Thursday, June 1

Out of the Closet

The new Batwoman. Cross Silver Age design with Batman Beyond colors and personality from Will and Grace.

Recently, DC has just revealed the all-new, controversial Batwoman, who will be appearing in the weekly series 52 (which chronicles the missing year that passed after the company's monumental Infinite Crisis and just before the One Year Later issues. Batwoman first appeared in the final issue of IC, but only recently has there been solid info on her.
This new Batwoman's secret identity is one Kathy Kane, a lesbian woman who apparently has ties or past links to both disgraced police officer Renee Montoya and Bruce Wayne. According to DC's Executive Editor Dan Didio, they wanted to refresh the Batwoman character, giving her an all-new ideology, personality, backstory and treatment that's in line with the radical changes brought about by Infinite Crisis. "Blame Superboy Prime," is the catch phrase. This new Bat Family member is a member of high society as well as being gay, and will have been operating in Gotham in the year that Batman left for his sabbatical after IC. The character's costume was designed by none other than Alex Ross, who gave nods to both the Silver Age Batwoman design and the black-and-red color scheme from Batman Beyond.

So what will Batwoman's sexual orientation do to affect her storylines? Will we see her getting intimate with Gotham's femme fatales? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It should make for some new ways of approaching interactions between characters. The new Batwoman will be making her debut in July's 52 #11.

As for me, I'm curious about the character but I'm still quite pissed by the fact that Cassandra Cain has been transmorgified into a "Lady Shiva Junior" as head of the League of Assassins in the Robin title. Well, according to Didio's teasing remark, there may be a future yet for Cassie as Batgirl... maybe. Grrr. Whatever. We'll see what happens in the colorful world of comics in the next several weeks.

Monday, May 29

Bullets and Broads

Trash-talking, tattooed, gun-toting, violence-prone Levi. Yep, I like her.

I've already been through every single episode of Avatar, including the latest one (which I was able to download and watch a day after it premiered). Since the next episode of the Aang Gang's adventures won't be for another week, I decided it would be good to get myself interested in another show while I'm waiting.

That show turned out to be Black Lagoon, a slick new anime from Madhouse (Ninja Scroll) and Geneon. While Avatar, a US cartoon, is all about positive values along with the solid, epic storyline and martial arts magical action, this properly Japanese anime is pretty much everything a parent would probably NOT want her kids to see. Black Lagoon is, to put it simply, about the adventures of a gang of pirates. No, not even loveable rogues like Captain Jack Sparrow... these are mean, nasty folk who tote guns and would shoot you as soon as look at you. The only thing that separates the crew of the PT Boat Black Lagoon from the rest of the armed rabble and mercenary scum of their world (which seems to consist of the waters in the East China Sea) is their hard sense of honor and a slight nice streak. Very slight.

The first episode of course introduces us to our surrogate into this vicious world of modern buccanneers- Okajima Rokuro, a young Japanese salaryman who just wants to live a normal life in his regimented, regulated office. Unfortunately for Okajima, he gets sent on a ship to transport a valuable disk containing critical information that gets hijacked on the high seas. The kidnappers are, of course, the crew of the Black Lagoon- consisting of big, black brother Dutch, super-hot and kinda-psychotic superkiller Chinese babe Levi (or Revi) and Jewish tech guy/communicator Benny. As the Lagoon crew takes the disk, Levi snags along hapless Okajima so they can get extra cash for his ransom. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that Okajima's employers have given up on him and the disk, sending a bunch of mercenary assassins to get rid of all of them, in one fell swoop.

And so, in the course of dodging bullets and battling helicopter gunships, Okajima eventually ditches his last chance to rejoin his former world and instead joins the Lagoon crew as a sailor, taking on the name Rock and becoming a pirate himself. Hey, if I had a choice between being continually bullied by either some corporate SOB or a gorgeous babe in super-skimpy cut-offs, I'd become a pirate too. Heh. From there on in, much of the drama in the show will showcase how mild-mannered salaryman Rock interacts with his new (and slightly mentally imbalanced) mates... and how the skills he's learned as an office worker actually prove useful in the dangerous underworld of organized crime syndicates and assassins. Hmm. Interesting.

Anyway, Black Lagoon is excellently animated and seems, for now, pretty much all about brainless, spectacular and violent action and the occasional sexy pose from Levi- not a bad anime combo. It's a pretty mature anime that isn't afraid to be bad-ass and nasty. The fan service though is nowhere near the uncomfortable levels as in the Aika series, so it's really more of a straight action title than a fetish show- so it should be quite watchable by most mature anime fans. It's pretty clear that Levi's a big draw for this title... in any case, there hasn't been a good girl-with-guns anime for a while that really lets itself cuts loose. This looks to be a cool ride.

As crazy as she is hot. Uh-oh...

Sunday, May 28


Yeah, Halle Berry still kinda sucked in X3, but she did have her kick-ass moments... but the movie Storm was nothing compared to the real thing.

As a sidenote to my X3 review, the aftermath of our movie night was no less memorable. As the gang headed off in separate ways to eventually rendezvous at some dinner place, nature exploded in a pretty spectacular lightning storm. For about an hour, rain fell in fierce buckets and there were more flashes than a paparazzi party. Whole areas of the metropolis around us blacked out as power lines failed. There didn't seem to be any refuge as the resto we were originally headed for- Dampa at Libis- also fell into darkness. It was so bad that a taxi was even hit by lighting on the road, according to the others in the gang, who saw it from their car (relayed to us by text).

Vin, Andrew and I spent the whole time weathering through traffic-choked and flooded roads to make it back to the central Ortigas area, where we eventually decided to dine at The Podium's Chinese Star restaurant for some hot Chinese food. What a storm. But I feel good at having gone through it. Darn, that was exciting, if a bit scary.
X-men: The Last Stand

Death, triumph and mutant fighting aplenty.

Last night, the gang got together in a rare outing to watch the third and supposedly final installment of the Marvel Comics' X-men films. Now, whether the Last Stand is truly the last time we'll see the alumni of Xavier's School onscreen depends really on time and box office receipts.
X3 has been beset by a slew of problems in its making- the so-called super-director Bryan Singer bailed out of the series to meg DC's Superman Returns. The script, which was leaked online early on, had fanboys and geeks foaming at the mouth at various character deaths and other nitpicks. Particular rancor seemed to be aimed at director Brett Ratner and producer Avi Arad. I have to admit I saw the script leaks and I got a bit apprehensive, but I resolved to not judge the film until I actually saw it. I saw the trailers, and I was interested. Let's see the movie and get it over with.

So, did I like the movie? Nope.

I loved it.

The movie kicks ass with easily some of the best scenes and moments in the whole trilogy- stuff that will have you clapping of smiling or grinning at the coolness of it all. There are fewer if any 'iffy' moments as in previous films (No 'What happens to a toad when it get hits by lightning' lines, thankfully) and the pace is fast and never boring.
One big thing that I disagree with a lot of negative reviews is the so-called way that several major character deaths are handled without emotion- I have to say with the exception of the first death, which was intentionally hidden, this is not true. The second, monumental demise had the right sense of finality and power (in fact, it was one of the highlights of the film) and was addressed excellently. The third major character demise was the climax of the movie so that is also a major moment that struck the right tone.

What lacked in previous films (too little in the first and none in the second) was the simple fact that the X-men weren't fighting foes that measured up to them. The final fights in the first X-men were kinda lame (save for the Wolverine-Mystique tussle). The second film had zilch. In X3, we see the X-men take on a literal ARMY of mutants, and it really turned out excellently- Ratner knows how to stage great action, which is an improvement over Singer's stunts in X1 and X2. There is speed, brutality, comedy and smarts in the various action setpieces, and it kicks arse.

In terms of characters, this is pretty much Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm's (Halle Berry) movie... James Marsden's Cyclops is a shadow of his former self and has little screentime (one can't help but think this was caused by the actor's defection to DC with Bryan Singer), while returning Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) gets to go all goth-like and scary as the Phoenix (No, not the Power Cosmic entity, but close enough in this universe). Finally, after spending most of the first two movies comatose or captive, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)gets his chance to get into the frontlines and shine (literally).

Gladly, new faces take up the slack that opens up when old characters vacate. Kelsey Grammer makes for a perfect Beast/Hank McCoy, and in particular, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is note-perfect and shows off the character that made her a favorite in the comics... what can I say, Kitty ROCKS. Which is a big bash against onscreen (but unintentional) rival Rogue (Anna Paquin) who loses out on looks and action (but she still gets the guy, who never really was in conflict anyway).

On my own personal fave, Mystique (Rebecca Romijin) gets lesser screentime here, but easily has her BEST scenes in the whole trilogy in X3, plus she gets a fitting resolution (that nicely leaves her open to a return someday...). As for Magneto, Ian McKellen predictably has some of the most impressive scenes in the film (including a jaw-dropping stunt with a bridge), and he just exudes power and class along with the villainy.
I would have liked to see more Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), but at least he gets to do the 'Fastball Special' twice in the movie. We finally get to see Iceman (Shawn Ashford) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) get a decisive one-on-one, which is er, cool. Despite lacking the neck-less costume, Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) was also well done.

Is it perfect? Well, a lot of characters show up, albeit briefly, and so it's inevitable that a lot just get cameos or quick do-aways. I felt brief nicks and pangs a seeing Arclight and Psylocke appear and disappear so fast, but what the heck. Then there's that scene with the never-seen Sentinel, which was kinda a cop-out but still pretty cool.

This stands as a grade-A superhero movie in my book, the best of the X-movie franchise. Thankfully, Brett Ratner kept the look and feel of the movie almost seamless from the previous two films, and at the same time doing away with the previous movies' tendency to keep the X-men inferior to Magneto. In this movie, finally, the X-men give Magneto his come-uppance deserving from X2.

If you're a fan of the characters who DIE, you may get a bit miffed, but in all, the movie is optimistic and forward-looking, with the X-men standing perfect to the way they are in the comics- never giving up and taking up the fight even when the chips are down, no matter how great the odds, as long as they feel they're doing the right thing. They made their stand, and they won.

Highly recommended.

Is it the last X-movie? Hopefully not. The movie DOES open the possibilities up for more chapters in the future, but we'll just have to see. Obviously, the more people who see this one will affect this franchise's future. So, what are you waiting for? GO SEE IT. I want my Mystique movie! Heh.

X-men: The Last Stand is now showing in Metro Manila theaters. Go, go, go! Now!!!