Thursday, October 27, 2016

Doctor Strange Movie Review (Spoiler-Free)

Doctor Strange is my most-anticipated Marvel movie, bar none. The very look and feel of it tickles me to no end. This isn't a dude with a shield or missiles or who shrinks. This is a character who traverses possibilities and bends reality itself. I'm a sucker for characters like that, so I went in trying my best not to expect so much...but it's hard to do when you've got Benedict Cumberbatch front and center.

In what may be the most spot-on Marvel casting since RDJ as Tony Stark, Benedict shines as Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who suffers a tragic accident and loses the use of his hands, his most precious tools of the job. Desperate for a cure, Strange stumbles upon Kamar-taj, where a mysterious group of mystics led by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) "opens his mind" to reality's unlimited possibilities, turning him into a powerful magic-wielding sorcerer. But when a mysterious enemy threatens to destroy the world and let darkness swallow it whole, it's up to Doctor Strange to stop this threat no matter the cost!

It sounds like Marvel's usual movie formula because it is. To director Scott Derrickson's credit, the movie makes up for it by marrying eye-popping visuals with interesting characters. It's no secret the entire thing would not have worked if Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't cast in the role. Benedict is damn charismatic, wonderfully portraying both Stephen Strange's arrogance and vulnerability, making Strange his own rather than doing Tony Stark 2.0. The rest of the cast is made up of highs and lows. Tilda Swinton is stunningly surreal as The Ancient One, but Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecillius is too much of a walking nihilist rhetoric to be compelling. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fine as Mordo, but I wanted more out of this future Strange archenemy.

Of course, we can't talk about Doctor Strange without talking about the visuals. Inception has nothing on this thing. Doctor Strange really takes its visuals to the limit as sorcerers summon crackling mandalas in the air to shift and tilt their environment like Play-Doh in their hands. At one point, the film goes full M.C. Escher in an exciting action sequence (as was seen in the trailers) where Strange and Kaicellius give chase to each other, with their magics turning roads into ceilings and ceilings into walls. It's disorientating as all hell, but director Scott Derrickson tries his best to keep the important beats of the action front and center, so you yourself don't get lost in the movie's visual maze.

But while I loved the visuals and the acting, there's a rushed, incomplete feeling to Doctor Strange, like the movie is in a hurry to go through Strange learning of the mystic arts and facing off against the Big Bad at the end, glossing over a lot of things that make the character and his world so interesting, and ultimately leaving you wondering why the movie is over so quickly. But to its credit, I left feeling I wanted more, way more of this mystical goodness.

Despite all that, Doctor Strange didn't fail to keep me spellbound all the way to the end. Truly unlike any Marvel movie you've seen, it's safe to say that Doctor Strange is quite the fun ride, provided that you open your mind to do so.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Suicide Squad Movie Review

I don't usually call movies convoluted messes. I'm too nice for that.

But Suicide Squad is a convoluted mess.

Suicide Squad felt like fragments of scenes and plot strung together to resemble a movie. The story sluggishly stumbles from point to point, stopping only for the odd quip, sloppy action scene, or flashback (and there are LOTS of those here). At one point, the Skwad's heli got shot down with gunfire for no reason other than to make them go on foot, with no explanation as to who shot them down or why. An hour or so in, as the Skwad trudges along towards a still-unknown objective, the guy beside me in the theater whispered "Hindi ko na magets kung anong ginagawa nila (I don't get what they're doing anymore)". And I begrudgingly agreed. 

And it's tragic, because the cast obviously did their best with what they were given. Will Smith was great as Deadshot, the assassin with the heart of gold. He got most of the good lines and was front and center of some of the major action set pieces (as is tradition, since this is Will Smith, people.). Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn was cool and was a more violent and insane version of her Batman: The Animated Series character, and I admit I laughed along with the rest of the cinema with her ditzy lines. The rest? They may as well be generic mooks for what good they were for. Adam Beach literally got two lines of dialogue as Slipknot, Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang was horribly underused, and Karen Fukuhara's Katana basically walked in at the last minute, and we're supposed to care that she's crying for her dead husband?

And don't get me started on The Joker. Jared Leto's performance was unsettling at parts, downright corny in others, but he has absolutely no business in this movie other than to provide backstory for Harley Quinn in what little screen time he's given. If you're watching this for the Joker, take your expectations down a couple of notches. You'll thank me later, but then the movie devolves into a messy final fight against a Big Bad that neither puts the Squad in a good light nor makes a lick of sense, and you will totally forget about him anyway.

I really, really wanted to like this, I really did. The trailers made it look oh so awesome, but what we got was oh so not. Suicide Squad goes down as one of the many disappointing misses of the DC's burgeoning cinematic universe, and does not give me much confidence for the rest. Watch for the pew pew and Harley Quinn in booty shorts, if nothing else.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 Movie Review

Oh, I ain't afraid of the latest Ghostbusters movie.

All that vitriol over the new, female-led Ghostbusters movie has done nothing but made me even more curious, more wanting to watch it. Having seen it first-hand in all its glory, did the movie deserve all that hate?

Surprise, surprise. Absolutely not.

Know that I'm a Ghostbusters fan from waaayyy back. Love the original movies, wanted to be like Egon from the cartoons, and felt so boss as a kid with my own Proton Pack and everything. So of course I paid a ticket to see the new Ghostbusters movie. If anything, I am at least guaranteed of a few laughs with the likes of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones sharing the screen. And you know what? I had a lot of fun!

Let none say this movie ain't funny. I had laughs a-plenty throughout the movie, though I do admit some felt flat or went on too long. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy may be the comedy veterans and played the straight women well, but they just couldn't hold a candle to the comedic timing of Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, who pretty much outshone them all. 

Seriously, my girlfriend and I were both crushing on McKinnon's character Jillian Holtzmann, whose equal parts genius and crazy stole the show for us and was the source of many of the film's best moments. She was confident in her weirdness and in  her ability to make stuff that busts ghosts, and it rubbed me the right way. I would pay to watch Holtzmann dispatch ghosts in slo-mo Zack Snyder style, with smirk and aplomb, over and over again.

And really, it's the new dynamic of a femGhostbusters team that made this movie for me. They're smart. They're different. They're women. And in a world that doesn't give all of that much weight, Erin Gilbert and co. owned it. I didn't even mind that there wasn't much ghostbusting going on in this movie (if that's what you're in for, I hope the climax of the film at least sates your thirst). Their glee after barely escaping with their lives capturing their first ghost is quite infectious, and I can't help but root for them when it was time to face the Big Bad in the end.

Don't worry, Ghostbusters fans. We still have the original films and the cartoons, and nothing can take those away from us. It's not perfect, but the ladies-led version is peppered with enough funny and awesome to become a fine and welcome addition to a 30-year-old franchise. If fun is all you need for the next two hours, Ghostbusters is worth the price of a ticket.

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Week in Comics: July 22, 2016

It took a while, but I'm back in the comics-reading fold again with a mix of great and not-so-great comic books this week! What did I think about this week's releases? Read on to find out!

Justice League #1 opens up with a global catastrophic event...just like it did during their recent Rebirth one-shot. DC's big seven are reduced to boring one liners while they save people and posture menacingly at an unseen and mysterious menace, a mystery they're not giving me enough reason to care about. I've never read Bryan Hitch's writing before, but I admit it's a passable adventure, if not downright cliché. Even Tony Daniel's art, while gorgeous and wonderfully rendered, cannot save a story we've heard as recently as a couple of weeks ago. A shame, as I had high hopes for a book about DC's flagship superteam. This gets a 2 out of 5.

Oh my, Black Hammer #1 is downright atmospheric. Forced to live mundane lives after a mysterious event forced them out of their home city seemingly for good, Jeff Lemire's stranded pulp heroes (with names like Abraham Slam and Col. Weird) are anything but heroic. It makes for good drama, and Lemire knows how to write characters with huge chips on their shoulders and deeper motivations than they're letting on. Who wouldn't be pissed if you had to live like a normal person after a lifetime of superheroics? There's an unsettling undercurrent throughout the issue, which is making me itch for them to stop being mundane so that I can know what happens next, and in that aspect Black Hammer #1 worked. This gets a 4 out of 5.

I find that the beauty of Betty and Veronica #1 is in the way it's written like an actual old-school Archie comic, complete with zingy one-liners and slapstick humor. But instead of talking like the archaic stereotype of old Archie strips, writer and artist Adam Hughes writes Betty, Veronica, and the gang like the teens of today, a bit more world-weary and hip. Relateable and all that.

I admit, my main draw here is Adam Hughes' art, and I'm glad to say it blows my mind how gorgeous this book (and the ladies drawn therein) is. Care to see what Betty Cooper looks like if she was a 40's pinup? Hughes and Archie is a match made in soda pop heaven. His writing though is something to get used to, as you have to go through literally pages of banter, segues, and non sequiturs before reaching anything resembling a plot. Stay for the art, if nothing else. This gets a 4 out of 5.

Finally, Jim Zub serves up some more Street Fighter goodness in Street Fighter Legends: Cammy #1. Having had the pleasure of reading his previous work, I got a copy reserved preview unseen, and I was not disappointed! In this issue, we find Cammy leading a British special ops group called Delta Blue, consisting of former Shadaloo soldiers  (Cammy included) turned good guys. But M. Bison's evil isn't easily scrubbed clean, and Cammy finds herself coming face-to-face with the demons of her past!

Jim Zub writes a kick-ass book, with equal doses of high-octane action and cute moments (Cammy in a cute dress? I'll take 20!). It helps that Omar Dogan's manga-style art is my cup of tea, making for one of the best-looking books on the stands this week. Bottom line, Legends: Cammy #1 is simply no-frills, action-packed fun straight out of the arcade screen. I give this a 5 out of 5.

Great new comics this week! What did you get? And do you agree that Adam Hughes should just draw Archie Comics forever? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Figma Elsa is Coming

Frozen fans, have I got news for you! Good Smile Company just unveiled the latest addition to their Figma ranks, and it's the queen of Arendelle herself, Elsa

Figma Elsa looks cute, and the detail on her sheer ice cape looks stunning. She comes with snow effects and an Olaf to hug, as well as extra face plates, including a singing face so you could recreate that earworm of a song I dare not mention it here lest I be chased by angry villagers with pitchforks. Can't we all just let it go?

Whoops. I guess we can't.

Figma Elsa is slated for a December 2016 release, just in time for winter! Now that's cool! You can check out more pics over at the Good Smile Company site.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Strange Natives: The Forgotten Memories of a Forgetful Old Woman Review

Strange Natives: The Forgotten Memories of a Forgetful Old Woman was my one purchase at the recent Summer Komikon. My friend Jerico Marte is the artist for the book, and I got it as a show of support for his talent. What I wasn't ready for was how ambitious the book is.

Paolo Herras penned this tale that takes us through time, from the age of illustrados through the modern, seen through the eyes of an old woman named Grasya, who's running from a past too painful to remember.

Butterflies are a recurring theme throughout the book, which Herras uses as a metaphor for memories to great effect. Small, fleeting, harmless, memories may flutter by but may swarm and engulf us if we let it. The book transitions from the present to the past plenty and often, as the old lady is swept through her own memories and forcing us to confront them with her, which is a nice touch. It's a tough read through sometimes, as Herras sometimes digs too deep into his metaphors, but when he gets it right, the story becomes an enthralling, interesting read. There is a lot of tragedy here, a lot of painful loss...but there's also a bit of hope, and a warning of the consequences should we forget the mistakes of the past.

Jerico Marte marks his full-length comic book debut in Strange Natives, and he's firing on all cylinders. Every page is a labor (emphasis on labor) of love. Marte draws the hell out of this book, with a style that's reminiscent of vintage Aeon Flux. Herras' characters take on an otherworldly, almost dream-like feel under Marte's pencils, which is a perfect fit for the story. I have watched Jerico's art evolve through the years, and I can safely say we haven't seen him at his full potential. I can't wait to see what more he has to offer.

Strange Natives: The Forgotten Memories of a Forgetful Old Woman is a book you don't pick up on a whim. This strange, supernatural story needs you to be open for anything, to learn how to take the past and keep it close so yesterday's pain won't ruin your future.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Marvel Legends Civil War Giant-Man Series Black Panther Review

Captain America: Civil War has been rocking faces off people everywhere, in no small part thanks to its new characters, namely a certain King of Wakanda called the Black Panther! So it's no surprise that I found myself wanting a toy of this sexy beast. Enter Hasbro's Marvel Legends, who has released an action figure version of Black Panther in their Civil War tie-in wave. I was lucky enough to snap one up in my local toy store before it disappeared...and you know what that means, right? Toy review!

I am in love with this toy. One look at it and you'll know why: the sculpt is gorgeous, perfectly capturing the intricate weave detail of Black Panther's movie costume, and the silver highlights on his mask, amulet, and gauntlets are well applied. Hasbro took no shortcuts with this toy, and it shows.

Black Panther in Civil War was as limber as his feline namesake, and thankfully his articulation reflects this. When it comes to joints, Black Panther comes with the whole shebang: double jointed knees and elbows, swivel waist, ab crunch, and a neck joint with a good range of motion. There's not an angle where he doesn't look badass, whether it's getting ready to pounce on Soviet super soldiers, or going toe-to-toe with Captain America.

Black Panther comes with no accessories except an alternate unmasked head of what's supposed to be Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays T'Challa in the film. The sculpt is too soft and too cartoony to enjoy any resemblance to Boseman, but Hasbro isn't exactly known for their likenesses. Still, it's a cool addition, so you can actually display Black Panther with his helmet off to give your toy display some much-needed royalty!

Seriously, I could sing praises for this toy all day. I mean, the worst you could look out for is misapplied paint. It's not everyday Hasbro gets a Marvel Legends figure this right, so this Black Panther figure is a welcome surprise. Bandai is releasing an S.H.Figuarts version of Black Panther soon, but I dare say it's found stiff competition in Marvel Legends...and at half the price too!

Marvel Legends' Captain America: Civil War wave found its star, and it's name is Black Panther. Highly detailed and oozing with character, this toy would be the highlight of any action figure collection.

It's out in stores now, but I hear Black Panther is short-packed at one per case, making him pretty rare. And with an action figure this good, it will make him even rarer. I was very very fortunate to see one of him on the pegs, so I snapped it up knowing I might never get an opportunity like that again!

I hope you found this review useful. What did you think of Civil War? Let me know in the comment box! Thanks for reading!
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