Thursday, May 23, 2013
The second collaboration between Luhrmann and Leonardo DiCaprio (they worked with each other, 17 years ago, on “Romeo + Juliet”), “The Great Gatsby’s” strengths are its actors and the director’s mastery of music-visual melding. It’s dazzling and dazing, but between its revelries are quieter, more layered character focus and drama. Still, there is no subtlety when it comes to the visuals; almost every shot is ideally and artfully structured, which often affects the storytelling.
The story is seen from a depressed author’s perspective. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) vividly recalls his friendship with his neighbor Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a wealthy and enigmatic young man who regularly threw talk-of-the-town parties at his
New York mansion in the early 1920s. Nick writes down his thoughts on the much-admired host’s relationship with the married socialite Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), as well as Jay’s enmity with her philandering husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).
Pacing and storytelling flaws aside, “The Great Gatsby” is Luhrmann’s playground; one just feels the grandness and overwhelming power of the party scenes, often the backdrop for revelatory inner and inter-character conflicts. Sometimes, you’d wish there were more of them, despite their artificiality, but there’s appreciable power in the less comfortable and more serious parts of the film.
Despite utilizing common and overused ideas, “Epic” is a lushly animated and charming adventure about a teen who finds herself involved in a clash between warring forest beings.
The girl, Mary Katherine/M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), is disappointed at her father’s seemingly foolhardy quest to prove the existence of tiny creatures near their aging home. There really are fighting factions; one is led by the forest queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), and their decay-wielding arch-foes are led by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). Shrunk to their size, M.K. is tasked with delivering a precious item to an important venue. Accompanying her are new allies, among them the Leafmen Ronan (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson).
Directed by Chris Wedge (“Ice Age” and “Robots”), “Epic” has balanced doses of action and character development. While the story’s something we’re acquainted with—the fish out of water concept’s been rehashed countless times—we’re nonetheless captivated by the dynamic take, replete with solid designs and likable characters. Still, while most of the main figures are archetypal, some radical deviation would’ve been nice.
There will be obvious and inevitable comparisons to “FernGully” and “Avatar,” but thankfully, “Epic” doesn’t get heavy-handed with environmental preaching. It’s just a good old-fashioned good-versus-evil romp; the aerial battles are fun, the humor is strategically knit into tense moments, and as expected, the outsider helps save the day (and learns tremendously from the experience).
“Epic” will be in Philippine cinemas starting May 24.
The “Star Trek” reboot by J.J. Abrams is unique and innovative: it’s respectful of established continuity and lore while boldly and consciously creating its own. With the presence of the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the new universe, the past is reverentially referenced, but this altogether different timeline offers new possibilities, and is able to explore previously untouched territory.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” is the sequel to Abrams’ 2009 mega-hit “Star Trek.” Fast-paced and vibrant, “Into Darkness” further expands on the team dynamic of the space-faring
Enterprise crew, led by Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine). It immediately kicks off with an energetic chase scene and a tense mission, heralding an escalation of conflicts and even more bombastic encounters.
New characters are introduced; “Sherlock’s” Benedict Cumberbatch ditches his quirky detective for a more stoic and deadly figure, while Alice Eve appears as weapons expert Carol Marcus. Older characters are splendidly focused on; Kirk’s brash but noble nature is reiterated, while First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is once again clearly characterized as dichotomized between his human and Vulcan halves. There’s also a tiff between Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) that runs in the background, but it ultimately comes off as unimportant.
“Into Darkness” is simple but spectacular—there are many familiar, even cliched story concepts that Abrams and company breathe new life into, and it’s a grand, summer-sized sci-fi caper that’s still in touch with its long-established star-faring roots.
(Published May 23, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
War between self-appointed kings and power-craving players continues to rage in the latest season of the fantasy-epic series “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s hit series of books.
While it started as a seemingly male-dominated conflict, some female characters were influential, or continue to wield power behind the scenes, ably guiding their prominently positioned allies.
The female equation figures considerably in the series, but more so in this third season. With the exception of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), a hostage formerly betrothed to the cruel boy-king Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), female characters plot for power, revenge or justice.
The villainous Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Joffrey’s smug and power-tripping mother, is still around and so is the manipulative sorceress Melisandre of Asshai (Carice van Houten), who groomed her own would-be king.
But newer characters shine and prove themselves similarly intriguing and cunning. Joffrey’s new bride-to-be Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is the young widow of a gay king. Now aiming to be the Seven Kingdoms’ new queen, she deftly maneuvers like a skilled politician, reaching out to the masses while becoming an invaluable presence to the current administration.
Her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg) is also well-versed in politics but is someone who doesn’t bother mincing words. Strategic and hard to perturb, she has the best interests of her clan in mind and makes no secret of her displeasure with their new allies, the Lannisters.
The most impressive character of the third season, to date, is the exile Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), daughter of the deposed king and young widow of a nomadic ruler. Now with three growing dragons at her beck and call, she moves to reclaim the throne. But first she liberates an army of 8,000 soldiers from their abusive slave-masters, a fantastic feat that can be counted among the season’s—and the show’s—most memorable scenes. Daenerys, formerly a subservient wife, triumphantly leads a loyal army now!
Female characters often get openly mocked and threatened with violation on “Game of Thrones.” Apart from misogyny, there’s homophobia in the fantasy realm as well, making it reflective of real-life ills.
Thankfully, most of the females depicted are written as complex, self-aware individuals. The unappreciated strategist Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is the show’s main underdog but it’s full of women that are just easily dismissed and ridiculed, driven to fight harder and more relentlessly for equal treatment. They’re often underestimated in that brutal, braggadocio-filled world but girl power just might win the “game.”
(“Game of Thrones” season three airs on Saturdays, on HBO.)
Saturday, May 18, 2013
(Published May 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Fictional American vice president Selina Meyer returns after a well-received initial season of “Veep,” HBO’s hit political comedy series cocreated by writer-producer Armando Iannucci.
The 10-episode season two aims to further develop Selina Meyer and her various relationships, according to Iannucci, who discussed the show with Asian periodicals during a recent teleconference.
“In season one she was just coming to terms with the office—recognizing its limitations, learning how to be a high-profile politician on a national and an international stage,” he said.
In season two, the self-monikered “Veep” will have more power and influence. “She gets closer to the president,” Iannucci revealed. “We see inside the West Wing. We meet the president’s staff. Selina acquires foreign policy and national security responsibilities. We will see how she uses them and how they affect her.”
Iannucci recounted choosing Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the role almost immediately, and said he was especially proud that she won the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. (The show was nominated for outstanding comedy series.)
“[Casting her was] perfectly justified,” the writer-producer enthused. “I can’t imagine anyone else playing that part.”
Dreyfus’ Emmy victory means the “Veep” team has to work harder: “I’m really, really pleased that she got the Emmy, especially in the first [season] which had only eight episodes, up against comedies that produced 22 episodes a year. It kind of reassured the team that we had made a big impact. [But] we have to work harder to push the stories, the performances and the dialogue even harder.”
Iannucci also has praise for former child actress Anna Chlumsky, whom he previously worked with on the political satire “In the Loop.” In “Veep,” Chlumsky plays Selina’s dedicated chief of staff, Amy Brookheimer.
Said Iannucci: “She’s great … she’s very young; she’s not like Amy at all. Amy is very high-strung; Anna is very talkative, laid-back and jolly. I like that Anna gets the sharpness, the patter. There’s a rhythm to the way she speaks. Her lines come out like little bullets and daggers. I love the way she gets Amy.”
(“Veep” Season 2 starts airing Monday, on HBO and HBO HD)
"Professor X was a saint! I will honor him as leader of an Avengers team!"
"Um, Alex, perhaps you didn't hear about the time I mindwiped the existence of your brother and an ill-fated X-Men team from Cyclops' memory. And how I kept quiet about the sentient Danger Room A.I. for years!"
May 7. Latest Community episode. Really good. Secret origin!
May 8. Sino ba iboboto ko bukod kay Risa Hontiveros. Ang hirap naman pumili.
May 9. Late to the party, but I finally read the first volume of Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria's Skyworld. Fun monster epic!
May 11. Channel V's been showing '80s music videos, probably as part of fellow Star channel Nat Geo's launch of its 'The 80s' series. Anyone can access virtually all those videos now, but back in the day, I had to wait for those hour-long music video shows during weekends. Thank heaven for cable in the '90s, which had two 24-hour music channels.
May 13. Finally read volume two of Skyworld. Enjoyed it a lot. Thoroughly action-packed and nicely told. The merging of mythology and the supernatural with Philippine history was fantastic. More fun monster stories, Mervin and Ian! Respect!
May 13. Last-minute research on election day. Nakakawalang-gana ang mga engot, homophobe at trapong kandidato.
May 13. Ang Ladlad Partylist, # 28!
May 13. Take two, inayos na grammar. Voting in the afternoon, thankfully, was a breeze; looking for the classroom took longer than the actual voting process.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
(Published May 6, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
“The Carrie Diaries” is the inevitable spawn of the hugely successful comedy series “Sex and the City,” a teen-centric prequel that’s based on a similarly titled set of books. The nostalgic new show is set in the 1980s and brings back the titular Carrie Bradshaw, but she isn’t the sex columnist character popularized by Sarah Jessica Parker yet.
Gorgeous AnnaSophia Robb, young actress from “Race to
” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” plays the teen Carrie, an inquisitive high school student recovering from the death of her mother. She reconnects with an old friend, Sebastian (Austin Butler), a cool rebel figure that her father (Matt Letscher) is wary of. Witch Mountain
“Carrie” isn’t structured like the snappy, adult-oriented predecessor. While “Sex and the City” almost provided symmetrical focus on four stories that often led to bombastic and climactic punchlines and denouements, this new show is more like a mash-up of “Gossip Girl” and “Awkward,” but is nowhere as racy as the original version of “Skins.”
There are, however, numerous situations where the characters discover, or get interested in sexual intimacy. The adult Carrie has semi-kindred spirits in Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte, but teen Carrie’s friends are differently curious and more wide-eyed when it comes to the subject.
Jill/Mouse (Ellen Wong) is obsessed with excelling in school and is attracted to similarly motivated guys. Maggie (Katie Findlay) is the girl who sneaks around with illicit lovers. Walt (Brendan Dooling) is the closeted gay guy who initially has trouble accepting his sexuality. It’s not the circle of friends viewers are accustomed to, but they form a solid and charming group that complements virginal Carrie’s growth.
Just as important is her mentor figure Larissa (“Doctor Who’s” Freema Agyeman), a stylish editor and party girl who lures Carrie to
New York. Larissa is aware of her teen protégé’s talent for writing, unlike Carrie’s dad, who hopes her daughter would follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.
Robb is a talented actress, and while only her hair truly resembles Parker, she nevertheless creates a whole new dimension to the character. Bustling with naïveté and potential, Carrie is often torn between being a dutiful daughter and the committed magazine intern. She also looks after her punk rock-loving younger sister (Stefania Owen), who almost always gets into typical teen trouble.
The show is watchable, but its formulaic structure makes things predictable. It’s easy to figure out how the characters will get out of their high school binds; we see problems with Carrie’s on-again, off-again beau Sebastian coming. Still, this series smartly fleshes out the main character in ways “Sex and the City” didn’t, while providing an expanded continuity where younger, relatable characters are going through both fun and tough times.
Older fans of the original show may not easily get into it, but those that do are rewarded with a romanticized version of the 1980s, flavored by a veritable who’s who from the era’s pop pantheon (John Waite, Corey Hart, The Cars, Depeche Mode, Cyndi Lauper, etc.).
“The Carrie Diaries” wrangles its throwback elements creatively, giving a familiar setting where its young protagonist is soundly shaping her destiny. And it’s Carrie at her most malleable, at a point in her life where she starts insightfully asking about connections and compatibility.
“The Carrie Diaries” airs Mondays, on
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Summer status updates, et cetera.
May 1. Realizing I'm sort of a hoarder. Disposed of a plastic full of used internet prepaid cards from the past decade. Surfster!
May 2. Interesting how we've become adept at tooting our own horns. These days, we're our own publicity machines.
May 3. Comic books, Filipino and American, got me interested in reading and art when I was a kid. May 4 is Free Comic Book Day. Drop by National Bookstore (
Quezon Avenue) and Fully Booked (Fort), and get your kids some comics!
May 5. FCBD Setting the Record was fun! Congrats to the organizers and fellow artists. Great job, Lawrence Sol Cruz! And thanks to the people who bought my stuff, had them signed, and had sketches done!
May 5. Really good to finally meet some FB contacts, as well. Sorry f I didn't recognize you immediately or said a different name!
May 5. Still a bit giddy from FCBD. Wish I got free comics, though. :D Also, Arnel Abeleda, pasensya na, muntik ko nang hindi masulat pangalan mo sa dedication. Thanks for getting my stuff. :)
May 5. Thankful for the local comics-loving community. And it was really awesome to have been around so many creative people last Saturday.
Free Comic Book Day at National Bookstore was damn awesome. The group was able to do 99 drawings on blank covers in a four-hour span. My thanks to those who bought my stuff, had them signed, and had sketches done. Thanks as well, and congrats to Comicx Hub’s Lawrence Sol Cruz and the rest of the organizers.