Comics, Movies, Video Games, and More

"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Friday, December 27, 2013

Is the Wii U Actually Nintendo's Greatest Console?

It was seven Christmases ago when I first laid my hands on the Nintendo Wii. The company has always been my personal favorite, mainly because of Super Mario. One of my first consoles was the Gameboy Color and soon after the Gamecube. The Wii system was a revolutionary console in its day, paving the way for motion-control in video games. It's one of the highest selling consoles of all time. Sadly for it, in recent years the positive reviews started to die down. Why? Because Nintendo had seemingly forgotten about its gaming audiences and instead decided to focus on family-related activities, such as Wii Fit and Wii Music. By the time 2012 hit, the Wii had run its course and the time for a new console was imminent.

This next-gen console for Nintendo was called the 'Wii U.'

Before getting my own, I was skeptical then. The first mistake I thought was the title. I would have thought Nintendo would have liked to distance itself from the Wii, but nope they decided to add a U. And then the Gamepad was shown, and as you can you see, it's a rather large controller.
Insane, eh?

The Wii U was not off to a very happy start. Already it seemed like it was just going to be a Wii extension with an over-sized controller. The launch window wasn't exactly a gang-buster either. And if you look at the numbers from previous months, the Wii U hasn't been selling well at all. It remains to be seen if this month's holiday sales will give it a much needed-helping hand. I wasn't expecting much from the system, but I was going to get it no matter what, being a longtime Nintendo fan.

Well I'm certainly glad I did, because it's actually a really interesting console. 

The Wii U is a pretty slick looking system, the black version anyway. The white one sadly just looks like a bigger Wii. But as you'll notice, a lot of the marketing isn't on the actual system, but rather the Gamepad. 

The Gamepad is one of the most ingenious concepts I've ever seen video game wise. 

Obviously the rather large size can be off-putting to some, but once you're actually in the game playing, you get used to it. The biggest factor about the controller is the screen on it. You see, the big thing about this controller is that it's also the Wii U itself, in itself, You can literally play any Wii U game on the Gamepad...with the TV off! Basically, if someone is using the TV, you can still play any Wii U game without the need of a TV screen! (All you need to do is just turn the console on and you're good to go!) And if someone is using the TV or if there's noise, you can plug in a pair of headphones thanks to the headphone jack. Often you'll find yourself using the Gamepad screen more than the actual TV screen. To be able to play big console games without the need of a TV screen is a great concept that no other company has implemented. 

The only thing I wish is that the range was longer, you can't go too far away from the actual console. But, despite limited range, the Gamepad is one of the most fantastic ideas Nintendo has ever come up with. And of course for purists, you do have the option of buying the Wii U Pro Controller, which is a standardized and very sleek-looking controller.

The other major thing about this system I've noticed is that it seems to be doing away with many of the things Wii did. It looks to be an actual video gaming system for gamers, no more motion-gimmicks. Sadly the Wii U didn't have the best launch titles, but now it's shaping up. The problem with the Wii is that with every one all-star title, there was at least three "Huh?" games, such as Imagine Babies. *Shudder.* With quite a few all-star titles such as New Super Mario Bros. U, Super Mario 3D World, and Sonic Lost World, the Wii U has some solid games to pick up. And the future looks very promising, with games like Super Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors (Hopefully they keep that title or something similar), the Wii U's future looks bright.

The graphics aren't too different than the Wii, but they are HD and look beautiful on the right TV. The sound effects have noticeably become better and more cinematic, such as in Super Mario 3D World where you really hear the water splash. 

The title of this article is more hyperbole than opinionated, since it's still pretty early. However, with games such as Super Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors coming, the Wii U may end up being one of the greats. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Post

Ah, Christmas! Never is there a more joyous time. I remember last year just feeling the Christmas atmosphere. The air just felt happy, and it was only complimented by the many wonderful lights. Have you ever been to Manhattan on Christmas Eve? Sure, the traffic is insane, but it's truly awesome. There are so many lights and it just feels like a cheerful time of the year.

I heard something interesting while at work this week.

I'm a cashier at a busy supermarket, so I'm always interacting with people. You have the patient nice people and...well the opposite. Thankfully for the most part I haven't had much of the latter. (Though I could only imagine what working in the city is like...) But anyways, there was a pretty interesting occurrence. 'Merry Christmas' has always been a normal thing to say, yet when I said that to one customer, she said, "Not many people say 'Merry Christmas' anymore." This stood with me, because how can that be?? Has Christmas been sunken into just another holiday part of the 'Happy Holidays' slogan? 

Like Easter, Christmas has been adapted for people that don't wish to celebrate the meaning of why it exists in the first place.

But what is Christmas? Not too long ago I discovered a band called Kutless. If you haven't listened to them yet, check out 'Promise of a Lifetime' and 'Carry Me to the Cross,' But, the song in focus is called 'This is Christmas.' It's a pitch-perfect song explaining Christmas. Take a look at this piece of it...

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger.
What is Christmas without Christ?

Christmas wouldn't exist without the birth of Jesus. It is an event to be celebrated, but He has been replaced with Santa Claus. The other major Christian event, Easter Sunday, has also been adapted into a secular culture, replacing the Resurrection with a Bunny that gives out eggs. 

Good Friday we remember the Death, Easter Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection, and on Christmas we celebrate the Birth. Do you know why it's tradition to put a star on top of a Christmas Tree? Not because it looks pretty (but it certainly does!) but because it represents the Star of Bethlehem. 

So however you celebrate Christmas, it's important to remember that without the birth of a Savior, December 25th would just be another cold winter day.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~Luke 2:11

And of course, to anyone who is reading this,


Monday, December 16, 2013


The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic survival horror game that released some months ago on June 14th. It's also the best game of the year and an example of what modern gaming has to offer. On the outside it doesn't appear much different than other zombie-related things. The Walking Dead, I am Legend, Dawn of the Dead, The Last of Us in concept looked to be another story taking place in a world overrun by mutants. In many ways that wouldn't be wrong, it isn't too different than those. It does however succeed in two things: cinematic quality and gameplay. Often it's one or the other with games, but with this one it's not only a video game but a movie-like experience too.

The story takes place twenty years after the world is infected with some kind of virus, turning the humans into mindless monsters. Only about 40% of the population remains. Joel is our main character, a smuggler who eventually comes into contact with a 14 year old girl named Ellie. Soon these two are thrust into a dangerous adventure to find the anti-government group known as the Fireflies because Ellie might hold the cure for the infection.

This is a very story based game, heavy on voice acting and characterizations. Characters that appear briefly, such as Bill, are made notable thanks to the game's excellent writing. Survival horror is a popular genre, and The Last of Us uses it well. Despite having an abundance of different weapons, you'll find yourself hiding and making plans to get out of every tight predicament alive. You can keep telling yourself it's just a game, but when you're in a dark room or a place surrounded by blinding spores, you're going to be feeling a sense of dread only the perfect horror film can replicate.

This being heavily story based, characters are of course a major factor. In the game's incredible prologue, we're introduced to Joel and his daughter Sarah. They have a very close relationship, it's nice. (And apparently, it appears he's a single parent.) Sarah is the first character you have control of. It's a unique and cinematic horror feel within that dark house. Slowly as you navigate you see on the TV about something chaotic happening. Soon you find yourself on the streets, in control of Joel as he runs while holding his daughter. What is he running from? Infected humans that have gone berserk and are trying to attack people. It's a scary scene, as you watch civilization crumble. There's so much people running and screaming with explosions all over that you have to wonder how amazing it will look when adapted for the big screen. At the end of the intro, Sarah is killed. We fast forward 20 years later...

So 20 years later the government appears to trying to be in control of the situation. There are quarantine zones housing the uninfected. Outside the walls lies the zombies and Fireflies, the latter being a group of anti-government people looking to get a cure. Here is when we're introduced to Joel's partner Tess. The story here is interestingly ambiguous. Are they more than friends? In the end it doesn't really matter, Tess was a great character and a lot of fun to have around. It's a shame she died, but I was expecting it, as I'm sure most were. She wasn't featured in any of the marketing or on the cover, so it's easy for the player to deduce that. But when she was alive, she was great, something of a modern Ripley.

It's hard to pinpoint an 'antagonist,' because there are none. The Infected are the background force. Throughout the story there are a couple of human antagonists. You see, while the Infected are the bad guys, the game doesn't shy away from making humans the main force. It perfectly showcases how savage and evil people can truly be in a world gone to chaos. The first 'antagonist' would be Robert, who is quickly dispatched by Tess. Now the second antagonist would be David, easily more notable. This guy is evil, but at first deceives Ellie and the player. In fact, he would be truly Ellie's enemy since Joel never really met him. The 'boss fight' against David was short but very intense as we saw how violent the 14 year old girl can be.

Then there's Marlene, the 'final boss' so to speak. She is established early on, apparently as a caretaker for Ellie before leaving her in Joel's hands. She's the leaders of the Fireflies, and eventually Joel brings Ellie to her in the final part of the game. She's not evil like David however, she believes what's she's doing is for the betterment of humankind. And she wouldn't technically be wrong. The recordings you find in the hospital shed light on her mindset, it was fantastic that Naughty Dog implemented those to make some players actually agree with her and question Joel's antics.

While all these characters are nicely developed, the game is carried through its two protagonists. Joel is a very interesting character. He's not exactly a Mario-like hero. The early scene where he shoots the guy trapped underneath debris comes to mind. Sure, the player thinks that's alright since the guy will end up just suffering there, and it's a cruel world. But as the game goes on, you see he's merciless. This doesn't make him an unlikable character, but by the end you may be questioning him. (The infamous doctor scene comes to mind.) 14 year old Ellie escapes the 'teenage girl ' tropes plagued in various media. Despite the over abundance use of her cursing, she's cool. She actually gets in on the action, proving to Joel that she's fantastic with a gun and knife. (Also arrows, when she goes all Katniss Everdeen later in the story when Joel is out of commission.)

The bond between the two is strengthened throughout the near 20 hour campaign. Somehow they go from her being cargo to Joel considering her as a second daughter. This brings us to an infamous part or the game, the ending. I personally thought it was very unsatisfying. Once the credits began to roll I was thinking, "That's it?" I won't deny that it's also smart, since Naughty Dog can technically build a series thanks to the non-ending. What I do like is that it makes the player think. Is Joel right in attempting to save Ellie and stop the doctors from extracting a cure for the virus, thus rendering her dead? Or is he being selfish because he only sees her as his second daughter and not thinking about the bigger picture? Is he right since Ellie never voluntarily said she was willing to die since she had been unconscious throughout the climax? This final part of the game is something that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

At every game's core however is how good the gameplay is. The Last of Us doesn't disappoint. It's third person and you get access to various types of weapons as you progress. From assault rifles to hatchets, the game lets the player have it. But, despite all that, you'll find yourself not wanting to rush into battle. This is especially where the gameplay succeeds, opportunity to make strategies. Sometimes it's not necessary to kill everyone to advance to the next stage, it's about just trying to get there quietly. There are numerous ways things could go down, it's all depending on the strategy made by the player. The environments are smartly done in every area that they give you a place to hide and formulate plans or for last second thinking.

Of course, the primary reason why everything's chaotic is because of those Matango-like zombies. They definitely do not disappoint, and are genuinely creepy. The game delivers one of the most annoying enemies of all time: Clickers. These things you can't fight with punches and it usually takes multiple bullets to take one out. And perhaps even more challenging are their final form, Bloaters. These brutes are the heavy hitters and always a challenge to bring down. The Infected differ from human enemies greatly. Sometimes they won't see you if you walk quietly, so it mixes up the strategy-making process between humans and zombies.

One of the best things The Last of Us succeeds in is generating genuine fear. I'll never forget some of those dark levels with the Infected. If you're playing at midnight with no lights on in some of those levels, it's going to be just as terrifying as the scariest movie you've ever seen. So when beautiful visuals such as the giraffes appear, it's a great contrast which the player can't help but watch. Seriously, the giraffe scene was so unexpected and beautiful. I can't wait to see how a film adaption will do it. The soundtrack isn't meant to be a focus, it's just there to deepen the impact of scenes and gameplay. It's definitely used very well.
Overall, The Last of Us is a truly unforgettable experience. It plays as if you were watching a movie. There's no chapters given, you just keep going. The story is very well done, fantastic writing and characterizations throughout. You feel for Ellie and root for Joel, even in some questionable circumstances. The game doesn't shy away from brutal violence, this is definitely the most violent title I've ever played. You will be making strategies throughout, whether it's against some of the human thugs or Infected. It's one of the finest offerings from the PS3. If it does get a movie adaptation, it could very well be one of, if not the greatest zombie film.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why INFINITY is the BEST Marvel Event in a Long Time

Like it or not, in today's Marvel comic world, events are everything. Whereas in the past they were used scarcely, they come extremely fast these days. In fact, sometimes an event is announced while the current one is still going! Sadly, there hasn't been a really "wow, that's epic" event in awhile, until Infinity came along. Age of Ultron was a huge disappointment for many reasons. To this day I'm still wondering what happened to the 'epic conclusion' the final issue promised. What a great thing Marvel butchered, a slap in the face to people like me who had been waiting years to read it. Anyways, a little bit before that Avengers vs. X-Men came out, which was really solid for the most part.

Siege, Fear Itself and Secret Invasion were all lacking. Siege was simple and to the point, but lacked any real impact on the reader. Fear Itself had an absolutely fantastic first issue, but the rest fell flat. (I still can't get over how 'the Mighty' appeared literally out of nowhere with no hype whatsoever.) Secret Invasion had some neat ideas and the build-up was good, but the actual 8 issue series was anything but. (And because of it there's a running gag about Skrulls that's still in the comics today, it's really annoying.) AVX rises above all of those, but is it on the same level of Civil War or The Infinity Gauntlet? At this point nothing will ever be. But at least Infinity tries its best to be the most epic thing the comic world has seen.

When you have comic book movies releasing simultaneously with comics, you have to expect the company to capitalize. With Thanos gaining popularity thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was inevitable he was going to be brought back. It was definitely welcome, after his horrid appearance in Avengers Assemble, (what was Bendis thinking, oh right, Bendis, the same writer as Age of Ultron...) it was time for a true Thanos story. Infinity's writer Johnathan Hickman must love poetry, because the writing is very poetic. It's admittedly overdone, but some of it is very good. While no one can quite write Thanos like Jim Starlin, Hickman wrote a really good version of the Mad Titan.

The story is divided into two sections: The Avengers whom are conveniently in outer space and on Earth where Thanos hopes to find his only living son. The son, Thane, was an interesting character for the most part. Sadly by the end, it looks like he's going to be on the evil side, which is unfortunate since the comic basically showed us that he's not his father. It's too ambiguous, which is disappointing since a good chunk of the story revolves around him. Now the climax is pretty epic. Could the fight between Thanos and the Avengers been longer? Yes. But I'll take what we got. We had quite a few fantastic shots, such as an amazing one of Thor taking on the Titan. It actually felt like a true epic climax, something every major comic event needs to have. (Looks at Secret Invasion.)

How about some negatives? Not every event is perfect, unless you're Civil War or Infinity Gauntlet. Ex Nihilo joining the Avengers was an unexpected and cool thing. Readers like myself were looking forward to seeing this guy trade punches with Thanos. We got none of that, in fact Nihilo did practically nothing in the event, which is a true shame since he's one of the better new characters from Marvel. And this is more of a personal gripe, but I can't be the only one that noticed Issue 3 stole Ultron's 'Submit or perish' line from Age of Ultron. But beyond those things, there aren't many other bad things to say about this event. Unlike Age of Ultron, this feels like the story it set out to be: an Avengers vs. Thanos space epic.

Besides the climax, perhaps the best scene in the entire thing is the short fight between Black Bolt and Thanos. Bolt has remained an interesting figure in Marvel. He's always regarded as legendary thanks to his power. So when he loses, such as in World War Hulk, it's a big shock to the heroes and readers. The dialogue from Thanos is fantastic, such as him calling Bolt "Little King." And the way he beats him, by simply slamming him to the ground, is so simplistic and even gritty that it works.

Infinity is a poetic epic, something Johnathan Hickman seems to like writing. Admittedly sometimes it's a little difficult to follow what's happening in the space scenes, but I guess that shows just how complex this story is in comparison to previous events. It might not be as good as the other big Thanos story, Infinity Gauntlet, but it's truly a great read admist lackluster comics today. And once it comes out in trade format, it'll read like a really good poetic epic.

Monday, December 2, 2013


X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not a very liked film. But, Wolverine himself is a marketable character, everyone likes him. So it was inevitable that a sequel would come. The interesting thing is that this is more of a standalone, according to the people involved. We would see the title character heading over to Japan, which has been a popular fixture in the comics. This film is also significant because it's technically the first real sequel to The Last Stand, it takes place about two years after Jean Grey died. The first trailer didn't do wonders. Who wants to see a film where he loses his mutant powers? Thankfully this is one of those rare cases where the trailer is pretty dull while the film is anything but. THE WOLVERINE is one of the best films in the X-Men continuity. It's also a very unique comic film thanks to the Japan backdrop. Director James Mangold delivered the second best comic book film of the year.

The story begins in 1945, at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Logan is in a bunker and saves the life of a rather kind Japanese officer named Yashida. In present day he has seemingly given up on being the Wolverine. When he's met by a mysterious Japanese woman called Yukio, he embarks to her home country to meet the man he saved in 45. He offers Logan a chance to be mortal, to take away his adamantium. Of course in comic book fashion, plot twists are abound and a blond-haired lady by the name of Viper takes center stage. The story is loosely based on a classic arc by Chris Claremont. There are very few negatives to be said, it's a great watch from beginning to end.

It's been quite awhile since we saw Hugh Jackman take up the mantle. (His unneeded cameo in First Class doesn't count.) I had forgotten just how great of a portrayal he can deliver, this film cemented that. This is by far the greatest portrayal of Wolverine the movie universe has seen. From his sarcastic wit to his brutality, it's like he was lifted straight from the comics. One of the biggest new characters is Yukio, portrayed by Rila Fukushima. This samurai girl is definitely cool and a fantastic addition to the story. Then we have the more helpless-but-still-able-to-fight Mariko. She's a nice character to have around, very genuine. I suppose the romance between her and Logan was inevitable, but from the film's point of view it was unneeded and felt forced.

There are two main antagonists. First we'll go with the much better one, Viper. She is one of the few female comic book villains to grace the screen. Sure, we have Mystique, but Viper was more of a mastermind. She was just a blast to watch, a true villain with her exotic look and pretty good dialogue. Unfortunately, the other antagonist Yashida is much less notable. You see, by the end it's revealed that he wanted to take away Logan's power for selfish reasons. By the end, the viewer is left thinking that he's nothing but a jerk. It's a shame too, since he was a really good character in the intro. The Silver Samurai should have just been an empty suit of armor. Speaking of that...

The Silver Samurai is one of Wolverine's biggest enemies, maybe second to Sabertooth. He was briefly featured in the trailers. Well, he's technically the final boss. He's more of an it, being a large suit of armor. Think Iron Monger just Japanese style. Unfortunately, the big plot twist is that Yashida was the one wearing it. In the end, Viper is the more engaging antagonist. There's a few side characters, perhaps the most notable being Hawkeye Kenuichio Harada. This guy could have easily been written out, he doesn't serve that much purpose. And what's with the arrows? It's like they were purposely mimicking The Avengers.

The action in this movie is very good and appropriately gritty. Wolverine doesn't shy away from unleashing his claws. It's violent, but that's expected from a Wolverine movie. One of the more unique action scenes was on the train, very clever.The soundtrack is solid, it blends into the movie well. There aren't really any standouts, but I did like the the theme that started playing at the ceremony when Wolverine unsheathed his claws. Now what I think is one of the greatest aspects of the film is the Japan backdrop. It's a whole different feel and look than New York. It's a nice change of pace.

Overall, THE WOLVERINE surprised me. It's a well-paced action drama. It proves that Wolverine can hold his own without any of his X-Men comrades. Yukio is a great character, and I hope she's used in the future. Viper was fantastic, one of the best villains of the year. The Silver Samurai...not so much. (At least the armor was cool.) The mid-credits scene is obviously awesome and a great tease for X-Men: Days of Future Past.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Review

Thor has always been a major fixture in Marvel Comics. Adapting the God of Thunder for the big screen is an interesting thing to do, and the 2011 film more or less succeeded. It wasn't a great movie, but it established Thor and his characters well enough. Audiences were introduced to the wondrous realm of Asgard. Sadly the Earth scenes were tedious, and the romance between Thor and Jane Foster was forced. Loki was nicely established as Thor's mischievousness brother. All in all it was a decent origin story from the MCU. The Dark World is an improvement over its previous installment. It's not a 5 star movie by a long shot, but director Alan Taylor delivers a solid flick.

The story apparently takes place one year after The Avengers. Loki is taken to Odin, which the latter sends away to the dungeons. (I really like how the MCU is basically one big comic book universe where events have effect and continue on to other movies.) Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, awakens and wants to bring darkness to the entire universe. Sadly, the thing Malekith wants has been inhabited by Jane Foster, so his mission is to get her. Thor can't have this, so in order to ensure victory he enlists the help of his estranged brother. Of course, even having the God of Mischief may not make them victorious.

The story is solid enough. The flashback with Odin's father taking on Malekith and the Dark Elves was well done, albeit slightly cheesy narration. In present day, we're treated to many scenes in Asgard. It's refreshing to see most of the film taking place away from Earth. Thor's portrayal is pretty solid for the most part. I've said this in the past, but I was never crazy about Chris Hemsworth's performance. He didn't seem so sure about the role in his film and was only slightly better in The Avengers. He's a bit of a cardboard version of the character from the comics. This film is is an improvement, though Tom Hiddleston stole the show away, Loki has cemented himself as the fan favorite character in the MCU. Some of his scenes are highlights, such as the one where he uses his shapeshifting ability to annoy Thor. Loki is involved in two unexpected but great plot twists.

Natalie Portman's portrayal of Jane Foster was alright. To me she's like Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the girl we're supposed to like but ends up being more annoying than likable. Sif and the Warriors 3 sadly got a mild role in Thor. At least here they did a few things. It's a shame Sif is a side character, she would make a fantastic focus and a much better love interest for Thor. The chemistry between those two in their short scenes together is much more natural than him and Foster. Anthony Hopkins returns for another good portrayal of Odin. Sadly his role is minimal compared to the previous film, and the viewer actually finds himself/herself disliking him after he shouts, "As many as are needed!" when talking to Thor on how many of his men need to die in order to take down Malekith.

The antagonist, Malekith, is portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. Sadly, he's ultimately forgettable. Thor's mother, whom is one of the best characters in the whole thing, alone was more powerful than him. He just doesn't do anything, it's his right hand man Kurse that does all the hard work. Kurse is portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. He is by far the much more engaging antagonist, his fight with Thor was fantastic and easily more exciting than the lackluster climax. He actually knocks away Thor's hammer like it's paper! Kurse should have overthrown Malekith, the latter just wasn't as great as he could have been.

Thor's mother Frigga has one of the most powerful scenes in the entire MCU. She was actually a more engaging character than the majority. Jane's Foster quirky friend Darcy returns. She was actually genuinely funny, I actually liked her more than Foster. For some reason, Darcy has an intern by the name of Ian. This guy ultimately serves no purpose, other than for comedic effect. (And this film has enough of that without him.) Idris Elba's Heimdall returns for another powerful performance. Eric Selvig is nothing but comedy, and not the good kind. Seriously, I don't think anyone comes to a Marvel movie to see a guy streaking over property or walking around in underwear. The MCU loves comedy and hates gritty, yes, but this is borderline dumb.

The climax is alright, but laughable when compared to the final battle between Superman and Zod in Man of Steel. The falling-in-between-worlds portal is an interesting -but quickly turns into a lame- gimmick. There's virtually no blows thrown, instead they keep falling through portals. The ending nicely sets up Thor 3 or perhaps a storyline for a future Avengers movie. The mid-credits scene isn't too exciting, but an interesting setup for Guardians of the Galaxy. The after-credits scene is alright, nothing special but the very last part is funny enough to justify staying in your chair. The soundtrack is pretty solid. It has some good opera when necessary.

Overall, the Thor sequel is a good followup. The story is interesting and Loki steals the show. Thor is pretty good, and the fight between him and Kurse was fantastic. Unfortunately, Malekith is underwhelming. The sad part is that this is becoming evident with any MCU film not labeled the Avengers. The main female lead doesn't come close to the coolness of Lady Sif. Ultimately, The Dark World isn't a great film. The action is just sad when compared to Man of Steel. The film however still beats Iron Man 3 and is far from being called 'lackluster.' Though it is kinda disappointing when a 5 minute preview for Captain America: The Winter Solider gives the impression that it's going to be 10 times better than this.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Why The Conjuring is a Step in the Right Direction for Horror Films

You'll find that horror is one of the most popular movie genres. Unfortunately the term 'horror' has been clitched too many times. Not only that, but logic seems absent in most of them. Hollywood loves to play the demonic angle. They love showcasing demonic possessions, demonic hauntings, and won't hesitate to have the characters completely eradicated by these entities. So what's missing? God is missing. Not too long ago I wrote an article on this. Hollywood loves to use demons for entertainment, but God or angelic intervention? Nowhere to be seen. Seriously, when I watch these movies I'm always wondering why no one whips out a Bible and does something. You would think that since the human characters know they're being haunted they would perhaps think a God exists too. But you won't find that for the majority of the time since Hollywood just wants to use the dark part of spiritual forces for entertainment.

The Conjuring surprised me.

The Conjuring came out back in July, and was surprisingly a huge hit. It made a lot of money and got pretty positive reviews, with some even calling it one of the best horror films of the decade. That's cause it gets so many things right. It's free of stereotypical clitches found in a lot of horror movies. It's apparently based on a true story, with the Perron family being haunted by a demonic entity, so they hire demonologists Ed and Loraine to expel the demon.

The first thing I want to get into is that this film had virtually no cursing and no nudity whatsoever. This was pretty amazing since you'll be hard-pressed to find a horror without one or the other. The Conjuring proves a film doesn't need that stuff and can survive simply on having a genuinely good, scary story. The second thing is that the family actually acts like real people and feel genuine. Often in horror films the characters are usually unlikable or jerks, but here they seem like a real family. Third, no main person dies. It has an actual ending, a nice one at that which is an extremely refreshing change of pace. Not all horror films must have a bitter ending. 

The main thing I want to get into is the portrayal of God. It was pretty interesting to see Ed use Him as a source to expel on the demon. "In the name of God, I command you back to Hell!" It's good to see someone using holy power against a demonic entity. It's not perfect however. The annoying thing that stood out was when Ed went to ask the Priest to get permission for the exorcism. The Priest didn't want to at first since the Perrons aren't members of the Catholic church. This to me is sad because I don't think God just wants us to help people in the church, we're called upon to help all people in time of need. So that stood out to me. The church God ordained will want to help out all people, not just members.

The part that made the film for me was the final line, a quote from Ed. "The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow." That's right, those words were stated in a theatrical Hollywood movie that thousands of people saw. It's an absolutely fantastic quote. The Conjuring is a great movie. It's a horror film the Christian can also appreciate. It's a step in the right direction for horror films, but unfortunately with Hollywood it's doubtful we'll get another movie like it anytime soon. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sonic Universe Volume 1 Review

Picture for a moment if the Marvel Universe were condensed into a single comic series, let's say The Amazing Spider-Man. It would be cool, but eventually the reader would yearn to read other stories within that world. What are the other heroes doing while Spidey is saving the day or taking a nap? This is the same concept with Sonic Universe, a spinoff series from the main title. The Sonic games have established a fantastic mythology that has transitioned well into the comic world. As much as we love the Blue Hedgehog, people were definitely interested in stories starring the other characters. In the games it didn't quite work out that well with Shadow the Hedgehog, but perhaps in comic land things would be different. Sonic Universe Volume 1 contains Issue #1 to #4, which has been dubbed 'Shadow Saga.' It's a fantastic read for people especially that grew up with Adventure 2 and up.

The first issue features Shadow on a mission to acquire a Chaos Emerald. It's an interesting story for a few reasons. It opens up with him battling Metal Sonic. Shadow has always been a fan favorite character for the obvious reasons. This issue is particularly interesting since we see how far he's come as a character. He actually sympathizes with Metal Sonic, saying that the two aren't very unlike. The other intriguing part is that Shadow lands in Blaze the Cat's world. It's pretty cool since it references Sonic Rush Adventure. (The comic's version anyway, but close enough.) This is apparently the first time they meet, so it's cool to see how personalities collide. Ian Flynn really nails all of the characters. The dialogue between Metal Sonic and Shadow in the final part was fantastic and easily the best part of the issue. Even if Marine was a bit annoying, this is easily the best issue of the bunch.

The second issue isn't quite as good, but still has a nostalgic touch. This time Sonic joins in on a mission with Shadow and Rouge. It's cool because while they're doing their thing in present day, there are also panel flashbacks to Adventure 2 in-between. Yes, the classic battle between the two in Green Forest is recreated with dialogue and everything. (This makes me want to pop in the disc.) It even manages to showcase the Biolizard and the Super Hedgehogs. While this wasn't quite as good as #1, it was still nice to have a little bit of nostalgia thrown at me. Plus, the banter between Sonic and Shadow is fantastic and shows how far their relationship had come.

The third issue is pretty interesting since it features the debut of Omega. The plot has Eggman activate Omega to hunt down the traitor Gamma. This is also a pretty cool thing, since these two robots have been compared many times by fans. Shadow's mission is to recruit Gamma to G.U.N. His dialogue with Gamma was pretty great since we see again how Shadow relates to being a weapon and how now he sees having allies is a good thing. After Omega sends Shadow skyrocketing away, the former has a battle and chat with Gamma. Flynn can write some pretty emotional stuff despite these comics usually being on the happier side. The entire scene with Omega blowing up Gamma but the latter sending his 'soul' into the former was fantastic. (It was also a good way to get Omega on Team Dark since these comics differ from the events of Sonic Heroes.)

The fourth and final issue is most notable for one reason: the formation of Team Dark. This of course adapting a part of Sonic Heroes. Kids today reading might not know that, but for people like me it's pretty nostalgic. First, Shadow and Rouge are sent into the Special Zone to acquire a Chaos Emerald. This Zone is governed by a god-like being called Feist, who is pretty awesome I have to say. (How many god-like talking pandas have you seen?) The mission is a bust and the two are sent back to the base. Shadow goes to sulk since he believes he shouldn't lose. The next scene is pretty interesting. He is comforted by a character called Hope Kintobor, who is exclusive to the comics. It's a pretty touching scene, since Shadow thinks of Maria when talking to her. After, Omega is sent with Shadow and Rouge. Together, they form Team Dark. (And the sparring match between Shadow and Omega before was great since it established the friendship between the two.) The mission into the Special Zone is accomplished thanks to teamwork. In the end, the issue nicely sets up Team Dark for the comic world.

Overall, the first volume to Sonic Universe is an extremely fun read. It harkens back to the quality writing of the Adventure 2 days. (No offence to Colors or Generations of course, but those games' writing have nothing on any game between Adventure 2 and Unleashed.) Shadow is arguably the greatest character in the Sonic mythos aside from the Blue Blur himself. He makes for a fantastic focus and reading through this makes me want to see a Team Dark-centric series. Sonic Universe Volume 1 is a must have for longtime Sonic fans.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas Review

There are many movies everyone knows. Star Wars, Jaws, and more recently The Avengers are just a few of these films. Perhaps the most well-known and influential stop motion film is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was originally based on a poem, which is a pretty good read. However, what a lot of people forget is that it wasn't directed by Burton, he was the producer. It was directed by Henry Selick, who would go on to direct Coraline 16 years later, another great (and I would say better) stop motion flick. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a unique movie. I'm personally not into musicals, but the story is whimsical and doesn't get dull.

The story follows Jack Skellington, the 'Pumpkin King.' He's basically the leader of Halloween, every vampire, ghost, and werewolf looks up to him when it comes to the yearly event. Jack however has grown tired of Halloween Town, he yearns for something different. While traveling deep into the woods he stumbles upon a few trees. The one with the engraved Christmas tree stood out, so he enters and is transported to a place called Christmas Town. Here he sees the wonders of the Christmas holiday, from the trees to Santa Claus himself, he becomes amazed with all of it. So, when he comes back to Halloween Town, he wants to experience the Christmas spirit himself.

The story is pretty fun with a contrast between Christmas and Halloween, two vastly different, almost opposite holidays. Jack is a legendary character, one of Disney's best, right up there with Buzz Lightyear. His personality never gets old, being that of a horror figure, genius, yet a bit blinded by ambition. In short, he's one of the best characters Disney has brought us. The other main character would be Sally, a creation by Doctor Finklestein. She's a sweet girl with really the most sense in the whole thing. She easily grows on the viewer since she has a sad demeanor and often 'trapped' by Finkelstein.

The antagonist is Oogie Boogie. Despite appearing almost of nowhere and not having that much screen time, he's definitely a highlight and one of the best Disney villains. Seriously, he's fantastic. Ken Page does an excellent job voicing him, almost a mocking gentlemen tone of Jack's elegant voice. Santa Claus has a nice little role, despite being captured for most of it. Dr. Finklestein is your average jerk mad scientist. The film gave the illusion that he was perhaps the main antagonist. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. There aren't many other notable characters other than perhaps the bumbling mayor who provides some funny scenes.

The music is a major part of the film. I can't help but wonder how it would have gone if the music were absent. But, it's a musical and it's handled pretty well. The opening Halloween theme perfectly sets up the tone and atmosphere. Danny Elfman did a solid job with the soundtrack. The climax is pretty exciting, even having a 'final battle' against Oogie Boogie. In the end, you're left with a nice picture of Jack and Sally.

Overall, The Nightmare Before Christmas earns the title of 'classic.' No matter how many years go by, it's a fun watch. The film pioneered Burton's dark stop-motion type that is still in effect today. (Go watch Coraline.) Jack is a great focus, and is countered by the fantastic Oogie Boogie. Sally is a nice girl and the romance between her and Jack is subtle throughout and only blossoms in the final scene. Nightmare is a truly whimsical 76 minutes!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pokemon X & Y Episode 2 'Lumiose City Pursuit!' Review

The premiere episode of the Pokemon X & Y anime was pretty average. Ash Ketchum arrived in the Kalos Region, met two friends, and of course battled Team Rocket. Since I just played X, I found it mildly entertaining. It wasn't bad, but wasn't very amazing either. Episode 2 fixes many of the problems seen in it. There's a sense of danger, and Ash is actually pretty cool.

It starts out right from where the previous one left off, with Ash going to deliver a wounded Frokie to Professor Sycamore. The Professor's place of residence is quite a mansion, housing some pretty interesting research. Team Rocket pops in however, and manages to get a rage-inducing collar on a Garchomp living there. After he blasts a them away, he goes on a rampage through the city. Yes, the story is pretty interesting, especially when Garchomp goes on a rampage. If only every episode could be like this.

It opens up however with Serena. She appears to be an extremely light-hearted version of the character seen in the game. I suppose the anime is trying to make her more of a likable character, but I just don't know yet. I'll have to see how she interacts with the outside world because once again we only see her at the house with her mom. The action is over at Professor Sycamore's lab. It's cool how Sycamore gets to appear, his portrayal is lifted straight from the game. While the scene with the Professor explaining to Ash why every trainer returns Froakie to him is pretty emotional, (as emotional as the show can be) the best part of the episode is Garchomp's rampage through Lumiose City.

Team Rocket appears, and while they are extremely annoying, they are a catalyst to the biggest plot point in the whole thing. They manage to get a pain-inducing collar onto the Garchomp living in Sycamore lab. I can forgive their inclusion this time. So, Garchomp. He was first established as a very likable free-roaming Pokemon, so when he starts going into rage mode thanks to the pain-inducing collar, you feel for the guy. The actual rampage was pretty awesome to say the least. It reminds us how deadly Pokemon can be without a trainer holding them back. Hopefully we'll see some more renegade Pokemon like this as the series progresses.

Clemont and Bonnie don't really contribute much. The only thing Clermont does other than get tired from running, (seriously, how does his little sister run faster than him?) is use his science skills to open a door. Bonnie is just there to be the cute little girl. Still, they aren't bad side characters. Ash thankfully is not his annoying self from the previous episode. The whole scene on the roof of Prism Tower reminds us why we like the guy. The final act has the return of Mega Blaziken and his mysterious trainer also appears. You can bet we'll see them down the road.

Overall, Episode 2 of Pokemon X & Y is an improvement over its premiere. The entire rampage through the city is one of the very best Pokemon scenes I've ever seen. Ash is actually likable and not annoying. If the show can be like this consistently, we'll have a winner.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pokemon X & Y Episode 1 'Kalos, Where Dreams and Adventures Begin!' Review

It's been quite awhile since I've seen the Pokemon anime. Like many, as a kid I grew up with the earlier adventures. When Advanced hit, it slowly started turning into a pretty lackluster show. Advanced was still solid, but after that it turned repetitive and just boring. There was really no character development or danger. I haven't seen an episode since Diamond and Pearl. I've recently played through the X game, which has rekindled my interest in the franchise. So, I decided to check out the anime adaption and see if it has gotten any better. It hasn't, but if you've played X or Y it's pretty enjoyable.

The story takes place naturally in the Kalos Region. Ash Ketchum arrives in Lumiose City in hopes of starting a new adventure and becoming a Pokemon master. Along the way in this premiere episode he runs into new Pokemon, new friends, and of course Team Rocket whom once again have followed him. I will give props to the opening for feeling very thematic, something fresh. In this opening we're introduced to Serena, the main female in the X & Y games. It's very cool how the anime recreates the environment from the games, from the Fletchling to Rhyhorn to the mom, it's good stuff for people that have just played those two. Sadly Serena seems to be out of character. I won't fault the writing until I see her interact with the outside world.

When Ash arrives the plot really begins, for better or worst. This is an example where years and years of episodes have amounted to nothing. He acts like a complete amatuer the whole time. It's very grating, especially for people like me that like Ash from the way earlier episodes. It's truly a shame, because this and coming episodes could have been called good if he was a likable and more serious protagonist. Seriously, almost every line he shouts out is cheesy and annoying to hear.

The two new ongoing friends established are Clemont and his little sister Bonnie. This is interesting because Clemont is the gym leader of Lumiose City in the game. It doesn't look like he's a gym leader here. In fact, the battle with Ash is apparently his first ever battle. The fight between Pikachu and Bunnelby is pretty solid. I really don't get however how someone like Pikachu, who by now should be like level 99 is about on par with Clemont's Bunnelby, which apparently is its first fight. But, the actual battle is pretty solid nonetheless.

Team Rocket is back again. Hopefully they won't be appearing every episode because this type of thing gets old fast. Their plan doesn't make much sense. How do they plan to take control of all the Legendary Pokemon of the Kalos Region if they can't even capture Pikachu? It's just silly and shows the writing needs some help. It is neat how Wobbuffet is actually a fighter now. Unfortunately, Team Rocket themselves are still the same exact jokes from eleven seasons ago. Hopefully Team Flare if they appear will turn out be better antagonists.

Overall, Pokemon X & Y premieres more or less what I expected. There are some cool things if you've played the games, such as a very awesome short scene of Mega Blaziken. It's great how the in-game world is replicated. Serena, while not being so far like her in-game self, is already proving to be a better character than the obnoxious Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town. (It's kind of sad since she only appears for less than two minutes while he does for the rest of the episode.) We shall see if this proves to be an entertaining adaptation of the games or another season of boredom and filler.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pokemon X Review

Aside from Super Mario, Pokemon is the Nintendo series. First appearing in 1996, it has spawned many games, spin-offs, manga, and a successful anime that is still going today. (And all the movies!) Like many, when I was younger I used to watch the show back when it was actually good. Unlike most however, I've actually never sat down and played a game straight through. I corrected this mistake with the latest release in the series, X/Y. These games when first unveiled received a lot of hype. Pokemon always does, but this was going to shake up the formula. Instead of sprites, CGI would be used, with a fully realized 3D world. There was going to be a new evolution called 'Mega Evolution.' And finally, a new Pokemon type, Fairy, was unveiled. X doesn't disappoint in the slightest. It's the perfect gateway into the addictive Pokemon world.

The story follows a trainer you name and his/her journey to becoming a Pokemon master. (Officially their names are Calem and Serena.) It's the same thing for every game, but what I like about this one is that there's also a story happening alongside it. Team Flare (basically the Kalos region's version of Team Rocket) led by a man named Lysandre has a plan to make the world 'right again.' Lysandre is the only real character of the bunch, the rest are just minions with some of the cheesiest lines in existence. The writing makes an attempt at making him a compelling character, he even sheds tears at one point. So I give props to the team for having this story within a story. Ultimately however, the most interesting thing is the emotional flashback with the Pokemon war. Now there's something that should get an anime adaption.

The main story ultimately however is the journey to becoming a Pokemon master, and it's a satisfying one. It's an 18 hour journey, and you'll be hard-pressed to put down your 3DS. Unlike Final Fantasy where leveling up is a chore, here you actually want to see your Pokemon become stronger. There is no greater feeling than watching them evolve, you develop an attachment to your starter and main team. Some might find it too easy, since it's a piece of cake to stock on items. The Elite Four isn't really as challenging as they're made out to be. The only real major difficulty I had was getting passed the final battle against the Champion's pokemon Gardevoir. But, it's still a fantastic journey no other game series can replicate.

Arguably the biggest thing that got fans excited about X and Y was that along with the Kalos region starter, you were going to get a second starter. The choices would be Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle, the original three. This was pretty exciting, especially for people like me that grew up with those characters. As you go through the game along the way you'll run into many of the classics such as Pidgey and Caterpie. So while being a whole new thing, these games grab some of the old, which is great. This brings us to the factor that will revolutionize Pokemon for years to come, the Mega Evolution.

Mega Evolution on paper is a pretty awesome concept. Basically select Pokemon have a fourth transformation where they unleash their true power once every battle. The results are quite impressive. Sadly, even though the trailers made a big deal out of it, you can go through the whole main part of the game without encountering Mewtwo, which is definitely disappointing. But, let's talk about the new Legendary from the X version, Xerneas. He has a very majestic and awe-inspiring design. He doesn't get to do much in the story, but his scene with destroying the Ultimate Weapon was pretty great. Xerneas easily has one of the best designs in recent years. Hopefully the anime will capture this deer's grace and power.

Overall, Pokemon X is a fantastic game. There's so much heart put into the journey. Sure, a lot of the dialogue between the main character and his friends is pretty cheesy, but it doesn't bring down the experience. There's not really anything negative. Sure, I could point out little things, such as the Pokemon themselves having very generic sounds. (Seriously, they couldn't use the sounds from the anime or create more unique ones?) And for some reason, the frame rate drops sometimes and the battle becomes a little choppy. But ultimately it succeeds in giving the player a journey of a lifetime.There is no satisfaction greater than watching your Pokemon evolve and earning the title Pokemon Master.


Ultraman Manga: Chapter Eighteen Review

Previously Shinjiro had an encounter with an alien called Red. Their battle is here in this great chapter of the Ultraman Manga. This one has everything the previous one lacked: Ultraman himself, a fantastic fight, and a major plot development. Moroboshi confirms that Shinjiro isn't the only one that can transform into Ultraman. This should open up for some pretty interesting things in the coming chapters. But first, Chapter Eighteen.

The story picks up where the previous chapter left off. Shinjiro has a fight with Red. Sadly he realizes he doesn't have the costume, so before he gets pummeled Moroboshi breaks up the fight and has him get away from the alien city. Later an investigation in a warehouse leads Moroboshi and Ultraman to run into a (pathetic) alien. The first part is centered around the fight between Shin and Red. It's fantastic, in both the actual blows thrown and art. Red actually has some of his dialogue translated, which was good. Hopefully we'll see him again in the near future.

The second act starts when Moroboshi gets Shin away from the alien city. Moroboshi reveals to him that he's not the only being that can change into Ultraman. It'll be intriguing to see everything surrounding what that means. The whole warehouse scene was good. The unnamed alien is pretty weak though, even begging for mercy. Shin (as Ultraman) spares him, which is a pretty interesting development. It shows he has a merciful heart. Rena returns for a short scene with her dad. He is becoming increasingly annoying, disliking Ultraman for no real good reason. Hopefully this won't evolve into some kind of petty grudge throughout the series.

Overall, Chapter Eighteen is a great chapter. It features a fantastic fight and some Ultraman action later on. The story itself doesn't move much though, hopefully Bemular returns soon.


Ultraman Manga: Chapter Seventeen Review

The Ultraman Manga continues with a pretty interesting chapter. One thing's for certain, the author is really great at crafting a long story. Here not really anything new is revealed, but there are two plot developments nonetheless. Shinjiro encounters a new alien while Moroboshi's investigation keeps on getting more complex.

The story as stated earlier focuses on two things, Moroboshi investigating and Shinjiro having a conversation with Jack before being confronted by an alien named Red. (More on that soon.) The chapter opens up with a pretty intriguing conversation between Moroboshi and Jack. It's cool because these two are complete opposites. Moroboshi is ultra serious with a zero sense of humor while Jack appears to be more of the laid back lazy type. The conversation with Jack and Shinjiro is just as good however, where we learn that Jack knows Shin is Ultraman.

Red is the new alien encountered. I don't know if the resemblance to Red King is intentional, but the name sort of confirms that. Sady his dialogue is written with alien words, so the reader has no idea what he's saying. We'll see in the next chapter if he's anything but a brute stooge.

Overall, the Seventeenth chapter is pretty solid. Not amazing, but there's enough interesting material to keep the reader invested.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Toy Story of Terror Review

Toy Story is arguably Pixar's greatest movie series. It has fantastic characters, great humor, and never fails to be engaging for viewers of all ages. It's been three years since the critically acclaimed third movie came out. It had a proper closing, with Andy growing up and heading to college. He gave his toys away to a little girl named Bonnie, who would have more use for them now that he's older. This Halloween special is the first canon thing where we get to see what the toys are up to. My only complaint is that in ends too soon!

The story follows the toys whom gets taken to a hotel with Bonnie and her mom. Things get pretty spooky when Potato-Head leaves and doesn't come back. Soon the toys start getting 'picked off' one by one. In the end, Jessie will have to face her fear of being enclosed in a box. First, I gotta give credit to Pixar for producing a short that could have easily been drawn out to be a movie. It has the same level of quality and humor as the films.

The writing is fantastic, every character has their appropriate lines. My personal favorite is when while watching a Dracula-like movie on TV, Buzz Lightyear comments, saying the woman should use the things around her as weapons. The story succeeds in having a Halloween spooky atmosphere. I'm sure all the young kids watching it got a jump when the toys were slowly getting picked off. Jessie has a pretty big role. It's interesting cause she has box-phobia. So while this is a Halloween special, it's also a story showing that you should face you fears.

There are a few toys exclusive to here. There's Combat Carl, (technically he appeared in the first film) who rescues Jesse from the lizard. He's a pretty cool G.I. Joe/Action Man parody. He's the one that encourages Jessie to face her fear. There are a few other notable toys in the glass container, but the highlight was the Transformers-like one, Transitron. He has a great robotic voice and fantastic lines. These toys would be good additions for a fourth film.

Overall, Toy Story of Terror is a fantastic special. I hope this opens the door to more specials. A TV series headed by the same team could also prove to be a great addition to ABC's lineup. This is a must-see for any Toy Story fan.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Heroes Unite Review

Out of all the DC Animated movies to come out in recent years, this one was the most surprising. I don't think many thought we would ever see an adaption of Lego Batman. On the outside it looks like a light, funny parody of Batman and Superman. On the inside...that's pretty much exactly what it is. Is that a bad thing though? Nope! Lego Batman is one of the most fun DC adventures in awhile, great for families and longtime fans alike.

The story is typical Batman/Superman fare, the Joker and Lex Luthor team up. Luthor is running for president, but on the day before election he sees his ratings are seriously low. So to convince the public that they should vote for him, he breaks Joker out of prison and gets him to make poison gas to mind control everyone. As much as Batman hates to admit it, it looks like he's going to need some help on this one.

The story is pretty wacky on paper, but it's what you expect from something called Lego Batman. The Joker is a highlight, right from his stage entrance in the first act you know you're in for a treat. Of course, this being strictly more of an all-ages adventure than previous movies, things are definitely more tame. But, it doesn't stop the Joker from being his crazy self. It never fails to be a great dynamic between him and Luthor. It was great that they got Clancy Brown to voice Luthor, since he voiced him in Justice League and Superman: The Animated Series.

Despite being called DC Heroes Unite, the rest of the Justice League don't appear until about the final 10 minutes. Perhaps a bit disappointing, but Superman makes up for it. He's pretty much a parody of the golden age version of the character, always smiling and acting invincible. The dialogue between him and Batman is priceless. From them walking into Lexcorp to waiting for the bus, (I'm not joking) this movie reminds us why we love seeing these two together. (And it's also great how Superman's classic theme plays whenever he flies in.)

Lego Batman is a fun movie. It doesn't try to pretend and be anything but a funny take on Batman, Superman, and the rest of the characters. It's perfect for a Saturday afternoon with the family, and for longtime fans ready for a good laugh. Definitely a must-see.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trilogy Review: Resistance

First person shooters are abundant in the gaming world. It's popular because it truly puts the player into the game. They are the shooter in essence. Call of Duty is the most popular one today. While those are technically realistic, (well, aside from Nazi zombies) there are quite a few shooters that are science fiction and fantasy based. My personal favorite is the Sony exclusive series, Resistance.

Resistance: Fall of Man was a PS3 launch title way back in 2006. The story was engaging enough, being set in alternate history soon after World War 2 where creatures called the Chimera have taken over. There are virtually no real cutscenes, everything is said through narrated stills. This is perfectly fine for two reasons. This being a launch title, it was to show what the PS3 was capable of gameplay wise. And secondly, the game was downright terrifying in some parts.

Resistance somehow manages to balance plenty of button mashing shooting and horror. There's nothing scarier than being dropped into a battlezone where you have no idea what's happening. I'll never forget that first level in Fall of Man where I'm walking then at a corner a Chimera appears. Seven years later, Fall of Man still manages to be an engaging, and often terrifying ride.

Resistance 2 did away with the narrated stills and was slightly more cutscene driven. Finally we got see what exactly playing as Nathan Hale was really like. The game traded horror for a more science fiction shooter. The terror was still present, but to a lesser extent since you know what you're dealing with. Resistance 2 is also notable for introducing Dr. Malikov. It also introduced a Chimeran 'character' in the form of Daedalus which was pretty cool since it gave the story an actual villain instead of mindless foot soldiers.

Resistance 2 also had this ongoing subplot with Hale, he was slowly turning a Chimera. In the end, he's shot down by Joseph Capelli, who would go on to become the protagonist in the third game,

Resistance 3 is definitely the most story-based of the trilogy. It features plenty of CGI cutscenes and is character-centric. It spends its time in the opening parts showing us Joseph's wife and son. It's pretty nice how traditional the storyline is with these little things. Interestingly, it appears Joseph had a drastic character overhaul from the previous game. There he was a hard-nosed arrogant person, here he's the complete opposite. Sure, shooting down Hale changed him, but that drastically to the point where he's actually such a likeable protagonist? Pretty far-fetched, but we'll go with it since he's a good character to root for.

The gameplay isn't all that different, it's pretty much 100% identical to the previous two installments. It's still pretty scary and nerve-racking, but like the second one it can't come up with the dread the first one has. It's not really its fault however, by then we were used to the Chimera and on an active mission rather than never knowing what was coming like in Fall of Man. The most notable thing about Resistance 3 is the entire Graterford Prison level. This is by far one of the greatest video game levels I've ever played. There's such an amazing level of nerve-racking, dread, and fear throughout as you navigate this Hell on Earth. The ironic part is that the majority of it is occupied by humans, not Chimera! Sadly, there's no real final boss at the end of the game. I was hoping it would reveal some kind of evil mastermind to the whole operation.

Resistance 3 also gives a couple of pretty interesting scenes with the Feral Chimera against its military brethren. It's a shame the story didn't focus more on this, the scene with the Widowmaker demolishing the foot soldiers was fantastic. Unlike most horror-related things, this game has a very simple and nice ending. Joseph destroys the terraformer in New York and is reunited with his son and wife. It's simple, but a nice closure.

The Resistance trilogy rises above the usual first person shooter series. It's genuinely scary, to the point where you dread going into a dark tunnel cause you know something is going to pop up unexpectedly. There are two small console spin-offs I haven't had the luxury of playing. It's been said that there's no plans for any more games in the series. I think it's a shame, but who knows, maybe the PS4 will get one. And this trilogy is definitely ripe for a movie adaption.