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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Comic Review - Justice League: Cry for Justice

Title/Storyline
Justice League – Cry For Justice
Publish Date/Year
2009
Creative Team
James Robinson & Mauro Cascioli
Issue (s) 1-7
Publisher DC
Story
Arising from the death toll from Final Crisis - notably Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz) & Batman (Bruce Wayne), Key JLA members Green Arrow and Green Lantern sought justice (not vengeance) for their fallen comrades and leaves the JLA on their own mission of justice. They wanted to play proactive roles and take the fight to the villains instead of being reactive. Similarly across the DC Universe, other heroes like Ray Palmer (The Atom), Mikaal Tomas (The Alien Starman) & Congorilla (or Congo Bill in his Ape form) all mourn & seek justice the death of their friends and loved ones. Their paths all lead toward the same man - Prometheus. Regarded by DCU villains as the villains' version of Batman - a master stretgist and tactician.

Their missions against villains employed by Prometheus had a common thread - Prometheus was stealing DCU's advanced technologies but now really knowing his end game. The justice-seeking heroes are soon joined by Supergirl and Capt Marvel Jr (Freddy Freeman) who also subscribe to their justice-seeking philosophy. The heroes' missions led by Green Arrow and Green Lantern brought them back to the JLA onbaord their satellite to work out their next steps.

However, Prometheus was already onboard the JLA satellite as he was the disguised Capt Marvel Jr all along.Red Arrow (Roy Harper, GA's adoptive Son) was the first JLA casualty as he loses an arm to Prometheus & is seriously wounded,(while Lian - Roy's daughter - was also lost, along with thousands of Star City's people in the course of Star City's destruction)
Prometheus single handedly defeats ALL of the heroes onboard the JLA satellite but was finally given pause when confronted by Starman's one-time enemy - the Shade(who was helping Flash/Jay Garrick stop the villain from destroying their cities - Keystone City & Opal City). This was due to the fact that the Shade did not show up on Prometheus's database of heroes and which downloadsappropriate & deadly counter measures for each of the heroes. This enabled the already injured Donna Troy to finally be able to knock him out and apprehend him. The heroes soon learn that he had planned & planted a series of bombs that would destroy many major cities in the DC Universe, starting with Green Arrow’s home of Star City (with Central City, Keystone City, Opal City, Fawcett City and St. Roch slated for similar destruction subsequently.) The heroes releuctantly release Prometheus from their satellite in exchange for the deactivation codes to save the remaining cities.
In the last few pages of #7, we see Green Arrow somehow discover a way to Prometheus' hideout between dimensions and then shoots an arrow thru' his head, killing him. This makes Green Arrow a killer and would make him a fugitive in the eyes of the law and his fellow JLA members.
Art
Mauro Cascioli's art is simply beautifully breath-taking and is worth the cover price. Having said that, it does come across as a little stiff or static - lacking the fluidity when compared Marko Djurjevic's work. However, I was extremely very disappointed with #7's art. Possibly because it because of deadline crunches.

This is another rising star to watch!

Additional Comments
I have to admit that the roster of this Justice League is really interesting - I personally would NEVER have expected characters like Congo Bill, Mikaal Tomas or Capt Marvel Jr in the line up. However, due to the number of characters thrown into the series, there simply was not enough air-time for the team to come together before it all went down in the final showdown with Prometheus. So the 'Team' does seem a little incoherent. Many are also appalled at the death toll of the series - both heroes, villains and civilians. However, I have faiththat James Robinson knows what he is doing and this will be a pivotal point in the DCU for some time to come.

Regardless of what had been said about Cry For Justice, I maintain that it is vital reading for DC fans.

This book leads into the Justice League - Rise and Fall Special.
Get it here - 34% OFF!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Food Review - Restoran Ah Wa (Fried Noodles)


NameRestoran Ah Wa
Address66, jalan 14/48, PJ
FoodFried Noodles
LocationJalan 222, PJ

Getting thereLocated at the prominent corner coffee shop behind the shell station on Jalan 222

ParkingParking can be a hassle, as the parallel parking bays along the front of the shops are situated on a narrow 1-way street are limited. Diners take their liberty with parking their cars illegally across the street or on the main street (Note that this is not advisable as it is not only illegal but downright dangerous).

ServiceService was rather fast but no frills eventho’ they serve a large crowd. The wait for the food was rather quick for the number of people they were serving.

AmbienceA typical Chinese Coffee Shop ambience with brightly lit dining areas, plastic tables & chairs, that rely solely on fans to dissipate the exhaust from inconsiderate smokers who light up within the premises (as opposed to the open air segment)

PresentationThe noodles are presented in the standard colored plastic-ware as Chinese Stalls are wont to use. Nothing out of the ordinary.

TasteHere is where I strongly DISAGREE with many other reviewers and die-hard fans would lynch me but we were totally disappointed with what we were served. We were there for dinner and had ordered the famous Hokkien Fried Noodles and also the Cantonese Fried Noodle (Watan Hor).

Firstly, they were both served with very little ingredient. Perhaps we were unlucky when we were there, but both plates of noodles had only tiny amounts of meat or shrimps.

There were exactly 3 pieces of shrimp in each plate. The pork slices were also a rare find in both the plates. What was surprising was that ingredients like sliced fish cake and squid pieces (quite standard in this dish) were missing from the Watan Hor. And the vegetable used in there was cabbage instead of the green leafy Sawi (Mustard Leaves or Choy Sum). Please don’t get me wrong, the noodles aren’t bad, just forgettable. Not befitting its reputation.

The Hokkien Fried Noodles instead was rather too oily (well, drenched in oil is a more apt description actually) with a slightly burnt flavor (which some diners might actually like). I like my Hokkien Noodles to be totally infused with the gravy so that the gravy, ingredients and noodles have become a single entity.

VarietyBesides the anchor noodle stall, there are other stalls there that sell items like Friend Tofu, Fried La-La, Popiah, Taiwanese Pancake (Tai Kow Meen).

Value for MoneyAt RM6 a pop, it was definitely a disappointment on many fronts. Other than what I mentioned earlier, the portions are also slightly smaller than what you would expect. So we had to look for other food after the noodles.

For less, I could’ve gotten better tasting equivalents that come packed with more ingredients and a portion that actually fills.

Well, guess that’s what diners get for dining at a famous place.

OverallFamous for it’s Hokkien Fried Noodles but entirely over-rated. One can find better tasting and better value equivalents in many other places such as the corner at Imbi and Kedai Makanan Ah Loy in OUG (http://jmerb.blogspot.com/2009/01/food-review-ah-loys-curry-noodles-and.html)

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Movie Review - State of Play


Movie Title
State of Play
Year
2009
Genre
Drama, Suspense
Story
Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), a Washington Globe reporter who had once been involved with the congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck)'s wife – Anne Collins(Robin Wright Penn), is torn between his professionalism and his long-time friendship with congressman Collins who used to be his college roommate back in the day. He is now implicated in a sex scandal as his mistress turns up dead at a critical point of his political career (he chairs a committee scrutinizing the US’ defense spending on a major weapons supplier that has ties to his political rivals). Was it a suicide or murder?

Assisted by an upcoming young political blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) ever ready to go to any length to prove herself and earn the respect as an equal of her sometimes cold and seemingly uncaring mentor McAffrey. She and McAffrey put themselves in mortal danger getting too deeply involved in their investigations into a conspiracy launched by a military contractor that threatens to shake the nation's power structures.
Acting
Although initially coming across as cocky, McAdams soon endears herself to viewers with her young naivety as the doggedly determined Della Frye. Robin Wright Penn’s Anne Collins is also believable as the emotionally drained wife who is torn between her love and devotion to her embattled husband and his recently discovered infidelity.
Crowe and Affleck were suited to their roles delivered credible performances, especially Crowe as the experienced reporter who is mentoring Frye. He exudes a confidence that compells the younger and less expereinced Frye to follow him in most of what they do in their investagations.

Overall
The movie had an ending that I didn't see coming – with a surprise reveal of who the real villain was (which would not be such a surprise now that I’ve said it). Apparently, it is an updated remake of a critically acclaimed six-hour 2003 BBC mini-series of the same name. Having never watched the original, this movie is quite enjoyable as it does have characters that are believable with a story that’s interesting and has a few twists thrown in for good measure. A good watch.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Movie Review - Alice In Wonderland

Movie Title
Alice In Wonderland
Year
2010
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure Story
If you were expecting this to be a typical Alice in Wonderland story that stays close to the books and perhaps the Disney animated film, you might be disappointed. This film, despite having most of the characters from the original, has deviated a lot from the original plot. However, it couldn't have been better. 19-year-old Alice returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and of course, the Mad Hatter. Alice embarks on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen's reign of terror. Acting
Johnny Depp was simply great as the Mad Hatter. He played his role extremely well and displayed a lot of emotion through his character and made it such a likeable one. Newcomer Mia Wasikowska made a very good Alice too, displaying curiosity in a new world at a level we all can connect with. Anne Hathaway played the sweet, good White Queen and fitted perfectly into that role. But the best of all is Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. Her bad temper, constant yelling and demands for heads to be chopped off gets really annoying but I guess that makes it more effective. We see her as a heartless, selfish and impatient queen who wants everything her own way and has a 'bloody' big head too. I can't imagine anyone else playing the role. Most of the other characters are CGI so there isn't much to say but the characters are adorable! Like the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit; Tweedledee and Tweedledum.Watch it for yourself and you'll see what I mean.
Overall
I entered the cinema not knowing what to expect. I remember reading the storybooks when I was young but the only thing I could remember about the story was the Red Queen, the card soldiers, the hare and the Tweedle brothers. Wonderland, in the movie was Underland instead. And it seemed to be a gloomy, dark and gothic place. In less than 2 hours, the plot develops rather smoothly and is really simple to understand. I heard comments on how draggy it was but that wasn't how I saw it. It's definitely worth watching. I watched it in 2D and it was good enough, maybe 3D would be better. Tim Burton has once again produced another awesome film despite the critics' reviews. Graphics wise, plot wise, characters and even the music would keep viewers entertained. I wouldn't mind watching it again.. and again.
Rating:8/10
Guest Reviewer: Serene Chua
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Alice in Wonderland [Blu-ray]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Comic Review - Fall Of The Hulks - Alpha


Title/Storyline
Fall Of The Hulks - Alpha
Publish Date/Year
2010
Creative Team
Jeff Parker & Paul Pelletier
Publisher
Marvel

Story
Hulk’s nemesis, the Leader together with the smartest villains in the Marvel Universe – Mad Thinker, Red Ghost, Egghead (replaced by MODOK after his death in his final encounter with the Avengers), The Wizard, and Dr. Doom – collectively known as the Intelligencia – assemble the knowledge & artifacts scattered across the Marvel Universe Earth (including Wakanda and Atlantis) through the years to eventually form the legendary Library of Alexandria. Many major Marvel events are retrofitted, albeit not necessarily seamlessly, and they prove to be a very interesting way to further enrich the tapestry that is the Marvel Universe continuity. Some of the events that were somehow connected were:
· Secret Wars I and II. The Intelligencia somehow created a device that brought The Beyonder to Earth.
· The Intelligencia collectively helped each other and other unrelated villains time and again over the years, which kind of explains why they never seem to stay in prison for long.
· They had Betty Ross’s dead body in suspended animation.

Being villains, it comes as now surprise that at the end, one of them betrays the others and that leads to the birth of the Red Hulk (Rulk).

Art
I maintain that Pelletier is still one of those unassuming & under-appreciated artists who consistently deliver solid good quality art that conveys much power and subtlety in his story-telling. Although I believe his consistent work is surely winning over many and has a steadily growing fan base!


Additional Comments
With the brief retelling of the Intelligencia members’ origins, readers (both die-hard and casual ones) get to jump on to the story without being left out or the need to read 20 other trades just to get up to speed with the characters as some of them such as the Red Ghost and Egghead not getting many appearances in the last decade. Readers also get briefs you on every major event that has happened to the Hulk in recent years, courtesy of the Leader. This is an excellent start to the Hulk event of the year and also for those who have been intrigued by the mystery of Rulk.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Food Review - Paradize Thai Bistro/Poolside Coffeehouse


Name
Paradise Thai Bistro
Food
Local, Thai & Western
Location
Lodge Paradise Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail

Getting there
Located at the prominent left corner (if you are driving along the 1-way street) on Jalan Sultan Ismail, directly facing the Istana Hotel. This is an old landmark that has been there virtually untouched, except for some face-lifting work on the building’s fa├žade, for the longest time.

Parking
There is ample parking around the entire vicinity – either at the public parking bays or in any of the commercial buildings or hotels.

Service
The staff are very friendly and helpful despite most of them being non-Malaysians. However, I was a little disappointed that none of them realized what I was talking about when I asked them (3 different people) about the menu items that appear on their Web-site but are missing from their physical menus. BUT,… credit where credit is due, they still served us with the fervor and eagerness sorely lacking in their Malaysian counterparts. This itself made me rate their service level as good.

Ambience
The place can be a little bit of a maze as we entered along the back lane leading from Jalan Sultan Ismail toward the Weld – which is actually the front gate because the guard house and boom gate is there – but because that was the first time we were there, we entered the hotel and went upstairs to the lobby lounge instead of the restaurant which was located next to the pool (and has a great view of the Jalan Raja Chulan/Sultan Ismail junction). Diners have the option to sit at the poolside – which looks great & enticingly cozy – however, we chose to sit inside because of the horrendously hot & humid weather we have been experiencing of late – hence, no air-con, no life. The Air-Con section is also split into 2 with 1 section laid out as a conventional dining area while the other is designed like a club/bistro. Cozy and really puts you in the mood.
Taste
Based on the items we ordered, which were a Thai Green Curry Chicken Combo Dinner set (RM19 – which comes with Mango Salad, Fish Cake, Pandan Chicken and Red Rubies Dessert) and the Sizzling Fillet Steak (RM35). And for our drinks and dessert: Banana Split (RM12) & Sangria (RM15). The Thai food definitely tastes much better than the steak. Having said that, the items were still not as good as some of the other Thai places I’ve tried (eg: Chakri Palace, Rama V, etc.) while the fried items were extremely oily. The steak unfortunately was a huge disappointment. The beef, although tender (I had it done medium), just didn’t make the grade in terms of taste and the black pepper sauce I opted for didn’t help it either. The Sangria was also disappointing as I have had much better Sangria. This one was a tad too bitter (perhaps due to the red wine used).

Presentation
All the Thai food is neatly presented atop a pandan leaf on bright clean white china while the steak came in a sizzling hot plate. This would automatically earn 2 notches for presentation. Moreover, this makes the food so much more irresistible!

Variety
There are enough menu items to warrant return visits to the place as they not only serve Western (eg: Fish Fillet) & Thai but also local favorites like Cantonese Fried Noodles, Fried Rice, Mamak Mee & Fried Kuay Teow.

Value for Money
With many items in the under RM 20 range, this place offers good value in a cozy and comfy environment right in the heart of the city.




OverallThe place looks great especially after dark as the lighting really adds to the mood & character of the place. However, the food isn’t great, but then, this is not the kind of place you go to for great tasting food.