Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League Movie Review

Justice League tries its best to escape the black hole that is BvS, but its weighed down by all the things it's trying to achieve. From introducing new characters, course-correcting the DC cinematic universe, to making a movie that will bring them out of Rotten Tomatoes hell and into the critically-acclaimed limelight, Justice League has its hands full and you can tell it's juggling them as best it can.

The new heroes Barry Allen/The Flash (played with infectious fanboy glee by Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are pulled into the story seamlessly enough, and though you can see the seeds of future DC movies being sown, thankfully they're just there to advance the plot and aren't needed to fully understand the new guys nor the rest of the film. See, it wasn't that hard, DC!

Surprisingly, Justice League does its best to be *gasp* fun! Gone is the somber mood that gets more dour as the movie goes on...Justice League finally admits it's a goddamn comic book movie and adjusts accordingly. Batman gets to be witty and relatable, and even Momoa as Aquaman is a hoot to watch. There's also a lot of bombastic superheroic set pieces now that they've decided to fight bad guys instead of each other. The action is flashy and intense, as Justice League gives you no doubt that these colorfully-costumed do-gooders can bench-press apartment complexes or stop every single bullet from an automatic rifle. Watch Flash race through the screen in a burst of lightning and energy and tell me it didn't put a smile on your face.

The one thing that did put a smile on my face was the gloriousness that is Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is an absolute beast here, a beautiful enigma that smiles to put children at ease one moment, then goes toe-to-toe with the movie's villain Steppenwolf the next, all without breaking a sweat.

Speaking of villains, it's unfortunate then (or should I say appropriate?) that Justice League's weakness lay in its main bad guy. Steppenwolf may be imposing and even downright scary (thanks to Ciarán Hinds' absolutely diabolical voice performance), but then Plot-Induced Stupidity kicks in during the third act and he turns into the typical raving villain who fights the Justice League 1 v 6, conveniently forgetting he has the entire force of Apokolips at his command. Stupid, yes, but then again seeing the entire Justice League work as a team on the big screen has been a dream for most of us, and at this point I'll take what I can get.

See, all DC had to do was try. To make a competent movie, to make us believe in heroes again. It's safe to say that Justice League is a fun time at the movies with one of the first and biggest superhero teams of all time, even if it didn't wow me like Wonder Woman did. A win is a win, and by god I'll take that over another shitty DC movie any day.

If you haven't read a single Justice League or DC comic book in your life, you'll probably enjoy this one. If you're a fanboy like me, I'll ask you to bring seat belts and a fresh pair of're in for a bumpy yet fun ride.

Oh, and it feels damn good to see you back, Superman!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

If you're of the opinion that Marvel movies basically boil down to Quips: The Laughening, Thor: Ragnarok will definitely cement it. The difference here is that it embraces the campiness, revels in it, turning the last of the Thor trilogy into quite the movie that's better than its predecessors in surprising ways.

Forget the Shakespearean diction and the solemn tone of the last two Thor movies. In fact, forget everything you know about MCU Thor, because you won't be needing it. Here, Thor is on full-on bro mode, trading jokes with Surtur the goddamn fire demon that heralds the apocalypse and even having his share of physical comedy. Chris Hemsworth has proven his knack for comedy before, and I have to say it's fun watching him take the God of Thunder in a fun new direction while giving us more of the physicality and awesomeness we expect from a larger-than-life character like Thor.

Mark Ruffalo's Hulk deserves special mention, because we're finally treated to more of the Big Green Machine than ever. Scary powerful and with a wicked sense of humor, Hulk lets loose in Ragnarok, which is ironic given that most of the characters in the film are from his comics.

But the further the movie goes, the more Thor:Ragnarok feels like a parody of Thor films than an actual one. Director Taika Waititi doubled down on the comedy in this movie, which unfortunately leaves little room for gravitas. Every dramatic moment is immediately undercut by a stray ball to the face or pratfall, as if the movie's afraid of coming across as too serious. Characters not known for being funny, like Loki, suddenly become quippy caricatures. And if you're a fan of Skurge the Executioner, He who Stood Alone at Gjallerbru, I have bad news for you.

The levity ultimately hurt Cate Blanchett's Hela, who may have been Marvel's most formidable villain yet but whose villainy is reduced to posturing cutscenes while all the fun is happening elsewhere. I never felt afraid for Asgard, never felt the imminent Twilight of the Gods, while Hela was on-screen, since I was conditioned to expect a joke afterwards. What's the use of tension when everything is a punchline?

Still, if you're looking for a fun time at the movies, Thor: Ragnarok delivers even as an action-comedy. The visuals are dazzlingly colorful and lovingly Kirbyesque, the action is rampd up to amazing levels (you will definitely know the answer to the question "What were you the god of again?"), and to call this simply "funny" would be underselling it. Thor: Ragnarok is an explosive farewell to Thor as we knew him, and now I can't wait for the final phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Birdshot Movie Review

Stupid comedies and loveteam vehicle movies have put me off from watching any Pinoy film since forever. But a new breed of directors and studios are daring to to make movies unlike any Filipino audience has seen in a long while. Movies like Heneral Luna, Saving Sally, and now Birdshot.

First things first: Birdshot is an absolutely gorgeous film. Director Mikhail Red's cinematography begs to ruminated. From sweeping shots of the Philippine countryside to the dark and gritty confines where human corruption dwells, Birdshot yields so much good imagery that I wouldn't be surprised if it was featured on Every Frame a Painting.

The cast is great, portraying Birdshot's multi-layered narrative on the loss of innocence in many different ways. Mary Joy Apostol shines as the mysterious and captivating Maya, the daughter of a local caretaker, who yearns for more than this provincial life and whose actions drive the story to its intense conclusion. Apostol holds her own even in the presence of guys like John Arcilla, who plays grey-area operating cop Mendoza, and Arnold Reyes who portrays Domingo, Mendoza's rookie partner whose morals will be tested every step of the way.

I quite liked the story, even if some parts were too enigmatic for my tastes. But if you stick around, you'll find yourself so engrossed in the mystery until it's too late to look away. Birdshot tackles corruption and police brutality, real issues with real victims, in a compelling way. And if my Facebook feed is any indication, Birdshot is here to hang a heavy lampshade over all of it.

But Birdshot's verve to portray both beauty and truth may be its one glaring weakness. Mikhail Red loves his cinematic shots a bit too much, sacrificing story clarity for a few more shots of those gorgeous Isabela plains, or letting a particularly mysterious subject linger on-screen way past your threshold of caring. I guess I like my stories a bit more succinct, but I feel it would have served Birdshot's story more if it chose the more impactful route in its cinematography.

Despite its missteps, Birdshot elevates modern Philippine cinema in ways that current popular fare frustratingly refuse to match. With movies like Saving Sally, Heneral Luna, and now Birdshot showing moviegoers what Pinoys are actually capable of, it's high time that quality Philippine movies stop being as endangered as the haribon and start getting the attention they deserve.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

S.H. Figuarts Marvel Doctor Strange Action Figure Review

There comes a time in your life when you won't accept anything other than the crème de la crème. That time came to me when I came out of the Doctor Strange movie wanting an action figure of the titular hero to add to my Infinity War roster. Plenty of options came out, but was I gonna go for that shitty, not-even-screen accurate Marvel Legends one? Hell no.

What I needed was the Rolls-Royce of Doctor Strange action figures, one befitting the stature of such a magnificent man as Benedict Cumberbatch: Bandai's recently-released S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange figure, which finally arrived at my doorstep ready to review! Let's jump right into it!

This version of S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange comes in a huge box that displays the figure and its accessories well enough. That's a whole lot of box for storing and displaying, though. I guess the flame effects needed some really huge clearances!

But come on, you don't box in the Sorcerer Supreme like that. Let's take a closer look!

Despite standing a shade under 6 inches tall, Figuarts Doctor Strange is nonetheless packed with detail you'd come to expect from Bandai. The details are sharp for a figure of this size, from the texture of his many belts to the golden Eye of Agamotto resting on his chest. Paint is expertly applied all around, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any errors. As this is an almost $80 figure, it's all but expected.

The headsculpt bears a passable resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch as seen in the movie Doctor Strange. It's not a spitting image, for sure, but in certain angles there's no denying that this is the Sorcerer Supreme standing on your desk!

Figuarts Doctor Strange has surprising flexibility for someone with a cape and skirt. It has all joints S.H. Figuarts is known for, and has good range of motion all around. The soft plastic "skirt" doesn't hinder hip articulation at all, and his Cloak of Levitation has enough clearance from his arms to allow him to do all sorts of poses you may expect from a Sorcerer-in-training.

And yes, his signature cloak also has articulation of its own! The sides of the cloak can swivel outward to simulate his cape fully expanded., while the entire cape has a hinge attached to the collar piece to let you display Doctor Strange with his cape blowing in the wind as if deep in thought in the frozen wastes of Kathmandu. The cape is made out of hard plastic that makes Figuarts Doctor Strange back-heavy, though, so keeping him upright will be quite the challenge especially since he's not packaged with any figure stand.

Figuarts Doctor Strange is packed with very important accessories, namely the energy "mandalas of light" that sorcerers like Strange conjure up during their everyday magicking. Two big orange mandalas printed on thin transparent plastic circles peg into special alternate hands to let you re-enact Strange's battle with the dread Dormammu, and they look amazing in the right light.

Those aren't 'shopped. That is what they actually look like in his hands. Amazing, aren't they?

There are also two small green mandalas that let you do Strange's timey-wimey scene from the movie. They may not look that green here, but in the right light I'm sure you can make these suckers pop in pictures.

An alternate head is also included, which apparently is a talking or angry face. I say "apparently" because Bandai has switched to printing the facial features onto the headsculpt instead of painting by hand, which unfortunately will be prone to errors like mine have. Mine looks glassy-eyed and faded like their printer ran out of ink. Sad, but I'm just glad the default head is fine. Something to look out for in case you're thinking of getting this.

Rounding out the accessory count is the reason why I paid premium for this set: Tamashii EFFECT Burning Flame effects packaged with Figuarts Doctor Strange. Cast in solid yellow translucent plastic with orange highlights, they're perfect for displaying Doctor Strange as if he's fighting the very forces of Hell or saving orphans from a burning building. To be honest, it's not really worth paying extra for these, especially if you're not in the market for flame effects for your figures anyway. But since they look real nice, I can't complain. I will probably give these effects to my future Human Torch figures.

If you're thinking of adding Figuarts Doctor Strange to your Marvel Legends MCU lineup, you might want to hold your horses. At under 6 inches tall, Figuarts Doctor Strange is simply too small for even the shortest Marvel Legends figure among the MCU Avengers made so far. Even my MAFEX Iron Man towers over a figure based on 6-foot-tall Benedict Cumberbatch!

But despite the dodgy height difference and the sloppy face printing, my verdict is that S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange is the best 1:12-scale representation of the good Doctor that money can buy. The Marvel Legends doesn't even come close. They're not even in the same multiverse. The accuracy, quality, detail, and amount of accessories blow any lesser versions out of the water. If you're looking to round out your Infinity War display, this is the figure to get.

I got the Doctor Strange and Burning Flame Set, which retails around $80, but there's also a regular version without the flame effects being sold for around $60. If you're into saving money, the regular version is a fine bargain *wink wink*. Shout out to Hobby Collector, who came through with my order in record time! 10/10 will order again!

I hope my review was useful to you and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it! What did you think of Doctor Strange? Are you excited for Infinity War? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) Movie Review

The DC Extended Universe finally has a shining beacon of hope to break through its dark and dreary palette, and her name is Wonder Woman. Hear her roar.

About damn time, too. After DC Films' less-than-stellar initial outings (BvS and Suicide Squad), it can be forgiven if you come into this with the lowest of expectations. But it seems director Patty Jenkins and co. knew what was needed to turn the ship around, which was to treat the character not as a silly comic book character that needed to be brought down to our level, but as a true beacon of heroism in a time when it needed it the most.

Gal Gadot is perfectly cast, able to portray doe-eyed innocence of the outside world and the steel-eyed determination of a warrior. Her statuesque beauty and charm demands your attention both in her frenetic action scenes and the quiet moments with the humanity she has sworn to protect (or with Steve Trevor, played with heroic gusto by Chris Pine). The World War I setting did the story a lot of favors, as it allowed Jenkins to show how Diana viewed humanity, how she still believes in the potential of man to do so much good in a world capable of so much evil. Really, this is the Superman movie we should have gotten.

The movie does stumble at times, especially with Diana and Steve's lightning-fast love story that developed far too quickly to make sense, and there are dialogue and scenes that go on for far too long, especially the final battle with big bad Ares which devolves into the usual Snyder-rific flashy battle where everything explodes.

But to me, the important thing is Patty Jenkins understood. She understood the power these characters have over moviegoers, how they can make us feel good about ourselves, something that Snyder practically ignored in Man of Steel. When Diana climbs up the trenches of No Man's Land to face down machine gun fire, Jenkins frames it as an inspirational moment bereft of any depressing aftermath or consequence. Finally, DC Films has a hero that is actually superheroic.

Who knew DC had it in them to make a smart, funny, and fun comic book movie? It took them a while, but Wonder Woman was just the shot in the arm DC needed to make themselves relevant again. Whether that goodwill can be carried over to the upcoming Justice League film remains to be seen. But for now, I'm just glad that DC finally made a movie I would rewatch again and again. Highly recommended!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Marvel is Finally Playing Nice, and We All Win

There's a silent war going on in comics, a war that saw Marvel giving properties that aren't being made into Marvel Studios films the cold shoulder. They've canceled the Fantastic Four comics (whose film rights belong to 20th Century Fox) and pulled down the X-Men down the mud in favor of the Inhumans (whose rights belong to Marvel itself), and have even gone so far as to stop people from making toys and other merchandise featuring them. As Tom Brevoort was quoted to say,
"If you had two things, and on one you earned 100% of the revenues from the efforts that you put into making it, and the other you earned a much smaller percentage for the same amount of time and effort, you’d be more likely to concentrate more heavily on the first, wouldn’t you?"

But these days, Marvel has been playing nice with the kids in the playground, the first and biggest sign of which was the arrival of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to a deal between Marvel and Sony, something that was just a pipe dream until very recently. With Spider-Man: Homecoming firmly placed within the MCU and coming soon to theaters in June, there's no denying that Marvel and Sony have extended the olive branch, and not a moment too soon.

And that's not the only sign. The Fantastic Four are rumored to be making a comeback in comics soon, and Hasbro has been putting out new Marvel Legends toys of the Fantastic Four bit by salivating bit, the first of which was the Invisible Woman, with Human Torch on the way. And the X-Men? The new NBC show Gifted is a Marvel and Fox co-production featuring mutants, and X-Men action figures have been making a comeback in toy aisles.

But for me, the biggest sign that all this is really happening is the teaser Netmarble just released for their game Marvel Future Fight, a game I've been playing and enjoying for quite some time. It's been a running joke in the community that everyone clamoring for X-Men characters in a game filled Marvel-owned characters are just shouting to the wind, but now they've just teased new characters arriving in the Future Fight roster...and their names are Cyclops and Storm!

And all of a sudden, a Marvel future looks just a bit brighter.

As much as Marvel's childish antics irk me, all signs point to a Marvel that's found a way to co-exist with its fellow studios and finally give comic book fans what they've been asking for all this time: a shared universe that isn't just full of Avengers and Inhumans, but also mutants, scientists, and kids with spider powers. Whatever started this war, the end is already in sight.  And we all win.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Jollibee Mecha Fan Art is the Stuff Jolli Dreams Are Made of

The gijinka (humanization, making things anthropomorphic) craze has been making the rounds on Facebook lately. But while the quality has ranged from the awful to the brilliant, I just saw the one thing that beats them all: Gundam frikkin' Jollibee.

For those not in the know, Jollibee is basically the largest fastfood chain in the Philippines, and artist Keiryuu Seo posted fan art of what a Jollibee-sponsored mech would look like, complete with the prerequisite cute Jollibee employee for a pilot! I've honestly been marking out to this thing for the past few hours. As a fan of mecha and Jollibee, stuff like this speaks to me on a spiritual, almost otherworldly level.

Check out the entire gallery over at Keiryuu Seo's page. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat my 9 millionth Jolli Spaghetti.
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