Avengers: Age of Ultron

Maybe it was the fantastically long lead-in to this movie, or all the hype Disney's stellar marketing team built up around it's release, but I found myself slightly disappointed with their new Avengers: Age of Ultron.

To be fair, this sequel had a lot to live up to. Not only was it expected to top 2012's Avengers, but there have been four other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies released between that year and 2015 - Iron Man 3, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Then you have the two television shows, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. It's a wonder this super franchise hasn't collapsed yet under the weight of it's own continuity.

But predictably, it's now made more than $201M in it's first weekend internationally, and with no real competition until May 13 when Mad Max: Fury Road is released, it looks like it's on track to become the biggest movie of 2015.

At least until Star Wars: The Force Unleashed arrives.

For those of you who want an impression of the movie without spoilers, I thought it was hugely entertaining. If Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy hadn't set the bar so high, this sequel might have been higher on my list of the MCU's best films.


As it stands, I felt there were character arcs that really felt shoehorned in, and action that felt overly sensationalized. I spoke about how Daredevil's fighting style was so interesting because it felt more real, more visceral, due to the fact that he was always getting hurt. The fights in Avengers: Age of Ultron, while pretty awesome, feel too much like action in a Michael Bay film to me. Lots of slow mo, lots of visual effects.

It's like an entire comic book full of centerfold splash pages.

Which may have been what they were going for. This is after all, a superhero movie. One of the characters in the film even calls the heroes "gods". They can't be harmed by mortal men. And that's how it feels like.

Which felt odd, since Whedon is known for making you feel invested in his movies. If you've never watched the show Firefly and it's film sequel, Serenity, I suggest you do. He builds up this band of ruffians until you can't picture the crew without any single one, and then proceeds to kill them off.

Then you're left thinking, "Are any of them going to get out of this alive?" That's invested. Look at HBO's Game of Thrones. It seems like characters there are dropping left and right. How many Starks did we start with? How many are there now?

In Ultron, I never felt that edge of your seat, holding your breath excitement.

Speaking of Ultron, I wasn't sold as him as the big bad.

The trailer was awesome. The lines he had in that were dark, and menacing. You felt the gravitas when he talks, and can see how he might actually be a great opponent for the team. But the movie version of Ultron seems way too much like James Spader. He's got what look like nervous ticks and mannerisms and he gets distracted and he talks as if SQUIRREL!

Yeah, so he goes off on tangents that are weird. I think in this case they brought too much of the actor to the animation of the actual CG construct. It felt kind of like I was watching Mr. Richards from 1987's Mannequin.

The fact that there's literally about 5 minutes of build up to his conception also really killed any chance there was of him beating Loki as the villain to watch out for in the MCU.

VIKI from I, Robot was more sinister.

This has been a pretty negative review in hindsight, but to clarify, I do like the movie. I was never bored, and I felt that it was able to give some nice character beats to both Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Hawkeye in particular (played by Jeremy Renner) got to shine in this movie. He really got to strut his stuff and show the audience why he is an Avenger, despite being "just human". You also got to see more of the "SCIENCE BROS!" with Bruce Banner and Tony Stark pairing up to create Ultron, and later Vision. I love that they did the most they could with the limited characters they had. You also see the building rift between Stark and the rest of the team, which I'm sure will lead into Captain America: Civil War somehow.

The fact that they brought back so many others from the previous movies was pretty sweet, too. I won't spoil which characters, but when they popped up, I smiled ear to ear.

Then they mentioned Wakanda. Oh, man,

If I were to pick three things that stood out for me, they would be:

  1. The Hulk v. Hulkbuster fight. Ho. Lee. Shit.
  2. The discussions about Thor's hammer in an elavator
  3. "Please be a secret door... Please be a secret door... Please be a secret door... Yay,"
Those were worth the cost of the ticket.
So yeah, definitely go see it.
I saw it at SM Aura. I don't recommend it. Their brightness is turned down and contrast turned up. Can't see shit for half the film.

Marvel's Daredevil

It's hard not to compare Netflix's first Marvel show, Daredevil, with Fox's Gotham. Both are based on superhero comics that are relatively well known, and both are kind of experimental in a way. The former is Marvel's first foray into video-on-demand programming through US Internet subscription service, Netflix, and the latter is a Batman show without Batman. However, both of them share a strong crime drama bent; they focus more on the crime and corruption in their cities, rather than the superhero aspects of their heroes.

After watching 5 episodes of Daredevil, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Marvel's experiment succeeded, while DC's has failed incredibly.

I gave Gotham a shot, but it suffered from so many issues that I could never get into it. Start with the fact that it is a prequel, so we essentially know what's going to happen (Bruce Wayne grows up to become Batman and he fights all the supervillians). Nothing really feels like it matters since we know Penguin's going to live, Catwoman's going to become a super-thief, E. Nygma becomes Riddler, and eventually the Joker's going to show up somehow. Oh, and Gordon won't ever die, because he's supposed to be Commissioner.

On top of that, it feels like the showrunners never had a plan for the show. They came up with this high concept gimmick, "Hey, what if we saw what Gotham was like before Batman?", and didn't layout any kind of overlying plot to give people a sense of continuity. As a result, the series is episodic, as if they write it on the fly.

Thankfully, Daredevil doesn't suffer from the same lack of vision.

In the series, Charlie Cox plays Matthew Murdock, a lawyer who helps those who live in his hometown. Growing up in Hell's Kitchen, a neighborhood in New York City which provides transport, medical, and warehouse infrastructure to Manhattan, young Matt saves an old man from being hit by a truck carrying toxic chemicals. Hurt in the accident, Matt loses his eyesight but gains enhanced senses that grant him abilities beyond most men. Learning that the law can't always help those in need, Murdock takes matters into his own hands as a masked vigilante.

The first episode sets the tone for the series right off, and it's not the campy superhero show of the CW DC universe. The Netflix Marvel-verse is tied lightly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mention of the alien invasion that devastated Manhattan sets the scene of the first season. In the void after the attack there are new heads of organized crime, and they've bought out the politicians, the police, and the media.

This is a straight up crime drama.

Matt is assisted in his crusade by Foggy Nelson, his partner in the new law firm that he's started in the center of Hell's Kitchen. Elden Henson plays Foggy well, and is a prime example of how none of the characters in this series go to waste. Foggy is Matt's heart, keeping him on the straight in his moral path.

Others help Matt from time to time as well. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, Nelson & Murdock's first client. Framed for murder, she is saved from a prison sentence by Foggy and Matt and becomes their secretary. Vondie Curtis-Hall plays Ben Urich, a reporter dead set on exposing the corruption in the highest levels of the city government. Rosario Dawson is Claire Temple, a nurse who patches up Murdock after his nights on the town.

On the flip side, we have Vincent D'Onofrio playing Wilson Fisk. He's never called "The Kingpin" in the show, but his performance was every bit worthy of the name. He plays the role like an animal just barely kept in check by the trappings of civilization, and he becomes more and more unhinged as his plans for the betterment of his city are torn away.

Because the show isn't on network TV, it has a license to be more intense and grittier than other programs. One benefit of this is the foul-mouthed Stick, Murdock's mentor who appears towards the middle of the season. He's ably played by Scott Glenn, and is one character I want to see more of in future seasons (or in the coming follow-up, Iron Fist).

You also see this freedom in the brutal fight scenes. Each episode has at least one well choreographed and well shot set piece. If you've watched The Raid, or Old Boy, you'll find the fights very familiar. There's one single-take hallway fight that is just sublime. Murdock's style is less super mystic ninja, and more down and dirty bar room brawler. There's a roundhouse kick or two somewhere, but most of the time he's taking damage as well as giving it. Not an episode goes by where he's not injured in some way or other.

Which makes the show all the more human. He's not super-powered, just very, very ornery.

I was never one of those that really hated the Daredevil movie. It was entertaining, but I realize it never aspired to be anything more than that. Its approach to it was that it was a campy comic book, but from my admittedly meager knowledge of the character, that was never the tone of the original material. Frank Miller, famous for his dark take on Batman, also did some seminal work for Daredevil. Other creators have also taken a pass at the character and it's more of a noir piece than anything else.

The themes of the book, the questions about morality, Matt's Catholic guilt, his father's influence on his life, and the all encompassing corruption are the same aspects that make this series probably the best comic book adaptation out there. I'd put it even above Nolon's The Dark Knight.

And I haven't even mentioned the subplots that the series has hinted at. There's easter eggs about The Chaste (an ancient group of samurais), The Hand (an ancient group of demon ninjas), and the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (warring mystical cities that tie this in closely to the Iron Fist mythos). Exciting stuff!

To sum it up, Marvel's Daredevil is by and large worth the 11 hours or so that it'll take you to binge-watch the entire first season. Since it's a Netflix show, all 13 episodes were released last week, which is a good thing.

It just sucks that now we've got to wait a year to see any more of it.


There are only a few shows that catch my attention straight out of the gate. Even one of my favorite programs of all time, Firefly, didn't wow me when I first watched the pilot episode. So when Hollywood comes out with a winner like this one, I feel I need to spread the word.

iZombie is a series that airs Mondays on CW, the home of other great comic-based tent pole shows, The Flash and Arrow. It's a little different from those two shows in that it's less superhero action, more crime/buddy cop comedy, and that it stars a woman in the lead role.

The story focuses on Liv Moore, a med student who has a happy, stable life with her loving family, sweet fiance, and bright future as a Doctor. One night she decides to live a little and go to a big party she's been invited to. Unfortunately, a zombie decides to crash the party and Liv is among the casualties lying in a body bag on the beach in the morning.

Naturally, she gets back up.

Now needing brains in order to survive, she takes a job as a medical examiner in order to feed off corpses before their committed to the ground. While she needs the brains to keep from turning into a mindless, well, zombie, she finds out that eating them also allow her to see flashes of the owners' last moments of life, as well as adopt a few character traits.

What's a young woman to do?

Well, if your in a series developed for television by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, the pair behind the awesome Veronica Mars, then you decide you need to fight crime to a nice, upbeat voiceover track.

The show really does feel like Veronica with zombies in it. The lead actress, Rose McIver, has almost as much adorable pluck as Kristen Bell did and still manages to portray Liv with a vulnerability that makes you hate the fact that she can't tell her family that she's actually already dead.

Speaking of, Liv's family and friends look like they'll play a pretty big role in the show. Aly Michalka of Hellcats plays Liv's best friend, Molly Hagan is her mother, Eva, and Robert Buckley plays her estranged fiance, Major Lilywhite. The pilot episode's B plot is focused mainly on how worried these folk are that she's changed so much since the boat party and essentially become a closeted shut in, dropping out of school, leaving Lilywhite, and spending all her time at the new dead end job.

Her job is where we meet the two supporting cast members, Rahul Kholi as Dr. Chakrabarti, Liv's boss in the morgue, and Malcolm Goodwin, Detective Clive Babinaux, a cop who thinks that Liv is a psychic thanks to Chakrabarti.

The second episode introduces David Anders as Blaine, a former drug dealer who turned into a zombie at the same boat party Liv attended and is apparently going to play the main antagonist of the series' first season.


The first two episodes that have aired show us a quirky little show that offers a much lighter tone than other zombie media out there. If you want gory, depressing melodrama, then you should probably be catching up on The Walking Dead. If you want campy B-movie type action, you should try out ZNation.

But if you're looking for something a little bit funny and sweet, but with just a hint of that undead color (or lack thereof) you should give iZombie a try.

What to Watch in 2015

Last year I wrote out every single movie I wanted to see this year at Despite my best efforts, I've only been able to see some of the films I posted about on that article. Some were moved to later release dates (Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland), others were put on the back burner after some pretty awful reviews (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transcendence), but I was able to see a good number of them in the theater, which is where movies should be watched.

2014 turned out to be a pretty fantastic year for movie lovers. Even if some of the worst films I've ever experienced came out this year (yes, I'm looking at you, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), some of the absolute best have also been fielded. Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy immediately come to mind, but we also saw Edge of Tomorrow, How to Train Your Dragon 2The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Now that the new year is coming up fast, I'm excited to find out what 2015 has in store for cinephiles. So in no particular order, while the Metro Manila Film Festival is clogging up cinemas with (mostly) garbage, let's look at what's coming up.

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Komikon 2014!

Return to Komikon!

It's been a couple of years since I was able to visit Komikon at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City, but last Saturday I was able to stop by after it opened and catch up on the local comics scene. I gave a bunch of my copies of favorites titles away recently so I needed to get some replacements as well.

Word to the wise for next year, it opens at 10am, but unless you're trying to get first in line for something, it's probably better to arrive around 11am so you don't have to wait in line to enter the convention floor.

Photos courtesy of Wendee Yap

If you're not familiar with it, there are two Komikon events each year, one at the University of Diliman and another in Pasig, that are held to promote local talent in the industry, showcase new books and publications from local artists, and spread a general love of the genre. You can read more about it at

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