Saturday, August 30, 2014


With Alden Richards last Thursday at Limketkai Luxe Hotel in Cagayan de Oro. I've seen him before, about three years ago, during the screening of the first Teen Wolf episode in Makati, and more recently, at the gym. Nice kid. Humble, too. Hope he stays that way.

Innocence Lost, Badass Kids

Carl the sheriff.

Arya the orphan.

Charlie the wallflower. 

Mind games with trippy 'Lucy'

(Aug. 15, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

In Luc Besson’s briskly-paced sci-fi-action flick “Lucy,” the carefree titular girl played by Scarlett Johansson gets access to her brain’s hidden capabilities. She uses her newly acquired mind powers in ways that are fantastic and, at times, unnerving.

“Lucy” is penned and directed by Besson, who applies his frenetic, stylish action sensibilities to the enterprise.

The movie emits danger from the get-go. A few minutes into it, party girl Lucy, studying in Taiwan, is forced to deliver a mysterious package to a hotel. She is quickly dragged by burly henchmen and meets a Taiwanese mob lord, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik), who makes no secret of his ruthlessness.

In another part of the world, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is conducting a lecture on brain capacity and the nature of animals. He theorizes that humans can do staggering things if they use more than the fraction of brain power normally utilized.

Lucy’s astonishing experience illustrates that, as her body absorbs the new drug she is forced to carry as a mule. Pissed but focused, she is raring for payback, among other new concerns!

While the 2011 Bradley Cooper starrer “Limitless” explored brain functions imaginatively, “Lucy” goes in a different, but similarly creative, direction.

It goes on globetrotting and time-hopping jaunts, managing to smoothly meld sci-fi conceits with insane action sequences.

It’s ambitious, and realizes its goals seamlessly, compared to a few other Besson films.

Johansson’s transformation from clueless, frantic girl to stoic, dark avenger (no pun intended) is impressive. Expectedly, Freeman provides the perfunctory voice of knowledge—
and learning—but adds little else; he’s mostly a background character that doesn’t matter.

Visually, “Lucy” is rather playful and gets image-trippy from time to time, as the filmmaker is wont to do. From flashes of abstract CGI to very specific sped-up sequences with adventurous camera angles—Besson likes visual emphasis and ditches subtlety once again.

But while it’s nearly “The Messenger”-ish in terms of flashy, funky ideas, there are still “Leon”-like touches that make the life-and-death situations more urgent.

And speaking of open minds, “Lucy” spends its time wisely pondering “unponderables”—its existential, self-aware ruminations could have gotten pretentious and contrived à la Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain,” but the film still minds its limitations and pulls off its more cerebral ideas with firm execution. 

Objectifixation, Seventeen

"Cyclops, it's time for a truce! Guardians of the Galaxy opens today. I'm assembling the Avengers!"
"For once, Cap, I agree! To me, my X-Men!"

That time when John Byrne suckered his readers into believing that the dead hero Guardian had resurrected. I believed it!

Enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy so much that I bought this Drax action figure shortly after watching. First Marvel Legends figure in years.

Wanted to own the original. Fantastic album. To my sister, thanks for getting it!

Woo-who. Cute. And compatible with Lego. Thanks, Sis.

GOTG cap! Cool freebie.

Ninja Spawn and Angela.
"So, Angela, how is the Marvel Universe treating you?"
"Like She-Ra!"

Rust Cohle

Rust. “The light’s winning.”

Brainy and his Hi-Tech Gallery

Brainiac 5 gets blackmailed by teammates Gear and Chuck Taine. Glad this issue depicted Brainy as "normal," in that he has regular teen impulses/proclivities. (Also, "In-" refers to Invisible Kid, methinks.)

That's a hi-tech spank-bank. It does inspire a couple of questions. Did he create an app that could "undress" subjects? Or give them approximate naked holograms? How common was the format in the 31st century? Could they be stolen footage? Did Brainy have tech that spied on his crushes? Hmm. 

When mom takes a break, chaos ensues

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

When three Asian mothers leave their families to go on a luxury getaway, chaos ensues.

The Lifetime reality program “Mom’s Time Out” treats a few chosen mothers from the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia to a vacation. They leave their household responsibilities to their husbands.

Filipino spouses Kenneth and Emerald Bailey thought it was the perfect opportunity for their family to change certain things for five days. Kenneth, a call center employee, sought to bond with their 2-year-old daughter Briah while full-time housewife Emerald went on a four-day getaway with other mommies in Vietnam.
“It was my idea to join the show,” Emerald told the Inquirer via a conference call. “When it was offered to us, I [thought] it was the perfect time for Kenneth and Briah to bond.”

Kenneth added, “It also seemed a good opportunity for Emerald to take a little break and have a good time, since being a housewife is a really hard job.”

The Baileys revealed that they had to prepare and improve a few things for the five-episode series.
“When the show was about to start, my mindset was to try and be positive at all times because I wasn’t sure what would happen in those five days,” Kenneth said.

Emerald had a manicure and pedicure. “I prepared myself to be not too emotional over the fact that I’d be away from home. I failed; there was this day during the trip when I saw a video of Briah. I cried.”

Kenneth said it was tough getting followed by cameras at first, but that he got to adjust eventually. “In the following days, I [felt] like an actor. [Because of] the cameras, people started looking. It was fun.”
The frazzled husband had to adjust his sleeping schedule for the show as well. Some of the most challenging, drama-fraught scenarios that Kenneth and his daughter figured in included a dental appointment and a picnic.

The Baileys’ TV experience came with timely and relevant lessons, according to the couple. Emerald noted, “This experience [reminded] us that parenting is really hard. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing.”

Kenneth added, “There’s no perfect parent, either. You just have to do your best from day to day, give your all to your child, and make sure you address their needs.”

Just as important, Emerald said, is to have “me” time once in a while: “It will not make you less of a good mother if you enjoy some time alone… It’s important to sometimes be away from mom duties, which can be very draining at times.”

(“Mom’s Time Out” airs Friday, 7 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Lifetime.) 

Teaching Moments

Smiled when I found my old losing entry in Filbar's 1985 art contest "DC Super 3." I was 12, in Grade 6. I remember writing down the original characters' bios from the afternoon till near closing time, at Unimart's food court. I think I felt embarrassed, mostly because I kept my family waiting while I wrote Marvel Universe-type histories on the back of the board.

Anyway, I saw other entries by older artists and pros at the party venue (was it a function hall in Fort Santiago?), and knew that I had no chance of winning. It felt terrible, losing. But in hindsight, it was an early reality check, a reminder to be better, and to learn from disappointment.

I joined and lost a contest again, the next year. It was Comic Quest's fan art contest. But even then, I knew that there were more deserving artists. I didn't mind losing; heck, I was just happy to have joined. (I drew the X-Men in black and white.) I think I had more luck with inter-school contests, where I was pitted against people my age. So yeah, you win some, lose some.

Through it all, my love for comics--the medium, the art form, the stories and characters--kept growing. It continues to provide me an escape now, as a reader, and as a creator (I'm working on my own comics again, after work). So it was cool, seeing something from so long ago, from a time when I was sort of being prepped for life's more serious disappointments. My, how I've grown.

Ultron and Brainiac

Brainiac, co-ruler of three earths during the Crisis. Ultron, destroyer of the country Slorenia.

‘Flowers in the Attic’: Sordid secrets, twisted terrors

(Aug. 15, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Sordid secrets fester behind the charm of a model American family in the disturbing Lifetime TV movie, “Flowers in the Attic,” a grim family drama/crime story based on the 1979 book by VC Andrews.

First adapted into a movie in 1987, “Flowers in the Attic” is remade into a sleek, aptly perplexing and exploratory TV special that tackles psychological terrors, taboo territory, and muddled family dynamics.

Set in the 1950s, the tale initially presents a picture-perfect family, Norman Rockwell-esque in their shared joys and dreams.

But after the untimely death of Chris Sr. (Chad Willett), loving husband and father of four, the seemingly clueless wife Corrinne (Heather Graham) drops a bomb on her teen children Chris and Cathy (Mason Dye and Kiernan Shipka)—she is actually estranged from extremely wealthy parents, whom they must now live with.

Corrine, the teens and young twins Carrie and Cory (Ava Telek and Maxwell Kovach) leave Pennsylvania and trek to an old mansion in Virginia, where they are met by Corrine’s smug mother Olivia (Ellen Burstyn).
The children’s presence is kept a secret from Corrine’s father, and they are strictly instructed by Olivia to stay in a room that connects to the attic. The youngsters later find out that their mother had been in a scandalous relationship, which caused the estrangement.

Their forced confinement turns to days, then weeks, while they keep getting excuses and fanatical religious judgments over wrongdoings they haven’t committed.

“Flowers in the Attic,” thanks to its alluring imagery and cleanly retro trappings, disarms by presenting a seemingly safe, comfortable time and place— which belie some sick, twisted secrets. They all bob to the surface, slowly but surely.

Burstyn is deliciously wicked as the grandmother from hell, tormenting her spawn and grandkids with unusual fervor. She spews religious condemnation one moment, and warns of the dangers of male sexuality the next; she’s a bogeyman that, ironically, inhabits the brightly lit, poshly decorated parts of the house.

The twisted nature of her daughter Corrine is given spunk and flavor by Graham, who, in this more mature role, shows some range and credible dichotomy. Those big, expressive eyes are put to good use here, cold windows to a broken soul sometimes, and just insane and glaring on other occasions.

The teen grandchildren are pivotal parts that are given justice by Dye and Shipka, who imbue the confused prisoners with odd chemistry and disconcerting energy. The two promising actors have the longest screen time, and their performances, partly, make the film gradually compelling despite its oft-challenging pace.

(“Flowers in the Attic” premiered recently on Lifetime. Repeats will air tonight, 11 p.m.; tomorrow, Aug. 16, 10 p.m. and Aug. 21, 11 p.m.) 

Teenage Flirtbag

1991, I think. CAFA. In one of the rooms facing the Conservatory of Music building. (Those violin-playing students were awesome.) My then-classmate Third took this pic. 

My concerns back then were pretty normal. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be successful. Wait, come to think of it, I still feel like this sometimes. Except there have been major changes, like I'm more secure with who I am and what I can do.

I used to miss my hair, which I styled like this and a few other ways. But it had a good run. I mourned it, and made peace with the loss a long time ago.

US biker girl feels at home in Malaysia and Brunei

(Aug. 18, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I feel like my eyes have been opened to another world,” said American biker and photographer Jaime Dempsey via a teleconference. She explores Brunei and Malaysia (using a different motorcycle for each country) for the History docu series, “Ride N’ Seek: Borneo.”

In the program’s first season, Dempsey visited West Malaysia. This return to Asia, she said, was an enriching trip, culturally and intellectually.

“Last season was my first time riding in another country,” Dempsey said. “I was in awe of everything so it was kind of hard to soak in, to learn the language and customs—it was just so overwhelming. This season felt like a homecoming.”

Traveling on a bike, she recounted, was more challenging this time around: “When I got into Sabah, I drove through a lot of gravel and dirt roads, something I hadn’t experienced before. I was very proud of myself!”

Prior to doing the six-episode “Ride N’ Seek,” Dempsey had certain presumptions. She was pleasantly surprised by the things she had in common with the people she encountered. “I knew it was going to be difficult, physically. Riding in warm weather—and with a crew— you can’t just take off,” she said. “I had to be patient. The most important thing I learned was not to be intimidated. It was touching to realize that [many] people are not going to judge you by the way you look.”

She elaborated, “Sometimes I got a little self-conscious. I stood out—I have a lot of tattoos and I wasn’t sure how I was being regarded. But I ended up meeting a lot of really friendly people.”

The Los Angeles-based biker, who also designs swimwear for a living, recounted how she learned to make a sweet bread snack from locals, among other things. “I visited this shop where they taught me. Apparently the bun was given by Chinese generals as a staple food for their soldiers. There’s a hole in the middle of the bun; the soldiers would tie them together with strings and wear them around their necks. It was really interesting to learn about food with a history.”

Dempsey got to visit Snake Island in Malaysia, where she saw deadly species up close. She visited a bee farm and an orangutan sanctuary, and went to Mabul Island, also in Malaysia, to learn spear-fishing. In one episode, she learned to make  keris, a bladed weapon.

She noted, “There were moments when I was genuinely scared of what I was about to do—and the production company did a great job in capturing that. The viewers will feel that fear and anticipation, and hopefully enjoy experiencing them with me!”

(“Ride N’ Seek: Borneo” debuts tonight at 9 on History.) 

Where no comic book movie has gone before

(Aug 3, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Grand but grounded, “Guardians of the Galaxy” boldly goes where no comic-book movie has gone before.
Since Marvel Studios promised a shared cinematic universe with 2008’s “Iron Man,” fans eagerly awaited connecting films “Captain America” and “Thor,” whose titular heroes’ adventures culminated in the formation of a superhero team in 2012’s “The Avengers.”

The box-office success has allowed opportunities for expansion and experimentation. On TV, there’s the action series “Agents of SHIELD”; back on the big screen, there’s the wild “Guardians,” about a bunch of space scoundrels who hesitantly change into saviors.

Director and coscreenwriter James Gunn (“Scooby Doo 2,” “Super”) reimagines the team into thugs and lowlifes who initially loathe each other: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), an Earthling abducted by a UFO when he was a boy; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a deadly huntress; Drax (Dave Bautista), a vengeful strongman; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a smart raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a plant creature.

Being heroes is the last thing on their minds, but the reluctant allies grudgingly work together and organically become a functioning fighting unit out to save the galaxy—mainly because, as Star-Lord points out, they’re some of “the idiots who live in it!”

The Han Solo-esque character fits Pratt like a glove; the actor’s comedic edge is put to great use. He’s über-buff again à la his “Zero Dark Thirty” character, ditching his plump “Parks and Recreation” physique for now. Dashing and ideally flawed, the Walkman-carrying crook Peter Quill/Star-Lord manages to radiate with both roguish charm and everyman fallibility.

But his computer-generated cohorts steal the show sometimes. Rocket and Groot figure in some funny scrapes, unexpectedly warm and human as live-action characters.

Drax, meanwhile, is surprisingly eloquent, and Gamora has compassion, despite being trained in several galactic martial arts by killers.

Their main antagonists are the madman Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and the cyborg Nebula (Karen Gillan). Both actors portray the formidable foes with panache and grit. The latter has less screen time and development, though, but hopefully that will be rectified in future stories. There is already a sequel being planned and Gunn is slated to return as director.

“Guardians” also connects nicely to the bigger picture. Characters last seen in the end-credit extras of “Avengers” and the “Thor” sequel get more screen time here, cementing a more immense mythology with all the cosmic details that it finally explains. And it has been reported that the team will connect with the premier Marvel team in the third “Avengers” movie, many years from now, so things will definitely get bigger.

For now, its retro-mix tape music, quirky humor, dazzling imagery and witty repartee combine into a fun, fearless movie. Space is just the latest frontier for Marvel, and we can’t wait to see what’s next. There’s a surprising—if polarizing—scene after the end credits that matches the strangeness of the film perfectly. 

ARCHON, 1995

This was originally done on two double page spreads. Combined, they measure 44" X 17".

The team and Alamat comic book were created by Russell Tomas and the rest of their group Virtual Media. Russell's a good friend; we worked with him on a project at his place in the mid-'90s. The characters were inspired by DC's LEGION space cops.

This was included in an exhibit at Glorietta, circa 1995.

‘The Knick’: Soderbergh medical drama on TV

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

The new Cinemax show “The Knick” isn’t your typical medical drama series. For starters, it’s not shy about showing very graphic and disconcerting hospital procedures. Among the things that viewers won’t be able to unsee are shots of bloody body parts being cut, poked and prodded on the operating table.

Directed by versatile Steven Soderbergh, whose filmmaking credits include “Erin Brockovich,” “Traffic” and “Magic Mike,” the series is set in New York in 1900. Drama unfolds in the Knick, or Knickerbocker Hospital, where Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) and an assortment of mostly grim colleagues sometimes perform unheard-of procedures.

Dr. Thackery takes over the surgery staff after his mentor (Matt Frewer) commits suicide. He struggles with the nigh-countless demands of the job while quietly proving himself a worthy successor.

His time off hospital chores, however, involves getting high in a drug den-brothel, and injecting himself with cocaine at home or wherever it’s convenient (sometimes inside a horse-drawn carriage en route to work). 

But at the workplace, he is an esteemed physician who speaks his mind and genuinely cares for his patients.
Much is tackled in the confines of the Knick, with staffers’ lives consistently focused on; their problems, quirks and shady dealings are helpful in defining them during work hours. Yes, it’s “E.R.” meets “Boardwalk Empire,” with a dash of gore for good measure.

Soderbergh, as with his other endeavors, capably handles the shift in genre; there’s solid storytelling coupled with strong characterization. What’s different this time is the lingering attention to gore. It’s hard to look at the bloody scenes without feeling queasy. Oddly enough, such scenes have morbid, trainwreck-like appeal—while squinting and cringing, you watch just the same. (The special effects used in surgery sequences are convincing and effective, so that’s a plus.)

 As someone with debilitating demons, the protagonist is an interesting, complex character. But Dr. Thackery has a confounding bias—he has trouble embracing change in the form of an African-American doctor (Andre Holland), who  is accomplished enough to join the roster. Owen does well, predictably powerful as the intermittently-impulsive and reckless doctor, who manages to keep his secrets from most of the hospital staff.
There is an almost-humorless tone, an encompassing solemn atmosphere established in its first two episodes that’s complemented by the visually lavish and transporting world. The era is depicted as beset with crippling challenges and, while it’s not conceptually groundbreaking, “The Knick” nonetheless firmly and astutely presents a reflection of relatable feats and failures.

(“The Knick” premieres tomorrow, 9 p.m. on Cinemax.) 

Who Dares Wins

Hawkeye beats the Grandmaster. Avengers Annual 1987.

The cosmic being Grandmaster just decimated the Avengers--both East and West Coast teams--using his revived henchmen, the Legion of the Unliving. They overpowered and killed the heroes, except for Captain America and Hawkeye. But Hawkeye tempts the Grandmaster with a guessing game, and cheats him. This distracts the villain long enough for the embodiment of Death--his prisoner--to break free, and send her captor away. She revives the Avengers soon after. 

Yep, that's Hawkeye. He may not be the master tactician Cap is, and doesn't adhere to the same strict moral code, but he gets the job done, even if it seems like he's just making things up as he goes along.

Also, thank goodness very few villains are omniscient.

‘World Wars’ teaches ever-relevant lessons

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

“This  generation should learn that peace is… just as fragile today as it was in 1914, 1939 and 1940,” History channel’s scholar-in-residence Steve Gillon said in a phone interview.

The history teacher/author was describing the state of the world, compared to past global conflicts featured and analyzed in the History miniseries “The World Wars,” airing for three nights starting tomorrow at 10.
Gillon and his team of scholars were tasked with checking information used in the show, which focuses on key figures Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt and several others from both the first and second World Wars.

“We had a scholar who studied German and Italian history; a British scholar and a Japanese scholar,” Gillon said. “Our jobs were to go through the scripts and rough cuts, comment on certain scenes, and suggest revisions [where needed].”

Gillon said the series, which has an introduction by US President Barack Obama,  will present old footage of wartime events, which can be unsettling. He told the Inquirer, “The show uses [authentic] historical footage along with recreations and commentary to create realistic and dramatic representations of events, [when called for]… it’s powerful, disturbing at times, but it’s educational and valuable to watch.”

Since both World Wars happened within the span of a few years, Gillon said that certain factors contributed to such a global chaos: “One of the premises of the show is that… you can almost see these two separate wars as a continuous one. World War II grew out of the failures of World War I, which was supposed to be the war that would make the world safe with democracy.”

Gillon added, “World War I created the worst possible environment—it created circumstances that allowed Hitler to rise and, at the same time, convinced the West that they should do nothing to confront his aggression. They don’t confront it until it’s far too late, which leads to World War II.”

Apart from the figures whose motives are explained in “World Wars,” Gillon noted, “There are individuals [like] soldiers who [performed] countless acts of bravery that helped defeat Hitler, and other important people who played critical roles. They did not find a place in the series, but hopefully, there will be other places where they will get the attention and respect that they deserve.”

As for the world now, Gillon stressed, it is in a very precarious place. “Human beings [have not] changed much. There are still intense political rivalries, and flashpoints that could lead to war. The world is a much more dangerous place now because weapons have become so sophisticated. We need to be aware… and do what we can to prevent another conflict in the 21st century.”