Thursday, August 21, 2014

Comics this week

Astro City #14- First was the costumed bank robber; then came a god who cause chaos for Astro City; now…a well-meaning, harmless old woman? Not bloody likely as writer Kurt Busiek start a story about what happened to all those robots minions always been destroyed by superheroes. Yes; just like the story of the bank robber, this is a homage to the little guys, the side characters no one ever bother with. Yes that’s right, this is another great story that could only be told in Astro City.

Magneto #8- After so many issues, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D finally caught up to Magneto and found to their horror that the stories about the loss of his powers has been greatly exaggerated. Of course we readers know that Magus did lose a huge amount of his power but S.H.I.E.L.D don’t know that for real and I love the way writer Cullen Bunn played it up. The fact that people are truly afraid of Magneto, the fact that he knows it, and the way he’s more than willing to take advantage of the fear he generate, is just something you just don’t read about very often. And that’s what makes this series so good.

Ms. Marvel #7- Welcome to #7, or also known as the issue where Wolverine got taken to school by Kamala Khan. I’m no fan of Logan; I understand this is a Ms. Marvel book; I know Wolverine lost his healing factor recently; but come on, is that any reason to show Wolverine to be as incompetent as he is here? If you are going to have a guest-star, please get the character right!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Libyan Civil War 2.0?

Call them whatever you want, The Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, the fact remains; ISIS has grown rapidly in strength and influence in both Iraq and Syria in recent times. So much so that the U.S. military has now become the airforce of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS.

If you have a feeling of déjà vu, it’s because we’ve been through this before. In 2011, the U.S, British and French became the airforce of Libyan rebels in the Libyan Civil War. Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in that war and many Western news agencies are already saying that Iraq will be “liberated” the same way Libya was “liberated” in October 2011.

Some people got short term memory.

I say this because the last time I checked, the Libyan Civil War ended up terribly. Since the loss of Gaddafi, Libyan rebels are in the midst of a civil war among themselves; there have been a massive proliferation of weaponry in the region; and the even the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was stormed!

No one came out of the Libyan Civil War smelling like roses, and the fight against ISIS is supposed to be Libyan Civil War 2.0? For the sake of the U.S., I hope not. Libya didn’t turn out well for anyone, and the last thing the world need is another Libyan mess!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review of Guardians of the Galaxy

With all their Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers movies, Marvel Studios made a much needed change of pace in their latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy. Arguably their biggest gamble yet, it is also arguably Marvel’s most fun film to date.

The movie starts in 1988 when a young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens and carried off into deep space. Twenty-six years later, Quill (Chris Pratt) double-crossed his boss (and abductor) Yondu Udonta by stealing a valuable orb from under his nose.

However when Quill attempt to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world of Xandar, he discovers that there are no takers as the orb is coveted by the renegade Kree warlord, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Not only that, he is then promptly ambushed by the assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who attempts to steal the orb for Ronan.

A fight ensues, drawing in a pair of bounty hunters: the genetically engineered raccoon Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel). The local police force, the Nova Corps, then arrives and arrests everyone.

The whole group is sent to a prison called The Kyln where an inmate, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Ronan. Quill persuades Drax not to kill Gamora who reveals to the group that she was going to betray Ronan by selling the orb to a private collector.

Rocket Raccoon engineered a jailbreak and Gamera lead the group to Knowhere, a remote spaceport for the criminals of the galaxy. The group meets Gamora's contact, Taneleer Tivan, who opens the orb to reveal an Infinity Stone, an item powerful enough to destroy entire planets.

Lured by Drax, Ronan arrives at Knowhere and leave with the Stone after easily defeating the Destroyer. Forced with no options, Quill contacts Yondu to rescue the group and negotiate a truce by convincing Yondu that they can only recover the orb working together.

Working with Yondu’s crew, The Ravagers, the group finally caught up with Ronan on Xandar where they faced the might of the Accuser alongside the Nova Corps. The battle gave Quill’s group their name, the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Now after watching the film, I must say I'm kind of mixed on it. On one hand, Guardians of the Galaxy is something new from the normal Marvel fare and that's good for the company but on the other…the film just missed something from being great.

Guardians is a fun but flawed movie. Taking place in space with Earth only briefly seen at the start, Guardians does many things right. It has great music, an excellent script and able direction from director James Gunn.

It also has some good performances from its cast. Chris Pratt nailed his role as the arrogant, overconfident rogue with a heart of gold in Peter Quill, while former wrestler Dave Bautista show surprisingly good comic timing in his role as Drax. Even Zoe Saldana, more known for her looks than acting abilities, was excellent as Gamora.

The real stars of the show however were the 2 CGI characters of the Guardians. Moving Picture Company (MPC), who worked on creating Groot, and Framestore, who worked on creating Rocket, really outdid themselves on the creation of the Guardians. Both characters were amazingly, especially the final credit scene with the dancing baby Groot. I dare anyone to see that scene and not have a smile on his face. You literally have to be an “Inhuman” not to smile. Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket) and Vin Diesel (voice of Groot) were also great. Who knew there were so many ways to say 3 words?

However, as good as Guardians is, it is strictly in the good but not great category. The biggest problem I see is the lack of supporting characters in the movie. In a way that understandable as the main focus is on the Guardians, but why have Glenn Close in the movie and do NOTHING with her? That’s just a bloody waste of talent.

I found the villains kind of understated. Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Lee Pace did their best but when you have both of them reporting to Thanos halfway through the film, it leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that these 2 are minions. Also, Michael Rooker’s Yondu is a bit of a joke. In the comics, Yondu is a deadly warrior/archer. Here, he is a blue skinned redneck!

Overall, I have to say the film is worth a watch. It is a bit of a rojak film with wit, action and comedy all mixed together, but it’s a good mix. It’s not the space epic I was hoping for but it’s entertaining and fun. And in the end, that’s why we watch movies. Take a look for a good time. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Step Forward, One Step Back

That’s what I think of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement yesterday at the annual National Day Rally. Now, the newspaper are all crowing about how retirees in Singapore will now be allowed to withdraw money from their Central Provident Fund (CPF), but in the small print comes two big caveats.

a)      they can only withdraw a limited portion of their CPF savings in a lump sum (no word yet on how limited or even when they can start doing so), and
b)      the CPF Minimum Sum will be raised from S$155,000 this year to S$161,000 next year.

That is literally one step forward and one step back. On one hand you say retirees can withdraw money from their CPF but refused to say when or how much they can withdraw, and on the other hand you give a firm figure on how much the CPF Minimum Sum will be raised to and even give a date on when it will be raised.

On second thought, change that. That's not one step forward and one step back! It’s one tiny step forward, and one giant leap back!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Comics this week

Original Sin #7- Sigh! This could have been great. Yes, Original Sin is now officially another “what-could-have-been” event series by Marvel. Writer Jason Aaron started out strong but in the last few issues, his series has been hijacked by the need of the Marvel disease known as “setting up new Marvel series”. Honestly, this issue is crap. Characterization is poor and even the art of Mike Deodato couldn’t save the action scenes. I mean Nick Fury holding off the entire Avengers? That’s so nonsensical no one could make it work. As Original Sin reaches its conclusion, I only hope Aaron can manage to salvage the series. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New EPL Season

The World Cup is just over and already the English Premier League (EPL) is going to start. With the new season upon us, here’s my yearly preview and prediction of the EPL!

Arsenal- Yes, this is a long shot but with the Gunners comfortably beating champions Manchester City 3-0 at Wembley for their first Community Shield since 2005 and with manager Arsene Wenger, as per normal, buying smartly in the off-season, I have a feeling this is their year. Alexis Sanchez is a world-class forward and the signings of Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy will shore up the backline. They probably will need another ball-winner in the middle of the park but overall, this has the look of a very good team. I like their chances.

Manchester City has once again spent big in the transfer market with Eliaquim Mangala arriving from Porto for £32m. Outside him, they also picked up a pair of intriguing free transfers in Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard. However questions remain on how happy Yaya Toure is in Manchester and the form (or lack of) of goalkepper Joe Hart. Manager Manuel Pellegrini's side will once again challenge for the title but I think they will come up short this year.

Surprise of the Season
Sunderland- Manager Gus Poyet managed a miracle last season by escaping relegation. With former manager Paolo di Canio no longer a factor and the inclusion of Jack Rodwell, I expect Sunderland to be mid-table (at least) this season. I mean they escaped last season by beating Chelsea and Manchester United! Surely a team like that should be safe from relegation right?

Disappointment of the Season
Southampton- Saints’ fans are in for a disappointing season. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is gone and although Ronald Koeman is a more than able replacement, the gutting of the team is something not even Koeman can do anything about. 8 first-team players have been sold to various clubs and replacements had been short in coming. I’m not sure Southampton can be considered a relegation candidate but they will be probably be somewhere down there near the bottom. After last season’s great run, that has to be a disappointment for their fans.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not Our Money

How Much Interest Must Singaporeans Earn On Our CPF To Be Able To Meet The CPF Minimum Sum?

With a summary judgment hearing set on 18 September, you have to give blogger Roy Ngerng credit for insisting to talk about the CPF. The above is the tile of his latest post which he argued again on the unfairness of the CPF system.

I will leave the argument on the fairness of the CPF to other people and give an advice to all Singaporeans; stop thinking of the CPF as your money!

The Singapore government may argue otherwise but for me, it is very simple. Till I can touch, move and withdraw my money from the CPF, it is not mine. Honestly, I never thought of it as mine to begin with.

I will probably never hit the amount of $155,000 (or the Medisave Minimum Sum of $43,500) unless I don’t buy a house or use the CPF for anything, but so what? You can’t lose something that was never yours right?

Maybe that’s why I’m not as hung up about the CPF Minimum Sum as most people. The government are just keeping me from something that was never mine (or yours) to begin with.