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.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is flashier, funnier, more colorful than the first, but that may not be enough to live up to it.

James Gunn heaps upon us a double serving of everything that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy more than $700 million worldwide, from the action to the comedy to everything in between. You thought the first movie was the first dash of color for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Then prepare your retinas for some dazzlingly colorful scenery and laser-blasting action that really should be seen on the big screen to be believed!

But while everything is undoubtedly "more", GotG Vol. 2 dials down on the galaxy-saving for a more contained, intimate story about how the Guardians of the Galaxy come together as family. There's a whole lot of quaint character moments and parallels between guys like Drax (Dave Bautista) and the equally socially-inept newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and the catharsis of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula's (Karen Gillan) relationship. If family drama is not your cup of tea, there's still the threat of the golden-skinned Sovereign and the arrival of Ego (Kurt Russell hamming it up and loving it), Peter Quill's dad who's been searching for his long-lost son for decades, though he may be planning something more than quaint father-son bonding...

If you're the type of person who thinks everything Marvel Studios puts out is "Quips: The Movie", you'll find strong evidence in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, as the movie's run time gets bogged down to play out comedic scenes to cringey lengths, or dramatic moments being undermined by a throwaway quip. More jokes does not usually translate to more funny, and you'll find that your mileage may vary when going through GotG Vol. 2's seemingly endless joke assault.

Nevertheless, this movie will see its audience in the hardcore Marvel fan, who will positively delight in the metric ton of Easter eggs to the vast cosmic Marvel universe. I can't say much about them without spoiling anything, but if you know your Celestial from your Starhawk, then you have no idea how happy this movie will make you.

Oh, and if Baby Groot doesn't make you squee, I want nothing to do with you.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not live up to its predecessor's potential, but now it's got even more laughs, thrills, and nods to the greater Marvel universe to keep you entertained for two hours.

And haven't I told you enough to stay after the credits?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

It's not often that a movie is fiercely confident in what it actually is. Kong: Skull Island makes no aspirations to being anything other than the most fun you'll have at the theaters today.

Gravitas has no time or place when you're trying to survive an island where everything is actively trying to kill you, which is basically the plot of Kong: Skull Island. Here, a group of scientists and military embark on an expedition into uncharted Skull Island, but they bite off more than they can chew (as humans are wont to do) when they grab the attention of Kong, a hundred feet of ape and angry. And he's not the only dangerous thing lurking there...

Kong knows what you want, what we all want.  It's characters that are introduced in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks and emotional beats that are mercifully short to make way for a pulse-pounding tale about a big frikkin' ape. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs like a madman, giving Kong: Skull Island a frenzied, dream-like feel, keeping you on your toes as monsters bear down on its hapless cast.

Speaking of the cast, even if the movie is about Kong, the humans are still front and center of the conflict. Tom Hiddleston smolders and shines as the former SAS expert tracker and resident action man. Samuel L. Jackson as the badass warmonger with a Kong-sized chip on his shoulder is probably the most fleshed-out of all the characters here. Everyone else, from John Goodman to Brie Larson to John C. Reilly have their roles to play, which usually involve getting the hell out of the way of Kong and everything else on Skull Island.

The true breakout star here is King Kong himself. No longer the giant gorilla of yesteryear, Kong in this movie is a ferocious, massive mountain of an ape, a true force of nature unlike anything we've seen. It's absolutely satisfying seeing Kong own every scene he's in, demanding your attention as he swats Huey helicopters like gnats and battles monsters to the death. If you aren't a fan of Kong yet, this movie might just be the one to win you over.

Sure, some may say the plot is simplistic or that the characters are cookie-cutter caricatures. But you know what? We've had "serious" monster movies with "serious" themes demanding to be taken "seriously." It was high time we get a monster movie that throws a 100-foot killer ape at us in the first 10 minutes and lets us see where it goes from there. Kong: Skull Island is a hair-raising thrill ride from start to finish and a fitting return for the King of the Apes. Highly recommended!

Oh, and you owe it to yourself to stay in your damn seat for the after-credits. Thank us later.
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