Saturday, November 23

A Job Well Done, Part Two

This week has been pretty exhausting, but it ended quite well at least for my day job. The company won several pitches, one of which I was directly involved in. Furthermore, me and my team finally ended the long process of creating and producing a TV commercial. We presented the finished, edited and complete final version of the ad to client this afternoon, and they gave a happy nod of approval. The commercial, which is for a female hygiene product, will be shown on Philippine television this coming Sunday.
The whole company, or at least most of the people I know at the office, celebrated at the bar/restaurant Con Fusion near our building in Makati. I don't usually like drinking parties, but I went anyway since my teammates insisted. I had a couple of beers, a lot of laughs, several samples of savoury finger foods, and then I was off. I met the regular Friday gang of Mike, Dean, Nikki, Jason and Carl at Salsa Rossa. We later moved to Country Waffles and had a couple of enjoyable games of Cranium. Fun game!
Ahh. I look forward to a weekend that's all mine. No shoots, no overtime, no jobs. Just all fun and personal time. Haaa... I am alive again.

Thursday, November 21

Retro Cartoon: The Spiral Zone

Anyone here remember that old action cartoon Spiral Zone? It was set in an earth that was under attack by a guy named Overlord(not to be mistaken for the villain in Blackstar). Overlord was a former scientist who created the Spiral Zone; it was a kind of virus or field which caused people to become mindless zombie slaves. It was so named because the pattern of the Zone's swath across the world was, well, spiral. With his Zone Generators, Overlord was able to conquer many parts of the world, even making New York as his main headquarters.

Of course, there were good guys around to resist the villain; the UN put together a small but elite squad of troopers called the Zone Riders. The riders are highly trained and are the free world's best and last hope: Commander Dirk Courage, Katerina Anastacia, Hiro Taka, Max Jones and Tank. The Zone Riders could go where the rest of the UN military couldn't go since they were the only ones with anti-Zone suits (which kept them from becoming zombies). This of course left the Zone Riders quite outnumbered when facing Overlord's armies of Zoner slave-soldiers. Leading the Zoners were Overlord's Black Widows- his personal lieutenants who were given treatment so they retained their wills and consciousness even inside the Zone (however, they also got the deformed, fleshless look Overlord has). These baddies went by code names given by Overlord himself based on their backgrounds/natures: Duchess Dire, Reaper, Bandit, Razorback, Raw Meat and Crook. We actually see the last two Widows get recruited within the series; Meat was a wild, evil Cajun trapper, while Crook was a treacherous French ambassador or something.
The series distinguished itself as well with really odd vehicles; the Zone Riders rode one-wheeled armed and armoured motorcycles, while the Black Widows rode Sledgehammer Tanks that looked like a cross between a war chariot and a Lazyboy. Overlord himself of course rode a unique vehicle which looked like something from a tractor pull. Wild stuff.
Spiral Zone was full of action, drama and lots of explosions and lazer beams. Like GI Joe, it never showed deaths, but was oddly quite intense given the gravity of the threat (and how many of the heroes' relatives are prisoners within the Zone). It was a pretty cool and exciting cartoon. I'd give a lot to have these episodes in some DVD or tape. Relive the good Saturday fare once in a while. Ah. They don't make them like they used to.

Wednesday, November 20

A Pinoy Komiks Resurgence

Local Pinoy comics: Down for the count? Nope!

In the mid to late nineties, Alamat Comics made some heads turn with the release of locally-made comic books. I am pleased to say that I was part of this 'revolution', releasing my own title, Angel Ace, during that time. Within the past two years though, Alamat has seemingly gone into hibernation, with most members going dormant. I count myself lucky to be able to continue working with people who are very active in creative work in the comics medium, including Carl Vergara (One Night in Purgatory), Jason Banico (Dynatica Comics, Baylans), Dean and Nikki Alfar (The Lost, Kestrelstudios), Mike Simbulan (Isaw At Iba Pa), Arnold Arre and Cynthia Bauzon (Tala Studios, After Eden). Together, we've been able to continue thinking, creating and doing stuff that will hopefully continue to share the stories we have in our heads to as many people as we can reach.
However, it is heartening to know that there are many others also active in the Philippine local comic scene. Fans of western comic book styles may bristle though, at the fact that many of them are influenced or based on the now-popular Japanese manga style. There's of course Culture Crash, the highly popular mangazine which boasts high quality art and colored issues. There's CHIPs, a local manga with a distinct cutesy style and sensibility which recently released their first issue. In Comic Quest, we've seen the work of Armand Canlas, a mecha-combat/scifi manga by the name of Armor Troopers.
With so many young artists working hard to express themselves, it gives me the inspiration to continue where I left off and release another issue. Not this year, of course... but soon. I still have a lot of stories to tell, myself.
A Job Well Done

Yesterday, I attended the offline edit of the commercial we filmed last week. An offline, for those not in the advertising biz, is the term for the initial editing of a commercial. That means, the takes are just chosen and put together. There is no special effects, transitions or color grading at this stage. So what you see of the ad is pretty bare, basic and a bit rough. Me, my art director Itsy and our account person Mona went over to the production house. While we were waiting, we experienced more of the customary hospitality, in the form of a Sukhothai-esque Thai lunch. Pandan Chicken, bagoong rice with tasty sweet-sour-savory flavor, beef tenderloin and clam chowder was for the taking. But my favorite at that moment was without a doubt the flawlessly made Leche Flan. You could really taste that they didn't scrimp on the eggs on this dessert. I had two pieces and wanted more, actually.
When we finally saw the edit, I was initially disturbed by how jarring the takes were. Fortunately, we saw a good edit, and we were pleased. After us, it was client's turn. It took about two hours for them to get to the premises, but luckily, they approved our recommended edit right away. No problems. Great! Now the rough edit of the offline can go on the the online, which means more polished editing, scoring of the music and application of visual effects and color grading.
We ended the session with a merienda/early dinner of pasta with marinara or puttanesca sauce, garlic bread and roast chicken. I downed ice cold glasses of Coke to celebrate the end of another stage of the job. Barring any delays, the commercial would be airing within the month. That left a good taste in my mouth. Or was it the chicken? Whatever.

I was on the bus going to work today when I say a movie billboard of another one of those sleazy sex movies that seem to be the rage today in skanky theaters. The title was Masarap na Pugad, or in english, "Delicious Nest". It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's not talking about birds. At least, not the flying kind... Ah, the artistry of Filipino movies...

Monday, November 18

A Prisoner of the Flesh

Well, thanks to a weird stomach bug that had me in the fetal position this morning as well as my sore back muscles, I stayed home. I spent most of the day just lying in bed, watching TechTV and playing some Suikoden III. I just wandered aimlessly around the land, killing monsters to level up my heroes and occupying time by playing some funny minigames in the heroes' castle. One of the funny diversions involves staging a play in a theater. You can cast any of your 108 playable characters in various roles, and it's pretty hilarious to see how some of them act (or non-act). After playing the RPG, I rested some more.
A nice thing about staying home on a weekday is being able to watch TV programs you usually miss. I was able to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where a demon casts a spell that makes everyone burst into song every so often. The entire show was like a musical, and I think they all sang with their real voices. HILARIOUS.
After that, I slipped in Disc 4 of the LOTR Extended DVD Set and watched documentaries about the film that focused more on the cast, filming the epic fantasy adventure and then some. It's pretty funny to see and hear some of the interviews and how the actors and crew got to bond during the filming. I actually haven't watched the whole extended edit movie yet... I'll do that soon.
Despite having all this time for myself, staying indoors the whole day, having the airconditioning on for hours and hours and not being able to go out kinda sucked. Thankfully I think I can get back to work tomorrow.
Tired and Worn

I came home tired and having some muscle pains in my left side. Walking around with a limp and the muscle pain is more tiring and exhaustive than normal, so I just hobbled to the sanctum. No Suikoden III tonight... don't have the energy. I WAS able to pop in Disc 3 of the LOTR Extended Version set and watch the rest of the documentaries. Fascinating stuff all around, but I have to say the best parts were the WETA Workshop portions, which showed us director Peter Jackson's answer to ILM... the detail and work that went into the making of LOTR is mind-boggling; literally no shortcuts, they made a world! From armor to creatures to costumes and weapons... damn. This movie reeks quality. There are tons more drawings, designs and stills to look at, but I'll finish that in time. Very tired. Need to get some rest since tomorrow's another work day. Ah, the grind. I hope I have the strength.

Sunday, November 17

Sunday Funday

It's Sunday yet I'm at the office, working on a pitch. It's not as bad as I thought since I was able to get enough sleep somehow. Hopefully we won't stay too late. Can't end the weekend without a last-minute Suikoden III game or some similar digital crack session. If I can, I'll try to pass by some shops and check out any DVDs or games worth a look. Yesterday, I managed to bring home some goodies: A copy of the new PC game Age of Mythology, the sequel to the best-selling RTS Age of Empires, and a Neo Geo library disc for the Xbox.
I was able to install AOM successfully; basically it is Empires with mythological creatures as units, and the gameplay is very similar to the previous game. The 3D graphics remind me a lot of Battle Realms though. The story mode, which seems to concern the adventures of an Atlantean hero, looks very interesting. It will take some getting used to the new elements, but it looks great.
As for the Neo Geo Xbox compilation, it's a mixed bag; several games won't play, but there are enough that do that satisfy me. It's great to see these old arcade games on the TV. The Neo Geo had cool games but was just too expensive.
Well, that's that. I'll try to post another entry later tonight.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Last night, me, Mike and Jason headed off to Hogwarts, er, Greenhills Theatre Mall, to watch the second Harry Potter movie. We've been planning this since two weeks ago, and our strategy was foolproof and meticulous. Our tickets were bought, seats reserved and food prepared for the two and a half hour show. Well, it turns out that we were worried for nothing since the theater wasn't at all crowded; we had great seats and the movie started on the money. Now, how did we like the Secrets of the Chamber?
First of all, I entered the film without any knowledge of the book. I had been able to read Sorcerer's Stone, which kind of spoiled the suspense. This time, I didn't know what would happen, which was pretty cool.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is all about the titular character's second year of weird classes and death-defying adventures in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, his return to school is filled with foreboding with the dire warnings of a mysterious House Elf named Dobby. This CG-creature warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts since terrible things would happen. Of course, if Harry did that there wouldn't be a movie so...
Once Mr. Potter makes his way back with a lot of help from his best friend, Ron Weasley, and his family. But his return is marked with mixed characters and events that echo the warnings of the House Elf; A vainglorious new teacher of Defense of the Dark Arts named Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), the appearance of Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), the sinister father of Harry's rival, Draco, mysterious whispering voices, writings on blood on the walls and finally, students getting petrified by an unseen force. All this seems to be linked to a rumored 'Chamber of Secrets', an almost legendary spot in Hogwarts that is said to contain evil from the founder of House Slytherin. Evil has returned to Hogwarts...
Thanks to the bulk of story background and foundation being rooted in the previous movie, Chamber has the advantage of being able to get right into the action without too much baggage... and there's quite a lot of it too. There are lots of dangers that Harry and Ron have to face, including getting smashed by a moving tree, surviving a ride on a flying car, getting chased by hordes of giant spiders and tussling with their rivals from the evil Slytherine house. The Quidditch match gets upped in the wow factor thanks to the deadly appearance of a rogue bludger (an attacking flying ball) and the addition of Draco Malfoy as Slytherin's seeker and Harry's opposite number. I already loved the Quidditch sequence in the first movie... I enjoyed Chamber's game immensely.
Overall, thanks to more action, Chamber tops Sorcerer's Stone (whose high point was a chess game... hmmm...). However, it still mirrors the earlier movie in some stuff where it could have been better trimmed.
The cast seems to be really comfortable in their roles, particularly the leads Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Alan Rickman's Severus Snape doesn't get as much screen time as he had in Sorcerer's Stone. He still perplexes me as to whether you should like him or hate him, but he's unmistakeably cool here. Maggie Smith and Robby Coltrane are doing the paces, while I think Kenneth Branagh is funny but not as effective as he could have been. Tom Felton as Draco gets more screen time, but I don't find him as dangerous as he could be... though he does smirk and act smarmy quite well. The best addition is Jason Isaac's Lucius Malfoy, who's about as villainous and imperious as you could expect Draco's father to be.
As for the plot, despite some leaps in logic, the overall story is better paced, and has darker and spookier atmosphere. Pretty good, though in the end the exposition kinda disappointed me. Maybe I was just expecting too much from a children's book...
There are lots of gripes though; again, with a somewhat plodding and awkward finale and an overlong, too mawkish 'happy-happy-joy-joy' ending. Also, Lucius is already sinister with Isaac's performance... why did they have to have the 'Dracula hypnotic stare' lighting effect? Also, don't Slytherin have lives aside from being evil and griping? You'd think that in their common room they can be evil as well as young boys as well. And why does Harry seem to hit and swing things more than cast spells? Hmm.
In the end, I found Chamber of Secrets quite entertaining, but again, while I like it, I probably won't be able to sit through it again. Once is enough.