Monday, January 9, 2017

Pokemon Lessons: Us vs. Them

It’s been 2 months since the Presidential Election and I have tried to be consciously quiet about it on my Facebook, on here, and on my personal blog. I have my opinions on the election like all people, of course. However, I think the bigger problem with the election and the world in general is the us vs. them mentality. Democrats vs. Republicans. Conservatives vs. Liberals. Gays vs. Straights. Christians vs. Muslims. DC vs. Marvel. Digimon vs. Pokemon. The list could go on, but here’s where I get deep.

Remember when we were younger and The First Pokémon movie came out? We were all excited about this theatrical release of such a fundamental part of our childhood. I remember going in psyched for Mewtwo, who was supposed to be the strongest Pokémon ever (that’s sort of changed now, but Mewtwo is still pretty awesome). Never mind the fact that we were treated to Charizard, Venusaur, and Blastoise all together. However, do you remember the crucible moment for Mewtwo? Do you remember those deep moments that have brought people to tears?

If you remember, Meowth was cloned by accident, while Team Rocket was snooping around the castle. When all of the super clones were released by Mewtwo and ordered to battle their counterparts, Meowth was initially freaked out because he thought he’d be attacked. But instead his clone was a passivist (how did that happen?). The benefit of having a talking Pokémon there is that we got one of the deepest exchanges I’ve seen in the Pokémon anime:

“We do have a lot in common. The same air, the same Earth, the same sky. Maybe if we started looking at what's the same instead of always looking at what's different ...well, who knows?”

I’ve said it before with issues that, in my opinion, have more eternal significance than an election, but the biggest problem facing us right now isn’t a political party or a candidate or a group of people. Instead, the biggest problem facing us now is hate.

The Savior commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34). This wasn’t a flippant comment and it’s not just an easy cool one-liner. It’s more than just a primary song that we learned to sign when we were little. He really lived this way. Personally I know I need to love more. I mean, Christ was able to forgive the soldiers who killed Him and despite being betrayed by Judas, He showed no ill-will towards him. Can you honestly picture the Savior saying anything like what gets put on Facebook all too frequently?

I see it all the time: “Liberals want this and we can’t stand for it as conservatives” or “Conservatives have caused this problem because of this and as liberals we have to stand up to them”. First off, I don’t care for all-encompassing comments about any group (because no two people have exactly the same opinion anyway) but how is this making things any better? Sure I could pull a Donna Noble and complain about everything to try to make my life better, but it really doesn’t do anything. I spend way too much time complaining and being mad at people. It only rips me apart and pushes me further away from God. As much as I detest New Years Resolutions (because I think they’re a joke), this would be a good resolution to make: less complaining, less dividing, and more loving.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Joe's Top 10 Video Games of 2016

I know I know, everyone's doing a top 10 whatever list of 2016, but whatever I'm doing one anyway.
Fair warning: I tried to keep this list to games I bought in 2016, which wasn't a lot, so this list is basically "Games Joe Bought in 2016 and Why He Liked Them, but I still think they're worth talking about.

Okay let's do this.

10: No Man's Sky
I won't go into the three ring nightmare the PR for this game ended up being, since you can find that on any gaming website, suffice it to say that we were literally promised the sun moon and stars and were given the last level of Spore with a graphics upgrade. That being said, I loved the last level of Spore so this game was a blast for me. If not for the insane amount of grind and the hard crashes, this game would be higher on my list, but since this game won't be seeing a lot of top ten lists, I think 10 is a good spot for it.

9: Magic Duels
While this game came out in 2015, I personally didn't start playing it till 2016, but when I did I played it a LOT. If you're into Magic: The Gathering this game is a must, as it follows all the core rules and keeps up with the expansions as it comes out. The game is free to play on Steam and does offer the option to pay for additional boosters and decks but 70+ hours in and I nearly have all the sets without paying a dime. This game is also great for those who enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering but aren't as keen to deal with talking to other players, since in the PVP there is no chat. Check it out if you're a Magic: The Gathering fan or trying to become one.

8: The Curious Expedition
I was so excited when this game finally went on sale and I could buy it. This is a great game for anyone who's a fan of Kipling, Indiana Jones, or even a little Lovecraft. You play a world famous explorer (Or H.P. Lovecraft) and lead an expedition into the unknown all around the world. While the levels can feel a bit samey, even on different continents, the game play of exploring maps and seeing what's just beyond the draw distance is enough to keep any explorer engaged. The turn based dice combat takes a second to get used to, but once you do it's like playing a very aggressive form of Yhatzee.

7: Far Cry Primal
In my "Not Suitable for All Audiences" category we have Far Cry Primal: a cave man sandbox game. I thought the masculine power fantasy in video games was solely focused on guns but there's nothing like leaping from a cliff with spear in hand onto an unaware Neanderthal in nothing but a loin cloth and war paint to make you feel all sorts of manly-then try doing it in a video game! Plus you get to train saber-tooth tigers to do your bidding so my cat got a kick out of the game as well.

6: Gems of War
So this game came out in 2014 which pretty much makes this a retro review but since this year I clocked in over 80 hours I think its time to talk about it. The game is a hybrid of Magic the Gathering and Candy Crush where you build and upgrade a team to take on other people's team through color matching combat. The game carries the same addicting quality of Candy Crush where you just want to try one more game but find yourself still up at 1 AM looking for a fight. Gems of War is free on Steam so give it a look but make sure your well hydrated and ready for a new addiction before you do.

5: Stardew Valley
This year's indie darling, Stardew Valley is a throwback to the Harvest Moon games with the addition of also being able to fight monsters. As far as improvements go, any game without the ability to fight monsters can benefit from fighting monsters so this game was a winner in my book. Building your own farm and maintaining the plants and animals has honestly never been so much fun, and the top-down 2D controls is so much better than the clunky 3D-ifying the Game Cube tried to pull in the day that made it look like you were trying to grow balloon animals. Have a go at it if you long for the simple life but can't afford to move to rural Wisconsin.

4: Darkest Dungeon
Officially released this year, I was playing this thing all the way back in early access. The game is the typical rogue-like with the twist that the horrors and fighting your adventurers face can have a toll on their sanity, making them contract afflictions like addiction and paranoia if you don't keep an eye on them. The game is a dark Cthuhluesque adventure set in an 1800s backdrop, giving the feeling of watching a black-and-white horror movie while playing Dungeons and Dragons on a rainy night.

3: Worlds of Final Fantasy
No, this is not Final Fantasy XV. Frankly I decided to skip on that since it looked like the goth clique of a high school was having an Entourage style road trip, but Worlds is a whole different kettle of fish. Set in a wacky mix of Final Fantasy worlds, the game allows you to collect classic Final Fantasy monsters and train them like Pokemon, up to and including evolving them. The game play is fun, the story is funny in a self-referential fourth-wall Deadpool sort of way. The only reason this game isn't higher up is because the support character grated on my spine right out of the gate and there's no way to Old Yeller it in the starting area.

2: World of Warcraft: Legion
While not a full game, most expansions to WOW can be classified as stand-alone games given the amount of content they add,
and Legion is no exception. I immediately made a new Demon Hunter character and jumped right into the Legion expansion and quickly found myself falling in love with the game all over again. The massive demon invasions leading up to launch made it feel like the world was in peril on an epic scale and the coordinating quest was interesting and varied enough to keep my interest and never wore out its welcome in length. This game earns the #2 spot on my list because of all these I still predict its the game I'm going to dump the most hours into.

1: Pokemon Moon
With every addition the Nintendo gang tries to mix up the formula with the Pokemon franchise and this time they not only mixed it up but added diced pineapple to the batch. Set in a Hawaii inspired Aloha region, the game throws out the conventional 8 gym leader model in favor of puzzles and tests that truly challenge even the veteran Pokemon trainer. It honestly feels like every annoyance I ever had with the series has been either removed completely or revamped in a fun new way. My favorite example is the new Pokemon Uber system in the game (No I don't remember what it's called). What you have is a little device that you press to summon a Pokemon friend to you who will basically preform the functions HMs used to preform, from flight to rock smash to even just moving you faster so you don't even need the stupid bike or roller skates. This means you don't need to waste a slot on a Pokemon's moves to use an HM that can never be removed. It's also just a simple joy to jump on a Charizard and use fly right on his back.

What games did you love in 2016?


Monday, January 2, 2017

Good Geeky Things Coming in 2017

Happy New Year! Now that I’ve stayed up til midnight to celebrate 2017 beginning (side note: New Years is much more anticlimactic for me than it was as a kid; anyone else feel that way?), it’s time to look ahead (and away from 2016) at what the new year has for us Geeks. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it’s what I’m looking forward to.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions (January 27)
A welcome addition to the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, we’re gonna get a new adventure with Yugi, Kaiba, and the original Duel Monsters gang. If I understand correctly, it’ll be shortly after the end of the original anime series, after releasing the spirit of the Pharaoh. Not much was explicitly shown in the trailer, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of these original characters back, as well as some (likely) supped up versions of their classic monster cards.

Digimon Adventure Tri, Part 4: Loss (February 25)
I’ve gotten back into my childhood obsession of Digimon this past year, perfectly timed for Tri, the sequel to Digimon Seasons 1 and 2. Only Part 1’s dub “Reunion” was aired in US theaters this year, but all the way through Part 3 has been aired in Japan. Part 4, which I’m super excited for, is airing in February. Hopefully we’ll get the dub of Part 2 in American theaters soon as well.

Now while Disney is kind of copping out by rebooting all their animated features as live action remakes (Maleficent, Cinderella, Pete’s Dragon, etc.) I’m excited for this one. In large part it’s because of Emma Watson playing Belle. Now I’m sure the fact that she’s my top celebrity crush helps, but with how intelligent she is (not just as Hermione, but in real life as well), I think she makes the perfect Belle.

Iron Fist (March 17)
In addition to “Beauty and the Beast”, we’ll also have Iron Fist coming out on March 17. Since I’m still very much a n00b when it comes to Marvel Comics, I don’t know much about Iron Fist except that he’s the last new Marvel Netflix character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that will appear before he joins up with the others for “The Defenders” later in 2017, but more on that later.

Power Rangers (March 24)
After rewatching the original Power Rangers series recently (I’m currently working my way through Zeo and I’ll be into Turbo soon) it’ll be interesting to see the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers rebooted as new versions of themselves. This version seems a bit edgier, so that’ll be different from the goody-goody versions in the original. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa.

Doctor Who Series 10 (April)
After a year away from new Who, it’ll be great to get more Doctor Who soon. After watching the trailer that aired with the Christmas special last week, I’m a little skeptical of the new companion, Bill, but I’m willing to give her a shot. She seems a bit obnoxious, but if I handle Leela and Amy Pond, I can stomach Bill. Plus it’s speculated that she and Capaldi will only be together one season.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (May 5)
It’s been a few years since Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Rocket teamed up for the first time. In just a few months we’ll see them back together again to guard the galaxy. I’m curious how this will lead up to “Avengers: Infinity Wars”. Maybe we’ll see another Infinity Stone? Definitely gonna get a bunch of Baby Groot at the very least.

Cars 3 (June 16)
I didn’t mind Cars 2, but I definitely didn’t expect a sequel. However, based on the trailers it looks like it’ll be a bit darker. I’m not sure what Pixar will be getting at, but I guess we’ll all see in time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
After seeing Peter Parker in “Civil War”, it’ll be interesting to see him in his solo movie. However, based on the trailers it almost looks like it’ll be “Iron Man and Spider-Man” instead of “Spider-Man”. If that’s the case I’m a little skeptical, mostly because of how irresponsible Tony was with Peter’s safety in Civil War. But this won’t stop me from seeing it, even if I am skeptical.

The Inhumans (September 4)
This minority of the human population was first shown in Agents of SHIELD in Season 2. Now we’re about to get a series all about them. This makes it kind of unclear if Agents of SHIELD will be done after their current season or if “The Inhumans” will air separate from Agents of SHIELD. Regardless, the pilot of “The Inhumans” will air in IMAX theaters on September 4 before it airs on ABC.

Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)
After all the confusion of whatever was going on with Thor in “Age of Ultron”, it’ll be nice to get some explanation. In addition to all of that, we’ve got Hulk and Loki appearing. Should be interesting. Plus, in general, I can’t complain about getting a third new movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Star Wars Episode VIII (December 15)
After flashing back to Rogue One, we’re going jump forward 30+ years again to sequel “The Force Awakens”. I’d expect some one-on-one training with Luke and Rey, some space battles, some Kylo Ren tantrums, and hopefully a fitting goodbye to Leia. Maybe in post-production they can lay her to rest, as a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher?

Besides all these, we also have “The Defenders”, “The Punisher”, some more DC movies, a rebooted “Duck Tales”, and TV series for “Tangled” and “Big Hero 6” to look forward to. What have I missed? What geeky stuff are you looking forward to this year? What is going to make 2017 great for you?

Side Note for any David Tennant fans: Did you see who will
be voicing Scrooge McDuck in the new "Duck Tales"?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Problem With The Christmas Project

Get ready for a rant.

So I keep seeing commercials for the latest LDS Christmas movie The Christmas Project. For those who don't obsessively watch TV, here's a rundown of the plot as gathered from the commercials: There's a kid who's bullied at school and his family randomly decides to do a secret Santa project for his bullies family, who apparently live in a literal shack. The kid goes onto say how he learns that even the bully isn't as bad as he seemed as he sees the bully helping his little sister try on some gloves.

Here's my problem:

Sweet Christmas stories aren't supposed to be cinematic masterpieces, or even reflect reality in any way. However, I have a major problem with the idea that the victim of bullying is the one who needs to learn a lesson about accepting others through his bully and that that's somehow the solution to the kid's bullying problem. In no other crime (Yes, I say crime, because if these kids were adults then the kid would be well within his rights to press charges against his bully) is the victim expected to sympathize with their attacker. If we had a movie about a shopkeeper who is robbed at gunpoint, then the shopkeeper isn't going to track down the criminal, find out he was trying to feed his family and give him $50. As sweet as that concept is, the problem is that the guy was an armed gunman in the first place.

Bullying is a serious problem that's been addressed in media for decades. However, it's almost always addressed from the point of view of the victim, and the bully is usually an undereducated poverty stricken villain who is incapable of changing, leaving it on the Erkles and the Bart Simpsons of the world to find ways to deal with him in increasingly creative ways. While this certainly has entertainment value, it's still offensive to put solving the problem of bullying solely on the victim instead of addressing the real causes of bullying.

I have an idea:

The concept of this film isn't bad, after all if you truly want to learn to love someone else then service is the best way to do it, however I think the lesson needs to be learned by the bully and his family instead of the victims. So here's my rewrite:

We'll write it from the point of view of the bully. We'll keep it family and Seagull Book friendly, that's not a problem. So the bully, we'll name him Tommy, has this dad who is a high school basketball coach who's extremely competitive and has one of those strict traditional views of masculinity, basically if you're not into sports you're a wuss and a loser. He says this to his family constantly even pressuring Tommy into being an athlete. In Tommy's class we have Sam. Sam is your average geek, reading comic books, playing video games ect., basically the opposite of how Tommy has viewed what a boy should be. Tommy bullies Sam relentlessly. One day in early December Tommy's dad's team suffers a massive loss and his dad is furious, calling the other team geeks and losers. He doesn't abuse Tommy, but it is obvious he is angry about the loss. The next day Tommy goes to school and sees Sam do something that sets him off so he starts bullying Sam again. The situation escalates and either through violence or due to a relatively innocent accident Tommy seriously injures Sam. Tommy's parents are immediately called to the school and when questioned about why Tommy would hurt Sam, Tommy starts repeating the rhetoric he's heard at home from his dad. His dad, completely horrified that his own prejudices have lead to his son becoming a bully and injuring another student, decides to do something about it: He decides to secret Santa Sam's family. The rest of the movie is about Tommy and his father learning to accept those who are different than them as they serve Sam's family.

Okay, so my movie idea isn't exactly It's a Wonderful Life, but if we're going to write a Christmas movie about bullying let's make sure the right person learns the lesson about acceptance and the right person gets served. You wouldn't have Bob Cratchett show up on Scrooge's doorstep with his sad Christmas goose and Tiny Tim holding his laundry, so let's not have anymore kids try to show up to their bullies with the offering of friendship only to end up with a black eye.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Spoiler-Free Fantastic Beasts Review

So just when we all thought JK Rowling was done she decided to roll out “The Cursed Child” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (and two more movies to come). So now I’m gonna go ahead and give you, as best I can, a spoiler-free review on this new addition to the Harry Potter world. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’ll avoid spoilers, but if you’re super sensitive to spoilers, just know that this movie is very recommended to any Potterhead out there, no matter which house you belong to. #Gryffindor #Thunderbird

Side note for Whovians: Picture Newt Scamander
as the Doctor as you watch the movie. I'm partly
convinced he's a future incarnation of the Doctor.
I really liked how this movie made a clean introduction to the American wizarding world. Taking this movie from the perspective of Newt Scamander, we got the same British perspective that we’ve had since the first Harry Potter book. Slowly we were introduced to the American wizarding world, drawing comparisons between Muggles and No-Majs (I still don’t like that term), Hogwarts and Ilvermorny, and the Ministry of Magic and MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). A lot of these details were revealed previously on Pottermore (a good summary of the difference between British and Amereican can be found here). However, you don’t need to read Pottermore or that article to understand what’s going on. If you’re familiar with Harry Potter, you’re well on your way. Just get ready to learn some new vocab.

Also, for not knowing any of these characters beforehand, they did a good job of developing so many characters. It’s uncertain how many of them will reappear in the second movie, but I’m hopeful that at least some will return. Based on some information from Pottermore, I’m confident that at least a few will return, so that we can see some relationships play out.

Can we just talk about how cute the Niffler is?
Perhaps it was because this movie takes place in the Harry Potter universe, but I kind of expected the movie to be unresolved at the end, leading into a sequel. However, this movie was tied up wonderfully. If this had been the only movie, instead of a trilogy, I’d be satisfied. However, I could still see a couple loose-ish ends that could be pulled at and fleshed out for another movie. I have a hunch as to where the third movie will end, but that would involve spoilers regarding the end of this movie, so I’ll refrain. Feel free to message me if you want hear my theory.

Basically, as I said at the beginning, this movie is well worth watching for any Potterhead and possibly for non-Potterheads (I can’t say, because I’ve been a Potterhead for most of my life). Go and see it and then let me know what you think. What are you looking forward to seeing in the next Fantastic Beasts movie?

Just one of the "Fantastic Beasts"

PS: In the meanwhile, while we wait for movie #2, you can buy a copy of Newt Scamander's book (complete with doodles and notes from Harry and Ron) and learn about some of the magical creatures that may appear. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Spoiler-Free Doctor Strange Review

It’s been a “strange” weekend already. And that’s also the fourth time I’ve used that pun, so I won’t do it again. Doctor Strange was amazing and just like with Civil War I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free. If you are super sensitive to spoilers, don’t read past this paragraph. Overall, this is a great movie for big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s also a great movie for someone who’s never seen another Marvel movie before. As far as Marvel movies go, this one could be its own standalone movie as well as part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, I’d recommend it to anyone, Marvel fan or not. Side note: There are two credits scenes, so don't leave until you've watched both bonus scenes.

As far as more specifics, I liked the comedic timing of this movie. There were a few times that the confusion about the mystic arts set up for some awkwardly funny situations. Just the fact that magic was about made it easy for some comedy to pop up occasionally. Comparing it to other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies on a scale of seriousness-silliness (from The Incredible Hulk to Guardians of the Galaxy), I’d put it around the same kind of humor as Ant-Man. And I loved Ant-Man.

It was interesting to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s character development throughout the movie. Previously I’d only seen him in “Sherlock” and “Star Trek Into Darkness”, so his characters were pretty one-sided in my opinion. Without going into much detail, it was cool to see him play such a spectrum of personality in one character. When I do my MCU post about this movie I’ll go into more depth, but suffice it to say that it was well done.

The movie also had some other great actors. Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer) and Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One) were amazing. Like Cumberbatch, McAdams has proven to be a versatile actor, having played vastly different characters from Christine in “Mean Girls” (as Regina George) and “Sherlock Holmes” (as Irene Adler).  I’d also only seen Swinton in “The Chronicles of Narnia” (as the White Witch), so it was nice to see her in a different kind of role. These two women were probably my favorite characters in the movie. Deep and developed, despite not being the main character.

What was your favorite part of Doctor Strange? If you haven’t seen it yet, go buy your ticket and go see it. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Costumes of Halloweens Past

I’ve written before about my hobby of cosplaying. It started mostly with Halloweens and then it kind of evolved more into a Comic Con thing. Starting when my buddy Garrett got back from his mission in Chile, we started dressing up together. After he got married, I started dressing up with David. So here’s a glimpse of my past for you, to see what we’ve done over the past five Halloweens.

2012: Super Mario Brothers
Fake mustaches (though Garrett could have grown a real one), overalls, long sleeve shirts, and the hats. One of my favorite costumes I’ve done. Now if I could just figure out a better way to do the mustaches, I’d be good to go. We’ve reused these costumes for Mario Kart parties and for Comic Cons.

2013: The Two Doctors
After getting into Doctor Who, Garrett and I began collecting pieces for our Doctor costumes. Since he could grow sideburns, he got to be the Tenth Doctor and I lucked out finding the tweed jacket for the Eleventh Doctor. The Eleventh Doctor costume is one that I love reusing for Comic Con. We also used these costumes for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special when we saw it in theaters. Garrett’s girlfriend (now wife) joined us as a Dalek. Later, for a Comic Con, David joined me as the Ninth Doctor.

2014: A Charming Bromance
I had the inspiration after getting David into Once Upon a Time and growing to love Hook as a character. David and I premiered it at a Halloween party that year and had to show off a little at the Disney Store as well. We reused these costumes for FanX that spring, but I haven’t used it much, since I don’t like going through all the trouble of getting my makeup done.

2015: The Spirit of Adventure
David and I had the idea for this costume after meeting Dug at Disneyland a month before FanX and it wasn’t too hard to put together after that (I already had Carl’s tweed jacket from my Doctor costume after all). We premiered it at Comic Con and reused it for Halloween that fall. Best part was visiting some friends and my friend Julie was dressed as Kevin… so Kevin is a girl?

2016: Team Cap
We’d already done our Team Cap costumes for FanX this year and for the Comic Con screening of Civil War, so it was perfect to use for Halloween this year. Of course, since Marvel is owned by Disney, this warranted a trip to the Disney Store for the third year in a row.

Besides these, I’ve also dressed as Matt from Digimon for Comic Con. Now I’m already brainstorming what new costume I can debut at FanX in a few months. What do you think I should dress as for FanX and/or Halloween next year?