Friday, July 6


This is what I would look like in The Simpsons world. Yeah, my Simpsons Avatar is kinda lacking in detail and... well... depth... but it was the best I could do with what was available. Anyways, if you want to see what you would look like in Matt Groening's reality, zip on down to and have some fun Simpsonifying yourself or tinkering with the site's other features. The Simpsons Movie will be out later this month in Metro Manila theaters... after more than a decade and eighteen seasons, it's about time.

Wednesday, July 4

Die Hardest

Stone Cold Steve Austin- er, John McClane is back to save the world from evil.

The latest installment in the long-running Die Hard series of movies hits theaters in Manila today. Preceded by mixed reviews with an older, balder McClane and a PG-13 rating, does this latest terrorist-fighting outing hit hard or die out?


Things haven't been easy for Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) of the NYPD. After at least three instances of being thrown into 'The Wrong Place at The Wrong Time' and battling terrorist threats hand to hand, you'd think that the hero cop would be living the high life. But nooo... McClane is divorced from wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia doesn't show up- neither does pretty much anyone from past movies aside from Willis) and fighting with his now-teenage daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He's got an average pension and quite the jaded, world-weary attitude... so when a ruthless cyberterrorist named Thomas Gabriel (Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant) starts a plan to plunge the United States back into the dark ages, getting back into the game is the last thing you'd expect from McClane. But jump in he does, with the veteran attitude of a guy who's seen a LOT of action, since he's John McClane. He's just that kind of hero.

Taking on a plot against national security and homeland defense that's ripped straight from the headlines and scary History Channel specials, Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free or Die Hard in the US) concerns the threat of cyber-terrorism. While it may still be mystifying to some how a guy with a laptop can cause real, physical harm to anyone, the plain fact of the matter is that a genius hacker with a computer is about as dangerous as a terrorist with a loaded nuke in his backpack, just on different levels. Pretty much everything in the US is controlled by computers- traffic, power and light, security, the stock market... and if someone messes up with that, all HELL is going to break loose.

That's exactly what Gabriel and his crew of hacker-henchmen are out to do- take down the US one important piece of civilization at a time. Muck up the traffic control networks and the roads get clogged up with pileups and jams. Turn off the lights to blind the frightened masses. Take over the news and spread the terror even faster. Gabriel's thought of every scenario, prepared for every stage of his master plan (which, invariably in the Die Hard series, always ends up with a big pay-off)... except, of course, for an old-fashioned, technophobic arse named John McClane.

Given the premise that this is about 'virtual terrorists', you'd wonder if McClane was going to engage in a game of Counterstrike or Doom to put in some action. Luckily, Gabriel's minions include a small army of foreign mercenaries, including beautiful but lethal Mai Lihn (Maggie Q. from MI:3) and the Parkour-expert Rand (Cyril Raffaeli). The rest of his troops are effectively faceless thugs and goons from Mercenaries-R-Us... not as colorful or filled with personality as Hans Gruber's gang, but they do the job of shooting a lot of guns and dying in various colorful ways. As for the Big Bad himself, Tim Olyphant acquits himself well in the role of the evil hacker-supreme. He's not as suave or as cunning as Alan Rickman's Hans (Darn, who is?), nor does he have the face value or sheer villainous chops of Jeremy Irons' Simon or even the military zeal of Colonel Stuart. But with his quiet menace and ingenious use of computers to wreak absolute havoc and set up dastardly situations for McClane to tumble into, Thomas Gabriel makes for a formidable Die Hard villain; not a trained killer or veteran terrorist like previous heavies, but a thoroughly ruthless manipulator and puppet master whom McClane has to claw his way at to the very end. To his credit, Gabriel actually gets the closest to offing McClane, perhaps even closer than even Hans... and that's something.

Luckily, McClane isn't alone in his latest outing. Justin Long (the Mac guy) plays Mat Farrell, a hacker who was crucial to developing Gabriel's plans. His relationship with McClane is marked by generation gap conflict and the simple fact that he's more used to facing baddies onscreen than in real life. Thankfully, Long's character doesn't become too annoying at any point in the movie, and soon proves his worth getting dragged along.
Probably not as useful but just adding drama to the precedings is FBI agent Bowman (Cliff Curtis), who plays the series' resident "Sympathetic but Ultimately Useless Ally" for this time around. Usually seen in the middle of an office or command center full of government agents and personnel doing pretty much nothing except look pissed, Bowman is just there to clean up after McClane's messes and that's it.

Other characters include comics personality Kevin Smith as The Warlock, another hacker and Farrell's mentor- he's kinda-sorta funny and reminds me of The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, just not as sleazy. He's not that bad and gets to act a bit more than his usual 'Silent Bob' role at least. Finally there's Lucy McClane, who surprisingly enough cracked the audience up when she proves herself to be McClane's daughter in more than just name. The way she's portrayed is priceless, and gives a bit of a different spin to the hostage/damsel in distress role she's been given. Aside from that, she's darn HOT, so all's well.

The plot and pacing of Die Hard 4.0 is pretty fast, though you do notice the film's length, in a good way. You don't really figure out what the bad guys are up to until near the third act, but when it does it's not really earth-cracking; it's all about the money, after all it's Die hard. The action, as expected, is loud and flashy with lots and lots of gunfire, the odd 'special' death or stunt, and lots of McClane getting bruised and bloody. What I can say is that the stunts though seem to get more fantastic with every sequel. The first Die Hard had gritty, thrilling but pretty realistic action sequences, which got ramped up to more high-octane hi-jinx in the second and third installments. Well, Die Hard 4.0 pumps up the action to superhuman levels. How would McClane know that a car would fly up high enough to nail a chopper (it's in the trailer anyway) instead of just smashing into the ticket booth like any normal car would? Is it really that easy to jump off a speeding vehicle at full tilt? And that bit with McClane versus the JET FIGHTER... it's borderline Schwarzenegger-fantastic. I mean, I expect that McClane could jump into the Transformers Movie and kick Decepticon arse all by himself with a half-empty gun and a band-aid.

That said, it's all fun if a bit overblown. Scratch that- pretty overblown. Still, it's all fun and quite a crowd-pleasing romp with an old friend. Despite it all, McClane is still McClane- complete with that silly laugh and the "Yippie-Kay-Yay-Mother-" (insert gunshot here) at the end. If you love the Die Hard series, you will want to see this. And if you're not, it's a pretty cool and slick action movie that shoots and scores.

To end... is there room for another Die Hard? Well, as long as Willis can still lift a gun, why not? Or maybe they can spin-off and make a movie with a lady Die Hard starring Lucy? Or team her up with daddy? Who knows. All I can say is, I'll be there to see it.

Die Hard 4.0 is now showing in Metro Manila theaters. Watch Hard.

Tuesday, July 3


In the US, the Apple iPhone is out. All over Youtube (who by the way deleted my original account for some reason- BASTARDS), there are tons of vids of proud new owners of Apple's newest and brightest tech device. I've watched a few and so far I've gathered quite a bit of info.
First of all, the iPhone looks incredible, with it's HUGE glass touchscreen (glass means it's resistant to scratches, which is great). The touchscreen does seem to live up to the hype, being far more sensitive and versatile compared to previous device screens- we've all seen the vids. Pinch and draw your fingers out to zoom in or out. Throw your finger to scroll up and down and marvel at the way the simulated physics keeps the momentum going.

The screen makes for a great viewing portal for surfing the web, watching movies and browsing photos. You can watch Youtube vids (it's one of the iPhone's built-in apps) and listen to your tunes. It certainly is the best iPod yet, as promised by Apple.

While it does have a Youtube app, it does not have flash; the videos played are converted to Apple's format through YT's agreement with Apple. As it stands, you cannot really watch every Youtube vid, only 'featured' and 'most popular' vids, and some limited access to the search function. Eventually, this should extend to the whole Youtube repertoire. Maybe.

However, along with the perks are coming some quite glaring flaws.

For one, you WILL need iTunes to sync and put in your vids and tunes. Treat it as an iPod (though I have never owned a pod, so I can only speculate) when loading stuff- you can't just drag and drop with abandon. The iPhone plays only mp4 videos or the native Apple format vids- DIVX, XVID and WMV libraries must be converted. GAH.

The iPhone's 2 megapixel camera is... pretty bland. Apparently you cannot adjust or tweak anything. There's no option to do anything aside from the one button to snap pics (which are pretty good anyway). No flash or auto-anything. AND, you can only take stills- no video. In any case, the iPhone's screen makes for a huge viewfinder at the very least...

There is apparently NO WAY to check how much free memory you have.

There are widgets (small apps that do various functions) in the phone, but no games. Third Party developers are barred from the device, so any app will come from Apple and that's that. You can't put in or set up your own custom ringtones, and apparently no way to put them into the phone. No themes or much in customization aside from the ability to put up a wallpaper. Perhaps personalizing stuff will come later- Apple isn't as used to this stuff like Nokia or Sony Ericsson, after all.

It's an expensive toy- the price ranges from $499 for the 4 GB model, $599 for the 8 GB phone. Then you have to pay about $1000 for the phone plans. As mentioned, the iPhone is exclusive to one carrier in the US (Cingular, I think) for the next few years.

Phone call quality is apparently BAD. Perhaps software updates will remedy this, but initial impressions with texting and calling has been less than stellar. Apple makes great iPods, but it all just shows how much of a neophyte they are in phonemaking.

Battery life is apparently pretty good- at least better than similar devices. Supposedly it will give you up to 7 hours playing video, and 24 for music. The battery is replaceable but Apple estimates that they would last for at least 400 charges (or two years).

Well there it is. So far, the iPhone's on the surface niceties are real- but beneath the lovely, huge, mirrory screen lies quite a few things that potential users will have to take notice off. Apple still has a lot to learn from making phones, but that should be remedied by later models. The one year delay between the initial US launch and the eventual Asian debut of the device will hopefully give us a more updated, user-friendly, even better iPhone. Still, I'm not really that hot with it. I'll probably stay with Windows- DIVX/XVID videos, drag-and-drop ease, third party apps and games aplenty, lotsa customizations and more are just too good to drop for looks and gimmicks alone.

But DAMN that screen looks freakin' beautiful. Dammit.

Sunday, July 1


The Transformers Movie. Or is it Transformers the Movie? Or just Transformers? Well, Transformers the Movie was the animated epic that was based on the classic Hasbro cartoon. I say based because the movie was a glossier, better-animated version of the TV show, where heroic Autobots actually died and things were really, really serious and dark. I can say I was a fan of the franchise, at least of the original series up until that first, momentous movie- I kinda outgrew the toys and like how I lost interest in the X-men when they suddenly splintered into various mini-teams, the Transformers went into CG, turned into weird animals or even- gadzooks- became anime-style shadows of their former selves. But when I heard word of the Transformers live-action film, I admit that I was intrigued. Michael Bay was doing it? I was intrigued and not a bit worried. I've read and heard of the many 'Bay-isms', the iffy stuff like Prime having lips and Megatron not transforming into a gun... but I was willing to give this a fair shot.

And now, after watching the adrenaline-rushing, turbo-charged, all-cylinders rolling action of the flick, I guess my worries have been allayed, and I have to say 'Yea' to Bay.

Transformers, based on the classic cartoon, opens up with the war between two factions of a robotic race, the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons spilling onto present-day Earth. Basically, the Transformers are all looking for an object known as the Allspark- the source of life and energy that created their world, which is now hidden somewhere on the planet. The Decepticons are also looking for their leader, the maleficent Megatron (voiced by an almost unrecognizable Hugo Weaving trying his best to channel original voice Frank Welker), who came to Earth many years before but disappeared.

For the first third of the film, we see mostly the Decepticons as they go about infiltrating the US military network, gathering information on their missing leader and the all-important Allspark. The movie opens with a sinister, silent chopper landing on a US base in Quatar, and you just KNOW something is wrong. The copter turns out to be a Decepticon and the kick-ass destruction that happens soon after is just a taste of the chaos to come.
Meanwhile, the Autobots are also on the move- one of them, plucky little Bumblebee, making contact with Sam Witwicky (Shia La Beouf), an American teen and grandson of the explorer who found Megatron and the Allspark several decades ago. From here on in, it's a running battle between the Autobots led by Optimus Prime to link up with the humans and keep the ultimate power from falling into the hands of the ultimate evil.

First off, this is a Michael Bay film, so it's all here- magnificent panoramic panning shots of bad-ass soldiers, dramatic slow-mo shots of everyone else at the most innocuous times, romantic moments in the midst of deadly danger, kinetically-exciting action and big, big explosions with lots of military hardware flying around. Oh, and there will always be someone waving a signal flare around. But what separates this from films like Bay's The Rock, Bad Boys II and Con Air are GIANT FREAKIN' AMAZING TRANSFORMING ROBOTS. The CG used to bring these metal menaces to life is unbelievable- convincing and utterly seamless. AND they put in the classic transforming sound in there too. Awesome!

Of course, this ISN'T our Transformers. Not really. Yeah, Peter Cullen is in there, bringing the classic tones of Optimus to life and giving the film instant validation. However, that's about it. Optimus is the closest in look, personality and feel to the original bots- everyone is radically different and more organic in design. It's actually quite hard to discern this from that bot, save Optimus and Bee. But you know what? It works. The Transformers look and move awesome, and that's what keeps this film alive and kicking you in the nuts and keeping you on edge with some explosive action when the big robots leap and transform and body-slam each other larger than life.

A lot of the movie though has to do with the flesh and blood actors, and you have to deal with quite a bit of set-up, a lot of over-the-top and pretty overblown performances and lots of shouting- enough that you'll start to tap your fingers and wonder "Where are the frickin' robots??!" But at least the humans are cool. Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas) and Tyrese Gibson play bad-ass special forces troopers serving in Saudi Arabia who have to switch from fighting terrorists to battling shape-changing aliens, and you'll root for them the whole way because they're pretty cool (Bay's military characters are always cool). Megan Fox as Sam Witwicky's love interest Mikaela is... well, a FOX and you just can't take your eyes off her (heh).

As the lead human, Shia La Beouf is likeable in the pivotal role of Sam and the spiritual successor to the cartoon's 'Spike' character- the human youth who bonds with the Autobots. He pulls it off with a character who's part-loser, part-normal guy and all-hero once the chips are down, and it works. John Turturro is borderline psychotic as the movie's answer to the Men In Black. He's over the top so much he walks a thin line between being funny and thoroughly annoying. There are tons of other oddball characters, from Jon Voight's apparently thoroughly-out of the loop Defense Secretary who ends up fighting the 'Cons hand to hand, to Sam's oddball parents, the hot Aussie government analyst babe and her weighty hacker friend. Everyone gets a lot to say- far more than the robots. Even extras and bit players on Bay's cast get to ham it up- which strangely fits in the movie since it really doesn't take itself overly seriously.

It's a loud, eye-blistering ride- laughs come with gasps, and Transformers fans will have giddies passing up and down their spines all throughout. After a ways of setup, when the Autobots finally gather onscreen, transform before your eyes (Gotta LOVE Jazz's ultra-cool transforming sequence) and Optimus finally speaks, you just know it's IT. It's frickin' Transformers. For real.

Of course, it's not perfect- there are parts that kinda drag, and there are iffy bits like how the big honkin' robots can just walk around seemingly unnoticed even though in plain sight. The 'Soundwave' of the movie- a little 'Con named Frenzy- is much too jittery and cartoony for such a sinister character- almost part Gremlin and part Jar-Jar. I wish that the individual Autobots and Decepticons had more character moments (perhaps on the DVD?). And I wish that some of the bigger action scenes could have been a bit easier to discern... a bit too much of the shaky-cam, sadly.
But for the most part this movie succeeds in one important thing- it makes you believe that Giant Transforming Robots EXIST. It's a pleasing, rabble-rousing popcorn flick which hits the right buttons with all the little cool bits, nods to the original and the high-octane action. A winner, in my calculation.

So what are you waiting for? Till All are One? Get off your rockers now, transform and ROLL OUT to the nearest theater!