Comics, Movies, Video Games, and More

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

~Ephesians 5:16

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pokemon Origins Review

2013 was a big year for the Pokemon franchise. If you're even just a casual gamer, you know what I'm talking about. Pokemon X & Y debuted. Not only did it revolutionize the gamplay, it also brought in a lot of newcomers to the series, such as myself. Like a lot of people, I grew up watching the early seasons of the Pokemon anime. I believe I stopped at around Diamond and Pearl. The problem with the anime is that after the Johto Region Tournament, the show didn't really go anywhere. Worst, Ash seemed to have lost all his character development from the past seasons. After Advanced, the show was just a turnoff to longtime fans. Enter Origins. a one-shot being a new adaption from square one. Yes, 'Red' from Pokemon Red Version is the star. For the first time in a long while, a Pokemon anime looks epic. Origins is definitely a great watch. It's a testament to how a Pokemon show should be done.

The story is adapted from the franchise's first game. The main character Red wants to become Pokemon Champion. Along the way he's sidetracked with other things and constantly running into his rival, Gary Oak Blue. A very cook gimmick about this special is that it actually uses the classic battle theme and gaming screens, as if this was the actual game you were playing. It's a nice touch, especially for longtime players. Lets's dive into the meat of things. Since this is based on the very first game, you see a lot of the same characters from the anime's first season. Professor Oak is pretty much the same. Brock is a vast improvement over his comic relief anime self, I enjoyed his many great lines. Sadly Misty doesn't do much or get any lines.

And that's perhaps the only major problem with this special, the pacing. You can't fit a whole game with 8 gym battles in just 90 minutes, or four episodes. You need at least a season of 13. Honestly, this would have been better as a show than one-shot OVA. Red tells us by narration in-between episodes all of his accomplishments. It feels rushed, even his battle with the Elite Four we couldn't see in all its glory. We also didn't get to see how Red's first encounter with Giovanni went down. A lot of the good stuff is just simply done by quick narration.

It's hard to nail down the personality of a silent protagonist from a black and white video game from the 90's. Red pretty much is the same as Ash Ketchum from the earlier seasons, a trainer that loves his Pokemon and does the right thing. Blue is a big jerk throughout, which is expected. But wow, walking away from helping the secretary? He goes from being cool rival to unlikable antagonist. Giovanni is very similar to his anime self, except he's actually less Dr. Eggman and more like a villain. His turnover to disbanding Team Rocket was kinda sudden, (again, this plot development would have benefited from being a series) but nonetheless he was solid.

One of the best things this OVA generates is genuine emotion. In 90 minutes, it showed more emotion than the entire 17 season anime! Cubone's story was incredibly done. But, easily the best thing is that the fights are utterly fantastic. Actual punches are seen on screen and there's a sense of epic-ness the anime fails to portray. This is a testament to how battles in Pokemon should be done. And finally, one of the biggest hyped things was the inclusion of Mewtwo and Mega Charizard. Once again, the fact that it's only 90 minutes doesn't give Mewtwo enough time to have a proper story. But, Mega Charziard was definitely awesome and the fight between the two was just as good as a Dragon Ball Z battle.

Overall, Pokemon Origins is a refreshing new take on the classic game. There's no denying that the anime has turned into a repetitive mess, (at least the current XY anime is so far solid) so it's nice to see a more mature and 'epic' thing. The only real problem is there isn't enough time to invest in a lot of the plot points. Most of the gym battles are done through 5 second narrations. But despite that it's a great watch. Finally Pokemon fights are epic and on par with high-tier anime battles. It's a shame it's a one-shot, hopefully we'll get more down the road.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


WORLD WAR Z received all the wrong kind of hype when it was first unveiled. At the screening for the 2012 Super Bowl viewers saw a teaser for it. The problem? It was mysterious, and not the good kind. It didn't show us any real reason why someone would pay $12 to see it. It was one of the most poorly made teasers ever created. And the fact that it would be deviating from the novel it was based on didn't help matters. But then it came out, and lo and behold it actually garnered some good reviews. It ended up being one of the surprise hits of 2013. Zombies in Hollywood is nothing new, in fact many call it an ongoing fad, same with vampires. There has been good zombie/infected flicks such as Dawn of the Dead and Quarantine, and hundreds of low budget, plain awful films. World War Z rises above the latter and aligns itself with some of the zombie greats. Director Marc Forster delivers a near-perfect experience, easily one of the best action-horror films in awhile.

The plot follows Gerry who is the key player in finding a vaccine for the zombie plague. He'll have to travel far and wide to get there while trying to live another day to see his family. This film plays out much like THE LAST OF US. The intro starts out where we meet the main character and his family. There are hints to what's happening on the TV stations and overall ominous atmosphere. The opening act is easily one of, if not the best part of the film. The perspective is very realistic and frightening to think that this could actually happen. The CGI zombie took away from that realism a bit, but it quickly picked up afterward. It's a great beginning, it sets up the tone and panic. It's not something you haven't seen before, but regardless it's handled marvelously.

The film perfectly creates an atmosphere of tension and unease, much like THE LAST OF US. The second part of the beginning act where Gerry and his family were in the apartment is a callback to those dark levels for people that played the aforementioned game. Brad Pitt is one of the bigger name actors out there, so naturally he's pretty much on screen the entire time. He does a solid job as the protagonist, nothing to complain about. His wife (Mireille Enos) has a genuine feel to her dialogue, plus the chemistry between her and Pitt is good. The daughters are your stereotypical terrified kids you find in these movies. There are quite a few other characters that pop up throughout the two hours. One of the more interesting ones was the deranged ex-CIA-agent, who sadly after his appearance doesn't appear again or is even mentioned. But pretty much everyone fits their roles nicely. (It was also interesting to see Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. star Ruth Negga in this.)

One of the things setting this apart from other zombie films is the location, which changes throughout. We have New York, then Newark NJ, and even Jerusalem. So in-between all the mayhem we're treated to some nice scenery. I bet you would never expect a zombie invasion in Israel, we're so used to seeing these things in American cities or suburban towns. The actual zombies don't disappoint. Like in Dawn of the Dead, they run at incredible speeds. There's a lot of action within the two hours. It's definitely more of an action movie than horror, which isn't a bad thing. We've seen a lot of movies where the characters are defenseless, so it's nice to see them taking on a proactive role.

The film never fails to unnerve the viewer. The only scene I didn't particularly care for was in the climax. After Gerry finds out the cure he starts walking back to the others past the un-dead. It's a bit cheesy and kinda ruins the mood. Thankfully the final few minutes with the narration makes up for that. There are plenty of great scenes throughout. From the Jerusalem invasion, to the plane, to the the W.H.O. Building, there's a lot of great set pieces. The soundtrack is pretty typical, it matches the scenes nicely enough. There's no memorable themes, but then again in this type of movie great music isn't such a huge factor.

Overall, WORLD WAR Z was a big surprise. It succeeds in being an action-horror film, a lot of fun but with plenty of scares too. The zombies don't disappoint, plus I don't think we've ever seen a film where they use each other to get over great walls. It's two hours, but it goes by rather quickly since it's paced really well. I hope it goes down as a 'classic' zombie flick, because it deserves it. I eagerly await a sequel.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Take Up Your Cross

Every day we're called to take up the Cross. Not just when we're feeling happy, not just on Sunday mornings, not just when we feel like it, but every day. It's not often the easiest thing to do, but we are called to do it.

How exactly does one fight the good fight of faith each and every day? How does one be a light in whatever area he/she is placed?

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~Philippians 4:13

The Cross has always remained the primary symbol of the Christian faith. Throughout the years it has become more of a symbol for general religion than on Jesus himself. The average person that sees it thinks automatically of 'religion' than the Death and Resurrection. The Christian however every time he/she sees the Cross it's a testament and reminder. It's a symbol of faith. That's why we often wear necklaces and chains of the Cross. I wear one every time I go outside and to work.

Of course, especially if you're going to wear something like the Cross, you have to be prepared to live by it.

Since I'm a cashier, I've seen a lot of people. And a good majority of them do have Cross/necklaces. But sometimes I think quite a few forget that they're showcasing their faith because of the way they act. They don't seem any different than the average person. Wearing a Cross is a broadcast of your faith, and if you're not going to be any different than the average person, you might as well throw it in the trash can.

Because being a Christian means taking up your cross daily.

There's a big mentality (especially among teens and young adults) that faith is something to keep to yourself. There's this 'coexist' nature that runs rampant. "If believing in Jesus works for you, fine. Just keep it to yourself." That's basically what a lot of the thought process is these days. That's not what Jesus would be doing. One shouldn't be afraid to talk about God. You'd be surprised at some of the conversations that can result.

One time I was talking to a girl who was helping me bag while I was working the register. She wasn't a believer, but not quite an atheist either. She said, "It would be ignorant to say there is no God." Everyone has a worldview. While you may not change them, you can plant a seed that God can grow.

Would you be willing to sacrifice anything and everything, whether it be a career or simple attitude adjustment, to take up your cross? Jesus said in Luke 9:23:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pokemon XY Episode 3 'A Battle of Aerial Mobility!' Review

It's been quite a bit since the special 1 hour sneak peak of Pokemon XY, the latest Pocket Monster show. As a re-surged fan of the series thanks to the new games, I went into this show with mild expectations. I love the XY world, but the anime hasn't been quite 'good' since Advanced ended. But with every new season there's a chance for redemption. The two premiere episodes were solid, from there the show would either keep up the quality or deride itself into a repetitive mess. Thankfully if Episode 3 is any indication, XY could be the best Pokemon season in a long time.

This episode is separated into three points of views. First we have the main one which is on Ash, Clemont and Bonnie, second on Serena, and finally on Team Rocket. First we'll talk about Ash and friends. We see the protagonist update his progress to Professor Oak. I don't know when the latter's voice changed, but it's pretty awful. However, the action is when the Heroes go on their journey to the Santalune City Gym. In the beginning of the episode, Ash registered for the Kalos League. I'm going to assume this league will be in the climax of the season once he collects all the gym badges.

Before continuing, it's very important to mention the theme song. It's a fantastic remix of the original theme from Season 1! It gives the feeling that this season will be like the originals. Past all the cheesy friendship dialogue, we find the heroes in a forest when a Dedenne appears. These things are exclusive to X & Y and look remarkably similar to Pikachu. So naturally their brief 'encounter' proved fun enough. But, despite Dedenne's inclusion, the new Pokemon to watch for is Fletchling. Wow, if you ever thought that bird was a bit on the weak side, you'd have to watch the eisode. He plays the main characters for a bunch of fools. The battle between him and Froakie was fun with pretty smooth animation. The battles in this season are proving to be solid, I'm looking forward to the 'big' ones. So the two major things that come out from this part of the story is Froakie learning to trust Ash and the latter catching a Fletchling. The bird should prove to be a great addition, I already personally prefer him to Froakie.

It is interesting that this season is taking its time with having Serena and Ash being partners on the journey. She's proving to be a fun protagonist. I still miss her more serious in-game personality, but she could be worse. I'm sensing these two will be close friends as the show goes on, maybe something even more? Then again, it's easy to forget that Ash is still like 10 years old seventeen seasons later...which doesn't make much sense. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing which Pokemon Serena picks. (Hint, it's Fennekin. The theme song spoils that surprise.)

Team Rocket...I just have to ask why? They serve absolutely no purpose. Thankfully they didn't have any run-ins with Ash, but their scenes were pretty filler-y nonetheless. But, we do learn one thing: Giovanni is still in business. Again, I just don't understand. In the theme song it shows Team Flare's logo, so why not just let them be the villains and Team Rocket take a break? Obviously the biggest thing from their point of view is that James catches an Inkay, who was trolling Team Rocket the whole time by stealing their food. Inkay must be some kinda weakling though if he could be captured without any attack necessary.

Overall, this was a really solid episode. Past the cheesy dialogue and filler Team Rocket, there's a lot of cool stuff going on. Fetchling has a lot of personality, even being as cool as the original Pidgey! The battle between it and Froakie was good, the animation is very nice.  The story so far is moving nicely, it remains to be seen if the pace doesn't falter.


Monday, February 3, 2014

NES Remix Review

NES Remix came out of nowhere. It was announced at Nintendo Direct and hit the eShop soon after. This $15 game has a really cool concept that surprisingly hasn't been tapped into in the past. You have all the classic Nintendo games. Instead of releasing them in a bundle pack, it grabbed select levels and warped them. Some of this is stuff you'd probably see in a mod or hack. The Wii U right now lacks an extensive library of quality games, so this was welcome. If you have the system, it's definitely worth a download. You get a lot of content for a good price.

NES Remix contains 16 games with a varying amount of levels. It has a solid selection, from 'greats' such as Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, to the more obscure ones such as Clu Clu Land and Wrecking Crew. However, I have to question why Metroid wasn't included. You have things like Urban Champion and generic Baseball, but no Metroid? It's almost a crime. It's almost as if Nintendo truly wants to distance itself from Samus Aran. At this rate she'll join the ranks of Fox and Captain Falcon, being only in Super Smash Bros. So while a solid selection, the lack of Metroid is pretty disturbing. Hopefully if they do 'SNES Remix,' we'll get Super Metroid. (And where is Kid Icarus?)

The levels range from incredibly easy to pretty difficult. Some of the best ones are in Remix I and II. Here is where the craziness is, such as one in Mario Bros. where the screen keeps fading away and one where you have to battle a giant-sized Bowser in Super Mario Bros. How about one in Donkey Kong where you control Link instead of Mario? You're going to realize how much using the jumping ability is useful then. Still, a lot of it feels 'tame' and 'safe.' I view it as a testing ground and hope in a sequel they truly go all out.

I wish they had found a way to incorporate multiplayer. But at $15 with a lot to do, it's hard to complain about that. Another thing is that the game should have given you something for completing all levels with gold. It's an accomplishment in itself, but once you get through the absolutely insane 48-part final level in 'Bonus,' a reward would have been nice. But overall despite a few complaints, NES Remix is easily worth a download. It's nostalgic for older players and a fun time for newer ones. It has a lot of content, so give it a download if you haven't.