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Thursday, May 21, 2015

4 Awesome Things to Come Out of NexCon 2


What a difference a year makes!

Last year's NexCon was fun if not a bit small-ish, but just like modern comic books, the ultimate celebration of science fiction and fantasy in the Philippines took everything it did right, added more things to do right, and turned it up all the way to 11 this 2015, resulting in NexCon 2: Heroes Rising!

I was there for both days and let me tell you, I don't think I'll be going to any other con any time soon (and it's not just because I'm out of money). NexCon 2 was the proverbial breath of fresh air the local convention scene needed, and it resulted in some of the best con-going moments this geek has ever had.

Here are four of the awesome things to come out of arguably one of the best conventions of the year.

THE COSPLAY



There were more cosplayers in this year's NexCon. Way more, as Reskiy's video above shows (my girlfriend and I even get some good screen time in!), which made the con much more fun to roam around in. From Game of Thrones to Marvel and DC, Star Wars to Supernatural, Big Hero 6 to Doctor Who, NexCon had them all in spades and droves!

What's even better is that online chatter about the cosplay environment in NexCon 2 has been overwhelmingly positive, so kudos to NexCon 2 for making the convention not just fun but also safe for cosplayers.


THE LIP SYNC KOMBAT


NexCon 2 did its own version of the wildly popular Lip Sync Battle, this time made even better because it had pop culture characters performing some of the cheesiest hits known to man!

Some of NexCon 2's most memorable moments came from the Lip Sync Kombat, with match ups like Iron Man vs. Captain America and Asuka Langley vs Castiel from Supernatural (seen above) chewing scenery and trying to one-up the other in over-the-top displays of lip-synching mastery! And the fun part? Everyone was singing along with them.


THE "TAGALIZED" DOCTOR WHO


Unbeknownst to many, there's a secret battle raging on about whether Doctor Who should be aired as is or "Tagalized" (dubbed in Filipino, our national language). Enter Noel Urbano and Louie Paraboles, Filipino voice acting veterans and panelists of NexCon's Tagalize This! panel. After talking about their experiences in the Philippine dubbing industry, they gave us a treat we won't soon forget: a live dub-over of a scene from the Doctor Who episode Day of the Doctor!

At that point, no one has heard Doctor Who being translated to Filipino before, much less dubbed over in it, but thanks to Urbano, Paraboles, panel moderator Cyrus the Virus (who is an accomplished radio personality and singer himself), and two of my Whovian friends (hi Janir and Kat!), we were given a "Tagalized" Doctor Who that is both faithful and tastefully done. We now have definitive proof that Doctor Who can be "Tagalized", and it can be done well!


THE MOMENTS WE WILL REMEMBER

Photo courtesy of Happy Hariography.

Some of us don't think about it too much when we shell out Php250 for a con entrance. Maybe you'd think "I'm here to look at stuff, maybe buy a trinket or two, and then leave."

Not in NexCon 2.

The main thing that separates NexCon from every other local con is the people. As one friend of mine put it best, "It actually feels like one big geek party at someone's house. If not everyone is your friend, they become one." It's like everyone is on the same wavelength, all of you are there to celebrate your fandom. Two cosplayers dressed as the same Doctor Who character? They won't just high-five each other, they could end up being great friends after!

 Photo courtesy of Jin (behindinfinity)

And the quality of the crowd lead to some memorable moments I haven't seen from any other convention since. Ben Affleck's Batman hugged Man of Steel's Superman on stage, Budjette Tan had his pic taken with Trese herself, and popular cosplayer Jin Joson invited the crowd to help her re-enact the microbots scene from Big Hero 6 (as seen above)!


These are just some of the awesome things to come out of NexCon 2: Heroes Rising. If you weren't there, you missed out big time, but hopefully next year we'll see you and we'll party together, yeah?

Got any more interesting and awesome moments to share from NexCon 2? Leave a comment below and let's spaz about it like the fanboys/fangirls that we are! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Top 5 Strangest Star Wars Merchandise

Star Wars is such a huge and money-making franchise that making merchandise out of its iconic characters and settings is a no-brainer. But while there have been awesome stuff made like Force FX lightsabers and Hot Toys, a few strange and quirky ones slip through the cracks.

So in this special Star Wars-themed edition of Top 5 Thursdays, we look at 5 of the weirdest, off-the-wall merchandise ever made out of arguably the most iconic sci-fi franchise ever and ranked them so you won't have to!


5. QUICK'S DARK VADOR BURGER


I've written about this one before, and till now the strangeness of its jet-black buns continues to haunt me. Available only in France during the 3D re-release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the so-called "Dark Vador" burger looked both freakin' delicious and crap-your-pants scary, just like the Dark Side of the Force.


4. GEORGE LUCAS IN CARBONITE


One of the weirder things to come out of Japan is this life-sized sculpture of George Lucas himself trapped in carbonite, a piece made for a Star Wars convention in Japan. One wonders what sort of dastardly deed Lucas did to be imprisoned in this iconic manner, but we're sure the haters of the prequel trilogy probably have an idea as to what that is.


3. CHEWBACCA "2nd SKIN" COSTUME


Apparently (and scarily), this is is a very real thing: a full-body, skin-tight stretch jumpsuit of Chewbacca for when you want to look like everyone's favorite Wookiee if he was vacuum-sealed. I don't know if this is the case of someone who didn't want to commit to cosplaying full Chewie...or someone who went too far.


2. JAR-JAR BINKS CANDY


If the thought of French-kissing a swamp-dwelling Gungan sickens you, what more the kids who asked for a Star Wars-themed lollipop only to realize their parents unwittingly told them to suck on Jar-Jar Binks' sticky, cherry-flavored candy tongue? I still ask, what in the name of all things holy were they thinking?!


1. WHATEVER THE HELL THIS IS



Seriously, what the hell is it? Oh god, I don't even want to know. Is it from a Star Wars/Hellraiser crossover I wasn't privy to? What is poor Han actually transforming into? And why can't I scrub the thought of seeing this skitter on the floor towards me from my brain?


And that's the top 5 strangest Star Wars-themed merchandise as rated by yours truly. Know of any more strange and downright insane merchandise from the galaxy far, far away? Leave me a comment below and let's talk about it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Force Has Been With Me All Along

I still remember it vividly like it was yesterday. It’s a high school weekend, and my dad showed me a boxed set of VHS tapes his officemate lent him. It was a trilogy called  Star Wars. Figuring I had nothing else to do, I took the first tape, loaded it into our VHS player, and started watching.

I didn’t stop until the credits to Return of the Jedi rolled.

My next few weekends were spent taking out my tito’s Star Wars VHS boxed set and just watching them whenever I can. I would watch it chronologically, backwards, sideways until the tape was rubbed raw. There was something about this sci-fi epic that resonated with me, even if back then I didn’t understand why. And no, it wasn’t because of Slave Leia.

Then Episode I: The Phantom Menace rolled around, and I remember geeking out at Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber, considered by myself then to be the most awesome thing that was ever invented. Shortly after, my mom bought me a cool glow-in-the-dark Star Wars shirt that I wore so many times it became rattier than a Tusken Raider’s robes. In college, when everybody else was playing Counter-Strike, my friends and I would be playing Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, spending hours after classes force-choking opponents left and right.

But I never, ever identified myself as a Star Wars fan.

And that’s weird. In this day and age where everything is a ‘fandom’, it’s either you are or you are not, and your loyalty is measured by how much time and resources you’ve dedicated to externalizing it. I thought Star Wars was an awesome piece of sci-fi, something that made for nice shirts and toys and games, nothing more…until I saw the second trailer to The Force Awakens, the start of the new Star Wars trilogy by J.J. Abrams.

It was beautiful. It was nostalgic (Han Solo and Chewie reunion!). And more importantly, it opened my mind to something I’ve unconsciously tried to deny all these years.

I LOVE Star Wars.

It took a trailer to the new trilogy to remind me of how much I loved the old one. It reminded me that Star Wars was more than just an awesome sci-fi story. It opened our minds to mankind’s future potential. It gave us our love for lightsabers and flashy lightsaber fights, of Sith Lords and Jedi Masters. It gave us a story of hope and redemption, of life lessons that will never grow old or dated, which means Star Wars will always be relevant no matter what the generation. And with The Force Awakens, my generation can finally have a Star Wars film we can truly claim as our own.

I understood now, after all this time. Star Wars was a formative part of my geekhood, and the feeling of finally accepting that takes me back to my teenage years, back to the weekends watching and enjoying the original trilogy over and over. In a way, I never really stopped. You might say the force has been with me all along.

---

This post was originally published in the May 4, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review




Avengers: Age of Ultron is the modern comic book in movie form. Whereas Marvel's The Avengers was the Golden Age, all colorful and fun, Age of Ultron is more grounded and has more drama than it's predecessor, and basically the next logical step that the series can make.
 

The Avengers now flex the super part of their superhero monicker, tearing down Hydra bases left and right in the search of Loki's scepter (last seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier's post-end credits). With peace now within their reach, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is looking for a way to protect the world without the Avengers having to stick their necks out all the time, starting with the Ultron Program. But when Stark's research unwittingly unleashes the evil AI Ultron (played by James Spader) that threatens to wipe out humanity, it's once again up to the Avengers to save the world, whether they like to (and each other) or not. 


Like the modern comic book, there's strict adherence to continuity in Age of Ultron, with plot points from films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe converging in one place. Loki's scepter, the Infinity Stones, HYDRA, they all serve to drive the story along, and if you've watched all of Marvel's films up to this point, it makes for some very satisfying pay offs. There's also more emphasis on drama, especially with the non-superpowered members like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), that serve to better flesh them out more. Hawkeye in particular isn't just the guy with insane archery skills, he's also given a backstory that makes him more human, which only serves to underline just how badass he actually is. Finally, the Badass Normals get the attention they deserve.



The MCU has had many supervillains, most of them forgettable *cough* Malekith *cough*, and it's only fitting that the Avengers themselves get one of the most memorable and menacing villains we've had so far. James Spader's portrayal of Ultron was pitch perfect! Spader turned Ultron into more than just a walking tank with human murder on his mind...he's snarky, he's funny, he believes that what he's doing is right, and he can go toe-to-toe with the Avengers without breaking a proverbial sweat.

But of course, this being a comic book movie and me being a comic book fan, I was literally shaking in my seat with what they've done to bridge the gap between the comics and films. Director Joss Whedon has pretty much perfected the art of translating the comic book page into awesome cinematic sequences, and this time around there are more face-melting moments that perfectly capture what superhero comic books are all about.

I particularly loved what they've done with Vision (played with subdued dignity by Paul Bettany, no longer trapped in a recording studio), and if you're an old-school comic book fan, you'll love what they've done with him in Age of Ultron. Now, I know some of you are still seething that Stark created Ultron and not Hank Pym like in the comics, but if there's one thing Age of Ultron excelled at, it was making daring choices. There are choices made by Whedon in this movie that may not be popular to purists, but in the context of the MCU, it works. They didn't set out to completely ape your daddy's comic books. This is a whole new thing, a totally different animal, and that's what makes it so special.

Is it safe to say that Age of Ultron is better than Marvel's The Avengers? One could argue it's not. The first movie was such a game changer that to compare it to the new one would be unfair for both. But to Age of Ultron's credit, it focused on what works, on what it does best, which is melt-your-face-off moments ripped straight out of your comic book dreams. Age of Ultron won't be elevating superhero cinema anytime soon, but when it comes to comic book movies, they don't get any bigger than this. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 17, 2015

'Star Wars' Digital Movie Collection Now Available

The hype is strong in this one.

Lucasfilm/Disney will soon release all 6 episodes of the Star Wars saga in digital HD to coincide with Star Wars Day (May 4, 2015, because May the Fourth Be With You...get it?). This, together with The Force Awakens whipping the entire Star Wars fandom into a frenzy, is making 2015 a good year to be a Star Wars fan!

Read the press release below:

STAR WARS NOW AVAILABLE ON iTUNES


For the first time ever, the empire has descended onto the digital platform in the galaxy – or at least here on Earth. The entire Star Wars Digital Movie Collection is now available for pre-order on iTunes Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

All six epic films will be fully released for purchase as a complete digital movie collection and individually. Viewers and fans alike will be able to enjoy the Star Wars Saga on their favorite devices anywhere on Star Wars Day – May the 4th.

Enhancing the movie collection are a host of never-before-seen special features including Star Wars: Discoveries from Inside and insightful Conversations between key contributors from across this celebrated film franchise, plus a curated collection of classic Star Wars extras from each film.

Don’t miss the most iconic movie collection of all time as it becomes available on Digital HD. Own the Force on May the 4th!

(Watch a trailer for the Star Wars Digital Movie Collection here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuNhZ8K4iow.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Taiwanese Model Transforms into Black Widow for Age of Ultron Event


No, that's not a mannequin. That's Amber An (安心亞), a popular Taiwanese actress and singer (and was voted World's Sexiest Woman by FHM Taiwan), cosplaying as Black Widow from Marvel's The Avengers for an Avengers: Age of Ultron press conference and exhibit in Taipei last weekend.


It's been said Amber An had a bad girl image before, which makes her transformation into Black Widow even more apt. If ever there was such a thing as an Asian Black Widow, I'd want her to look like Ms. Amber here. I mean, look at those eyes, people.



The Philippines will have a similar exhibit when Hot Toys' Age of Ultron tour arrives here in a couple of weeks. I wonder who among our local actresses can pull off a Black Widow?

Anyway, you can check out more pics of her and a 40-foot Mark 42 (!) over at Amber An's page and in Beast Kingdom's page.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Hot Toys Age of Ultron Hulkbuster will bust Hulks, Wallets



Avengers: Age of Ultron is all about going big. Hong Kong-based collectibles company Hot Toys got the memo, so they set out to make their most ambitious figure yet: the mighty Hulkbuster!

Hot Toys just unleashed some truly mouth-watering preview pics of the Hulkbuster Armor, seen in the trailers of Avengers: Age of Ultron as the armor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) uses to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)! Standing at a whopping 21 inches tall, the Hulkbuster is bigger than Hot Toys Hulk. Bigger than even a Hot Toys Iron Monger. It'll be like holding a small child. Madness.


It's got LED lights out the wazoo, and it looks articulated enough, but let's hope it's more articulated than the pics make it look, or that they can fit an entire Hot Toys Iron Man Mk.43 in there just like in the movie. It's certainly freaking imposing, though. I mean, 21 inches? That's almost 2 freaking feet tall. You could put it on a stroller like an armored baby.



Me? I'm just glad I live in a time where something as awesome as the Hulkbuster in collectible figure form exists. Check out more pics over at the official Hot Toys page.
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