Monthly Archives:February 2011

I'd give it a 4

28 Feb , 2011,
Crimson
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I Am Number Four - Poster Art

Out of 10 stars.

I Am Number Four was one of those movies I’d been vaguely interested in, not because it was a sci-fi flick, but because it was an adaptation of a children’s novel. Having watched so many adaptations bomb at the box office, I’d actually hoped that the director might attempt something different, play up the intergalactic intrigue and the mystical symbolism thing Number Four had going, and maybe save it from the gutter.

I should have known better. When you throw Michael ‘Disaster’ Bay and the very disturbing D.J. Caruso (of Disturbia fame) together, you know you’ll end up with a very disturbing disaster. Number Four’s a film that tries to get a rise out of you, then falls short on so many levels it’s not even funny.

It’s blatantly obvious that Number Four’s a new spin on the Superman thing.

John Smith (not his real name) is an alien from the planet Lorien who’s escaped the complete and utter destruction of his planet at the hands of the Mogadorians (alien shark people who look kinda like the guys from Star Trek).

He’s happily living on Earth when his cover is blown, and he is forced to escape with his minder to the town of Paradise, Ohio. Predictably, he falls in love, gains a sidekick (in the form of the school nerd), gets on the bad side of the town jocks (hurhur), tangles with space freaks, and blows up the school in the process.

It doesn’t end there, of course. By the end of the movie, he’s resolved to find the rest of his alien friends, so with their powers combined, they could end the Mogadorian threat forever.

It’s hard to believe that the novel Number Four’s based on spent several weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list (which goes to show that mainstream readers will read just about anything), when it’s pretty much a book, and now a film, about emo teen angst, growing pains, and puppy love combined with space invaders and super powers.

The script, too, doesn’t impress.

The macguffin – a glowing box of glowing stuff, is introduced early, but by the end of the story, no one knows what it does, except that it’s “important”. If Chekhov could see it now, people, I bet he’d be pulling the trigger on this one.

Also, Number Six (Teresa Palmer, a veritable babe in total control of herself) has a habit of showing up and cleaning up Number Four’s messes, like magic. Invisible, leather clad, sexy magic. Hello, Director Ex Machina much?

Admittedly, Caruso isn’t as big on explosions as Bay, and this modicum of restraint proved refreshing. The special effects and choreography weren’t particularly stellar, but they weren’t particularly bad either.

Don’t expect anything award winning in the acting department though. Alex Pettyfer is there to look pretty, and while Dianna Agron attempts to play a cheerleader turned shutterbug with depth, the characters remain rather much 1D.

I’m wondering if Number Four would have made a better OVA than a movie.

There’s a lot that animation can do that can’t be translated on the big screen, and it’s got all the hallmarks of something Madhouse or Geneon could do.

Still, there’s not a whole lot to see here. Number Four might make a good popcorn movie, but that’s all it’ll ever be.

Hopefully the sequel (and I bet you there’ll be a sequel) is marginally better.

Making History

27 Feb , 2011,
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Radiant Historia - Title Screen

With so many games out there, it’s hard for any one title to differentiate itself from the rest without a solid gimmick. Yet all too often, games touting unique systems fail because they tend to be too gimmicky, and somehow lose the plot in the process.

Radiant Historia, which I picked up on a whim over the weekend, is one of the few rare exceptions.

In true Atlus fashion, it’s a game that boasts a strong, multi-pronged narrative – one that seamlessly integrates it’s selling point – time travel – into the mix.

This, coupled with decent characterization and fairly original (well, not so original) combat mechanics alone elevates it from the mundane to something somewhat better.

Definitely not the strong, silent type.

Set in a war-torn world on the brink of turning into an uninhabitable desert, you play the role of Stocke, a protagonist with (thankfully) a speaking role.

A member of Allistel’s covert intelligence unit, he is ensnared in a web of fine lies and double-crosses, and swept up in the currents of war between his own kingdom and its rival Granorg.

Expectedly, things take a turn for the worse in the prologue, and Stocke realizes that he has to use the White Chronicle – a tome that grants time travel powers – to save the day, stave off the desertification process, and get the girl (yes, it’s in there somewhere).

Time Travel in Radiant Historia lets you explore two stories – two threads of fate that you have to hop to and from on a regular basis, just to solve puzzles, learn new tricks, and generally get around to uncover the continent’s “true history”.

Mind you, the shuttling back and forth can get tedious – often, you’ll have to explore the same areas again, and scroll through walls of dialogue (thank god for the Skip option), but there are definite rewards for learning from the past.

Flip to a page in The White Chronicle, and choose a node...

There are events and side quests a plenty that will reward you with money and items, as well as opportunities to advance the plot.

In one scenario, you’ll have to defuse bombs rigged by the evil Granorgites in the Sand Fortress, but you’re only able to do so if you have the Mana Sight ability, which can be learned only in the standard timeline.

Later on, in order to sneak through a buncha guards, you’ll have to learn how to Vanish, which you can’t unless you’re well along the alternate history path.

Like any RPG, you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring and killing monsters. Areas are spacious and expansive, and monsters, which come in various shades determining their relative power level, are fought on a 9 x 9 square grid.

Busting some heads on a 9 x 9 square grid.

Part of the combat component is strategy – you can change the turn order of your party members, line up combos, and shift enemies around so they’re clumped up together (and can therefore be attacked all at once).

Racking up higher combos yields better experience and item drops, and needless to say, that’s going to go a long way to keeping you alive as you do the Doctor Who thing since gear’s hard to come by.

Which brings me to my next point.

I was disappointed by the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of towns to explore, or places to pick up new equipment. Gold, too, is pretty scarce unless you decide to grind it out a little.

While the stock in shops tend to change every now and then, and there are travelling merchants at key locations to help you out, it’s not always enough.

Graphically, the game’s got an old school feel to it. There’s a certain charm to seeing 90s style sprites going at each other again.

The character designs, especially their renditions in the portraits, are detailed, though somewhat run-of-the-mill. Stocke’s pretty much the blonde haired, blue eyed RPG golden boy (who also wears red!), and the others aren’t far off the mark either.

I could appreciate the effort put into creating the setting though, and overall, that, as an entity, tends to stand out more strongly than the characters do.

I’ve been rabidly ploughing through the game over the weekend, and for the most part I’m liking what I’ve seen so far.

With so many good things going for it, Radiant Historia’s turning out to be the kind of game that might actually weather the test of time.

Now, if only I had a real life White Chronicle so I can go back in time to clear up my backlog. XD

Catch my Rift?

24 Feb , 2011,
Crimson
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Go go Earth Elemental! XD

I’ve been keeping mum about RIFT in the initial testing phase, but now that it’s almost ready to go live, I have to say that it’s something I’m really keen to play, and maybe even cosplay.

RIFT is a next generation MMORPG by Trion Worlds that features the three things that top my list when I think fantasy – magic, crazy-ass technology, and time travel.

In RIFT, you play a champion that’s chosen to return to the world of the past to thwart the arrival of an extraplanar force, and you get to throw in your lot with either the Guardians, or the Defiants (which are kinda like the Alliance and the Horde, but not).

Mind you, RIFT makes no pretense at being a WOW clone, or a WOW killer for that matter. (It is, after all, a given that nothing’s going to topple WOW short of a collective sale to Chinese Gold Farmers.)

It does, however attempt to do things different.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about Rift so far is the flexibility of it all. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Rift, and it’s stuff you don’t need a guild or party for.

There’s a healthy amount of plot that unfurls as you complete quests and interact with people, with a good dash of conspiracy thrown into the mix for all those story junkies and conspiracy theorist types.

When tentacles come to call...

Tourists will enjoy the panoramic vistas and beautifully rendered locales, while Monster Hunters out to vanquish well… monsters will find plenty of them loitering around maliciously, doing the monster thing.

The concept of Public Groups is likely one of RIFT’s greatest innovations.

When Tentacle Things From The Great Beyond encroach on our reality, all you need to do is wander close, and you’ll have the option of joining any number of other players out to trounce their slimy, non-Euclidean hides.

What’s more, everyone gets a decent reward. There’s no need to worry about ninja looters and DKP anymore.

I’m also really digging the Ascended Soul system.

Sure, you begin play choosing one of the four classic fantasy archetypes – Warrior, Cleric, Mage and Rogue, but you get to pick at least three out of eight talent trees, with their own spells and passive abilities to play around with at any given time.

This makes for a mind boggling number of permutations, and plenty of excitement for those keen to try their hand at everything.

Necromancer - Just one of the many paths available to mage-y types. XD

I know I had loads of fun trying out the elementalist and the necromancer, and tossing in fun things like the archon and the chloromancer into the mix.

Frankly, I can’t wait for the game to hit the shelves. I’ve already got my ticket to the Head Start (which begins at 2 am tonight, by the way), and I’m just itching to play.

For more information about RIFT, check out their website here.

If you’re already playing, don’t be a stranger. I’ll be on Shadefallen, playing a Kelari mage named Crimson, so let’s party up sometime. ^^

Bordered, much?

23 Feb , 2011,
Crimson

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If you’re big on reading like me, then you’d probably be aware of the fate of Borders and its spate of closures around the world.

It’s been bad news and more bad news for the 40-year-old lifestyle bookstore chain, but hey, while it’s all doom and gloom for them, there’s hope yet for us.

Guess what, book lovers? They’re holding a massive clearance sale this weekend, at Singapore Expo no less.

I’m not gonna speculate about the whys and wherefores of such a decision, especially in light of recent developments, but I sure am gonna be there grabbing all those books and graphic novels I’ve always wanted to get, but never got around to because Kinokuniya was way cheaper and a whole lot more accessible.

Check out the details here:

Massive Clearance Sale - Digital Ad as posted on Borders website.

Crimson's Fantasy Wand Tutorial

22 Feb , 2011,
Crimson
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Everything you need to make yourself a fantasy style wand. And who said you needed the Craft Wand feat, huh?

Fantasy fans are no strangers to wands.

Wands are to wizards what guns are to gunslingers, and any wizard worth his salt is bound to be packing heat.

Before wands were popularized in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter,  they were already all the rage in Dungeons & Dragons.

Wands could be crafted from all kinds of exotic and unusual materials, such as amber, cobalt, and even human bone.

Computer games, too, added an increasing complex graphical dimension to wand designs – as any player of the latest MMORPGs, especially World of Warcraft can attest.

Today, I will cover the basics of creating a simple fantasy wand – one with the finished look of a piece of charred bone, topped with a skull – that’s ideal for a sinister necromancer, villainous wizard, or a World of Warcraft warlock.

Overall, this tutorial will take approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

First off, you will need the following items:

1. A Bamboo Hanging Vase, which we will scavenge for the ‘bones’. – $2 from Daiso.

2. Styrofoam Skull – $3 to $5, from Toys ‘R’ Us or a party goods store.

3. Embellishments – In this case I’m using black feathers ($2 for a packet, from a craft shop), spool silver wire ($2 from Daiso) and black cord ($2 from Daiso).

4. Paint – Acrylic, black and silver (price varies) and Red Glass Paint (price varies). You can pick up paint from Art Friend or any other art supply shop.

In addition to the above items, you’ll also need a pair of scissors and craft glue.

Step 1:

The whole purpose of getting a Bamboo Hanging Vase - scavenging the parts!

Here's what you want. XD

Using a pair of scissors, cut open the rattan cords keeping the Bamboo Hanging Vase together. Dismantle it carefully, removing the bone-like wooden sticks. Select one of them (the more bone-y looking one). It’s going to become the base of your wand.

Step 2:

Poke a hole in the base of the styrofoam skull using your scissors.

Be gentle!

Once you have made a small groove, insert the bone-y wooden stick into the hole. Twist it in so the fit is nice and snug.

Easy does it. XD

Step 3:

Once that’s done, it’s time to start getting our fingers dirty. Remove the stick, and start painting it liberally with acrylic and a dry brush. Use a layer of black first, to create a base coat. Layer on silver in dabs to create a metallic finish.

Several coats should make it look nice and metallic.

Step 4:

Once that’s done, we’ll leave it to dry while we work on the skull.

My, what big eyes you have!

Using a fine brush, paint the eye sockets of the skull with red glass paint. Dab it on lightly, and spread it out to make the eye sockets look bloody. You can also paint on magical symbols and runes if you like.

Step 5:

Decorate your wand. In this case, I’m using silver wire and black feathers, and I’ve streaked a bit of silver acrylic paint onto the feathers to give them a bit of contrast. You can embellish your wand with anything you want, really, and even paint on magical runes and symbols on the stick part. XD

Binding the feathers down with silver wire. XD

Step 6:

Finally, apply craft glue to the tip of your wand, and again inside the hole in your styrofoam skull. Join both parts together.

And we're almost done!

Leave the whole project to dry, then add some accessories like spikes, horns and extra feathers to make it look awesome! XD

Breaking Borders

20 Feb , 2011,
Crimson

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SHINYA, one of the acts at Stage Without Borders

It was tough growing up as a creative dude in the ’90s.

Opportunities were few and far between, grants skimpy, and being labeled an artist or writer was akin to a cuss word.

And that’s why it’s heartening to discover just how much the local scene’s changed in the past couple years, exactly how many new arts initiatives and avenues are available for young peeps to showcase their talents.

One of these ways, as I discovered yesterday, was Stage Without Borders, an event organized by GRID MMS  and staged along Orchard Road, right outside Wisma Atria.

Into it’s second year, Stage Without Borders is a talent show that puts some of the best local talent on parade, bringing their music and dance routines to the public.

The amazing, silky voiced Cindy Gomez - definitely a crowd pleaser.

It also offers an opportunity for groups such as Parkour, Capoeira, Nerf and costuming enthusiasts to demonstrate their abilities, as well as for these fringe participants to gain some solid exposure.

Doesn’t hurt that the gigs featured at Stage Without Borders are pretty kickass, and that there’s a fair amount of groovin’, rockin’ and excitement to be had either.

If you like live music, then hey, for the next couple weekends you’re gonna have a chance to get plenty at Stage Without Borders.

Photographers who want to catch a glimpse of cosplayers and the cool cats from Movie Mania doing their thang might wanna check it out too.

Here are some other photos I took at the event:

Have you seen the Gingerbread Man? XD

A Traceur wowing the crowd with his acrobatic moves.

What's a gig without a dance-off?

More details about Stage Without Borders and their upcoming events can be found here.

X, Japan

19 Feb , 2011,
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Cyke actually looks bish, instead of like a fawning sycophant in this series. Screen cap from X-men anime webby.

Just saw the promo video for the X-men anime produced by Marvel in collaboration with Superhero Anime Partners and Madhouse, and I think it’s gonna be great.

I spotted Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Beast in the sequence. Character designs are a step up from the old cartoons, that’s for sure.

Check out the official Animax website for X-men, as well as the vid here.

All your brains are belong to us

18 Feb , 2011,
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So Now You're a Zombie. But can you read? XD - Cover Art

Everyone wants to be a vampire.

After the fiasco that was Twilight, being a pretty boy that sparkles in the sun’s kinda the in thing.

But if you’re into the undead, and you’ve seen zombie movies, then you’ll know that travesties like Edward Cullen aside, shambling around and going “Braaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnsssss~!” ain’t half bad.

That is, until you come up against gung-ho survivor types and pesky high school kids who refuse to stand still so you can take a chomp outta them.

And that’s why So Now You’re a Zombie is such a godsend.

I noticed this book at the reservations counter in Ngee Ann City’s Kinokuniya, whilst hunting for a buncha books at its discount sale (which is on from now till the 20th, by the way).

It turned out to be a great read, chock full of helpful tips for the fresh zombie, a healthy dose of pop culture references and injokes, as well as digs at 2010’s obsession with the walking dead.

(2011, of course, is plagued by its own share of zombies. Just look at Koreha Zombie Desuka, the upcoming survival horror game Dead Island, and well, Minecraft).

Man, if only being a zombie were this easy.

Suffice to say, So Now You’re a Zombie takes a bite outta self-help books (which tend to appeal to real life zombies anyway), and the end result, with its goofy illustrations, charts and diagrams, is just too funny to pass up.

Hell, it’s even educational.

The only thing is, I’m wondering if zombies even know how to read.

Definitely a great gift idea for Romero fanboys and peeps who’ve got the Z-bug.

Also, a great reference for writers gunning for the whole tongue-in-cheek thing.

It’s a parody with brains.

Miners, Wieners, and Zombies, oh my! :o

Feb , 2011,
Crimson
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What do you get when you mix sand box style world building with survival horror and zombies? Minecraft, of course.

And this indie title, which soared to popularity after hitting the gaming scene, just got another boost in this latest vid by a couple of film makers on Youtube.

Lookie here:

For the first time ever, cardboard costumes are actually cool.

I wonder if we’ll be seeing some Minecraft miners and zombies at Cosfest this year. XD

I'mma take you down… to Chinatown

17 Feb , 2011,
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South Bridge Road, which we'll visit in a bit. XD

In my previous entry, I talked a bit about how People’s Park’s the place to be if you’re interested in getting cloth at a steal.

Today we’re gonna go for Round 2, sneaking a peek at some of the shops on the third floor of People’s Park, and then we’re gonna gonna venture a little further afield to South Bridge Road, as we hunt for some bling to go with our thang.

1. Getting there

Here’s a quick recap for those who need directions to textile heaven.

People’s Park is situated at Blk 32, New Market Road, Singapore 050032, and jigging down’s as easy as hopping the MRT and popping out Exit C.

You can also take buses 54, 124, 145, 147, 166, 190, 851 and 961, alighting at Eu Tong Sen Street, or 51, 143, 174 and 186, alighting along Upper Cross Street.

2. Cloth and more

Yes, People’s Park doesn’t just sell cloth.

The third floor is chock full of shops selling the latest in street fashion, accessories, and add ons that can make your cosplay costume come alive.

It’s also home to several small, homegrown boutiques, if you’re into alternative clothing labels.

That's a lot of mannequins! XD

a. Maple House (#03-1022)

One of the first shops you might want to visit on the third floor is Maple House, situated near the balcony overlooking the square.

It’s a shop specializing in cabaret costumes and frills, and you’ll find it easily enough. Just look for the row of colorfully dressed mannequins decked out in bling.

In addition to sequined dresses and exotic dancewear, Maple also stocks masquerade masks, hats, studded pleather and lace gloves, stockings, and a fair bit of costume jewelry ideal for accentuating your costume.

b. Peng Hin (S) Corporation (#03-1048)

Another shop specializing in accessories, Peng Hin stocks a decent sized collection of brooches and hair ornaments, as well as a variety of wigs in different shapes and cuts imported from Hong Kong and Korea.

Peng Hin - Wigs, wigs and more wigs.

You’ll find wigs suited for medieval or Victorian themed characters, replete with coifs and curls, as well as those of a more theatrical nature.

While you won’t find wigs in funky cosplay shades, the ones they do carry – in browns and blacks and blondes, aren’t half bad.

c. Sin Hwa Hung (#03-1104)

If there’s one thing Sin Hwa Hung has plenty of, it’s buttons.

This shop, with it’s loud, red signboard, stocks tons of the stuff – from buttons adorned with heraldric crests and curiously shaped whorls, to Chinese knots and exotic pieces studded with rhinestones.

If you’re looking for buttons to fit that military frock coat, or to cinch up that snap chain across your cloak, then there’s a good chance Sin Hwa Hung has what you’re looking for.

They also stock belt buckles, as well as a selection of laces and ribbons, making it a one stop shop for accessorizing.

Sin Hwa Hung - Better known as the House of Flying Buttons.

d. Thye Guan Textile (#02-1006)

Before we hit the road, we’re gonna revisit the second floor and Thye Guan Textile.

I meant to write about Thye Guan in my previous entry, but it was closed for the Lunar New Year the last time round.

More’s the pity too. It’s the only shop selling fabric that’s perfect for medieval and Renaissance style costumes.

Visit Thye Guan if you’re hunting for fabric that fits renaissance style dresses, arcane wizard’s robes, and the skirts of buxom tavern wenches.

If you’re going for something a little more chic, their satins are pretty nice too.

It also helps that prices at Thye Guan are reasonable.

3. And we’re blasting off again

We’re taking a hike along Eu Tong Sen Street, all the way to South Bridge Road, some ten minutes away.

Most buses that ply Eu Tong Sen Street will alight you about a block away, near Clarke Quay Central.

M.D. House. Don't know what M.D. stands for, but they sure got a ton of stuff! XD

You can also take the MRT, and alight at Clarke Quay station, before crossing the road and taking a really, really short walk.

South Bridge Road is home to several costume jewelry suppliers, and the two gems I’m gonna write about are probably the most well stocked of the lot.

a. M.D. House (54, South Bridge Road, Singapore 058685)

With it’s unobtrusive shop front, it’s hard to imagine that M.D. House sells costume jewelry of every stripe.

They carry an impressive variety of rings and pendants – both patterned and plain, necklaces, belts and buckles, all at wholesale prices.

Bring a friend. Hell, bring a few. You’re gonna need those extra eyes and hands just to sift through what they have, that’s for sure.

Lai Nguang - it's conveniently situated next to a famous BBQ restaurant too. XD

b. Lai Nguang Jewelry Pte Ltd (36, South Bridge Road, Singapore 058670)

In addition to rings, necklaces and pendants, Lai Nguang is also a wholesaler of materials for those interested in trying their hand at making cosplay jewelry.

Spools of wire, beads, precious stones, settings, clasps, hooks and all sorts of components are available at this store, stacked in neat, plastic drawers.

They’ve even got a membership program for regulars, so if you’re a dab hand at jewelcrafting, or if you don’t mind just giving it a go, be sure to check out Lai Nguang.

And that’s a wrap, folks. At least for Chinatown and it’s immediate environs. XD

But the quest for affordable, quality materials never ends, so we’re gonna keep roving and bargain hunting.

Until next month, cheerio!