Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Oscars

The 2016 Oscars results are in and the they are...kind of boring. Almost everyone who was expected to win won with only Sylvester Stallone losing the Best Supporting Actor award counting as an upset

Okay, maybe ‘Spotlight’ winning Best Picture and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ winning 6 awards in the minor awards can count as surprises but that was it. Here's the list of the winners of the major awards;

Best Picture

Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio - ‘The Revenant’

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mark Rylance - ‘Bridge of Spies’

Actress in a Leading Role
Brie Larson - ‘Room’

Actress in a Supporting Role
Alicia Vikander - ‘The Danish Girl’

Alejandro González Iñárritu - ‘The Revenant’

Animated Feature Film
‘Inside Out’

Friday, February 26, 2016

Comics this week

Justice League #48- "The Darkseid War" has been one epic, jaw-dropping story that made Justice League THE comic to collect right now. Nothing changed on that note in this issue. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok continue that trend by filling this issue with an alliance for the ages as the Justice League teamed up with the Crime Syndicate to take on the Anti-Monitor. What was really impressive was how Johns managed to give each character his own voice in this issue even though there were so many characters in the pages. Not only that, he even gave Fabok chances to showcase his chops with several double-spreads. The entrance of the Green Lantern Corps was especially impressive.  And the end; Superwoman and Owlman's baby coming just as Ultraman got killed? Perfection!

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #4- Kids always think they knows everything and the world has a way of showing them just how wrong they are. In this issue, it’s Lunella turn to deal with big mistakes and dashed dreams as the Hulk takes on Devil Dinosaur. As Lunella tried to break up the fight and talk Amadeus Cho down, she discovered one important thing; what’s important to her might not be important to anyone else. Like most kids, Lunella is self-centered and she truly believed that if she tells Cho what she wanted to do, Cho will “understand” her and let he be. No such luck as Cho refused to allow a red T-Rex to walk around the city. In trying to help, Lunella even cause Devil Dinosaur to lose the fight! Writers Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder knows how to tug at the heartstrings as at the end, Lunella could only cry helplessly as Devil Dinosaur got cratered away as she realized just how badly she screwed up. Pick this one up if you are looking for a superhero coming-of-age story. It’s great.

Plutona #4- Storywise, Plutona has been a pretty slow series. Nothing much had happened since the kids found Plutona’s body but the art of the series saved the day. Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox are both credited as the writers and artists and the strange partnership seems to work with the art. There are a lot of close-ups of the kid’s faces and seeing the emotional impact of a hero’s death on impressible kids is both sad and great. It’s just too bad not much happened to accompany the great art.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Censorship & Gay Rights

People who read my blog knows I’m very understanding to the Singapore government’s position on the gay rights issue. Politicians dislike taking up position that goes against the wishes of the general public and Singaporeans are mostly conservative on this issue. So I can understand the government’s position on the LGBT rights; I have far less sympathy on their position on censorship.

According to reports, Mediacorp censored a segment on the popular daytime talk show Ellen. In that segment, the openly gay Ellen DeGeneres was speaking to U.S President Barack Obama about gay rights progression. When the episode was shown in Singapore on Feb 23th, the segment was cut.

When asked about this, Mediacorp admitted they censored the segment and said this was due to the Singapore government’s censorship rules on the broadcast of gay rights issues. What about the offending segment in question? Well, it was a segment lasting about 20 seconds where President Obama thanked Ellen for her dedication to LGBT rights. Also a later segment where the President’s wife, Michelle Obama, wished DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi “Happy Valentine’s Day” was also cut from the broadcast. Needless to say, the Americans are less than impressed and honestly, so am I.

Come on Mediacorp, its one thing to fear falling foul to the government censors but to censor the President of the United States of America and his wife? Are you guys for real? Not counting how innocent that segment was (see it on Youtube), common sense tells you not to censor the President of the most powerful country in the world unless the matter is of vital importance. The gay rights issue is hardly one of these issues.

It’s so stupid the whole thing beggar belief. I don’t see this as a gay rights issue, but a censorship matter. I can understand Mediacorp being gun-shy after getting fined by the Media Development Authority (MDA) in 2008 for a similar offence but this is the Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America. It tells you how afraid people in the media are of the Singapore censors when they are willing to self-censor themselves and censor the President of the United States of America over a non-issue like gay rights.

The real kick of the whole thing? The gay rights issues is actually now getting more play in the media due to this stupid censorship row. If the censorship rules are in place to prevent growing the gay rights issue, then I think it’s fair to say the Singapore government has just scored an own goal.   

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Very Confident Warner Bros.

Ever since Marvel got the cash-cow that was The Avengers, DC Comics has been itching to have their own Cinematic Universe. Well, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice coming out next month, it’s full steam ahead for that project.

Warner Bros. must be very very confident in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Suicide Squad because they are going to start filming Justice League- Part One in April; less than a month after the opening of Dawn of Justice! Not only that, they announced Justice League- Part One and Justice League- Part Two together. Part One will hit theaters on November 17, 2017, and Part Two will follow on June 14, 2019.

I have to wonder…what if Dawn of Justice flops. I know it’s unlikely but hey, stranger things had happened. It’s entirely possible that both Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (whose trailer I exactly liked better) if not flop, at least fail to match the high-sky expectations they currently has. What if that happens and you are in the midst of filming Justice League?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for DC and Warner Bros. to wait? See how Dawn of Justice does before announcing the filming of Justice League? I hope DC all the best but over-confidence is never a good thing. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Comics this week

Astro City #32- One of the great things about Astro City is that writer Kurt Busiek treats his city as a living thing. Time does not stop in this city and the series is greater for it. When we last saw Steeljack, he was working in the local cemetery but things have been going well for him. He is now a P.I. who does various side gigs and has the respect of the locals and even the police. However the past has a way of catching up to you and when an old flame comes knocking…well, it’s a good thing for Steeljack his skin is made of steel.  Yes, Steeljack is back and that’s wonderful news!
Birthright #14- After a few issues where it seems writer Joshua Williamson was just spinning the wheels, things finally got a kick here. The various mages are making their moves while both of Mikey’s parents are trying their best to help their boy. The only problem I had in this issue was Brennan’s reaction to Mikey’s defeat by Sameal. He didn’t lose it when he discovered that the Nevermind was with Mikey, but did now after a loss? That didn’t gel but that last scene promises more action next issues and that’s good; this series needs it. 
Web Warriors #04- First, we have Spiderverse. Then, came the Electroverse. Now, we have the Ottoverse. Say what you want, but writer Mike Costa knows the selling point of this series. Hell, he even had a good Doc Octopus helping Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ben in this issue while having the majority of the issue taking place on the steampunk world of the Lady Spider. Now if only Costa can throw in Penny Parker and Spider-Dame...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Red Meat

Sports and politics should not mix and if anyone doubts that, the problems between Nike and Manny Pacquiao should settle that argument once and for all. Nike has announced that they are ending its endorsements with the Filipino boxer after he described gay couples as "worse than animals".

Naturally, the remarks are a big no-no for a big Western company like Nike but there was a good reason why Pacquiao said those things. Pacquiao has retired as a boxer and is now a politician. More importantly, Pacquiao is running for a seat in his country's Senate and in a devoutly Christian country like The Philippines, saying things like this gets you votes. If he was American, people would say Pacquiao was waving red meat.

Not to say he was right, but everything has context and that’s what happened here. Like all politicians, Pacquiao is saying what he needs to in order to get the votes. Fans of the boxer better get used to it; it’s going to happen again and again in the future.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Car-Free Sunday

 A Singapore without cars? That’s the aim it seems when the Singapore government is holding its first car-free this Sunday on 28 February. Roads around the Padang will be closed till midnight as the spaces will instead be used for walking, running and cycling.

Similar to the closing of Orchard Road last year, the Car-Free Sunday initiative will see roads in the Civic District closed to vehicles every last Sunday of the month for six months. All good and well but I just have a question; why can’t the government do this alongside the Orchard Road closure?

The Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road was also a 6 months initiative which recently ended. Most Singaporeans and shops along Orchard Road liked the idea and have been asking the government to make Pedestrian Night a long-term event. Thus far, the government has been quiet on that front.  

Since they are doing the same thing at the Padang for 6 months, why not do both of them together? Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road is successful, so why not continue it and add this Padang initiative to it?

Make sense right? The idea is to have a Singapore without cars so why not do both of the events together side-by-side and see how it goes? Who knows? Maybe it will work and become a long-term thing for our country. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Green Eye Monster

Actress Rebecca Lim and NTUC Income are currently in a bit of a bother right now due to a marketing stunt gone wrong. On 12 Feb, Lim announced on her Instagram account that she was retiring.

Seeing that she was only 29 and had just won a Best Actress award last year at the Star Awards, the Singapore media ran with it before discovering that it was nothing but a promotion stunt for insurance company NTUC Income. The backlash was immediate.

Lim and NTUC Income are now in damage control mode as neither foresaw the bad press they are receiving for the stunt. In a way, I understand their predicament. After all, it's hard to see when the green eye monster will strike.

Yes, that's right. I think the backlash and bad press Lim and NTUC Income are receiving now is due to jealousy and envy. Lim seems to have it all; good looks, promising career, and decided to chunk it all at age 29? I think it's fair to say more than a few Singaporeans envied her when the "news" came out on Friday that she was retiring,

Then to find out it was all a stunt? Lim and NTUC just crushed the dreams of these Singaporeans. Thus the backlash. Not their fault (Lim and NTUC that is). Like I said earlier, it's hard to predict the green eye monster.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Comics this week

Ms. Marvel #4- Be careful what you wish for. Wise words to live and die by as Kamala Khan find out this issue. Ms. Marvel seen to have everything going for her; she’s an Avenger, she has a loving if slightly overbearing family, and goods friends who has her back, but as they say; too much of a good thing. Overwhelmed by school, family and her superhero career, she did what every superhero nerd would do; she tried to make copies of herself to be everywhere at the same time. Yes, it’s a clichéd idea done a hundred times over in various media but hey, it’s fun. 

Superman: Lois and Clark #5- Sometimes it’s the small thing that makes a good comic issue and nothing shows that better than this issue of Lois & Clarke. During a brief sojourn to Metropolis by the couple, Lois wanted to buy a Superman T-shirt as an ironic gift for their son and on the table, you see about 3 Superman T-shirts left, and a whole stack of Batman T-shirts waiting for buyers. Obviously a play on the current popularity of Batman vs Superman as well as the upcoming movie, the subtle play scene made the issue. I don’t know whether it’s writer Dan Jurgens or artist Lee Weeks who did the scene but it was just perfect! Great issue!

The Troop #3- Who in the world is Joshua Cassara? I have to ask because his art on The Troop has been very good, especially on the action sequences. Writer Noel Clarke wrote the series as a cross between Harbinger and X-Men and for the most part, it works but the difference between good and great is the work done by Cassara. The conflict and distrust among the team makes for good drama though I have to question if the team is a little too big too fast. I hardly know any of them. However as long as the writing and art keeps up, it’s all good.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valkyria Chronicles

First developed and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3 in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles made the jump to the PC last year (Nov 2014 to be exact) and after playing it, I have to say it is every bit as good as critics says. Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based strategy game that’s set in an alternate-reality World War II. However calling it just a turn-based strategy game is to do it a disservice. Valkyria Chronicles also incorporate JRPG and third-person real-time shooter in it.

The campaign is presented in a book format with each new chapter showing a significant moment of the war, and each chapter (bar one) has at least one battle you need to fight through. At the start of the battle, you see a top-down map and you need to deploy your forces. After the deployment phase, the game starts and you are given a fixed number of command points per turn from the perspective of the map. You use a command point to select a unit, and the camera will zoom you in over the shoulder of the unit you selected. You move the unit and there’s a bar at the bottom of the scene showing your movement points. You can’t move once the bar reached zero and enemies will also shoot at you if you get too close. When you aim, enemies stop attacking and you are shown a circle cross-hair to line up. Once the shot is done, you can move if the unit still has some movement points left. Then you use another command point to select another unit. Once out of command points the enemy takes their turn.

If this sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is. It took me awhile to get used to it but once I did, I found the gameplay to have a lot of depth. The unique combat system forces me to learn strategies on a few different levels. The map view makes me a commander, having to constantly think of the movement and positioning of my units. Zooming into a soldier offered a different perspective, a more personal one that shows the danger the unit is it.

The gameplay does not only involve the battles. Outside the battles, you can train and equip your squad members at your Headquarters. You will also need to select the members of your squad. There are about 50 to choose from and each member has his/her personality, including which characters they prefer to work along. Each of them also has a full page of back story that is only revealed as they fight.

However what made the squad system works is the threat of permadeath. If a downed character can’t be evacuated in three turns, they are gone for good. So as the battles piled up, the thoughts of keeping the members of your squad alive becomes paramount. You become attached to them. The developers obviously know this because one of the achievements available is for the permadeath of one of your experienced squad member. Those bastards!

The game is also pretty long (coming in at around 40 hours) and difficult. More than a few of the battles require smart deployment of your squad and smooth movement of them. It is challenging and very satisfying when you beat it.

The story is also very good. The entire game is contained within a fictitious book entitled "On the Gallian Front" by Irene Koller and revolves around Welkin Gunther, son of a war hero. Upon returning to his home town of Bruhl, Welkin's life was soon swept away by the invasion of Gallia from its’ eastern neighbor. Gallia has a policy of Universal Conscription and partly due to his father’s past war heroics, Welkin was drafted and given command of Squad 7 of the Gallian Militia. Serving as a tank commander, Welkin and Squad 7 began their campaign to fight the Imperial advance into Gallia.

It’s a story of war and all the heroics and ugliness that comes with it. You see story characters die in the midst of war, fighting the good fight. Characters who comprised their principals in the name of the greater good. Characters who managed to find love and become better people in the ugliness that surrounds them. I will admit the story is melodramatic and heavy-handed at times, but it does works.

Of course no game is perfect but I can only think of one for Valkyria Chronicles. The control for tanks can be a little twitchy at times.  Moving the camera around sometimes means the tank would turn as well and I could never understand why. However outside that, I can’t really think of anything to complain about.

So don’t wait and get this game. With its’ unique gameplay, strong story and good art, Valkyria Chronicles is a game you need to try. Who knows? If sales are good, then maybe Sega will port Valkyria Chronicles II & III to the PC as well. Buy it! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stupid But Nothing Illegal About It

By now, almost anyone with an internet connection in Singapore will know of Ms. Meng Jiang and her 3 dogs. Animal lovers and welfare groups have condemned the woman for dyeing her three pet dogs to look like baby pandas. 

The dogs are Chow Chow pups and are usually brow in color. Not anymore! Despite the complains, the dog owner don't think she has done anything wrong as the dogs are well taken care of and the dyes used are safe. She's so proud of them she even rent the dogs out for photoshoots!  

As adorable as the pups are, many Singaporeans are against this practice with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) criticizing the practice of dying fur. In a statement, they state that the SPCA is strongly against the practice and advised pet owners to refrain from altering their pet’s appearance in an unnatural and unnecessary way.

What does that tells you? It tell me there's no law against what is being done here! Yes, people may complain and I totally get it, it is very stupid to dye dogs to look like pandas. However no laws has been broken so Ms. Meng Jiang had done nothing wrong. Which also means she can continue keeping the dogs looking like pandas! 

Is it stupid? Yes. Is it wrong? Arguably, yes! Is it illegal? No. So Singaporeans better get used to it. Who knows what we're going to see dogs dyed as next?  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Funny 1MDB Case

Welcome to the party, Hong Kong!

That's my immediate thought when I read that the Hong Kong police are the latest to publicly say that they are investigating transactions linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. This comes soon after similar statements from Switzerland and Singapore.  

According to the spokesman of the Hong Kong police, their investigations are on a report lodged on August 30 last year on deposits of more than US$250 million (RM1.03 billion), allegedly owned by businessman Low Taek Jho. This follows the Swiss attorney-general's office revelations last month that they are investigating some US$4 billion (RM16.8 billion) that were misappropriated from Malaysian state companies and the Singapore's Monetary Authority (MAS) publicly admitting that they were cooperating with authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States on the investigations into 1MDB.

So now you have Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States investigating into 1MDB...but not Malaysia because according to the Malaysian attorney-general (A-G) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, there's no case! Now that's funny. Try as they might, it's seems that foreign governments are not going to allow Malaysian Prime Minister Najib to sweep the case to the back burner.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Standard & Wild

I have been playing Hearthstone for awhile now and have been having fun doing it. If you don't know what's Hearthstone, it's an online card game from gaming company "Blizzard" (creator of World of Warcraft).

The latest news from Blizzard is that Hearthstone will soon be spilt into get two format; Standard and Wild. The first will only allow players to use cards "released in the current and previous calendar year," as well as Basic and Classic cards which will never rotate out over time. Wild, on the other hand, can include every card ever virtually printed.

The idea for Standard is not new. Magic: The Gathering does the same thing. Banning older cards so that newer cards will see more playtime and to prevent power creep in the game. However I foresee a problem for Blizzard, and it's the same problem faced by Magic: The Gathering. How to keep players playing and buying when the cards they have will no longer be playable in one year? It's what took me away from Magic and now I have to ask myself the same question in Hearthstone. Why should I make the investment to buy cards that I can only play for 1 cycle/year? It just make no financial sense.

Already Blizzard is facing that problem as their website now state they are just "re-evaluating" and "making adjustments" on the older cards. Make all the "adjustments" you want but it still make me ask the same question; why should I buy any card from your online store if I can't use them in a year?

In case anyone is still wondering; yes, I think this is a bad bad idea.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Color of Voices

Currently, it seems all the news coming out of Malaysia has been bad. However with Chinese New Year is just around the corner, a capella group from Kuala Lumpur has gave Malaysian some good festive cheer with a capella medley that had captured the imagination.

The group is call "Color of Voices" and their Chinese New Year medley features a mix of popular Chinese New Year tunes, such as, chun dao ren jian (the arrival of spring), xi qing xin nian le (celebrate the new year bliss), gong xi fa cai (wishing you prosperity) and he xin nian (new year blessings). Not only did they get Malaysians in the festive mood, the group has captured the imagination with their diverse background.

Just a week after the upload, the video has garnered more than 18,000 views on Youtube and more than 13,000 views on Facebook. So what are you waiting for? See it here at ColorofVoices.