Saturday, May 24, 2014

4 Reasons Why I Want NEXCON to Succeed

NexCon Manila, touted as "the ultimate celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy", is a week away, and I'm cautiously optimistic. Genre conventions here in the Philippines that aren't anime- or cosplay-centric are few and far between, and what little we do get often fizzle out, never to be heard from again (except for legacy cons like Komikon).

But my nervousness hides the fact that I think NexCon is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Not even joking. Never have I ever wanted a convention to succeed as I do right now. And I have four good reasons why I desperately want it to:


I've always envied my Western brethren with their SDCCs and NYCCs, with fans paying major cash to go to a convention where they get to see their comic book and movie idols live and even talk to them via panel discussions and the like. NexCon will be offering the same thing in its CINEMA FANTASTICA, MEET THE TALEWEAVERS and KOMIKS REBORN panels that will feature some of the most popular writers, komikeros and directors in the industry. Guys like Marvel artist Leinel Yu and On the Job director Erik Matti in one place talking about their passions? That's something worth paying good money for. Which brings me to my next point...


I remember one time paying for a convention's entrance fee just to get in, since I was curious at what the con had to offer and also had to meet with friends. After an hour of walking around and not finding anything, I walked out and realized I just payed good money to walk around for a couple of minutes.

NexCon's entrance fees include panel discussions, trivia contests, cosplay and more, and you can choose which ones to opt into when you pay. You're not just paying to get inside a con're getting something good out of your well-earned cash. It's that kind of 'bang for your buck' mentality that I wish more conventions here have.

And speaking of things I wish we had more of...


Anime and cosplay conventions abound here in the Philippines, and while I'm as much an anime fan as a comic book fan (I used to be a common sight in anime conventions during my time as a writer for HeroTV), sometimes too much of the same thing gets stale fast. NexCon is awesome because it's focused on fantasy and sci-fi from TV and film, something the convention scene hasn't seen in a long while, which I hope NexCon remedies. I've seen the passion people here have for their fandoms, from Sherlock to Star Wars, from komiks to Doctor Who, and I feel there should be a con we could actually call our own.

But the most important reason why I want NexCon to succeed is simple:


I've been going to cons for the past decade, and I've seen enough of the same conventions to last me a lifetime.  I think the Philippine fan convention scene needs something different, and a purely sci-fi and fantasy convention might do just the trick. It's a risk, surely, but the idea of a new bar being set for conventions in the country is enough to make me excited for what the future brings!

It's hard to manage expectations when a convention like NexCon is just around the corner. As we speak my Eleventh Doctor costume is itching to be worn among friends and fellow fans...and I'm hoping there would be more NexCons for me to do so!

Now repeat after me: pleasebeawesomepleasebeawesomepleasebeawesome...

...or I could go there and make it so. :)

NexCon Manila happens this May 31 to June 1, 2014 at the Bayanihan Center, Pasig City, Philippines. Tons more info about their activities over at their official site.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four Things from the New GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Trailer

So Marvel has unleashed the new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer upon us, and it's fueled not only the hype train but the speculation train as well. Aside from making me froth at the mouth for the premiere, it also shed some light into some interesting things about the upcoming movie. Well, four things to be exact!


Sure the trailer had lots of fantastic imagery, but I kept going back to that big brute with knives Drax, played by Dave Bautista, also known as the WWE wrestler Batista. He was one of my favorite wrestlers in my impressionable teen years, so to see him get equal screen time with a cast that's brimming with heavyweights like Academy Award-winner Benicio del Toro and Academy Award nominees like Glenn Close and Bradley Cooper is amazing!


Comic book fans' eyes probably went wide at the sight of that gigantic floating head in the trailer, and for good reason: it's a reference to Knowhere, the Guardians of the Galaxy's headquarters in the comics! First appearing in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Nova #8, Knowhere is awesome by virtue that it's the decapitated head of a Celestial, one of the biggest and most powerful races in Marvel's cosmic pantheon. The jury's out whether the head in the trailer is of a Celestial or if there is such a thing as a Celestial in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the fact that they put it in there is making me giddy!


We finally see a clear shot of Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Kree bad ass and main baddie of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Despite ditching his green threads for bad-guy black, the Universal Weapon hammer that Pace is wielding is undeniably Ronan's! It's accusin' time!


One blink-and-you-miss-it shot in the trailer showed someone's hand (possibly Ronan's?) grasping strange purple energy. Given that the Collector (Benicio del Toro) is in the movie, and given that one of the Infinity Gems in the comics is colored purple, could it be possible that that energy thing is one of the Infinity "Gems" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Only time will tell.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is quite the gamble for Marvel, what with all the relatively unknown characters, but the awesome stuff we saw in the trailer gives me hope that we're about to see Marvel's cosmic renaissance very soon.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters August 1, 2014.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla 2014 Movie Review

I remember watching the Emmerich and Devlin's Godzilla in cinemas when I was a kid, and I remember my kid brain being happy with how it turned out. Little did I know that I could have had better, that I could have had a Godzilla as his Japanese creators envisioned him.

Fast forward to 2014, and Gareth Edwards' Godzilla has stomped into theaters. Expectations are high, and a lot is riding on this monster of a remake. Is it time for the King of Monsters to make his triumphant comeback to American screens?

Yes it is.

When ancient creatures dubbed MUTOs awaken from their millennial-old slumber, they threaten to send humanity to extinction. Our only hope lies not in man-made weapons, but in a legendary monster whose sole purpose is to restore balance to the world. His name: Godzilla!

Delayed gratification is the name of Godzilla's game. Throughout the first half of the movie we are teased with Godzilla's presence, building up anticipation to the point where I'm literally bracing for when Godzilla appears. When the Big G's foot stomps into the frame for the first time, even the people in the film go silent. He's here. My god, he's here.

And then he does his iconic roar. The cinema reverberates from the sheer force of the sound. And for the first in a long while, I was actually scared to see a huge monster on a movie screen.

There's a underlying tone of helplessness throughout the movie, which is what makes director Gareth Edwards' remake of Godzilla work. 2014 Godzilla is a force of nature, akin to a hurricane or a tsunami. Even his origins are a mystery. He's not some irradiated iguana or anything...Godzilla here is a primordial being from an unknown part of pre-history who only arrives when nature is out of balance, and his fantastical origins only serve to underline how totally unprepared humanity is for Godzilla or the MUTOs. All our swagger and high-powered weapons are rendered impotent by sheer virtue of Godzilla's presence, and we can only watch in horror as these gigantic beasts level cities in their wake, making for powerful imagery. 

Speaking of which, Godzilla here is a towering chunk of visual awesome. No more tiny Zilla...2014 Godzilla is given the regal size he deserves. But this legendary monster isn't just about size. Gareth Edwards seems to know this, so he throws in some of Godzilla's signature moves, including an iconic one that you have to see for yourself!

Despite having more screen time than Godzilla, the human element doesn't detract from the awesomeness. Bryan Cranston delivers a powerful performance as grieving engineer Joe Brody, and Ken Watanabe does "introspective Japanese scientist" well as Dr. Serizawa (old-school fans of Godzilla would smile at this nod). The only low points in the acting department are Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, playing army husband and wife Ford and Elle Brody respectively. They seemed to be the only two people who didn't get the memo that there's big freakin' monsters destroying the world, and their subdued acting sells the movie's premise short.

As I sat in the cinema, I couldn't help but want more of Godzilla here. Big G's screen time is woefully short (depending on how much of a fanboy you are). Even Pacific Rim had more monster screen time. But what little we do get is glorious. Godzilla's battles with the MUTOs are literally pulse-pounding, filling the screen with enough monster vs. monster violence to keep any kaiju fan satisfied. I do wish the movie fights were lit brighter though, as the 3D glasses I wore made everything dark and hard to see. If you've got eye problems like me, you're better off watching 2D to see everything as its meant to be seen.

It may have its shortcomings, but I'm thankful that Godzilla has its metric-ton heart in the right place. Movie fans new to this legendary kaiju are in for a treat, while old-school fans of the Big G can finally stand up and say "Now that's Godzilla!" 

The King of Monsters is back. All hail the king!

Monday, May 12, 2014

NBC's Constantine Trailer: DC Doing Something Right?

NBC just unveiled their first trailer of Constantine, based on DC Comics' popular mystic and star of the Hellblazer comics, and I am blown away.

I'm not blown away by its awesomeness (I've been burned by first impressions before), but by the fact that DC has gone out of their way to make John Constantine look like, well, John Constantine. No "updating for modern audiences", no "let's make him American coz focus groups" shit. The dude has the trench, the hair and the swagger Constantine is supposed to have. And he's British now! I'm surprised DC has so much restraint.

Even CW's Flash, another upcoming DC Comics-based superhero show, has Grant Gustin (Barry Allen in another CW series, Arrow) running around in an honest-to-goodness custom costume. With lightning ears. Even Marvel thought Captain America's wing ears looked silly.

Counting CW's Arrow, that's going to be three comic book-based TV shows with costumes close to the source material!

With the running joke (hee!) being that DC has this underlying cynicism about superheroes in their live-action properties,(or at least grounding them in reality too much as to make them unrecognizable), it's surprising to see that these TV shows are at least coming out with costumes that are pretty faithful to the comics they're based on. It's not much to make people start thinking that DC is gonna do fun comic book movies or TV shows now, but it's a start. DC is owning TV right now, and it feels pretty good.

We still won't get a Wonder Woman movie, though.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Movie Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an interesting exercise. People have already seen Spider-Man movies done, and you can only distance yourself so far from the original trilogy (already awfully close to the source material) until you become something else can you make that better?

It seems director Marc Webb knows where to start: Spider-Man himself. Or at least, his alter-ego.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) seems to have it good in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He's fully embraced his superheroic role as Spider-Man and he's madly in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). But the mystery of his parents' disappearance still hangs over his head, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it. With the appearance of a new threat in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returning with a few secrets of his own, all roads lead to one place: Oscorp.

Like a spider's web, everything's connected in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as the mystery of Peter's past ties into everything we know about his life so far. Unfortunately, it takes a toll on the movie's focus as it juggles and jumps onto so many plot points that it muddles the already murky waters being treaded by this reboot. The movie spends an awful lot of time making the obvious connections between Oscorp and Peter's parents that by the time of the big revelation, it becomes underwhelming that not even Garfield's charm can make us care about it.

Even Harry Osborn himself is a casualty of this mystery, his role feeling almost tacked on as an afterthought. His eventual transformation as Spidey's arch-nemesis feels corny and rushed, and it's disappointing that a talent like DeHaan's is relegated to horror make up, an annoying laugh, and criminally short screen time.  Jamie Foxx's Electro fared better, though, with a cool design and an even cooler display of powers that give Spider-Man the sort of challenge that definitely puts him in a whole lot of danger and pain, even if he's reduced to a one-dimensional final boss for Spider-Man to beat.

With enemies of this caliber, we get twice the Spidey action this time around.  The Amazing Spider-Man thwips and zips around the movie in copious amounts, and the added bonus of spectacular first-person views is sure to rock the faces of any comic book fan (I know it did mine!). The action scenes in particular are dazzling displays of superheroic athletics that will, quite literally, keep you on the edge of your seat! If you've ever wanted to know how it feels to be Spider-Man (minus the sucky life), your dream comes true right now.

But amidst the darkness and the pain, at the heart of the movie is Peter Parker, who has grown into a deeper, more complex character thanks in no small part to the dramatic chops of Andrew Garfield. He comfortably carries the emotional weight needed to portray a Peter Parker torn between his personal happiness, his heroic responsibility, and his thirst to uncover the truth of his past. Garfield make's Peter's pain palpable, believable, and his excitement for being a superhero infectious, and it rubs off on his co-stars too. It's electrifying to watch.

And it's not because of Electro. The highlight of the film is the sizzling chemistry of Peter and Gwen, with Garfield's arresting smile and Stone's flirty looks sending sparks flying at you whenever they're on-screen. It feels so natural that you can't help but root for them both and, if you're a fan of the Spider-Man comics,  dread about what's going to happen next.

All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fun and hopeful movie under all that dark and heavy. This may not have been the Spider-Man movie we wanted, but it gave us the Spider-Man we needed. With lots of action, lots of heart, and a Spider-Man you and I can finally relate to, the latest installment in The Amazing Spider-Man movie franchise wins more than it loses.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in theaters now.

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