Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Ms. Marvel: Episode 4


4. Seeing Red
Kamala and her mother hop on a plane to Pakistan at the behest of her grandma Sana (Samina Ahmad), Aisha’s daughter. She confirms that they are indeed Djinn, but doesn’t make a big fuss about it, dismissing it as simply genetics. Kamala is taken sightseeing by her cousins before she wanders alone to the train station to find answers. Instead, she is found by Kareem (Aramis Knight), a member of the bandana wearing and knife throwing vigilantes called the Red Daggers. He accompanies her to their leader Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) who explains to her that the Clandestines’ aim is to break the Veil of Noor which will signal that dimension’s incursion into the human world. The Clandestines break free from the DODC and find their way to Karachi, except for Kamran who is deemed a traitor and disowned by the group. They ambush the trio and kill Waleed in the process. As Kamala and Kareem face off with Najma and company, Najma accidentally stabs the bangle, sending Kamala back to the night her grandma got lost at the train station.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set B

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LIBERATION – An Old Lady (Neomi Gonzales) in a wheelchair narrates the bittersweet conclusion of World War II in the Pacific Theater as the Americans corner the last remaining Japanese troops south of Manila. Three Japanese soldiers: commanding Daiki (Bong Cabrera); naïve Jiro (Karlo Erfe); and unhinged rapist Haruto (Chrome Cosio) enter an empty house and find a Young Girl (Ericka Peralejo) hiding in a water container. As the three mull over the possibility of not surviving, they reflect on what to do with their last remaining prisoner.

Blood, gore, a prosthetic severed head, and lots of cursing make Liberation hard to watch, aside from the fact that it’s a narrative unflinching in its depiction of the atrocities of war. Perhaps the difference is that we see it mostly from the POV of the three soldiers. Excellent acting from all five actors. If the objective was to remind all of us of the horrors of war, then this play succeeds. I don’t recommend it to those who are easily offended or grossed out by violence, as the trigger warning already states before the start of the show.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set A

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MGA BALO – A writer, Manunulat (Alon Segarra), argues with two of her characters Balo 1 (Pau Benitez) and Balo 2 (Skyzx Labastilla) about how to tell their stories but through her voice. The two have been widowed due to EJK involving their husbands: one from the city’s urban poor; the other in a provincial hunt for insurgents. While the Manunulat is in it for prestige and purpose, the two widows just want their stories told and for their husbands to get the justice they deserve.

Mga Balo is fun from a frustrated writer’s POV because it gives you an interesting glimpse inside a writer’s thought process. How do you craft a story? How do you frame it? Aside from these technicalities, you are also introduced to specific dilemmas unique to the trade such as the chase for recognition and peer validation as well as virtue signaling, to some extent. In the end, a tricky compromise between the writer’s clout and easy accessibility to the public and the preservation of the story owners’ truth remain to be the end goal not always achieved.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 30



30. Oblivion
Viktor and Lila kill their guardian as Five, Ben, and Sloane also do theirs, but not without a fight. Klaus and Luther bond in the afterlife, the latter forcing the former to bring them both back to fight with their family. The two materialize at the Hotel Oblivion just in time after Five gets one of his arms chopped off and right before Sloane is about the be decapitated by the last remaining guardian. Ethereal Luther gets rid of the last guardian but disappears as Klaus is weakened. Five finds the signs on the floor where all of them, except Allison, stand in position as their life essence, the alien substance that gave them powers, are sucked as a power source by the universe reset machine at the hotel. Not wanting everyone to die, Allison fatally hits Reginald in the head but pushes the reset button anyway. She ends up with Ray and Claire at her LA home as part of her deal while the rest, sans Sloane but with Luther, emerge from an elevator in a Hargreeves Enterprises-dominated world where his wife Abigail is alive and the kids don’t have their powers anymore.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 29



29. Seven Bells
Reginald calls a meeting to brief his children about the end of the world. He tells of the story of a portal as well as mythology from various civilizations regarding impending doom and the significance of the number seven: Seven Sleepers for the Norse; Seven Stars for the Blackfoot. He argues that the only way to stop the apocalypse is to face the guardians on the other side, at the Hotel Oblivion. Not everyone is on board with the plan, so they settle the score with a vote. Allison, Lila, Klaus, and Ben agree. Luther, Sloane, Viktor, Diego, and Five say no. Disappointed, they all move on and prepare for their final moments. Luther sees his father alone in the White Buffalo Suite en route back to his room. He goes in and they reconcile, ending in a hug before Reginald fatally stabs Luther with an extra-terrestrial tentacle from his arm. The siblings find him dead as the Kugelblitz engulfs the hotel, believing it was a guardian who killed him. Left without a choice, they enter the portal. Reginald pushes Klaus as he enters, leaving him behind to disintegrate with Luther’s corpse.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 28



28. Wedding at the End of the World
1918. Reginald Hargreeves discovers a universal portal in the middle of an empty field and builds a hotel to contain it. At present, as the world ends and nobody has a good plan to stop it, the Umbrellas sans Klaus as well as the last two Sparrows standing seek refuge at the Hotel Obsidian, which remains to be the only venue withstanding the humongous ball of fire engulfing everything around it. Luther and Sloane decide to get married and spend their last remaining time on Earth as husband and wife. Reginald and Klaus arrive, the latter attempting to make their father reconcile with his children. An awkward bachelor’s party and wedding reception follows suit where booze flows and almost everybody takes turns singing at the karaoke. Klaus manages to bring Ben into the fold, while Allison is hesitant to forgive Viktor despite him apologizing and trying to make amends. At the end of the evening, a drunk Five sees their father making a deal with someone at the White Buffalo Suite, but he passes out before seeing who it is.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 27



27. Auf Wiedersehen
1953. Lila watches her murder scene in the hands of The Handler over and over again on the Infinite Switchboard. She makes a deal with Herb to send her to ’89 West Berlin where she picks up her mom’s brief case and meets Stan and his mom, after which she takes him out time traveling to pick on Diego. Reginald takes Klaus on a road trip and kills him over and over again, helping him improve his resurrection turnaround. The remaining Umbrellas and Sparrows meet at the academy to plan the Kugelblitz’s containment, but not without Viktor and Allison having a heated confrontation in front of everyone first after the latter reveals that she killed Harlan. Once the dust settles, they set off to work at the basement where Viktor, Lila, and Sloane use their powers to trap the Kugelblitz inside Christopher. They succeed. Luther proposes to Sloane, and she accepts. Lila reveals to Diego that she is pregnant, for real. Fei breaks ranks with Ben, but Christopher suddenly erupts and the Kugelblitz emerges anew, swallowing her and the cube as the rest flee for their lives.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 26



26. Marigold
Five plays cat and mouse with Pogo until the latter agrees to entertain him in his trailer home. He looks back to 2014 when Reginald was training the Sparrows for a suicide mission dubbed as Oblivion. Five decides to complete the cycle and have the symbols tattooed on his chest. Klaus sneaks into Reginald’s quarters again, the latter taking down notes about the former’s powers and drawing the same symbols tattooed on Five’s chest on his notebook. Diego and Lila look for a missing Stan and are led to a glass tunnel behind the wall of the White Buffalo Suite. Reaching the other side, they find themselves in a parallel hotel called Hotel Oblivion where Lila admits that Stan is not their kid before two of Diego’s fingers are sliced by an assailant. Ben gives Luther a Sparrow Academy jacket and invites him to join them. Viktor and Harlan complete their transfer of powers successfully with Allison in tow. Weakened, Viktor takes a rest while Harlan admits to Allison that he accidentally killed their moms. Enraged, she takes him, now powerless, back to the academy and surrender him to the Sparrows.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 25



25. Kindest Cut
Ben and Fei try to discover the secrets of the Kugelblitz through Grace’s android eye but fail. She proposes the idea of working with the Umbrellas to save the world. Diego and Lila reunite and sleep together, resigned to the fact that they might not survive the end of the world this time around. Viktor has to decide whether to keep Harlan safe or surrender him to the Sparrows as his siblings suggest. She chooses the first option. Allison rumors Luther to want her but stops him when he begins to pin her down. Guilty, she runs off and sees Viktor and Harlan sneaking out. She volunteers to take Harlan away in Viktor’s place. Klaus crosses over to the next life again, meets his biological mother, and finds out that all of his 56 near death experiences were actually deaths which he came back from thanks to his powers. Later, he identifies the tattoo, which Five extracted from his old self’s chest, as that of the Mothers of Agony, a gang of bikers. Five locates their HQ and finds Pogo there as a tattoo artist.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 24



24. Kugelblitz
On 10/01/1989 Harlan, now known as Lester, unleashes a violent energy blast as his mother Sissy succumbs to her illness on a hospital bed. 27 women, the mothers of the Umbrella Academy siblings included, simultaneously suffer a stroke and die before their children are born. Allison goes hardcore on Sloane, who is now a hostage of the Umbrellas. She is later returned along with the bodies of Jayme and Alphonso to Ben and Fei, who further demand that they want Lester surrendered to them as well. Stan is punished by Diego by obliging him to clean several rooms at the hotel. With his Uncle Klaus as his companion, they break into the White Buffalo Suite where the kid plays with a harpoon and accidentally shoots Klaus, the spear impaling him straight to the heart. Lila and Five arrive at a now destroyed Commission. They find the Operations Bunker along with The Commission’s founder who is revealed to be none other than Five (Sean Sullivan) himself: old, lacking an arm, and connected to a respiratory device.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 23



23. Pocket Full of Lightning
Five is forced to work with Lila since only the two of them have good understanding of the Grandfather Paradox. They team up and pool his space-time travel capabilities to jumpstart the two defective briefcases they have. Klaus sneaks into the academy and ends up bonding with Reginald who, in this reality, is subordinate to the whims of his adoptive children and lacks the power he wielded on their Umbrella counterparts. Ben and Fei discuss using the possibility of not getting Marcus back to their advantage, then discover the Kugelblitz downstairs through Grace. Lester Pocket (Callum Keith Rennie) checks in at the Hotel Obsidian and heads downstairs just as the Sparrows and the Umbrellas sans Klaus and Five face off at the lobby. As the Umbrellas are immobilized by Christopher the Cube, Lester steps in and unleashes an energy blast killing Jayme and Alphonso on the spot, causing Ben, Fei, and Christopher to retreat while Sloane is shielded by Luther. Viktor recognizes Lester and calls him HARLAN.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 22



22. World's Biggest Ball of Twine
The Sparrows blame Marcus’ disappearance on the Umbrellas, kidnap Luther while he’s jogging, then treats him as a guest at the academy. Diego is forced to deal with his alleged son while Lila’s plan to flee is stalled by her broken briefcase. Using the Sparrows’ powers, she steals Five’s lost briefcase from the academy’s basement. Vanya transitions into Viktor (Elliot Page) and is welcomed with support by his siblings. Allison flies to LA only to discover that her daughter does not exist in this timeline, which triggers a slow downward spiral for her. Klaus takes Five along on a road trip, but the truth is that he wants to find his biological mother in Pennsylvania. He finds her sister instead who informs him that his mother died on 10/01/1989 along with several other women under mysterious circumstances. As the siblings wrestle with the concept of the Grandfather Paradox happening to them, the Sparrows let Luther go. They even give him a tote bag of goodies. Sloane calls him and levitates him secretly to her room, where they share a kiss.

The Umbrella Academy: Episode 21



21. Meet the Family
October 1, 1989. 16 women around the world who hadn’t been pregnant that morning give birth. Eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves vows to find all 16 and gets to adopt seven of them. He raises them as an elite group of superheroes called the Sparrow Academy: Number 1 – super strong Marcus (Justin Cornwell); Number 2 – supernaturally tentacled Ben (Justin H. Min); Number 3 – blind raven master Fei (Britne Oldford); Number 4 – power deflector Alphonso (Jake Epstein); Number 5 – gravity manipulator Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez); Number 6 – illusion spit master Jayme (Cazzie David); and Number 7 – a floating cube named Christopher. As the Umbrella Academy land in this alternate reality, they battle it out with their Sparrow counterparts. The Umbrellas retreat to The Obsidian Hotel as suggested by Klaus while the Sparrows acknowledge the new threats to their world of superhero fandom. Lila drops by to introduce Diego to their son Stan (Javon “Wanna” Walton). Marcus is consumed alive by an emerging fireball at the academy's basement.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ms. Marvel: Episode 3


3. Destined
1942, British Occupied India. Kamran’s mother Najma (Nimra Bucha) along with Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) rummage through rubble to search for two bangles that will get them back home, but they only find one. At present, she explains to Kamala that they are a group of Djinn called the Clandestines who hail from another dimension and are stuck on Earth. They need the power of the bangles to go back home but the problem is that one of the bangles is missing and their kind cannot access its power on Earth the same way Kamala can. Bruno does his research and finds out that using the bangle for interdimensional travel might trigger a catastrophe based on the amount of energy it will require. Kamran warns Kamala about his mother’s group, and they cause a ruckus at Aamir’s wedding. Kamala fights them but is outnumbered. The DODC led by Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner) and P. Cleary (Arian Moayed) arrive to arrest the Clandestines. Kamala receives a call from her grandmother asking her to come to Karachi.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set D

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HULING HARAYA NINA ISCHIA AT EMETERIA – Emeteria (Kiki Baento) is busy packing her daughter Ischia’s (Jovy Vieja) luggage as they both prepare for her relocation to Manila to attend university there. The teenager’s last night at her mother’s sari-sari store brings back a lot of memories, many of them not so good from previous horrors she experienced there. Afraid of what will happen to her mother, she begs a higher power to spare her from harm.

Huling Haraya Nina Ischia at Emeteria starts off with boring banter between mother and daughter, slowly opening up and introducing points of conflict from the past that we can only try our best to guess. The supernatural angle which concludes the play is hinted upon several times but only acknowledged close to curtain call. This is perhaps the downside of the Virgin Labfest. The runtime allotted for each play is just too short to develop a story. Hopefully, this play gets picked up for production so we can explore the storyline even more.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set C

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STUDENT’S HANDBOOK – Father Oks (Jojo Cayabyab), the strict priest and head of a catholic school, comes back from Hong Kong during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He along with student assistant Mary (Kyrie Samodio) summon four students who violated several articles in the handbook: Rick (Earvin Estioco) the rocker musical theater actor and Peps (Gabo Tolentino) the class clown for violating the long hair rule; inglisera Claire (Marynor Madamesila) for having tattoos; and Benjo (Jerom Canlas) for joining a rally.

Student’s Handbook does not really hit the mark right away, and the sound effects/musical score that signal transition is downright weird. The message begins to make sense as we get halfway through the narrative, making it clear that the premise is that of authority. It starts at school before permeating into different areas of one’s life. Framed within the beginning of the pandemic, it feels a bit strange considering we’re all just starting to recover from it. Lackluster to some extent but has a legit message to convey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Ms. Marvel: Episode 2


2. Crushed
Kamala goes back to school with a newfound confidence, while popular girl Zoe Zimmer (Laurel Marsden) chases social media clout claiming she knows the hero, referring to her as Nightlight. She is taken in by the DDC for questioning. Kamala convinces close friend Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher) to run for their Mosque Board, going against other candidates who are all middle-aged men. Bruno gets admitted to a Caltech summer program but chooses to stay in Jersey to assist Kamala with the discovery of her powers, but she has her eyes on senior transfer student Kamran (Rish Shah), who offers her driving lessons. The topic of Kamala’s great grandmother Aisha, the bangle’s original owner, is also discussed, and she starts seeing visions of her. The elders of the community all have negative memories of the woman. A young boy almost falls off a mosque’s tower, but Kamala, in costume, saves him. The DDC finds her, and a chase scene ensues. Kamran arrives and she hops in his car. The woman in her visions is in the backseat, introduced as his mother.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Ms. Marvel: Episode 1


1. Generation Why
Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is an Avengers superfan, particularly Carol Danvers'. She spends most of her time uploading videos about superheroes on YouTube, but what excites her the most is the first ever AvengersCon, which she must attend at all costs. Her best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz), a science whiz applying to go to Caltech, is supportive and even tweaks her Captain Marvel cosplay costume with some technical enhancements. On the other hand, her parents Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) are worried that their daughter is not focusing so much on her future. Kamala sneaks out of the house to attend the convention anyway, despite their disapproval. Putting on an antique bracelet from her grandmother to enhance her costume, she suddenly gets dizzy and starts seeing purple haze, immediately exhibiting powers by shooting energy constructs from her hands. Her little party trick gets the attention of the Department of Damage Control through a viral video online.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Jurassic World Dominion

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With dinosaurs now in the wild and co-existing with human beings and other animals, they are viewed as a minor threat causing a handful of deaths a year. Despite the fact, it is the new term coined as “genetic power” that really has the world concerned. When giant corporations like BioSyn begin to genetically modify flora and fauna by splicing genes from their ancestors a few centuries ago, the world has an ecological problem to face. Add some other issues on the side such as dinosaur smuggling, illegal breeding as well as the species’ weaponization and you get a cocktail of political and ethical dilemmas all together in one giant blender. Nevertheless, BioSyn’s eyes are glued to Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the first human clone now living as the adoptive daughter of Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose genes can usher in a new era in the industry. Paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) get caught in the mix when they investigate BioSyn’s questionable methods.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Jurassic Park III (2001)

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Dinosaur aficionado Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) gets the gift of a lifetime as his mother’s boyfriend takes him parasailing in Costa Rica as close as possible to Isla Sorna where InGen’s dinosaurs are bred. Things go bad when their guides go missing and the duo crash land on the dino-inhabited island. Alarmed, his divorced parents Paul (William H Macy) and Amanda (Téa Leoni) pretend to be a wealthy adventurous couple and enlists the help of paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) by enticing him with full funding for his archaeological dig. He, in turn, takes his student Billy (Alessandro Nivola) with him, and they both discover the ruse as their jet crashes when they are attacked by a Spinosaurus. The mission suddenly becomes a fight for survival as the couple try their best to find their missing son while the scientists find a way for all of them to stay alive.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

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Dealing with his newfound fame as the whistleblower of the recreation of dinosaurs, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is forced to return to Jurassic Park after its founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) reveals that the neighboring Isla Sorna is where the dinosaurs were bred in the wild before being taken captive to Isla Nublar. Malcolm’s girlfriend, behavioral paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already on the island as part of a four-man documentation team that includes photojournalist Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), field equipment expert Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff), and Malcolm himself. He reluctantly agrees to go, now calling the trip a rescue mission, knowing the danger such an experience would entail. True enough, all Jurassic hell breaks loose once again as they meet another InGen team on the island led by its CEO, Hammond’s nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). Treating the dinosaurs as their company’s patented property, his plan is to bring some of them over to San Diego in an in-city recreation of Jurassic Park. But can man and dinosaur harmoniously co-exist?

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Jurassic Park (1993)

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The archaeological dig of paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in Montana is interrupted by the arrival of filthy rich founder of InGen John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). He comes with a proposal: He will guarantee funding for their project in the next three years should they agree to travel with him to Costa Rica to show them his new investment and get their opinions thereof. Along with his investors’ attorney Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and gifted Mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the group fly via helicopter and arrive at Jurassic Park, an open-air amusement park that features dinosaurs genetically created by extracting DNA from dinosaur blood preserved in fossilized mosquitos. Among the dinosaurs brought back to life are the brontosaurus, velociraptors as well as the much-dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s all fun and games until the park’s security system is compromised, resulting in the ancient predators roaming around free to hunt for prey.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once

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Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh) immigrates to America with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and struggles with their laundromat business, especially during that time of the year when they have to file taxes. IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) makes life difficult for them, even more so because of all the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo that gets lost in translation. Daughter Joy Wang (Stephanie Hsu) usually takes care of mediating between her parents and the tax authorities, but the souring of relationship between mother and child is now getting in the way. As Evelyn tries to fathom how her taxes should be properly computed, Waymond starts acting strangely and claims that he is visiting from the Alpha universe, one of the many where several variants of them exist with every little change in their decision-making. He warns her of the arrival of a certain Jobu Tupaki, an all-powerful threat to the multiverse that only Evelyn herself is prophesized to be able to defeat.

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