Oct 31, 2017

[Videos] Of Monsters and Zombies

By now you folks should realize that I've come to enjoy the various 107 Facts videos by ChannelFrederator and it's affiliated channels on just about any topic. I have a particular love for the ones about cartoons and particular video game franchises and today's blog post sort of celebrates that fact.

Through a sheer coincidence of timing of new videos on ChannelFrederator and The Leaderboard  has resulted in two great videos over the weekend about two subjects of a good amount of interest to me.

107 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Facts YOU Should Know! - Nickelodeon Cartoon Facts! (107 Facts S7 E21)

107 Plants Vs Zombies Facts YOU Should Know | The Leaderboard

Oct 30, 2017

[TV] Guardians of the Galaxy: Season 1 Review

Like many other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been re-positioned to also appeal younger audiences through an animated TV series. We had seen the same treatment applied to the Avengers before them and clearly Disney changing the core playbook.

The Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon largely follows the characters established in the movie franchise but with touches of the older comic book series in terms of supporting characters. Thus it's an odd mix of the old and the new and I rather enjoyed it.

It's not the best cartoon out there, and I often feel this way about Marvel's animated ventures on TV and home video. But it's close enough to remain fun and that's not something to be sneezed at. But at the same time there were rather shallow bits, which were a natural consequence of being a show marketed towards children but that always feels like a shame. After all the Guardians initially felt a lot grittier during their 2008 relaunch and I still look for that vibe when I encounter properties related to them.

Oct 27, 2017

[Movies] Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Review

Not every character in the Avengers movies have their own movie franchise, but Thor has managed to maintain his own part of the MCU. But he's not quite a tier 1 Avenger in a manner of speaking but he does have a decent enough following. The first two movies in the franchise have been fairly serious and perhaps crafted in a manner to make them seem more regal or Shakespearean.

Thor: Ragnarok took a very different track and crafted a movie that may be funnier than the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. They capitalized on the few good one-liners that Thor had been given in prior movies to build a story that was a lot lighter but certainly still tied to the roots of the character's comic book history in different ways.

As always the MCU movies aren't about a need to be accurate with respect to the comic book source material or even the Norse myths that inspired the comics. They're their own creative enterprise and this may be the new direction that the franchise needed.

Oct 26, 2017

[Books] Star Wars Books to Read Before The Last Jedi (Star Wars Explained)

The new Star Wars canon continues to grow with the many books and comic books that are being released to fill up the void left by the shifting the old Expanded Universe material to Star Wars Legends.

For people newer to the franchise or wanting to get into the books for the first time, the sheer amount of material out there even without factoring in Legends is rather daunting. Thankfully folks like the Star Wars Explained YouTube channel either help summarize interesting facts from the various books or make great focused lists on what you should read.

And with the new movie The Last Jedi coming out at the end of the year, they've put together a good list of titles for you to read precisely to prepare you for the new movie. Enjoy and feel free to toss in your own ideas in the comments.

Eight Star Wars Stories to Experience Before The Last Jedi

Oct 25, 2017

[Movies] King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Review

Our recent venture into the RPG world of Pendragon indirectly required us to review applicable media that have attempted to re-tell various parts of the Arthurian legends. And thus I spent one of my nights in Singapore re-watching the Hallmark production of Merlin and later on Tobie and I watched this movie together.

Now Tobie and I weren't expecting much from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword as the reviews seemed to be significantly negative. But we were curious enough to look into it and try to explore what was unique about this re-telling, and boy did we get a pretty different take on things!

This is by no means an effort to accurately portray the classic stories as that's not often the style of movies these days. This was meant to be a flashier, amped up version of things with more complex fight scenes and dizzying special effects. And while we got that, the resulting story was a little confusing and perhaps Arthurian only in name.

Oct 24, 2017

[Books] The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur Book 2) Review

I read The Quantum Thief back in 2012 and absolutely loved the book. It was refreshingly clever with a lot of bold ideas driving it and a narrative that was both complex yet gripping. It presented some very forward-thinking ideas in a bold and creative way. But one thing led to another and it took a while to get around to reading the next book in the series.

Enter: The Fractal Prince, the second book in the series that I finally got a copy of as a birthday gift 2 years ago. And yet still more details until I finally got to read it. No regrets wither way - it's a book worth waiting for but at the same time the complexity of these titles isn't something I'd rush into right away.

This book really builds on the universe of the first book and takes it to an even crazier level. Now it's never a good idea to just dive into a complex science fiction book like this about 5 years after reading the first book but I'm pretty sure it would still be complex even 5 minutes after finishing the first book. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your reading preferences and your exposure to harder science fiction, but the payoff can certainly be worth it.

Oct 23, 2017

[Movies] Sing Street (2016) Review

It's easy to be distracted by the extreme examples of any movie genre. Action movies are getting louder and more explosive. Dramatic pieces tend to involve a lot more shouting or more debilitating crying over disasters. Comedies hit both high and low in an effort to get a laugh for any reason. And all that can be a lot of noise and result in a lot of crappy movies.

Then every now and then you get something that's just poignant and almost distinct  because of its relatively understated nature. And that's how I feel about Sing Street as a movie experience. This is not an in your face musical but music is certainly at the center of its story. It doesn't feature well-known faces but it does have quite endearing talent involved.

At its core it's a simple story about young love. But then it's also so much more and how it all comes together is what makes this such a special movie. My only regret is that it took me so long to get around to watching this movie despite sporadic social media mentions praising it.

Oct 20, 2017

[Books] Yes Please Audible Review

My Audible biographical journey continues and I continue to enjoy the overall experience. Seeing the world through the eyes of other (famous) people is certainly one way of looking at things and its easy to come to appreciate what insights they have to share. Plus choosing to stick to audio books read by the author is proving to be a most rewarding experientially speaking.

Yes Please is the autobiography of the Saturday Night Live veteran Amy Poehler, a truly funny woman whose work I've come to love and appreciate over the years. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this piece, which was really an admission of not knowing much about her beyond her professional work.

But once I got into it I was quickly hooked by her often practical insights on a wide variety of subjects all presented in a relatively humorous manner when appropriate. This book is a gem.

Oct 19, 2017

[Movies] Justice League Spinners at 7-Eleven

Because fidget spinners are still a thing, at the very least it's nice to see interesting marketing tie-ups for the crazy little distractions. And given 7-Eleven's long history of some great movie tie-up promotional items, they now have a new line of exclusive fidget spinners for the Justice League movie debuting in the Philippines this November.

To find out how you can get your hands on these fidget spinners, check out the official press release after the jump:

Oct 18, 2017

[Movies] Kong: Skull Island (2017) Review

On lazy nights Tobie and I watch movies we didn't bother catching at the theater since we didn't feel they were worth it. These are also nights when we aren't just going to watch a movie but instead we're probably going to work on our respective computers or even play games while passively watching the movie in the background.

I'm just trying to frame this review in the context of our level of commitment to watching this movie as we knew it wasn't going to be all that great. After all, the 2005 effort to reboot the franchise wasn't quite ideal so it was hard to expect more out of Kong Skull Island when it came out. Plus it's a part of the weird effort to create a shared cinematic universe among monster movies together with the also somewhat off-tone 2014 Godzilla movie.

At this point I'm very concerned with this mad dash by various movie companies to develop their own cinematic universes. Sure the folks at DC need to play catch up, but now you have Legendary Entertainment trying to make this MonsterVerse as Universal is trying to come up with their Dark Universe.

Oct 17, 2017

[TV] Mr. Robot on iflix

iflix has signed some great content deals in recent months, proving that the service is set to become a key source of entertainment in the region. Beyond the amazing deal made with Disney/ABC, they've also confirmed that the third season of the thrilling drama Mr. Robot will air exclusively on iflix within 24 hours of its US broadcast. It's a great deal and you can also catch up with the first two seasons via iflix as well.

The official press release can be found below after the jump:

Oct 16, 2017

[TV] BoJack Horseman: Season 1 Review

In my efforts to (1) make the most of our Netflix subscription and (2) find things to watch that Tobie may not necessarily watch, I ended up exploring the odd, often depressing world of BoJack Horseman. It didn't feel like a show that I'd get into at first based on the initial episodes but then things just sort of worked out.

It's important to note that this is not a typical comedy and it's definitely not a run-of-the-mill cartoon. If anything, it's a serious comedy drama piece that just happens to be animated. It's quite adult in tone but not always in a shallow, low brow humor sort of vein. And the subtle integrity of the show is really what helped save it and kept me on board.

By the time I'm writing this review, I'm pretty committed to the show. It's definitely not something I'd easily recommend to other people but it is a show that I've come to enjoy during my late nights of blogging and messing around the internet. It's a show with a lot to say and a deliberately messy way of delivering that message such that it remains comedic but then again it's really not just that.

Oct 13, 2017

[Movies] Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Review

The original Blade Runner became a cult classic soon after release even though a lot of people weren't quite sure what they had just experienced. In many ways the movie helped define the aesthetic for cyberpunk and inspired many other stories of a similar nature. At the same time there have been several different cuts of the movie resulting in very different interpretations of the ending.

Blade Runner 2049 is the big sequel that I don't think any of us expected really and it was hard to believe that it was actually happening until it finally happened. I think I was still suspending belief until the movie actually began playing in the theater.

As much as it felt like it was more likely that they'd create yet another cut of the original movie, but we did get an official sequel. And it's a pretty good one, but it's also one that assumes you at least watched the first movie or are well-invested in the lore somehow. It's great that it was uncompromising in that sense but it's also daunting for non-fans given that fandom barrier.

But when it works it works pretty well.

Oct 12, 2017

[Movies] Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer 2

So a new trailer for The Last Jedi finally hit the internet and it's quite the doozy. A lot of folks argue that it's super spoilery and gives away too much of the plot, but of course a lot of trailers feel this way. But I'd like to think that the folks behind the movie's marketing know well enough how to cut a trailer using material from the first 30 minutes of the movie to make it look pretty epic. Even with sample from later parts of the movie, you know they're not going to give anything away.

Plus you can't escape all the new Pokemon memes going around the internet.

So for you viewing pleasure, enjoy geeking out on the second trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer (Official)

And if you're feeling up to it, here's the Star Wars Explained dissection of the video with a good preamble about how trailers like this often try to throw you off the scent of the actual plot. It's good stuff.

The Last Jedi Trailer Breakdown and Analysis

Oct 11, 2017

[Movies] Victoria & Abdul (2017) Review

There's a special place in my movie-loving heart for Dame Judi Dench. As is often joked on the Tracy Ullman Show, she's "a national treasure" for her contributions to cinema. She's a brilliant actress, a real class act and  rather skilled at portraying British monarchs for one reason or another.

Victoria & Abdul once again casts her in the role of a Queen Victoria with a focus on her unique relationship with one Abdul Karim. As the movie is presented as a lighter piece of entertainment, it doesn't quite go too deeply into the more negative aspects of this relationship and how the Royal Household responded to his presence.

While not necessarily historically accurate, this move remains an interesting exploration of this friendship and perhaps a celebration of it as well. Fact may be stranger than fiction but unfortunately a strictly historical recreation of events may not get as much movie mileage as possible.

Oct 10, 2017

[Movies] Justice League Trailers

So a new "Heroes" trailer for the upcoming Justice League movie came out over the weekend and it's certainly interest. We got a lot more of what we got with the first trailer but also more teases of Superman - or at least Superman in the form of flashbacks, because the folks behind the movie still think we don't expect Superman to come back from the dead. Yeah, we're all totally convinced.

The new trailer also gives us a better view of the big villain in this movie, Steppenwolf, including more bits of Aquaman (as played by Jason Momoa) basically being a super-powered Californian surfer, if his limited dialog is an indication of anything.

Jury's still out on this movie but it seems clear that they're trying to sell us on how fun this movie is going to be by showing how chummy our heroes are in their first big battle together.

Justice League - Comic-Con Sneak Peek [HD]

JUSTICE LEAGUE - Official Heroes Trailer

Oct 9, 2017

[Books] Peggy and Me Audible Review

After the delight of Is It Just Me, I was surprised  to see that the ever-lovable Miranda Hart had written another book, but the subject matter felt a little unusual. She had mentioned her dog Peggy towards the end of that book and I appreciate a good dog story as much as anyone else. But for her to come release a second book quite focused  on her canine companion did surprise me a bit.

Peggy & Me is very much that from start to finish - a book about her life  pre-Peggy, with Peggy and potentially post-Peggy when that day might eventually come around. There is nothing overly technical about this book nor is this a sort of how-to guide about having a dog. This is still more biographical in tone and is more a book about her life as a pet owner.

And I found myself relating a lot to your her journey and her feelings for her dog an that make the book all the more enjoyable.

Oct 6, 2017

[Movies] Death Note (2017) Review

Adaptations are the safer bet in entertainment since you bank on the existing fan base to carry the new creation forward. This is particularly sought after when success has been realized in related formats like when a popular book is turned into a comic book or a successful movie that finds new life as a television series.

Death Note is a movie adaptation of an already successful manga and anime franchise. But this particular movie adaptation is an interesting creation that is (1) American and (2) a Netflix backed creation. And like most American adaptations of Japanese stories, there were immediate concerns about whitewashing and the usual sort of changes that have been observed in other translations to American entertainment.

And then the first trailer hit and...it felt like all those fears were true. It was a whitewashed cast and the story had moved from Japan to America and many other changes. It's not an absolute waste, but it could have been a heck of a lot better.

Oct 5, 2017

[Videos] When Rick and Morty Show Continuity

The Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty is know for many things including its clever pop culture references, a lot of inappropriate humor and potentially infinite alternate realities. It has become quite well-established that the show's writers are not tightly bound to in-show continuity in order  to allow for more flexibility and creativity in their writing. But despite this general freedom, the show does have a largely consistent narrative woven across the seasons, unless everyone turns out to be clones or alternate universe doppelgangers or whatever.

This Dorkly video nicely highlights a few examples of when the show paid extra attention to its overall continuity in some clever and surprising ways.

10 Times Rick and Morty Paid Incredible Attention to Continuity

Oct 4, 2017

[Books] Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man Audible Review

Most my Audible books tend to be biographies of one geeky star or another and it was a little unusual to finally listen through a biography that is not written by the author. But hey this is a Star Trek thing so I had to make an exception, right?

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man is a rather loving tribute to the unforgettable Leonard Nimoy. Sure, he's an especially larger than life figure among Star Trek fans, but he's also a well-known pop culture icon.

Listening to this narrative was actually quite emotional and it certainly gave me a lot to think about. As much as I've been largely familiar with the stories of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, this was a greater revelation that felt a lot more intimate. And hearing it in Shatner's own voice just added to the weight of things.

Oct 3, 2017

[Theater] Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag The Musical Review (Grand Leisure Corporation)

I probably don't watch enough original local theater productions as it's admittedly more accessible to me to watch foreign shows being staged here, whether by local companies or touring groups. But I do make an effort to watch shows featuring friends when they reach out and ask for support for their shows.

That's what led me to Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag The Musical, an unexpected stage adaptation for a famous movie that I have also not seen yet. And given how  I usually try to keep various versions of a story separate in my head when writing a review, this helped me view this production solely on its own merits.

Admittedly there were weird circumstances around the viewing we caught as it started almost an hour late and it was our first time at the Kia Theatre, which is definitely not one of my favorite theaters now. So I'm saying I was not in the best state of mind at the start of this production's run.

Oct 2, 2017

[Theater] The Sound of Music (Lunchbox Theatrical Productions) Review

It's easy to underestimate The Sound of Music as it's a pretty established musical that more people remember as a movie than a stage play. And don't get me wrong, the movie is a brilliant piece of film making, but it's also a very different entertainment experience versus a live performance. You can't really compare one to the other but I suppose some degree of comparison remains impossible.

And as a long-time musical junkie, I'll admit that I've seen the movie version of The Sound of Music probably more than is healthy. But that's just how things turned out and I have no regrets celebrating the works of Dame Julie Andrews.

But this significant exposure to the movie had me underestimating what a stage production off the same story might be like. But thankfully I got tickets for this touring London West End Production as part of a Ticketworld bundle offer together with West Side Story since the actual play turned out to be one of the best that I've had the pleasure of watching in quite a while.

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