Saturday, August 9

Rebuilding Zion

After reformatting and reinstalling all through the wee hours of the morning, me and my brother finally got my modem to work. Last week, my 56K link to the web died, and it resisted all attempts to remove and solve. Finally, with a new model installed and the Hard Drive reformatted, we're off to a fresh start. It's pretty tedious and irritating, but what can you do? Damn computers. Anyway, I can finally surf and blog once again from the comfort of the Sanctum. As Darth Vader would say, "Yipee!"

Friday, August 8

Ninja Scroll TV

Jubei's adventure with the dragon gem continues.

Yesterday I rushed through traffic-clogged streets to get to Greenhills from Ayala in order to get the latest VCD of Jubei Ninpucho AKA Ninja Scroll TV series. I got episodes 7 and 8, which pretty much continues what has been going on so far. Masterless but invincible swordsman Jubei Kibagami is still helping out the girl named Shigure, or 'the priestess of light' as she is known by the warring factions of ninja involved in the adventure. Both recurring and new characters appear in the latest installments; the unnamed but still lovely Hiruko Plant Girl returns in ep. 7, and this episode pretty much clinches the fact that Jubei's one single weakness is that he has a real soft spot for beautiful girls. Heh. In ep. 8 another female ninja returns, but this time she's nowhere near as pretty as Plant Girl, but far more dangerous and deadly.

So far, the Ninja Scroll TV series has been satisfactory, though the animation quality has somewhat dipped after the first two episodes. Enemies still have the irritating tendency of being too easily killed (one wind slash, you're dead!). I actually like the series, but I understand that many otaku, even fans of the original movie, haven't found this new installment into the Ninja Scroll universe a worthy effort on the part of Studio Madhouse. Anyway, I'm gonna collect this series to the end.
Ninja Scroll is about the adventures of a masterless swordsman named Jubei, who battles supernatural and superhuman adversaries in a dangerous feudal-era Japan. The TV series reunites Jubei with his former employer Dakuan, as they get involved in a war between the Hiruko and Kimon ninja, and the mystery of an object known as the Dragon Gem. While blood and sex aren't at the level of the original film, the TV series does have an exceptional amount of gore, sexuality, and a lot of freaky superninja for Jubei to kill.
Grab copies on VCD and DVD at good anime shops. A region 1 DVD from Urban Vision is coming soon.

Thursday, August 7

Ghost in the Shell 2

You really don't need to be an otaku to know about Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell movie. Granted, this feature (based on Masamune Shirow's manga) had great animation, but a really slow-paced story and complex plot which few people really appreciated to the fullest. On my part, I consider it an anime classic; don't really count it as a favorite, but I recognize the quality of the craft.
Well, there's going to be a second GIST film soon. It's called Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and it is supposedly based on the original film, and set some time after it's events. Ain't It Cool news just posted a link to the first promo trailer of the film, and it looks pretty cool. We can't understand the kanji or the Japanese, but seeing the pretty visuals, lighting details and ol' Batou (from the first film) having it out with a scantily-clad geisha girl (who may or may not be heroine Motoko Kusanagi/Puppet Master from the first movie) has gotten us excited. Innocence should be out within the year or early next year in Japan.
To see the awesome Ghost in the Shell: Innocence trailer, click here.

Wednesday, August 6

Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life

FINALLY got to watch it. Did I wish I hadn't? Let's see.

This second movie in the videogame-inspired franchise sees the return of the luscious Lara Croft (played by the damn sexy Angelina Jolie, she of the killer pout), archaeological adventurer and world traveller extraordinaire. During an expedition which takes her under the sea into a forgotten temple, she comes across a mysterious, glowing orb. Some other tomb raiders show up, and to make a long story short, they grab the orb, kill Lara's companions and leave her for dead in the middle of the ocean. Well of course if the Crofter was that easy to kill we wouldn't have a movie, so after the timely arrival of a submarine bearing Lara's groupies (butler Hillary and hacker Bryce, played by Chris Barrie and Noah Taylor respectively), she's back home and spoiling for payback.
It doesn't take long for MI-6 (British Intelligence) to arrive to give some exposition. Apparently, the thugs who bushwacked Lara were part of a Chinese bandit group led by Chen Lo (played by Hong Kong actor Simon Yam). Lo stole the orb for an even bigger villain named Jonathan Reiss, a former scientist turned international biological weapons dealer.
It seems that the orb is the key to the location of the not-just-mythical Pandora's Box... an icon which, according to the legends in the Tomb Raider world, contains the secrets of life and death. Or in this case, a biological plague that could possible wipe out humanity from the face of the earth.

Of course, with a threat this great, MI-6 sends a total of TWO people to stop it. One is Lara, the other one is an ally of her choosing; a man named Terry Sheridan- a disgraced Royal marine, mercenary and traitor, and Lara's former flame. Sheridan's know-how of the Chinese underground is, according to Lara, necessary for her to find the baddies and the orb in the trackless reaches of China. From there, it's a series of 'vehicle levels', boring interludes, sporadic and quite unspectacular gunfights and clumsy stealth missions as Lara and Sheridan try to keep the secrets of Pandora's Box from falling into Reiss' evil hands. Oh, and the African guy who co-starred with Russell Crowe (Djimon Hounso) in Gladiator shows up too in the third act. And there are some REALLY out of place CG monsters. And that's that.

Well? Did I like it? Was it as boring and bad as everyone's been saying? Was it even worse than the first one?

In some ways, it IS actually worse than the first. Or at least, JUST as bad. There's quite a bit more action, and less of the downtime and BORING transitional dead space that was prevalent in the original film... but while Cradle piles on the action, the best parts of the first movie, such as the temple battle, the robot fight and the finale between Lara and the main baddie had more heart than here. It seems that Lara's just going through the paces here; she's a bit TOO good; case in point, where she uses rifle drills to beat an expert swordsman.
Overall, it is a chore to get through much of Cradle of Life- Despite the fact that there is a bit of logic and direction to the precedings. It just isn't as compelling as it should be.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the villains are really bland, and that Lara just pretty much whips their collective arses without so much as a hint of worry ever marring her face. Ciaran Hinds' portrayal of villain Reiss is run of the mill and there's really nothing more than a cartoon here. I kinda found it funny though that he actually lasts as long as he did against Lara, when he really doesn't seem anything more than a mastermind. Simon Yam's Chen Lo seemed to die too quickly, and the rest of the faceless thugs are really nothing more than boring, extremely generic cannon-fodder.
The character of Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) adds a bit of vulnerability to Lara Croft's shell, and there's a bit of a twist to the character. As for Djimon Hounsou, he's pretty much just there as a matter of course.

I wouldn't go so far to say that Tomb Raider 2 is totally boring, but yes, I have to say that overall the film's failed to quicken my pulse at any point in my stay. The action just happens, never once drawing me in or making me feel worried. It's just Lara going over the paces, running the gauntlet and just looking good doing it.

AND DAMN does Miss Jolie look good. Now if only she spent more time in revealing costumes... this movie commits the cardinal sin of having a goddess and having her COVERED UP for almost ALL OF THE MOVIE. BAH. And no, that silver suit wasn't all that. BAAAAH.

I have to say that Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life revs up the action but still ends up just being barely enough to have a life. There are reasons why films like Indiana Jones work, and why they still look great decades after. The makers of this film should look them up. Maybe they'll learn something.

Tuesday, August 5


Hainaku #3 sold out in Comic Quest!!! WOOHOO!!!

Well, there were only a few copies to begin with... sigh. Heh-heh. Anyway, they should be re-stocking with more copies soon. My apologies to anyone who went there from this blog to find copies. Try the nearby National Bookstore or other magazine shops for your Hainaku fix.

Monday, August 4

Movie Sunday

Yesterday, I felt so tired after our Saturday Nightout (which involved mostly a discussion on Vin's comic-opus-to-be, Twilight Empires that lasted well into the wee morning hours of Sunday. I had resolved to stay home and just chill, get some rest and try to do pages for a comic gig I am into presently.

Right after lunch I watched a passably good copy of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. This latest animated motion picture from Dreamworks is, unquestionably, my favorite of the several films they've so far released (which includes Prince of Egypt and Road to El Dorado).
Sinbad is, of course, based on the classic Arabian sailor and adventurer from the Ray Harryhausen movies and Arabian Nights. The titular character, voiced by Brad Pitt, is a high-seas scoundrel backed by a loyal and jolly crew of unusually conscientious pirates (consisting of first mate Kael, acrobatic Rat, an old man, several orientals and Sinbad's pet dog). Sinbad's out to grab that one big score so he and his gang can retire to Fiji; to that end, he goes after a ship bearing a treasure known as 'The Book of Peace'.
Unfortunately, the Book is under the protection of Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), the prince of Syracuse and Sinbad's childhood friend. After some swashbuckling and male bonding, both men eventually team up to battle a CG sea monster sent by the evil goddess of chaos, Eris (who has the incredibly sexy voice of Michelle Pfeiffer).
Eventually, the Book is stolen for real and Sinbad is blamed for the theft. Believing in his friend's innocence, Proteus substitutes himself in Sinbad's place. So now, Sinbad must somehow recover the Book and get back to Syracuse before his friend is executed. Of course, this high adventure yarn wouldn't be complete without a damsel (but not necessarily always in distress), so enter Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a beautiful maiden and Proteus' fiancee who tags along for the journey.
I have to say that I am a big fan of the old Sinbad movies, and this film captures the stuff that made them great- a compelling plot, lots of BIG-ass monsters to fight, and lots of fast-paced action sequences. The characters are likeable, and yes, the performances are quite engaging. I have to say that Brad Pitt makes a pretty cool cartoon; and as mentioned, Michelle Pfeiffer just purrs so well as the flick's villain. Darn, she's hot. Heh. Sinbad should be out in theaters in the next few weeks. I'll be sure to pick up the real DVD for this when it's available. Pretty cool.

The other film of the day was Bad Boys II. My friend Pot came around and bugged me to go out. We were deciding on watching either Tomb Raider 2 or Bad Boys, and we eventually put it to a coin toss. Well, guess who won?
Anyway, this sequel to the original Will Smith/Martin Lawrence starrer is badder, louder, grosser and a lot more crassy than the original. The action scenes and gunfights seem to come every second (Black Hawk Down in Miami!), and there's a bit of nudity, lots of sexy imagery and quite a few gory and gruesome deaths and things that happen to human bodies (both dead and alive) that earn this film its Mature/Restricted rating. We're talking headshots in slow-mo, dismembered corpses and body parts, dead female breasts (!), dead fat people, land mine eviscerations, you name it. Blech.
Well, in the end it was pretty enjoyable, despite having that somewhat dizzying 'live-cam' style of camerawork for many of the action scenes. Lots of laughs mixed with gasps. Leave the kiddies at home and watch. Bad Boys II is in theaters now.

Bad boys, bad boys... whatcha gonna do...