televised to a huge audience, the young contenders definitely needed professional help to cope with a lot of pressure.

Junior MasterChef Philippines production manager Mercee Gonzales said they made sure they had one. “We have a resident psychiatrist who debriefed contestants after they got eliminated from the show to check their emotional stability and give them counselling if needed.”

The contenders’ passion for cooking apparently stoked similar fires among other chefs.  Wendy recalled how virtual strangers selflessly helped Jobim behind the scenes, including Chef Florabel Co-Yatco, who lent the boy stacks of cookbooks and allowed him to train at her Makati restaurant Felix for almost a month.

Jobim recounted as well what he learned on the set aside from just cooking a better pancake.   “Being on the show taught me to respect the ingredients more,” he said. “I also learned discipline in the kitchen.”

His fellow contestants taught him the biggest lesson he has so far taken to heart: “They remind me when I get mayabang (conceited)!”

But he has remained grounded, he added. “The only reason I like fame is because I can get money to buy stuff,” he said candidly.  But the price—the lack of privacy—is something he is reluctant to pay.  “I can’t do stuff that I enjoyed doing before, like going to malls with family and friends.  And I have to smile (even when I don’t feel like it),” he groused.

Still, the “money to buy stuff” has been very handy, said Wendy.  “Jobim invested in a Mac, treated us to dinner in a fine dining restaurant and bought his siblings clothes. Ten percent went to tithing, for our church’s mission works, while the rest of the prize money we invested in mutual funds.”

But the bigger prize that Jobim got might as well be the hunger to do more and experiment with cooking techniques to improve his skills further: “I want to try molecular gastronomy and use liquid nitrogen. You make a lot of things, like ice cream, in five minutes. It just hit me when I watched ‘Top Chef.’ I find it interesting.”

Agreed Eugene Raymundo, Limone Culinary Concepts’ executive chef and senior food stylist:  “Shows featuring culinary prowess, whether kids’ or adults,’ never cease to amaze me,” he said.  “It just shows that you can create great and innovative dishes even without formal schooling. Shows like these inspire people.” 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sweet crossover caper

“Wreck-It Ralph” energetically mulls over escaping traditional roles, embodied in the titular character’s search for change and validation.

Like in “Toy Story’s” secret world of living toys, video game characters meet up and coexist with each other behind the scenes, crossing over to each other’s connected environments after their busy days. As an arcade game’s villain, Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) routinely destroys parts of a building, which is fixed by the game player through the hero Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer).

Tired of being an outcast and his repetitive role, he sets out to win a medal for heroism in a faster-paced, violent game. After his brief adventure, unavoidable circumstances bring him to the candy-coated world of the karting game Sugar Rush instead of home. Ralph meets another misfit, the pesky kid Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), rejected by most Sugar Rush denizens because of her “glitchy” nature.

Visually lush and splendidly realized, “Wreck-It Ralph” introduces a variety of distinctly designed worlds without losing its narrative focus. It also manages to corral pre-existing characters from “old school” games and food products, the “crossover” and corresponding references pleasantly affecting the film’s original protagonists.

The luscious designs of the Sugar Rush world and its confection-covered venues are appealingly animated. There’s a good mix of characters as well; the gun-toting Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and King Candy (Alan Tudyk) also complement the story, both prominent figures developed satisfactorily.

“Wreck-It Ralph” keeps things busy without looking cluttered. A fun and meaningful treat, Ralph’s quest is definitely a worthwhile adventure.  

Weary but willing

Bonds—and James Bond—are tested in “Skyfall,” easily an emotionally engaging new chapter in the series starring Daniel Craig as the toughened super-spy 007. Following the somewhat unmemorable “Quantum of Solace,” the latest Bond film introduces interesting changes to the mythology.

This third Craig-starrer wastes no time in reminding viewers that his 007 is a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails iteration. In the first few minutes, Bond pursues his armed target across the labyrinthine streets of Istanbul and engages him in fisticuffs atop a speeding train. The targeted mercenary has information on a missing drive that contains names of undercover NATO agents, operatives in various delicate missions across the globe.

Accidentally shot by an ally, Eve (Naomie Harris), and later presumed dead, Bond eventually recovers and uses his “death” to his advantage, only reluctantly returning to duty after a mysterious mastermind publicly exposes a few of the agents from the compromised list.

“Skyfall” interestingly develops the existing relationship between M (Judi Dench) and Bond, as her order to Eve led to his regrettable wounding and untimely hiatus. The friction between the two recurs through the years, and is especially felt during this complicated set of missions.

A similarly lively dynamic is shared between Bond and characters helping expand the agent’s world. The new gadgeteer Q is a young genius played by Ben Whishaw, who emits a favorable “Doctor Who”-esque vibe. Gareth Mallory of the Intelligence and Security Committee is authoritative and diplomatic, an undoubtedly promising role for Ralph Fiennes.

As “Skyfall’s” charismatic villain, the ex-agent Rodriguez (a shockingly blond Javier Bardem) has a beguiling backstory, but his revenge scheme is needlessly elaborate and too perfect. His incredulously well-timed, well-planned maneuvers make him too contrived. His verbal jousts with Bond, however, are among the film’s lighter, more fun moments.

Craig remains impeccable as the understandably worn-out and weary Bond. While “Skyfall’s” climactic action sequences are rather simple and predictable, Craig is unwaveringly good, and this more serious version of James Bond has grown—and continues to grow on the viewer—tremendously. 


Some status updates.

Oct. 22. Less interested in Wolverine now that he's a hypocrite.
Oct. 22. Looking at a Christmas cookbook. Just admiring the pictures.
Oct. 26. Been reading the thick Essential X-Factor, a black and white, 22-issue compilation (the first 16 issues, plus an annual and related Thor and Power Pack issues). Still enjoyable, over two decades later.
Oct. 30. Really thankful for the deluge of greetings. Great to be alive, and to quietly celebrate another birth anniversary.
Oct. 30. Watched Wreck-It Ralph. Incredible, splendid movie.
Oct. 31. I think I've always been thankful for all I have, but moreso during my birthdays because I'm reminded of things that are unique to my life and continue to add to my growth. I'm grateful for a generous and understanding family, who bear with my headstrong and eccentric ways. I'm appreciative of talents that help express my thoughts and feelings. I'm ever-thankful for work, and the chance to have my name on things I worked on. I feel fortunate for having honest friends. I'm glad to be me.