May 31, 2010

[Movies] Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)Video game movies have a history for being, well, really bad. I mean seriously - we started on a really bad foot with movies like Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon (and it pains me to even mention them) and the more recent films haven't been all that better. I don't know why precisely this is the case - you think that given how much effort goes into some of the stories behind these games would translate easily into something on screen. But it just doesn't and we geeks end up suffering through these things.

Yes, no matter how bad the movie is, we still make the effort to watch it at least once.

With luck, the general advances in the video game market will lead to more robust stories there and thus less work for the filmmakers in order to translate it. With even greater fortune, we'll reach a point when they'll get so lazy that they'll give up trying to overly innovate at all and follow the games more. Until that ridiculous day, we'll have to deal with the status quo, which means Hollywood versions of video game stories with a less than desirable end result. But we get by, yes?

May 30, 2010

[Technicolor Musings] Glee: Gay-Friendly Network Television?

The role of the LGBT character on popular television has largely resided in stereotypes, as is the way of Hollywood whether we like it or not. Either they're very flamboyantly gay or they're just characters who are incidentally queer but never do anything about it. More recent examples of this phenomenon include the character of Special Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) from the now-defunct FlashForward and knife-wielding Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz) from the ever quirky SyFy series Caprica. I have nothing against the flamboyant or the stoic LGBT characters out there - one just can't help but wish for something a little more in-between and thus closer to reality.

But network TV in the US has always felt the pressure to be careful in how they handle things. Since they're on the air in a non-paid environment (as opposed to the likes of cable), all the more their choices are scrutinized by the public and of course the FCC at the same time. The last time a show with LGBT characters in the spotlight made waves was Will & Grace, which ran from 1998-2006. These days strong, note-worthy LGBT characters appear to be rather slim-pickings indeed, at least until Glee came along.

Glee: Kurt Hummel

Has Glee become our de facto queer network television show? And on FOX no less! Let's take a closer look.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen this week's episode of Glee, "Theatricality" (S01E20), then you might not want to read this discussion just yet unless you don't mind key plot points being discussed.

May 28, 2010

[Movies] Keeping Mum (2005)

Keeping Mum (2005)Good comedies are a lot harder to come by these days. Perhaps it's just me, but more and more the notion of what makes a "good" comedy has gravitated more towards the extremes of pure slapstick and gross-out humor. As much a I respect movies like There's Something About Mary, they heralded an age of comedy being less about intelligent witty writing and more and more about visual gags, uncomfortable and awkward situations and basically spending more time laughing at the characters instead of laughing with them.

Maybe I'm just being too traditional or biased or something, but I feel somewhat strongly about this. I miss comedies that new how to balance both slapstick and wit like the Mel Brooks movies or even the deadpan humor of the Airplane! and Naked Gun movies. These are not movies that are meant to change the world or anything like that but they still require you to think and keep up with the zingers being issued by the actors left and right. You just don't get that as often anymore.

Or at least, you don't get that from Hollywood anymore. There's still hope for more intelligent humor in other parts of the world.

And no, the local comedies are hardly an example of good comedy either.

May 27, 2010

[TV] Finally Leaving The Island

Lost Black WikipediaImage via Wikipedia

Well it's been a good six-year run, but we're finally leaving the island.

There's something oddly fulfilling about getting to the end of a complex and well-developed series like Lost. A lot of network shows don't get to achieve the kinds of heights this show managed without getting cancelled mid-way. It's a shame more shows don't get the same benefit when you get down to it. In that regard, we should all be thankful things got as far as they did.

It's been a few days since my partner and I watched the Lost series finale together and I'm sure that we're still not done thinking about it. It was one of those kinds of endings that just sort of sits there in your consciousness long after the actual show is over. Heck, it might take a good amount of time before I've really made up my mind about a lot of what happened. Still, I feel the urge to at least attempt to write about how I feel about the end of this journey.

May 26, 2010

[Gaming] I Miss Adventure Games

The LucasArts "golden guy" logo, use...Image via Wikipedia

Once upon a time, adventure games were all the rage. What is an adventure game, you ask? Good grief, you don't know? Travesty!

Well, I suppose I can't blame you. These days almost all the games seem to focus on first or third person shooting or some other alternative or endless variations of Grand Theft Auto. How exactly we reached this point is a bit beyond me, but that's the natural order of the gaming world for now. Adventure games are largely a thing of the past and I for one certainly lament their fall from grace.

Adventure games were at their core, stories. They were stories that were presented in a highly interactive and often fun way that involved ridiculous inventory items, crazy dialog options and puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. Ah yes, those were the good old days and I wish they'd come back in style. In the meantime, why don't we revisit some of my favorite adventure games of yore (in no particular order).

May 25, 2010

[Books] Battletech: Ideal War

Battletech: Ideal WarOne of the first PC games that I was exposed to as a kid was MechWarrior. Sure, the game was a bit too complex for my young mind to handle on my own plus it scared the heck of out me to think about piloting a mech and so my uncle would let me be his "co-pilot" when he played. He'd maneuver the mech using his flight simulator style joystick and I'd be at the keyboard reconfiguring his weapons, identifying targets related to the mission or even haggling prices for mercenary contracts. Yeah, as much as I loved robots to begin with, this really pushed me over the edge and I knew I was going to be hooked on them for life.

As I grew older and learned to appreciate pocketbooks, I soon discovered that there was a series of Battletech novels based on the universe where the MechWarrior game was set. Now I had a new way of exploring the world of these towering metal behemoths and I did my best to find every last book available. Sadly, the books weren't as popular as could be hoped and the limited bookstores at the time (this was pre-Fully Booked after all) hardly kept them in stock. Thus my collection has some pretty gaping holes, and yet I've done my best to keep them with me despite multiple moves. Plus I really do like them.

This was one of the first "new" Battletech books that I've had a chance to acquire in recent years. I found this one at a thrift shop with my partner. Ah, small geeky treasures of the bargain bin universe.

May 24, 2010

[Movies] Shrek Forever After (2010)

Shrek Forever After (2010)As bad as sequels are in general, animated sequels tend to be major tankers in terms of a film studio's budget. Animated movies that act as sequels tend to get released directly to video instead of having a big screen release like all the others, something we get a lot from the likes of Disney.

The the pattern remains - with every additional sequel, we find ourselves scratching our heads in terms of trying to figure out why the heck did they decide to add another chapter to the story. Naturally the studios want to just push potential ticket sales and generally just generate more revenue.

It's only in recent times that certain animated movies manage to break the mold and release their sequels in theaters. Of course it's not your traditional Disney tripe productions but more the kind of animated features that target both young and old markets. I guess that tends to up their market value and thus their subscriber / viewer base and thus they feel a theatrical release is a bit enough risk given their revenue goals. Ugh, this is starting to sound too technical somehow.

May 23, 2010

[Movies] Latter Days (2003)

Latter Days (2003)I've watched a fair number of LGBT movies in my time and yet I never consistently got around to writing reviews for them. As much as I'm enjoying my more editorial-style writings under the Technnicolor Musings banner of entries, I still want to get back to posting more LGBT movies reviews, if only to continue to support the industry and generate more awareness for some of the great films made.

Of course even I have to admit that a lot of LGBT movies play out like corner store romance paperbacks with very little intellectual substance and a more than liberal interpretation of nudity as an art form. You have to forgive us for such indulgences - the combined feelings of pride in just talking about gay relationships plus the glee of shocking conservative audiences never gets old. Still, there also those LGBT movies out there with a serious message to convey and a striking way of doing so.

One of the first higher quality LGBT movies that I've seen has to be this one involving none other than the infamous Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints. Yeah, now you know what I'm talking about, right?

May 21, 2010

[Movies] Chi Bi / Red Cliff (2008)

Chi Bi / Red Cliff (2008)The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, like many other ancient epics, has inspired many works beyond it. Books, movies and even video games - you name it and you'll eventually find out that it was somehow related to this epic tale. Covering the highly turbulent Three Kingdoms period at the end of the Han Dynasty, the book is rich with action, adventure, intrigue and all that good stuff.

Ironically my first encounters with the story involved the Dytasty Warriors franchise of games. The various battles and sequences involving noble heroes like Liu Bei and Zhou Yu and the cunning machinations of the traitorous Cao Cao and his massive navy. It's with some irony that I still haven't found the time to actually read the book despite how much of it that I'm already familiar with.

So when I finally heard about this movie from my brother, who is also major Dynasty Warriors fan, I knew I get to get around to seeing it.

May 20, 2010

[TV] Torchwood: Season 1

Torchwood: Season 1The revival of the Doctor Who series in 2005 has led to a few other spin-off series as a result of the show. This is perfectly understandable given (1) the sheer diversity of characters present in the show, (2) how iconic and far-reaching the Doctor Who franchise is and (3) just how much the British TV-viewing public seems to enjoy science fiction a lot more than the rest of the world (I'm looking at you US network TV!).

The thing one has to appreciate about the highly controlled environment that is British national TV is the fact that the segmentation of shows based on time is highly regulated. And thus even for a national network, one can choose to create more targetted programming based on your target audience. Children's programs are more towards the day and more adult programming can be reserved for late night viewing.

And this is how this particular show really came to be.

May 19, 2010

[Games] LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Little Big Planet (PS3)The console gaming market has seen the rise of many types of games whether we're talking about RPGs like the Final Fantasy series or shooting games like Halo. But there's one genre of games that has pretty much been a mainstay of the console market to the point of nearly being iconically related to it.

Yes, I'm talking about platform games.

Every new console has been paired with its own brand of platform game directly associated with it. The original Nintendo system had Super Mario and Mega Man. The Sega Genesis had Sonic the Hedgehog. The PlayStation 2 initially had Crash Bandicoot and even Ratchet and Clank. The list goes on and on and we've come to embrace many of these games as we became more and more attached to our respective consoles.

So naturally the PlayStation 3 had to have its own platform game and the developers certainly decided to raise the bar this time.

May 18, 2010

[Comics] Ang Kagila-gilasis na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah

It's only rather recently that I've finally started to give the local comic book scene more attention beyond my weak forrays into more Filipino-aligned comic book titles like the US-released Stone: the Awakening back in 1998. Naturally my comic book loving partner plays a big role in this, and I'm certainly not complaining given some of the more interesting pieces that I've had the opportunity to read.

One of the more prominent local comic book characters amongst the LGBT demographic is Zsazsa Zaturnnah. For the unaware, Zsazsa is your Wonder Woman style heroine whose alter ego is that of a simple yet highly effeminate gay beautician. As popular has Zsazsa is though, I have to admit that I only got to hear about the character when her story was already being translated into a musical production and a movie, which seems weird given my gay geeky leanings. I'm not sure how this happened but that just how things go.

So when the opportunity to read the full story came along, I totally went for it. Given by now I have already had a chance to see both the stage musical and the weird musical movie that it inspired in turn.

May 17, 2010

[Movies] The Box (2009)

The Box (2009)I will never understand why the notion of a short story being adapted to film tends to scare me more than it excites me. I guess there's just something short stories that tends to involve significant re-writing or Hollywood "enhancement" in order to make up the full movie run time. There are cases when the short story provides enough of a background to justify a movie but thus tends to be the exception more than the rule.

When adapting a short story into a full-length movie, you either embellish the portrayal with lots of dramatic shots and tension-building moments in order to eat up the time. Or you try the character enhancement route by fleshing out the players more and giving them more back story than existed originally. Then there's the addition of new plot threads that either run in parallel with the main arc or extend beyond the original ending of the story. The more radical efforts to come up with enough material for a movie tend to have more unpredictable results in terms of the final product.

This was definitely one of those times when I was pretty disappointed with how he movie turned out, especially given the talent behind it. This probably stresses the point that success is not at all formulaic nor is it easily repeated.

May 16, 2010

[Technicolor Musings] The Question of Coming Out

Coming out the ClosetImage by StephenMcleod - time for nudes? via Flickr

The day a gay man or woman finally leaves the happy lands of Narnia is always a big day, regardless of the circumstances. You can be as feminine as a Southern Belle or as flamboyant as a cheap noontime host but people will still deny that you're queer until they actually hear it from you directly. This is why coming out is such a significant and personal experience and one that should never be taken lightly.

Many feel that coming out isn't necessary in order to demonstrate gay pride these days and I can understand why. Living in the closet means we tend to invest in our nesting environment and thus we enrich our personal Narnias with the trappings of nobility, career advancement or love of family. We have a million and one reasons for keeping up the lie and we've gotten used to how we our closeted lives. We know it's not right and it's not true but it is what it is and we've become content. It's like learned helplessness - you know, the bit about the bird who won't fly out of an open bird cage.

In this week's Technicolor Musings, let's take a closer look at whether or not it's worth it to leave Mr. Tumnus and his oddly intriguing fuzzy treasure trail for the land beyond the wardrobe. Is it worth it to come out? Why should we still leave the closet? What difference does coming out make?

May 14, 2010

[Movies] Superstar (1999)

Superstar (1999)It's always fun when semi-popular actors and actresses make cameos or appearances in highly publicized movies or top rated TV shows for no particular reason. They don't need to be key to the plot's progress or anything like that. They just need to show up and instantly the trigger memories of their other works and characters portrayed.

I felt that way when I watched Glee the other day and caught the appearance of Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon. She was always pretty quirky during her SNL days and at the time I loved her work on the show tremendously. She had the joy of portraying some of the more insane characters on the show and certainly made a mark on TV history that way.

In terms of movies, there's one that always stands out when it comes to her and of course it had to be the one based on one of her more popular SNL sketches.

May 13, 2010

[TV] The New Doctor Who: Series 4

Doctor Who: Season 4The Doctor Who series of shows is known for a lot of changes. If this were any other show, then one could argue that any changes in casting would be a disaster for the show. But this is Doctor Who, a series that managed to write casting changes into the very nature of the universe.

As much as a change in who plays the Doctor is a significant thing, many tend to disregard the role of the companion in things. Companions change around a lot more than the Doctor and their function remains key since they represent the audience in these things. They're the average people dragged along for the ride and all the fantastic adventures that the Doctor manages to get into across the far reaches space until the very ends of time itself.

This was definitely one of those times when I wasn't all too sure about this particular shift in the role of the companion for the Doctor. But then by the end I was proven wrong. Shows what I know, eh?

May 12, 2010

[Games] Katamari Forever (PS3)

Katamari Forever (PS3)Every now and then, a game comes along that totally changes the market for players. Maybe it's because of a breakthrough in terms of the graphical rendering engine. Or perhaps it's because of a wonder character that everyone just falls in love with. In the end it's more than likely that it's all about the gameplay and that's what makes a game just work.

I'm not a very demanding gamer. With how busy my real life is especially with work, I tend to gravitate towards games that are more casual in nature. You know what I mean - the kind of games that you can pick up for 30 minutes to an hour and then leave again. I love a good involving RPG here and there, but most of the time I need something simple that challenge my brain but doesn't demand too much from it.

One of the games that has always accomplished this particular goal for me has always been the Katamari Damacy franchise. And so when I found out there was a chapter that had been released for the PS3, I knew I had to get it.

May 11, 2010

[Books] After Dark

After DarkHaruki Murakami became one of my favorite articles after one of my best professors in college introduced me to his books. I'll forever be grateful to her for going above and beyond just teaching a basic writing class. She turned it into a whole lot more as enriched by some major pieces of good modern literature.

Murakami's books are far from easy to comprehend when you get down to it. His characters are diverse and highly unusual such as psychic prostitutes and men dressed as sheep. His plots are bizarre and sometimes disturbing whether it involves a mad search for a missing cat or a plot to destroy the world.

But what is always consistent is his particular style and approach to putting these stories together. He has an amazing gift for alternative description techniques. Plus he really knows how to build characters and establish amazing stories through dialog. Seriously, I envy him for the kind of scenes and conversations he manages to create. Plus there's the genius that is Jay Rubin, who manages to translate Murakami's words while somehow preserving his genius prose.

May 10, 2010

[Philippines] Elections 2010

Well, today's the big day. By the time this entry publishes, thousands of Filipinos will already be at the polling stations around the country demonstrating that democracy still lives. Sure, our politics are insanely messy, if not entertaining, but it is what we have and we have to concede that we're still a lot better off than some other countries out there.

I largely try not to get too involved with the local political scene apart from the occasional commentary. I guess I'm pretty much jaded in that manner - I've reached a point in my thinking where I don't really care about who's in charge of the country more since it feels more like a "same shit, different day" kind of thing. We get all worked up about who is going to win as president and then the groups will form against the president but in the end, we'll just get by as we always do.

It's both cynical and practical in that sense, but it's me for now and I'm not going to apologize for it. But don't get me wrong, I'm not proud of it either.

So in commemoration of today's elections, here's a run down of my concerns about this year's elections.

May 9, 2010

[Technicolor Musings] So Who's The Girl?

Icon of man and man holding hands (SVG conversion)Image via Wikipedia
We've made a lot of progress in recent years for gender equality concerns in terms of better representing women, ethnic minorities and even members of the LGBT community. While progress is different per country (or even per state), it's still safe to say that things have gotten better as compared to 10-20 years ago. Let's face it - we live in a period of history when people are concerned about discrimination more than ever before. The term "politically correct" carries a veiled threat with it, a reminder of what is now considered to be "acceptable" in terms of behavior in public or with people outside of your family circle. You know the drill.

But this isn't going to be a lengthy piece about the state of LGBT rights in the local scene or the hopes of gay marriage legislation coming to be in the Philippines anytime soon. Oh no, this is going to be about something a lot closer to home.

For this week's Technicolor Musings, we're going to discuss that fateful question that everyone one of us is bound to get the moment we declare we're in a relationship. Yes, it's THAT question, one of the more annoying and insensitive ones but it always pops up.

"So who's the 'girl'?"

May 7, 2010

[Movies] The Storm Riders (1998)

The Storm Riders (1998)As much as we all appreciate Western action movies now embracing martial arts more and more, there's nothing quite like watching "kung-fu movies" that hail from Hong Kong itself. What is it about the Hong Kong movie industry that produces just fun movies time and time again may be one of the greater mysteries of our times, but it remains to be something you can count on.

As much as the more recent Hong Kong action movies are pretty dazzling in terms of special effects and the like, revisiting the older movies even just ten years back present one with a startling difference in terms of how the movies were made. I guess technological advances have reshaped a lot of movie making, and not just in Hollywood.

Hong Kong movies are widely diverse and are of inconsistent quality. Some are totally amazing and mind-blowing in terms of their impact. Others leave you scratching your head and wondering if you missed the point of the story because of some cultural misunderstanding or something. Still, it's always an interesting adventure to take and the results tend to be favorable one way or another.

May 6, 2010

[TV] The New Doctor Who - Series 3

Doctor Who will always be many different things to different people depending on when you first started watching the series. More recent viewers will probably remember a lanky, pale-faced Doctor running around the world in a trench coat. Older viewers will remember a much older Doctor or perhaps one who has a very long scarf or a piece of celery pinned to his shirt. The brilliance of this show is its creative writing and its diversity given that the Doctor is allowed to "regenerate" into different actors over the years.

Another consistent element to the series involves the revolving door of the Doctor's companions - mostly human beings who somehow get entangled in things and get dragged along for adventures with the time-travelling Doctor. The companion remains a key piece in making Doctor Who work as a series since for the most part they are the advocates / representatives of the audience. Plus they often serve the purpose of grounding the Doctor when he becomes too, well, alien at time.

This season introduced yet another companion to the long history of companions for the Doctor and on a personal note is how I'll always remember the series when I think of Doctor Who.

May 5, 2010

[Games] Dynasty Warriors 6 (PS3)

Dynasty Warriors 6 (PS3)Sequels are a lot easier to realize when it comes to the world of games. I know I rant a lot about how movie sequels have a very big chance of being bad but it's not quite the case when it comes to games for some reason.

I guess it's because with games, it's really more of giving us more levels or better items as based on the original game engine. Game developers know not to deviate too far away from the original game concept and just add little innovations here and there. Of course given the fickle-mindedness of the game-playing population we either love the new addition to the gaming world or we complain that's just a rehash of the older edition and is not worth playing. Or worse, we complain the game has grown too far away from the original and the elements that made it fun the first time around just didn't come out well anymore. You know how it is.

This is one of those game franchises that has innovated very little over the years but I'm glad that it largely remains the same. A lot of game reviewers have criticized the series for its supposed lack of creativity over the years, but it's still a great game to kill time with.

May 4, 2010

[Comics] Books of Magic

Books of MagicThe DC Comics universe has always been rich with magical characters and entities. Magic has always been their answer to extraterrestrials or superpowers in general as best exemplified by Superman's vulnerability to magic in general. I've always appreciated this nuance to the DC universe since it adds a nice flavor to things that somehow bridges older fairy tales with the modern world.

The Vertigo line of comic books under DC have further explored the worlds of magic and fantasy with their own unique stories. The more adult comic book world of Vertigo has always been a natural draw for tales of the occult, of demons and other things of dark magic. So it made all the more sense when DC would try to integrate some of its "mainstream" characters from the primary DC books into the somewhat alternate world of Vertigo.

This was definitely one of the more interesting convergences and I'm glad I finally got to read this collection.

May 3, 2010

[Movies] Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2In the movie world, sequels are just slightly above remakes in the entertainment food chain. Sequels are frustrating since we can't help but hope for the best at times but then statistically you stand about a 40% chance of it being a good movie and a 15% chance it's better than the first one.

But those are just my estimates, mind you. Feel free to disagree.

Despite the odds being against us, there are just those movies that get us extremely excited and actually make us hope for a sequel. I'm not saying that every single movie inspires that kind of thinking, but you know what I mean. There's an unwritten genre of movies that scream "a sequel is possible" and they tend to action or adventure movies and sadly enough some comedies. But that's life for you.

As far as sequels, this was definitely not one of the bad ones. No, not at all.

May 2, 2010

[Technicolor Musings] Positions of Authority

The Bisexual flag and Gay flag put together (A...Image via Wikipedia

As part of my considerations related to creating a new LGBT-focused blog separate from the Geeky Guide, I thought I'd experiment a bit more how these entries might sound like. Instead of just the usual reviews or reactions to major new items related to gay issues, I want to be able to talk more about my day-to-day experiences as a gay geeky guide living in the city. I'm sure it's not exactly a new story to tell, but it's my story to tell and something that I don't necessarily get to cover in my personal blog over on LiveJournal.

I'll be calling these entries my "Technicolor Musings" for now as inspired by my partner's suggestion to work the rainbow concept into the title in a geekier way. Should this actually become a full independent blog, I can think about the permanent title around by then.

So without further ado, the first ever Technicolor Musings post.

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