Saturday, December 31


On the verge of making the leap to the New Year, I looked back at 2005 and hey, I guess I didn't do too bad.

At the Salt Mines in the vast mountain known as the business of advertising, us miners worked to turn around the situation at the start of 2005 to reap pretty nice rewards at the end of the year. From zero to hero is a pretty cool way of putting it, modesty aside.

In the field of local comics, I participated in a couple of notable projects which came in at a photo finish near the close of 2005; the much-delayed Siglo: Passion and the soon-to-be continued Project: HERO. Along the way I was able to debut another much-delayed title of my own: Kunoichi Boy, at the quite successful First Philippine KOMIKON.

In the area of gadgets, two nifty toys stood out; my O2 XDA II Mini PDA phone which I got in the middle of the year and look to keep for quite a while... it's turned out to be the perfect phone and media device for me and continues to be my favorite tech toy despite inevitable new models coming (like the XDA Atom and XDA Exec). If there's a new phone coming this year to unseat this from my belt holster, I have not seen it.
The other device I totally dig from 2005 is my spiffy Archos AV700 DVR Recorder/Player. I haven't used it on the road yet, but hours of movies, anime and gaming vids have already passed through it into my phone. Lovely, lovely. I just hope it stays working for a long, long time.

In the field of movies, this was a forgettable year. Big films came late in the year; I was charmed and thrilled by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (IMO, the best Potter film yet), while the last installment of the lackluster Star Wars prequels just capped the trio of monumental mediocrity. I've yet to watch the biggie of 2005, King Kong... I guess it will become the first biggie of 2006 for me then. Funny enough, the last film I watched this year was a local film, Exodus, which is kinda fitting in terms of the title, don't you think?

On the Political Front, the country continues to labor along even with the ridiculously obvious corruption of the government. There were a few bright spots; the seeming stability of the economy and rising of the peso over the dollar towards the end of the year. The second, the Philippines' victory in the recent SEA Games.

At the home front, all is well though we do end 2005 with the melancholy possibility that within the next year the Sanctum's surroundings will be a lot quieter as my siblings and their families migrate to the States and elsewhere. Well, again, thanks to the wonders of modern media, we'll be able to keep in touch even across the miles.

As for the Comic Gang, 2005 saw us having fun as we had years before but eventually mellowing out our 'paint the town red on Saturdays' cycle. Some guys left, maybe never to return. New faces became old faces and thankfully there are still enough of us to bunch up together to do stuff every now and then despite our own individual pursuits.

Once again, not a bad year. Not a great year, but not bad. Not bad at all. And in these times, that's good.

Friday, December 30

The Grudge, WWE Style

Lately, an 'angle' or storyline on the WWE Smackdown show has young heel (bad guy) Randy Orton being 'haunted' by The Undertaker, whom he supposedly 'killed' (left the guy on a burning car that exploded). One of the recent shows had Orton being continuously harassed by supernatural encounters- from clocks spinning backwards to his father, 'Cowboy' Bob Orton appearing with blood dripping down his face and apparitions of the Undertaker appearing in mirrors.

The clinker that had me laughing out loud was a segment where a reporter suddenly gets 'possessed' and starts speaking with Taker's voice. Bad spirits? More like bad acting. Hoho...

Darn, when the WWE gets corny, it can get totally corny.

There's even a bit of gross-out Fear Factor stuff with the arrival of the wrestler known as The Bogeyman, who eats live worms and nightcrawlers and SPITS them onto his defeated opponents. GROOOOOSSSSS.

Well, whatever. Still a hoot to watch after all this time.

Thursday, December 29

The Wait Begins


Dead or Alive 4 is on the verge of widespread release. It's already apparently available in Asia, at least in Japan and probably elsewhere like in Hong Kong. The US will probably get theirs by tomorrow or later today. Online, forum boards are starting to trickle in with new pics and videos.

Doesn't change the fact that Xbox360s are horribly expensive here locally right now, or presently unavailable. Unless the stocks of the console go up and the prices go down, I won't be playing this next-gen brawler anytime soon. Hopefully in a couple of months... maybe. Darn. For now, I'll have to content myself with the new info and any media I can grab.

Darn. Oh well. Everything comes to he who waits.


Tuesday, December 27


Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. takes on the forces of darkness.

Years ago, one of the best RPGs I played on the ol' PC was Ultima III: Exodus, which was pretty simple compared to the big budget fantasy games of today. The graphics were pretty basic, seen from a top down perspective with limited animation. Still, despite the bland visuals, I still found myself lost in the land of digital fantasy, battling terrible hordes of monsters with spells and swords in my quest for virtue in the land of Ultima.
Well, it's at least a decade later and FINALLY, the Exodus movie is now a reality.

Okay, I'm kidding. Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom has nothing to do with the old PC game from Origin Systems. It's one of the entries to this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, a yearly event that basically takes over every theater and moviehouse from Christmas Day to New Year's Day here in our parts. I chose Exodus since the posters showed some pretty nifty costumes and I thought, what the hey... it looks a lot better to me than "Ako Legal Wife!' in any case. So, after doing my shopping for a couple of new pairs of shoes and some graphic novels, I bought a ticket and headed in.

Now, let me say for starters that I went in not expecting a lot. I am pretty jaded when it comes to local films, especially local fantasy films. I have to admit that I find that local fantasy just doesn't have the sophistication I am used to. OKAY, I know that expeting something like The Lord of the Rings from local producers is a bit much, but I say, there are things that can give a fantasy movie (or any movie for that matter) sophistication and coolness that don't necessarily require big budgets or gobs and layers of prosthetics, or stiff CG. These things include the following: A Good Script and Imaginative Direction. Sad to say, I have seen few local films in the fantasy genre (be they superhero, sword and sorcery or whatever) that take the effort to have these things. For the most part, these films let the fancy special effects and costumes do the talking.

Exodus: Tales of the Enchanted Kingdom starts off perhaps in the crummiest way possible- by actually showing THE Enchanted Kingdom amusement park. Yeah, shameless plugging there. Apparently, the Exodus movie is a ride as well. We have the logo wizard of the park appear in human/CG form along with a crappy anti-cellphone message (which is STILL ignored by several assholes in the theater, particularly some idiot sitting behind me). FINALLY, after the overlong intro, we finally go into the actual story.

The film is set in a besieged fantasy world where the last few humans are being hunted to extinction by the forces of darkness (Literally... the enemies are 'taong dilim' or night people). Outnumbered, the last remaining human city is called Bantayan, which is relying on the services of a grim, unsmiling mercenary named Exodus (Ramon Revilla Jr.), a man with a 'murky past' (this is from the movie literature). Seeing as they are about to be massacred, the human leaders send Exodus on a quest to defeat the King of Darkness, Haring Bagulbol.

Haring Bagulbol.

Okay, the first moment we hear the name of the Head Villain, Lord of Darkness and Master of Evil, we do not feel fear or awe. Who cannot help but giggle or guffaw at that fricking name?

Haring Bagulbol.


Let me name some scary fantasy villains. Darkness from Legend. Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. Black Wolf from Wizards. Nekron from Fire and Ice. Thulsa Doom from Conan.

We got Haring Bagulbol.

I don't care what it means... I'm sure there's a meaning behind the word that made the writers choose it, but DARN IT, listen to how it sounds. BAGULBOL. It's FUNNY. NOT a name for the big villain of your fantasy epic.

GAH. Anyway... moving on...

Haring Bagulbol is played by local matinee idol/singer Jar-R who appears early on in a bath scene, and like young Sting in the old Dune movie appears in his bare essentials no doubt to the pleasure of all the girls out there. Well, they should soak it in since after that one scene he spends basically the whole movie afterwards covered head to toe in ornate armor and masks. What's the use of having him in masks all the time, and having a different voice? Anyway, Bagulbol basically spends the time in his castle, looking over torture chambers and being pretty passive, only sending out his minions a couple of times to hinder the oncoming assassination attempt on him from the humans.

Meanwhile, Exodus goes off on his quest, collecting the elemental creatures that are to be his allies. He gets four of them pretty easily- a Tikbalang or horse-beast named Tayho (Benjie Paras), a sexy flying aswang femme fatale named Bangkil (Aubrey Miles), a mischievous fire-child named Silab (BJ Forbes) and a lovely but fickle diwata or wind-fairy named Lin Ay (Iya Villania). Unfortunately, the FIFTH elemental being, an elemental of spirit called a Baylan, is supposedly extinct. The only remaining Baylan in the land is Haring Bagulbol himself (NO!) and of course he won't be joining the quest anytime soon.

So, despite the seeming hopelessness of the quest, Exodus finds a new direction from a cryptic vision and with his elemental allies go off to find 'the key' to all his questions. Meanwhile, the forces of evil are closing in on Bantayan, intent on extermination. Will Exodus and his comrades find the last Baylan in time? Can they defeat Bagulbol (snicker)?


For starters, this really is just a dumb fantasy movie to please kids. There are cool costumes and some nifty CG effects, and there are attempts for some wirework sword-fu and stunts. But that's about it- nothing really sophisticated or surprising, notthing really unique to this venture aside from the usual expected fare.

The visuals of the movie are hit-and-miss. A lot of the budget obviously went into the costumes for the main heroes and villains; everyone else is second rate, and it shows. While the art direction and production team tries hard, it's still pretty funny to see people in the fantasy land of Bantayan wearing plaid shirts and polos, or the odd dress which looks picked up from some ukay-ukay flea market. As it is, the look of the film is uneven- some of it looks to be just weird or cool, which sometimes works (Bangkil wears shades, the human 'speakers' of the King of Bantayan wear divers' masks) and sometimes doesn't. Which pretty much sums up everything else in the movie in terms of visuals. Yeah, every one of the extras look like they're extras acting and that probably will never change in local movies. Sigh.

As per the story, again, it's pretty simple and basic- it's a kiddie film, no LOTR or serious fantasy film. There are resultantly few touches of sophistication and lots of leaps in logic. There's glaringly bad pacing as seems to be always the case with 'Quest' films in local cinema- there are FAR too many scenes with the heroes just walking and walking and walking and camping and walking, too few enemy action and encounters. There's little sense of tension or urgency despite the fact that the last remaining humans are supposedly in danger of invasion.
At the start of the movie, Exodus leads a small army of men armed with what appear to be primitive camera flashes to fight an overwhelmingly superior number of dark creatures. Instead of bunching the warriors and the lights together and having good tactics, they basically just do the ol' Filipino way of fighting- Exodus says SUGOOOODDD!!!! (Charge!!!) and everyone runs at breakneck speed into the enemy without any formation or direction except to kill anything that's black. Well, who am I to criticize their war strategy when they apparently win anyway, at least for the time being.

So, why doesn't Bagulbol send his armies against Exodus at the end of the movie? In fact, where are all his warriors then? At the climax, he has four guys (main henchmen who appear far too late and are pretty much clobbered too easily by the equivalent heroes) to defend his turf. Then, there's the inevitable final battle between Exodus and Bagulbol that just boils down to another wire-fu fight to save the world. No tricks, no special obstacle, no riddle to puzzle over- Exodus just kills Jay-R and that's that. Happy Ending. Oh, right, along the way Exodus finds out something, finds the key (LITERALLY... too literally) and the movie's big twist, and that's that.

In terms of acting and performances, it's all par for the course. Bong Revilla basically mugs his way through the film as the stoic, unsmiling Exodus as he does in all of his movies, save with a lot less dialogue. Yeah, he looks cool in his armor and can swing a sword, but that's that. The four elementals could have been given more to say or do at least to show off their characters more, but for the most part are woefully under-used. A lot of potential, wasted. Oh well. At least they all look good posing on the movie posters.

Well, really, Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom really is just what I expected it to be... a simple local costume fantasy action movie. Nothing more, nothing less. No surprises here, sad to say. Well, at least it wasn't something I would be ashamed to admit watching, and it was at least a good-natured film (despite the crappy shameless plug at the start). Fun for the kids. Grown-ups and fantasy fans, you'll be thinking of tons of stuff where this could have been made a lot better. Oh well.

There's a few more days left to the Holiday Break. Let's see if I can watch a couple more Festival Films before it's over. Then hopefully I'll be able to watch King Kong finally. Heh.
Fighting Fan Service

So what's Tenjou Tenge about? Read the title post.

With the lovely and languid pace of the holiday break, I was finally able to watch the Tenjou Tenge anime in it's entirety. There are 24 episodes along with a 2-episode OAV follow-up, though the manga on which the title is based is still ongoing or far longer, I think.

Anyway, Tenjou Tenge is a martial arts title, similar to Volcano High and Ikki Tousen. Two brawling high school students, Nagi Souchirou and Bob Makuhara transfer to Todou High and find themselves joining a battle between the Jyuken Club, headed by sisters Maya and Aya Natsume, and the School Enforcement Group/Student Council. There is some romantic complication given that in the course of an early fight Nagi falls into the girls' shower room, seeing Aya naked and thus marking him as her husband-to-be. Along with the breaking bones and bloody splatters, there's some humor and jokes (even fart and armpit humor) sprinkled to lighten the generally serious tone of competing fighters seeking greater power, guilt and satisfaction with their strength.

I really wanted to like Tenjou Tenge a lot, but darn... this series has some of the weirdest pacing ever. For one thing, it has perhaps the LONGEST flashback I've ever seen... as in, HALF the series is a darn flashback. It really throws you off and was part of the reason why I quit watching this a long time ago. Also, the story is pretty complicated- lots of stuff about fighting and martial arts philosophy and the complicated relationships between the various characters prior to Nagi and Bob's arrival in Todou.

Tenjou Tenge isn't that hard to watch- if you tune out from all the plot and soap opera dramatics, you can always wait for the fights- and there are quite a few pretty cool action sequences- throughout the series. PLUS the gratuitous shots of the Natsume sisters and the other babes in the series should keep male viewers awake. Unfortunately, the ending of the series (and the OAV) is pretty open-ended (which is a nice way of saying 'bitin' and unconclusive) with a status quo situation. Animation-wise, Tenjou Tenge has some bursts of pretty cool fighting animations, but for the most part has average quality... never horrible but not that great. The character designs are cool and sexy, based as they are from the art by manga ka Oh! Great.
If you love stuff like Ikki Tousen, Street Fighter, Naruto and other fighting anime, Tenjou Tenge may be a title to see. If you can get past the first six episodes, you'll probably be fine. Check it out at good anime shops in the Metro.

Sunday, December 25

Merry Christmas

Season’s greetings to one and all!

It’s that time of the year again. This year though, there’s a bit of melancholy in the household as we face the reality that this conceivably could be the last Christmas our family will be spending totally together. Both of my brother’s and sister’s families are migrating abroad, so they’ll be spending their next December holidays overseas. Next Christmas will probably be a lot quieter in the house without the kids running around.

I’ll be working on getting a broadband connection up along with a webcam so that the grandparents will be able to check on their grandkids every now and then. With modern communication, hopefully we’ll keep together even though we’ll be living far apart.

For now though, it’s a time to enjoy the holiday break, to rest and reflect, and be content.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone.