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

~Ephesians 5:16

Sunday, December 13, 2015

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 Review

When you watch a film in the theater, often you don't know what to expect in terms of trailers. Aside from the jaw-dropping fact that we're somehow getting a Snow White spin-off called The Huntsman, the obvious highlight was The Boy. The tagline "When you Break his rules" was so hilarious I felt the need to stop myself from bursting out laughing.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the final movie in the Hungers Games saga, MOCKINGJAY PART 2.

The Hunger Games is without a doubt great book series. The films have been very good in adapting the source material. The first film set the tone well. Catching Fire was excellent. Now when it was announced that Mockingjgay, the third and final book, would be split into two films, many were displeased. Sometimes it works (many would agree Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows needed to be two films) but in the case of The Hobbit (In this case three films!) it's been said there's so much buying for time and filler that one begins to think that they're just being stretched out for more $. Mockingjay thankfully fits more into the Harry Potter side of things. Part 1 almost perfectly set the stage for the grand final battle without feeling like a holdover. Yes, there was at least one completely filler scene, but overall Part I was great. Now here we are, three years after the first Hunger Games and an end to another book series come to film. Part 2 isn't perfect, but still nicely provides closure and pretty faithfully adapts the story.

Realizing the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick for the ultimate mission. Together, they leave District 13 to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow, who's obsessed with destroying Katniss. What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions.
I remember reading Mocklingjay when it first came out and seeing how to end such a great a concept for a story. When the first Hunger Games film came out, I was thinking, "Seeing some of the key scenes in Mockingjay is going to be something else!" As expected, this film is basically one big climax, as a Part Two should be. We see Katniss finally taking the fight to the Capitol. The road to there is interesting because as readers know, a few pivotal characters meet their demise. The book definitely handles the deaths better, but what happens in the film is effective. Jennifer Lawrence once again does a fantastic job portraying Miss Everdeen. She can go from super serious to extremely emotional in a very realistic manner. It's great to see her character confident in her leadership role, and remains one of the better protagonists in recent years.

Peeta has always been a fan favorite, for being kind and a wise voice of reason. Unfortunately he spends most of the time being out of it here. I suppose the leap to film made that entire plot point a little more grating to watch than it was to read. Plus, he snaps back to attention right after that kiss? That was pretty generic and sudden, even if that's how it was in the book. A negative thing I noticed here is that Peeta literally murders a comrade when the flood happens. This is never brought up by anyone after (besides Peeta himself later) and it felt odd, and empty. Sure, it's established Peeta isn't in his right mind, but him murdering one of their squad members and no one bringing it up was just crazy.


The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale was always unbearable to watch, and here it's no different. At least here Gale is somewhat engaging throughout the story. His character arc comes to a sudden halt in the climax; it would have been nice to get at least a final scene with him in the epilogue. Finnick always provides some genuine comic relief. There's a few characters in the middle act Katniss works with. Perhaps the most notable is Boggs, whom only appears briefly yet somehow becomes one of the most likable characters in the series, so props to the writing. (Though, his role is more substantial in the book.) There are a couple of other characters, but nothing noteworthy. The scene in the tunnel with Castor talking about how scared Pollux is of being underground was unnecessary and didn't add anything to the film. (That entire plot point is basically forgotten five seconds later.) We already have the uneasy Peeta, we don't need another mention of uneasiness.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow has been doing a marvelous job portraying the character since his brief scene in the first film. I was really looking forward to seeing the famous scene near the end of the book in the flower garden adapted, and Sutherland nails the dialogue. President Coin was an interesting and unexpected character in the book. It was intriguing to watch her character arc develop and come to fruition in the climax there. The main problem I have with her here is that she's simply boring. Still, I will give credit for the news broadcast scene.

A thing the film does extremely well is make known to the viewer a very desolate feeling. The infamous underground battle with the "Mutts" was very intense. I think perhaps the most well-done sequence is the brief one where the team finally gets deeper into the Capitol. The incinerators added a sense of dread and gives an intense look into this war zone. Tension is greatly built up as Katniss and Gale attempt to blend into the crowd with the Stormtroopers Peacekeepers searching people. The climax in the book is infamous for not having Katniss be the one to kill Snow. I personally thought that ending was really well done and was looking forward to seeing it portrayed on the big screen. It played out well in the on-screen adaption, and provides a satisfying conclusion to tyranny in the story. The epilogue is great and provides definitive closure, as the book did. The soundtrack is solid throughout. A highlight would be the drums in the background as Katniss walks in for the execution.

Overall, The Hunger Games film series ends on a high note. Some things in the book were more bearable to get through than the film. (Peeta's ongoing confusion for example.) There are a few questionable things the film does, and ironically I would say Part 1 was better written. Coin was much better in the book; here she's just boring and her character arc could have been much more engaging. Despite all this, Mockingjay Part 2 is a very good watch and does the book justice. Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen perfectly once again, and Snow was a very good antagonist throughout. Director Francis Lawrence has delivered three quality adaptions.

4/5

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

GODZILLA IN HELL Retrospect


GODZILLA IN HELL ended last week with its fifth issue. For a short review, it was definitely interesting. Dave Wachter wrote Big G well and the art was very good. The shocking thing was the ending.

Godzilla rises out of the ocean, in real time.

So apparently the entire series featured Godzilla not in the actual Hell, but in his own personal hell. Basically, he goes through inner demons and eventually...conquers himself?

I will admit the concept is pretty interesting. Godzilla never actually died...or did he? As I type this it becomes a little more confusing because Big G could have died but somehow came back to life after going through all this. I'm inclined to believe, based on the quote provided in the last issue, that he never actually entered Hell, but as started earlier, he went through hell in the mind, which is definitely interesting.

Still, it could also be a disappointment since the descriptions kept telling us different things. Sure, one could make an argument that all the summaries were talking about hell inwardly. But one description talks about King Ghidorah sending him there, while another instead shows us the world blowing up because of a battle with SpaceGodzilla.

As you can see, continuity wasn't consistent, making this the most confusing Godzilla related thing yet. Confusing doesn't equal bad, of course. There's too much unique storytelling for any fan to miss. The first issue established the tone with the "Abandon Hope all ye who enter Here." It was the perfect starter as Godzilla battled a nightmarish version of himself. The second issue might be my favorite, for Bob Eggleton's elegant writing and incredible art. (It was the first actual painted Godzilla comic!)



The third issue was perhaps the most strange. We had these Mothra angels trying to get Godzilla to enlist in battling the demons. As I said in my review, that was too cool of a concept to bring up and throw away. I was also not a fan of how it tried to depict these angelic beings as antagonistic. Considering the title, it would have been nice to see some angels aiding Godzilla out of the place.

(But if this is some kind of dream landscape, then technically none of this actually happened in real time.)

Issue 4 had Godzilla's two greatest enemies: King Ghidorah and Destoroyah. If this is a personal hell, then it's fascinating to see this since Godzilla himself considers battling these two together one of the most brutal things imaginable. The final issue sort of brings it all together. As already stated, it ends with him rising out of the water.

So looking back, when looked at from #5 ending's perspective, GODZILLA IN HELL offers a very unique view into the mind of the monster, which very few things have done in the past. We see G enter his hell in the first issue, fighting a nightmarish version of himself. At the end of Issue 2 he battles whom he considers his greatest adversary. In Issue 3 we see the world, his home, blowing up. Issue 4 we see a nightmare scenario: him battling his two greatest foes. And finally we see him literally being turned into a skeleton in the final issue which is the final hell, death. But it doesn't end there. He rises, beating death, eventually reaches the summit, and rises out of the water.

Still, there are those strange dialogue inconsistencies. The issues are 95% without dialogue, but there is some contradictory narration detailing the events. This makes me think that the original idea was to have G go through the actual Hell, but in the end was changed. Besides the inconsistencies, the story is a definite must read. The Big G has never been in a story like this, and probably won't be again anytime soon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

ULTRAMAN Volume 1 Review


Ultraman is one of the most popular TV/toy properties in Japan right now. Since its debut in 1966, it has remained consistently a hit over there. The actual quality of the shows has waned in recent years, but that's an article for another day. Interestingly, there hasn't been that many manga for the series. (Or at least, some we can find out about!) That's part of the reason why ULTRAMAN was highly anticipated. After being out for four years in Japan, it has surprisingly been licensed over here. Volume 1 nicely establishes the story and provides plenty of references to the original series while being something intriguing for new fans.
Decades ago, a being known as the Giant of Light joined Shin Hayata of the Scientific Special Search Party to save Earth from an invasion of terrifying monsters known as Kaiju. Now, many years later, those dark days are fading into memory, and the world is at peace. But in the shadows a new threat is growing, a danger that can only be faced by a new kind of hero—a new kind of ULTRAMAN…
Shinjiro is an ordinary teenager, but his father is the legendary Shin Hayata. When he learns that his father passed on the “Ultraman Factor” to him, and that he possesses incredible powers, nothing will ever be the same again.
What I found most appealing about the story is that it places itself in continuity after the original series. The intro was great, giving us a rather intriguing scenario: a future where Ultraman is only a memory. The Science Patrol museum was a lot of fun, showcasing Ultraman's final fight with Zetton in figure form. Interestingly, we have Hayata straight from the original show. It's really cool how it looks like he'll be an ongoing character. Then we have Ide also. If you're a fan of the 1966 series, there's a lot to like here. The beginning introduces us to Shinjiro, our main character in child form. There's a nice slow buildup of intrigue as we see he has certain abilities. This leads us to Hayata himself revealing to Ide that he too has powers. "The Ultraman Factor" the manga is calling it. It's quite fascinating, though explained rather quickly. Hopefully in the next volume it'll go into that a bit more.

In modern day the story really heats up, and also where we find at least one negative. Shinjiro might have been a happy kid back then, but here the writer (Eiichi Shimizu) goes out of his way to make him the stereotypical high school student. I suppose with not comprehending his powers it could be understandable. Still, it was grating to get through some of those school scenes. He seems to pick up later on when he's given the Ultraman armor. The pacing is very good. The slow unveiling to the antagonist is great. Is that Ultraman? Why does he have a center hole like him? That's why when Hayata says "That's NOT Ultraman" the reader is extra intrigued. So then who is he?

The answer to this day is still one of the coolest scenes in the first volume. This alien revealing himself to be Bemular changes things quite a bit. Longtime Ultraman watchers will remember Bemular to be the very first monster Ultraman fought. This adds a mystery element to the story: has this monster transformed into an alien? Is this a new Bemular? His dialogue is a bit confusing when he says, "My name is Bemular...and I'm your very first enemy!" Is he referring to the fact that he was Ultraman's first foe? Or that he's the first to come? It seems like the latter, so it should be interesting to see how this Bemular connects to the original.

The art by Tomohiro Shimoguchi is definitely very good, even great. The Ultraman armor looks really well done. Bemular however deserves even greater recognition. The art succeeds at making him appear mysterious and ominous. The fight in the climax between them was fantastic and if that's any indication we have many more incredible fight scenes to look forward to. The ending leaves us with a nice cliffhanger, introducing Alien Z-Ton to the mix. These guys have been a fixture in Ultraman since the original show, so it's a really neat ending. Plus, the art nails the design perfectly.

Overall, ULTRAMAN starts out strong. The writing is very good. It's obvious that both the writer and artist care about the source material. It is a must-read for longtime fans. It connects in a fascinating way to the first TV series and continues the story of Hayata, arguably the best Ultraman human host. Shinjiro I'm more mixed on as the protagonist, but it's only the first volume so we'll see where character development takes him. Bemular is firmly established as a great antagonist. Combine that with an intriguing cliffhanger and you have a reader greatly anticipating the next installment.

4.5/5

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Out of the Water: Reflecting on God's Promises


As I rose out of the water this past Sunday at church, a joy had washed over me. Getting baptized was something that had always been on the back of my mind. Finally, after waiting too long, I went up on stage, shared my testimony, and walked down into the water. The anticipation made me nervous, but that nervousness disappeared as I walked onto the platform.

I was happy to share my story, because it reminded me of how far I had come, and what could be an inspiration to others in the audience.

After that event, I began to reflect on what it means to be a saved person, a Christian. Many people get so caught up in various denominations and rituals that they lose sight of the bigger picture. It's sad the key thing gets forgotten: the Good News.

As I opened my Bible this past week I was reminded about some of the glorious promises God has made to his children, born again believers. Jesus states that "this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and raise him up on the last day."

What a wonderful, simple truth which sadly many people just don't understand. Many choose not to believe in the Son, laugh, and walk away. And on other other side, there are those who believe that we somehow have to be good enough for God to accept us; we have to somehow make sure our good outweighs the bad in order for a belief to work.

But what a great thing here Jesus Himself states. We'll never be good enough. He is the only One good enough, and we must simply believe in him. This is such a fundamental truth of Christianity that is skewed around. We don't "get good" enough for Christ to accept us. We strive to become good because His love compels us to change.

I know this firsthand. For a few years I had an ongoing sin problem.  When I came to faith, God planted something in me that has helped me stop and strive to be better going forward.

And this leads me to this point, a verse I had never really thought too much about until reading through it recently. People bring up this concept of cheap grace to receive, but to continue living a sinful lifestyle. This doesn't make sense, because "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in Him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."

A born again believer is a new person because they are born of God. And what's utterly fantastic is that He plants a seed, not just any seed but God's seed in that person, and it doesn't fade or go away. That's what separates Christians from the rest of the world. There's a seed inside us that grows as we follow Christ. The verse is not saying we are perfect people. Rather, it says we cannot go on deliberately sinning like we use to, because we have God's seed, His power within us.

That is monumental to really just take a moment and think about.

Finally, a verse that is quickly becoming a favorite and daily motivation is Philippians 1:6, perhaps the most fundamental promise for the Christian. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until day of Christ Jesus." What a promise, and let us not forget that "All of Scripture is God-breathed." Here is a promise saying God is going to finish the work He started in us ever since the day we came to faith. What a glorious thing to know that He is the One holding me together.

God is going to finish the work He started in me, and that's a great encouragement to know I'm secure in Him. And since His seed remains in me, I'm bent toward doing the right thing. We still have a responsibility to follow Jesus throughout this life, and we're able to do that because God has given us the power through the Holy Spirit.

These are such great truths to reflect on when worrying about things. God is going to finish the work He started in you when you came to faith. His seed will remain in you, and you are able to say no to sin, when in the past it was all too easy to give in. We look to the Son, and that inspires us to share this truth of salvation to others we run into.

I'll never forget the day I was baptized. I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to do it too if they haven't. It's a declaration of faith, and something Jesus commands His followers to do. As you read your testimony, your're reminded of how He rescued you from the bondage of sin and planted a permanent seed. In turn, we inspire others.

God is awesome.

Verse references: John 6:39-40, 1st John 3:9, Philippians 1:6, 2nd Timothy 3:16

Monday, October 5, 2015

SUPER MARIO MAKER Review


It doesn't take much to notice that the Mario series has been relatively quiet lately. The previous big game, 3D WORLD, came out two years ago. If that wasn't sad enough, 2014 broke the chain of an important game coming out yearly. Yes, we got Mario Kart 8 and...Captain Toad(?) but it was the first year in quite awhile not to feature the next 2D or 3D adventure. 2015 went vacant to the point I was starting to question if Nintendo was starting to run out of ideas or even go the Capcom or SEGA route...which is cease and desist for their mascot. Enter SUPER MARIO MAKER. This announcement was a complete surprise. At first the concept was just a little intriguing. "Create your own levels? That could be fun." was the mindset for many. As the months went on the hype level went extremely high as Nintendo really marketed it as the next big thing. By the time release day hit, it was one of the most hyped games of the year. Mario Maker is an amazing game, and really something we never knew how much we wanted. As a 30th anniversary celebrator, it's perfect.

One of the early criticisms was that everyone would have to wait 9 days to fully unlock all the features, backgrounds, etc. (Some have been able to bypass that, but for the review we'll talk about how it's meant to go down.) I too thought it was at first silly to have to wait, but as I went through the days I actually started to appreciate this. Mario Maker's stage building ability is not complex like Little Big Planet's, but you'll want to experiment slowly to fully appreciate each individual feature. For example, we don't have access to pipe sub-worlds until the final day, which might sound tedious on paper. But during those eight days the player would have mastered all the other features and they could prepare for the pipes because they know it's coming.

Once you have everything, the sky is almost the limit on what one can do. There are over 1,000,000 levels uploaded online. Some are fun, some are excruciating, and some are both. It's amazing what can be done because one can literally almost create their own game with these tools. Of course, while creating levels represents 50% of the draw, the other half is of course playing other creators' levels. A person can literally sit for hours just going through other creations. Plus, for a more standard way to do it we have the 100 Mario challenge. It's a great feature to play other levels in a systematic way. Expert mode is actually extremely difficult and I would say even more challenging than The Lost Levels!


The usage of Amiibos in this game might just be the most innovative. If you for example put a Pac-Man Amiibo the Gamepad, you can summon the chomper himself. You put him as a Mystery Mushroom and when you or someone grabs it, they instantly transform into Pac. It's a really neat gimmick since there are lots of characters whom can appear. (Even those without a 2D sprite, such as Olimar!) It's also fantastic how Nintendo added the little touches and didn't just make the Amiibos palette swaps of Mario. For example, when running as Sonic he does Spin-Dash, and with Pac he goes into his classic arcade self. It's a shame these only work in the 8-bit gameplay, but it's understandable.

One of the most interesting things about Mario Maker is its ability to play with backgrounds not seen in respective games. For example, Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the airship level. So, if you were to switch to 8-bit mode, we would get a retro version of the airship. It's the same with Super Mario World's ghost house. The possibilities will always be endless. One will be spending a lot of time in the Course World (online) part. There's a great level of satisfaction every time one uploads a new level. The problem is that everybody is limited to 10 at first. This wouldn't be a problem if say every month we're able to upload more. But that isn't the system. The system is that you're only able to upload more once a bunch of people star your levels. Here's the thing: there are over a million levels, so there's a good chance yours will get lost in the shuffle. I've had the game since about opening day and still stuck at 10 levels. It's a disappointing system because the player becomes less motivated to make new stages since it forces them to delete old ones.

While making levels is absolutely glorious, there are still some interesting loopholes one comes to notice as they make more and more. For one thing, boss fights are basically non-existent. Sure, we can have Bowser at the end with the axe as usual. But how about those Bowser Jr. battles in NSMBU where you have to beat him to proceed? In Mario Maker there's no real way to make a set boss battle where it requires the player to beat it. In the 10 Mario challenge for a primary example Nintendo obviously wants you to beat Bowser Jr., but why bother when you can just bypass him and hop in the pipe? Another thing is that while 1-Ups are always nice, there's technically no real use for them since each level is self contained. If there was a checkpoint system, then the 1-Ups could be utilized. In fact, it's strange that there's no checkpoints since Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U both have a checkpoint system.

Still, despite those loopholes, make no mistake: the level making is a true achievement in the history of gaming.



Overall, Super Mario Maker is a special  game, and fitting for the franchise's 30th anniversary. It's extremely fun creating stages, for there are almost limitless things one can do. Amiibos are put to fantastic use. It's disappointing that one can only upload 10 levels at first, since there's a good chance the player will be stuck at that for awhile. Still, don't that deter you from picking this game up. Trust me, there's nothing like it on the market.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WABBIT -A Looney Tunes Production Premiere Review


WABBIT is the latest installment in the Looney Tunes saga. I was personally dismayed because it came at the cost of the immensely underrated previous show. Still, Bugs Bunny is almost always engaging and despite comedies on Cartoon Network being terrible 99% of the time, Looney was made for the funny format. So, let's take a look at each segment individually and see if this show is worth continuing...or scrapping.

"Buddha Bugs"

One of the best things about an all-time classic like Looney Tunes is that there's no need to establish the characters. The viewer knows who they are. It's too bad the story here is pretty terribly written. So Yosemite Sam is stealing again, but when he runs unto a temple elder (Bugs Bunny in disguise) he finds out there's better treasure to acquire. Bugs has him do "tests" to prove Sam's worthy of receiving it.

This opening episode is not a good way to start the show. The running gags are annoying and I found myself with not so much a smirk. Yosemite Sam is grating to watch. (And if that wasn't enough, we're reduced to him running around in his underwear...) All the intelligent writing that was present in The Looney Tunes Show is non-existent here in this rather mindless episode. At least Bugs had one good line: "A prosperous journey begins with the first step." Perhaps the next few segments are better?

1/5

"Now and Zen"

This one has this squirrel named Squeaks run into some ninjas. Bugs Bunny is of course thrown into fray. This was much better than the previous one. Bugs had some of his signature humor and it almost felt like a classic Looney Tunes episode. The ninjas though were confusing since they weren't people...but what? The world may never know. The intro had some nice background music.

Let's hope the next two are as good!

4/5

"The Inside Bugs"

This one has Yosemite Sam (once again, hopefully they don't overuse him, cause it seems like that's the case) escape the bank with the "loot" as he calls it. His getaway car isn't what he expected: Bugs Bunny is the driver. This episode was definitely fun as we see Bugs in his traditional trolling persona. Still, there are a couple of needless moments. The running gag of Sam being thrown to and fro in the car got old quick. Really, by the third time a seat belt should have been buckled. And the police looking dumb is so overdone and annoying that the score will be lowered.

3.5/5

Can the last one end on a high note?

"Sun Valley Freeze"

This one has Bugs take a journey to go on vacation at a nice beach. Sadly, when he pops up his head he finds out he's in a snowy mountain. Then apparently a friendly version of Big Foot was following him. Not only that, but hazmat hunters are out to get the monster. This episode was very grating to watch, mostly because of how dumb Big Foot is portrayed. Not only that, but there's this glaring animation error present throughout the entire episode. Most of the time Bigfoot has no hands, but then sometimes they magically appear out of nowhere. It's strange, and I still can't figure it out.

There was virtually no funny moments to speak of here. The running gags are annoying, such as when Big Foot constantly throws Bugs at the mountain, missing the top. It felt like I wasted a good five minutes of valuable time.

0.5/5

Well, "Wabbit" wasn't the worst thing I've seen, but it wasn't anything resembling good either. It's sad because the writers of the previous show put so much thought into the stories. Here it's like the writers of this show decided that only an extremely young audience will be watching, so why bother trying? Parents are better off buying the Golden Collection box sets for their kids to showcase how slapstick in cartoons is really done.

Friday, September 11, 2015

LOONEY TUNES: Rabbits Run Review


Imagine the disappointment of looking for a movie on Redbox but finding out they haven't gotten it, despite the fact it released everywhere else on August 14th. Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem was that film, but despite the unfortunate happening of it not being available, I ran into something rather peculiar and watched that instead. (Oh, and I should add that I did manage to see Monster Mayhem on Amazon, and if you're looking for a light/fun take on the Dark Knight, give it a watch!) Even though being the most legendary cartoon series of all time, the latest animated installment in the LOONEY TUNES saga somehow has been overlooked. How exactly is the latest "ACME" production that no one is talking about?

The story follows Lola Bunny, whom has somehow created a perfume which turns anything invisible. This of course doesn't sit well with the military, so Captain Foghorn sends Elmer Fudd to retrieve it. Meanwhile Marvin the Martian has Cecil the Turtle also on a mission to acquire it. Bugs Bunny, apparently a taxi driver, is thrown into the conflict as he helps out the in-trouble Lola.

The recent Looney Tunes Show to me was one of the most excellent reboots/re-imagining of a classic series. Just about every episode offered fantastic writing and great laughs. That's why I was personally dismayed to see it not be renewed. The fact that Rabbits Run looked very similar to the show added to the hype. Plus, most things Looney related are good. Sadly, Run just doesn't make the cut. It's an enjoyable watch sometimes, but I expect better from something with the Looney Tunes name.

Almost all of the intelligent writing from The Looney Tunes Show has vanished here. Adults won't find much to like as the dialogue is often lacking in good humor. Lola for example in the show was obviously written as a little on the crazy side, but still most of the time funny. Here it's taken a little too far. Bugs Bunny's portrayal is lacking most of the time, being much more subdued than usual. He does have his moments, but for a lot of the film he isn't the "king of troll" as the popular meme states. Also, while Bugs has rarely been a true hero like Superman or Captain America, doing things purposely illegal is a bit much. Or rather, him saying to Lola to use the invisible perfume to bypass a sold out concert doesn't feel like the right way to send off kids whom are watching.

One of the most well done aspects of the film was the arrival of Marvin the Martian. Damon Jones did an excellent job delivering his opening line, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." The problem is that this is treated as the big plot twist of the story. It would be extremely effective, but Marvin is spoiled in the trailer and the cover. It would have been far better to hide his appearance. Cecil Turtle was an excellent character, and ironically often more engaging to watch than Bugs himself. (Major props to Jim Rash for delivering a terrific voice portrayal.) Daffy Duck's role isn't terrible, but not particularly amazing either. The banter between him and Bugs was good, but could have been a lot better.

The sing-a-long was a bit bizarre, but the actual song wasn't that bad, so it doesn't deserve to be counted as a negative. Yosemite Sam's role had some moments, but there was some over-the-top, even for Looney Tunes. (Him pretending to be a dog and the old lady falling for it was just too much to bear.) While the film's humor needed help, it's still there in bits and pieces, which stops this review from being a total anti-recommendation. Elmer Fudd's role as a secret agent was a lot of fun. Speedy Gonzales as Lola's landlord was cool too. It's just that most of the time the dialogue is more on the mediocre side and makes you long to go take out your Golden Collection box sets.


Overall, Rabbits Run is something of a disappointment. It puts the characters in whole new roles, which is interesting, but ultimately the writing is mediocre. I'm not sure why it was thought of it would be best to have the characters not know each other. It could have been good, but the dialogue just isn't as great as it should be. Still, it's not the worst thing to come out of Looney Tune Land...I think. For longtime viewers, it will definitely be a true letdown.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

MAGGIE Review


Generally speaking, most zombie stories follow a certain path with one word: survival. Dawn of the Dead, Quarantine, and World War Z for example all follow this idea of surviving in an unnatural event, or a resistance to take back the world. That's why when a film like MAGGIE comes along, it's easy to write it off as another un-dead flick. That would be one of the biggest mistakes a person could make.

Maggie follows the story of Maggie Vogel, whom has been infected with an un-curable disease. Her father does not want to put her in quarantine, yet knows that she is going to die, and he has the choice to finish her himself. As you can see, the film itself simply with that premise separates itself from all other stories. I love a good action film like WORLD WAR Z, but there's something really engaging about watching a drama set in this type of world.

Of course, dramas can become incredibly boring, even with a cool concept/franchise behind it. (Superman Returns is the perfect example.) The actors involved here really nail the great script. Abigail Breslin as the title character portrays a believable girl as she goes through this unfathomable ordeal. Teenagers in film are rarely portrayed well, so it was refreshing to see a likable character. The slow transformation from human girl to monster was brilliantly done. The viewer can feel the emotion as she breaks down not being able to control the virus from kicking in.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's character's relationship with his daughter was nicely established. The viewer can feel his inner sadness as a father as he's given the option to kill Maggie himself, or bring her to quarantine where they'll do it. No matter what she's going to die, so it's rather bleak. How does a father, or anyone deal with that? How does anyone deal with the knowledge there's no cure for a fatal disease? The film poses some intriguing questions.

That's not to say there's absolutely nothing negative. With its rather short run time, it feels like there could have been a bit more. Maggie's step mom's arc ends abruptly for example. The ending is effective and powerful, plus it gives a frightening perspective I've never seen established before in a movie. But it ends rather too suddenly, with no real end to Wade's, the father, arc. It feels like there should have been something additional. But, this stuff doesn't take away from the quality of the story. While this is not action, there's still one great action scene where Arnold unveils his Terminator skills on a zombie.

Overall, Maggie is a must-see for longtime fans of the zombie sub-genre, and general drama watchers in general. It tells a powerful story of a girl whom is infected with an un-curable virus, and her relationship to her father. The choreography, acting, and writing are all excellent. I've avoided spoilers because I truly want you to go check this out. The fact it's PG-13 and not R is a nice change of pace too. A story with zombies doesn't have to be overly gory to be effective. Maggie makes the viewer contemplate about life, sickness, and reminds "to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" and that "now is the day of salvation" (Ephesians 5:16, 2 Corinthians 6:2) because one never really knows when their last day will be.

4.5/5

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Salt, the Cheese, and the Tiers: On Super Smash Bros. -The Concept and Falsity of Tiers


I remember being at a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament awhile back. Before the actual matches began, there was friendlies being done. I was utilizing Mario and holding my own against two others. One onlooker told his friends something along the tines of, "You guys are letting a Mario survive all this?" That statement always bothered me, but I knew it was a joke since Mario is typically not known as one of the better characters in that particular game. This is the concept of "tiers," which in a nutshell states who the best characters in a game are and the worst. But what makes a character better than another? This concept is especially popular with the latest installment in the Smash series, but is it a really true concept and something that should be followed?

In video games, often there's such a thing has characters having unfair advantages. In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 for example some characters literally have far inferior heath bars and nothing backing them up. Krillin for example has so little health in comparison to Goku it gives the latter an extremely unfair advantage. It's games like this when the disadvantage is so obvious that one simply has no reason to play characters like Krillin or Yajirobe, even if the player likes them a lot. This type of stuff doesn't exist in Super Smash Bros. Yet, many will say that there's such a thing as bad characters in the game. Sheik at the moment is known as the best character. So, a much lower tier character such as Dr. Mario should have no shot against her. As evidenced here, this is simply not the case...



Some might say that a single battle isn't enough to gauge this type of thing, since "flukes" can happen according to many. Well, let's pit Pac-Man, whom has never been known to be a fantastic character, against someone whom is constantly being put up in the tier list: Zero Suit Samus, in 3 battles back-to-back.



My opponent obviously knew what he was doing, but my Pac-Man was just simply better here. Stuff like this tell me that that people really think too much about tier lists and the like. Players abandon their characters to play as top tiers just because many claim they're the best. Isn't that just a little disappointing? Let's say for example you've been playing with Samus throughout all the games. And when the new one comes out, you're still playing as her. You enjoy her moveset, and find yourself mastering all the different things she can achieve. You've even beaten quite a few Sheiks, according to many the best character in the game. Then someone comes along and tells you Samus is actually the worst character in the game. You're great with her, but because you find out that most agree she's the worst, you abandon her. Sound fishy? That's because it is.

Let's take two characters: Pac-Man and Sheik. They have vastly different movesets and can achieve quite a bit. On their own however, they can't do anything. They are immobile; they need a person controlling them. All characters are equal in that sense. Then we grab two people. An expert Pac-Man will almost always beat a rookie Shiek, and vice versa. What if you pit two people whom know their characters pretty well? I was listening to the narration for EVO, and one of the broadcasters made the statement of this match-up as "unwinnable for Pac-Man." As we can see, this is simply not the case...



A person can train their character to beat anyone. For example, just a few days I managed to beat the word champion of the game, ZeRo, in a match on tourney mode.


Many will be quick to point out that he wasn't using Sheik, his main, rather he was using Little Mac. Would the battle have gone differently? Let's hypothetically say it would have. That wouldn't be because Sheik is inherently a better character than Little Mac. Rather, it'd be because ZeRo has mastered Sheik so well that it's just supremely difficult to overcome him.

There is such a thing as bad match-ups. Mega Man against Rosalina is a fight in the latter's favor due to her being able to absorb whatever Mega shoots at her. This doesn't make her a better character than Mega Man, she just has the advantage. A classic example is the original Pokemon anime. Near the finale before Advanced started, Ash had his Charaizard battle Blastoise. Both Pokemon are equals; they are the final form of their species and both trainers have been on similar journeys with them. But Blastoise has the edge due to being a water type. Does this mean he is better than Charizard? Not at all. Then in a surprise turn of events, Charizard takes the win, showing that even having the advantage doesn't guarantee a win.

Sheik, Rosalina, and Zero Samus are great characters, but I believe every character in the game has the capability of being the best. Unlike many other fighting games, there isn't an obvious unbalance here. And when an anomaly seemingly appears, Nintendo has been quick to fix it. (Meta Knight being much less over-powered, Robin becoming slightly faster, etc.) If you find yourself doing well with say Duck Hunt and like the way he plays, don't feel like you should switch just because many say your character is more on the average side.

Of course, if you find yourself liking Sheik's moveset for example, by all means grab the character. The problem is that people give up on their mains just because many say certain characters are superior. Then there's this illusion that losing to certain characters means the player isn't quite that good. If say Luigi lost to Mewtwo, many would question Luigi's player skills, no matter how impressive Mewtwo looked, simply because Mewtwo is known as one of the worst characters in the game. This kind of thinking hurts the competitive landscape as less and less diversity is seen since everybody is flocking to characters people claim are the best. Then the other characters aren't taken seriously when in actuality they can be equally impressive.

Here's a saying to remember, "Tier power is all in the head. It's really all about the person playing the character, building a connection, learning their moveset, and being creative. Every character has the potential to be the best. You just have to make them the best."


Saturday, August 15, 2015

BIG HERO 6 Review


BIG HERO 6 garnered a considerable amount of hype prior to its release on November 7th last year. Disney has been consistent in delivering quality animated installments. The fact that this particular one was superhero oriented, in line with Marvel Comics, added to the hype. Many people going into the theater had no idea it was actually based on a comic. Even a lot of Marvel readers didn't know. (And the fact Marvel is against re-releasing the older comics means people will probably never get to read them.) I was unprepared for the amount of fun and emotion felt going into this film. Big Hero 6 is a fantastic watch and ranks with the recent greats such as Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen.

From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team behind "Frozen" and "Wreck-It Ralph," comes "Big Hero 6," an action-packed comedy-adventure about the special bond that develops between Baymax, a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called "Big Hero 6."
After the gorgeous scenery in the intro, we're treated to an intense "bot fight" as they're called. (Think Beyblade, just with Pacific Rim-style appearance robots!) Just by these two sequences the viewer can see just how incredible the animation is. Everything is fluid and the characters are given a range of emotions. The story then takes a different turn as we see the relationship between the main character Hiro and his brother Tadashi. The first 15 or so minutes established this perfectly, which is great since it takes some movies over an hour to establish a realistic, touching relationship.


That's why Tadashi's death was so effective. It added a dimension of emotion to the story and remains a backdrop for the entire film. Disney has employed many saddening scenes in their films, but I must personally say this is one of their strongest yet. It's hard to go and watch things like The Nut Job or Minions when BIG HERO 6 employs this kind of writing and emotion. The story moves at an excellent pace going forward. One could say things happen a little too fast, because in basically less than a few weeks a bunch of kids get suits and become essentially superheroes. But it's so much fun and the characters are all likable that one simply cannot say that as a negative.

The only main negative perhaps is the antagonist, Yokai. He has a menacing design and commands a presence for most of the film, (not to mentioned accompanied by a stellar soundtrack) but the way his alter ego is driven mad doesn't quite appear right. It is true that nice people can go the other way when faced with a tragedy, but here it really could have used a little more deepening. Still, the writing deserves props for not going the generic route and making Alisair the man behind the mask. Baymax is a great character and the relationship established between him and Hiro is done very well. That's why in the climax when the robot makes a heroic sacrifice the emotion is felt.

It's rare in a movie when every main character is likable. Honey Lemon, Wasabi, GoGo, and Fred are all very good focuses. With just being a little over 90 minutes, there wasn't too much time to give each character backstory or deepening, but the writing managed to incorporate each personality well. It's nice to see genuine friendship portrayed on the screen. Hopefully the sequel will explore them a little more. The action scenes offer some unique imagery since Yokai uses microbots, which made for some fast-paced action. The chase scene was well done also. As stated already, the soundtrack is quite great. From the villain's intro to Baymax's programming to destroy, this is definitely one of the strongest soundtracks from Disney yet.


Overall, BIG HERO 6 is another quality animated installment from Disney. It features great characters, fantastic animation, genuine emotion, and stellar themes accompanying almost every scene. It's a great watch for an individual, or the whole family. The Incredibles finally has a competitor for best CGI superhero-inspired film.

4.5/5

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

BATMAN VS. ROBIN Review


I am not a fan of Damien Wayne. The character has been nothing short of an unlikable brat and basically just there to be an edgier Robin. He wasn't the only reason why Son of Batman was more on the average side however. That film, while of course entertaining, is definitely one of the weakest animated Batman films due to mediocre story progression. There was some hype for the sequel because it would be, partially anyway, adapting the famous Court of Owls arc from the comics. For some odd reason however they decided to title this one "Batman vs. Robin." The title didn't make sense then, and it still doesn't make sense now. Nonetheless, VS. is a far superior watch to its predecessor.
The shadows of Gotham City are no place for a child, but Damian Wayne is no ordinary child. Now bearing the mantle of Robin, he blazes a headstrong and sometimes reckless trail alongside his father, the Batman. While investigating a crime scene, Robin encounters a mysterious figure, Talon, who leads him on a life-altering course through the depths of Gotham's secret society known as the Court of Owls. It's a dangerous journey that will force Batman and Robin to face their most dangerous adversaries... each other!
Naturally, the film starts out with Damien going against Batman's orders. It's extremely hard to find this character likable since every time he's on screen he's either a) going against Bruce or b) hurling insults. The story does an okay job developing him as a character however, which deserves praise. Sadly, the short run time of 74 minutes is sometimes felt. For example, Damien almost right away following Talon came off as unrealistically fast. Perhaps the most glaring thing is when Samantha is revealed to be the grand-master of the Court. Bruce is never made aware and that entire romantic subplot feels wasted and forgotten.

It seemed like based on interviews the writing was really trying to make aware that this was not a "Court of Owls" adaption, rather it uses elements from the arc. Interestingly, the final product is quite the opposite. It's actually an adaption while forcing Damien into the story. I for one was thrilled to see it go down like this. But it should be noted that the title doesn't make sense. It really should have been called "Batman - Robin: Court of Owls." The two do of course fight, and it's well choreographed, but it doesn't justify the title. (Though, perhaps the purpose was to lure in people whom might not know what the Court is. After all, who wouldn't pick up a film called "Batman vs. Robin?")

The story begins with a rather creepy intro, which is appropriate since the Doll Maker is quite a surreal character. I must give props to "Weird Al" Yankovic for delivering a fantastic voice portrayal of the villain. Talon was a highlight, as he was in the original comic. We're treated to some intriguing backstory establishing who he was. The dialogue he has with Damien throughout is interesting to listen to. The climax with him in the cave was intense, though his actions seemed a bit out of whack. With the Court destroyed he went to finish off Batman. I suppose one could make an argument that he still wanted to take out Batman so he could be the crime fighter in Gotham. Nonetheless, his actions seemed rather moot without the Court in the background.

Nightwing, like in the previous film, was a welcome addition. His brief scenes just further shows that a story centering around him and Batman would be far more engaging than a Damien team-up. (How Damien managed get the upper hand on Nightwing the world may never know.) Alfred is given a fantastic role, reminding Bruce that sometimes we just need to have a little faith. The fight scenes, as usual, are very well-done. From Batman's fight against the un-dead Owls to Damien's battle with Talon in the climax, they offered some impressive visuals. Not knowing how much of an adaption the film would be to the comic, I was surprised and thrilled to see the infamous hallucination sequence adapted. We rarely get to take a look inside Batman's head and see his fears, so like in the comic it was interesting. The soundtrack is definitely solid; there's a certain level of theatrical quality the themes bring to the table.


Overall, BATMAN VS. ROBIN is far superior film to its previous installment. The story is better, the pacing is better, the fights are better, everything is better. As a partial Court of Owls adaption it succeeds. It even somehow manages to Incorporate Damien's story into the arc. It is however not perfect, and nowhere near the quality of greats such as Under the Hood and The Dark Knight Returns, but is still a very entertaining watch. As long as you refrain from attacking the screen due to Damien's infuriating character, you will be engaged from beginning to end.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

ANT-MAN Review


Many people were surprised when ANT-MAN was announced for 2015. It was not because of the character, but the release date. The most famous thing the character is known for in the comics is the creation of Ultron. But, this doesn't happen in the Cinematic Universe. It was decided that Tony Stark would be the creator, which isn't the first time Marvel has toyed around with the idea. (Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow for example.) Another shocking thing was that instead of having the well-known Henry Pym as the title character, it was going to be Scott Lang. Marvel has been quite on a roll lately with quality installments one after another. While Ant-Man  doesn't reach the greatness of the previous three movies, it's nonetheless a solid entry in the series.
The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Interestingly, one of the most well-known things about this movie is more on the controversial side. Originally Edgar Wright of Scott Pilgrim fame was set to direct. Infamously, he left due to creative differences. (Marvel loves to keep a tight knot on their films.) Peyton Reed replaced him. How Wright's version of the film would have gone is an interesting thought, but now completely irrelevant. So, how does Reed deal with all these script rewrites? The film does suffer from a few problems, one of which we'll address now.

Near the beginning is the Baskin-Robbin's scene, which I couldn't stop thinking about throughout my viewing. A customer literally comes in and asks for a burger. After being told the place doesn't sell them, he then asks for "whatever is hot and fresh." I've never seen such bad writing in a high budget summer film. It was so unrealistic I had to question whether or not it was real. Then the scene following where the cashier (Scott Lang) talks to his boss afterward is so unrealistic it's like "Huh?" Marvel loves comedy, but this goes to some pretty cringe-worthy levels.

Thankfully, the rest of the film never goes that low. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang portrays a pretty solid protagonist for the most part. The redemption story underneath it all of a man whom wants to be a real father to his daughter is quite touching. Michael Douglas as an older Hank Pym was a highlight, and ironically more engaging than his comic book counterpart for the last ten or so years. (A prequel show with him as the original Ant-Man would actually be welcome!) Evangeline Lilly as his daughter Hope portrayed a believable character whom is angry with her father in regards to the death of her mother. The scene where Pym reveals to her the nature of his wife Janet's death was touching and easily one of the most emotional scenes of the Marvel movies yet.


Unfortunately, the romance between Scott and Hope is poorly established and feels completely tacked on at the end. It would have been far better to have it develop in the next movie. It would have been more organic and realistic, but alas the writing decided to go the generic route with it. Scott is accompanied by a trio of friends, though the only notable one is Luis. (Michael Peña.) He was used mainly for comic relief, and some scenes were definitely cringe-worthy, but in conjunction he did have some of the funnier segments. If the writing can downplay some of his going over the top just for the sake of comedy, I wouldn't mind seeing him brought back for the sequel.

How about Corey Stoll as the antagonist, Darren Cross? Like a good number of Marvel films, this guy is completely and utterly forgettable. The writing tries desperately to make him sympathetic and gives some pretty generic antagonist lines to help. (It doesn't help.) The fact that we just saw the amazingly written Ultron a few months ago also doesn't help matters. This guy is basically a poorer version of Obadiah Stane from the first Iron Man. At the very least, the Yellowjacket design is quite impressive and a treat to see in action. If only the wearer was at least a bit engaging.

The usage of Ant-Man's shrinking ability was definitely something intriguing to behold going into the film, but I never thought just how smartly utilized it would be. Lang is able to turn little then big again in a flash, which made for some pretty unique and awesome fights scenes. I've never seen the comics utilize his ability like this. In fact, usually in the comics the shrinking is treated as a slow process, which makes the film's usage a refreshing change of pace. (I wouldn't be surprised if the books started using this more prominently now.)


Every scene with Lang turning small offers very unique imagery and engagement we haven't seen since the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids days. Not only that, but seeing ants up close and personal was a lot fun. In fact, after watching this movie the viewer may like ants so much that he/she may reconsider stomping on one next time. The core of the story is the "heist" on Pym industries, and it's a blast to watch. The final battle against Yellowjacket was one of the most innovative of Marvel showdowns. We have the characters battling in a suitcase and even next to a Thomas the Tank Engine. (Whom deserves an Oscar by the way.) The soundtrack is pretty solid. There aren't many truly standout themes, though the one which played during the suitcase fight scene at least deserves praise.

Overall, ANT-MAN is a solid solo film introducing a character whom actually proves to be one of the most interesting with his shrinking ability. There is some mediocre writing which stops it from being called "amazing" like Winter Solider and Guardians and Galaxy, but there's more things to praise than there are negative. The action is a lot of fun and just different than what we're used to seeing. Also, the film takes some great advantage of being part of a shared universe. Unlike Iron Man 2, this film knows how to incorporate itself into the bigger picture while at the same time being a standalone story. I personally look forward to seeing the character again in Captain America: Civil War next year.

4/5

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Review

When GODS AND MONSTERS was first announced, it garnered a considerable amount of hype when compared to recent DC animated features. The reason for this was that Brice Timm would be involved. (He was the creator of the classic DC Animated Universe after all.) Justice League to this day is regarded as one of the greatest cartoons in history, and for good reason. So to see Timm taking the reign of a JL project after all these years was definitely exciting. Some of that excitement became divided when it was also announced it would basically be an Elseworlds title.

There was some disappointment because the thought of seeing a traditional JL story with Timm was a dream. Still, many were curious to see a new take on the classic team. (Plus it would be a nice break from The New 52.) GODS AND MONSTERS is a very interesting watch from beginning to end. It is definitely a unique tale worth checking out. Plus with Timm, the writing is triple a plus with one of the most unexpected plot twists in recent history.

In an alternate universe, the Justice League uses brutal force to maintain order on Earth. When scientists begin dying, the world's governments challenge the League's dominance.
The main draw obviously is the new take on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. With just 72 minutes to tell a story, there isn't much time for long-term character development. The film nonetheless manages to give each individual character unique backstories. Superman as the son of Zod was certainly most interesting, though Wonder Woman hailing from New Genesis was great too. Batman's was of course the most down to earth, though is so diverse you could have swapped him out for another character.

When the team first appeared I was worried with them mercilessly killing bad guys that the film would just be about making a gritty version of the League just for the sake of edge. If this wasn't Bruce Timm, it might have gone that route. The story moves at a solid pace, making sure the plot is at the front while the viewer is also treated to different versions of these iconic characters. Throughout we see their relationship to the government and even Superman's Zod genes of wanting to take over. Since we're not used to these new takes, the dialogue is extra engaging.

A glaring negative is in the climax. When trying to break the League's building shield, Superman makes a mini-speech, flies into space, then dives back into Earth in dramatic fashion. But back on Earth Batman is able to deactivate the shield and then Superman magically appears in the building, completely negating his scene from before. It's bizarre and as if the editing and writing departments weren't working together here. Also, while Luthor is a great character in this take, his arc is rather rushed at the end and comes out of left field. The soundtrack in particular is a highlight. In fact, it's one of the strongest soundtracks from any DC animated film yet. (Right from the epic intro theme the viewer knows he/she is in for a treat.)

Overall, GODS AND MONSTERS is a intriguing take on DC's greatest heroes. There's no denying it would have been nice to see Bruce Timm do a more traditional story, but there's something engaging about this particular new take of the characters. By the end, the viewer is ready for more. The fight scenes are great and the plot twist added a whole new dimension to how you look at the story. Put any skepticism aside and check out this movie.

4.5/5

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TERMINATOR 2: Judgment Day Review


Action movies are one of the most popular types of film. They in concept serve a movie's purpose: to entertain. Its always fun to see action combined with another genre, such as fantasy, or in this case science fiction. Terminator 2 since its release has been critically acclaimed and regarded as the summer blockbuster. This film and Aliens (which interestingly enough was also directed by James Cameron) are often looked at by longtime movie watchers as the ideal action films. With Genisys just seeing release, I thought it was time to head back and see why Judgment Day is held to such a high regard. After watching it, it is unfortunate to see why so many action blockbusters fail so miserably. If they took a peak at how this film did it, they could see some success.

The plot is pretty well known by now, so we'll keep it brief. In the future, John Connor sends a reprogrammed T-800 back in time to protect his younger self from Skynet's robot, the T-1000. Sarah Connor, John's mother, has been thrown in a mental hospital, but she's quickly thrown into the conflict. The film opens up to the near future, with a destroyed Los Angeles. It's a fantastic setup, and 24 years later the Terminators with their laser guns still appear very frightening on the TV screen. The main story is of course in the present, so the future scene serves as a backdrop to it and a tease of what a plot completely set in the future would be like. (We finally got that in the immensely underrated Terminator Salvation 18 years later.)

The reason why I believe this film is above most modern action movies is the emphasis on the conflict. When T-1000 arrives, the story becomes essentially about him chasing John and T-800 protecting him. The conflict is always at the front without much emphasis on the personal lives of the characters. This isn't a bad thing because in a sci fi action film, the conflict is the most important aspect. This is not to say there's no character development here, but the writing doesn't try to make it about them. It's about saving the future.


Films like Transformers, Battleship, and Edge of Tomorrow add in unneeded comedy, exposition, and attempt to make the characters quirky or something rather than focusing on the plot at hand. "Judgement Day" never once feels like it lets up on the conflict. Just about every scene is important in forwarding the story. The viewer is engaged not because mainly of who the human characters are, but because of the conflict driving them. This is of course greatly helped by Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of the Terminator. T-800 is a fantastic focus as we see his emotionless demeanor and how he slowly learns to be a little more human. It never becomes cheesy to the point of a Predator mimicking human words in Predator 2.

John Connor in this particular film has got to be one of the most unlikable kids in film history. According to the film's universe, he would be 10...yet has enough juvenile accounts to fill a person at age 17. Not only that, but he curses in almost every scene he's in. Realistically, I just don't think someone at that age would be utilizing this kind of language. In fact, he doesn't act like a 10 year old at all throughout. If everything else wasn't so great, he could have truly dragged down the story. (The problem with Jurassic World was its reliance on mediocre characters over the story.)

Linda Halmilton as Sarah Connor does the deranged act pretty solid. It kind of reminds me of the rather crazed Ellen Ripley in Alien: Resurrection, which isn't a bad thing. Besides Arnold however, the true star was T-1000, portrayed by Robert Patrick. This guy is known as the best antagonist of the series, and for good reason. Every scene he's in he commands a presence. The interesting concept of him being able to liquefy himself into basically any object is a pretty cool effect that doesn't look dated at all.

There's nothing worst than an action movie being boring. (We're looking at you, Wrath of the Titans.) The action in "Judgement Day" is some of the best you'll find. The first battle scene between the Terminators set the tone for what was to come. The chase scenes are arguably the greatest in film history. The best part is of course the final showdown. It's fantastic, epic, and no quirky gimmicks stopping the fight. (Such as with Thor: The Dark World, which had one of the most mediocre climaxes in comic book film history.) What a lot of modern films like to do is add gimmicks to the fights, but what most of the time really works is just simple punches and throwing around. The climax here is ideally what all finishers should strive to be like.

Overall, I believe that Terminator 2 is the archetype of action films. It's basically a blueprint a lot of movies have looked at and failed to emulate. The characters here aside from John Connor are engaging. The conflict is the driving force, with them basically along for the ride. If they were bad characters, we'd have a problem. This is one hole a lot of modern films have. The plot might be interesting, but most of the characters are written so poorly that they drag the story down. (All four "Transformers" movies.) On the flip side, if the characters are boring and one-dimensional, the action is going to feel shallow with no point. (Once again, "Wrath of the Titans.") "Judgement Day" manages to find a perfect balance of solid characters and emphasis on the plot, which is accompanied by a great soundtrack. I would definitely defend the sequels, but there's no denying that T2 stands the test of time of being perhaps the greatest action film and one of the best movies overall.

5/5

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion Review



Puella Magi Madoka Magica on the outside looked like your typical magical girl anime, which of course isn't a bad thing. Sailor Moon is the one that popularized the genre, and many have followed suit with engaging, often cutesy adventures. "Madoka" was far different. It tackled themes such as true friendship, salvation, faith, and manipulation. The 12 episode show is on par with Serial Experiments Lain with its thought-provoking storyline. That's why Rebellion was an interesting idea. The show ended rather well, with Madoka basically becoming a god and rewriting time. It displayed the true kindness of a friend, and ended with hope. So, a sequel wasn't really necessary. Still, it would be nice to see the characters again. The film puts Homura in the spotlight as she tries to figure out why things don't seem right. "Rebellion" was a fantastic adventure, once again showcasing friendship and displays satisfying finality...until it all goes down the drain. The final act not only destroys the film, it completely and utterly destroys the entire franchise.

The story starts out mysteriously for the viewer because we have Homura, Madoka, Sayaka, Kyoko, and Mami having adventures stopping nightmares which take physical form. It's fun, and interesting because when looked at generally the entire first act is a look at what the show could have been if it didn't tackle the deep themes. Here we have a team with flashy Sailor Moon-like transformations, stopping monsters and having tea together afterward, with them even singing a My Little Pony-like song to save the day. Not only that, but Kyubey is basically a Pokemon mascot. It's a "perfect" reality, and quite brilliant. Of course, Homura eventually realizes something is up and goes on a journey searching for the answer.

To me, it was obvious that this was an "ideal" reality. (Shows such as Under the Dome and Falling Skies have done this not too long ago.) What's not obvious is what exactly is causing this. The plot twist that it was mainly Homura's doing was great, but not half as great as the fact it was also Kyubey's experiment. We'll address that in a second, but first it's important to mention the cool things which transpired inside the fake world. Perhaps the best scene was the fight between Mami and Homura. It was well choreographed and just plain epic. The soundtrack throughout the film is as expected solid, but the best themes play right before and during this battle.


The sad part about being just 12 episodes is that some characters just don't get enough satisfying screen time. In the case of "Madoka," just about all the characters were engaging. Kyoko for example only got to appear in a few episodes. So, it was great seeing her get a substantial role here. She has some great humorous lines, especially when speaking to Homura about what the former should or not be remembering. The imagery isn't quite as psychedelic as the show's, (it's still insane of course) but still provides some of the most unique graphics in anime. Scenes with the distorted faces on the people was probably the creepiest thing I've seen in awhile.

Kyubey is a fascinating character and great antagonist. He doesn't consider himself evil, yet with no emotions he manipulates as he pleases. The entire sequence with him revealing what he's been doing to her was fantastic. When she shouted, "You want to control Madoka don't you?!" and then the chase scene the viewer can feel the intensity build up as he explains his plan. Seeing Homrua turned into a witch was a sad, but engaging scene as we see her friends unite to help her, much to the amazement of Kyubey This leads to the would-be best scene of the movie.

Homura has been through a lot in the 12 episodes and this movie. The friendship established between her and Madoka is unparalleled. This is evidenced in the dialogue between them on the hilltop. It's a sad state when your best friend no longer exists physically and you're the only one who remembers, like it was all a dream. That's why the scene where Madoka ascends from the heavens to take Homura with her was so effective. It was closure, plus Homura would be with her best friend forever. The dialogue Madoka speaks to her, "Whatever happens to you, good or bad, you're still you and I would never abandon you. So don't give up. Have faith!" is reminiscent of God making a promise to never forsake those whom have pledged faith, then at the end of the day the person is taken up to Heaven. If the scene above was the ending, it would have been fantastic since it basically ties together everything.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.



In a surprise plot twist. Homura stops Madoka from taking her, and somehow, somehow beats Madoka and becomes a god herself, essentially rewriting time again. Homura actually uses the word evil to describe herself. Let's first look at how this doesn't make any kind of sense. For one thing, there's no way Homura could actually stop Madoka. She's a god, (or concept as the series calls it) so there's no way Homura grabbing her can somehow bend the rules, no matter how you look at it. (The explanation given is pretty poor.) What's worst however is that this move isn't consistent with Homura's character throughout the show and majority of the film. She's a concerned friend whom at the end of the show comes to terms with what has transpired. She vows to keep fighting because it's what Madoka would want. In the movie she fights to destroy the fake reality and stop Kyubey from gaining access to Madoka. And then, when it's time to go be with her best friend, (what she's always wanted) she literally goes insane and (for no reason) turns evil literally.

Huh?

This not only destroys Homura as a character, it destroys the very foundation of Puella Magi. The show ended with the portrayal of hope. The ultimate sacrifice was made. True friendship prevailed. Love, hope, and faith was evident in the finale as Madoka took the burden for all Magical Girls. The show had some dark turns, but at the end the theme of standing up to the demon's schemes and an act of love standing triumph over them prevailed. That's the core of the anime. Rebellion undoes that ending completely. It out of nowhere makes Homura a traitor, insane, and pure evil. It undoes the sacrifice Madoka made. It in effect makes the entire anime moot.

One could perhaps make an argument that the entire final act was an ingenious plot twist. It is correct to say that it's unexpected. The problem is that there's zero build up and no indication in the anime or film that Homura was on the verge of becoming evil. It is the definition of cheap shock value. It would be the same as a 12 issue comic book where the hero faces torment every issue but never gives up having hope. In the final issue he succeeds at saving his family and friends with the sunset behind him. Then a few years later a one-shot is released where it undoes that. It makes the victory irrelevant. The decision to have Homura do what she did is a slap in the face to the incredible anime, her fans, and the franchise. As the ending unveiled itself and the credits started to roll I could feel this inner annoyance because it completely and utterly disregards Homura as a character and what the anime meant.

Rebellion was one of the best anime films I've seen in awhile up until the final 20 minutes. It had everything a sequel should be: it added without hindering the completed story and provided satisfying closure. There's such great symbolism, emotion, and finality to the scene when Madoka comes to take Homura away. Sadly, what happens afterward turns the film upside down. It is by far the worst ending I've personally seen to anything. The plot twist isn't smart, it's terrible. To put it in blunt terms: the ending is total garbage. There's no coherent explanation given. It takes away the essence of hope, and evil wins. It's hard not to want to watch this film because it's a canon sequel, but it ruins what is one of the best anime of all time.

1/5