Nov 1 2016

This is how it’s done

Adel Gabot

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7:49PM

I’ve long griped about how ridiculous these paranormal investigation shows on TV are.

The overhyped, overdramatized, overdone lunacy that is Ghost Adventures, the staid and boring Ghost Hunters, the southern, down-home idiocy that is Ghost Asylum and the plethora of what I call Wishful Thinking TV, they’re all just patently stupid. Usually investigating for an evening with all the lights out, with their night vision cameras and “equipment”, they’re all just pulling our and each other’s legs, and scaring themselves silly. And for all the hundreds of hours I’ve put into them, I have yet to see one genuine apparition.

Yet I watch them anyway. And feel stupid for doing so, week after week.

Then came Paranormal Lockdown.

I’ve written about it before in this blog, I think.

The show is refreshingly uncluttered. All you have are the two investigators, Nick Groff, a former original Ghost Adventures investigator and Katrina Weidman, a ten-year veteran paranormal investigator, and their single cameraman.

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They somehow get it right.

Groff, Weidman and their cameraman lock themselves into a location for 100 hours (not just overnight), investigate continuously (even during the day), have better much equipment than the other shows, and have a healthy streak of skepticism. More often than not, they get better evidence too. Well, relatively.

Don’t get me wrong. They have their own problems, and they have their share of mostly wishful thinking. But the overdramatization and the overhyping is kept to a minimum, and they are more serious then their competitors. And they’ve actually given me a goosebump or two to boot, for the first time in reality TV of this sort.

The series premiered earlier this year with a truncated six-episode season, with no word that it’s going to continue. Then all of a sudden, there’s a special two-hour Halloween Special that just aired.

In this episode, investigating poltergeist phenomena at The Black Monk House in Pontrefact, England, there is actual evidence: strange noises, painful scratches, pushing, doors opening and closing, battery-less clocks operating, marbles flying around, big grandfather clocks being thrown about, an actual apparition. For a couple of moments there, I felt like I was watching a good horror movie and was properly sucked in. I actually wondered if I was watching real phenomena.

Keep it up, Destination America, and I just might keep watching.


Oct 24 2016

Dead Walking

Adel Gabot

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6:16PM

I can’t let this one pass by without make some sort of comment: today’s season premiere of The Walking Dead is abominable.

I’ve gradually been disappointed over the years and frankly, digusted by the depths to which the show has slowly sunk.

This latest episode takes the cake.

It’s just an excuse to shock and showcase the violence and cruelty of men to other men, and it’s just an hour of pure… God, I can’t even begin to put it into words. In a word, it’s unspeakably brutal. It’s repulsive and relentlessly cruel. And I think like that because the show has made me care for the characters too much.

The double-header murder (pun intended) of Abraham and Glenn at the hand of Negan’s barbed-wired baseball bat Lucille as everyone looks on has finally driven the show over the edge. That, and the threatened amputation of the arm of Rick’s son—by a put-upon Rick. And they had the audacity to make it a cliffhanger from the previous season, making us wait for the resolution.

I’ve had enough. Me, a lifelong horror connoiseur and fan. But I have my limits too, you know.

To my view, the show has been steadily deteriorating since Season Three or maybe Four, and I’ve long wanted to give up watching it, but I’ve been horridly fascinated, like a driver happening upon a horrible accident on the road and not being able to look away.

Well, no more. I’m giving up on The Walking Dead. I’m Walking away. The show is Dead to me.


Oct 15 2016

Quick review: Rise of The Tomb Raider

Adel Gabot

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8:04PM

Ok, ok, I harangued the local game store for my copy of the PS4 version of Rise of The Tomb Raider. I admit it.

I harrassed them for nearly a week, because they didn’t have a pre-order option. It finally came on the expected date—the 11th, although the stock wasn’t delivered before the store opened at 10AM that day; I had to wait for a couple of hours more before it finally came from the warehouse.

It certainly took a long while to arrive. Almost a whole year, as a matter of fact.

It was released as an Xbox One-exclusive game what, 11 months ago?, and us PS4 users had to sit on our heels. As a matter of fact, the hype had already died down, and was only revived by Square Enix releasing it with a ton of extra content that wasn’t available before, as a 20th anniversary treat.

I had loved the first version of the new Lara Croft, Tomb Raider Remastered, that came out a couple of years ago. It first came out for the PS3 some months before the PS4 was even launched, and they released a special version for the new console, which I adored.

This new game exceeded even my expectations, and I’ve been playing it incessantly since Tuesday when I got it, to the point I forgot about my current obsession, Overwatch. Been taking it nice and slow, savoring each moment. But now, I’ve reached the midpoint of the game, and I guess it’s time to take a break and write down my first impressions.

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First off, the scope and open-world environment is larger than I was expecting, much larger than the previous iteration of the game. The gun battles and fights are great, but it’s really the exploration of the environs that’s actually the fun part, looking for hidden tombs and gathering resources and exploring ruins.

This time around, Lara’s on the search for something called the Divine Source, something that gives eternal life to whoever wields it. Rise of The Tomb Raider starts with exciting scenes in Syria, and graduates into climbing the mountains of Siberia and exploring its valleys and underground mines and takes the gamer to all sorts of various locales in the area.

I won’t go into the details of the plot (mainly because I haven’t completed it yet), but suffice it to say it’s vintage Tomb Raider, which is to say it’s complicated, convoluted and completely a hoot to play. Lots of running around, climbing mountains and tall structures, jumping across chasms, crawling under things, zip-lining down cliffs, as well as plenty of puzzle-solving, stealth and fierce combat involved.

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The controls, while fairly intricate, are well laid-out and thought through. As are the menus, which are a bit complex, but after an hour or two you get the hang of quite easily. Quicktime events are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, and the sections and chapters are clear and easy to understand. And gameplay is suitably long—20 to 30 hours or more, depending on how much of a completionist you are.

I have a few niggles that bother me though:

  • It might be my handling of the controls, but Lara seems too jerky and too quick to respond to the controls, so much so that she sometimes appears cartoony in her movements.
  • The writers insert “read-outs” (my term), or short documents that are read out by the characters involved, in terribly awkward moments. Sometimes, Lara is involved in a frantic, frenetic action sequence when there is a read-out inserted in the middle of it. It sort of kills the mood.
  • There is inappropriate shaking of the environment in a scene, as if there was an earthquake occurring, but this goes on for the entire time. Like in an underground mine sequence in the middle of the game where everything is shaking—it’s difficult to believe the scenery is that unstable.
  • Aiming is pretty difficult, and you sometimes miss your target when you thought it was a sure thing. This is a carryover from the first game, and you’d think the developers would have taken the time to fix it. But no, it’s still there.

But on the whole, the game is an achievement, almost matching the complexity and fluidness of Uncharted 4, which is saying something. The animation and the graphical detail are unparalleled, and the story sufficiently complex and involving. Games don’t come any better than this,.

Rise of The Tomb Raider is one of the best to come out for the current generation of consoles, and comes with my highest recommendations.


Oct 11 2016

Wondercam

Adel Gabot

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8:42AM

Just finished doing my column for Explore Philippines‘ last issue of the year, a review of Blackmagicdesign’s Pocket Cinema Camera.

Gotta tell you though, the gadget’s kind of… all wrong for our magazine’s readership.

We’re a consumer-level mag, but this camera is professional-level and waaay above our readers’ heads. It requires color-correction and all that complicated post-production stuff on a proper computer before your footage is even presentable. The camera asks a hell of a lot of the user, from a technical standpoint, not to mention craft-wise. And not to mention budget-wise.

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The camera, body only, is already over P60k, plus the lenses, the least of which costs over P35k. That’s for a basic, manual one—a Voightlander/Nockton MFT 25mm, F 0.95 II lens.The camera is better served with an image-stabilizing and auto-focusing lens, which is way more expensive. So that’s an investment of around P100k already for the most basic, barely workable setup. Sheesh.

But I do what I’m told, so I did the review anyway.

Actually, the BMPCC’s very nice and compact, about the size and thickness of my iPhone 5s, and suitably heavy-ish. Of course, that’s before you attach a proper Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens. The camera’s controls are largely manual, so if you’re used to AUTO, you’re SOL.

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Anyway, for the full review, buy a copy of next month’s issue of Explore Philippines. I’m not gonna say any more until the issue’s out.

 

 


Oct 2 2016

One Punch Man

Adel Gabot

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10:56AM

I just finished binge-watching the first season of the anime One Punch Man. Not to mince words, but… I loved it.

It’s one of those silly, no-explanation-necessary, fun anime epics Japan is known to produce from time to time. This 12-episode run of 30-minute shows doesn’t try to explain where the hero’s powers come from (apart from his simple story about just working out for three years to prepare), and frankly, I don’t really care to know.

But the man is incredibly strong. All he needs is one single punch to devastate an enemy, and that’s basically it. It’s a one-joke anime; you never really worry about how he’s going to do, you know all he needs is that one punch, and everything’s over. Somehow, the producers make that one joke last for one whole season, and the strange part is it doesn’t get stale. At least for me.

Saitama, our hero (when he goes out as one) is dressed in a basic, ridiculously simple yellow and red costume with a white cape, and he lives simply in a bare apartment, looking forward to sale days at his neighborhood grocery and making simple egg-and-rice dinners. To quote him, he “is just a hero for fun.”

He is bald (apparently from all that working out), and his freewheeling, carefree manner even in the face of overwhelming danger is odd, but strangely appropriate for his character, who doesn’t seem to care much about anything other than what’s for dinner. He wanders about the city looking for wrong things to right in his spare time. For fun.

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In his adventures, he comes across a man named Genos, who’s been converted into a powerful cyborg in the recent past and has aspirations to be a hero as well. Genos gets to know Saitama and, admiring his abilities, makes himself Saitama’s “disciple,” hoping to learn from him, and begins living in Saitama’s apartment.

They both apply to get registered in a database of heros, where Genos becomes a top-rated Class “S” hero while Saitama becomes a low-rated Class “C”. There, they meet an assortment of other different, weird and eccentric heroes, and the show explores the adjustments and class conflicts Saitama has with these other heroes, mixed with their many adventures protecting the world from all sorts of weirdos and aliens.

I don’t really know what makes the show appealing. It’s all patent nonsense, with the usual anime-style tricks the Japanese have turned into an art. Sometimes the animation is very basic and simple, but sometimes turns into heavy, overwrought graphics to emphasize the power and action involved. Occasionally, it devolves into Moebius-type drawings, and sometimes into a childish cartoon style. It’s all good.

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One Man Punch has its share of detractors and non-fans. My brother, for instance, hates it and says it’s too-Eighties looking for him, whatever that means. But I’m a big fan for sure, as are millions of otaku around the globe.

I can’t wait for the second season, which begins on Dec. 19.