Monday, May 26, 2014

‘Future’ intense

(Some spoilers ahead.)

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” brings together the casts of both the original trilogy and 2011’s momentous “X-Men First Class,” a fitting, ambitious union that matches the epic adaptation of the comic book story. Directed by Bryan Singer, “Days of Future Past” presents a dystopian future where mutants, believed to be the next step in human evolution, are nearly eradicated by the powerful Sentinel automatons.

The psyche of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, playing the character for the nth time) is sent back in time to his younger body in 1973. Tasked with stopping the assassination of weapons designer Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) by the shapeshifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Wolverine enlists the aid of ex-friends Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

There are many fan-pleasers, from the star-studded cast to new mutant characters (Quicksilver! Blink! Warpath!). The mission to prevent the subjugation of mutantkind via time travel has been a recurring concept in the monthlies, but the original one from the early ‘80s is rightly adapted for the big screen, reworked into a visually spectacular, similarly urgent and affecting scifi caper.

And fans who were disappointed with 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” rejoice: Due to the X-Men’s continuity-altering mission, the messy installment is eventually wiped out of existence, along with the Sentinel-ruled timeline! Reality is “Back to the Future’d,” but it’s a justified, rewarding restructuring of the X-films’ mythology.

The assemblage of actors, again, makes the film extra-fleshed-out: Fassbender is still complex and intense; McAvoy plays a disillusioned Professor X; Lawrence gives depth to Mystique; Ian McKellen plays a more subdued, resigned Magneto; Patrick Stewart offers a wizened Charles; Jackman is still good as Logan, a decade and a half later; Ellen Page is given a significant part this time.

The extra scene after the credits heralds the arrival of a new character, which will make its presence felt in the next film, another story inspired by the comics. For now, though, “Days of Future Past” makes the X-universe cohesive, fixing the franchise and offering an exciting future.

X-Treme X-Men

X-Treme X-Men. The team that left Xavier’s school, circa 2002. Roster: Storm, Rogue, Lifeguard, Thunderbird, Bishop, Gambit, Sage, Slipstream. 

Gay-themed 'Normal Heart' beats for recognition

(May 25, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Painfully illustrating the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, the HBO movie “The Normal Heart” is based on Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play. Powerful and nuanced performances vivify the drama, which revolves around conflicted members of New York City’s gay community.

Mark Ruffalo stars as proactive writer Ned Weeks, who witnesses the sudden rise of what some had dubbed “gay cancer.” Ned and Dr. Emma Brooker (Julia Roberts), baffled by the mysterious disease, break the news to gay friends and acquaintances. The response is resounding confusion, with many of them dismissing the announcement as needless and alarmist.

But far from having cried, “Wolf!” Ned sees the reality of gay men, many of them promiscuous, succumbing to what would later be called AIDS. He and a small group of friends and colleagues inform the community via a newsletter and, eventually, a gay advocacy-volunteer group.

The group has its share of infighting, though, as members disagree mostly on Ned’s gung-ho tactics. They struggle as well with convincing the city’s indifferent mayor, who has yet to recognize the onslaught of the disease.

“The Normal Heart,” directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Kramer, is based on the latter’s 1981 hosting of a gathering, which eventually led to the cofounding of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis advocacy group.

The film is a taut, heart-wrenching look at the challenges faced by the gay community at the time, a period rightly depicted as pivotal and uncertain. The gay minority is silently being decimated, and it would take years for the American government to address the issue openly.

An eclectic, aptly chaotic bunch, the characters each react differently to the destructive pestilence. Ruffalo is surprisingly moving as the disenfranchised Ned, whose mettle is tested when his close friends and a lover are affected in varying ways.

Roberts veers away from typically feel-good, thoroughly bubbly roles for the nonce and plays a polio survivor, moving around on a wheelchair, seemingly a prophetess of doom, initially. Seriously perplexed, Dr. Brooker experiences a righteous and inevitable meltdown, which the actress delivers with corresponding verve.

The ensemble is sublime; the film benefits immensely from the presence of openly gay actors Matt Bomer (as Ned’s journalist lover) and Jim Parsons (as a no-nonsense activist). Other gay actors, Jonathan Groff and BD Wong, have smaller roles.

Taylor Kitsch plays a gay guy adequately; he does okay as Ned’s dear friend and eventual rival for leadership, but is ultimately less noticed because of the parade of overwhelming performances.

“You cry and you cry until you think you can’t cry anymore—and then you cry some more,” Ned says during a realization, practically describing scene after scene of affecting circumstances. The two-hour movie does have a nigh-consistent focus on loss—and losing battles.

Apart from the fight for knowledge about the disease, the film repeatedly presents the ongoing struggles of gay people for acceptance, as exemplified by Ned’s disagreement with his older brother, solidly played by Alfred Molina.

“I will not speak to you again until you accept me as your equal,” Ned angrily asserts, adding, “your healthy equal!” 

“The Normal Heart” is a timely, precisely crafted reminder that such fights for recognition, and the casualties of apathy, should never be forgotten.

(“The Normal Heart” airs May 26 on HBO Go and June 1, 10 p.m. on HBO/HBO HD.)


Lilandra Neramani. Former Majestrix of the Shi’ar, Starjammer, and wife of Charles Xavier. Was assassinated during the War of Kings.

Objectifixation, Fourteen

Still... standing...!"
"I love that Molly Hayes."

Beautiful mess. Just read and looked for specific issues.

Plastic easter egg with two chocolates inside.

 They don’t look like much but they’re actually huge. #angsarapmo #singlentendre #bdaymerienda

“First movie version! Take that, Flash!”
“I must admit, Pietro, I was afraid that it would suck! But I was pleasantly surprised.”

Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1. Finally reading the series. Had to buy it; it compiled the first 17 issues. Excited!

House of Cards playing cards. Oh yeah.

Tabi Po compilation! Absolutely enjoyed this. For mature readers only.

Monster king makeover

Giant monster character Godzilla gets a new Hollywood makeover courtesy of “Monsters” director Gareth Edwards, who gives a more human-focused tale amid the requisite scenes of urban destruction and colossal creature conflicts. As with the scifi-drama “Monsters,” the filmmaker interestingly tells the story of people affected by the presence of titanic, otherworldly behemoths.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play a father and son investigating the destruction surrounding a former power plant in Japan. Their family lived in and was forced to flee the country many years ago, unaware of the truth behind the ordeal. They discover, to their surprise, the existence of a giant, insectoid creature, which soon causes untold damage. Scintists eventually reveal that a natural enemy would soon arrive in the form of the “alpha predator” dubbed “Gojira.”

The “king of the monsters” tracks the insectoid MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), which takes some time to happen. Almost an hour into the film, Godzilla appears onscreen, and it’s mostly family drama and buildup scenes prior to that. But when it does happen, the monster scuffle looks great, and aptly thunderous. The clashes are short, although much is given to scenes depicting property damage and beleaguered humans. Thankfully, it’s not a campy, hodge-podge squandering, a la the 1998 Hollywood version.

Drama-wise, sure, the actors are especially convincing, but we really don’t care that much, as the reunion scene is anticipated, and so typically presented. Still, it’s mostly a serious reinterpretation with a steady, gripping tone. While it isn’t exceptionally spectacular—it’s actually good, but not great—it’s not a bad way to reimagine the iconic monster character and the franchise.

Media giants join forces for two Asia-geared cable channels

(May 21, PDI-entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Top European TV network RTL has joined forces with seasoned American mass media company CBS, creating cable channels for Southeast Asia: RTL CBS Entertainment and RTL CBS Extreme.

“The biggest broadcaster in Europe, RTL has multiple channels and owns FremantleMedia, which in turn owns ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor,’” RTL CBS country head Rene Esguerra disclosed at the recent launch of the show “House of Cards” at Power Plant Mall in Makati City. 

“The partnership of RTL and CBS is basically a joint venture that’s only for Southeast Asia. Our advantage is our access to content, probably the best in the world.”

The joint venture was formed in 2013. RTL CBS Entertainment was launched in August last year while RTL CBS Extreme was launched in March this year. 

Jonas Engwall, CEO of RTL CBS, expounded that the deal is a formidable one: “RTL has more than 50 channels and 30 radio stations across 10 countries… while CBS is the biggest broadcaster in the United States and  produces some great shows.”

According to Engwall, the two channel launches are “quite unique” in the territory. “Normally, when someone launches a channel, it takes years to build content,” he said. “We came at it from a different perspective. We tried to launch with great content from Day One. We also buy third-party content. Ultimately, what differentiates us is having great content, which is what viewers want.”

RTL CBS, Engwall said, has a balance between reality and drama. “There’s a nice mix: ‘Late Show With David Letterman,’ ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘Elementary,’ ‘X Factor UK,’ ‘Under the Dome’ and ‘House of Cards’ … They appeal to both males and females. The whole family can watch television together.”

Esguerra added that the Philippines was a special market for RTL CBS. “The ad sales market is vibrant here,” he said. “In the Philippines, ad sales spending is very high. We want a piece of that particular pie.”

Esguerra elaborated: “What I’ve discovered after 20 years in the cable industry is that Filipino cable TV subscribers are some of the most sophisticated in the world. The reason for that is we see a lot of great shows at a relatively cheap price. Filipinos can discern what’s good. That goes to show, as [far as] advertising is concerned, that all the general entertainment channels will really compete for the ad sales money. And we compete in terms of coming up with the best shows possible. That benefits the Filipino consumer. We show only the best.”

Asia is the ideal place to start the venture, Engwall added, because of related reasons. “Both the shareholders have been looking at expansion around the world and Asia is a very important piece of that puzzle because of the fantastic growth opportunities here. We individually looked at Asia and said, ‘Why don’t we do this together? It’s going to be a much stronger proposition to the end consumers,’” he explained.

Aside from the Philippines, RTL CBS Entertainment, is currently available in Singapore (where it is based), Malaysia and Thailand. RTL CBS Extreme is available in the same countries, except for Thailand. Engwall described the latter channel as more geared toward the male viewer.

“Extreme is a cool general entertainment channel more skewed toward the male audience—everything is fast-paced, high-octane,” Engwall said. “We have some reality, magic, action and extreme sports shows. But girls will like it a lot, too.”

Shows airing on RTL CBS Extreme include reality programs “Fear Factor” and “Red Bull  Art of Motion,” and the action-drama series “Hawaii Five-0.”

How about a show that will be produced and shown first in Asia? While it’s a possibility, Engwall said there were no immediate plans to create one. “For now, we’re going to focus on a long lineup of great stuff … In the future, we will look at different things,” he said.

'24': Jack is back with a vengeance

(May 19, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Terror-smashing super-agent Jack Bauer is back, combating malevolent forces that threaten the United States anew in the revived “24,” a shorter season dubbed “Live Another Day.”

Kiefer Sutherland reprises the iconic TV role, with the Emmy-winning series finding new life, still on television, after plans for spin-off films were abandoned. 

The clock restarts after eight seasons fraught with seemingly insurmountable challenges, the 24 episodes of each season corresponding to a full day. This one has fewer episodes—only 12—so it remains to be seen how the new format compresses the story and adjusts the time.

Jack has fought terrorists of various creeds, agendas and nationalities, and sacrificed much for the security of many. By the end of the series in 2010, the character was on the run, a former agent forced to “retire” after a complicated mission.

In the first episode of “Live Another Day,” Jack is tracked and, after a serious scuffle, nabbed by the London-based division of the CIA. His presence in England coincides with that of the visiting American president (William Devane), a former ally. But Jack’s immediate concern is busting out his former CTU (counter-terrorist unit) colleague, techie extraordinaire Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), detained at the same CIA headquarters.

It doesn’t take long to remind viewers—and unwary new characters—that Jack Bauer is uncommonly tough and dangerous. By the time he totes a gun again, it is clear to longtime devotees that Jack is indeed back, poised to make the world a safer place, ready to get his hands dirty for the greater good!

It’s a promising restart. Sutherland and Rajskub are joined by new cast members and rejoined by familiar ones. Yvonne Strahovksi (the serial poisoner from “Dexter”) stars as a CIA agent who figures out Jack’s ruse and rescue mission. There’s Stephen Fry, charismatic as the British prime minister; and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark from “Game of Thrones”) appears as a major villainess. Also back is Kim Raver as Jack’s traumatized ex and the president’s daughter Audrey.

In true “24” fashion, Jack Bauer chases bad guys while again convincing law enforcers of his innocence and the veracity of his new task. Sutherland still delivers with the physically demanding action hero role, and quickly reacquaints with that long-missed combo of fidgety problem-solving and focused single-mindedness. And it is just as elating to see Rajskub return to her fan-favorite character, now a goth-ish “hacktivist” who helps Jack for the nth time.  

It’s only a matter of time before a traitor is revealed—there were a couple of moles and double agents before, after all. A president with exploitable weaknesses; a weapon in the wrong hands; a dastardly plot to discredit and decimate—they’re all there, refurbished for the revival.

While it primarily appeals to fans, this “24” is accessible enough for new viewers, who should check out earlier seasons anyway for a more complete viewing experience.

“24: Live Another Day” airs Mondays, 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. on JackCity.

From cocky to crushed crimefighter, and back again

(Some spoilers ahead.)

The sequel to "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a big, visually playful but largely uneven venture. While it is consistently well-acted by the powerhouse cast, the story is cliché-ridden and has more than its share of puzzling coincidences.

Andrew Garfield still plays the once-moody teen Peter Parker, who’s having the time of his life as costumed crimefighter Spider-Man. He and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are dating, against the wishes of her cop father (Dennis Leary), who died knowing Peter’s secret—and its accompanying dangers—in  the prior film.

Jamie Foxx plays the awkward, bullied Spider-fan-turned-villain, Electro. Because of misplaced blame (yes, that about sums it up), the electricity-wielding antagonist suddenly dedicates his life to ridding New York of the Web-slinger, with some encouragement from the diseased and dying Harry Orsborn (Dane DeHaan). Harry also has a vendetta with Spider-Man, because the latter wouldn’t share his mutated blood, fearing disastrous consequences. But the masked vigilante just comes off as selfish and inarticulate in that refusal scene.

Anyway, the film, despite the story problems, impressively adapts Gwen Stacy’s ultimate fate. In the comic book, she was killed by the Green Goblin, so readers who know that particular detail may have expected it since the first film of the reboot. But it’s no less sad and shocking when it pushes through with it. The inclusion of the tragedy adds gloom and changes the tone of the film drastically, but it gives the emotional punch that this sequel’s other big skirmishes don’t really have. 

'Resurrection' stars talk about life, death and the changing biz

(May 12, PDI-entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I was very attracted to the character first; I thought he was an interesting fellow in a very complex situation, and not the kind that I had played before, so I was quite intrigued,” said “Resurrection” actor Kurtwood Smith, prior to a press conference in Raffles Makati last Thursday.

“For me, it was really the story,” his costar Omar Epps told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “The idea to me was just so universal. The only things that connect us as human beings, more than anything, are life and death. I thought it was a treasure trove of a story.”

The American actors’ last destination for their promotional tour was the Philippines, following Malaysia and Singapore. “Resurrection,” co-produced by ABC Studios and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, is a fantasy-drama series about—as the title suggests—deceased persons coming back to life.  (It premieres Monday night, 10 p.m. on Lifetime.)

Smith, 70, is best known for playing the abrasive dad Red Forman in the sitcom “That ’70s Show” for eight seasons. He had guest appearances in such shows as “The X-Files,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “24,” among others. Smith had roles in the films “Robocop” and “Dead Poets Society” as well.

Epps, meanwhile, played Dr. Eric Foreman in “House” for several seasons. The 40-year-old’s film credits include “Major League II,” “Scream 2” and “Higher Learning.”

In “Resurrection,” Epps plays immigration agent Martin Bellamy, who visits Smith’s character Henry Langston. Bellamy accompanies a boy, whom Langston reluctantly identifies as his son—but the kid’s been dead for more than 30 years.

You’ve played dads and authority figures before. How are your “Resurrection” characters different?
Smith: Red Forman’s a little bit larger-than-life. I think that Henry Langston is a bit more down-to-earth in that regard. Red was fun, he was great, and some of the other dads I’ve played were, too. I just find that Henry is probably closer to me in terms of demeanor.
Epps: Bellamy exists in a gray area, compared to characters that I played before. I’ve been on one side of the fence or the other, and he’s really in the middle. It’s been challenging to find the character.

How significantly has the entertainment industry changed since you started?
Smith:  It’s transformed a lot. When I started, VCRs were just coming out … But mainly, television has changed. Because of cable, the competition for viewers is fierce. With that, it has brought about a great resurgence of quality into television. It was kind of like the “silly, lightweight” medium compared to film. And now it’s almost kind of reversed … The real quality work in smaller features is on television and cable.
Epps: Kurtwood hit that nail on the head. It’s a completely different business than it was. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. It’s exciting to be a creative, because there are so many outlets now, there’s so much more need for content. The cable channels are winning because they have a different structure in terms of how they run their businesses to advertisers and how they roll out their content—you can just run through without commercials so you can tell stories in a different way. Telling stories in a network format is a very hard thing to do!

So crossing over is much easier?
 Epps: Yeah, because you have your second screen experience; people watch on their iPads, kids watch on their phones—they get the content so much faster. And in terms of us as artists, the line is almost completely blurred right now. When I came into the business in the early 1990s, television was frowned upon. I come from New York, a stage actor. It was very hard for people who were stars on TV to break into film. Now, you get huge film stars going into television, then come back into a movie. Now, you just go where the good work is. The audiences don’t pigeonhole you as the television or movie actor.

What’s the most important thing about playing your “Resurrection” parts?
Epps: For me, any character I play, I want to be honest. With Bellamy, he’s kinda like the outsider. I call him the eye of the audience. He’s the one character that watches it unfold, with them.
Smith: For Frances Fisher (who plays Henry’s wife) and I, it’s crucial that we keep it grounded and as honest as possible. Because when you have all this crazy stuff going on, you gotta keep it real. Then the audience will be able to accept everything.

Do you believe in the afterlife or resurrection?
Epps: I believe the energy never dies. I’m a spiritual person but I believe that energy is forever. How that energy shifts is up to that individual journey. Anything is possible. Eastern philosophies, they believe in reincarnation; some people are more religion-based and believe in an afterlife of peace and utopia, which is heaven. But I believe that heaven and hell exist in this state, on earth.
Smith: Like Omar, I don’t disbelieve in anything. I concern myself with living this life, (modulates voice) “trying to do good while I’m here.”

What’s the most rewarding thing about working in the business?
Smith: This is one of it, going around the world, meeting interesting people, talking about what you’re doing. That’s an incredible perk. And it’s always great to feel that you’re entertaining people. Ever since “Dead Poets Society,” I’ve had people come up and say: “You know, because of that movie, the relationship between my dad and I changed.”
Epps: Being able to potentially touch people through your work, inspire them. On social media, someone would tweet [about the episode they watched]; they had a moment and they felt better about that … we get the opportunity to do that, [get them through tough times]. That’s a really great feeling.

Fil-Am comedienne enlivens 'Mixology'

(May 11, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

I grew up in an American town where my high school was 99 percent white,” said Filipino-American “Mixology” actress, Ginger Gonzaga during a recent phone interview. “My dad is Filipino and he has about five brothers who live where we live. So we were kinda the Filipino family of my town.”

Gonzaga’s father hails from Cebu; her mother is Dutch. The actress-comedienne was born in the United States, and grew up in Modesto, California. She used to dress up as her Cebuano grandmother, complete with “wrinkles” drawn on her forehead— and proudly showed off her impersonation to neighbors.  In hindsight, she said, she didn’t do her grandma justice. But that was indeed an early sign that she wanted to pursue comedy.

Gonzaga performed in Los Angeles comedy clubs and in US military bases in South Korea, sometime after gaining a BA in Political Science and a minor in Chinese.  She eventually appeared in the Seth MacFarlane film “Ted,” had parts in the shows “In Gayle We Trust” and “Legit,” and guest-voiced a few times in MacFarlane’s animated series “Family Guy.”

What was it like growing up as a half-Filipino? Do you know the customs?
It was great growing up … it made me feel really special and it was a very big part for me. Even when I was getting into college, that’s what my essay was about, being Filipino and being mixed. With the customs, I don’t know if I know everything but I definitely know how to make a lot of the food. I know how to roll the lumpia and all that. It’s funny, the last time I went to the Philippines, you know when you take someone’s hand and put it on your forehead? I forgot what that was called but when I did that to one of my relatives, they all thought that I was so old-fashioned. I was so embarrassed because I was trying to be respectful. We laughed and I was like, “We’re not doing this anymore!”
But yeah, I’ve been to the Philippines twice and hopefully I would be able to go again. When my family goes, they go for about a month. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of cousins … we have a lot of big celebrations. It was fun. And I know how to karaoke!
Who are your comedic and acting influences, and which of their works are favorites?
I love Sacha Baron Cohen and I love “Borat.” I’ve never tried doing what he did in “Borat” but he’s definitely someone I love. Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” And [the late] Philip Seymour Hoffman—I really love “The Master.” And I love Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine.”

What makes “Mixology” different and to whom will it appeal to?
It takes place in one night. In this show, the pacing is really fast and it has to focus on different characters every episode. It’s very fresh and new, fun for us as actors, and I think also for the audience. But as far as the audience goes, you don’t have to be in our age group to love this show.
It really is just anyone who has had trouble or who have tried or have experience in trying to find a date, or love. It’s so funny to me, the way that people become whenever they’re approaching people at bars or when they’re trying to hook up with someone. Everyone embarrasses themselves … and I think everyone can relate to that.

How would you describe Maya, your lawyer character?
She’s definitely edgy throughout the show but she softens up a little bit and it’s very unique to see what makes her do that, which is what I love about the progression of her character. I think she’s really well-rounded because she’s fierce but she still has humanity to her because she’s lonely.

How authentic are the dating situations in the show?
What’s funny about the show is that we heighten everything that happens in real life. However, even when watching it, and I see some of the really outrageous things that happen in our show, it’s almost true to real life … it actually becomes funnier because even characters that are super-weird or those behaving totally inappropriately, as much as it seems over-the-top, I have seen it in person! Some [parts] are definitely blown out of proportion but some of the craziest things are actually grounded on way too much truth! (Laughs.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I'm Seventeen, Been Through It All

Me in 1991, outside the church I used to visit. It was my second year in college. I think this was taken during a crazy period--crazy in a regular, angst-ridden teen kinda way--but things smoothened in a couple of months.


Elias. From Mervin Malonzo's webcomic and comic book Tabi Po.

Don't Blink

Weeping Angel and Stone Santo Niño. Had time to kill (heh) in Makati some weeks ago. My thanks to Jodee for the bond paper.

Whole world is a stomping ground for energetic Fil-Am

(May 8, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Though he grew up in Hawaii, “I still learned about Filipino culture,” Fil-Am performer Andres Fernandez told the Inquirer in an exclusive e-mail interview. “Our parents spoke Tagalog to us all the time,” he said.

The singer-dancer, promoting the series of “Stomp” shows in Manila next month (June 17 to 22, Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater), related: “There are a lot of Filipinos in Hawaii; we had lots of gatherings at Barrio Fiesta (a restaurant specializing in Philippine cuisine). I know about the tinikling dance; I know how to mano (the tradition of touching one’s forehead to an elder’s hand, as a sign of respect), to never wear a hat in the house and lots of other [Filipino customs].”

Fernandez said that, as kids, he and his siblings had all shown interest in performing. “We sang at birthday parties, graduations… in 1985, we put together our very first concert at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome. 

My kuya (elder brother) was 14, I was 11 and my younger brother was 9; we formed a dance group and also a boy band, and toured the Hawaiian Islands. We opened for major artists, including Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera.” 

Also in 1985, he did backup vocals on his older brother Johnny’s record, “Puede Ba.” Fernandez elaborated, “Recording for my brother’s album felt great. We got to work in a studio for the first time, and that was a really fun experience. It helped me to listen and get a better sound out of my voice.”

A member of the “Stomp” cast for 17 years now, Fernandez  said those previous experiences continue to be useful as he performs for the percussion- and physical comedy-heavy show, which debuted in London in the early 1990s. “In ‘Stomp,’ we don’t talk or sing,” he said. Those older disciplines taught him to listen closely to the music being played, he said.

Now in his late 30s, Fernandez fondly recalled how he got the job: “Before I auditioned for ‘Stomp,’ I saw it only once in Hawaii. I thought, ‘Wow, how does someone learn to do that?’ I didn’t think that, three months later, I would be trying out. But I did, and made it through all three call backs. I was hired in May of 1997.”

Adjusting to the established moves was a challenge. “I had to learn to create music with hands and feet. Luckily, I had some dance and drumming experience.” 

Fernandez continues to appreciate unexpected “blessings” from performing in the show. “The best thing about being in ‘Stomp’ is, I met some of my best friends, whom I would probably never have met [otherwise]. And I get to travel! Now it’s bringing me back to my roots. I am so excited to be going back to Manila for the first time since 1991!” 

It's a Do Or Die Situation, He Will Be...

Invincible! Mark Grayson, son of Omni-Man. 

Magneto Returns

Ancient sketchpad drawing. July 1990. I was 16. I used tech pens and a Pentel pen.

Summer Sunshine

Status updates, et cetera.

March 15. The 1975 in Manila! Mall tour in two weeks! Aahh!
March 20. "I only wanted you to like me."
March 25. FB-chatted with a friend yesterday. I mistakenly put a response on the comments section. Deleted it. Sorry for the fuck-up. #scatterbrain
March 25. Sometimes, of course, there are doubts and regrets. ("I could've been a better son, sibling, person.") But you make the best of what you've got. And try not to make others miserable.
March 28. Conscious coupling.
March 29. Really enjoyed Captain America 2. Excellent stunts, tightly told story. Excited about one of two end credits scenes.
March 29. Sobrang busog kanina sa birthday celebration ni Jaycee.
April 8. Craving pizza.
April 11. Latest SHIELD episode's a Winter Soldier tie-in. So good!
April 13. Been realizing the importance of days off. Earlier, I just ate pizza, then read comics in bed, while listening to music. There were stacks of comics that feel like I've only seen and read for the first time (damn, so that was Raven's origin pre-Crisis?). And with all the clutter strewn about, my room kinda looked like a pigsty. But hey, it's mine, and I can be lazy today.
April 15. Boy. Mercury. Shooting through every degree.
April 16. Three issues done. Yay, team! Holy Week vaycay!
April 17. Daario regenerated.
April 23. Tatlong oras lang ang tulog. First assessment meeting. May natutunan. Pagkatapos, tinanong ako ni Ruey kung nagko-comics pa ako (sabi ko, oo, para rin ituluy-tuloy ko na pag walang pasok). Kape. Edit. Ngayon, naghihintay na mawala ang trapik sa Edsa.
April 26. Twelve years ago, my first article was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I remember sending different articles at a certain period, until one review was used by then-editor of the Metro-Entertainment section, Sir Louie Camino, who asked me to keep writing for him. I never stopped. Even after he passed away, the generosity continued; his replacement Ma'am Emmie Velarde "adopted" me and let me continue writing movie reviews and reports. I also contributed to the 2BU, Super, and Sunday Inquirer sections, as well as the Libre paper. Now with over 600 articles to my name (I actually lost count when I got hired last year), and as one of the Entertainment section editors, I continue to feel lucky, constantly awed by smart and talented people whose works and thoughts I get to see and read because of this job. Thank you. It's a lifesaver. It's a great, educational job, and I am always thankful for the opportunity to write.
April 27. Dear PR agency/publicist friends:
Just a few things:
1) Please don't ask multiple sections of one newspaper to your press event, to interview the same subject/s. Not only does it cause confusion among colleagues, we are discouraged from doing stories on the same thing. Now, I understand that multiple stories make the client happy, but please, spare us the hassle.
2) If your client is someone who can't be bothered to wait for a few minutes because we got caught in bad traffic, or decides that he or she needs to be somewhere else all of a sudden, don't bother asking for an interview. The whole scenario wastes time and energy.
3) If you invite us to your events, expect that we'd ask for a separate, one-on-one interview, something exclusive for our paper, and not just be content with your main press con Q&A. Otherwise, just send a press release.
I've worked for and alongside some of you, and I've witnessed how tough and crazy it can be. But I hope those things can be avoided in the future. Thanks.
May 2. Bought Mervin's Tabi Po comic. Enjoyed it a lot! Binasa ko na sa site yung next chapters. Galing.
May 2. Mostly enjoyed Spidey.
May 10. Odd that I have two ex-girlfriends among my FB contacts. But I'm glad they're really happy and stuff. #yeah #pastlife

Fabsolute Reality

Newspaper illustration, 2002. Reality TV. It accompanied the article I wrote about Survivor, The Osbournes, Fear Factor and other "real" or "unscripted" programs of the time.

OMB exec's assurance: We work 24/7

(April 25, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“We assure the public that we work 24/7,” said Optical Media Board (OMB) executive director Dennis Pinlac, one of the guests at the Philippine commemoration of World Intellectual Property Day in Makati last week.

“Whether in Metro Manila [or in other areas], we enforce the law—our approach is tough, in the sense that we go to the root of the problem. After raids or inspections, we don’t only confiscate the goods; we sit down and talk with the vendors and [make them aware] of alternative means of livelihood,” Pinlac told reporters. 

Other speakers discussed intellectual property and measures taken to curb theft and piracy in the country. The guests include Philippine National Police Senior Superintendent Chief William Macavinta, Intellectual Property Office Director-General Ricardo Blancaflor and Philippine Association of the Record Industry (Pari) chairMarivic Benedicto.

The OMB is mandated to regulate the manufacture of optical media and impose penalties for their illegal reproduction. Pinlac stressed the importance of teamwork in OMB operations against the sale of bootleg discs, including CD and DVD copies of local and foreign music, movies and TV shows.
“We cannot police without the cooperation of the PNP. Pari has also been very active in guiding us,” Pinlac noted.

OMB Chair Ronnie Ricketts was not present because, Pinlac said, the event coincided with another OMB activity, “a special project.”

The “very busy” Ricketts was part of a team that visited Washington, DC, last January. Pinlac told the Inquirer: “He was invited by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which rates copyright compliance. In 2012, the Philippines was on the priority watch list. Last year, we were taken off the list. On that trip, the people who draft the list wanted to hear, from our chair himself, how we did it.”

The OMB, Pinlac added, consistently tries to be “very transparent.” He said the antipiracy campaign was not limited to seizure of illegally produced items. More important, he noted, the board is seeing changing attitudes.

He explained, “When we change one mind, it snowballs. We take the campaign to schools. One child may then get to tell his father, ‘We’re killing industries and people lose work, Dad.’”

Pinlac showed a stack of stickers and posters with antipiracy slogans. “These were made by students. They told the chairman, ‘Sir Ronnie, you can use these.’ He was touched to experience the ripple effect.”

Avengers, Mid-'90s

Avengers, Mid-'90s. Back when they looked like X-Men and WildCATs. Roll call: (mutated) Wasp, (armored) Captain America, (pouchy) Giant-Man, (chain-accessoried) Thor, (shoulder-padded) Iron Man, (Jean Greyed) Scarlet Witch and (unruly-haired) Hawkeye.

Minnie Driver plays a devastated mother to a stillborn child

(April 20, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I wanted the film to be incredibly human, incredibly real—in the movie, there are no villains,” Sean Hanish, who directed the Lifetime movie “Return to Zero,” said in a recent conference call. 

The project, based on a true story and starring Minnie Driver as the mother of a stillborn child, required utmost sensitivity to be truly effective, Hanish said. “The most important thing for me was to be honest and true to what my wife (Kiley) and I went through. That was my North Star. If I can be as honest as possible in every step of the way—in the writing, directing, in the editing room—hopefully, this can resonate with people.”

 Nabbing Driver for the Maggie role was “fortunate,” the writer-director added. “The best word for her is ‘fearless.’ The first thing I said was, ‘I want to give you all the credit in the world for even sitting down to talk about playing this role.’ She said, ‘Yeah, it is. But I think I know how to do it.’  The thing about Minnie is, she’s almost like an improvisational jazz singer. She comes up with things. Her creativity is boundless. She’s always trying to improve the scene.”

He added that the English actress, who gained prominence for her Academy Award-nominated supporting role in “Good Will Hunting,” is among the top actresses in the world: “She really is! I think she’s underrated. She has courage and wit. She’s game for anything.”

Hanish was unfamiliar with Paul Adelstein, who costars as Maggie’s husband Aaron. But he was a good fit, and complemented Driver well. “My casting directors recommended him, then I started looking at his television work of 10-plus years… Turns out, he’s really superb. The two of them have a chemistry that Minnie described as [something] she’s only had a few times in her career. One was with Matt Damon [in ‘Good Will Hunting’], and the other time was with Eddie Izzard in that TV show, ‘The Riches.’”

Despite the heavy subject, things were light and easy for the filmmaker and actors behind the scenes. “The funny thing is, we had a blast. I know it sounds crazy but we had such a great time. Paul and Minnie said, ‘You know some of the heaviest, darkest, most dramatic shows we’ve ever been in, we had the most fun. And sometimes, the opposite is true. If you’re doing a big movie, like off-set it’s really drudgery.’ So, honestly, we laughed so much between takes, which might sound odd but I think that’s the way it levels out, because they knew what they had to do when they got on set.”

Making “Return to Zero” involved tough challenges that the cast and crew had to face and surmount. “When you’re making a film about a stillborn child, there’s very little money to make it with. We hobbled together a few equity investors who were incredibly generous, had incredible faith in me, in the cast, our story… We were a true independent film. We shot a 105-page script in 19 days with that level of intensity, so every day you woke up, you were like, ‘I’m so glad we got that big scene from yesterday.’”

Ultimately, Hanish is elated with transmitting an important message about parenthood. “The film is an ode to how incredible it is to be a mother, what a miracle it is to have a child, and what a privilege it is to be a parent.”

(“Return to Zero” airs May 20, 8 p.m. on Lifetime.)