10 12 / 2013
The 13 Best Comic Book Covers of 2013 from Marvel Comics
Here are thirteen of the coolest, prettiest, most badass and most creative looking comic book covers from Marvel Comics this 2013. I’ve always been a sucker for nice comic book art and covers are one of the best ways to capture my attention. Listed with the comic title, volume/issue number and cover artist in no particular order…
Superior Spider-Man vol 1, #1 (Ryan Stegman)
This one is a soon-to-be iconic cover that features a very interesting and different era of Spider-Man's history. The inking and coloring of the shadows is magnificent.
All-New X-Men vol 1, #6 (Stuart Immonen)
Kitty Pryde's expanded role in the X-Men mythos has been one of the highlights for 2013. She is a true HBIC and this cover conveys it well.
X-Factor vol 1, #256 (David Yardin)
This is very graphic and disturbing, but I really like the way that Monet's blood forms the reactions of the faces of her shocked teammates.
Avengers Arena vol 1, #17 (Francesco Francavilla)
I’ve never seen such an effective use of the color pink before. Target practice has never looked so bright.
X-Men: Legacy vol 2, #10 (Mike Del Mundo)
This fake ad for mutant gene suppression looks so colorful and harmless juxtaposed to its true hateful undertones. The clean text underneath it really makes the cover pop.
Avengers vol 5, #1 (Dustin Weaver)
This cover is really a triptych broken down into three issues, but I’m featuring the most striking one. The angle from which it is framed plus the lighting from the back makes for one epic looking team shot. The full triptych:
Daredevil vol 3, #26 (Chris Samnee)
I love the way that the clothes on the line spell out the character’s name. It’s a detail that you won’t really see on first glance.
Fearless Defenders vol 1, #5 (Mark Brooks)
Fearless Defenders has some of the most fun covers, but this one is my favorite. It’s a really creative way of showcasing a roster change happening in the issue. K.O. !
Young Avengers vol 2, #6 (Jamie McKelvie)
A cover that most of us can relate to, it features two teen heroes, Prodigy and Speed, working in a boring office job. The muted colors and repeating faces show how dull and repetitive daily corporate life can be.
Uncanny X-Men vol 4, #10 (Frazer Irving)
Cyclops’s power is so intense that it is bleeding off of the page! The cover can’t contain it!
FF vol 2, #12 (Mike Allred)
This cover is really a throwback to classic covers featuring fights that are to happen within the comic. What really makes it, though, are the super fun expressions each member of the cast has. Everything is so wonderfully illustrated.
X-Men: Legacy vol 2, #8 (Mike Del Mundo)
This is the second appearance of X-Men: Legacy in this list! Everything about this painting of a painting within a painting is just so wonderful. From Legion's pensive stare and bored pose to the way the paintbrush is used as a stand-in for his ridiculous hair to all the pretty colors — it's so good.
Young Avengers vol 2, #5 (Jamie McKelvie)
Also making a second appearance in this list, this cover is some of the best use of negative space I’ve ever seen.
Not too shabby, right? Here’s hoping 2014 will also be a good year for some amazing comic book art.
05 12 / 2013
02 12 / 2013
Frozen Review (The Road to the 2014 Oscars Edition)
I remember a time in the mid to late 00s when animated films were running with the big boys at the Oscars, being nominated left and right for major awards for sound, screenplay and even Best Picture, mostly thanks to Pixar. Eventually, other studios also improved the quality of their animated work, such as Dreamworks (Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon) and Warner Bros (Happy Feet). Unfortunately, that golden age of animation seems to have already passed as Pixar’s recent output doesn’t really live up to the overwhelming quality of their output at their peak. Conversely, Walt Disney Animation Studio movies have been in a slump for a good part of the 00s, but it was only until Disney released Tangled that things started to turn around for them. Tangled was succeeded by Wreck-It-Ralph, another good animated film that deserved that year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar. They continue this grand slam streak by bringing us this year’s Frozen, arguably the best one out of all three of them.
From the first frame, up to the very last, the quality of the animation amazes. It helps that the Scandinavian kingdom setting, with the snow, the mountains and the fjords, is truly breathtaking. But beyond that, it’s the small details that set it apart. From the way the characters’ hair were rendered one by one to the glorious snow and ice effects, and even the recreation of the northern lights, the end result was just full of polish and quality work. There wasn’t a hint of sloppiness at all in the production, and this also extends to the sound and music. And let me tell you the music and sounds might be even better. With a top class Broadway style soundtrack, a soon to be iconic theme song (“Let It Go” performed by Demi Lovato) and one of the best scores for this year, Frozen is Disney’s best animated musical in the modern era.
The voice acting is also top-notch. Josh Gad as a summer-addicted snowman steals the show as the comic-relief sidekick, bringing back memories of memorable characters such as Robin Williams's Genie and Eddie Murphy's Mushu. Another welcome surprise was Kristen Bell in the lead. I never knew she was that good of a singer. Broadway mainstays Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff round out the cast of incredible singers moonlighting as voice actors.
Now for the glue that holds them together. How is the screenplay? Although I’d say that it’s generally good and acceptable but sadly, it is also the weakest part of the whole movie. I’m not saying it’s bad, and there are some refreshing twists and changes to the old Disney fairy tale formula, but overall it suffers from poor pacing and some scenes tend to be dragging. The characters are fully fleshed out and most of them are developed well all throughout the movie. One last observation from me is that I did not expect the movie to be as funny as it was. The script had the whole cinema bursting in laughter all throughout the movie.
Overall, the technical achievements in the animation, sound and music of Frozen should keep it head to head with the frontrunners in the Best Animated Feature field, but with a script that is just okay, I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing Frozen compete in the main Best Picture field.
Guaranteed Award Nominations
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Original Song
- Best Original Score
Possible Award Nominations
- Best Sound Editing
- Best Sound Mixing
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28 11 / 2013
Changing a macro photograph’s focus in post-processing? It’s now possible and so easy to use. Another photography innovation coming from Nokia is their Refocus app, exclusive to their Lumia line of Windows Phones. Essentially, what it does is it captures multiple photos in various focus levels and allows you to choose which objects you would like the focus to be on AFTER you’ve taken the photo. It even has an option to put the focus on the whole photo. This idea has been around for a while now, with the popular product concept coming from Lytro, But while Lytro’s implementation is more hardware-based, what Nokia made is grounded in software.
I’ve tested this app on my Nokia Lumia 920, and while the 920 isn’t the top dog in smartphone cameras anymore (that title now belongs to Nokia’s own 41-megapixel monster cameraphone), I think the results are still acceptable.
As for practical applications of the photo app? I guess it helps most in macro photography. Sometimes when you’re in a hurry, you don’t realize that your photo’s focus came out wrong. Although, I’m pretty sure that the Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel sensor is big enough that allows a larger depth of field which allows uses outside of macro photography.
Click on the links below to try refocusing the pictures I’ve taken with my 920.
26 11 / 2013
21 11 / 2013
Nintendo 3DS XL
I’ve always been a Nintendo fan since I could remember. From the NES to the Gameboy (Pocket) all the way to the Nintendo DS (lite), I’ve owned them all and played all the classic Nintendo games such as Mario, Pokemon, Super Smash Bros., and so much more. So it’s only logical for me to upgrade my aging Nintendo DS Lite to something better.
I got the shiny red one. Other options include a shiny blue and a matte black, among other limited edition ones. Comparing the XL to the DS Lite, the first and obvious change is how big it is. I don’t really have big hands, but they’re still comfortable enough to hold. The change in size brings with it a heavier body. After a few hours of gaming, your hands might strain from holding the 3DS XL in the same position. The next big change is the larger 3D screen sans glasses. I’m happy to say that they do work and the effect is quite lovely. A crucial flaw, though, is the very narrow viewing angle which you are required to maintain the 3D effect. Fortunately, the 3DS has a slider to control the effect, all the way to off. Other than that, I’m quite happy with all the improvements. There are some cute built-in apps and mini-games but they’re nothing to rave about.
As with many recent 3DS customers, the main reason why I got one was because of one thing.
After more than a decade, the main formula for Pokemon hasn’t really changed, but it is still so good. The developers at Gamefreak and Nintendo must be living with the mantra ‘Don’t fix what is not broken.’ Anyway, aside from this, I have a few other games in the pipeline that I’m really interested in.
So many games, so little time (and money)!
I got my 3DS XL from iTech in Glorietta. I bought a bundle from them worth P11000. This includes the 3DS XL, a game of your choice and a cheap accessories pack which includes a case, a pouch, an extra stylus and some straps among many other goodies. Overall, I think it’s a good value as a regular 3DS XL unit will run you around 9000, and games are usually around 1300 to 1700.
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17 11 / 2013
Cool Shoes on Clearance at the Citibank Rustans Sale
I usually don’t like buying luxury designer stuff, since most of the products they sell are marked up ridiculously just because of their names. Although, the really expensive products guarantee a certain level of quality in the materials and construction especially if those products are what the manufacturers are known for and specialize in such as Louis Vuitton for luggage, Burberry for trenchcoats, Gucci for loafers et. al. Anyway my point is it’s not always a waste to buy expensive designer stuff if you know what you are buying and where you are buying it from (especially if they are on clearance).
Citibank has an ongoing event at the Filinvest Tent in Alabang where certain (off-season) products from Rustans are on clearance. Here are some cool shoes that I saw while I was there.
Hugo Boss Tassel Loafers from P26500 to P9275
Bally Leather High Top Sneakers from P31500 to P11025 (this one is my favorite)
And as for the non-luxury designer stuff…
Kenneth Cole Reaction Suede Wingtips from P4950 to P1732
ECCO Leather Sneaker Boots from P9650 to P5307
The Citibank Rustans Sale is only until today, November 17, 2013. There are a lot more stuff on sale (bags, clothes etc) from the fanciest of the fancy (Prada, Burberry, etc) to the lower end stuff (Gap, Superdry, etc), so better hurry if you are yearning to buy some expensive things today.
14 11 / 2013
12 11 / 2013
Clarks Desert Boots
This is a shoe that I’ve had my eye on for more than a year now. Unfortunately, Clarks doesn’t carry its “Originals” line here in the Philippines yet, so I was only able to buy this in Hong Kong last month. As you can imagine, wanting this shoe for such a long time creates an absurd amount of hype in your mind, and I can honestly say it lives up to it.
The exact color of this model is called ‘Ebony Vintage.’ I was originally looking for the ‘Beeswax' color, but I didn't see one and this was the closest I could find.
The main reason why I like this shoe is because of its versatility. It could be worn with jeans for a casual day out.
It could be paired with chinos for wearing at a business casual office setting.
The sole is made of crepe (a type of rubber) and it is flat and soft, so I wouldn’t advise wearing it in rugged terrain. There’s a reason why they’re called desert boots after all. Some more pictures:
And here are some outfit pictures with the CDBs.
I bought these shoes in Hong Kong for HKD 1400, which is around Php 7800.
07 11 / 2013
04 11 / 2013
Thor: The Dark World (Spoiler Free) Movie Review
As the eighth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World has a lot riding on its shoulders as this is the first non-Iron Man movie released after the Avengers movie blew everything out of the water. No doubt, it would be a popular blockbuster, but the standard has been set so high by the Avengers and subsequently, Iron Man 3. Could Thor: The Dark World deliver on the level of its immediate predecessors? We’ll only know after a few weeks, but based on the quality alone, I tip my hat to Marvel Studios for maintaining a really consistent lineup of films with regard to quality and tone.
Having said that, the main takeaway I gathered from Thor: The Dark World is that this is very much a studio-controlled movie. Director Alan Taylor, who shows some of his Game of Thrones pedigree in the film, is primarily a TV director and this is his first major film direction. On paper, he seems like a perfect match but the majority of this film seems mandated by Marvel Studios. To me, it felt like they did not have much confidence in the source material that they had to tack on unnecessary stuff like the forced one-liners and rom-com aspects, really long-winded exposition (telling, not showing) and side characters not needed for the plot. This is weird to me as Thor’s background and setting is really one of Marvel’s richest and most interesting. This was their chance to create a fantasy/sci-fi epic in the vein of Lord of the Rings or even The Chronicles of Narnia, which is a shame since the end result is more like Iron Man 3. You get that feeling of once you’ve seen one [MCU movie], you’ve seen them all. I’m not saying that the movie’s direction is bad, per se, I just thought that what they were going for is not fit for what a Thor movie should be like. They were on the right track with the first Thor movie as that had a good balance of epic and accessible, but for this one I felt that they were really aiming for the lowest common denominator. It’s still super fun though, but they betray the potential of the premise. As usual, with these types of blockbusters that have so many people at the helm (it had at least 4 people writing the script, not to mention the director and producer/s), the screenplay was all over the place. It was filled with plot holes and cliches and overall, very predictable, but it wasn’t bad at all, just uneven. The worst part of the movie was this really long exposition in the middle. It felt like Anthony Hopkins’s Odin was lecturing us all to boredom. The highlights of this movie were all the scenes with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Perhaps we should get a Loki-focused movie next, instead? Loki continues to be an excellent foil, much better than the very forgettable villains that were in this movie. I don’t even remember them. Something about dark elves in the Dark World, I think.
With a rumored production budget of $200 million, I was honestly expecting a lot more. The first Thor movie was made for much less and it surprised me how wonderful it looked. The art direction and set designs for the first Thor movie were seriously impressive, but I don’t think I have the same opinion for the second one. Now that the majority of the movie is set in Asgard, we get to see much more of it. I’m not really sure I liked the look of it, though. It was a mixture of medieval fantasy and futuristic alien world that really doesn’t seem all that creative. Ditto for the designs used for the other worlds/realms. Another point of contention is the hokey-looking CGI in some parts of the movie. This bugged me a lot since I’m pretty sure some of the scenes used in the movie don’t look like they were worth $200 million. All of these things combined made me think that the movie was really rushed. It has none of the polish of the Avengers, or even the first Thor movie. What did get improved, though, was Thor’s costume and the costumes of the Asgardians in general.
Now for the good news. I’m happy to say that Thor: The Dark World is the best-cast superhero movie since Man of Steel. Chris Hemsworth shows us again why he is really THE actor meant to play Thor. That guy has so much bravado and charisma in his acting and it shows through. High praise, right? It gets better. Tom Hiddleston stole every scene he was in as Loki. He’s just that good. It helps that the script really plays up to his strengths playing the mischievous and untrustworthy trickster god. All the Asgardians do well enough, except for one bored-looking Anthony Hopkins. He just looked like he wants to get out of there ASAP to cash in his presumably hefty paycheck. The supporting cast on Earth did much better this time around, though. Kat Dennings’s role as the comic relief is expanded and her comic timing is still as impeccable as ever. She, along with Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and newcomer Jonathan Howard, makes Thor’s supporting cast the strongest in the MCU, even besting Iron Man’s Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan.
To recap, is this movie good? I’d say it is about average, or even above that. There’s just too many flaws that are hard to overlook. The art direction and production design are not up to par — Star Trek Into Darkness this is not. The screenplay is very predictable. It pretty much goes like: Action. Action. One-Liner. Action. One-Liner. Long exposition. Action. Exposition. Action. One-Liner. Climactic Action. End. The running time (more than 2 hours) is longer than necessary too.
Although, they really nailed the good parts of the movie. The cast is great and their chemistry is strong. The musical score was epic and befitting the movie. The cinematography, clear and direct to the point.
My fear is that someday, when Marvel Studios makes so many films, they will all start to blur together. Once you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World are so similar in tone, but in reality they should be very different from each other. While they are set in the same cinematic universe, it doesn’t mean that they have to be the same movie as well.
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31 10 / 2013
Nike Air Max 1 Essential Sneakers
One of the biggest trends for this year has been 90s running shoes. As a child of the 90s, I had fond memories of pretty much everyone wearing running shoes everywhere. Fancy restaurant? Just wear a (baggy) polo shirt, some dad jeans and some Nike “rubber shoes” as they called it. Going to Sunday Church? Throw on your long sleeved polo (baggy, as always), dark jeans and your trusty New Balance. Of course, those types of outfits are terribly outdated now, but as part of the 90s resurgence, those running shoes have now been repurposed and reimagined as the big trend for 2013. Numerous brands from all price ranges have several of these products.
Clockwise from top: Valentino, Common Projects, New Balance, Raf Simons, Nike, Saucony
I came across this beauty while shopping in Hong Kong a few weeks ago.
I was instantly attracted to the neutral colors contrasted with the very attention-grabbing design. The greys and whites tone down the flashiness of the Air Max silhouette and this was why I bought it. It is so versatile.
While I don’t think I’d be using these shoes for their intended purpose (who wears running shoes for running anyway), I’m content with just wearing them out and about for very casual purposes. It helps that they are actually really comfortable — like walking on Air™
A word of caution: SIZE UP when buying this shoe as it runs narrow. I’m usually a 7.5 US but I had to get 8.5 US just for it to fit, and it still a little tight. I bought it for HKD 700, which is around PHP 3,883.
29 10 / 2013
One Piece Halloween
For our office’s Halloween event, there was a contest for the best cubicle design and best costume too. Our team picked the popular Japanese manga One Piece as our theme. Admittedly, I’m not really following manga or even anime currently, but I do remember wanting to watch the One Piece anime a few years ago but it never came to pass. Anyway, this manga and anime is one of the, if not the most popular manga in Japan and the appeal is pretty much universal. Pirates roaming the seas — what’s not to love about that. The visual style is very strong as well, with pirate skulls, treasure chests, cannonballs and other nautical designs.
Here are some pictures of our booth.
And here is a picture of me in costume, as the crew’s resident chef, Sanji.
We weren’t able to secure a blonde wig, so this only counts as a “neck-down” cosplay, since I’m only in character from the neck down. Fortunately, I had a double-breasted jacket and black dress pants ready. I know, it’s not really a full suit, but its the effort that counts right?
22 10 / 2013
Captain Phillips Review (The Road to the 2014 Oscars Edition)
The real life movie version of Battleship is scary as hell, and no, I’m not talking about the 2012 movie that wrecked Taylor Kitsch’s career. Captain Phillips is a true-to-life thriller about a small gang of Somalian pirates hijacking a Maersk container ship in 2009. And when I say pirates, I’m not talking about the Jack Sparrow kind. They are real-life threats to all ships sailing along East Africa in the Indian Ocean. Tom Hanks plays the titular character who was taken hostage for ransom during the hijacking. With a running time of more than two hours, I was at first turned off as I assumed that there would be a lot of dragging moments and filler scenes, but I was dead wrong. The screenplay and direction is just that good. The movie had my full attention and I was at the edge of my seat for pretty much the whole movie. The movie builds up tension really quickly and escalates until the climactic scene when all of it is released and the movie concludes with a quiet and subtle scene that contains some of the best acting I’ve seen in recent years (more on that in a bit).
The movie is really well-acted. Tom Hanks carries the whole movie as this is really his comeback after so many forgettable ones. The scene I talked about earlier should be seen to be believed. He displays so much emotion on screen, not unlike Anne Hathaway’s heart-wrenching and award-winning moment from last year’s Les Miserables. The supporting cast is excellent as well. The four actors (all first-timers by the way) playing the Somalian pirates were so convincing that you end up hating them for the duration of the movie. I didn’t even think it was possible but I even felt a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as the movie progressed. Leading them is Barkhad Abdi, already gaining some Oscar buzz for his debut role.
Of course, the movie is not without faults. My number one complaint is the shaky-cam style cinematography. I am someone who is anti-shaky-cam on principle, and this movie’s style is as headache-inducing as they come. The second is the unintentional(?) product placement. The Maersk Line logo gets flashed onto the screen so many times. Yes, we already know that is where Captain Phillips works; there is no need to shove it in our faces at every opportunity. Another complaint is that I feel as if the movie has a little bit of propaganda for the US Navy and Marines, similar to last year’s Zero Dark Thirty.
With Captain Phillips being this good, the competition for this year’s Oscar movies is so tight. 2013 is proving to be such a good year for movie fans!
Guaranteed Award Nominations
- Best Picture
- Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
- Best Director
Possible Award Nominations
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi)
- Best Film Editing
- Best Original Score
17 10 / 2013
Prisoners Review (The Road to the 2014 Oscars Edition)
Have you seen this movie’s cast list? It’s like the casting director was just selecting from a pool of Academy Award winners and nominees from recent years. Due to this exact reason, kidnapping drama Prisoners is more or less an acting showcase for these top talents, and the writing allows each of the cast to shine and show their strength. The narrative structure of the movie is pretty straightforward and realistic. This is how the movie Taken plays out in the real world. There are some subtle visual hints littered all throughout the movie in a very masterful way. What really elevates the movie is the very polished editing. The tension runs high and it never skips a beat pretty much throughout the whole movie.
Prisoners is also really beautiful to watch. The location and setting of small town USA may be mundane and dull, but legendary cinematographer Roger Deakin makes every shot so beautiful to look at. All of these elements go together to create a subtle, yet thrilling and highly polished movie about a family’s struggle with the kidnapping of their youngest child.
But the best thing about this movie is obviously the acting performances. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are performing at their career best. I would have thought Hugh Jackman has already peaked with his incredible lead performance in last year’s Les Miserables and it is still surprising to me that he found a way to top that. Hugh may have the showier role with all the screaming and shouting as the father of the abducted child, but I think Jake’s highly nuanced and low-key performance as the detective assigned to the case is the best one. His character is a blank slate and the script never gives an opportunity for him to flesh out his character, but his personal additions through body language, speech and overall appearance is more than enough. Other performances from the supporting cast including Viola Davis, Paul Dano and the always excellent Melissa Leo elevate the acting talent to another level.
Unfortunately, I doubt Prisoners will be very successful this awards season, and not because it is a lacking movie in any way, it’s just that the competition for this year is super stacked. In any other year, it might find triumph, but for 2014, it is kind of a long shot.
Possible Award Nominations
- Best Actor (Hugh Jackman)
- Best Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal)
- Best Cinematography
- Best Film Editing
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