Comics, Movies, Video Games, and More

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

~Ephesians 5:16

Monday, January 19, 2015


Every year brings a science fiction film that is not part of a franchise. District 9, Elysium and this year's Jupiter's Ascending are such films. Sometimes these films make big money and become critically acclaimed, but sometimes they fade into obscurity after a couple of weeks and then when they release on DVD is when the masses begin to realize how great of a movie they are. (DREDD, though a franchise film, comes to mind.) Director Doug Liman's EDGE OF TOMORROW was last year's sci fi feature. Based on Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill (more of a unique title definitely) the film is on the surface an alien invasion story. It introduces a unique concept, but sadly that quickly becomes old. Tom Cruise delivers a mixed performance as the lead star, and throughout you'll be wondering, "So, what exactly are these aliens?" While definitely not mediocre, one is better off watching the 2005 WAR OF THE WORLDS, another Tom Cruise alien invasion story.

Here's the official description from Warner Bros.:

The epic action of "Edge of Tomorrow" unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again...and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.

The last major alien invasion was 2012's Battleship, which was the opposite of quality. What was the last "great"one? Sadly, nothing comes to mind right away. Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline are the more recent ones, but they can't be called "great." Fun maybe, but they wouldn't be in anyone's top 100 films of all time. I doubt Edge of Tomorrow would be there either. While better than Skyline and perhaps LA, this movie suffers from a thing known as wasted potential. The big selling point as seen prominently in the trailers is the concept of reliving a day. While definitely intriguing for an invasion story, it becomes more of a running gag during the middle, descending almost into being a comedy. The most exciting part is the battle in France against the aliens (called 'Mimics') but the film spends a great deal of time showcasing Cruise dying and coming back. Since the film's concept is based around that, it should be a focus; but it just isn't as engaging as the overall idea is.

Tom Cruise portrays William Cage, a public affairs officer who is sent into combat. His beginning appearance was very mediocre; instead of playing a character it appeared he was just playing himself in an army uniform. (Akin to almost every single Nicolas Cage movie.) He becomes more likable as the film progresses, but it's Emily Blunt's character, Rita Vrataski, who proves to be more interesting. (Though overall the writing could have been better for both.) For awhile there I was going to applaud the film for not shoehorning in a romance, since there's virtually no time for it in an end of the world scenario, but like most summer blockbusters, it appears, thankfully briefly. Besides these two, there are no other major characters worth mentioning. Most of the side characters act like this is part comedy or a parody of the military.

Most aliens sadly in these type of movies are very weak one-shots. There's some justification to call them that here, but at least they have a genuinely cool design and are very threatening. (Though since they move so fast it can be often hard to get a good look at them and appreciate their unique look.) The opening montage nicely establishes the terror of an invasion. Though, it must be said that if you hadn't seen the trailer, you wouldn't know it was an alien invasion until someone actually used the word alien. Still, one cannot deny the effectiveness of the intro. The problem is that these 'Mimics' are never truly explored. They only are explored in a little piece of dialogue by Dr. Carter, (who is also pretty underdeveloped) but it just isn't enough. Their goal isn't touched on, and they have virtually no personality to speak of. Basically, they're cool enemies to shoot at in a video game, but for a movie they remain vastly unexplored. If the main characters had been better written, maybe this would have been less of a problem. The film's soundtrack is pretty solid. Nothing great where you'll remember any of the themes afterward, but just about every theme works.

Overall, EDGE OF TOMORROW is not bad enough to be called mediocre, but isn't good enough be called very good. The two main characters aren't terrible, but Cage would have benefited from either another actor or better writing. The concept of "Live. Die. Repeat." might be interesting on paper, but it quickly becomes jarring since the more interesting thing, the battle against the aliens, keeps getting interrupted. The Mimics have a cool design and are genuinely threatening, but are vastly unexplored for being the film's antagonist. This is probably a movie that will fade away like Wrath of the Titans. (Though to be fair, this film is much better than that one.)


Friday, January 16, 2015

A Good Person?

Are you a good person?

It's an interesting question. Almost 99% of the time when one asks another that the answer is "Yes." Most people consider themselves to be good. Many have the thought process of, "I've done many more good things than wrong things" and "Sure I've done some bad things, but I'm not as bad as that guy." Many evaluate "good" with doing things such as obeying the law, donating to charities, holding doors for others, etc. Those are all definitely good things to do.

But does doing them make one a "good person?"

A lot of people would say yes. Allow me to add something to that question: "Does doing those things, any of those things, grant you access to Heaven?" Then it gets a little tricky. Many would still say yes. I've overheard at least one conversation where one said, "I hope I'm going to Heaven." How straining it must be to not have security on where one is going after they die, to think that you have to do many good things to override all the bad things you've done.

Atheists wouldn't bring Heaven into the conversation, because to them it doesn't exist. So they would answer that yes, upholding the law, donating to charities, being nice, and other related things constitutes as being a "good person." The problem is that if you take God out of the equation, does "good" really exist? If so, what's our basis? What's the standard? It's man-made, because absolutes don't exist from a non-believer's perspective. So doing "good things" is almost meaningless from this point of view...because an absolute good doesn't even exist!

Let's say that God exists. What does He say about us in relation to good? In Genesis He called all that He had created "very good," and man was a part of that. That's right, humankind is a very good creation. We are all very good creations. Unfortunately, that goodness was and is tainted by sin, a darkness in everyone's heart. It does not change the fact that we are "very good" creations, but because of that darkness, we are not granted access to Heaven. So, a person can donate to charities, be nice to others around them, and even win the Noble Prize, but do any of these things pardon that darkness and gets one into Heaven? Does God see us as "good people" when we do those sort of things? The answer to both those questions is no because that darkness still exists.

But there is a way. God provided a way into Heaven, and that's through His Son Jesus Christ. No good thing we do is enough to take away all the bad things we've done. There's no "bargaining" with good deeds. Only through Christ can we have access to eternal life. Then all the good things we do will be for His glory. Jesus calls His followers "the light of the world," which is definitely the greatest definition of a good person!

Accepting Christ will put things into perspective; one begins to realize they are part of a bigger plan. Every good deed then has an absolute meaning. that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky ~Philippians 2:15

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

There are very few fighting game series as more critically acclaimed than Super Smash Bros. The 3DS version released a few months ago. While it was definitely awesome to be able to play Smash on the go, the Wii U version is the one fans truly awaited for; the small console was just a holdover. (Indeed, now that the Wii U version has been out virtually no one is talking about the 3DS.) Perfect gameplay makes the latest installment perhaps the best yet. I say perhaps because there are quite a few things Brawl and Melee did better. No Adventure Mode and poor number of new stages hurt this game. The multi-player mode however is by far the most fun anyone can have. If you have at least two other people to play with, and with items on, it's endless amount of hours of fantastic fun.

The core thing about Super Smash is the frantic, on-the-go strategy, item-grabbing gameplay. The Wii U version is pretty much perfect in this category. The gameplay isn't quite as fast as Melee, but definitely slightly quicker than Brawl, finding a nice balance between the two. The items are at their best; from whacking people with the Ore Club to trying desperately to gain another life with the Rally-X Flag, playing with items and with friends will create unforgettable battles and laughs. What the game does not shine in is its questionable new modes...

In the 3DS version of the game, there's "Smash Run" which is pretty mediocre after you've played it a couple of times. Thankfully, that was a 3DS exclusive. Sadly, the Wii U's mode is even worse in the form of "Smash Tour." After playing it once you will never want to play it again. The goal was to make this installment in the franchise more party-like and happy I suppose, but that aspect failed miserably. "The Subspace Emissary" from Brawl was an excellent change of pace for fighting games because they usually don't offer cutscene-driven story modes. It upped the bar, and few games since have raised it. Unfortunately, this game is one of them. Adding to the disappointment is the inclusion of a couple of new modes: "Master Orders" and "Crazy Orders." These modes, like Smash Tour, don't serve much of a purpose once you play them at least once. "Boring" would be the word to describe these new inclusions.
The Wii U version has the same characters as the 3DS one, so same positives and negatives apply. New additions like Pac-Man and Rosalina are excellent, but with however questionable decisions like adding Dark Pit (could have been a palette swap of Pit, same with Marth and Lucina) and not another Metroid character. (Interesting how we get Dark Pit but not Dark Samus who has been the antagonist of two games.) The stage selection is a pretty disappointing factor. There's nothing wrong with the new ones, most of them are quite excellent. (Except Mario Galaxy, which is immensely disappointing.) The problem is that there's almost as much old ones as new ones. Some have called this game "Super Smash Bros. Brawl 2.0," and that title is definitely justifiable in this category.

While the game has a lot less lag issues online, it's still present, which is a great shame. We shouldn't be seeing this on a modern console in 2014. Perhaps the greatest and also most disappointing aspect of the game is the challenges. Like Brawl, Challenge Mode will challenge even the most seasoned of veteran players. The disappointing part is the reward: it's just in-game cash. By the time you actually complete all challenges, there isn't much else to buy! It should have rewarded the player with a new character or at least a stage, but no all it gives you is pretty much useless $. Knowing that ahead of time destroys all motivation to complete them all.

Do not let the past few paragraphs deceive you; Super Smash Bros. is one awesome game. The gameplay is pretty much perfect. Playing with friends and items will result in some of the most unforgettable gaming times. Online for the most part is also great and the player will spend many hours over the course of the year on it. It is however disappointing that the game adds more party-like features while eliminating Adventure Mode. I don't think there's any Smash player who would rather have all these new mediocre modes over it. The stage selection is almost half old ones, which is a big disappointment. But overall the latest installment in Super Smash Bros. is another incredibly fun game that delivers a basically flawless gameplay experience.