Saturday, July 8

Upgrade Complete

My new constant companion.

In the spirit of the Re-quel (like the recent Superman Returns), I upgraded from my longtime mobile PDA phone, an O2 XDA II Mini to the bigger and quite a bit more powerful O2 XDA IIi. It looks almost exactly like my first PDA Phone, an XDA II (I can tell the difference by looking and finding a little 'i' next to the 'XDA II' name on front). Most of the changes are internal, and not at all superficial.

Anyway, for a while my sister had been asking if I was interested in selling my Mini to them- they wanted to use the multimedia functions of the device as a portable and unobtrusive way of presenting sales pitches/videos for their business... I guess it's hard to lug a laptop everywhere and a bit awkward to just whip out. Towards the end of the week I gave my willingness to sell, gave a price and today I sold it off.

Yeah, it's a bit sad to bid goodbye to the PDA phone that has served me, and served me WELL for almost a year- perhaps the longest I've had a phone. Truth be told, I was quite satisfied with the Mini, from the convenient compactness to the various apps and functions it served me day to day, and the hours of time-killing pleasure it gave me from videos and movies to games and music. The only flaw was, pretty much, a smaller screen (perhaps the limit of good portable video viewing). I still totally stand by the Mini as one of the best devices from O2 and it's prodigious multi-usability... so it's kinda sad knowing it's going to be used for mainly demoing some fruit juice videos. Oh well, in any case I hope it earns it's price for them.

Anyway, with the money for the sale and some extra cash I had lying around The Sanctum, I was free to get a new mobile. I know I mentioned the Samsung i310 smartphone (which came with an 8 Gigabyte Hard Disk), but I eventually realized that all that storage space was useless since the videos would look perhaps half the size of the videos on my former Mini... and that was just too much. I went to Greenhills and looked over the many models and phones available.

Benq P50... interesting form factor, with proportions kinda like one of those old brick games. It has a nice screen (kinda like the Mini) and a full QWERTY keyboard. It used SD/MMC cards and had WiFi. However, the processor was the same as the Mini (416 Mhz) so I got turned off. There are quite a few of these though around, and they look kinda cool. Like grey-black Treos.

Nokia N91... again the Finnish 4-Gig wonder beckons. Again, the tiny screen and the fact that this is a Symbian phone made mainly for music repels me.

Sony Ericsson W900... again, a Symbian OS phone, and the swivel-form factor just screams inconvenient. Plus it looks kinda like a toy. Not the kind I need.

Nokia E61... a Blackberry/Treo-like offering from Nokia, this is strictly a business phone since there isn't even a camera on it. 3G and WiFi are in though, and the screen's pretty big. It would be kind of ironic for me to buy the model that was competing with my Mini for my sister's money. Pass.

Hewlett Packard rw 6828... this is a new PDA phone from HP, which kinda looks like the Mini- same size and form factor. The onboard WiFi and FM radio seemed attractive, but I felt it was underpowered for my needs and it used mini-SD cards.

O2 Atom... I decided that I really didn't like the plasticky, toyish-looking Atom. The 2-megapixel camera with flash and the other perks can't mask the downgrade in power and memory (Mini-SD), and the smaller (slightly) screen.

What beckoned to me then was an XDAIIi being displayed in one stand, which I first saw last week and was still there this week, as if waiting for me. The price was very attractive (big savings from the brand new price of 45K and upwards in most shops) and the device was in pretty pristine condition, and complete box and accessories. After a slight bit of wandering around (who knows, I might have seen something else), I plunked down the cash, set stuff moving and now I had a brand new toy.

Thankfully, after coming home and reinstalling ActiveSync, it only took a few seconds to restore all my Contacts and Notes, Information and Data to my new phone- pretty painless and cool. After installing my Games, Themes and Apps, everything was good to go. So what did I get with my XDAIIi upgrade? Well, the processor is faster- 520 MHz compared to the 416 MHz of the Mini. The onboard RAM and ROM memory is double that of the Mini as well. The IIi's screen is a mammoth 3.5 inches compared to the 2.8 inches of the Mini. While the IIi's camera is also 1.3 Megapixels, it seems to have a better sensor than the Mini, with less if any snow even in low light. That's a good thing. Then there's the nice little new extra that the IIi has WiFi, so now I can actually surf wirelessly in Hotspots without resorting to pricey GPRS. No 3G, but who really needs it? Not me, not now at least.

There are lots of tiny little perks I am discovering... like how the onscreen keypad is better than before (FINALLY a CAPS lock) and there are more detailed stuff to help tweak my mobile. For the most part, it's cool to finally have something new again after all this time.
I guess it's just another way of showing that if you get complacent and content too much, change is needed to freshen things out. Every now and then you should take steps to just make things fun again.

Next project: A PSP loaded with the new Tekken: Dark Resurrection. Hehe.

Friday, July 7

Neo Comics

There are once again new kids on the local comics block, in this case literally. According to the editor's note for the debut issues of Neo Comics (of which there are two- an Epics issue and a Tales issue), many of the artists and creators working on these manga-style local releases are in their teens (and apparently are named with otaku-style code names like AKIRA and 730N). Well, it shows given the quality of the art, which sadly is not a positive. Most of the art and stories try to emulate popular Japanese stuff, featuring generic characters which look like they were ripped directly from some manga, anime or game. While in full color and on glossy papers, the color quality is also washed out- it seems that some of the art was hand-colored in some medium which doesn't translate well to printing. As for the writing and stories, I haven't read them yet so I'll reserve comments on that later (see the Comments for additional stuff).

Yeah, being a maker of manga-esque comics myself, I am probably the LAST person on earth to say 'don't use Japanese manga style', but please... DON'T grab designs from the latest Japanese manga or anime/games and please DO try to put something new and fresh into your story or concept at least. It's your chance to shine, so shine through your own creativity, not as just another wannabee.

Not sure who is releasing Neo Comics- the group calls itself Juggernaut Studios but they have ads and are in full color, plus distribution, so this isn't just a small studio. Some publisher got together some young artists for cheap and are trying out their stuff, which is good in that these young artists get to see their stuff on shelves. However, the art quality and the Japanese manga cliches repel me. If this is like Psicom's stuff though, this will be lucky to reach issue 2 and beyond. we'll just have to see.

Anyway, Neo Comics Epics and Neo Comics Fables are now out in magazine stands and bookstores for P85. Check out the latest Pinoy manga to come along.

I spotted this funny mistake in Gateway Mall, and I just had to snap a pic. Remember, boys and girls, spelling is everything. Heh.

Wednesday, July 5

Hitback: The Streetfighter II Animated Movie Retro-Ramble Review

Uncut, Uncensored, Unleashed.

Waaaaay back in 1994, the Street Fighter franchise was at an all-time high in terms of popularity. It became so popular that not one but two movies based on the games were released. One was the US-produced live-action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme et al; probably one of the most reviled videogame-to-movie translations known in the history of man (though I admit to having cheered the first time I saw it).

Yes, that has the version that marred the late actor Raul Julia's memory, it being his last film before succumbing to an illness. In another reality, instead of the Addams Family excerpt, the last image of Julia to the world is his goggle-eyed General M. Bison shouting "GAME... OVER!" Ew. It was the live-action movie that insisted on rationalizing every single appearing character (all 16+ of them), giving them all last names and ridiculously detailed background stories, even butchering the origins of others (Blanka and eventual SF Alpha character Charlie are merged into one mutated mess), and still others are neutered beyond belief (Dhalsim turns into a wimpy scientist who only gets his trademark looks after getting BURNED). But of course, it also commits the cardinal sin of putting the mantel of main hero on the American fighter Guile (ironically played by someone known as 'The Muscles from Brussels').

But of course, the real Street Fighter movie is the Animated Movie produced in Japan. Known as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, this is simply the most faithful and accurate depiction of a videogame franchise to a movie. The art was gorgeous and true to the games, and the fight scenes were fluid, incredibly well-animated and intense to the extreme.
And there were a lot of them (contrary to the live-action version) too. Included of course is the infamous Chun Li versus Vega fight- a knockdown, drag-out duel between the masked Spanish Ninja and the spunky Interpol agent who spends the whole fight wearing little more than her bra and panties- yep, before Agent Aika flashed underwear in anime, there was Street Fighter. Fan service aside though, this action sequence, along with the two-on-one final battle between the Shotokan Brothers and the Master of Evil Psycho Power, M. Bison are some of the best fight scenes you'll ever see in anime.

If only Chun Li's undies were a selectable costume in the games...

To be fair, the SF Animated Movie is not perfect- the story, of course, is a videogame story... Evil organization uses the world's best fighters as assassins in their service. The movie is also long... overly long, with lots of lulls and lingering pans of scenery (or Ryu meditating) that you would probably want to skip or fast-forward over to get to the good stuff. Sexy commando pixie Cammy is hyped about to no end in the movie's posters and art, but in truth only appears for a few seconds at the start of the film (although she does make an impression). Lots of characters are just glossed over, and the movie's ending... a weird bit with Ryu, M.Bison and a Mack Truck(!)... just leaves you with a WTF feeling.

Still, the movie is about as close to a true translation of a great videogame into a movie/anime format as you can get... something that other franchises have failed in. Remember the vomit-inducing Tekken anime? Even the relatively well-done Mortal Kombat movie (the first one) had to make quite a few changes and is still less than a perfect translation.

Anyway, if you were too young to see the original SFII Animated Movie, the film has been re-released in the US in an "Uncut, Uncensored and Unleashed" version which gives the whole kit and kaboodle... which means that you can see Chun Li's boobs and butt (which were censored from previous releases) in her infamous shower scene. Plus, some fighting scenes have a bit more blood and violence to kick up the action a notch. You also get a choice of the dramatic, ballad-heavy Japanese soundtrack or the obnoxious and ear-grinding heavy metal cacophony in the US dub. If it isn't obvious, I prefer the Japanese music, which I believe has at least emotion and gravitas, while the crappy US music is just LOUD. As far as voices go, the US dubbing is also pretty iffy, so go with the US subtitled version.

Copies of the SF Anime Movie are available in local anime shops. Or you can go for the recent US release through Amazon or other online shops, or with nice US-based relatives. Or you can download the kit from Bittorrent (hehe). In any case, if you're a videogame fan, you gotta have this in your library (if you're an SF fan, you probably already have it). Chances are, they'll be showing the Live-Action movie on cable, but never the anime. Ick.

Ah, the Street Fighter II Animated Movie. Still pretty awesome after all these years. Seeing Chun Li grind her foot into Vega's face never gets old. Good times. Heh.
Lost in Oblivion

My latest, and apparently greatest, acquisition for my Xbox360 library is the much talked-about first person RPG, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (or just Oblivion for short). Set in the same world as the previous Xbox's Elder Scrolls III, this title thankfully improves on pretty much everything in the previous game. You needn't have played in Morrowind before to appreciate Oblivion- this is a self-contained game, or world, that is all-new and just waiting to be discovered.

Set in a land called Tamriel, Oblivion puts you in the boots of a prisoner- a hapless soul who was put in the imperial prison for no apparent reason. One day, as you are wasting away in the dungeon, a peculiar sight greets your eyes. Several heavily-armed and armored soldiers enter your cell, escorting a regal old man. It turns out that there's a secret passage right in your cell leading to the outside... and the old man is the Emperor. Apparently, the ruler's life is in danger so he's being spirited away by his Blades, or elite knights. Naturally, you follow the Emperor's party and soon orient yourself with stuff like combat, stealth, exploration, magic and item use. By the end of the introductory dungeon, the Emperor is dead and you've been charged with a quest to somehow save the realm by closing the 'Gates of Oblivion'.

What is that quest all about? Why were you chosen? What will it take to save the world?

I have no frickin' idea.

For starters, when I got out of the dungeon and breathed the sweet air of freedom, the first thing I thought was to go exploring the vast, lovely city nearby. Soon, I was collecting items (some by judicious pilfering), talking to people or listening to gossip, and carrying out a quest for some local merchants in what amounts to a lot of stakeouts and shadowing people. My current interest is earning money by engaging in mortal combat in the city arena, slowly building up my skills in gladiatorial combat while I fatten my purse. Oh, and some hooded weirdo likes my penchant for making people dead so I've been invited to some assassin guild. Ooh. Somehow I'll get to the main quest and try to save the world. Someday.

Oblivion is a huge game, open-ended and expansive with tons of stuff to explore and discover. It doesn't hurt that the game looks gorgeous; the graphics are downright mystifying to see... you can just stare at the beautiful countryside for hours... providing there aren't any rabid monsters chasing you down at the moment. You get the create your own character, right down to facial details like nose width and eyebrow angle (so conceivably you can make them look like anyone you want)... the only problem is that it's a bit hard to get them looking good. Hmm. You can also make your character into a large variety of classes and occupations with varied skills in both magic and combat, from fire-hurling battlemages to stealthy nightblades or relentless hunters and intrepid agents. As you use skills, you get stronger and better.

Combat is also cooler this time around, handled in real time and depending on your agility to maneuver around opponents and waiting for the right times to strike or parry. OR, you can try to master deadly spells and fry enemies from afar. It's not perfect, but it's darn more fun than in the previous game. The realistic rag-doll physics engine also makes fights more realistic than ever.

The quest is also more focused. While the earlier game threw you into the world with no clue, here the interface is a lot more user-friendly. If you want to get to the main quest right away, you'll be aided by a helpful mapping and journal feature, plus a handy compass which basically points you where to go next. Also, once you've been to a place, you can basically 'teleport' there using the map, so you don't have to walk or make a long trek everytime. Genius!

As with RPGs of this type, the main fun is in finding your way and discovering stuff on your own. You can be a glorious, honorable hero and citizen of the realm, or a fearsome villain. The gorgeous fantasy world around you is literally alive with sights, sounds and characters who go about their lives. It's up to you to choose how your path affects theirs.
HIGHLY recommended. If you have an Xbox360, this is THE one game that is indeed a must-have.

Monday, July 3

Some Odd Things About Superman Returns


As always. still nobody notices that Clark Kent looks EXACTLY like Superman with glasses.

A whole building of intrepid reporters can't put two and two together that both Superman and Clark Kent left the same time and were gone for exactly the same time.

WHY, if Superman Returns is following the continuity of the first two films, does Luthor STILL basically repeating his same scheme in the original movie? Need a creative team, Lex?

WHY doesn't Kal Penn ever speak a word?

WHY does trigger-happy dude on the roof even bother to use a dinky little .45 on Supes when frickin' GATLING CANNON shells don't even register on the guy?

Judging from Lois Lane's reaction, Lex Luthor is apparently the ONLY guy in the world to use wigs.

HOW did Superman manage to lift the damn Kryptonite continent into space when just being near the place lost him his powers?

Am I the only one kinda thinking that Lois Lane got bumped around a bit too much in the airplane?

Would ANYONE actually want to LIVE in that crystalline Kryptonian island?

So, did any of the nurses squeal when they took off Superman's hanfords? Did any of the doctors?
Man of Steel

Superman returns. But is this a good thing?

I finally got to watch Superman Returns on Sunday. As you've read in my previous posts, I was not too enthusiastic about the movie, given some lukewarm to downright-pissed reactions from some of my friends to this 'requel' of the classic Superman films from former X-Meg Bryan Singer. Reviews all over the place have praised it to the high heavens or damned it to the depths of the sea. So what does a MADman think about this latest superhero flick?

Superman Returns picks up the slack sometime after the old Superman II flick (you all know... the one with "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD"). Knowing this is important since there is a pivotal event that happened in II that bears fruit (Hehe) in Returns. Anyway, Bryan Singer's film basically retcons the horrid Superman III (with the supercomputer) and the absolutely abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace to the blackness of oblivion. After II, Superman finds out that astronomers have found deep in space what appears to be the remains of Krypton. Struck by the need to see if there's even a tiny shred of his origin left out there, Kal-El squeezes into his star-shaped spaceship/cradle and goes off into space, not to be seen for the next five years. Once he returns, he finds a world more violent, less innocent and more troubled than ever before... a world desperately in need of a god-among-men to help give a hand. But while the world praises Supes for his return, the one person he values the most seems to have gone on without him.

Despite all my misgivings about this film, I actually got through it without much of a strain. In fact, it's quite enjoyable at times, given that modern special effects have finally, FINALLY allowed the grandness that is Superman- flying, invincible Superman, to be realized on the big screen. The special effects, for one, are quite good compared, especially compared to the old movies. Brandon Routh, the relative unknown who has now been catapulted into instant recognition (thanks to countless action figures that bear his mug), acquits himself rather well as both mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and his super alter-ego. As Clark, he seems to emulate Christopher Reeve, but thankfully with little of the over-the-top dorkiness. As Superman, he's doesn't talk much but lets his actions communicate his benign, 'big brother' like presence (yes, he hears EVERYTHING).
As for the other cast members, Kevin Spacey does, in my opinion, a fairly excellent job in his portrayal of Lex Luthor, Superman's nemesis. There's a hint of Gene Hackman's con artist in there, with a bit of Mr. John Smith from Seven, and a little bit of Keyser Soze's seeming infallibility. This new Luthor has humor and slightly a forgiving side (at least he doesn't kill off moll Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) for an act of betrayal, and he does seem to care for his underlings a bit). He's still ruthless and scary when he's serious though... and he's still ridiculously obsessed with REAL ESTATE.
Other characters. Kate Bosworth is gorgeous, but I really see her as too young for the part. Otherwise, I like her. Frank Langella's Perry White, Eva Marie Saint's Martha Kent and Sam Huntingdon's Jimmy Olsen are note-perfect. Jason Marsden is a revelation in this one... X-men's former Cyclops vindicates his defection to DC's flagship as a character that is pivotal to the movie (unlike his underwhelming role in the X-films)- Lois Lane's fiancee' Richard White. Here's a man, an ordinary man, who nevertheless stands equally with the Man of Steel in terms of the love of one woman. Marsden plays it with class and I hope his character pans out more in future installments.

And then there are the iffy's. Parker Posey's Kitty Kowalski is Luthor's moll, his mews. She provides quite a few laughs in the film and serves a good purpose as the inevitable turncoat. A bit grating she may be, but she fares better than Kal "Kumar" Penn, the young comedian who is given a dialogue-less role as one of Luthor's thugs. His bit of casting mystifies me, but what the heck.

Unfortunately, Superman Returns is not flawless. The movie is overlong and could do well with several minutes chopped off. I understand as a starting movie you can't throw in Darkseid or have Zod return from the Phantom Zone just yet, but darn... all Superman does in this film is fix stuff. There are no big fight scenes. No toe-to-toe fights, save for a one-sided beating late into the movie. The most thrilling part is an airliner/space shuttle rescue that happens in the first third of the movie, leaving uneven action sequences for the rest of the movie, along with a non-climax that doesn't really pay off much. Yes, the movie opens for a sequel, but it would not have hurt to have a good finish, a satisfying getback before the final Christopher Reeve-emulated smile in space.

In the end... Superman Returns wasn't as horrible as I feared (Ang Lee's Hulk is still untouchable in that regard). The flashbacks to younger days didn't last too long, and I didn't get the urge to walk out of the theater (except to go piss). Performances were fine, the special effects amazing. Let down a bit by non-action and a questionable, too drama-heavy script, but promising for good things to come.

What I want? For the 'requel' of Superman II to have Ralph Fiennes as General Zod, Angelina Jolie as Ursa and Paul 'Triple H' Levesque as Non. Let the speculations begin. Hoho!