Saturday, November 4

Afternoon with Avatar

My sister and her family came by ysterday, and I brought out episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender for them to watch. Since they can only catch the mega-popular Nickelodeon series on local cable TV, they haven't watched the last few Season 1 episodes, or ANY of the already released 17 episodes of Season 2. What happened then was an Avatar MARATHON as the kids watched episode after episode after episode. The funny thing was, their dad and even my mom (their grandmother) soon got into watching Avatar as well. It just goes to show that the quality of this show- the great dialogue, superb action, continuing storyline and excellent drama and direction- has universal appeal. There was only one break in the watching- dinner- before the last several episodes available were watched and enjoyed. Thankfully, the newest episode Lake Laogai (episode 37) ends with at least quite a bit of closure. Still, the kids (and their dad) were asking me when the next episode would be available before they left.
It was truly an enjoyable time, and I have to say that I can thank Avatar for a cool bonding experience with my niece and nephews. I'll be counting the days myself to the next new Avatar- two weeks to the next one. Darn it. Well, I can always have an Avatar Marathon again myself, to keep the wait bearable. Barely. Heh.

Friday, November 3

Wannabee Comic Book Movie

I finally got to watch Ultraviolet, starring Milla Jovovich. Some may be surprised that it took me so long to actually watch the flick, seeing as how it's an anime-styled superbabe-girlpower action flick... something I'd probably want to see as soon as possible. Well, bad reviews made me just push watching the movie back again and again... even with the movie loaded onto my XDAIIi, I still didn't have any time or inclination to watch it. The opportunity and the mood finally came early this week, as I was trapped home by a bad stomach, during the afternoon.

Ultraviolet opens up with a series of comic book covers starring the titular heroine- of course setting the tone for the over-the-top action to be featured in the flick. Set in a futuristic world where fear of disease has resulted in a future of sealed buildings and people wearing masks all the time, Ultraviolet sees the world divided in a war between normal humans and the Hemophages- or 'vampires' thanks to their pointy teeth and enhanced physical powers. The Hemophages were initially made out to be the ultimate warriors, but are eventually marked for extermination. Miss Jovovich plays Violent, an exceptionally-gifted and deadly vampiress and assassin who is out to grab a secret weapon the ruling regime (which incorporates religious/medical and corporate tyranny) is supposedly preparing to finish the war against the Hemophages.

Well, it turns out the 'weapon' is a little boy who seems to awaken deep maternal feelings in the superbitchy warrior, and soon she's fighting to save his life along with trying to bring down the evil government/corporate/pharmaceutical overlord. Along the way she kills lots of enemies. Cross that- she kills armies of enemies, hacking them down in droves. Gas-mask wearing, glass-like body armor-clad thugs fall to Violet's many guns (which are conveniently 'digitized' until needed) or her oddly-oriental katana-ish sword.

With all the action, you'd think that Ultraviolet would be incredibly cool. The movie looks pretty slick, with nice production values, but it ultimately looks kinda... not there. It seems to be lacking a lot, perhaps since the world Violet lives in seems vacuous, impersonal and empty- it's just a large setting for lots of videogame-like fighting, and that's not very deep or too engaging after a while. It's certainly not as visually stimulating as, say, the world of The Fifth Element (another Jovovich-starrer).
It also kinda takes away from the movie that you never feel that Violent will ever be in any danger- despite her actually saying that she doubts her survival at several points in the movie, she plows through hordes and hordes of enemies like a hot knife through lukewarm butter- the enemies are really STOOPID in this movie. The fights themselves aren't particularly well done, or impressive, and it's kinda weird to see jumpsuited, masked generic hitmen running around with katanas like some kind of industrial ninja. On paper, this would be kinda cool- here in a movie, it just feels... iffy.

Everything else... eeeh. The script is blah, the acting bleh, and the storyline really doesn't matter. Maybe that's all irrelevant anyway... Ultraviolet pleases with visuals, and in that it's pretty-looking, shallow but entertaining fun for a while. After Violent kills her, oh, 600th enemy, you just know that the end boss doesn't stand a chance.

Darn... Aeon Flux. Elektra. Ultraviolet. All superbabe movies, all kinda crappy. At least, when I ever think of making a K.I.A. movie, I am well-versed in what it shouldn't be like. Oh well.

I love watching G4TV's X-Play. Really, it's more gag show than actual serious videogaming reviews, but I try to catch it everytime online since Jack TV only has like, four episodes to show all year.

Still, I have to say that hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb get on my bad side a lot- not for any of their scathing reviews of their general anti-anime stance, but for insulting gamers every opportunity they get. And, if I saw that skanky Webb on the street, I'd punch her teeth in for being a hater of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and then shove a katana through her flat chest for being so bitchy against Aeris and Final Fantasy VII.


Anyway, I loved their Scariest Games special. That was pretty funny.

Wednesday, November 1

Todos Los Santos

Today is the Philippines' day for the dead- Todos Los Santos or Undas. All over the country, thousands of Filipinos head for cemeteries to spend time with their loved ones who have gone on before them. Years ago, me and my family used to go to Marikina, where we have our dead at Loyola Memorial Park. We'd leave early in the morning since we needed to avoid traffic.
Trips to the cemetery then were like mini-vacations; we'd pack a big tent, lots of food for the day, tables and chairs and other necessities. To kill boredom, decks of cards, board games or books would also be packed along. We'd then spend the whole day from sun-up to sunset before finally calling it a day and packing for home.

That changed quite a bit after we moved to Marikina more than fifteen years ago. Since the cemetery was so close, there was no need to pack stuff, or even bring a tent. We'd just walk the whole way, bringing only the bare essentials- candles, flowers and our prayers. Umbrellas too, since it would either be sunny or rainy.

This year, the cemetery crowds are supposedly aren't as thick, thanks probably mainly to the weird schedule which placed All Saints' Day in the middle of the week, a one-day holiday break. With so short a time, many preferred to celebrate the day at home. Still, many flooded into the cemeteries.
The government as well as private institutions set up services like first aid stations to keep things safe, while the police and military banned gambling, alcohol, deadly weapons and even music from cemeteries to prevent any untoward incidents. Politicians of course didn't miss the opportunity to do a bit of indirect campaigning, via giveaways marked with their names or likenesses. Some things never change.

As the sun went down, so did the rain. In fact, as of this writing, it's raining cats and dogs here in Marikina- sure to be a bit of an annoyance for the people crowding in the cemeteries, or stuck clogged on the road in traffic. I'm just glad to be inside at home, dry and cozy.

Tomorrow, despite being All Souls' Day, it's back to the world of the working and the living. Life goes on.
Digital Hauntings

Thanks to the wonders of cellphones and mobile technology, anyone can keep in touch with anyone anywhere, whether they're at home or at work or on the road. And it seems, thanks to camera-equipped phones, anyone can catch a ghost on video. Photographs and videos of supposed ghosts aren't new- but lately thanks to TV shows like my favorite Ghost Hunters, spirits from the other side are showing off their spooky mugs more than usual.

Even on recent local news and information programs, ghost videos are in the spotlight. The video above is from the local program Sa Pulso, and features quite a few ghost videos. Some seem real, some cheezy, all dubious. But it's still creepy fun to watch.
Another dubious bit of footage appeared on the news tonight- a man took a cellphone video of his wife clearing shrubs from their loved ones' grave, and captured what appears to be the voice of a ghostly child crying out at them. Of course, they didn't hear anything at the time. Again, dubious, though the man doesn't seem the type to hoax it.

I myself have heard a story about some ghostly footage taken by some officemates of mine during a shoot, where a hand appears in frame during one of the takes. When they check it out though, they discover that no one was there at the time. Eerie.

Well, it's really hard to say if it's really possible to capture the supernatural on our cells. Perhaps at the right place, at the right time, if you happen by some creepy place oozing of the unknown, you may be inclined to bring out your cell and start shooting. Then... would you dare to see if your lens captured more than what the naked eye can see?
If I just had more inclination, I'd probably rustle up some buds and jaunt on down to some old hospital or school house with the ol' cell or digital cam. Or maybe down to Balete Drive (though it's already widely believed that the so-called 'White Lady' was just some psychology class experiment) to see what we can catch on cam. Unfortunately, I DON'T have that much free time, so I'll just leave it to the professionals like the TAPS team, or the Spirit Questers. One thing's for sure though... I'll always be intrigued by this stuff. I love getting creeped out. Heh.

Tuesday, October 31

Avatar Watch

Season 2 of my favorite animated show is nearing its end- only 4 episodes left, with no Fire Nation invasion in sight. Looks like 'The Drill' was the Flame Country's big card for this season- apparently the climax of 'Book of Earth' will have Aang and company dealing with the evil Earthbenders Long Feng and the Dai Li society. It's a refreshing change from last Season (Book of Water) and once again demonstrates the dynamism of this Nickelodeon show.

Some online tidbits about Avatar have been very interesting, so much so that I'd like to share a few of them.

Despite the death of Mako recently, don't expect the loveable General Iroh to pass away as well. The 'Dragon of the West' has many mysteries to his character, which may be revealed in future episodes. As for his voice, a new voice actor has already taken over- this person was a student and close friend of Mako, and supposedly has impressed the show's producers and creators with how he has captured the character's soul and feel.

Avatar is greatly influenced by many anime shows, including the works of Hayao Miyazaki. The anime Cowboy Bebop also inspired many of the action sequences in Avatar. The character of Toph, the blind earthbender girl, was influenced by the blind martial artist/assassin Sara from the anime Samurai Champloo.

Many, if not all, of the characters may have new hairstyles in Season 3!

Season 3 will finally reveal the many mysteries of the enigmatic Fire Nation, of which so much has been kept secret all this time. Just how the enemy ticks will be a big focus in Season 3, and will surely be another notch in the coolness of Avatar.

Is Aang truly the only Airbender left? That may change in future episodes (the title of the series has already been changed from 'The Last Airbender' to 'The Legend of Aang').

Of course, Season 3 will have the Avatar finally fulfilling his destiny and facing the dreaded Fire Lord. But there has been talk of more seasons beyond Book of Fire. The world of Avatar is so well-crafted, deep and colorful, the possibilities for further adventures are endless. The creators would be mad to end this series at just 3 seasons... fans can only hope that these rumors are true.

Oh, and local gameshops also have the Avatar: The Last Airbender videogame on the shelves already (for Xbox at least). The game's pretty easy so far- it's an action game with some RPG elements, putting you in command of Aang, Katara, Sokka and Haru (the Earthbender guy from 'Imprisoned'). No Toph, which sucks, but perhaps she'll appear in future Avatar games. The game seems more geared towards kids, but fans of the show will probably have fun with it- I know I did, for the hour or so that I played. Not bad, just not spectacular, but good enough.

The next episode in Season 2, Lake Laogai, comes out this weekend. I can't wait. Grab your Avatar fix from better anime shops or from online now. This is truly the best animated show out now. Awesome stuff.
Things That Go Bump in the Night

It's Halloween time once again. This is perhaps the only foreign celebration that Filipinos truly embrace aside from Christmas, since the supernatural is so close to our hearts. It's at this time when ghoulish decorations start adorning both offices and residences everywhere, and TV is now flooded with scary specials and Halloween episodes. I think this is one of the coolest times of the year.

I've been down sick though for the past couple of days, so I'll be probably spending Halloween and All Saint's Day at home in bed. I'll be having myself a Ghost Hunters marathon (got all the episodes downloaded) and watch some scary shows on cable. Or play a couple of rounds on the ol' 360 or PS2. Of course, it's also a time to remember the loved ones who have gone before us into the great unknown.

So keep safe everyone. Creep yourselves out, keep your living loved ones close and have yourselves a Happy Halloween. Trick or treat!

Monday, October 30

Streetfighter II

Chun Li... Ready for her closeup?

There's a bit of news that there's going to be another Street Fighter live-action movie.



Ahem. Anyway, according to the bit, Hyde Park Entertainment and Capcom are going to team up for a second film adaptation of the classic fighting videogame for release in 2008. This time though, the story will focus not on Guile (last played by the Muscles from Brussels John-Claude Van Damme), but on female Interpol operative Chun Li. Looks like the producers are taking a cue from Tecmo's DOA movie for having a female protagonist. No details on the story yet... it still remains to be seen if this actually happens. We'll just have to wait and see.

Me? I just want Street Fighter IV. Come on, Capcom. Cough it up.
Say Mo, Seiyuu

I have to admit that in spite of myself being a long-avowed fan of original Japanese voices in anime, that the local dubs of Japanimation is growing on me. At least, I am no longer cringing when I tune on to the local Hero anime channel on cable. It helps that I have grown quite tired of the generic recycled voices on most of Animax's shows (they seem to have like six voice actors for the whole channel), so hearing Hero's vocal talents is refreshing.
My main gripe with local dubs in the past was, for the most part, a general shortage of unique voices and acting; early tagalog dubs were often badly scripted and talents sounded like they were reading instead of actually acting.

Well, these days the lines seem to go much more naturally, and I have to admit that the tagalog or taglish translations of some pretty complex lines in anime like Yu-Gi-Oh and Yakitake Japan have me impressed. Plus, I have even heard at least one local dub that sounds accurate to the original Japanese voice- particularly Son Goku's voice in Saiyuki Reload Gunlock.

Which leads me to believe that a local industry of expert, even famed voice actors for anime translations is not far off, and that's really not a bad thing. But I am still not a fan of the 'star'-dubbed Initial D episodes, though. Heh-heh...