Saturday, June 28

Waiting for December...


At about three hours or so, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is supposedly the best of the epic trilogy, and probably the last BIG movie to arrive this year, or the first in 2004. I expect HUGE battle scenes, and of course changes to the original books and the early animated versions with a probably manifestation of Sauron, a different fate for Saruman the White from the books, and more. This is going to be AWESOME.
Ninja Scroll TV series

When you think of ninja in history, you think of Japanese guys dressed all in black pajamas, those funny toed-socks (tabi) and masks. They bounce around and throw flash and smoke bombs and do crazy flips. In the Capcom Streetfighter games, ninja are deadly kunai (dagger) and shuriken (throwing star) throwing fighters who wear baggy pants, cloth wraps and compete in world fighting competitions. In my Angel Ace manga, ninja are sexy killer babes who wear skimpy bikinis. Well, we were all wrong. Dead wrong. Well, at least according to Ninja Scroll.

In the world of Yoshiaki Kawajiri's Ninja Scroll, ninja means weirdo. Or mutant. Or monster. In the classic 1993 anime movie, we saw the Eight Devils of Kimon, eight ninja who ranged from a giant who can transform into a rock-skinned behemoth to an effeminate assassin who uses silken cords to strangle and electrocute people. Or there was that weirdo who looked like Quasimodo with a beehive in place of a hump on his back. Weird stuff. Well, the new Ninja Scroll TV series (Jubei Ninpucho: Chapter of the Dragon Treasure Ball) has even freakier villains to throw at you.
Yep, in Ninja Scroll, ninjas are alien-like beings who often take on beastly or animalistic aspects. Or have inexplicably cybernetic implants and prosthesis. Or have powers of magic or over nature. And they wear everything from armor to robes to skimpy thongs and even less (for the ladies). Now THESE are ninja. Heh.

The Ninja Scroll TV series started airing in Japan's WOWOW channel some time ago, and will run for 13 episodes. The story is set after the original movie, and will feature the same hero, Jubei Kibagami the wandering invincible masterless ninja warrior. Aside from Jubei the sly, shriveled monk/government spy Dakuan will also appear, but sadly (but not surprisingly) the departed Kagero will not be making an appearance.
The story concerns a powerful icon known as the Dragon Orb, and how two powerful and deadly ninja clans are vying for possession of it. One of these clans is supposedly the Kimon Clan, whose scions were Jubei's opponents in the movie.
So far I haven't yet gotten my grubby paws on the episodes, but I have seen the official Japanese website and the various designs for the characters. Let me say right now that the various monster ninja that will appear in many of the episodes (many of the episodes feature at least one to three ninja weirdos introduced) are wild and stay quite close to the over-the-top baddies from the movie. We're talking things like a GIANT TRANSFORMING CAR ninja, a WILD CAT GIRL ninja, a ONE-EYED CYBORG ninja, a SPIDER MUMMY ninja and MORE. Whew.

As for the sex and violence, we probably can't expect the same magnitude as the movie, but suffice to say that the blood will flow when Jubei meets his victims- er, enemies, in battle. Ninja Scroll TV series should appeal greatly to fans of samurai/ninja films, action anime and of course, fans of the movie. I'll be giving this a proper review when I get hold of DVDs or VCDs. Soon, soon...

Friday, June 27

New King of Donuts Krowned

I love donuts. Donuts rock. There's a popular story here in my ad agency where an award-winning creative agency suddenly got mediocre after their favorite donut shop closed down. So, donuts are creative inspirations too.

Anyway, there are two major donut shops in the Metro; Dunkin Donuts and Mister Donut. Dunkin Donuts will always have my good favor thanks to their yummy donuts (which are never too sweet but taste just right) and savoury fare which include delicious bunwiches and croissant sandwiches. These make great merienda or breakfast fare.
Mister Donut has always been around (Remember that ditty, 'Hey Mister that's a donut...') but many of their do's are pale imitations of DD's versions, especially their gaudy cake donuts.
Well, that's all turned around with the recent introduction of their Kreamy Krowns line. These donuts are cake-quality delicious pastries, topped with icing and having just the right amount of sweetness, crusty dough, and chewy goodness. Donuts par excellence! Variants include karamel krown, bavarian, chocolate, candy sprinkled and more.
As far as I know, Mister Donut has enjoyed brisk sales since they released the new line, spruced up their outlets and released a TV commerical. Hope the Kreamy Krowns stay for a while. My sweet tooth's aching for more. Heh.

Got to remember to take home another box in case the one I got yesterday's been devoured by the folks. They're that damn good.

Thursday, June 26

Bloodletting and a new Gonzo anime

After a night of eating siopao and curry pork, I queued up for the weekly ritual of bloodletting at Comic Quest. I went away with only two items… though they were pretty heavy items (both literally and for price): the latest issues of Newtype USA and Previews. The Newtype issue as ever comes with a free DVD with some anime previews, and tons of features and goodies like an X poster and a Full Metal Panic Chidori Kanami pull-out and postcards of SCRYed.

The articles inside include an in-depth look at Gainax (makers of Evangelion) and a first peek at images from the live-action Evangelion film being worked on by WETA Workshop (the special FX house of Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings films). All the images were illustrations by WETA’s talented artists, notably a look at Sohryu Asuka Langley's red plug suit design, a view of submerged cityscapes, the Eva docking bays and the insides of NERV headquarters. Cool and very close to the anime’s imagery. I am actually thinking that this live-action Eva movie might not be such a bad thing after all. We’ll see…

Tonight I am looking forward to getting my hands on VCDs of Last Exile, the latest anime series from Gonzo (Blue Submarine No. 6, Gatekeepers, Vandread) that Vin was able to find a source for. The story is still unclear, but LE is set in a world currently being wracked by a war between two great fleets and armies. In the midst of these mammoth conflicts, a young pilot named Lavi and her co-pilot ply the unfriendly skies as couriers. What lies in their future and the future of their world? The animation of LE is impressive, with truly majestic air fleets and imagery that is reminiscent of Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, World War I naval, army and air battles, and the distinct quality of Gonzo for mixing traditional with CG animation. This looks special. Truly special indeed. Want those VCDs. Gotta get them all!

Wednesday, June 25

Battle Royale 2: A Royale Disappointment?

I have to say that I am a total fan of the late Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale. It was a glorious heroic sacrifice/ black humor / action film, mixing an absurd but compelling premise with superb direction, writing and imagery. FYI, BR was all about a nightmarish future Japan where the generation-gap conflict has reached a terrible level. Every year, high school students are sent off to an island where each one is strapped on with an explosive necklace. In three days, the students must kill each other until only one remains, or ALL of them die.
What made the original BR so great was the character interactions of the young students; cliques and seemingly in-control gangs of friends became free-for-all gunfights, lone geeks became cold killers, crushes killed crushes, evil bitches became evil killer bitches and more. Wonderful! It was also a kick figuring out who would survive to the end. The premise and the seemingly hopeless scenario pointed to a bleak end which was part of the movie's gripping pace.
And so, when I heard that BR was going to have a sequel, I was ecstatic. However, the second film seems to have had a jinx on it, primarily from the death of the original director. Mr. Fukasaku's son, Kenta, took over the chair, and the sequel, Battle Royale 2: Requiem, will be hitting Japanese theaters soon.

Unfortunately, I have read a report from Ain't It Cool News that a reliable source who has watched a sneak preview has given a pretty negative review. Given the lofty quality of the first film, I am not totally surprised, but I am disappointed. I still want to see the film for myself.
Anyway, Battle Royale 2 supposedly continues the story from the original. Shuya Nanahara, the survivor from the first movie, has become the leader of a terrorist group known as Wild Seven. After a particularly terrible act of destruction, Shuya's band gets targetted for liquidation. The government sends in a class of armed high school students from the BR Program to take Wild Seven out. Then, the government sends in the real army to finish anyone left standing. Will there be any survivors this time? Will the movie itself survive?

According to the reviewer, the film's use of drama and whimpering, crying kids is now tiresome, and characters are no longer as interesting as in the first film; everyone is a victim and the action and bloodshed comes out as cheezy, with a big scene seeming to be a rip-off of from Saving Private Ryan. There also seems to be an unhealthy amount of political agenda and philosophical gobbledy-goo. Yipe.

Whatever. Still need to see it for myself anyway... You can check out the BR2 article here.
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

The angels are back in a rock 'em, sock 'em sequel!

For a moment there, I thought I wasn't going to make it. There was a bit of a wrinkle at work which had me on my toes for a while. Thankfully though, just past 6:30 PM I was on a bus, and then the MRT, to Megamall for the premiere showing of Full Throttle. Having learned our lesson from the Hulk premiere, we trooped up to the cinema floor right after seven for the 7:30 show. Unfortunately we had to wait quite a bit in line and then at our seats... but at least this time we were together and we HAD seats. Too bad Carl wasn't able to come, and Vin missed part of the show. Well, we spent at least a half hour listening to commercials (including one for a contact lens brand that had wrong grammar), eating salty popcorn and guzzling down root beer from my Full Throttle tumbler.
Thankfully, there was no program, no giving away of crappy prizes, or inane deejays with fake English accents. The national anthem rolled, and we were into the trailers, and into the movie.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is a sequel to the original Charlie's Angels movie starring Drew Barrymore as spunky bad girl Dylan (who is also the movie's producer), Cameron Diaz as the ditzy genius Natalie and Lucy Liu as the brainy ultracompetent Alex. The three of them are the present Charlie's Angels, a team of superhumanly-strong, agile and talented female investigators/martial artists/secret agents working for a mysterious, never-seen billionaire.
This time around, the Angels are on a mission involving the theft of two titanium rings which contain encrypted data of a very sensitive nature. Aided by a new Bosley (a liaison officer between them and Charlie) played by comedian Bernie Mac, the Angels go on a whirlwind of infiltration, recovery, surveillance and protection missions which involve a murderous Irish mobster named Seamus, (who has ties to Dylan's past), crooked law enforcers, various criminal families and a former Angel named Madison Lee (played to the steamy hilt by the bikini-clad goddess herself, Miss Demi Moore).
The first Charlie's Angels movie was an over-the-top action movie that really didn't take itself too seriously. The martial arts action was cartoony but unabashedly fun, and the girls' skills and talents (you could almost call them POWERS) were so ultracompetent it was almost silly. In Full Throttle however, everything gets REVVED up to eleven.
That pretty much means that the movie walks (no, cartwheels is a better word) a fine line between total madcap humor and a thinly-veiled self-parody. There are lots of homages, notably a hilarious bow to the hit TV series CSI, Flashdance, Terminator 2, Michael Bay films and tons more. The girls' dialogue (which is quite silly but inexplicably enjoyable) is now more overtly comedic, fast and furious, and the action is even more over the top. Aside from your usual martial arts battles with brutish thugs there are motorcycle assassinations, sexy surfboarding, steamy dance numbers, classic tunes, countless fetish outfits, totally unexpected cameos and some quite vicious babefights.

What makes it all work is the fever-pitch pace that the action and setpieces roar on, with few but well-placed pauses and breathers (which I used to effect since I unwisely had two full tumblers of soda). While the first movie kinda slowed in between the pivotal fight and action scenes, Full Throttle throws action, snappy dialogue, lots of hit-and-miss jokes, sexual innuendo, fan service and more action at you so fast you just have to gasp, hang on and enjoy the ride. Of course, Oscar performances aren't really being looked for in this film, but I have to say the frenetic energy of the cast is pretty infectious and they do seem to be having fun. Have to give special mention to Justin Theroux's Seamus (he looks like a bad-ass, pumped-up Jim Carrey!) as Dylan's seemingly unkillable and evil former flame, Crispin Glover's recurring Thin Man assassin (one of the favorites from the first film) and Demi Moore's bad-ass Fallen Angel End Boss character.

Any flaws? Well, one thing I have to say is that the print of the film shown seemed kinda off and blurry (not really THAT bad, but noticeable). Another thing is that the Angels often have not-too-telegenic angles; despite this, you just have to love how the three leads just give their performances their all. The only other iffy thing is how steamy some of the sequences are, which kinda make me squirm in the same vein as some racy anime do when I watch them WITH other people...

But in effect, that IS what Full Throttle is; a live-action anime movie and a sign that the Charlie's Angels crew has gotten a lot more comfortable in the Hong Kong cheezy kung-fu genre that they are tapping into. Which pretty much results in a loud, crass, funny, silly and thoroughly enjoyable laugh and kick a minute movie.

Watch it! And bring your friends!

Want this on DVD. And hope there are deleted scenes with Demi Moore in that bikini... Heh...

Some Extras:

This just in... Look for cameos by Carrie Fisher and an original Angel.

Useless Trivia: One of Demi Moore's goons is played by a guy named Charles Townsend. (Heh) Extreme sports stars Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Carey Hart and real-life OIympic gymnastic coach Bela Karolyl appear as themselves in the movie.

Tuesday, June 24

Rage of Angels

Tonight, if all goes well, the gang will be watching the premiere of the new Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. This sequel reunites the three female leads from the first babefest; Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz. Bill Murray has ditched the production, so the role of Bosley has been filled up by comedian Bernie Mac. Also returning are Matt LeBlanc as Lucy Liu's love interest and Crispin Glover, who will apparently reprise his role as 'The Thin Man', the seemingly mute and deadly hitman/enforcer from the first film. Oh, and of course, last but not least is the exceedingly gorgeous Demi Moore, who takes the lead baddie role of Madison, a Fallen Angel.
With luck, tonight will be a night of extreme stunts, martial arts wirework and CG magic, lots of explosions and a bikini-clad Ms. Moore. Yummy. Heh-heh.
Damn Good Eggs

I had to come in early today because I needed to have some concepts approved by my boss, who's leaving for a whole day meeting. Had to wake up early and hitch with my sister to work. Yawn. Anyway, one of the pleasures of going to work early is breakfast at McDonald's. Yep, the hamburgers may taste bland compared to other local burger chains, but McDo's breakfast chow is TOPS. My total favorite is their Big Breakfast meal, which consists of course of a savoury sausage patty, a couple of soft muffins and fluffy, soft, mild-flavored scrambled eggs... which are bar none the best scrambled eggs I know. Mmmmm. Heh.

Monday, June 23

Another Grudge

The first Juon (Translated as "The Grudge") was a VERY creepy Japanese horror film in the vein of Ringu that we posted about months ago. Juon was about a haunted house with several really spine-chilling and freaky sights, and watching the first movie's trailer made my office reverberate with screams from the women who saw it. Heh.
Anyway, Juon is destined for a Hollywood remake like Ringu. But while that's still in the making, the sequel, Juon 2, is set to hit Japan this August. It looks like the spirits are back... Click here to see the new creepy trailer...
The Future of Harry Potter (Possible Spoiler)

After the seven or so years at Hogwarts, will the saga of The Boy Who Lived end? Not so, it seems. There will be a series of books chronicling Harry's years after he graduates as a full-fledged wizard and faces his lifelong-nemesis, Voldemort.


The books will focus on an older Harry returning to Hogwarts as a teacher for the Defense Against Dark Arts, and on the various lives and interactions of his class, which consists of various interesting personalities and characters. The tone of this sequel series will be lighter and more comedic than the original books. According to sources, the series will be entitled, Welcome Back, Potter.

End of Spoiler.

Moving on... Moving on...
International Heroes

"Mahbuhay! My name is Angel Ace and I'm from the Fiesta Islands known as THE PHILIPPINES!"

A webpage called International Heroes was brought to my attention by Carl over the weekend. It's a database-style webpage which is putting together comic book characters and titles from all over the world. Aside from the US and Canada, the countries featured include India, China, Australia, Japan, Italy, France, The UK and more. It looks pretty new and recent, but since it includes my very own Angel Ace, I can't complain. Heh. Anyway, if you wanna see what kind of superheroes the Aussies or the Indians have, go and visit the site here.

Instead of continuing my paladin's adventures in Baldur's Gate II, inking comic book pages or ogling bikini-clad babes lolling around at a poolside, I spent the day locked up in the cold silence of the Sanctum, reading Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I have to say, this third book in the series is so far the best; I've read the first book and watched the second movie (which is pretty close to the second book, I've heard).
I literally could not put it down as I read the gripping storyline chronicling Mr. Potter's third year of adventures at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. New characters like the sinisterly-named Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, an intense, well-paced storyline mixing suspense, revelations about Harry's past and a great ending made this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Gasp... does this make me a Potterhead? Well, I won't be replacing my manga projects with Harry Potter fanfics anytime soon, at least. Heh. Anyway, I will probably be lurking around bookstores within the week for a copy of the next book, Goblet of Fire. Which means I will be probably getting myself a copy of Order of the Pheonix very soon...

Expecto Patronum!