Comics, Movies, Video Games, and More

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

~Ephesians 5:16

Friday, August 22, 2014

The LEGO Movie Review

LEGO is unarguably one of the most popular toys on the market. In recent years it has expanded itself to video games, TV, and more! Interestingly, there has been very little films. The most popular example is the Bionicle franchise. At its height it was the most popular Lego-related thing. (It's thanks to that series I started playing with Legos.) But those films were straight-to-DVD. The LEGO Movie is the first theatrical film to entirely star...Legos! Not many thought it would end up being in the top 10 movies of 2014. With guest stars, great characters, cool music and an excellent message, it's hard not to appreciate it.

The story follows Emmet, a seemingly nobody who's thrust into an adventure to save the universe from Lord Business. As shocking as it may be for him, he's the chosen one according to a prophecy. He might not think he's special, but he'll have to accept it because the fate of the world depends on him!

The overall message is evident from the start, but it doesn't take away from the powerful speech spoken by Emmet in the climax. It's easy to sometimes think you're not anyone special, but it's important to remember that you are and everyone is. It's quite a lovely moral that the film perfectly portrays. Emmet is a likable character throughout who gets fantastic development within the hour and forty minutes. The first major character he meets is Wyldstyle who is seemingly the complete opposite. The two grow on bond that nicely develops throughout the film. Of course, one of the most hyped things was the inclusion of a lot of guest stars...

How amazing is it to have a movie where Superman, a Ninja Turtle, and Gandalf are all in the same room? It's a true spectacle, though sadly of course some will get the shaft. While these are all parodies of characters, one has to wonder the reasoning for having Superman lose and get thrown in jail, that was disappointing. Still, one cannot deny how amazing and humorous it is to have all of them together. Once Emmet arrives in Cloud Cuckoo Land (try saying that with a straight face) is when the cast is established. We have him, Wyldstyle, Vitruvius, Batman, Benny, Metal Beard, and Unikitty. Batman was of course featured in a lot of the marketing. Will Arnett does an excellent job voicing him. And he was a lot of fun to have around, (surprisingly he didn't steal the spotlight from Emmet) but some of his portrayal was questionable. "Every man for himself" is one thing, but only saving Emmet because Wyldstyle convinced him to? I understand that he was a parody, but still in some aspects it went just a bit far. Still one cannot deny how great it was to have The Dark Knight feature in a film and be funny. (His last film appearance until 2016!)

Benny was a pretty humorous guy you have around. Metal Beard was solid too, contributing some great backstory in the middle of the movie. Unikitty however proved to be the most entertaining, and adorable. The scene where she tried to remain cheerful despite her world crumbling around her was both humorous and emotional. She was basically a Lego version of Pinkie Pie, (the most cheerful character of all time) which is always a great personality to have. Surprisingly, one of the best characters ended up being Bad Cop/Good Cop. Liam Neeson delivers an Oscar-worthy voice portrayal. It's a shame the villain only had a run-in with Batman once cause it was one of the most entertaining scenes of the film. Lord Business was a pretty solid villain. On the onset he didn't seem like much other than being a generic comic relief bad guy, but the scene where he threatened to throw Bad Cop into the oblivion put that fear to rest.

The LEGO Movie definitely had a strong cast! Ultimately though, while it's great to have all these diverse characters and guest starts, it's about Emmet's journey to realizing he actually is special. The climax does a bit of a 180, introducing a new factor. The inclusion of live individuals to contrast what's happening in the Lego world was an interesting move. It was touching to see as it went on, and I can't help but wonder if the story would have been better if the humans were established early on with some cutaways here and there. It's an interesting thought to ponder, but it ultimately doesn't matter. What we got is solid enough.

Like Wreck-It Ralph, the film boasts some unique animation. Since the world and characters are made of Legos, it makes for some interesting sequences. The action is stellar; it actually boasts some of the most impressive fight and chase scenes of 2014. The soundtrack is one of the many highlights of the film. It boasts some impressive disco-video-game-like themes throughout the film. And of course "Everything is awesome" is quite an awesome song. Last year was dominated by "Let it Go," this year it's "Everything is Awesome."

Overall, The LEGO Movie delivers plenty of fun and action. It's a unique film with a compelling protagonist as he learns a valuable life lesson: that everyone is special. The cast is diverse and engaging, with of course Batman being a highlight. It does feature some humor that is solely aimed at an extreme young audience, but nothing too bad. "Everything is Awesome" perfectly describes The LEGO Movie in three words.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

Aliens: Colonial Marines has one of the most infamous reputations in modern gaming. Apparently it had been in development for 5 years, and when it finally came out it garnered MASSIVELY negative reviews. So disappointed were people that SEGA was actually sued for what was claimed to be "false advertisement." The company lost the lawsuit(!) and literally apologized for the product. How sad is that? Now you can buy the game for less than $10 on Amazon. Colonial Marines is definitely not a great game, especially in comparison with other similar titles. (Resistance: Fall of Man which came out seven years prior is a far superior experience.) Still it isn't absolutely terrible and actually pretty fun. It is however not the ideal Alien experience. (Hopefully Isolation will fulfill that.)

You and your friends against the deadliest killers in the galaxy. Another glorious day in the corps. Buckle up, soldier! Welcome to Aliens: Colonial Marines. Created by Gearbox, the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite developers of Borderlands and Brothers In Arms, this first-person shooter is steeped in the eerie, claustrophobic and terrifying atmosphere that made the Aliens films successful worldwide. You and your friends will become the most bad*** military outfit in the galaxy - the US Colonial Marines. It's down to you to not just survive but wipe out the Xeno infestation.

The back of the cover claims the game will have you "Fight the fear." The problem is that there's very little fear to be fought. For some odd reason the game almost always warns you ahead of time that there's danger coming. Using that takes away the horror element, which the movies are famous for. (Another reason why games like Resistance are better.) There are a couple of instances when the game doesn't warn you, and those are very well-done. It's a shame the rest ends up being pretty much just an arcade shoot em' up.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward. Over the course you gain access to quite a few different type of guns, an impressive selection. There's one level where you're on your own with no firearms. It's decently well-done, though could have benefited if the player was forced hide rather than simply walk past the Xenomorphs. What's most impressive about the game is the play time. There's 11 missions which might not seem like much, but each takes about 20 minutes, sometimes longer. We're looking at a 10 hour game, which is pretty solid. It's a shame the story isn't that interesting due to poorly developed characters...

The game has a few main characters, but sadly by the end I had a hard remembering almost any of their names. They are poorly developed and it's hard to feel sad when one gets destroyed by a Chestburster since they don't leave any kind of impact on the player. While the story isn't all that great, it has an impressive Alien Queen sequence. Now that was horrific watching her escape her prison and killing all the marines. Unfortunately the final boss fight against her is extremely disappointing. It's one of the worst final boss fights in recent history. You don't actually fight her, and it's over in under four minutes.

Overall, Colonial Marines is definitely disappointing as the next big Aliens experience. It has very little to no horror, and the story is disappointing due to massively underwhelming characters. For under $10 now however, you do get an impressively long campaign with plenty of fun to be had shooting Xenomorphs. For $60 upon release however, it's hard to find any good things to say about it.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham Review

Assault on Arkham was a pretty intriguing announcement. The Batman Arkham games are critically acclaimed for their gameplay and story, so one would assume that one day DC would make an animated adaption of them. Instead of going that route, the company decided to add another installment into the series. The games have some of the best characterizations of Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn, so it was fantastic to see the film utilizing this universe. Assault is a very good watch, though one has to wonder why the Suicide Squad is featured so predominantly to the point of making Batman a guest star. (Maybe to hype the new comic series?)

When the government teams up a group of supervillains with the code name Suicide Squad and forces them to break into Arkham Asylum to bring back top secret information the Riddler has stolen, Batman soon becomes involved. But things go from bad to worse when one of the Squad (Harley Quinn) frees the Joker, who has the means to not only blow up the asylum, but most of Gotham City as well.
Joker is technically the main villain by the end, but he isn't featured on the cover or mentioned in the summary on the back, interesting. Without prior knowledge, it would gave been a cool surprise. So based on the description above you would think you'd have this film down. It plays out pretty different than you'd expect. The first scene is great for a few reasons. Besides Matthew Gray Gubler's standout portrayal of the Riddler, the scene where Batman battled a government guard comes to mind instantly. Not only is the fight well choreographed, it perfectly mimics the style from the games. After that the film gets better or worse depending on your liking of the Suicide Squad. Since this is only a 76 minute film, there's not going to be much time to introduce six characters that, outside the hardcore comic audience, people have no idea who are. To be fair what we get is pretty good; every character is distinct from one another. The thing we to care?

Most people buying this film will fall under two camps: the first being players of the Arkham games looking for something before Arkham Knight next year, and people who just love a good Batman film. The climax is the most exciting part because Batman and Joker feature predominantly. While the Suicide Squad is far from bad, by the end it's unknown exactly what happens to some of the few that don't get their heads blown off. We have no idea what happened to Killer Frost or Captain Boomerang. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are really the only ones in the climax that do anything. Still, it's commendable that the characters were introduced and made distinct in such sort time.

Batman's portrayal is a perfect rendition of his self from the Arkham games. Kevin Conroy as expected delivers a fantastic performance. Thankfully the title character becomes a primary focus in the climax. There's nothing against the Suicide Squad, but most viewers are picking this up for Batman, and every scene he's in doesn't disappoint. While it takes a bit for the Joker to leave his prison cell, when he does the film becomes 10x more epic. The games are known for their fantastic portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime. For some, it's the definitive version. Troy Baker from Arkham Origins reprises his role, and it's fantastic, arguably the standout performance. The Joker commands every scene he's in. Another plus is that he actually fights. He is rarely seen having an extended fight scene from anything, so it was great to see this. (And fighting a character other than Batman, that battle was one of the highlights.)

The soundtrack is unique, considering the universe the film is in. The games are pretty dead serious, yet a lot of the music here is pop rock. Still, it isn't bad, just unexpected. The other part of the soundtrack features good themes, such as the very soft choir when Joker escapes. The climax of the film features a breakout of the Arkham inmates. Somehow the film managed to squeeze this in. It is a bit rushed, since Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and among others are among the escapees. Amidst the chaos is when the Suicide Squad is put to the side after being the primary focus. While perhaps not wrapping up that great, it's still a pretty exciting scene, especially for Batman fans.

Overall, Assault on Arkman is a very fun watch. It successfully brings the fantastic Arkham game universe onto the small screen. Both Batman and the Joker are great, easily one of their best animated portrayals yet. (It is a bit disappointing that the two of them didn't get much back and fourth dialogue.) For better or worse however this is more of a Suicide Squad movie with the Batman/Joker conflict taking the focus near the end. The team is established nicely, though one has to imagine just how much better the film would have been without them.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Christian movies in theaters are a rarity these days. This year has been slightly different with Hollywood dubbing 2014 "The year of the Bible." It started with SON OF GOD back in February, then this film, then NOAH, and soon we'll see Exodus: Gods and Kings, which tells the story of Moses. The one that sticks out the most arguably is GOD'S NOT DEAD, because it isn't based on a Bible story.

The title puts a spin on what Friedrich Nietzsche said over a hundred years ago, "God is dead!" It's an interesting metaphor. One can't kill God, but seemingly people can kill the idea of God according to Nietzche.

That's what the Professor Jeffery Radisson wanted his students to believe in the movie, that God didn't exist. One student however, Josh Wheaton, couldn't write what Jeffery wanted. Josh believed in God, and was challenged to prove His existence. So what happens is a debate between him and the professor. Both sides bring up compelling arguments, but ultimately it's Wheaton who gets to the heart of the matter with one simple question, "Why do you hate God?" The professor then goes on a rant with reasons, and after Wheaton asks, "How can you hate Someone that doesn't exist?"

Tough question.

God is most certainly not dead! People think they can kill Him by removing Him from public schools and separating His principles from government. We aren't killing Him by doing that, we're killing us. The more people wish to remove Him from daily life the more they will feel empty. When there's a lack of God in our culture, it takes a brave person like Josh to stand up. It doesn't matter how smart your opponent is; what matters is how strong of a conviction you have that God is not dead. Read the Bible, pray, and do research.

Josh Wheaton may not be a real person, but he's an inspiration nonetheless. I want to be able to stand up for my faith if the time ever arose, and that should be a goal of every believer. God's not dead, He's alive and wants His followers to stand up for what's righteous and holy in a society that thinks they've killed Him.

And if you haven't, give God's Not Dead a watch as soon as possible!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY when it was first announced garnered a pretty big surprise response from comic fans. The team has never been mainstream. One could say the same thing about Iron Man once upon a time, but at least he was a founding Avenger. These guys have never been that big or involved in many huge events. It was pretty much the definition of a "risk" for the studio. The first trailer captured a positive response for the most part. Marketing since then has been modest, but its over 90 million opening weekend speaks volumes. Guardians is the most unique film from Marvel yet. It somehow introduces brand new characters and gives them each notable scenes. THE AVENGERS had it off easy because the audience already knew the characters from previous movies. Somehow Guardians replicates what made the 2012 film so much fun. The comedy isn't forced like in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World; it's actually pretty funny. The main characters are all likable and the main villain isn't a throwaway like Malekith. Director James Gunn delivers one of the best films from Marvel Studios yet.

The film opens up with a rather emotional scene. In fact, it might just be the saddest scene from any Marvel movie to date. 26 years later after Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) watches his mother die, he's put on a scavenger mission to retrieve an artifact which houses an Infinity Gem. This leads to spiral of events which puts him in the path of other "losers" such as Gamora, (Zoe Saldana) Drax, (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot. (Vin Diesel.) These five realize that in order to save the universe they'll have to work together and stop the Kree extremist known as Ronan the Accuser.

Peter Quill isn't the most well-known superhero, but after this film you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't know the name 'Star-Lord.' When the first trailer came out some viewers accused him of being basically another Robert Downy Jr. Tony Stark. Thankfully from the time-skip in the opening it's evident that Chris Pratt brings a whole new, interesting character to the table. While he was a lot of fun for his love of 80's pop, each character brings something unique. Gamora at first from early marketing didn't seem like much other than a love interest for Quill. Thankfully that element has very little focus. Drax was solid, though despite arguably being the strongest brute-strength-wise, he didn't get to really showcase it as much as you would think. Still, he had some of the funniest scenes, such as not understanding Quill's Earth metaphors. 

"I am Groot!" Groot, like in the comics, is always an interesting character to have around. Despite only being able to utter three words, he displayed the most emotion from any of the characters. Of course, as expected, Rocket Raccoon was a highlight, perhaps the highlight. He steals the show in every scene he's in. One has to give credit to Bradley Cooper for such an incredible job; he perfectly nailed the character. At some point in time people would have laughed at the idea of a talking raccoon on the big screen; today they laugh with the character at almost every line he has. There are a couple other notable characters. Michael Rooker portrays Yondu: a bandit who could have been throwaway villain, but thankfully ended up being a little bit more. Karen Gillan as Nebula, the biological daughter of Thanos, was solid. She'll most definitely be appearing again; though it would have been nice if we had any idea of what she's going to do next. Also the film makes a point to bring up that Quill's father was not of Earth, yet the story doesn't delve into that. Hopefully in the sequel we'll get a little more backstory regarding this.

One thing that happens perhaps a little too fast is the Guardians deciding they need to work together. Rocket targets Quill, who is battling Gamora, then after they're all thrown in jail decide they need to team up. It's definitely feasible, but it happens rather quickly. It's just a minor thing, since by the middle of the film you're fully absorbed into the story and action. Ronan the Accuser is a big character in the comics, so fans were anxiously looking forward to his appearance here. I'm happy to say that he's one of the best Marvel antagonists to date. He has a commanding presence every time he's on screen, hats off to Lee Pace for delivering such a great portrayal. 

One of the most hyped things in this movie was the first talking appearance of Thanos. The titan first appeared in the after-credits scene of Avengers and fans have been eagerly awaiting his next appearance. In a scene just under 5 minutes he steals the show. It is a shame that the film teases a Ronan/Thanos fight, but doesn't actually happen. The soundtrack is very solid and unique since it utilizes a bunch of songs from the 70's & 80's. One thing that needs to be said is the incredible CGI. Groot and Rocket look fantastic and fit right alongside the actors. The scenery is beautiful, with Morag in the second part of the opening being a highlight. 

Guardians of the Galaxy delivers one of the most fun times I've ever had in the theater. Each main character brings something unique to the table. Marvel films are known for its comedy, but sometimes that humor is horribly forced. Most of the comedy here is natural; there's never a dull scene. As stated earlier, the film replicates the things which made The Avengers such an enjoyable movie. A year ago I didn't think I'd be saying this, but I'm more excited to see Star-Lord and his team's next adventure than Iron Man's or Thor's. Everyone involved deserves a thumbs up for churning out the most fun movie of the year.