Saturday, October 25

Kill Bill: A Bloody Good Movie

Kill Bill stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Viveca Fox, Michael Madsen, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu and Chiaki Kuriyama. Directed by Quentin Tarantino.

I've seen it.

What can I say? Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a film that is pretty odd thanks to some chronological backtracking (the opening scene actually happens AFTER the finale), lots of homages to stuff like the 70s, Bruce Lee and martial arts films, samurai and heroic bloodshed theatre and, yes, anime.
It's a tale of revenge, plain and simple, in black and white and red. Uma Thurman plays 'The Bride', a former assassin who is betrayed by her former boss and comrades when she decides to retire and marry. Despite being beaten to within a centimeter of her life AND shot in the head, she survives to wake up from a coma four years later. After willing her formerly-paralyzed body back into action, she sets out to hack and slash her retribution whatever the cost.

KB is a live-action anime, set in a world where the police don't seem to be worth shit, where EVERYONE seems to carry a sword (Uma carries her pigsticker openly on a PLANE! And this after 9-11?) The violence is bloody and often gruesome, which leads me to believe that this film will either be butchered itself by censors when (or if) it is released here in Manila, or be given a Mature rating. However, from my desensitized senses there is really nothing in the film any more gory than cartoony fountains of blood and severed limbs- cut off body parts are quick and the shots don't really linger, so I've seen worse in terms of stomach-turning gore. Of course, this is coming from a guy who's quite used to Asian films like Ricky-Oh, Versus or the anime Ninja Scroll.
Suffice to say that this is a movie NOT for the squeamish, and I'd save it for watching with barkadas and mates, not with the family.
As for the story, it's pretty simple but the proof is in the execution. This film oozes style and attitude, which is cool (the best and coolest part being O-ren Ishii's entrance at the House of Blue Leaves). Some scenes could have been trimmed down a bit, but there was never really any dragging part.
Anyway, that aside, I enjoyed the film from beginning to end. Uma Thurman proves her worth not only as a solid lead but as a kick-ass action heroine (DAMN she's nasty); and I found the rest of the cast quite excellent. Lucy Lui is perfect as Yakuza goddess O-ren Ishii, and her character's anime origin (produced by Production IG, makers of the Ghost in the Shell movie) is both violent and gorgeously stylized.

Still, I have to say that the main reason I was so stoked to watch this movie was to see Chiaki Kuriyama's Go Go Yubari in action... and I have to say I was not disappointed. The fight between O-ren's mace-wielding schoolgirl bodyguard and The Bride is brutal, lethally graceful and eerily presented without music, making every hit and strike bite like crazy. And of course, Go Go gets to look gorgeous AND evil the whole time. I am quite sure that countless guys will be having killer Japanese schoolgirl fetishes from now on, despite a pretty 'penetrating' scene in the film... heh. Chiaki had BETTER win the 'Best Villain' and 'Best Fight' awards from the MTV Movie Awards next year or there is no justice in this world.

Contrary to rumours, none of the Kill Bill cast were killed in the making of the movie .

DARN Chiaki's cute...

As for the rest of the bloody finale, it was a whirlwind of death and swordplay, and I have to say I think the bloodiness and brutality of this BATTLE just has to break or set a benchmark somewhere. It kinda went on a bit too long, but in the end it was fine, and serves as a good penultimate event to the finale.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 ends with a cliffhanger, but really it feels like a full movie thanks to the intensity of the action; you'll want a breather after all that. I just wonder how Mr. Tarantino is going to top the stuff in this film in the next installment, due in theaters six months from now. This movie's a keeper, and I am going to see this in the movie house whether it's cut up or not, when it eventually arrives. And when the genuine DVD arrives next year, it is MINE.

Last night the gang convened at UCC Coffee at The Podium to talk about stuff, and one of the points we talked about was that it was time to announce the secret Project 100 thing we've been working on for the past few weeks. Well, here it is.
SIGLO AKA Project One Hundred, is an illustrated anthology of stories set in the Philippines, in various decades from the 1900s to the year 2000. Ten stories will be featured, worked on individually or in a writer-artist team by our group along with several new and young faces in the field of local comics.
Included in Siglo's lineup of creators are Dean Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Vin Simbulan, Arnold Arre, Jason Banico, Honoel Ibardolaza, Andrew Drilon, Elbert Or, Carl Vergara and myself. Along with us will be several surprise guests who grace the pages of our little project with their art.
The overall theme of this first release will be Freedom.

Perhaps our gang's most spontaneous yet driven project yet, Siglo was conceptualized in a night in a discussion on a sidewalk, the talent pool filled in within a week and development given less than a month and a half for stories and art. For some reason, the Muse of Comic Books blessed this undertaking and so the book will see print this December, along with a brace of other illustrated works coming out very soon.

Whew! That's that. Siglo is coming. Wait for it!
Voices of the Wind

From Ain't it Cool News: The latest anime film by Hayao Miyazaki to receive the full Hollywood-style voice dub is the ecological epic, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Lending their vocal talents will be Patrick "The line must be drawn HERE" Stewart, Uma "Wiggle your big toe" Thurman and Natalie "I was not elected to let my people suffer and die while you argue in a committee" Portman.
Previous Miyazaki features dubbed with high-profile talent include Princess Mononoke (with Minnie Driver and Claire Danes), Spirited Away (Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden) and Castle in the Sky (Mark Hamill, Anna Paquin).

Friday, October 24


When I get short of sleep, I tend to doze off on long drives. It's a fitful dozing; I basically just try to rest my eyes, and I hover between sleep and getting roused when my elbow falls off the taxi window-sill. It's worse when I get woken up by my own SNORE. A big freaky NGORK. Ick.

Good thing the only other person within earshot is the taxi driver. Heh.

I stayed up till 5:30 this morning finishing Nikki Alfar's story for Project 100. I finished it, and I am proud of it, which is a good sign that it is nicely done. Heh. Unfortunately the guys and girl in the group have to take my word on that for now since my frickin' CDR-RW burner suddenly chose today to go on the fritz. GAAAHHH!!!

Now I am stuck burner-less and with a line of pages that eventually need to be seared onto a CD-R for submission within the next couple of weeks. I really can't fathom having to lug the drive all the way to Greenhills or wherever to have it fixed; I am much more inclined to throwing money (just a little) at this problem and getting a brand-new (albeit cheap) CD burner drive, perhaps this weekend if the old drive doesn't shape up. Sigh.

Anyway, it's now on to MY own Project 100 story; have to take this out within the next few days so that I can finish it by next week in preparation for my next priority, Angel Ace Next. Just a little more effort... You can do it, MAD...

Thursday, October 23


Myung-Jin Lee's art simply ROCKS.

The latest gaming sensation, Ragnarok Online, comes alongside a comic series released by Tokyopop (and soon by Summit) that features simply spectacular art. But it's not manga style, nor is it from Japan. The wonderful characters drawn in wonderful detail in Ragnarok are from Korea, courtesy of artist Myung-Jin Lee. Apparently, Korean comics are called manhwa, not manga. Despite this, I really like Ragnarok's artwork, thanks to beautiful females, lavish action scenes and detailed panels. Over the past few days I've picked up Ragnarok graphic novels from Comic Quest, and it looks like I'm in for the long haul. The art in the volumes I have (6 and 7) are spectacular, and I hope it remains so throughout (though I read that the first volumes weren't as good).
As for the story, Ragnarok is about a war between gods and mortals. The wolf goddess Fenris is reincarnated as a beautiful warlock, who sets off on a quest to find the mortal avatar of the god Balder. Balder's destiny is to bring about the Age of Mortals, a new time when man can live beyond the power of the fickle deities. In order to prevent this, the Valkyries, servants of Freya, the goddess of death and beauty, are unleashed. If the gods have their way, their rule will continue for another thousand years!
The Ragnarok comics seem to take off from the RPG, seeing as how there are character stats for the various heroes and villains at the start of each volume. Cool.
Wonderful art, a simple but exciting story and cool characters- even if you don't play the game, check out the manga- er, manhwa, for great sword-slashing, spellcasting fantasy action fun.

Wednesday, October 22

Matrix Redemption

I love The Matrix, or to be precised, the original film in this cyber-kungfu trilogy. I mean, the presentation was flawless, redefining coolness (and starting the black leather fetish of Hollywood) and introducing the magic of bullet-time and all that jazz. The characters were cool (Trinity was a goddess) and Agent Smith was the most memorable villain in recent memory (must be Hugo Weaving's drawl).
Reloaded, however, holds the distinction probably of being the most disappointing sequel ever, in that it actually caused countless filmgoers to lose their liking for the franchise. Yep, Reloaded had it's sucky parts (which I will not go into here), which overwhelmed the cooler bits. Even so, I personally found the film fairly entertaining, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing Revolutions this November.
The endgame is here, and if the trailers and features online are to be believed, we're going to see what everything is all about. The Truth about the Matrix, Zion, Neo, The One and the gobbledy-goo that Architect dude was spouting. There's going to be loads of action, of course; the siege of Zion complete with battlesuits, hovercraft, guns blazing and 250,000 tentacled Sentinels closing in for the kill (oddly enough, Return of the King also has 250,000 orcs attacking Minas Tirith... how's that for synchronicity?). Not all the action will take place in the 'real world'; Trinity and Morpheus will have to cross swords once again with The Merovingian and Persephone in order to complete a pivotal quest. Neo will face Smith(s) once again in a battle which apparently will NOT be limited to the ground.
There are tons of hypothesis and speculations hovering around as to how The Matrix will end, or what it really is all about. I for one am quite curious to see what the Wachowskis have up their sleeves to save their franchise. And it all comes to an end this November. Zowie!
Smelly cab, smeeeellly caaab...

That's what I rode home in last night. A men's locker room on wheels. An armpit full of day-old sweat and grime in the guise of a taxi. I couldn't tell if the musky odor came from the seats, the sides or the driver... maybe from all. It was that baaaad... It was so impressionable that I took a bath upon reaching home. Gah.

Anyway, spent the evening at the Blood Bank and had dinner with Vin and Dean (who left after a bit to spend time with his family), and then watched with morbid fascination the utterly hilarious Japanese film, Versus. Lots of mobster-shooting, leather coat-swinging, karate kicking, zombie fighting, girl bashing (a feminist film this ain't), gun pointing, stand-offing, limb-severing fun. Darn, maybe I should get that DVD from Vin after all. Heh-heh...

Tuesday, October 21

Danger Girl

Martial arts action, intrigue and a butt-kicking, scantily-clad heroine. Sounds good to me...

After the release of Angel Ace Next, we're going give Angel a little vacation and shift the spotlight on another character. Kai Mishima has always been my secret, guilty-pleasure favorite character, and sometime next year I am going to give her the exposure (heh) she deserves. She'll be starring in her own solo comic, Kai: K.I.A., to be released sometime next year.
After the debacle in Angel Ace Again, Kai was 'demoted' because of her failure (explaining her skimpier 'training' uniform), and soon finds herself training with the dregs of the SIVA organization, and going on missions where she's not necessarily expected to return (hence the K.I.A. subtitle)!

We're going to rev up the fan service on this one, far more than we ever dared with our main Angel Ace book (which will please a lot of red-blooded guys out there); no hentai though. Expect a bit of Danger Girl crossed with a few parts ALIAS and Agent AIKA. WOOHOO!

Anyway, we'll be working on this as soon as we can. Wait for it!

Monday, October 20

Full Metal Alchemist

Heavy-duty fantasy anime action!

I was able to get a gaggle of new anime over the weekend, but the best hands-down has to be the intriguingly-named fantasy-action series, Full Metal Alchemist.
Well, this new series is set in a world where both fantasy and science mix; the general culture, setting, clothing and architecture resembles that of other fantasy anime/RPG (in fact, there's a game version of FMA in development). Anyway, in this world, Alchemy is a form of magic- alchemists can, by inscribing runes on the ground called arrays, transmute objects. They can transform things into other things, or repair damaged goods. While powerful, alchemy is bound by the laws of nature- you have to give as much as you get- this is the Law of Conservation that governs the use of alchemy.
The first episode begins with two young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric, drawing an intricate array on the ground. The spell they cast is taboo and the price they pay for doing what they do is severe- Ed loses an arm and a leg, while Al... well, Al loses MORE.

After the quite graphic prologue, we come upon the two brothers years later. The older brother, blonde-haired, handsome but diminuative Edward Elric is the titular Full Metal Alchemist. He's now a nationally-recognized alchemist of the highest rank despite his young age- think Mao from Cooking Master Boy but with magic. But of course, thanks to the incident years ago, Ed has to use a special robot arm and leg called automail to move around. But if you thought that Ed has it bad, younger sibling Al lost his WHOLE body. Yep, Al was transformed into a living suit of armor. Together, the brothers go on a quest to reclaim the flesh that was taken from them, through the rare and legendary Philosopher's Stone.

This is a pretty cool new series, and there are a lot of intriguing mysteries that are teasingly held back. What was the spell the brothers cast? What were they trying to create that cost them so much? What happened since then? Ed and Al are also apparently involved with their world's military (though they claim to be working for themselves), and an eerie group of baddies apparently named after the Seven Deadly Sins are stalking them from the shadows.

Full Metal Alchemist is a good show, judging from the first couple of episodes. Despite the somewhat light look, the overall feel is serious (given the premise), and there are some pretty dark and mature themes touched upon pretty early in the episodes, including the futility of resurrection and corruption and deception behind organized religion. The action is pretty well-done, with lots of pyrotechnics and impressive magic thrown around as Ed and Al kick butt with their impressive powers. The animation, by Studio Bones, is excellent with cool character designs. The look brings to mind anime like Soul Taker- cute but moody and atmospheric.

From the first two episodes, I can tell this show is something special. Check out Full Metal Alchemist when you can for some heavy-duty anime goodness.