Wednesday, December 9

Streetfighter Legends: Ibuki Announced!

The super-cute kunoichi finally gets her due.

What a treat!!! Udon Comics just announced the next title in their Streetfighter Legends line; Streetfighter Legends: Ibuki is a 4-issue limited series that stars the mega-popular ninja girl from Capcom's Streetfighter 3 games. The comic will take on Ibuki's adventures as she juggles her ninja training, battles with rival Geki Ninja and high school hi-jinx all at the same time. All this, PLUS a crazy karate girl named Makoto! Will she even make it to lunch hour?

Man, it's no exaggeration for me to say that this is a dream come true. Ibuki is easily my favorite character in the Streetfighter games, and was the primary inspiration for my own Ninja Girl KO! Having her in a comic of her own is beyond awesome. This is surely a sideways confirmation hopefully of Ibuki's appearance in the upcoming Super Streetfighter IV game, which is also set for Spring next year. Man, lotsa Ninja Girl awesomeness! I gotta lie down. Hahaha!

Streetfighter Legends: Ibuki, with story by Jim Zubkavich and art by Omar Dogan, is set for launch in March 2010.

Monday, December 7

Inuyasha: The Final Act

I've been a fan of Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale, ever since the first anime episode. That was YEARS ago, and 140++ episodes later, the first anime series ended in a status quo. Several years later though, the inevitable finally happened. With the end of the manga version, the epic adventure of the sword-wielding Dog Boy continues to it's conclusion in animated form with Inuyasha: The Final Act.

I have to admit, I was kinda lukewarm to the new series at first- the animation and characters weren't as good as the original anime (particularly the earlier, really awesome eps)- but now I am eagerly awaiting every new installment. Even though inevitably the episodes took on what I feared so much- the death of my favorite character in the title, Kagura, seeing it finally in animated form though was a bit of a release for me. It was sad, definitely, but it was also wonderfully portrayed, which satisfied my inner softie. Definitely and thankfully, the series has been hitting the emotional chords perfectly.

This is shown particularly in the recent episode where another major character, priestess Kikyo, meets her final end as well. Though I'm not particularly a fan of the character, the moment of her end was exceptionally directed; powerful and moving- the scenes building up to it, the choice of music, Kikyo's contented smile and her final words... gloriously sad and wonderful.

At the end of it, I found myself itching to move forward into the next ep, and the wait is killing me. That said though, with Kikyo's end, there's pretty much no surprises left as there are no major deaths left aside from one- and that one is someone who's end is something that's been long coming- yep, big Bad Naraku himself. I'm hoping his demise is as satisfying as Kikyo and Kagura's were emotional and affecting.

Inuyasha: Final Act and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood have really gotten me back into anime again. Who knows, maybe I'll find myself going back to caring about what happens in Bleach and Naruto Shippuden again... heheh.

Tuesday, November 17

2012 Review: End it now, please!

Last night, out of the blue, I went to watch Roland Emmerich's latest world-beating flick, 2012. I went in having read various reviews, some praising, some lambasting the movie. I set my expectations low and just wanted to enjoy the special effects... however I still left the theater with less than stellar thoughts about this film. End of the World films aren't new to me- Deep Impact still stands as probably the best one I've seen so far, taking a very emotional look at what would happen in the last days building up to a worldwide apocalypse. Even with the grim premise, that flick left me uplifted and believing in the human spirit to survive. This one left me jaded, resentful and just tired, not to mention utterly frustrated at the maudlin, clunky script.

2012 opens up in current 2009 with a geologist named Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejofor) finding out from his scientist friend in India that the sun is sending out dangerous neutrinos that are basically microwaving the planet Earth, causing the core to heat up rapidly (why humans aren't being affected is one of the huge plotholes, I think, but hey, I'm no scientist). From this discovery, Helmsley realizes that this will result in a chain of events which will basically cause the End of the World. He immediately gives word of this to the US government, via White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (a very ruthless at portly Oliver Platt). Thus a secret plan is set in motion to preserve the human race through giant arks that will ensure the survival of 400,000 select humans (and a bunch of animals, apparently) through the coming armageddon. To help fund the big operation, 'tickets' for boarding the arks are sold at the very reasonable price of 1 billion Euros a seat. How... nice.

Anyway, after all this setup, the 'heart' of the film is revealed in divorced former writer-turned-limo driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who just happens to be taking his kids camping to Yellowstone Park. In a fortuitous series of events, he finds out about the coming crisis from a pretty nutty conspiracy nut (Woody Harrelson) and soon is racing with his estranged family (including his ex-wife Amanda Peet and her new husband) to find supposed salvation in the China-made arks.

So that's the movie- about a third of it is about the super-secret and super-stingy operation to save the world's rich and powerful via their futuristic ocean-going luxury star destroyers (including a captain that seems to have graduated from Star Wars' Imperial Starfleet Academy). A third of it is all about showing the world getting destroyed in spectacular CG fashion (albeit strangely bloodless and impersonal) by earthquake and flood, while the last third is the clunky, totally ridiculous story of Cusack and the people he uses/tags along with to try and save his family's skins.

The movie is at its best when it's a roller coaster ride- though really, Cusack and family are always one inch away from doom so many times, it becomes predictable very quickly. Really though, even from the first time you KNOW that there's no way they're not going to make it- which pretty much kills the thrill in some ways, although it's still fascinating to see all the wholesale destruction rendered so onscreen.

It's funny- you see Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Italy and Washington fall to ruin with little emotion- it's all shown as grandiose, cartoony spectacle for the most part. When the movie tries to go in close to show the personal drama of a character's last moments, it turns out maudlin and yet again, does it far too often with characters who really don't matter or the audience doesn't give a damn for; are we supposed to feel worse for the family of a side character than we do for all the countless others lost in the rest of the film? Danny Glover's defeatist, depressing US president, who elected to stay behind and die in the White House, is woefully pathetic as he spends his last few moments in a useless and pointless gesture right before he gets a tidal wave and an aircraft carrier in the face. Morgan Freeman he ain't (yet another place where Deep Impact one ups this flick- the black president there was way more sensible and effective).

When it's not showing wholesale destruction, 2012 sadly bogs down with the adventures of Cusack and company, who are so painful to watch (these idiots deserve a facepalm so many times) that you'd wish they did indeed get swallowed up by the earth. Man, I'd rather that the Indian guy and his family survived instead of Cusack and clan.

Anyway, the film ends with a pretty odd choice of finale; in contrast to how the rest of the film has been occupied with wide vistas of carnage, it all finishes with a rather closed-in conflict with Cusack braving a submerged room full of big gears that he has to un-jam in order to save the Ark from certain doom thereby eliciting a requisite HURRAH from everyone on board (even though he and company were the cause of gears getting jammed in the first place).

I think a lot of my distaste for this film lies in the premise of the US-sponsored, China-made Arks. The whole operation was secretive and selective, and basically gave up the rest of the world just to save a select few. I actually wish that the ending was different- that the Arks ultimately fail and sink and send their nasty contents to a much-deserved drowning death (with Oliver Platt's slimy Chief of Staff first and foremost), even as we find out in the end that good people were able to go into some hidden valley and ride out the storm to survive. But no, that doesn't happen. For the most part, the good people of the earth die, and only the very powerful and very rich (along with a smattering of very lucky Chinese laborers and a bunch of super-lucky but otherwise utterly brain-dead nobodies) live to inherit the earth.

Despite some pretty impressive CG, 2012 is otherwise an incredibly bad and dragging movie, thanks to a nasty and clunky script that only tries (and fails miserably) to find it's humanity and redemption at the 11th hour. I've never had so many moments where I found myself throwing my hands in the air in frustration. Man, Let it end. Let it end already. Anyway, I guess it's inevitable that many will watch this disaster, in the same way that you really can't avoid staring at a car crash when you see one on the road- and this movie is indeed a car crash... on a global scale.

Saturday, October 24

Komikon 2009!

Congratulations, Mangaholix!

Thanks to everyone who went to Komikon 2009 last week at the Megatrade Hall in SM Megamall! Though I myself wasn't a direct participant with my own booth, I went there to see my Komik Komrades at Mangaholix Presents and Groundbreakers Inc., as they manned the tables for some all-day sketching sessions and meeting readers. Of course, I also was able to share a bit of spotlight with my Main Man Kriss Sison, artist extraordinaire of Ninja Girl KO!, since we won this year's Komikon Award for Best Comic Character of the Year for our heroine, Michiko Yamashita. Kriss also picked up the Grassroot Award for his ashcan epic, Nurse Macho!

Standing Guard at Komikon.

Kriss Sison and Ian Cang man the Mangaholix Booth.

I spent most of the Kon just milling about, grabbing all the comics and indies that caught my eye. Among these were the latest stuff from Budjette Tan and Ka-Jo Baldisimo, including Trese: Mass Murders and the second installment of Skyworld. Great stuff!

The Ol' Alamat Crew, Together Again! Well, Kinda.

At the end of the day, I was tired and thirsty, hungry and hoarse from all the commotion. I slipped out for a Thai Halo-Halo somewhere quiet and looked over the booty. Unfortunately Komikon was sharing the day with SM's Three-Day-Sale, and I just couldn't take the massive crowds choking the whole place. So I bailed early on, leaving while the leaving was good. In all though, an awesome Kon! The next big comics event will be M3Con this November. See you all there then!!!

Tuesday, August 25

Return to Eden (AKA Back to the iPhone)

Getting into the iPhone 3GS.

Aaaand... here we are. Yeah, I know, I know... just a few posts ago I seemed to be past my days as an Apple Addict, satisfied with my Nokia N97 'mini-laptop phone'. Well, I had to make some choices recently and re-assess my priorities and needs in my everyday companion gadget. Ultimately, I chose- no, I REALIZED- that Fun and Ease of Use are what really mattered to me. All this time I've been looking for my needs in devices that not really to my tune. The N97 just wasn't me- in the end I realized it was just too 'professional-looking' and 'officey' (no, that's not really a word) for someone like me who regularly wears t-shirts and jeans to work, who still enjoys videogames and cartoons. All this plus the most enjoyment you can get out of it requires you to be online and connected- and I'm not really one to spend frivolously on 3G and GPRS unless it's being paid for by the office.

I can only blame myself for doubting that I am, for better or worse, Heart and Soul an Apple Addict at this point- I own a freakin' iMac at home after all, and have spent (and am spending) obscene amounts on apps from the Appstore. But then, I don't regret the time I spent with the Flagship Nokia- it's still a great phone... it's just not for me. Perhaps in another life, in another reality, but not here in this one.

Anyway, moving on... yeah, I now have an iPhone 3GS. Moving back into Apple's fold was a particularly easy and problem-free affair, thanks to a lovely 'Import from SIM' button (ah, no more inputting contacts by hand!!!) and the seamless syncing with iTunes for the return of all my apps and content. In a flash, my brand new iPhone was good as OLD!

There are probably thousands of other writeups online raving about the new stuff about it, but what the heck. Even though it looks pretty much like the previous iPhone 3G (albeit now there's a variant with a white back, which I have), many new features and improvements have been incorporated. Overall there's the faster, zippier aspect of the whole thing, as the 'S' in 3GS stands for Speed after all. Certainly, the phone IS faster though I never really had a problem with loading times before. Thanks to the more powerful guts and processing power, the 3GS runs apps and games, particularly those with 3D graphics, a lot better and faster. Yeah, Time Crisis played a LOT better.

The highly-upgraded memory is pretty great- I got the 32 Gig version, which makes this the equal to my now-gone iPod Touch 2G. Of course, there's the ability to nicely organize all the tons of video and music I have thanks to iTunes (something sadly lacking from the N97). The 3GS's speakers are a LOT louder than the previous models, making the whole video experience a lot better now. This pretty much translates to me no longer having to strain myself listening to vids without headphones... AND having a lot more fun with my Lightsaber and Gun apps. WAHAHA!!!

Then there's the new camera- it's now 3 Megapixels, which admittedly is not that impressive given that my N97 had 5M's and a flash. Most that can be said is that the 3GS camera has a neat 'tap to focus' feature which makes it more fun than it really is, and now has the ability to record pretty nice and clear VGA video. I don't really think I'll be editing much on the actual phone (I'd rather sync the phones at home and edit on iMovie if ever), but it's a neat thing to have. Anyway, I really won't be relying on the 3GS for video, since I have my Flip Mino HD anyway, but it's still great to have decent video recording anytime, anywhere.

Then as I said, there are all the apps and games. The Apple AppStore simply has no equal in terms of easy access and use- other companies really need to do their homework to keep up. The huge variety of apps, and the relative cheapness of most of 'em is awesome. And man, there can only be tons more to come. Who's to say there won't be an iPhone Tekken game? At the very least, I'm looking forward to a port of that cool Plants vs Zombies game later this year. There are those who still doubt that the iPhone and iPod Touch is really, truly, actually a new game console... maybe they're right. But then again, quite a few (okay a lot) crappy games and countless Tower Defense titles aside... an iDevice fully loaded with games is a sure-fire bore-killer.

Now, all these features would be useless if, well, the battery life sucked. I initially was worried about the 3GS's battery, thanks to several reports of horrible battery life with some iPhones. Well, apparently I confused the 3GS with the 3G- supposedly the 3GS's life is a lot improved from before, that is, if you're not a heavy user who has everything turned on and online all the time. Anyway, after my first full charge, with unneeded online functions like WiFi, 3G and Push Email turned off and the screen set to about 20% brightness (which is still quite fine to the eye in any case), my 3GS is still at a healthy 65% battery life on the second day, which is pretty good. I tested it, and playing an hour of video eats up about 10% power, which makes Apple's claims of 10 hours of video playing quite accurate. So... yeah... If I ever wanted to I can watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy on my 3GS. WOOHOO!

That all said, what can I say? The last time I had an iPhone, I was in mobile gadget bliss, and that was with a 'measly' 8 Gigs of space, free 'bootleg' apps and so-so battery life. Now, with everything pretty much perfected and still as fun and easy to use as it ever was, with TONS of proper apps and games and very good battery life to enjoy all these things... I think I can safely say... I think I've found my Perfect Gadget. The fun, ease, elegant simplicity and just overall excellent quality build just SINGS to me. I can't say it enough how much I love this freakin' device. All this time I've been looking for something I've never found in other phones, other devices, other brands, no matter how cool-sounding the specs. It's here, in the iPhone 3GS. Found it. Gadget Shangri-La for me.

So I guess I'm set. That's it. Over. Done. Live Happily Gadgety After.

At least, till the iPhone 4. Heheh...

Monday, August 10

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review

The classic cartoon goes live on the big screen.

I'll admit it... the first time I saw a trailer for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I wasn't at all pleased. Really, the trailers SUCKED. All I remember from them were the hokey Accelerator Suits and Marlon Wayans; Honestly, these two things formed the basis of my reservations with the movie; I was afraid that the flesh and blood Joes would become CG cyborgs, and that Wayans would turn this into a very Scary Movie. However, in the end I got over these little bumps and convinced myself to give this action movie a good ol' fashioned look-see. Yeah, it wasn't screened for critics, but from every review pretty much I saw online, word was that it was not bad. Not bad at all. Well, I watched it last Friday... is it a Yo or a No?

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is set in the 'near future'- which means the world still looks pretty much like today, but with stuff existing that can make James Bond's Q Branch look like a shoe factory. The bad news is, the bad guys have more hi-tech toys than the good guys, it seems. When James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), the head of MARS, the world's largest weapons developer, supplies NATO with a new nanobot-powered missile, veteran special forces soldier Duke (Channing Tatum) and his buddy Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) head up the security detail for the superweapons. The two men of action soon find themselves neck-deep in a secret war between the super-secret international strike force known as G.I. Joe and a terrifyingly well-financed unknown enemy armed with next-generation weaponry. In short, it's The Joes versus Not-Yet-Cobra.

An origin story may get cynics flinching, but as Iron Man has proven, start-ups aren't always bad. In fact, they can be pretty good. Thankfully in this case, director Stephen Sommers has somehow rediscovered that fun gene he tapped into when he made the original Deep Rising and the first Mummy film, but lost when he made the Mummy Returns and Van Helsing. G.I. Joe is a fun ride, packed to the gills with action and set up with likable characters off the bat. Unlike some other big cartoon-to-movie sequel that utterly horrified some time ago, this adaptation pretty much does everything right; at the very least, there's a distinct lack of tasteless supposed-comedy or racial slurring (although there is your usual funny French accent) and the action is actually easy to follow. ZOUNDS!

As a longtime fan of the original cartoon, I have my little fanboy nitpicks, but it's all still good. Yeah, the Baroness doesn't have an accent but man, Sienna Miller is killer with those glasses and black leather, and she's a pretty slick character who's central to the plot (which is great, since she's pretty much the poster girl of the movie, even more so than good soldier-girl Scarlett (Rachel Nichols). Storm Shadow (Lee Byung Hun) looks like he's gonna bust out a mike and start singing a Korean pop song at any moment, but he's still every bit as bad-ass and lethal as the Cobra ninja should be, so why not. Ray Park's Snake-Eyes has a MOUTH but at least he never talks, and well... IT'S FREAKIN' RAY PARK.

But my biggest gripe has to be with a big secret of the film- which you see coming after a bit. I miss the old design for the character, and I wish they stuck to it. Man, if Attack of the Show can do this character almost perfectly (even if in comedy), why not the big movie version?

I also found it quite entertaining to see so many faces from the Mummy movies making appearances, from little cameos like Kevin J. O'Connor (Benny from The Mummy) and Brendan Fraser to much bigger roles for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (bad guy Lock-Nah from Mummy Returns) and the always-reliable Arnold 'Imhotep' Vosloo. Where's Rachel Weisz and John Hannah?

Anyway, the story moves along at a fast pace, with several big setpiece sequences and tons of firepower and explosions going off all movie long. The CG effects are fine and dandy, and it all sets up the franchise perfectly for what I expect will be a fast sequel coming up next year. Yes, I want that sequel, especially after the cliffhanger ending!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is high-octane action entertainment, a fun popcorn movie that's sure to entertain action junkies, and there are lots of nice little details and nods to the original series that will make fans smile. Great production values, engaging action scenes and likable characters make this something worth watching for the young and the young at heart.

No, it's not Oscar material. No, it's not rocket science. But neither was the source material. It's a refreshing throwback to the days when cars could just pop out missiles and other defenses at the push of a button, when at the end of the movie you can expect the cavalry to arrive and a big freakin' battle over the enemy's secret base can be expected. We see far too little of that kind of action these days- too much handheld-cam crap for action, with an overabundance of grit and blurring of lines, too many shades of gray. G.I. Joe is simpler but still smart, fantastic without being too over the top, fun without being too kiddy or juvenile. In short, it's exactly what it needs to be... a live-action version of one of the coolest cartoons of our youth.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is now showing in theaters all over the Metro. Mobilize and Watch it NOW! YOOO, JOE!!!

Saturday, August 1

Cory Aquino, 1933-2009

Today, the day was gray and overcast, rain falling like tears, as if to let us know someone we all knew and loved had passed away. I heard from Mom that President Corazon C. Aquino was gone. Though I cared little for politics, especially now, I found myself feeling the grief. In this day and age, when there are few heroes and inspirations among Filipinos, where everyone in government is tainted and suspect, one person could always be seen as true. And that, I believe, somehow, was Tita Cory. The housewife and widow turned leader of the country and people, and even after her term, a surrogate mother for the Pinoy, a moral center and heart to a people. To the end, she was a beacon of courage and hope. Truly... she represented the best the Filipino could be, in the most trying of circumstances. Hero

The Philippines' Madame President. The Best-loved President of the Philippines. A True Hero.

Salamat, Tita Cory. Farewell. May God and Ninoy welcome you to your rest with open arms. You deserve no less.

Friday, July 31

Flippin' Out!

Easy HD: The Flip Mino HD.

I've gotten myself a slick new tech-toy... and incredibly enough, it's NOT a phone. But damn if it doesn't look like one. It's the Flip Mino HD, an ultra-compact and light HD camcorder. Surprisingly it's apparently a pretty high-profile gadget, being the fave toy of some celebs like Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey. Anyway, what does it do? Well, as it's name implies, it takes HD video- that's footage with 720p resolution (1280 x 720 pixels). That's about three or four times bigger than the regular VGA videos taken by your usual non-HD digital camera or mobile phone. And a whole lot clearer and crisper. The controls as well are about as simple as you can get- click to record, click to stop. You get 4GB of storage for about an hour of HD footage. You can connect to a laptop or PC via USB and just drag-and-drop your vids which are MP4 and ready for iMovie or your usual editing software.

Basically after getting my N97 and trying out it's video, as well as looking through samples of the iPhone 3GS's recording capabilities, I've finally given up on mobile video from cellphones. So now, I got myself an HD cam that LOOKS like a cellphone. HAHAHA!

As far as I know, the Flip Mino HD isn't formally available locally, but there seems to be a growing number of people with the device, apparently being brought home by some enterprising folk (like the nice guy I got it from) or by relatives. It's also available on Amazon or eBay and at Flip Video's official site. I really count myself lucky I got this device, for a price far below the price of a standard digital camera. It's still a toy though, not really one for making serious movies, but for stuff like short films, parties, trips and anything you want to remember in extra-clear quality, this just can't be beat.


Wednesday, July 22

Bruthaz in the Hood

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood: Bringing the manga original to animated life.

I was a big anime fan a few years ago. These days, I still consider myself an otaku, but I don't have the time to watch as much as I want to. When I actually get to watch and stay glued to something, I must really like it. These days, that's Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This really isn't a big surprise- I was also a fan of the original anime FMA series, and watched it right to it's bittersweet kinda-ending. When I heard there was going to be an all-new, all-different Hagaren series based on the actual manga source of the franchise, I was easily hooked up. Thanks to Animax (and some great subbing groups online), I've been able to enjoy this refreshed, redone title the way it was originally meant to go.

Set in a fantasy world where alchemy is a kind of super-power given to a select few, Full Metal Alchemist is all about the adventures and events of and around the Elric Brothers- Edward and Alphonse. Two pure-hearted, kind but courageous and adventurous kids born with alchemy in their veins, they commit a terrible taboo- trying to raise their dead mother back to life. The act fails and instead takes away Ed's arm and leg, which he eventually replaces with mechanical prosthesis called Automail and thus giving him the title Full Metal Alchemist. Alphonse, or Al, has it even worse- he loses his entire body. To save him from oblivion, Ed is able to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor, and since then both brothers have been walking the road, seeking a way to restore what they have lost. It's this personal quest at redemption that brings the Elrics into encounters with various groups and individuals, including their country's military, other alchemists, foreigners and most dangerous of all, a group of inhuman enemies called the Homunculi.

In the first several episodes, FMA Brotherhood seems very similar to the original anime series... However Brotherhood eventually reaches a point where it diverges from the first anime version, and from here on in it's unfamiliar (well, to me who hasn't seen the manga) and intriguingly addictive territory.

So far, I've got nothing but praise for this new incarnation. The animation is flawless, the characters familiar but seemingly even more likable than before, most of all the two leads, Ed and Al. They're not as 'clueless' all the time as they seemed to be in the original anime, which is refreshing. Ed is even more sensitive about his height, which gives to tons of hilarious moments and the usual wonderful performances from seiyuu Romi Paku. The secret conspiracies, this time more up front and deeper, are more insinuative and it's great to see various characters in totally different roles than before. What I have been enjoying so much recently though is how the series so wonderfully handles things like grief and loss, guilt and heavy emotion so well- the heroes feel the weight of their actions so profoundly, and there is heart and soul backing the action and the comedy ladled onscreen.

Again, it's something so familiar yet pleasantly different, and every week now is such a treat. As much as I loved the original series, it had so many flaws and the ending and resolution really let me down... I'm hoping that Brotherhood fixes all of that in Spades. And so far, I think it's going great. I can't get enough of this awesome new anime.

With the manga still ongoing, I'm hoping Brotherhood goes all the way- which means I've got a LOT of alchemical adventures in store for the months ahead. Awesome.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is shown locally on Animax every Friday.

Thursday, July 16

Nokia N97 Review

My Current Phone.

The last time I posted about the Nokia N97, I said that the Finnish Flagship for 2009 would be my next phone. Well, lo and behold... here I am with a final, retail version in my hands. I've had the phone for the past couple of weeks, and so, how has it been?

Classy Looks, Studry Build
First off, the N97 looks premium. I've got the black version, which is a nice, classy black bar of simple, elegant design. Very much like the iPhone, the N97 has only one actual button on its face, the 'Home' button whose basic function is to send you back to the main screen (exiting any apps you may be using). Aside from, there are a couple of indicators next to it, for answering or ending calls. Other than the unobtrusive sensors on the top part of the phone, it's all a smooth, shiny bar of futuristic flash. Really nice, really pretty. Comparing the N97 to the iPhone though, the Nokia handset is narrower but taller, and quite a bit thicker (and probably weights a bit more).The back of the phone has the 5-Megapixel camera lens and flash, which is nicely protected by a cover that doubles as the Camera On/Off switch. Overall, the N97 is made of hard plastic, not metal, but has a nice sturdy, high-quality feel that wasn't apparent in previous models (the N96 in particular).

The N97's thickness has a reason- press inward at one side and you'll open up the phone's big feature- a full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard opens up with a nice clicky motion, like a brand-new bus door. It's super-tight like one of those secret artifacts from some Indiana Jones movie, and so putting out the keyboard is always a cool sight to see or show off with. The keys themselves are almost flat, but are easily discernible thanks to their matte finish and a lovely backlight which switches on in low light... Star Trek console anyone? Anyway, despite some quirks (the spacebar is small and placed to the right), once you use the board for a bit, you'll be typing like a pro in no time. It may be a bit overkill to bring out the QWERTY for a little texting, but for typing out long emails, chats, notes, that little novella you've always wanted to write... it's pretty nifty. The board pretty much makes the N97 pretty much a miniature laptop, but this time it's got the power that previous earlier handsets or palmtop devices have lacked.
That all said, it's nice to note that the N97 isn't too bulky- it's still a nice snug fit into any holster at your side and isn't too obtrusive or heavy by any means.

Back to Basics
Okay, how is it as a phone? Well, as a typical Nokia, the N97 is typically excellent. For short texts you don't have to bring out the QWERTY- there's your usual alphanumeric keypad which, even though it's a touchscreen, is pretty responsive and easy to use. The touchscreen may not be as responsive or as versatile as the iPhone's, but it's pretty good- though a weird little lipsticky stylus is included in the package, unless you have exceptionally hammy fingers it's really not necessary. However the screen IS prone to asking for double taps or repeated inputs for some items- and in particular the hardware Screen Unlock/Lock key often needs to be pulled a couple of times before you can access your phone.

That said, the N97 is so far an excellent phone- calls are clear and stable, ringtones are loud and clear, and there usability is on par with your usual Nokia friendliness.

Media and Storage
But of course I do look for particular facets in my devices, and media playing- in particular video- is vital, particularly since the N97 is a replacement for the iPhone and a rival to my current iPod Touch. Thankfully, the Nokia is formidable in such functions. Video-wise, the native Realplayer uses regular MP4 files and plays them at a silky-smooth 30FPS. The N97's screen has a 640 x 360 resolution- bigger than the iPhone plus it's in widescreen by default. This makes the Nokia far better at showing off long movies or new media, though if you're playing SD resolution vids (320 x 240 or even 640 x 480) they'll actually be smaller sized. Yeah, you can change aspect ratios but stretching SD video to the widescreen will result in weird distortion.
Another complaint is the native Realplayer's way of filing videos- or really, it's non-ability to file videos. Basically you just pile in your videos in one big, hefty list. There's no way to organize them into playlists, genres, sections or such. This is a pretty big oversight in the light that the N97 has 32 Gigabytes of space- well enough for tons of videos. If you have many, many such files, going through them is a bit of a chore. Hopefully someday or soon, Nokia will fix this up, so us video freaks won't have to resort to 3rd Party apps to fix up our media.

That all said, watching video on the N97 is made so much better than on the iPhone or iPod by two things- the N97 speakers are waaaay better, louded and clearer than Apple's weaker sounds, even giving a bit of surround-sound for a really nice palmtop theater experience. Also, once you open up the keyboard you can set down the N97 and have it in perfect position for watching movies and such.

Music isn't that important for me, but in this regard the N97 is functional and as good as previous handsets- allowing you to do what you can't with video- organize playlists, group songs under albums, artists, etc. Quality is the usual cool, and you can use any regular earphones with the phone. The handset also has FM radio capability, though you will need to connect the bundled earphones to access this function.

As mentioned earlier, the 32 Gigs of space available on the N97 pretty much kicks off most other models in the race, with only the iPhone 3GS matching it- but then the N97 can also pack in as much as 16 Gigs more memory with a memory card (for a grand total of 48 Gigs of storage!), so in terms of space Nokia's handset takes the lead in terms of storage.

Connecting People
Just as the Nokia tagline goes, the N97 makes connecting a cinch. As long as your settings are in place, getting online from anywhere via GPRS or 3G (or even 3.5G) is a snap. WiFi is also a breeze for finding and using all those free hotspots. The only problem is that it's a little bit TOO EASY to connect; unless you're careful you may find yourself connected even if you don't want to, or without your knowledge. The best way I guess is to set your Globe plan (if you're on Globe) to Time, so you pay by the minutes and not by the Kilobyte. Still, I'd make it a matter of course to always check your Connectivity Manager regularly or right after a bout of Mobile Surfing to avoid unnecessary spending.

Another problem though is, well, content. If you're used to Apple's AppStore, Nokia's equivalent OVI Store is sadly not as well-stocked with apps, nor is it as easy to navigate (or spend on). So far I've been able to download about two or three pretty basic touchscreen 'games', and one ringtone. Not much otherwise in terms of cool apps, and connecting on the PC was kinda problematic. I really hope they fix this up soon to make surfing onto OVI both fun and easy.

Not for Work or Play?
Gaming so far has been... well... DEAD. Apparently the N97 does not support NGage yet, so all you have is Guitar Rockband and some basic 'games' from OVI. Otherwise... pretty much nothing in terms of gaming. Once the phone gets NGage this will be remedied, I guess, but for now... blah. I'm glad I still have my iPod Touch for my pocket arcade needs.

On the other side of the spectrum oddly enough- the N97's bundled QuickOffice doesn't work. At least, the equivalent of Microsoft Word won't let me create a document. It always tells me that I need to purchase a license before I can use the phone, but then doesn't let me get one. It's maddening and pretty much keeps me from using the N97 as a word processor (unless I use the Notes app), which is really supposed to be one of it's big functions. What the HECK? I hope a visit to Nokia Service fixes this up, because it's really crappy in this regard.

So basically this makes the N97 pretty much shot in the leg for WORK and PLAY. Odd right? Well, it's good that other functions- media playing and storage, connectivity and mobile online- are excellent otherwise.

Lights, Camera, Action!
The N97 comes with a 5-Megapixel snapper, which is slightly better than the one in the previous N96. At the very least it comes with a nice flash, autofocus and some options for stuff like white balance and that jazz. Still not as great as stuff from more camera-centric models, but still pretty good. As for video recording, you can capture VGA vids at 30fps in either the standard resolution (640 x 480) or in widescreen, which is cool. The quality of video recorded is lot more stable than in the disappointing N96, which is great. And with 32 Gigs of storage, you can probably shoot that experimental movie or short film you've always wanted to make with just this phone! Too bad it doesn't come with on-board editing like the iPhone 3GS, but then you get better video quality overall.

Odds and Ends
Okay so other bits. I really love the ability to customize, and the N97 gives quite a lot of nice options to make the phone your own. The homescreen can be filled up with widgets and apps or you can opt to keep it clear to show off your slick wallpapers. You can organize stuff and shortcuts and fix up your desktop to make access to your most used items easy as swiping the screen (instead of having to manually touch the Home Button to take you to the Desktop and Apps).

So far battery life has been nice, if a bit erratic. With some use, the phone can last on standby for about two to three days before the battery meter suddenly drops from the full 7 bars to 4. Playing videos, surfing on WiFi or GPRS/3G will make it run out a LOT faster though. Thankfully you can charge via the micro-USB cable as you sync or load files into your phone.

In the past couple of weeks I've gone on ups and downs with the N97. I love the form factor and the premium build quality. I love the keyboard (when I need to use it) and the screen (even with the quirky touchscreen functionality). I love watching widescreen video, even if filing media is unwieldy. The camera is cool and video recording is the best yet in a Nokia. There are quite a few quirks and maddening flaws, like the lack of games and lack of access to QuickOffice apps- which hopefully will be remedied by updates or a visit to the service center. But otherwise... man, finally I have upgraded to a handset from the iPhone which doesn't make me feel I made a mistake. For an all-on-one device, the Nokia N97 is as good as you can get right now. The phone's already in stores all around the Metro, so if you're a bit of a techie and looking for that premium do-everything handset, then give this cutting-edge Nokia a look-see.

Wednesday, July 8

Chapter:-One, Part Deux (Or, A Review of a Short Film by Arnold Arre)

Last night, I and a bunch of people hied off to the basement of Bonifacio High Street's Fully Booked to watch a film. No, not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which I still vehemently swear is one of the messiest and absurdly bad films I've seen all year- never mind the coolness of battling robots). We were watching a short film- an indie, first-time outing for local grafictionista Arnold Arre. Though known primarily for his graphic novels such as The Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay, Andiong Agimat and most recently, Martial Law Babies, Arnold has for some reason found that a filmmaking itch was bothering him. This project, Chapter:-One, is the result of him scratching it.

Running at about 27 minutes, the film centers on a writer (Sam Alapan) who suddenly and abruptly suffers that most dreaded of dilemmas- writer's block. Stare as he may at the glaring computer screen, no matter how many push-ups he does or magazines he browses through- he's stumped. It is at this moment that a knocking at the door rouses him from his musings. Once answered though, the doorway to his apartment is empty save for a brown envelope containing a DVD (no crappy out of date VHS tapes here). Perhaps making a big mistake you'd think anyone who has watched The Ring would never do, he watches the disc and starts a slow descent into unease, paranoia, fear and borderline madness.

The best thing I can say about this short little yarn is that Arnold accomplishes something that for the most part, eludes most commercial 'horror' or 'suspense' films in local cinema- he creeps you out. He is able to brew a sense of impending doom and expectation of something BAD. And he does it without fluff, without ever a wasted or unnecessary scene. The story starts, hooks you in, then ends. A story was told, and it does it's job pretty well for a film budget less than a fancy dinner at The Fort.

So what was Arnold trying to say? Was there any profound message or big theme like he often has in his comics?

Perhaps he was trying to tell us that, even in a world interconnected by the incomprehensibly complex yet incredibly mundane alternate reality that is The Internet where we are all in constant communication via vehicles like Skype, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Phlogs and Vlogs, in the dark and even more imcomprehensibly complex maze that is The Human Mind, we are all Ultimately Alone.

Or maybe he was just trying to tell a pretty creepy story.

Chapter:-One's cast is composed of Arnold's friends and college batchmates- most of whom were present at the screening, and includes Yours Truly in a very minor role. Perhaps I may be biased then, you may ask. Well, I never saw the completed film until that night, and I am an avowed critic of Arnold's stuff as much as an enthusiast. So probably. Or probably not. Anyway, the performances were mostly earnest and natural since Arnold's main direction was for everyone acting to just 'go with it', and thankfully no one really let their roles get away with them. Again, for the most part, everyone did their job without much fluff, and thankfully it worked. No theatrics, just acting real.

So to be honest, this isn't really so much of a review as it is a report of what happened that night. And what's to say other than Arnold, even this early, just may turn out to be at least as cool a filmmaker as he is a comic book creator. Now that he's extended his palette, who's to say what he'll come up with next (probably not another suspense film though).

Chapter:-One isn't or won't be screening in any theaters in the Metro, but look for it in indie film festivals or competitions, or perhaps showing at UP Fine Arts film showings or such.

Thursday, June 25

Tekken 6: Dark Stars Rising

It's been a while since I last finished a comic page- in fact, a couple of years! But lo and behold, here are pages made from by my rusty hands, scribbled together slap-shock and bandied together with Photoshop crazy-glue. It's Tekken 6: Dark Stars Rising and I guess it pretty much reveals what I am totally obsessed with these days. The long story short- it's still a freakin' FOUR MONTH WAIT before I get my Tekken 6 on my Playstation 3, and to help me get through the excruciating wait, I'm doing this little side project. I'm writing and drawing it on the fly, as I go, when I can, as often as I can (at least one page a day). Maybe the crazy mess of plotlines and characters that is the Tekken Universe is too odd and convoluted a story to tell... or maybe not. Well, I'll find out, won't I?


At the End of The King of Iron Fist Tournament 5, Jin Kazama defeated his demon-possessed great grandfather Jinpachi Mishima and took over the powerful Mishima Zaibatsu. Since then, everyone lived happily ever after... NOT!

Ominous signs began to appear, rumblings of war rippled across the globe. Though megacorporations and armies gird for battle, this is one crisis that can only be resolved in battles fought between individuals. The world's greatest fighters, heroes and villains converge, each with their own agendas as they sense that The King of Iron Fist Tournament 6 is fast approaching...

Check it out by clicking on the big pic above. Enjoy!

Tekken 6 is set for release on the PS3, Xbox360 and PSP this October 2009.

Wednesday, June 24

Something I Am Looking Forward To Next Year

What can I say? The original Avatar: The Last Airbender from Nickelodeon is already pretty much perfect... but I can't say I'm not giddy with glee at the prospect of seeing a live-action version of my all-time favorite animated series.

I shudder to imagine what role Mr. Shaymalan will give himself in this one though... oh well.

Sunday, June 14

Still MAD After All These Years

Yesterday, I turned on year older. Today, I'm a little bit wiser, a little bit more guarded, a bit more cynical. But I still love to laugh, to have fun, to not take things too seriously and enjoy stuff like comics, videogames, gadgets and cool, stupid movies. There are things you outgrow, and things that are just... you. So what I'm trying to say is... it's still business and fun as usual.

Thanks to everyone who has greeted me online, offline, in person and on text, from close friends to Facebook affiliates. I take all the goodness I can these days, and I love every iota of it. Much appreciated.

Monday, June 8

Nokia N97

My Next Phone.

Just when I thought I was content with my nice little 'simple phone and iPod Touch' combo, something pretty awesome comes along to rattle my cage once again. It's the Nokia N97, the latest and seemingly greatest mobile computer and communicator yet from the Finnish phone meisters. The funny thing here is that I can actually speak a bit from experience- through a pretty long and convoluted story I was able to handle a prototype N97 for a while, and man, was I impressed.

Sporting an elegantly simple look, the N97 is in the same feel and size range as the Apple iPhone, albeit more substantial (but in a good way). You can feel the quality of the device, even if it isn't metal. The N97 feels solid and reassuringly firm in your hand, and you'll definitely not want to let this baby fall off. Unlike past smartphones, the N97 doesn't come with a stylus- finally Nokia has come out with a model that can be operated totally by finger presses. But perhaps listening to all those clarmoring for tactile feedback, they also slipped in a pretty awesome full qwerty keyboard for composing long messages or that novella you've been dying to finish.

Running on the latest Symbian OS, the phone does pretty much everything- the hallmarks being media playing, surfing the web and running apps and widgets. Of course for me the most important aspect is video, and with this the N97 pretty much rocks. The widescreen face is great for playing movies and other vids running at a pretty perfect 30 FPS- same quality as my current benchmark for best mobile video, the iPhone/iPod. But the N97 trumps Apple with its speakers. Your video's sounds come out crystal clear, in seeming stereo sound even, which is pretty awesome and totally blows away the competition's weaker speakers. And best of all, you've got 32 GB of memory for storing all your movies, TV episodes, trailers and unmentionable media you want. All that PLUS a sharp 5 Megapixel Camera with perhaps the smoothest and most stable Video Capturing/Recording I have yet seen on a mobile phone.

I have to say, this phone was the model I was looking for a year ago, when I was desperately seeking an upgrade to my first iPhone. It has the huge screen, high quality video and vast storage I wanted (and still want), all in a beautiful package that just screams class and awesomeness. The phone is available this June here in Manila, but I guess I'll have to start saving up (just bought a freakin' sound system). Not in a hurry to upgrade right away, but if I do- I know where I'm going.

Learn more about the N97 here.

Tuesday, May 26

Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete

That's gotta hurt.

The final, final, complete, overstuffed cut of the ultimate fan service movie, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, entitled Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete, is more than two hours of CG awesomeness that will have it's main audience- FFVII fans- happy and content. I watched a nice and crispy-clear subtitled version and it looks pretty sweet on a big-screen HDTV. If only for that, it should be worth getting the Blu-ray when it comes out on June 2.

What do you get? Well, for the actual movie you get about 25 minutes more footage- which mostly boils down to a lot more of the charismatic and likeable former bad guys, the Turks (all four of them- Reno, Rude plus Elena and Tseng) and their boss, Rufus Shinra (whom I still believe is the coolest character in FFVII). There's probably a bit too much of Denzel, one of Cloud's orphan wards who has a particularly sad story to tell (which is chronicled in an anime episode entitled On the Way to a Smile: Denzel's Story which is included in the BD). Other nice odds and ends are extensions of action scenes and an altogether clearer script which makes a lot more sense. There are also subtle changes to music selections during certain scenes, which overall makes the movie that much closer to the game which spawned it. But there will of course be people out there who still will profess that 'it still all makes no sense at all', like some idiot writers of some game sites.

There are a lot of changes in the visuals as well- characters now get dirtied or sport injuries (and BLEED) after or during battle scenes- something which was noticeably missing in the original version. Overall, it's all wonderful eye candy, and the action is still the closest you'll get to seeing live-action anime.

FFVII Advent Children Complete is the best version of this slick CG fantasy features, and those who loved it before will do well to just plunk down the moolah for the Blu-ray (if you got a PS3 or BR Player). In any case, this is one of those films you'll love to show off on your big-screen LCD, and that is reason enough to get it. Those who hate the movie or FFVII, well... nah, who the frack cares about those bastards. HAH.

Friday, May 15

Star Trek (2009)

Boldly going where no Trek has gone before.

Well, what else can I say that all the countless other glowing reviews of J.J. Abrams' re-imagined, re-booted Star Trek movie haven't already said? Well, not much aside from the usual, I guess- the new cast of actors assigned to playing the iconic crew members of the U.S.S. Starship Enterprise are pretty much pitch-perfect, with Karl Urban's Leonard McCoy and Zachary Quinto's Spock looking eerily like cloned younger versions of their previous performers. Chris Pine extricates himself from the bonds of immortal William Shatner by not even attempting to mimic his predecessor, but still succeeds in projecting the Trek's brash, eternal hero with a double shot of hormones and testosterone. It's a complex tale of Time Travel and Alternate Realities which pits the neophyte Trekkers against a revenge-mad Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) bent on rewriting history one planet at a time.

Performances aside, the special effects are spectacular, with energetic space battles and action occuring in space, in starships, on-planet. Abrams conveys lots of emotion through music and frenetic images which gloriously never devolve into the horrid handicam nonsense of Cloverfield. I felt chills go down my spine in the first few minutes of this film, with a hero's birth juxtaposed in the fires of a deadly attack- pretty much sums up the whole saga of this movie. In any case, that was a good sign that this was going to be a thrill ride, and it was. As an Abrams show, this has its share of wit, snappy dialogue, sexiness, hard-hitting action and quite a lot of humor in between the phaser blasts, transporter beams and collapsing stars. They just took the original premise, the established characters and just. went. wild. Die-hard, purist Trekkies may bristle, but this is just brilliant. THIS is how you re-invigorate a franchise. Or, in this case, re-energize.

Star Trek is out in theaters all over the Federa- er, Metro Manila. Bring together your away team and see this one, all speed!

Monday, May 11

Dragonball Evolution

Goku's facial expression just captures my own feelings towards this film.

Finally got to watch this last night. On the plus side, the copy I got was wonderfully clear (although I really, really need to get a home theater setup to enjoy good sound) on The Sanctum's big-screen TV. On the bad side, I've heard lots of bad things about this live-action adaptation of Akira Toriyama's mega-popular manga and anime about super-powered aliens fighting it out with massive power blasts... and they're all pretty much true. I'm not the biggest Dragonball fan though, so this really hasn't the magnitude of my Chun-Li review.

Anyway, a legendary alien villain named Piccolo (played by an unrecognizable James Marsters) has escaped his 2,000 year prison and is now trying to obtain all seven mystical dragonballs in order to gain one perfect wish for his revenge against the world. The only one who can stop him is Goku (a totally miscast Justin Chatwin), a youth raised by the kindly Gohan (Randall Duk Kim) with mysterious origins. After Gohan is murdered by Piccolo, Goku sets out to avenge him, joining up with the hot Bulma (Emmy Rossum, whom I have to commend for being able to say her character's whole name with a straight face) and Gohan's mentor, Roshi (a particularly goofy Chow Yun Fat). Oh, and some guy named Yamcha joins up somewhere along the way.

Unfortunately, as is the case that usually happens, Dragonball Evolution falls woefully short in pretty much every aspect in trying to adapt the epic scale of it's source material. This is pretty much TV-grade fare (This is the sort of thing you'd see on the Hallmark Channel), watered down further by the typical silly tendency of Hollywood to force-fit every story into a template (Goku turns into an offbeat teen trying to fit into a high school?) they're comfy with. Mediocre action, cheap-looking CG, a rushed feel to pretty much everything and a lackluster finale fail to reach any power level of significance. Kung Fu Hustle was more Dragonball than this... speaking of which, did I see Stephen Chow's name attached to this flick? Yeesh.

In the end, just a harmless, inconsequential pseudo-fantasy martial arts flick that you just watch and forget. Moving on...

Monday, April 20

Simply Amazing

My mom(!) sent me a link to a Youtube vid showing then-unemployed 47-year old Susan Boyle coming onstage on the talent show Britain's Got Talent. It was thoroughly satisfying to see this seemingly ordinary, out-of-place lady stand in front of a very demanding audience, quite a few nutters jeering at her age and appearance, and then totally, absolutely BLOW THEM AWAY with a crystal clear voice seemingly piped in from Heaven. Let me say, seeing this for the first time brought tears to my eyes. Simply amazing and thoroughly uplifting. Bravo, indeed. Bravo.

Saturday, April 4

No Reservations: Philippines

Anthony Bourdain enjoys Bulalo and San Miguel beer.

Perhaps a result of my being a very visual person, I love to watch shows or videos about food when I eat. I reason that it may be a way of enhancing the actual food I am scoffing down at the time with the perceived flavor of the stuff I am watching about. Well, no other show is as great for me to eat food by than Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Well, years ago it was another show- Cook's Tour (also by Tony Bourdain). I have Mr. Bourdain to thank for countless good meals made even better, making even simple spoonfuls of rice and tuna taste like Foie Gras, or routine Jolly Hotdogs taste like Black Pudding. Not just the food, but the wonderful travelog experience, the insightful narrations into various countries and peoples, and the genuine appreciation of good taste and good friends makes sure that my iPod Touch will never be without an episode of No Reservations or Cook's Tour.

So it was with real enjoyment that I watched the Philippines' episode of No Reservations. I remembered the 'Fan-atic' episode of NR, where Tony almost went to RP (but eventually settled on Saudi Arabia) but ultimately decided against it due to Filipino fan Augusto's apparent scant knowledge of the country being recommended. Nicely enough, NR eventually made it a point to come to Manila and Cebu and finally have the fickle Bourdain feast on Pinoy fare.

My being a Filipino made watching the Philippines' episode kinda odd- on one hand, all the food being shown was pretty familiar to me, so I wasn't as interested as much in the food (as with other countries) as I was in Bourdain's reactions to the meals. I was kinda disappointed though by Augusto, our country's main representative to Tony. Where you'd expect a country's guide to be fun, energetic and enthusiastic in taking Tony on wild rides and showing the best of their homeland, Augusto was sadly very subdued and pretty much spent most of the time musing over his plate, with Tony serving as a kind of shrink, helping him over his search for his heritage and national identity. Gladly though, it just showed a particularly insightful and empathic side to Tony that was quite wonderful to see.

I'm pretty happy that Tony enjoyed the food and the visit to Philippines in general- the crowning glory being that Cebu Lechon got his highest marks as The Best Pig Ever. I also totally agree with his analysis of the Filipino people- Yes, we ARE too nice. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Glad you enjoyed your trip, Mr. Bourdain. Hope you visit Manila again someday.

Friday, April 3

Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata!

Here's the cover to the next release of Mangaholix Presents, issue 8. It's been a while since the last ish since the Groundbreakers have been busy at work with other stuff, not the least of which is the upcoming release of Mangaholix in the US! Yep, once again Pinoys are breaking into the US comics pie. Hopefully, this time we'll strike it rich.

Anyway, the next ish will still have the Usual Suspects of MP's Pinoy-made Manga stories- Aporia, Midknighters, Sampaguita Daydreams, Kraust and Ninja Girl KO! Release information will be coming soon, so stay tuned. Later then!

Tuesday, March 31

New Transmutations

The Elric Brothers return in a new incarnation... Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

I've seen a lot of great anime series through the years, but only a few have made a real imprint on my grey matter. One of them was the fantasy-action drama Full Metal Alchemist. FMA had all the traits of the best anime- an unusual and kinda twisted premise (two brothers who lost their body/body parts while trying to resurrect their dead mother embark on a quest to recover what they lost), lots of action that doesn't shirk away from getting bloody, sexy babes, multi-layered conspiracies, hidden agendas, interesting characters, betrayals and plot twists aplenty... you name it, FMA had it. 52 episodes and a couple of movies later, FMA ended (well, the anime did while the manga went on) on some decisive, if not altogether happy, resolutions. Neither Elric brother ever did get to end up with Winry, you don't really know what happened to the nation after the war, and lots of characters (particularly Mustang and his comrades) didn't get enough development as they should have. Still, FMA was awesome and I remember it fondly.

This month, all that I have known that is Full Metal Alchemist is set to be rocked and thrown off the board with the all-new interpretation that is Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This new series will supposedly reboot the series and reintroduce Edward and Alphonse Elric as anime fans have never seen them before. The new episodes may also be more faithful to the source manga, thus ensuring that we will be seeing a new master villain, and more pronounced roles for Roy Mustang and Company. Some things though will remain the same- most of the major vocal cast, notably Romi 'Edward Elric' Paku will be reprising their beloved roles.

FMA:Brotherhood will be premiering this month on Animax on cable, supposedly the same time as Japan (along with the series Tears to Tiara), so that's cool... although I will probably be looking for fansubs or downloads online on my own. Whether the new series turns out to blow the old FMA away or not, I am looking forward to more transmutations and transformations this April. Awesome.

Sunday, March 22

A Must Watch for Comic Book Fans

As Graphic a Graphic Novel-turned-Movie can Get.

I FINALLY got to watch Zack Snyder's comic book opus, Watchmen, last Friday. I was told a lot of things about the movie, going into it. Fans of the book who also liked the movie say that it isn't exact to the source material, but that it was still pretty good. Some say it left them unsatisfied and cold. Some say it was all about big, glowing blue penises. Now, I haven't read the graphic novel/comics yet, so I went into the movie with little baggage and expectations aside from expecting that the movie would at least blow me away with the visuals seeing as this was from the guy who brought us 300.

Well, what can I say? It's easily the densest, most complex comic book movie I've watched so far, with stuff flying at you left and right and images that are probably filled with pages worth of subtext, meaning and references, although all of it probably escapes me. Kinda like Forrest Gump with Superheroes. Despite that, I didn't feel too lost at any time, and I found the action pretty kick-ass (and the whole movie probably just as bloody and graphic as 300 was- at least Snyder is consistent). Visually, once again Snyder has made a world from the page jump up at you in the big screen, this time an 80's era world where very human and very fallible superheroes and supervillains are part and parcel of reality.

Best stuff for me? Rorschauch. Freakin' amazing character, and the actor who brought him to life, Jackie Earle Haley, gives a great performance both in and out of his character's awesome mask. He's like Wolverine crossed with Batman and Hannibal Lecter, and I love how he moves and fights... too bad we probably won't be seeing a Rorschauch Spin-off. Also great, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian... at once despicable and sympathetic, and he rules the screen whenever he appears even if he dies early on in the movie.

Love the costumes- from the old era heroes to the 'present' Watchmen... retro bliss. Yet another point to my argument that All the Movie Directors and Production Designers who recommend Generic Black Leather Costumes for Superhero Movies Should Be Fired. The action in the movie is hard-hitting and powerful- very NOW, which I love. I've never seen action done like they do in this movie- the opening fight with The Comedian, the brawls with Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, the Prison Riot brawl, the final fight between the heroes and the villain... pretty awesome. It's great that despite being a movie full of information and exposition and dialogue, the action is second to none.

Bad stuff? Nixon looked funny. Dr. Manhattan's such an asshole. Aside from that, not much.

For the most part- I really enjoyed Watchmen. No doubt I'll be getting the Blu-ray or DVD, and hoping for lots of cool extras. May buy the comic. Man, that was pretty cool. Way, way cooler than Streetfighter. Heheh.

Friday, March 13

Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Review

Well. I certainly took one for the team tonight. I could have gone and watched Watchmen. But NOOOOOOOO... I had to go and watch Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. I told myself, it's been a long week and I just want to turn my brain off with a fun but stupid action movie. Well, WRONG. This crapper isn't even much of an action movie. It's just plain stupid, for many reasons.

First off, let me give due respect to the much-flogged and ridiculed Streetfighter movie of Jean Claude Van-Damme and company. Today, we all see it as a hilarious camp-fest but with all it's flaws, it's freakin' fun. And back then, in the late 90s, believe it or not, it was actually pretty cool. It had that effect on you- you're a SF fan to the core, you watch it and you are freakin' amazed that they actually got so much from the game on the film- it was ridiculous, really, but damn fun. I remember picking out the signature moves they threw in- Cammy's Frankensteiner, Ryu's one Hadoken, Ken's Dragon Punch, Balrog's Charging Punch, Honda's Thousand Slaps... Guile's Freakin' Flash Kicks and Bison's silly flameless Psycho Crusher. It was fun and damn I enjoyed it then, and I still have a laugh- albeit a good-natured laugh- everytime I see the flick on cable today.

And now... Streetfighter: Legend of Chun-Li. A movie that has none of the campy charm, fan service fun, cool action or the level of sheer spectacle of the previous movie. It's just plain bad, people. So bad that probably people won't remember this crapper years from now (which is a good thing). It's so bad, it's in the league of the Double Dragon and Mario Brothers movie in the levels of game-to-movie bombs. Pretty much everything is wrong with this stinker, I am a bit at a loss of where to begin.

Legend of Chun-Li follows the titular heroine's 'origin' from her childhood, as a daughter of some rich, connected Chinese guy who practices wushu and kung fu in the garden. The childhood sequence drags for far too long, and for all that boring establishment we get an unnecessary action sequence with Balrog (Michael Clark-Duncan) bashing in to kidnap Chun's father on the orders of Bison (Neal McDonough), a blonde guy with an Irish accent, whom you know is Eeh-vil since when he moves and turns there's a properly sinister and Eeh-vil sound effect. Chun-Li sees her father getting taken away and vows revenge, right? Nope. She just goes on with her life and grows up into Kristin Kreuk. I guess that night wasn't that motivating. More dragging minutes go by. Yawn.

Chun-Li FINALLY gets off her piano-playing butt when a mysterious scroll (Chun-Li: This scroll... could it be a message..?") arrives and has her go on a sort of trip of discovery. NOTE: The freakin' version shown in the theater has NO SUBTITLES in the MANY scenes where they speak all Chinese or Thai, which is just stupid. Anyway, apparently the scroll tells Chun-Li that she must leave her old life behind and find some guy named Gen to find her true destiny. Man, what a very dense and easy-to-manipulate girl. Just send her a scroll and she's all over the place killing herself. Anyway...

She dismisses her servants and leaves her family home to go all Lonely Planet backpacking in Bangkok, and wastes quite a lot more dragging time trying to find the mysterious Gen. Meanwhile, we find out that Bison is planning something BIG. After taking total control of his Shadaloo organization, Bison is planning to TAKE OVER ALL OF BANGKOK'S SLUMS. Well, it's not exactly world domination, but it's early in his career, right? FEH. Once again, there's far too much of Bison scaring public officials to do him favors, forcing Chun's dad to work his connections and having ol' faithful Balrog go here and there as his private gopher.
Trying to find Bison is Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Kline) whose performance is indeed as BAD as they say. The guy is acting like a bad impression of Jim Carrey doing a bad Keanu Reeves action hero cliche skit for the whole movie. Backing Nash up is the sexy cop Maya (Moon Bloodgood) who is supposedly based on Crimson Viper (yeah, right).

Anyway, eventually Chun finds Gen (Robin Shou), who starts teaching her the way of The Force, via really bad CG fireballs. As they do, Chun sneaks out every so often to tangle with Shadaloo (which she finds out all about after reading two newspaper articles on the internet... man, you can find everything on the web but that's ridiculous) and beat up bad guys. She even tussles with Cantana, Bison's secretary/female aide in a pretty unnecessary lesbian mating dance that just comes out of nowhere (so apparently Cantana's sexual preferences were also common knowledge on the Internet) and is just another tacky nail in this film's coffin.

We learn that Bison was the orphaned son of Irish Missionaries (which shows that accents are ingrained in the genes) who grew up a thief in the streets of Bangkok and became the seemingly-invincible super crime boss he is today by killing his pregnant wife in some cave.

WHAT. THE. HELL. Raul Julia's M. Bison was way classier than this. My gosh. Let me say that I was willing to let a lot of things slide with 'Bison' in this film. I accepted that we wouldn't be seeing the military outfit, the metal shin guards or any of his fighting moves. But damn, we never really get a sense that this was going to become the fearsome M. Bison. Psycho power is reduced to 'having no conscience'? Man, ANYONE can do that. You don't even need to go to a weird cave in Thailand. Just be a politician here in Manila.

So everything just kinda-sorta-somehow works it's way to some kind of endgame. Chun-Li gets captured and reunited with Dad, sees Dad get killed by Bison, escapes and then participates in the final assault on Bison's lair with Nash and Gen.

Oh, and sometime before that, she beats up what is probably the most pathetically incompetent incarnation of Vega EVER (Taboo from Black-Eyed Peas) and Balrog apparently gets killed by Gen in a bad kinda-fight scene. All with Balrog never ever showing any sign that he was a boxer. Or that Vega was ever a graceful, deadly elite ninja-like assassin. No, they just get fragged, so basically Bison is all alone with some nameless, nothing guards in the film's action FINALE.

Finale? There's nothing really to the movie's wrap-up, just lots of silly brawling and bad wirework, some crap about Bison's daughter (who is supposed to be important in some way) and lots of sneaking and tumbling around. You know there's something wrong about the movie's 'action-packed' finale when the coolest guy onscreen isn't Chun-Li or Nash, but the lone SWAT guy backing them up. Un-freakin-believable.

Anyway, Chun-Li hits Bison with a Kikouken fireball and a neck snap, and it's over. So... why the hell was Bison so hard to take out in the first place? That was pretty easy. I mean, what made him special? Well, I guess we'll never know.

We then have a little mention of a 'Streetfighter' tournament and a guy named Ryu-something. Sequel? Do I smell sequel???

Oh by all that's holy NO.

I have to say, the one big sin of this Streetfighter movie is, well... it's NOT a Streetfighter movie. It's a revenge-drama flick with martial arts overtones, but not Streetfighter. All the appearing characters who are supposedly based on SF characters pretty much never measure up to the source material. Liberties be damned- if you're gonna make a movie entitled Streetfighter then work the the hell hard to get it to live up to that name. Make some freakin' effort to get the characters recognizable or at least having a faint shadow of who they are supposed to be.
Let me say this- Michael Clark-Duncan is, despite being a black guy, totally miscast (the guy in the Van Damme movie got the look and feel down perfect, in contrast, aside from the change that he was a good guy). Everyone is pretty much miscast, save for Robin Shou who could have at least had dressed like the 'real' Gen and had some of his fighting style.

But really, it's a movie about Chun-Li. WHY CAN'T THEY AT LEAST GET CHUN-LI TO KINDA-SORTA LOOK LIKE CHUN-LI??? I'll accept they can't use the blue outfit, the spiked bracelets, fine. But at least give her those trademark hair buns. The buns ARE Chun-Li. They're not impossible to do. They don't need prosthetics. They don't need CG. They're freakin' cutely-tied up hair. WHY THE HELL NOT?

Even the freakin Chun-Li action sequence from Jacky Chan's City Hunter is better than this whole movie. You could retitle this "The Schoolgirl" and it would probably work better. Or "Stand Up to Fight" if you wanna follow the style of the old Hong Kong action films of the 80s and 90s.

With all that, needless to say I didn't like this movie.

It's badly written, badly directed, badly shot and badly performed. There are no cool moments, no set-piece encounters to speak of worth remembering. Low production values are just another hit to a movie that is humorless and joyless, not fun, not enjoyable and frequently dragging. Action sequences are rarely good (mainly just the 'practice' scenes are kinda neat) and for the most part are clunky, ugly and just plain bad- the DOA movie kicks this one's butt at least in terms of fighting. You can just tell, there was no love for Streetfighter, no reverence or even respect for the material, in the makers of this film. I wonder just what the hell went into Capcom's minds when they allowed their property to be defaced or connected with this crap.

It would have been better if I said I didn't like this movie because it's been so long and I just am not that big a SF fan anymore. Or that the Van Damme movie is just so much better (it is, actually). Or that I am just a lot older and wiser now, so am immune to blind fanboy wonder when I see any film of a franchise I like taped on the cover. Nope... it's just that Streetfighter: Legend of Chun-Li is a very, very bad movie.

Wanna see Chun-Li done right? Watch the old Streetfighter II the Animated Movie. Or the Streetfighter: Ties that Bind anime loaded in with Streetfighter IV. Or Streetfighter The Later Years from College Humor. Just. Not. This.

Saturday, March 7

A Salute to The Man from Manila: Francis Magalona 1964-2009

I wish I was posting something happy, but what can you do?

Back in the 90s, Philippine Rap found its niche in the hearts of music-loving Filipinos thanks to one man- Francis 'Kiko' Magalona. His unparalleled national pride and true performer's heart will always be something Pinoys should cherish and remember. Goodbye, Francis M.

Tuesday, February 17


I've seen a couple of short teasers for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and I have mixed feelings. Yeah, I enjoyed the first movie, albeit with some reservations (basically too much humans, not enough robots, and the simple fact that the whole film played more or less like the flashiest U.S. Armed Forces commercial ever). The sequel looks to be a lot darker, seeing from how the start of the film has Armageddon-like imagery and has an entire aircraft carrier (maybe even the whole fleet) going down, apparently with all hands. Apparently the arrival of the autobots in the first movie has grave repercussions on the human race as even nastier decepticons, including one supposedly known as 'The Fallen' have come to wreak untold havoc on the puny earthlings. Anyway, Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox, as well other cast members are back for this more dangerous itineration.

This early though I have more reservations- it doesn't feel like Transformers at all. Perhaps that's because I could not recognize a single character in the trailer- most were just shapeless metal things that were exploding everything around them. Heck, you could tape on Terminator: Revenge of the 1000000 at the end of this and it would still work. Well, hopefully the full trailers will give back that feel.

With Fallen and the real Terminator sequel up later this year, it seems to be the Era of Giant Robots. Hmmm... Transformers vs Terminators... wouldn't that make a cool movie...? Nah.

Friday, February 13

Less is More, Part Deux

Sony Ericsson W890i.

It's been more than a week since I traded in my Nokia N96 for a new W890 Walkman phone, and I have to say I'm still in honeymoon phase with my new mobile. Despite not being a smartphone, the ultra-slim W890 is awesome thanks to the ease of use, great keypad, nice camera and cool games (Tennis is awesome, if freakin' hard). The screen, while tiny compared to my iPod Touch, is so bright and colorful and makes pics and images light up so nicely. The most fun I am having though with it is the customizability... as with most Sony Ericsson phones, you can create your own themes (thanks to an easy-to-use Theme Creator software that's available free for both PC and Mac). So I can fashion my own complete graphical look for the phone, complete with wallpapers and backgrounds for various screens as well as a message alert tone straight from the game. And since the phone supports animated pics, I can use moving GIFs as cool screensavers as well. So now, just a click can shift my phone from being a Metal Gear Solid 4 (complete with Codec alert tone and Gekko attack screensaver) phone to a Tekken 6 phone or a Final Fantasy mobile. Awesome for an OC fanboy like me.

I guess it's partly culture shock for me to have so much fun from such a slim, tiny device when I once sought out the thickest, most tech-heavy cellphones I could get. And maybe it's also because it's such a freakin' gorgeous and awesomely cool little phone. Sigh. Anyway, enough gushing I guess... gotta make another theme. Heheh...

Sunday, February 8

Less is More

Sony Ericsson W890i.

Yep, I've upgraded again to a new phone. Well, not exactly- it's not an upgrade since I'm actually shifting to a less-flashy mobile to my now-gone Nokia N96... and it's not new either since the Sony Ericsson W890i I have now was released early last year. No, I'm not reverting or anything. It's all in becoming more compact and less redundant with my gadgets.

Of course, it all started with my old iPhone last year. I loved that device (and my Mom still loves it today), but I just had to upgrade eventually. I didn't want to get the iPhone 3G, so I got what I thought was the next best thing- a Nokia N96. On paper, the N96 sounded good. 16GB memory, 5 megapixel camera and high quality video recording, dvd-quality video playing, games... it even kinda-sorta looked like my old iPhone. So I jumped back into Nokia's camp. Unfortunately, it only took a couple of days of me trying to (unsuccessfully) convince myself that the N96's relatively small screen was in any way a nice replacement for the massive real estate that was the iPhone's screen. As a mobile video enthusiast, it was just asking too much.

Less than a week after I got my N96, on a whim I ran out of the office and got myself a new iPod Touch. My 32-Gig 2nd Gen Touch is awesome to this day, and is my portable gaming, video, image and music center. Which means... I didn't need my actual phone to do the same thing any more.

To be fair, I really like the N96... it looks great (one of the really slick Nokias), the overall quality and feel is high, and the tons of vids I can put in the 16 Gig memory is great. However, managing two different devices' worth of media is just too much. Plus the phone's much-touted camera just doesn't stand up to my standards of quality for video and pics... I'd much rather lug my Canon Ixus if I'm gonna snap pics or shoot vids. So... well... all we're left with is a big black block whose talents are inferior to other, nicer gadgets. So something had to give.

So I decided, I have my iPod for games and media as well as a proper digicam... all that's left is just... a phone. So I decided to get the slimmest phone I could get. The W890 ended up being the winner- it's slim and light but feels reassuringly solid in the hand. Plus, it's no slouch in functions (3G Quad Band, Walkman phone, 3.2 MP Camera) and it's very easy to use. Also, using it is far faster and smoother than the sluggish soup that was the N96's interface (slooooow as molasses). So, here we are.

After more than a couple of years of having chunky, do-it-all phones... it's kinda refreshing to have a small, slim and light mobile. Yeah, I still have my iPod, but it's pretty slim too, so the overall feeling is like I just cast off a heavy load. I think I done some good with this configuration... a commuter-commando like me needs to move fast and not be too bulky. And after all this time, I've realized all-in-one devices are just... overrated. At least, up to now. I think I'm at a good balance. Everything's copacetic. Okay, gotta go play with the new toy, er, phone again...

Tuesday, January 20


Today, I am watching a true moment in history as Barack Obama becomes the next President of the United States of America.

The hopefulness, the enthusiasm, the glowing pride and the warm optimism is, I have to say, infectious and something that gives me a smile in these hard times.

Here's to Mister Obama somehow fulfilling his promises and taking the US in a different direction from the tailspin he found it in.

Hopefully this inspires someone here in the Philippines to just WANT to change our country for the better as well. Someone to step up and just. Fix. What's. Wrong.

Probably, probably not.

For now, let's all just enjoy the Warm Glow.