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

~Ephesians 5:16

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the Supreme Court's Decision to Legalize Gay Marriage

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." ~Mark 10:6-9

I have always found it interesting how things that were originally meant to be something are now taken to mean something else. The rainbow when it's first mentioned anywhere in history is in the book of Genesis when God makes a covenant with Noah. Thousands of years later people have taken the rainbow and use it for something else.

And that's what's been happening since the beginning of creation. People take parts of the Bible and modify it to fit their purpose. Many just simply discard it altogether. By now all of America is aware of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. For years this has been a battle, and slowly the Biblical viewpoint had been getting pushed away as people who wished to do things their way made their voice loud.

For many this decision was one of celebration. All through my newsfeed I see things such as #lovewins and rainbows. For the Christian the decision should come as no surprise because things are said to get a lot worst for the culture. Eventually people are going to start looking at other things to redefine, because if marriage doesn't have to be absolute in their mind, does anything? Why should something like say adultery be considered wrong? There are many things people will just say, "Eh, I don't agree with the Bible, so I'm going to vote for things that make me personally happy and just seem right to me." Someone whom is an advocate might question the Christian, "So is God really in control?"

The truth of the matter is that God is going to let people do what they want. If many wish to go the other way, He's going to let them. People are either for Christ or not. There's no in-between or neutral ground. Interestingly, many so-called Christians support gay marriage as if it can be adopted into the Bible. By now it's considered completely normal and to think otherwise makes the person seem out of touch and crazy.

For the true Christian, even things like this can be used to strengthen his/her faith. For one thing, now that it's legal all over people are going to expect Christians to either adopt the viewpoint or keep quiet about their beliefs. Many believers will think now they'll have to be quiet about their belief. That's not how it should be. In the world, whether it be at school, college, message boards, or in the work place, we're going to be tested and attacked. Friendships will be lost. But our faith, the most important thing, will be strengthened as we face opposition and stand up for the Truth.

Th next most important thing is to not let ourselves grow bitter. We need to be loving more than ever. If we catch ourselves attacking people with things like "You're a sinner!" (because we all are) they will not be open to hearing about the Gospel. We need to not let ourselves think there's no hope for others. God can work miracles in people. We just need to showcase the love of Christ that is within us. Not everyone will be convicted, but some will, and you have to remember that. We need

The Supreme Court can enact anything it wants. It will never change the foundation God has established. People might think they're in charge, but ultimately no one is. God lets these things happen to show the folly of our thinking. A Christian has two jobs in light of this decision. One is to stand firm and not let his/her belief be shaken when faced with opposition and persecution. The second is to be loving to those around them, showcasing the Gospel of Christ to an ever more fallen world.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes." ~Romans 1:16

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On the Concept of Pro-Choice

When it comes to "sensitive topics," many churches in America choose to ignore them. Here we have the subject of abortion, which always ignites some heated discussion. As I talk about this I am aware by even opening up a stance I'm inviting hate comments and even perhaps ruining acquaintanceships. Some might tell me since I'm not a girl I have no say in the matter. Some might say since I'm just some college kid my say has no importance. None of that matters to me, all I care about is delivering a message. Many will stop reading right now, some will read then laugh it off, and then a few will feel a conviction. The latter is whom I'm writing this too.

So, I present a hypothetical story scenario where I run into someone whom is considering having an abortion...


As I walk through the park on a warm August day I run into someone whom I've talked with many times while doing the register at work. As I approach her at the bench she's on, she smiles, recognizing me. As I sit down I say, "Hey how's it going? Perfect day for the park!"

"Ha, yeah." She replies.
I detect a hint of sadness in her voice, so I decide to pry a bit.
"Everything alright?"
She looks above for a second, then replies,
"Just contemplating."
I could tell despite not diving into the subject that she wanted to talk about it, so I went ahead and asked,
"About what?"
Pausing for a second, she responds...
"As you can tell I'm about five months pregnant, so I've been deciding whether or not to get an abortion. My friends and parents both agree that's it's the right move. Tomorrow I'm scheduled for an appointment, so I'm just here thinking about whether or not to really go through with it."

"Well I think the answer is obvious." I reply.
"How so?" She says, surprised by my quick answer.
"Well for one thing, many don't realize about the emotional trauma that takes place afterward. There's a feeling of emptiness and many later on in life look back and deeply regret that decision. I think in the present we should be eliminating decisions which we might deeply regret later on in life!"

"Hmm. But what if I don't care about a supposed sadness and believe that a person has the right to do it?"

I pause for a second, then look at her and say,
"That's true in some way, you do have a choice to kill him/her. Just as I have a choice whether or not to kill you at this very moment. I of course do not wish to do that. No one should want to kill somebody whom has done them no wrong, right? But let's say by some odd reason I did want to kill you, that I didn't want you in existence, why shouldn't I be able to? I wouldn't and couldn't because I know God is with me. That's from a moral standpoint, what about a reason why someone without faith couldn't, in their mind, kill a person? Because it's against the law. Murder/killing is worth up to many years in prison. But for some reason Congress has made it legal for women to kill individuals. So, when you think about it, Congress has literally established a statement that says it's legal to kill innocents! It's a contradiction. So, if somebody advocates pro-choice, they're literally advocating a contradiction."

"A very interesting conclusion." She says.

I continue, 

"Basically, let's say a criminal appeals to Congress to enact a law where killing someone they don't want in existence is legal. Most people would laugh at this statement, but they fail to realize something like that was approved 42 years ago!"

She responds, 

"I didn't think of it like that. But what is a person supposed to do if she isn't able to care economically for the child, the father has vanished, and has no family to give them to?"

"I think you know the answer to that, but for some reason it doesn't seem that popular. Adoption is a real, successful concept. Many couples are looking to adopt a newborn baby!"

After saying that I pause for a second, then conclude with...

"Many say an embryo/fetus doesn't count as a person. That's a pretty strange statement is it not? A fetus doesn't become a is a person. Imagine if your mother had decided she didn't want you being born. Then, well, you wouldn't be. That would entail a person has the right to kill someone whom is the definition of innocent. Perhaps a would-be mother thinks she's doing the child a favor because the doctor said he/she would live a handicapped life. Should that give her the legal right? Again, the same principles apply. Life is precious, even if the life has disabilities. A person still has feelings, emotions, and a personality, so to deny that because someone thinks it would be best is just simply unethical when you sit down and truly think about it."

She looks down for a few seconds then at me...

"You've given me a lot to think about."
Life is precious. It needs to be protected. If a person for a second can let go of pride they can see that to advocate pro-choice is to advocate planned murder. Many people have let pride blind them into thinking that they're supporting some empowerment cause and betterment for humanity. On the other side of things, maybe a person has done this at one point and deeply regrets it, wondering if they can be forgiven. My friend, if you have gone to God in Christ, He does not hold that against you.

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb." ~Psalm 139:13

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Christian Single

I don't like romance movies. Especially young adult ones.

Why you ask? Most of the time these love stories are very one-dimensional. The greatest reason however are their heavy reliance on a "modern" definition of dating and being in relationship. Most of the time do you ever hear the word "marriage" being broadcast? How about Purity?? Some might call me "old fashioned," but really if you sit back and think for a second, you begin to realize that what I'm talking about leads to far better contentment and joy than what is being preached in most movies today.

Sadly, as jarring it may be to watch, a lot of romance portrayed in media is reminiscent in high schools and colleges today. This is where the Christian single often finds himself/herself stuck. Everything around them says to "test the waters," "it's okay to not be pure if it's safe," and "dating relationships don't have to lead to a long-term thing known as marriage."

Not every Christian wants to be in a relationship of course, such as the apostle Paul in the New Testament whom had the gift of singleness. Unfortunately, not everyone has that gift and they yearn to be united with someone special. A person talking about this to another might receive an answer such as, "You have Jesus, that's all you need." While that's true, it doesn't help at that very moment because somewhere the person still has that empty feeling, that wanting as they see everyone around them, including their Christian friends, getting into relationships.

I don't say these things as some person whom is immune to all this. I get it. In my high school days all I could think about was getting into a relationship. I liked the idea of being with someone, which is the mindset of a lot of high schoolers. It's the wrong mindset let me tell you. If all you think about is a crush for example, it will lead you into a depression. Many fall into the sad mindset of "Why doesn't anyone have feelings for me?" For awhile I was like that, watching people around me get into relationships. Not only my friends, but people whom I knew were the opposite of humble. It can be tough not becoming angry when you see people whom are not compassionate like you get into a relationship. You're left wondering, "Hey I know I'm kind and compassionate and yet he/she is in a relationship?" I used to go around thinking like this until something finally hit me...

One might I was just getting tired of the whole thing and prayed earnestly to God that He would would reveal to me something, and that it was truly my desire to meet the one for me. After that prayer I went on Facebook and the very FIRST thing on my newsfeed was a picture with the words...

"God is writing your love story."

At that moment I felt a conviction I had never felt before. It was then that I realized that no matter how hard I pushed for something, it wasn't going to happen, unless it was God's will. It was then I stopped wondering and started trusting Him. Now I wait patiently as He is writing my story.

My friend, I'm not going to pretend that it's easy. But I believe that if you have made a decision to follow Christ and if it is a desire in your heart to be united with someone, then God is going to make it happen, but when He knows it's the right time for you. Maybe he wants you to concentrate on finishing high school, maybe he wants you to focus on completing your degree, there are many factors. But it will happen. I know it's not easy to resist the culture when it says that it's okay to date with nothing in mind for the future, that's it's okay get involved physically when books, movies, and music says it is. I understand. It is however worth it to keep yourself pure and with a positive mindset for the future.

I'm in college and have never been on a date, so I understand what it's like. It's not easy, but be cheerful anyway. Don't grow jealous of others. Stay connected with church ministry and keep yourself active. If you're in high school, keep your mind focused on getting it done. If you're in college, keep your mind focused on getting your degree done. Everything else will fall into place at the right time. Build your character spiritually. Then when you meet the one whom God has kept, it will be truly special! :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Looking Back at the SUPER MARIO BROS. Movie

Tagline still cracks me up

"Trust the fungus." ~Luigi

I remember almost ten years when I came across Super Mario Bros. at Blockbuster. My parents had warned me that it was no good, but as a big Mario fan I had to see it for personal honor. That night me and my sister watched it and were confused afterward. "What was that?" was ringing in my mind. Ever since that watch, I've always considered it to be one of the worst movies of all time. That was over a decade ago and I was maybe 8. Perhaps watching it now I could have a new-found appreciation for it, or at least like it somewhat. It's important to realize that up until that point when it released in 1993, the games were only up to Super Mario World. No 3D titles had been produced yet. The only real storylines were in the booklets and little pieces of dialogue. With that in mind, could I perhaps see this movie as actually okay, or a unique adaption of the series at that point in time?

No, it's still utter garbage.

As a Mario Bros. adaption.

There are some movies while watching where you're like, "Huh...what were they thinking? Who writes this stuff?" Apparently the idea was to have this film be the real story, with the game itself being the adaption. Huh? Not only was this a terrible idea, what we got was something so incredibly bizarre that one has to wonder if Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel knew anything about the games at all. Of course, else-worlds adaptions could be interesting, but not here. Imagine yourself a kid in 1993 going to see the big movie of the Super Mario Bros, the heroes in a colorful world where they battle an evil dragon over a lava-filled castle to save the lovely princess. Picture the complete opposite of that and this is what "Super Mario Bros. The Movie" is.

What's also truly a shame is that this was the first theatrical video game movie. Have you wondered why there have been so few since? People are too frightened because of the flop that is the Super Mario Bros. Apparently the late Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo would "get drunk just to make it through the filming process." I suppose it'd be hard not to fall into that with this bizarre feature. So instead of the Mushroom Kingdom where there are beanstalks, happy face clouds, and castles, the idea was to have an alternate dimension of the real world. So throughout the story it's basically set in Brooklyn. How disappointing is that? It's been said that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto got the idea of the Mushroom Kingdom from Alice in Wonderland. These things are whimsical and fantastical, providing a solid adventure to the player/viewer. None of that is present here in this dark and dreary place. This is immensely disgraceful to the Mario name, because a major part of what makes the games fun is its bright and colorful worlds where you never know what danger will present itself.

One has to wonder what they were thinking when they grabbed classic characters and turned them into something else. For example, take a look at this guy...

Remember good ol' Toad? These little guys are supposed to be the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom. Many are direct helpers of the princess and aid the Mario Bros. The most iconic thing about them is their mushroom head. Does that transition into the film?

Whoa! Who the heck is that? That my friend is supposed to be the character above. From this alone you can tell the director had no care for the source material in the slightest. Let's take a look at another example...

Goombas are the common enemy in the Mario games. The idea is to have the Bros. stomp on these little evil creatures and continue onward. How about the movie?
Yes, they're human-size

At this point the director is just grabbing names he's supposed to use and assigning them to to these monstrosities of characters. Still, not everyone is bad. Yoshi was good and the puppet used was fantastic. I am particularly pleased with the fact they didn't forget his elongated tongue ability. One could make an argument he was the best character in the whole movie. Him, or the little Bob-omb that saved the day in the climax. The writing for the characters ranges from okay to downright terrible. Nowhere with anything having the Mario name should a Brother say, "Where's Daisy butt-breath?" Speaking of Daisy, it is truly bizarre that she was used instead of Princess Peach, whom has been the main character throughout all the games. Daisy has only appeared in one game, Super Mario Land. Samantha Mathis doesn't do a bad job with her character, being one of the most likable of the cast.

How about the Mario Bros themselves? I gotta give credit to Bob Hoskins for his portrayal of Nintendo's mascot. Despite not having the greatest script, he really gave it his all for the character, At that point in time in 1993, I could even call his portrayal of Mario "not bad," even solid. John Leguizamo as Luigi fairs decent enough. Why he has no mustache I don't understand, but it's a minor thing I suppose. Unfortunately he's the one subject to the worst lines, from the "Where's Daisy" to the one listed at the top of the review. Still, the relationship established between the two Brothers is very good. If this were another movie with another script, they could have been great adaptations of the iconic plumbers.

We all know who the antagonist of the franchise is...

Bowser is an evil dragon, king of a turtle species called Koopa. In the movie however...

Yes, in the film he's basically a human. Ignoring that for a second, Dennis Hopper doesn't do a terrible job with the character. He's subject to being too much of a cartoony antagonist sometimes, but putting aside the fact this is supposed to be Bowser he isn't too bad. The climax has him turn into a T-Rex, which was cool, but in less than 30 seconds he's reverted to goop. If the Mario Bros. had actually battled him in that form, the film would have at least ended on a high note.

There are so many bizarre scenes that one thinks the directors just wanted to make their movie with Mario names for the characters. For example, the entire dance scene in the bar has no business in Super Mario. The car chase scene isn't reminiscent about what transpires in the games either. And another thing, the soundtrack. After the promising intro using the classic theme, the film quickly succumbs to boring, generic music. It reuses the same theme for the Brothers over and over, which is quite grating and just feels mindless in comparison to the well-put-together themes of the games.

Still, there's a reason why I listed it as garbage "as a Mario adaption" above. Putting that to the side for a second, the film doesn't make for a bad watch on a Saturday afternoon with the family. The worst crime a film can commit is be boring, and one thing Super Mario Bros. is not, is boring. There are no scenes that drag on; it's pretty well paced for the most part. This does not mean it resembles anything resembling a good movie. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl is a good comparison. That movie is so kid-friendly the writing hurts, but it's still pretty entertaining. Super Mario Bros. is a bizarre movie with some awful writing, but it's too entertaining to put it in the unwatchable category.

Overall, Super Mario Bros. will always remain a peculiar watch. It unfortunately killed video game adaptions before they even began. The decision for it to be basically its own thing was a truly awful choice. Nobody went to the theater for that, they wanted to see their games come to life. The series is all about adventuring through bright, colorful, and dangerous worlds to save the princess from an an evil dragon. Here it's not even a shadow of that. It was exciting when they finally got their red and green outfits on. Sadly, the scene is basically ruined because in the very next one was the elevator. Most of the stuff in this movie is complete opposite of what Mario is supposed to represent. Still, despite that, the film is entertaining, which the American adaption of Godzilla from 1998 couldn't even be. (The two are always fun to compare adaption wise.) SMB is an interesting novelty to check out for sure. It's not one of the worst movies of all time as I thought when I saw it all those years ago, but still not anything resembling quality.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Jurassic Park will forever be known as the film that brought dinosaurs to the big screen, Yes there had been movies prior to it which featured them, but JP was the first to truly show them realistically. It demonstrated how effective CGI could be used in bringing the creatures to life. Steven Spielberg delivered a family adventure. It was one, like the children in the film felt, kids could feel in awe when watching the creatures. Subsequently, the sequels lessened that family atmosphere and became darker. Jurassic World is the fourth film in the franchise, bringing back the series after fourteen years. There had been very little dinosaur films in-between, which goes to show that Park is forever the king of this sub-genre. Director Colin Trevorrow attempts to bring back the tone of the original film with the atmosphere and the usage of kids. Sadly, in trying to do that the film falters. It's not a bad movie, but is actually the worst written of the series.

Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World. Colin Trevorrow directs the epic action-adventure based on characters created by Michael Crichton. The screenplay is by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Trevorrow & Derek Connolly, and the story is by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley join the team as producers.

The major problem with this film is the writing. Some of the character concepts aren't bad, but how they're handled is the key. Obviously when one walks into a movie about dinosaurs the main thing the former cares about are the creatures. The film satisfies there, but the humans definitely do not. The perfect kind of monster film is when the creatures' plot directly interacts with the well-written and engaging human characters. Unfortunately, Jurassic World doesn't do wonders here. Like the first movie, there are a few main characters. The most popular one is of course Owen Grady, Chris Pratt's character. If you've seen the trailers and clips, then you know exactly what to expect. He isn't bad, but isn't Oscar-worthy. The relationship established between him and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is bizarre. I say this because not much is established beforehand and then literally in the middle of a frantic scene where pterodactyls are literally grabbing and chomping on people he kisses her. Not only is this extremely unrealistic, it's stereotypical summer movie fare.

Claire isn't bad, but not particularly memorable either. Her "empowerment" moment maybe was supposed to be funny, but ended up being more laughable. Still, she's a masterpiece when compared to Zach. (Nick Robinson.) Not only was he terrible, he also further the stereotypes of high-schoolers being mean, flirty, and disobedient. Robinson doesn't even play that part well, because in almost every scene he's in he looks extremely bored with everything. (The fact that some people think he should play Spider-Man is truly frightening.) His little brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) fares much better. Like Timothy in the first film, he represents the awe children have in the theater when seeing these creatures on the big screen. While the kids in the first film when viewed today are a little on the cheesy side, they're still better than what is seen here.

The "antagonist" is Vic Hoskins. After Vincent D'Onofrio's fantastic portrayal of Wilson Fisk in Daredevil recently, one would think that quality would follow here. Unfortunately, this is an example of a mediocre script the actor just can't seem to make work. By the end he's reduced to being a cartoony villain with outlandish goals. To even call him generic would be a disservice to all generic villains out there. There are of course other characters that get important scenes. Lowery is perhaps the worst, with poorly written lines and is just plain annoying. Simon Masrani was one of the more likable characters, whom unfortunately stops appearing before he can become a highlight. Ironically the best written character is one whom has less than 4 minutes of screen time, Karen, Zach and Gray's mother. When she heard that Claire wasn't with her sons, the viewer could really feel her sadness when she shed tears. This brings us to a rather wasted part. On board the train Gray mentions that he heard something about his parents getting divorced. This is not made evident in the film at all, and after that scene it's never mentioned again. Unless it's brought up in a sequel, it's a wasted plot point.

How about the dinosaur action? Like the first film, the violence is rather quick and not too graphic. As stated in the opening paragraph, the two sequels got noticeably darker and more violent (in The Lost World two T-Rexes actually rip a character in half!) so it was interesting to see the film be more like the first one. This doesn't mean we don't get intense scenes. The pterodactyl sequence where they attack the running tourists was well-done. Though, one character death here is rather distasteful and just felt wrong & unneeded. The main action scenes of course include the Indominus Rex. This hybrid dinosaur was the most hyped aspect of the film, and she definitely doesn't disappoint.

The idea of a super hybrid dinosaur is obviously quite a cool concept. The fact that she is very intelligent is reminiscent of the shark movie Deep Blue Sea where the creatures think like humans. This gives the main dinosaur more dimension other than just being a big obstacle. Every scene she's in she steals. Unlike all other dinosaurs seen before, she can actually grab humans and throw them away, which made for some unique and intense sequences. A highlight is her short skirmish with the Ankylosaurus in the woods. The third film introduced the concept of an epic dinosaur vs. dinosaur fight scene, so it was great seeing a battle here like that.

Besides the Tyrannosaurus, the dinosaur mascot of the series is the Raptor. Here we're introduced to an intriguing concept: the ability to build a relationship with them built on mutual respect. Owen has some cool scenes with this. One could make an argument it's a bit cheesy for them to listen to a human, but the way the story handles that aspect is quite engaging. The entire climax was fantastic and saves the film from dropping a point. Right when Claire tells Lowery to unlock the gate, the viewer can really feel the hype that something big is about to take place. Out of all the films, World's climax is definitely the most exciting and fun. The soundtrack is pretty standard. Outside the classic theme, (with a nice added soft choir) the rest is pretty typical.

Overall, Jurassic World is a fun movie sadly engulfed by mediocre characters. There are no stand out performances. Most of the characters have a stereotypical role. Zach is awful and furthers the fact that most films have high-schoolers be blatantly annoying. Vic as an antagonist is bad, truly bad. He goes to extremely generic levels where one groans for quality writing. Owen is decent enough, and works well with the raptor scenes. The CGI is more on the mixed side. Astonishingly, some of it actually looks worst than in the first film. Never once there did a viewer doubt the existence of the creatures, but here early on they looked like video game simulations. The Idominus Rex was fantastic however, and the entire climax was incredibly-executed. To sum up World, it tries to be like the first one but lacks the quality of the storytelling.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

DAREDEVIL Season 1 Review

It was a major surprise when Marvel Studios announced they would be doing some Netflix-exclusive shows set in what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For many it was an interesting move. (Or unfortunate if one did not have the streaming service.) The main reason was of course the characters announced. It's always exciting when we find out the company has the rights to a character they didn't have for awhile. In this case, Daredevil's movie rights were owned by Fox. He had one film 12 years ago, and a spin-off...and then that was it. Now to be fair, the 2003 movie was actually pretty good. It successfully captured what the character was all about. But, as Marvel has demonstrated with the Hulk, they just know how to make better stories for their characters. Instead of a film this time however, they decided to do a series. Here we have 13 episodes for the first season. Since it's actually the highest rated show on Netflix currently, it doesn't even have to go without saying it's good, right? But just how good is it? My friend, if the first season is any indication we might have what is the best live-action comic book show.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the series in comparison to the Marvel movies is that it's a lot darker. While in almost every Marvel film where much of the dialogue is used to make the viewer laugh, here the writing is more focused on getting the story told. While the films are rather family friendly, the TV-MA rating here is quite the opposite. Considering the gritty world the Daredevil comics reside in, it wouldn't have made sense to have a tone similar to The Avengers. This shows that Marvel can do serious stories. It's much like back in the day with the Marvel Knights line. The mainstream comics were more for all ages, but the Marvel Knights told darker stories. So, I have to give credit for Marvel for actually doing something dark in their cinematic line. It's a refreshing change of pace, and showrunner Steven S. DeKnight delivers with every episode.

What separates Daredevil from shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham is that those two in particular are very TV-centered. What I mean by that is they're built heavily on cliffhangers and dialogue/things to shock the viewers. Many of the characters in Gotham for example are very interestingly a bad way. For example, in one of the later episodes a character spoons out her eyeball. This scene, even considering the context, doesn't make sense. It's literally just there to shock the viewer without considering the lunacy. Agents of Shield is built heavily on keeping the viewer glued with cliffhangers, many different plots, and charisma from the actors/actresses. There's nothing wrong with these things, but when you run into Daredevil, it's just on another level of storytelling.

How does Season 1's story pace? With just 13 episodes, there's no dragging on. Every episode gets to the point. There are some great flashbacks, such as with Matt and Stick, and later with the former and Foggy. These backstories nicely deepen the relationships in the modern day. The main conflict is of course against Wilson Fisk, whom there is definitely a lot to say about. But first, it's important to give praise to Charlie Cox for an absolutely stellar depiction of the title character. Marvel is usually great with casting, and I'm inclined to say this might be their best yet. He has a level of seriousness of classic Daredevil and humor from the more modern comics. He's perfectly developed as the episodes go on. An ongoing plot point is that he constantly wrestles with whether or not it's right to kill Fisk. He brings this up to his Catholic priest, which invites some great dialogue. These scenes were very good, and it was greatly disappointing that there was nothing in the final episode with it. It felt like it was missing.

It took a bit for Eldon Henson's Foggy Nelson to grow on me. For about the first half of the season he was easily the most overacted character, but by the final episode it's hard to not want him around. Despite being only 13 episodes, somehow the friendship between him and Matt is greatly established. That's why you can feel Foggy's anger when he discovers Matt had been basically lying to him all that time. Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page was solid throughout. The three of them share a great amount of chemistry. If there's one thing to be said perhaps in a negative light it's the romance. First, there's a romance slowly blossoming between Foggy and Karen. Then in the final few episodes that's pushed to the side as Foggy suddenly goes back with his ex. If this had been a few more episodes, maybe this could have handled better. Still, it won't stop the positive score.

The romance established between Wilson Fisk and Vanessa happens rather quickly. I don't think two people can get so close like that in such a short amount of time, but it works for the most part without feeling too rushed. Now, for the Kingpin. This guy has been Daredevil's primary nemesis for years in the comics. He was also in the 2003 film, and Michael Clark Duncan delivered a great portrayal there. Unlike the film's version though, the show's adaption gives him more humanity. Like Norman Osborn in the Dark Reign comic saga, you actually do feel like sometimes he actually wants to make a difference for New York. When a writer can make a villain who decapitates someone with a car door sympathetic, you know we have good writing present. Part of the reason is also the fantastic flashback to when he was younger. It's dark, frighteningly realistic, and adds even more dimension to the character. He could have been just a corrupt businessman who wants to rule, but Vincent D'Onofrio gives us the most engaging portrayal of the Kingpin yet.

Arguably the most important dynamic in a story is the conflict between the hero and villain. While Matt and Fisk don't have too much interaction, when they do it's great. The final battle in Episode 13 was easily the best scene in the show. With Fisk shouting, "I wanted to make this city something better. You took that away from me! You took everything!" the viewer can feel his hatred for "the Man in the Mask." The fight scenes in general are some of the best from Marvel. Considering there are no super powers, the company can let loose with the street-level type of combat. Every single fight scene is amazingly choreographed. From Daredevil's battle with Nobu to the final conflict, they deserve praise. When a show has fantastic writing and incredible battles, you know we have a winner.

In just 13 episodes, the series introduces quite a few notable side characters. Arguably the most important is Ben Urich. After a few episodes, the viewer really begins to like him as we see he is truly a man of integrity and conviction. Vondi Curtis-Hall delivered a fantastic portrayal. It is surprising that the show decided to kill him off, considering he's a bit of a major character in the Daredevil & Spider-Man universes. Still, it was effective in getting the viewer to feel genuinely sad. The other notable character is Claire, (Rosario Dawson) whom is the first to learn of Daredevil's secret origin. She's a nice character and has solid chemistry with Matt, but later she disappears. I assume she'll be brought back in the second season, but it would have been nice if she appeared in the final episode.

Besides Fisk, there are other notable villains. Gao is interesting since we don't see many "grandmother" type of antagonists in comic book shows. Leland was perhaps the most fun with his constant sarcasm. Some might find him annoying but he often gave me a good chuckle. Wesley as Fisk's right hand man was great. Unlike in a lot of media with right hand men, you can really feel the bond these two have, which is another thing furthering the human aspect of Wilson. Stick was interesting, and he'll most certainly be back for Season 2. There are quite a few unresolved plot points, but since Season 2 is already confirmed there's no reason to go into them.

Daredevil's costume is very good. It's somehow different than what we've seen before while also being similar. At first I was dismayed that the iconic "DD" wasn't on it, but it hit me afterward the costume was made before the newspaper dubbed him "Daredevil." So while disappointing, it makes sense and hopefully in the second season it'll be added. The soundtrack is solid throughout. Each theme matches its corresponding scene. The intro theme is very good and nicely sets the mood for every episode.

Overall, Season 1 of Daredevil is the definition of a perfect Marvel comic book come to life on the small screen. Matt Murdock and his war on the Wilson Fisk's reign in New York is amazingly done in just 13 episodes. We have writing which surpasses the quality of anything seen in the Marvel movies. The fights are choreographed to perfection, and the major character relationships are fun to watch. If "The Avengers" revolutionized comic book movies, I think Season 1 of Daredevil should revolutionize comic book shows going forward.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: Renew Your Vows #1

Since his debut in 1962, Spider-Man has always been one of the most popular superheroes, up until 2007 when the third film from Sam Raimi came out. After that, he somehow dropped in popularity. The reboot movies did not do as well as the previous trilogy. Iron Man has seemingly replaced him for most popular Marvel hero. That was for the general public, the reason why a lot comic fans stopped liking him was because of the event known as "One More Day" in 2007, when Peter made a deal with Mephisto to end his marriage with Mary Jane to save Aunt May.

Why was this so bad? Think about it, Peter and MJ had been married for 20 years. They were the comic book couple, right next to Superman and Lois Lane. But because someone, in this case Joe Quesada, decided that Spidey is best left single. So, that event wiped away over 15 years of quality storytelling and character development. Peter was reverted to basically being a young goofball who has one night stands with Black Cat. You can see why it was a terrible move then, and sadly still affects today's comics.

That's why I was quite intrigued with "Renew Your Vows." This story takes place in a reality where Peter and Mary Jane remained married and their daughter, whom in the original storyline, died prematurely, is alive and well. My intrigue was hampered by the fact Dan Slott was writing it. Now to be fair, he wasn't the one responsible for "One More Day," but he has written some of the worst Spidey characterizations since. The current run is embarrassing when compared to runs such as Todd McFarlane's in the late 80's. Slott's writing is extremely juvenile for almost every character, including Spidey himself. (If I remember correctly, it was the first issue when Spidey was reduced to having his pants come off and then civilians taking pictures & tweeting them.)

Still, that's not to say Slott has written all bad stories. Back in the day "Big Time" was exciting. But almost everything since then has been a slap in the face to longtime Spidey fans and continually shows why "One More Day" was perhaps the worst move in comic history. But, that's an article for another day, let's take a look at the comic for today:

THE LAST SPIDER-MAN STORY Not even The Amazing Spider-Man is safe from Secret Wars! In this new Marvel Universe, Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and their daughter have to scrape by to make ends meet, but they have each other? Face front, True Believers. This is the one you've been asking for.

The current Marvel event, "Secret Wars" is the backdrop for this story. Despite being part of that, what's cool (or not depending on the reader) is that it feels more like a standalone "What If" story. Dan Slott's writing of a married Peter is pretty solid for the most part. It doesn't compare to the writing of yesterday, but there aren't really any major complaints to be had. We have a Peter Parker who's more mature than the one we're currently seeing.

Mary Jane in recent years has been, well, pretty awful for the most part. In many issues the writer had seemingly no idea what to do with her. Her old role as Spidey's wife just gave her more dimension as a character. As seen here, where she tries to make a plan to help Peter. These two just go so well together in dialogue and chemistry that it's even more painful to think writers have tried (and failed) to give him another girlfriend.

The story is paced very smoothly. Being in the middle of a continuity driven event, Slott assumes the reader knows the history of Spidey being married. There's no backstory; the issue quickly delves into the fact that some heroes are missing due to the Secret Wars. (I'm assuming that's the case anyway, the issue doesn't make clear if that's the case.) But even this is put to the side for the main conflict of the issue, which I'm sure was a surprise to everyone reading...

Venom in the modern comics has been reduced in popularity lately. Ever since the cancellation of his series two years ago, he's rarely been popping up. It doesn't help that the current incarnation is a government agent. It's quite refreshing to see Venom as how he is meant to be: a Spider-Man tormentor. The writing is quite good, especially in the climax, "Oh, the things we're going to do your horrid spawn, HA HA HA! Even if you beat us now, we'll never stop, Parker! We will get her. We will suck out her brains!" The final battle in the burning building was definitely epic, in both punches thrown and the narration. I am not quite sure why artist Adam Kubert chose to use the Mac Gargan design for Venom when it's Eddie Brock who is in the suit, but it's hard to complain when it looks that good.

The art in general is solid. With such great scenes such as Spidey throwing a powerful punch at Venom to the former's up-close shot with the fiery backdrop, it's hard not to want Kubert on art duties permanently. Though, Peter Parker in some scenes, especially in the Daily Bugle, looks much too young considering the time period of the story. The main cover isn't anything dynamic, but its simplicity is perfect. If you're into variants, the Skottie Young one is easily the best. I've never seen a more adorable depiction of Spidey and MJ.

"Renew Your Vows #1" is an excellent comic for longtime Spidey fans. Ignoring for a second that it ties into a big event, it's a fun look at how things were back then, and of course with the added fact of a child. The arrival of Venom was a nice surprise and added some excellent drama to the writing. As a tie-in to Secret Wars however, it could be called disappointing. A part of the issue is dedicated to the Avengers taking on a being called Regent. It's interesting, (one of the reasons being Cap's inverted costume) but how that plays into the event remains to be seen. The final page is apparently a time skip, and it shall be interesting to see where the story goes from there. Dan Slott has written his best Spidey comic since Big Time. To quote the very first line of the issue from Peter himself,

Yes, in a perfect we would be getting quality, mature Spidey stories like this on a monthly basis.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Batman: A Death in the Family Review

Every major comic book hero has been subject to something supremely emotional. Spider-Man's first true love died by his own webbing, Superman was tricked into killing his own wife, etc. These things however are more emotional than stuff just simply happening, because the hero in effect was involved and blames himself for what happened. A Death in the Family is perhaps the most devastating event to happen to the Dark Knight since witnessing his parents' death. This 4-part arc is legendary for quite a few reasons. Infamously, one of those reasons is the fact that DC gave readers the option to vote to either have Robin (Jason Todd) to be given to his death, or not. It was an interesting concept, and I wonder how fans would react if it was used today. By now you know the story simply as this: Joker kills Robin and Batman mourns. There are a few things however that people may not know about, such as Superman having a role and Joker becoming the ambassador of Iran.(!) These things make it definitely an entertaining read whilst being a very emotional story. "Death" remains a must-read for Batman fans, for it pushes the Dark Knight over the edge and shows in just a few panels how merciless the Joker truly is.

Something I did not realize prior to reading was that "The Killing Joke" actually predates this story, since Batman mentions, "Everyone's going to want a piece of the Joker, after what he did to Barbara." To me, I see a bit of an interesting writing inconsistently. The Joker in "The Killing Joke" was written more like a modern incarnation, less mentally insane and more collected. Yet here he's written and drawn more like his classic wacky silver age persona. This doesn't affect the story, just an intriguing observation. Jim Starlin now of Thanos fame crafts an engaging story. Jason Todd is easily unlikable, but not to the point where readers should want him to be brutally murdered. The way the plot unveils the backstory about his parents and Batman quickly training him to be Robin gives him some credibility. The writing is far different than Starlin's work at Marvel. His Batman is a perfect combination of the ultra serious one we're used to seeing today and the more cheerful, "punny" one of the silver age.

This being a major Batman/Joker story, it's interesting to see how things were then and how they relate to today. At this point in time Batman doesn't seem to think Joker is in full control of his actions, since Bats dubs him legitimately "mentally insane." Nowadays, he just considers him a calculating monster. This story seems to be a bridge to that point, as Batman realizes that the Joker is insane, but fully aware and enjoys doing what he does. The infamous scene where he bashes Robin with a crowbar still sends chills today, no matter how bright the art by Jim Aparo looks. The artist perfectly captures the glee the Joker has as he uses the crowbar, which is easily one of the most defining Joker moments in history.

Starlin delivers some fantastic Batman/Joker moments.When they finally meet for the first time in the arc, Joker says,"What are you going to do about it...let your assistant handle it!?" (which was after he had bloodied the Boy Wonder) which is some fantastic writing for the Clown Prince of Crime. Not only that, but it appeared Joker had some idea who Batman was. It's subtle and gives the reader something to think about as he looks at Bruce Wayne, then walks away laughing, fantastic moment. Superman's arrival was a surprise, but welcome. Interestingly, it seems the story borrowed the fact that the government is using him from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. There's some intriguing political commentary present throughout the story. As Batman travels through the Middle East, he runs into Lady Shiva, (well-drawn fight scene) whom he can't arrest because "it is legal to train terrorists in this country." Not only that, but Iran's leader gives Joker a position in office. It's a pretty wacky concept amidst such a serious story, but it's handled well and delivers some fun entertainment and lines. ("Now isn't this touching! My old pals Superham and Batpest, have come to congratulate me!")

With the story having Batman and Robin traveling to the Middle East in the first three issues, there are quite a few unique settings. Gotham City actually rarely appears. The climax instead takes place in New York, which is rare in DC Comics. Batman's narration throughout, from the beginning to the climax is great as we see him become angry after the death of his sidekick. The final showdown in the helicopter could have been longer, but was well-done nonetheless. Batman shouting to Superman, "Find his body! Find his body!!" and then in the final pieces of narration saying, "That's the way things always end with the Joker and me. Unresolved" was a great finisher and echoes just about every single Joker story to come up until Endgame.

The death of Jason Todd remains a pivotal point in the Dark Knight's long comic career, despite the fact the former was brought back nineteen years later in a retcon. Part of the arc was adapted in the animated movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood. (Perhaps the best animated Batman film.) The original 4-part story however still stands the test of time. It gives Batman a whole new outlook on the Joker from this point forward. The crowbar scene might just be one of the most brutal scenes in comic history. (I'm willing to bet some fans while reading regretted having Todd die such a painful death.) Much like in Seinfeld where Kramer somehow gets into all these strange gigs such as working for a big company and becoming a fireman, the Joker somehow becomes Iran's ambassador. It's crazy, but somehow it works and is just another reason every Batman fan -and comic fan in general- should read "A Death in the Family."