Wonder Woman


I’ll keep this brief: “Wonder Woman” is the most amazing superhero film I’ve seen yet.

It isn’t something built on hype. If anything, Warner and DC didn’t put as much marketing effort as it had with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and still “Woman Woman” was an explosive powerhouse of great action and great storytelling.

I say great storytelling because “Wonder Woman” tells more than one. It’s a coming-of-age tale where Diana comes to understand her purpose, it’s a heroes’ journey, it’s a story about World War I, it’s a love story, it’s a story about gods and mortals, and most of all, it’s a superhero story.

I look back in previous superhero films and not one of them came close to actually being a superhero. In 2008 with “Iron Man,” Tony Stark developed his suit first to escape captivity, and then again, to destroy the weapons manufactured by his own company on enemy hands. “Thor” was just a spoiled battle hungry god who got a time out from his dad and was just making penance. And good ole “Captain America” was a weapon of the United States to punch the hell out of HYDRA. 

I’m not bashing Marvel here. I love their films but you’ve got to admit, the first fight scene with Diana coming out as Woman Woman for the first time, where she went out of her way to help people in desperate need, that’s a superhero moment there. She was willing to abandon her mission and her own safety to save lives. Literally save lives – civilian lives – out of immediate danger between the trenches of World War I.

That moment where Diana rose up that ladder: It was glorious. Of course the music helped stirred my emotions but it was no less the most epic thing I’ve seen in a superhero film. I had to dig way back in the attic of my mind to find something similar, and what came out was Sam Raimi’s own “Spider-Man 2” where our friendly wall-crawler stopped an overspeeding train.

The heroics doesn’t stop there. At some point every supporting character had done something heroic and things continue to build up to the final closing scenes.

“Wonder Woman” is an excellent example that DC and Warner can produce excellent superhero films within their Extended Universe. It tells a clear and comprehensive story with just the right amount of humor and excellent action. That’s why “Woman Woman” succeeded. It’s going to be a tough act to follow up but here’s to the future of “Wonder Woman.” 

Now let’s see if “Justice League” is on par with “Wonder Woman.”

LG plays safe with the G6

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This 2017 there is a spectrum in flagship phones. Both Samsung and Huawei have recently played their cards and are topping the Android industry. Sony is about to show off their newest contender, while HTC just announced theirs in high hopes to make a comeback in the hall of smartphone champions.

What about LG? Year after year they have been giving us excellent phones, though with gimmicky features. The G2, for instance, rocked the industry by placing its home button at the back. (Something that has been replicated in more recent phones, like Asus and Huawei.) The G4 gave us a leatherback with a somewhat curved design. I don’t know what the G3 brought to the table, despite having owned one for a while, I’m guessing it’s the 2K screen. And of course, the G5 introduced modular features that absolutely went nowhere, and that last one was a bad hit for LG.

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So what about the new LG G6? It’s safe to say that this is LG’s safest phone yet. A simpler design and well-built. It comes with hardware you’d expect from a flagship device. Though the chipset used here isn’t the latest one, which is quite a head scratcher, really.

Let’s break things down, rating each of them.

Design: 4/5 

If you ask me, I love the simpler design the G6 has over its predecessors. It has no curved screen, no disgusting leatherback, no modularity with expensive modules, no nothing. Just a great-looking phone with nice specs and other staple things.

This is an era where we are getting regular-sized phones with larger screens. The bezels of the G6 is almost nonexistent, a testament to the screen’s durability over years of development. It’s a tall phone with a tall screen and a width so much slimmer than the G5. It’s a great phone to binge on Netflix and just chill the F-Out.

While the frontal design of the G6 is nice and swell, the rear, should be smooth and, well, nice to touch. The G6 unit I managed to get my hands on was covered with a protective film, and that could only mean the darker colored G6 is a fingerprint bitch. As far as I know, without the protective layer, the back is an all glass panel built with Gorilla Glass 5. And as far as my experience goes with LG, they have sturdy phones. My G3 unit had a lot of bad drops. So did my LG G4 Beat. And before those, I had an LG L70, which underwent a ton of accidental waist-high drops. Oh, there were scratches and some dents, but the fact remains, the screen was intact and fully operational.

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The volume rockers are found in the left side of the phone that allows left-handed users to thumb through the volume. Right-handed users can go finger them with the index finger. SIM tray goes to the right side, a Type-C USB port for fast charging and fast transfer speeds, and a headphone jack. (Go suck it Apple, we want our wired headphones!)

Specs: 4/5

Display: 1440×2880

Screen size: 5.7-inch

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM: 4GB

Memory: 32GB and 64GB

Dual cameras: 13MP (Both)

Front camera: 5MP

Battery: 3300

Water and dust resistant with IP68: Hell yeah!

If you look at it like that, it’s not so bad, right? While some phones kick balls with six gigs of RAM, the G6 maintains a stronghold for 4GB, and that’s not really a bad thing, as the phone is blazing fast as it already is. The difference would have been only fractions of a second.

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What bothers me here is the chipset. While most flagships use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or an 831, at least, the G6 uses an 821. Phones that use this are: Google Pixel and Pixel XL, Xiaomi Note 2, OnePlus 3T, and Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe. All of those phones are well regarded with excellent performance, so I wouldn’t think twice about how well of a performer the G6 is.

That wasn’t to say the 821 chipset is bad. It’s just a little outdated. But make no mistake, the 821 fires up all the G6’s cores and runs all the apps you’ll ever need without flinching.

Software: 4/5

Who cares about software? It runs on Android 7 Nougat. LG’s own Knock-On has returned without a doubt. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you just double-tap your screen to awaken the phone. LG has this since the G2 and it’s been a nice addition. Though, I’m not sure if it’s the unit I have right now, or if there’s some flimsy code on LG’s part, but the Knock-On feature doesn’t always respond. The same goes with my pressing of the rear home button.

The Always-On Display, which is seen in some phones today, is present in the G6. So if you rely on your phone to check the time, you no longer have to open your phone to view it. Other notifications and battery status are always on the screen despite the phone being locked.

Camera: 3/5

Let’s get this down before the initial knee-jerk reaction. The G6’s camera is excellent. The colors are accurate, vibrant, and sharp. It has nice gestures that allows you to take selfies without pressing the shutter button. You can switch between its two rear cameras to get different aspect ratio contrasts and depth. It has the usual staple: Time-lapse, filters, slow-motion, among others. The dual rear cameras firing at 13MP each and the frontal 5MP, are absolutely fine and deserves to be in a flagship phone. However, compared to other phones out there, the G6 lags behind by a hair.

Here are some sample shots.

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Conclusion

Unlike other phone makers: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and OPPO who all introduce their flagship phones alongside a bigger “Plus” version, LG sets aside their big-ass phone for a couple months. I’m talking about the LG V series. Last year the LG V20 received a warmer and more loving welcome than the main G5 had. While I do love the simpler G6, it’s hard not to hold my breath for a few more months before making up my mind, the next LG V phone is just across the horizon, after all.

Alien: Covenant

I didn’t know what to expect from “Alien: Covenant.” I had hoped it would be similar to the older films that were each directed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron. A friend and colleague from GameGulp, a gaming and film website I’ve helped a little to procure content, had claimed it was a good film.

In a lot of ways, “Alien: Covenant” pays homage to “Alien” and “Aliens,” by re-using old elements from both films. And these elements that played out were so strong, it’s impossible not to smile and think back about those moments that made the franchise fun and terrifying.

At the same time, “Alien: Covenant” feels so alien that it is more “Prometheus” than it is to the main series. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, or even be complaining about it. I imagine, studio executives, enforcing the call to slap the popular brand into the title rather than simply call it: “Covenant.” (Especially that, there was a film called “Covenant” released in 2006 and it was horrible.)

By the time the credits started rolling, it felt like a chestburster had come out between my ribs, leaving me in hollowed silence. What I’m getting at here, this is a pretty decent film, but it could have been better, had it been more intelligent and clever.

I understand that “Alien” and “Aliens” were galleries that shows in sequence the consequences of making bad choices. The characters’ panic and hysteria were so emulated in Covenant which, from the outsight, made them look the stupidest bunch ever. It was almost as if, these films are saying, you need to be punished for your bad decisions.

I have watched the first four films a small number of times. Covenant steers clear from this and has, instead, provided a series of answers. Though none of them bridges the gap to “Alien” as what people seems to be clamoring about. And if the internet is to be believed, Scott intends to bring out two more Alien prequels before bridging it with the first film. We’re so much closer now to the first film more than ever.

The first half of the film was engaging. You have a crew that is responsible for the safety of the entire colony. And the second half just falters with countless mistakes and random acts of stupidity. Were the characters afraid, which is why they made all these mistakes? In some cases, yes. However, there were those who were actually bold enough venture out into the dark and just be plain stupid.

“Alien: Covenant” at most, is a B film with triple A budget. I really wanted to like this film since I grew up watching these. Not to mention “Alien” had been my introduction to horror and space when I was a kid. But I just couldn’t find any more reason to. I’ll still be a sucker for all future films though.

UPDATE: Reflecting back on the film. Covenant doesn’t only take elements from the first two films, but also from the climactic scenes in “Alien 3.” I probably missed a lot more, so I’ll just wait for the Blue-ray.

Reckoning of Dragons: Dragon Killer

I think Rob May, author of the trilogy “Reckoning of Dragons,” is a talented author. I think he’s a great writer and he tells an intriguing story. I got the entire trilogy upon a recommendation by a friend.

Now, I finished the first book, titled “Dragon Killer” and decided to set aside the next two books for a while. While I had just praised May’s writing skills, I found “Dragon Killer” could have had a few more edits to deliver a far more polished product.

By edits: I don’t mean fixing grammar, cause May has that under control. “Dragon Killer” has a beginning, middle, and an end. However, somewhere halfway through, the middle and the beginning jumbles up. It’s as if, May suddenly decided that he wanted to tell a story in the same vein as Patrick Rothfuss in his “The Kingkiller Chronicles” or Anthony Ryan’s “Blood Song.” It could had worked and I think it would have worked. I found Kalina Moonheart an interesting character: Strong, fierce, and clever. And her relationships with other characters are seems fascinating. But we never really get the chance to see that develop.

The novella would have had a more fluid storytelling to it without the first several chapters. I have a couple other more comments but I’m dwelling in on that pit where I’d rather just stay quiet and know my place. Nothing too drastic anyway. Just how I would have done things differently. For instance, the first three or five chapters would had focused on Kalina, on us, getting to know her. And then we swoon backwards, digging through her history, picking out the tiny but interesting details that culminated to who she was into the current timeline of “Dragon Killer.”

Overall I’m somewhat satisfied with the novella. I read the first chapter of the second book, “Roll the Bones” and I have thoroughly enjoyed that so far. So I’ll reserve any other comments when I’ve finished the next two books.

Thus far, I’ll say “Dragon Killer” is a little decent read. Just skip the entire “Part One” as from Part Two onward, you’ll be revisiting events from the first part, in a shorter and more interesting way.

Red Sister

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You put a noose around a child’s neck and wait for the command to pull that lever. There must be something evil thriving within, for this child, no more than nine-years-old, to be sent to prison and sentenced to death. Cause no child is capable of committing actual crimes worth being sent to the good ole gallows, right? No? Oh bleed me, how ignorant of you. Obviously, author Mark Lawrence doesn’t give a shit. He likes to write about children and pre-teens doing bad stuff, the kind of stuff you wish your assault bunny could do to your enemies.

The first “Book of the Ancestor: Red Sister” doesn’t stagger or choke. It glides, toes brushing the surface of the lake, cutting the water into gentle waves. It’s beautiful to look, and in terms with the book, once you start, it’s damn near impossible to put it down. I ended up gorging through the pages, chapter after chapter, thinking, “Just one more.” It was like binge-watching “Game of Thrones” where you promise to stop after the next episode and you end up finishing the entire season.

I didn’t find the prose as lyrical or florid as you might find in other books. The words were put together to be straightforward, sharp with urgency, as the pace does throttle, and stops only for a moment to let you admire the world where the story takes place in. And frankly, there isn’t much to see. You’re stuck in a single location for the most part of the book, though the characters leave to go to other places once in a while, most of the exploration comes from the stories the characters tell each other.

“Red Sister” is the introduction of a large world where a thousand stories can take place in. And within the confines of that one location where the characters often huddle together after a long day’s worth of training, mentally and physically, they tell stories, rumors, and what’s up about their families. Together, all these micro-stories weaves into a larger and stronger narrative.

Mark Lawrence is being tricky here. Worldbuilding without actually going anywhere too much. That’s clever. And there are a lot of things in the book that tells us that this isn’t your typical fantasy world. It soars all the way up to the stars and these are the best bits to pick out while reading the book.

And all throughout, “Red Sister” is about building bridges with other people. It’s a story about relationships, about how characters cope with their struggles, how they become enemies to friends – (frenemies in some cases) – and eventually, into a family. Make no mistake, all the characters in this book are different, each with their own little backgrounds and personalities, and almost all of them, are extremely likable. Even the ones that, on paper, appear to be annoying.

But that one thing about this book that really nudged me, were the ninja nuns. Yes, this book is filled with ninja nuns. They throw shurikens and shit. Though while many of the characters remain badass, they are without their flaws, and they get their own asses kicked once in a while.

What’s frustrating here is that, Mark Lawrence had already declared that the remaining two books: “Grey Sister” and “Holy Sister” are already completed. And respectively, will be released in 2018 and 2019. That’s a damn long wait. There’s some serious shit going on by the end of “Red Sister” and it demands to be read immediately. And I’m not speaking about cliffhanger endings, oh no, no. Mark Lawrence puts you in a catapult and launches you thousands of feet into the air, without solace, without anything to hold on to, without letting you breathe.

It’s just fucking good! There’s no other way in how to say it.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ goes into orbit

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For this article, images of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ are used.

With a lot of love and support from people all over the world, I was loaned Samsung’s newest flagship phones: The Galaxy S8 and S8+. And impressions over it have far exceeded than what we had expected.

After the entire Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung comes back strong and hitting hard with the Galaxy S8 and the S8+. During their Unpack event, which was held in March 29 at New York, Samsung executives spoke at length about the new screen.

They call it: The Infinity Display. It sounds like Samsung is cashing in on Marvel’s next year’s almost-guaranteed hit “The Avengers: Infinity War.” In reality, the Infinity Display is just a fancy name for an improved dual-curved, pseudo-bezel-less screen. It’s OLED, meaning the pixels popping out of that screen emit their own light, which, in paper and in the ears, sounds cool. And honestly, it is.

You can even configure the screen into three different settings: 720p (HD+), 1080p (FHD+), and 1440p (UHD). Samsung even warns you that tuning up the screen into UHD with increased brightness will drain battery life faster. Well, no shit Sherlock. That’s among the reasons for giving us fast charging and fast wireless charging, right?

Part of what makes up the Infinity Display is the absence of a physical home button. This allowed Samsung to design the new Galaxy S phones with a much larger screen without bloating them up to incredulous levels. The home button is not missed as much as I thought I would, as the basic home, back, and menu buttons appear on screen already. If you think about it, a physical home button that does the same thing as the one on screen is a bit of a redundancy, right?

In the right side of the screen is a virtual drawer that you can slide out and bring out some Edge features, like People Edge and Apps Edge, which acts as shortcuts. It’s something that I personally never found useful, as there are simpler and faster ways to reach your favorite contacts list, and apps shortcuts can be sorted out anyway. Suffice to say, the People and Apps Edge only gives you a nice-looking, more organized way of navigation.

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I am a huge fan of stock Android. Just plain, bland, boring vanilla Android, for reasons that should really be obvious if you know your tech. And it finally seems Samsung has started listening to people. The Galaxy S8’s UX is all Samsung. And yet it looks so much like stock Android, simple and clean, it makes it hard to let go.

You can bring out all your apps by swiping up or down, which is really damn nice. Again, everything feels so clean and simple, navigation has never been this smoother on a phone. Also, it’s nice to point out that Galaxy S8 has 3D touch features. Tap and hold on to the app to bring out a pop-up menu that allows you to do choose a couple of things. Though, there is still a lot of room for further developments here.

My major complaint about the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and this is something I’m not alone, is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Look, Samsung, we understand you have your own thing here, and you refuse to join the club of putting fingerprint sensors at the back of the phone, right beneath the camera, so instead, you put your sensor on the right side of the camera. It’s rather brilliant really. Actually – it isn’t. It’s annoying. I’m a left-handed person and it takes my hand a bit of a stretch to reach the fingerprint sensor. This is an even bigger concern for people using the Galaxy S8+, which is a bigger phone. However, when using my right hand, I didn’t find any problem with using the sensor, at all. So I suppose Samsung expects you to meet them halfway, eh?

There are even concerns that before people will be able to hit the fingerprint sensor, they would end up smudging their camera with prints. This wasn’t the case on the unit lent to me. I squeezed out the grease between the microscopic creases of my fingers and rubbed them all over the camera and it didn’t affect the picture quality.

However, the unit, black, or whatever bullshit shade Samsung has decided to call their version of black, is a fingerprint muncher. Only mere moments of admiring the phone, running my fingers along its glass finish, it was smeared with prints all over. It’s quite a nasty thing to look at, which is a shame, cause when cleaned, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+ look fucking good.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0.

Thus far I have not encountered issues with the fingerprint sensor, unlike my experiences on other devices, where it takes repeated tries for the phone to unlock. This is based on a single 24-hour experience with the phone. Nonetheless, I found the fingerprint sensor to be the most effective and convenient layer of security. I dislike the facial recognition and the iris scanner tech that Samsung is so proud of, simply because it makes you look like you’re taking a selfie. It might be Samsung’s way of gamification of things, but I just don’t like it. I’m not into selfies and it bugs me that Samsung is actually encouraging me to.

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Oh, speaking of selfies, picture-taking, whatnot, Samsung has integrated their own Snapchat-ish features onto their camera, both in the 12MP dual-pixel rear camera and the 8MP front camera. We don’t know why can’t you just use the other apps that does the exact same feature. In the light of things, I suppose it’s because Samsung is trying to save you time, effort, and memory space by providing something on the get-go instead of downloading them first in the Google Play Store.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0. This means a lot of things for the future. This means your paired devices can have a much farther range from each other. It also means fast wireless transfer speeds. But the best of them lot, is having enough bandwidth to allow two of the same device to pair to the phone. For instance, you can pair two Bluetooth headphones on a single Galaxy S8 unit. No need to share earpieces with your significant other. You can also pair two different speakers. It’s a technology geared toward the bubbling developments of the Internet-of-Things.

One of my least explored features of the phone is Samsung’s own digital assistant, Bixby. It functions the same way as Google Assistant and supposed to be better than Apple’s Siri, and something to go head-to-head against Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. Bixby is like the old S Voice that everyone hoped would just die and Samsung buried it long before that happened, hoping no one would even remember it. But Bixby is different. So Samsung says. Considering Bixby is Samsung’s own design, the AI is designed to do a lot more in in your phone such as change settings. In the Samsung website, it listed Bixby as “It’s constantly learning your ways so it can get better and better.” That’s so vague and scary at the same time.

In the left side of the phone below the volume rockers is a Bixby button. For Samsung to go this far as to put a physical button to summon the AI, we get the sense that Samsung has the intention to blow minds here. I get the sense that Samsung here intends to create a smart hub, integrating all Samsung electronics: TVs, refrigerators, washers, etc… into your mobile phone, with Bixby at its heart. My concern with Bixby is, do we really need it? Anyone who might want to connect their Samsung appliances to their phones, maybe. But for other people? I doubt everyone will want to use Bixby, let alone any digital assistants, save for a few bored questions. And in such cases, I wish Samsung had allowed the customization of the Bixby button into another application that you’d rather use most of the time. Going in-depth about Bixby requires an article of its own, so we’ll let this simmer down a little and go back into admiring the phone.

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ packs the best Android hardware you can have. Four gigs of RAM, Snapdragon 835, and 64GB internal storage that can be expanded using microSD card. It’s a flagship device, so of course everything in it was put together to give a full-throttle experience. It’s also IP68, so yup, take that phone with you to the pool.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ is a great phone. Our local telcos will be happy to create promos and plans to rip you off when it launches in the country, which isn’t too far now, especially with pre-orders starting real soon. And if you pre-ordered, you can even get a wireless Bluetooth speaker. Give Samsung a clap folks. If the Galaxy Note 7 had damaged Samsung’s reputation, the Galaxies S8 and S8+ will redeem them.

Logan

So I watched “Logan” the other day with the wife.

I thought I was alright when we walked out of the cinema. And then I started walking on my own toward the toy shop, staring at the Mazinger figures. I shed tears. I think I needed to.

Why shouldn’t I? I grew up with these characters. I was there when the first “X-Men” film was shown in theaters. And “Logan” was clear to point out about the film’s climactic battle. “X-Men” was the reason how Marvel films were first appreciated. Then we got “Spider-Man” eventually leading to “Iron Man” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, coincidence or otherwise, we owe a lot to “X-Men.” Enough about that.

“Logan” is more about the relationship between Logan and Professor Charles Xavier. And less to do with Logan and Laura. Looking back, almost all of the X-Men films were family-centered. They were about building strong bridges and patching the holes on old ones. There’s a lot of dad or parental issues there too. None came as close as “Logan.” It exceeded expectations. We were given a proper drama film with action elements that made perfect use of the characters they were given with.

The emotion fires up all twelve-cylinders. It’s intense. The action sequences, in truth, while amusing, were the less interesting bits of it. The quiet moments between Logan and Charles, the laughter, the constant swearing between the two – and yes, hearing Charles drop the F-Bomb several times is both hilarious and shocking at the same time – were all the film’s finest highlights.

The relationship between Logan and Laura was not explored as much as I’d hope it would. There is almost nothing that between the two that allowed them to bond. Charles served as an anchor and that worked well for a while. Then again, I could be missing things here: Laura continued to hold on hope that Logan is the hero she thinks he is. And Logan, well, for Charles’ sake.

Logan just tried to do what he thought was right. He is son and father who is struggling to find ways to keep the family intact, when things are falling apart faster than he could patch anything up.

I don’t think I’ll ever watch “Logan” again. It is a great film. One of the best I’ve seen for a long time. But I just don’t think I can handle the sucker punches again. How far the Wolverine has fallen. How the X-Men is no more. How Professor Xavier wanders around inside a collapsed silo, rambling to himself, unable to immediately recognize people. Oh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. More things unravel soon and it became intense. And later, when you think things are quiet, here comes a moment that won’t allow you to breath. It will just take away your strength and you will feel weak, and just think to yourself, “I grew up with these characters.” To me it did, at least. It’s been days and the burden in my chest remains heavy.

My wife got emotional too, but only at the very last scene, where she mentioned to me that it was indeed, a finality, an end of an era.