April 21, 2015

Dinosaurs Galore in Jurassic World | Trailer # 2

So let's get it out of the way, Jurassic World's entire premise is built on the fact that humans just don't learn their lesson and will re-open a dinosaur theme park well because big bucks.  
Jurassic World comes to us this June, and while most of the movie can be gleaned just from the trailers, this will still be a nice thing to see in the cinema.

We didn't know velociraptors could be pacified and reasoned with, but it's here in the second trailer courtesy of IGN.

April 18, 2015

14 Minutes of Mortal Kombat X Gore

As a public service, The RadBrad over at YouTube has compiled every fatality in the new Mortal Kombat X.  It's fourteen minutes of ruthless, graphic, and soul-numbingly fun.

There's a bit of a fixation with the head here.  Lots of decapitation and sliced faces and cracked skulls, oozing brain, even eating it, blood and all.  And to think when we were kids we were already shocked with that sick move of pulling the spine out of one's throat/mouth.  There's even Cassie, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade's daughter, taking a selfie with her freshly killed victim.  Signs of the times.

When the kombatants of Mortal Kombat aren't fighting each other, they're actually embroiled in a complex and centuries-spanning mythology.  Gamers have uploaded entire clips of the game's cutscenes, spoilers be damned.  It's great because anyone coming to the franchise for the first time can just watch and learn and realize it's not always mindless violence that pervade Mortal Kombat. They've built a story into it, based on the classic battle between good and evil, but because of the many switcheroos going on, good and bad is not always that clear-cut in Mortal Kombat.

By the way, we love the new dark and gritty look of the game.  And the devs at NetherRealm have really upped the graphics of the game, everything looks stunningly clear and crisp we couldn't take our eyes off Johnny Cage's very detailed eyebrows.

Lots of new characters in MKX.  Lots of women empowerment here, as well as the first ever gay character in the franchise.

Cassie Cage - Joined  Special Forces with her mom General Sonya Blade.  Armed with just pistols and a nightstick, but packs a serious punch.

Jacqui Briggs - the daughter of Jax, and is also a member of Special Forces.  Because she's only human, has to wear mechanized gauntlets for deadlier punches.

Kung Jin - The bow-and-arrow guy, and Mortal Kombat's first ever gay character.  This mysterious ally of Cassie and Jacqui can use a simple bow and arrow to deadly effect in battle.  We want to boink ourselves in the head for missing Raiden's advice to Kung Jin when he hesitates joining the Shaolin: "They care only about what is in your heart. Not whom your heart desires." 

Takeda Takahashi - Telepathic just like his father Kenshi.  Armed with a whip and katana.  Was raised and trained by Scorpion. 

D'Vorah - Very insect-like with her wings and nasty wincers that can pluck her opponent's heart and brain in an instant.  She also employs bugs and other creepy crawlies as weapons.  Also delivers bug-filled death kiss.

Erron Black - A cowboy-inspired character complete with pistols and wide-brimmed hat.  Used to be from Earthrealm but now serves Kotal Kahn.

Ferra & Torr - Annoying two-in-one character in a pointlessly symbiotic relationship.  The dinky clawed Ferra hitches on the back of the beastly Torr.

Kotal Kahn - The current Emperor of Outworld, fighting against Mileena and her plans to subvert him.  Like an Aztec warrior (he's actually from the realm of Osh-Tekk), Kotal Kahn is fond of feathered headdresses.

MKX doesn't just delve on the violence, there's also some nice character development being fleshed out.  In one scene, while whiling away their time incarcerated, Cassie, Jacqui, Kung Jin, and Takeda Takahashi discuss what it's like being the child of a renowned fighter. A love story also blooms between Jacqui and Takahashi, although somewhat out of the blue. As for Kung Jin's sexuality, well played because the devs and writers didn't make such a big deal out of it, although of course we're curious too who he might be romantically involved with.  

Already fans are divided on the issue of whether sexual orientation even matters in Mortal Kombat.  Of course it matters, one fan argues.  What do you make of Sonya Blade getting pregnant by Johnny Cage then?


April 17, 2015

The Benefits of Going Stickless.

We almost bought a selfie stick last month when we were in Baguio with Edge and his mom. The guy selling silver jewelry at Burnham Park had a bunch of selfie sticks for sale, just P150, but we resisted all urge.

All things considered, we thought there were real benefits in going stickless. 

1. It's more challenging to elongate one's arm to take a proper picture  that included all three of us. 
2. It's more interesting trying to balance our humble phones on whatever appropriate surface it could be laid on, and then hit the self-timer. 
3. And it's definitely more fun asking complete strangers to take our pictures, in return for us taking theirs.

Seriously, I miss the days when cameras only had 12, 24, or 36 shots in a roll. That would really force you to choose where you aim your lens, and afterwards when you're out of film you can simply start enjoying the day for real.  

This woman, for example, on the beach allegedly just took selfies all day with her handy dandy selfie stick and did not relish the water at all. 
Then again, who are we to dictate what's enjoyable and what's not?

Photo from Treehugger

Back when we didn't have smartphones and digicams, taking photographs was either a formal or a clandestine affair.  You either posed for a group pic, or someone simply stole photos of you for voyeuristic purposes.  Like Miroslav Tichý and his battered, seemingly toy-like cardboard camera.  

Apparently, it takes gorgeous artsy photos.

Photo by Miroslav Tichý

Yes there's an invasive if not slightly creepy element to the voyeuristic shot, but you can't help but applaud the beauty of its candidness, the subject blissfully unaware.  Nowadays everyone knows their best side, everyone knows how to play up to the camera.

The Selfie Shoes

April 15, 2015

Marvel's The Ant-Man trailer is officially out

A long time ago we read an origin story of Ant-Man, and we thought wow his story would make for a good film.  Apparently despite his size, he's strong and packs a serious punch, well because look at ants, they can carry 50 times their own weight.

Paul Rudd's good looks and good boy charms seem perfect for this role.  And he coolly injects his lines with deadpan comedy, snark toned down, unlike Iron-Man's brand of humor, which Downey plays up so well.

Also it turns out Rudd won't be playing Hank Pym here; instead he's Scott Lang.  The original Ant-Man we know, Hank Pym, is played by Michael Douglas, but Douglas is not donning the suit here. In the trailer Pym bestows his ant suit to Lang, while in the comics Lang steals it.  Minor twist.

And oh, that scene with the trains (a smiling Thomas the Train no less) is hilarious; it's almost meta in its tribute to action flicks with the obligatory scene where heroes and villains fight each other on top of speeding railcars.

In some ways, Marvel's Ant-Man reminds us of that 1989 comedy film with the dad who accidentally shrunk his kids.  The fun, scary prospect of being in a new blown up world.  All those giant insects and soup bowls turned into giant pools.  Lots of good memories there.

Sleeping Arrangements

Thanks to Grace for the alert

We just love this poster.  Hardware and hobby stores should put this on a tag or sticker and put them on their tents and sales would fly.  

And it's true, there really are more stars when you're up in the mountains because you don't have city lights competing with the twinkle of the stars.  No smog either that might cloud the view.  And probably also because you're situated high up, although we're thinking a couple of thousands of feet above sea level don't really make a difference. Still, the stars are much, much brighter up there.  Everyone should climb a mountain at least once in their lives.

April 14, 2015

Currently reading Naomi Mitchison's Travel Light.

If we weren't paying attention, we would have thought Naomi Mitchison's Travel Light was just a self-help book regarding the joys of letting go of one's emotional baggages.  Thankfully we took a closer look, read the blurb (Le Guin has some nice words about it), and saw the whimsical cartoonish drawings of dragons and unicorns and village people.  

It's been years since we last time read a fantasy novel, specifically the Narnia series, so we were naturally just excited to read this one.

The thing we noticed about Travel Light is how fast-paced the story is, and yet it doesn't appear rushed at all.  It's about the little girl Halla banished from the kingdom by the evil stepmother.  She grows up instead among bears and dragons in the forest where she becomes more in tune with the ways of the animals than with humans.  Her situation thus offers a refreshing perspective--dragons apparently aren't merciless predators out to torch entire villages just to loot treasure, they're actually brainy, wise, meticulous, if not very possessive creatures with colorful personalities to boot.  

On the other hand, the hero, the village's chosen one who will attack the dragon's lair to end all the dragon-induced suffering, is painted in a bad, laughable picture, eager to rescue princesses, even if "no princess was ever asked whether she wanted to be rescued and carried off by a dragon-slayer.”  Very nice indeed the way it upends traditional roles of heroes and kings in favor of the much maligned and thoroughly misunderstood dragons.

Halla's journey begins when her dragon mentor Uggi dies from battle with the villainous hero, and suddenly she finds herself stripped of their jeweled possessions.  Alone in the forest she meets the All-Father/Wanderer who advises her to travel light, both literally and figuratively. 

Actually this way of traveling light is exactly how Mitchison tells her story so that it deftly transitions from one fantasy moment to another.  One moment Halla is in the woods being licked clean by bears, the next one she chaperones the Marob men in the treacherous city of Micklegard, confronted by shady priests and kings.  

Maybe this is the book that'll get us reading fantasy novels again.  We've been eyeing Tolkien for quite some time but have always dreaded the weighty pages.  For now, we're glad we picked up Travel Light.