Friday, December 19

My Spoiler-Free review of The Return of the King

All that I hoped it would be and more.

I have seen it.

And DAMN, it is great.

Literally the crowning glory of the finest film trilogy yet.

The Return of the King is the final part of the unprecedented 10-hour plus movie, The Lord of the Rings. Here, the world of Men and their allies makes a final stand against the seemingly numberless hordes and legions of evil. The broken Fellowship of the Ring, which had so valiantly come together in the quest to destroy the terribly evil and powerful One ring, must now fight battles that will test them to their limits and beyond. Some might not survive. None will make it through without being changed forever.

I came into the theater knowing a lot of stuff, but nevertheless I was there rooted to the seat, unyielding and determined to suck in every single second of this Grand Finale. The film takes some time to get going, as it is just coming from the exhausting battle which was The Two Towers. But after a certain point, ROTK finds it’s legs and from there on you can’t dare leave for missing a pivotal moment of either awesome action sequences or an emotional heart-stabber.

In ROTK, the characters grow and move to their finest or lowest, depending on their roles.
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) gets the screentime he deserves as the most butt-kicking wizard in film history. I still have to say I miss the old Gandalf the Gray, but rest assured, by the end of all things, you know that despite the change in color and power, Gandalf is the same wonderful wanderer who loves to make children laugh with fireworks.

Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, respectively) have come a long way from being mere comedy relief and tag-alongs on this epic quest in the first chapter. Their roles in this conflict are pivotal and both share moments of great drama.

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), as the titular would-be monarch, finally faces his ultimate responsibility. I have read in some reviews that they found his change in character and conflicts in the film were not great enough given such an important character. But I feel that the performance- how the character remains true to himself, remaining the humble and valiant ranger who defended the hobbits atop Weathertop in FOTR even though he takes on a far higher mantle attests to the greatness of this character.

Legolas and Gimli (Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies respectively) continue their roles as Aragorn’s closest allies and comrades-in-arms. Their roles are perhaps a lot smaller, but they still get choice scenes. Gimli is still the source of much-appreciated humor, while Legolas proves that he is without a doubt the most bad-ass elf of all time- insert audience-cheering moment here. Heh.

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) continue their trek to Mount Doom, an item of implacable evil with them, and the twisted, manipulative Gollum (yet again played with masterful glee by Andy Serkis) leading them to a horrible fate. Friendships will be tested to their breaking point and beyond, and the performances here will no doubt earn moist eyes from all save the most icy-hearted and jaded of moviegoers.

Thankfully, even minor characters such as the Rohirrim- King Theoden, Eowyn and Eomer (Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban) get their moments to shine, particularly in the film’s most climactic battle scenes. Faramir (David Wenham) continues his role as the hapless, selfless Captain of Gondor, giving himself totally in vain to please Denethor, his arse of a father (played with creepy fervor by John Noble).
Finally, the elves Elrond, Arwen and Galadriel (Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett) have tiny but meaningful roles, and we get to see Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) one last time.

Perhaps the best compliment to this film is simply this- despite having easily the most powerful battle sequences yet seen on film (Dueling Catapults, Pelennor Fields- DAMN!!!), you never lose the characters or emotion at stake here. The price for defeat, the bonds of friendship and love between every single group… it is never lost or forgotten. I know no other film that remains so rooted in values even as it rises to such soaring heights.

And after all the battles and fireworks, ROTK takes an unusual road to the end. Fitting enough for a unique cinematic experience such as this, ROTK does not simply give us a joyous, empty victory dance or an odd massive explosion. The ending to ROTK is prolonged, meaningful, powerful and damn satisfying.

I’ll give fair warning now... there are several false endings which may get impatient (and foolish) watchers to get up and go, only to have to sit down as another sequence continues. This long goodbye we are afforded is truly welcome, needed and deserved after the mammoth undertaking of these characters we have grown to love and enjoy. Just do NOT stand up until you see the words THE END on the screen. Even then, I’d sit and watch through the beautiful credits, a fitting bow and curtain call to the magnificent cast and crew who have entertained and awed us these past three years.

I want to watch this film again. And with that, I declare The Lord of the Rings as the MADman’s finest and best movie trilogy of all time.

Thursday, December 18

You win some, you lose some.

Last night I went to my office Christmas party. Had my crappy circus getup (Indian fortune teller) on. Ate some good food. Watched a stupid but inexplicably hilarious skit. Waded through various nothing raffles.
I had to go early since I had a family matter to attend to.

And what do you know? I WIN a brand new cellphone.

Of course, since I wasn't present at the time of the draw, they gave it off to someone else.


Sigh. Which just goes to prove I am perhaps one of the unluckiest people in terms of raffles. Even if I win, I lose.

Well, not getting that Sony Ericsson Z600 may have hurt, but at least a new cell's not really life-changing... not like that poor soul who lost a million pesos by not being present after winning a grand raffle. GAH.

Oh well. I'll just make it up and get myself a really cool new phone soon. That's the ticket.


Monday, December 15

C3Con Weekend

Welcome to the 2nd C3Con from Culture Crash Comics!

Over the weekend, I attended the 2nd Annual Comic, Anime and Gaming Convention, or C3Con. This event was organized by Culture Crash Comics (CCCom).
As in the year before, Vin got a booth for Comic Quest (which was smaller than last year’s and unfortunately had to be shared with 2Rats Anime) where we could display and sell our newest releases. I had Angel Ace NEXT, Carl had the Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Compilation, the whole Questventures/Kestrelstudios gang had SIGLO:Freedom.

”Make her boobs bigger pa!

Elsewhere in the Megatrade Hall where the con was being held, other exhibitors included Psicom, which was releasing the graphic novels Cherry Blossom High and Mystic Machine Maharlika which Jason handled, Mango Comics, which was releasing Darna #3, Glasshouse Studios (which featured the ubiquitous T&A comics starring Jinky Coronado), Filbar’s, Comic Alley, Comic Sale Central, Anino Entertainment (which was showcasing of course their product, Anito, the first Philippine-produced mainstream PC RPG), Questor, Summit Media (which had just released Slam Dunk) and more.

I arrived at about 8:30 AM at Megamall. I wasn’t overly excited… I had to go with my sister’s driver to bring her son to school, and it turned out that traffic was so light that time, we had time to burn. So I had breakfast at McDo with the driver, showing off SIGLO to him (which he found nice). At the crack of 9AM, we lugged the box of Angel Ace issues I brought along to Comic Quest and that was the start of it all.
I had an exhibitor’s pass, which allowed me to go in and out as I pleased. This I did again and again, going up and down from CQ to the Trade Hall. As in the year before, things were pretty hectic. I set up artworks and posters, put in the rack with the comics, prepared drawing materials and then waited for the Deluge.
A large crowd had already appeared outside the Hall, forming into a line that snaked and slithered around the fifth floor. There were cosplayers among them, obviously from the odd oversized weapon or colored hair they sported. Most though were just otaku, or anime fans, who came to see what was on offer.
At about 11AM, they opened the floodgates and in the crowds went.

On Offer

The highlights of the Con included several competitions; Best Independent Comic Book, Best Short Films, Best Choreographed Fight Scenes and Best Cosplay. Probably a third of the whole event was dominated by Ragnarok Online, the MMORPG that has taken the region by storm. Aside from having a large area devoted to showing off the new Comodo Island expansion, there were specialized Ragnarok cosplayers and a gaming area where you could get free CDs.

From Diamonds in the Rough to Total Crap
Indie Comics have, in my opinion, never had a venue before like this. The Xeroxed/photocopied publications where all gathered in one area, laid out like a buffet. There were the usual manga-inspired titles, a rash of Satanist-books (which is really not my thing), some standouts using Pinoy-style art, and some titles which refuse to be categorized; the foremost of which was Nardong Tae, which is about a guy who transforms into living, walking crap. More on that later.
Anyway, the indie comic guys and gals were pretty forward in selling, almost as persistent as fake DVD sellers. It was something perhaps we could learn from. Heh.

Lights, camera, FIGHT!
There were some early disappointments though. I was actually looking forward to seeing entries for the fight scenes and short film competitions, but the large crowds just made watching a hit and miss affair. The short films were shown seemingly in random times and venues. In the end, the fight scene contest was boring, while the best short films included a Matrix film, pinoy-style, and a film by alternative filmmaker Topel Lee.

As I walked around I made it a point to get copies of the indie comics that caught my eye. I also went to get the usual suspects of local publishing: Questor, the two Psicom releases, Darna 3 and a copy of Culture Crash 13. Unfortunately, in perhaps the most infuriating event of the weekend, Cherry Blossom High turned out to have a massive pagination error (and in MY story no less) and overall had shoddy printing and production. DAMN!!!
C3Con Weekend 2

For most of the Con I just walked around, simply clicking away with my crappy digital camera at our brilliant cosplayers. I wasn’t totally blown away in the first day or so; there were far too many Ragnarok cosplayers who were dressed up as generic classes… I mean, who can be excited by someone dressed as ‘Generic Priest’ or ‘Blacksmith’? Sigh. There were some standouts though; the Crusaders (one male, one female) were dressed in cool armour, and even had a nice skit where they had to fight with some other Ragnarok classes as they posed onstage. This got applause from even the fickle crowd.
And when I say fickle, I mean fickle. If the cosplayer didn’t give enough effort into his or her costume, there were hecklers who were only too ready to point it out. Most of the time there were just silent stares at the performers, though exceptional cosplayers got cheers, claps and WOOHs from the audience.
My favorite of the Con is unquestionably a trio of pretty girls who dressed up as the babes from Final Fantasy X2: Yuna, Rikku and Leblanc. Aside from having pretty accurate costumes (Yuna and Rikku wore their Magic Gunner costumes), the girls were obviously quite attractive and the crowd could see it. Whenever these girls appeared, cameras flashed. I have to say both Dean and my eyes flashed when we saw the sexy thongs these girls were wearing. What can I say? Sex sells. Heh.
C3Con Cosplay Gallery

Crowd favorites: The girls of FFX2 were camera-magnets.

Now I want to play FFX2 on my PS2 again for some reason…

Ooh! Filipino Dead or Alive cosplayers!

A favorite: Tonberry from the FF games.

The eventual winners of the cosplay were as follows: Third Place and ‘People’s Choice’ winners went to a tie between the gorgeous and aforementioned Yuna and Rikku. Second place went to a girl dressed as Shiva, the guardian force from Final Fantasy, sporting blue body makeup and all the trimmings. Finally, the winner and most impressive entry in the whole show was a guy dressed up as an A.P.U., that cool battle suit/mech frame from Matrix Revolutions. Simply ASTOUNDING! And I am proud to say I actually know the guy. Robert Wong, you are something else. Congratulations, man.

Here I am with the amazing A.P.U. from The Matrix. DAMN cool.
C3Con Weekend 3: Winding it all up.

As for Best Indie Comic, Sunrise by Armand Roy Canlas (Armor Troopers) won third place. Atomic Underground (last year’s winner) won second, while the first place was bagged by a load of crap… Nardong Tae. I dunno… I guess the judges found it just… so… different. Whatever.

While members of the group came at one time or another (Dean and Nikki showed up Saturday, Vin appeared near day’s end, El and Camy appeared on Sunday. Andrew and Charles seemed ever-present and bouncing around like rubber balls), it was pretty much just me and Carl who manned the booth, sketching like savants in our own little world, signing copies of Siglo, Zsa Zsa and Angel Ace for customers.

Dean AKA Green Lantern and Carl at the Comic Quest booth.

Then, the Con was over. The winners were awarded, the events were winding down and we just packed up and left. Our arms and legs were tired, my neck refused to keep my head up at a straight angle and we had tons of stuff to lug all the way back to the store. Gah…

It was a great Con. See you all next year!