Friday, February 21, 2014

Joe reviews: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 (With guest star Stephen Larsen!)

Here it is, late and awesome as always: My review on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, this time guest starring fellow Mormon Geek and known redhead Stephen Larsen! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joe Reviews: Pokemon X and Y

Pokemon X: Starring the weird reindeer thing from Princess Mononoke...
I know I've talked a lot about Pokemon in the past, what with reviewing the franchise as a whole and talking about Pikachu specifically, but right now I want to talk about the latest games that came out, which I also promised myself I wouldn't get: Pokemon X and Y, or to save space, Pokemon Y.

Pokemon Y drops us off in the Kalos region, yet another area never mentioned before by the Pokemon series (I wonder if they take notes from JK Rowling) were you play as a bright-eyed 10 year old going out to become the best Pokemon trainer ever. Along the way you catch a staggering number of Pokemon (As of this game we're over 600) and meet interesting people in your journey. This go around though "Interesting" is interchangeable to "annoying" as it seems whoever was in charge of dialogue and writing for this game spent the entire time trying to find a way to roll Oreos off his belly and into his mouth.

They look like the kids who play the card game....
Instead of one rival as in the other games here you have a group of four children who pop up periodically on your journey. One is an introverted nerdy kid interested in filling out his Pokedex and nothing else. One is a fat kid hoping to study dance by watching how his Pokemon move. One seems to have parachuted in directly from Sesame Street as her entire motivation is to out-cute her Pokemon, and the last is the closest to an actual rival as she is in this to capture and train Pokemon, though halfway through the story she seems to give up so she can... Actually I have no idea what she wants in the end because the story was so stupid that I started tuning out just to reach end game.

...Is he wearing skinny pants or spandex?
In former Pokemon games the subplot to go with you beating up countless defenseless animals has been whatever the criminal organization of the week is up to. This time around we get Team Flare, who's primary objective seems to be becoming the most fashionable trainers in the world by ending all life on Earth.
Wait, what?

Their leader, a red headed man whom I didn't bother to learn his name, tells us a story about how many hundreds of years ago a man loved a Pokemon very much, but then a horrible war struck and his Pokemon friend was killed. The man then built a giant Final Fantasy crystal machine to bring his Pokemon back from the dead. But apparently the machine also had the power to shoot an energy ball into space that could turn around and hit the earth... Okay I can't go on this is too stupid. Team Rocket's thing about using Pokemon for prophet, yeah I get that. Team Plasma's thing about Pokemon freedom, kinda hypocritical but okay whatever. This game on the other hand has the dumbest story I have ever seen in media, and I've seen three of the Twilight movies. And the weirdest part is that his Team Flare grunts don't even seem to be aware that they're trying to end all life on Earth, they're just concerned about fashion and looking good. The story isn't just stupid, it doesn't make sense.

Team Flare and Marvin the Martian aren't the only story problems though. Every town and place you go there's some person with a problem you have to solve, but as opposed to Pokemon Red and Blue where you actually had to prove yourself to these people before they believe that your ten year old self can actually be of any use, the people in Pokemon Y just look at you and say "I can see your destiny shining bright, here you deserve this!" then give you whatever you want. A prime example is the PokeFlute. In Red you had to use a PokeFlute to wake up a Snorlax lying in the road, a task which took you all over creation to help the guy who told you about the guy who knew the guy who had the stupid thing. Now when you find Snorlax some dude comments on your destiny and sends you to a mansion ten yards down the road, where the owner won't give it to you until his pet poodle is recovered safely.
Except the stupid flute I've had to get like 10 times now...

The poodle is in the back yard.

A yard we can assume it frequents often.

Since it's connected to the house where it lives.

The guy is so grateful that you stepped outside and brought in his dog that not only does he give you the PokeFlute, he sets off fireworks over his house for you. I was playing this part on my way to class on the bus at like 11 AM and so the fireworks were going off in the middle of the day, which made sense since a man who can't GET HIS DOG out of his OWN BACK YARD would presumably not understand that fireworks are traditionally set off AT NIGHT!

So... The writing is bad.

You know this thing sells for like $20 now?
That being said, this is a pretty awesome Pokemon game. They're are 450 some odd types to catch in the game alone without cheating, that's a huge number! Nearly every time I step into an area I find a new Pokemon, either one from the first generation or a brand new thing I've never seen. The game is flooded with nods to players as old as me, like giving you either a Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander at one point early on in the game, thus giving you the ability to raise it instead of your starter. No offense to my new Fennekin, but my fire type when facing the Elite 4 this time was a Charizard named Drogon.

So for me the game is good when you're not talking to NPCs. The catching, playing with other players, battling, breeding and everything else is solid, just a major miss with the world they built with regards to other humans. So give it a try if your hankerin' for some Pokemon action. It'll be worth your time, just tune out whenever you have to read.

P.S. What's your favorite Pokemon experience ever?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not A Fan

One of my favorite concepts from the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" is when Penny says something like "Getting my geek on." She says this to try to fit in with the 'geeky' guys. Sometimes, we are like Penny and try really hard to fit in. Other times, we are so against something (usually out of spite for its popularity), that we are to the point of being rude against it. Okay, maybe that's just me.

Today, however, I'm wanting to point out a few things that I am just not a fan. Yeah, I can see that some people may like a certain thing and may find value in it. I, on the other hand, just don't really like it or get it or something along those lines. Sometimes, I've given them a chance. Others, I just can't see me getting into it.

The Lord of the Rings: Let me sum up Lord of the Rings in one that really possible? There is so much to Lord of the Rings. It is the penultimate epic fantasy, and in a sense, the original fantasy to which you can apply that word "epic". Tolkien created this world that has so much to it, one could get lost. Some wish to live there. Some try even. That's cool. But really, it's just not my thing. Someone once told me I'm a jerk for not liking Tolkien. Wait, did I say that? No, I think Tolkien is awesome. He brought us the fantasy world as we know it. Not only that, but one of my favorite novels of all time is The Hobbit. "But that's the same story!" some have said to me.'s not. The Hobbit is a story of vengeance and adventure. It's a story of letting go of one's insecurities and not caring about the results. It's also less than a 1/3 of the length of The Lord of the Rings 3-book series (which is technically six, but that's neither here nor there.)

Superman: Who doesn't love Superman? *raises hand unabashedly*. As a kid, I watched all the original Superman movies. I've tried Lois & Clark. I've even watched some of Smallville. (Out of all of those, the last is actually the one I'm most interested in watching.) I just can't seem to like the man in red and blue who isn't a spider. (For that matter, not a huge fan of the man in red and blue who is a spider.) I think the thing that bothers me about Superman is his unrealistic portrayal of being almost perfect. Ever hear "Women want Superman" as a complete sentence? I have. My response to that thought is this: "So women want a man who isn't of this world with a perverted ability that has an allergy to green stuff? Interesting..."

Captain America: Now, for this, I am only referring to the movie. And only the original that takes place during WWII. My older brother is a pretty big fan of these type of movies. We had dinner together while I was in CO two weekends ago. At this dinner, 99% of our conversation could've been topics for a Comic-Con panel. One of these was Captain America 2 (which he is excited for, I guess.) However, I was almost shunned from his life when I expressed my dislike for the first film. My expectation was a superhero movie. I feel that I saw an alternate history film instead. Similar, but not the same. I saw the story as slow and not as much fighting as I had hoped.

 X-men 3: The Last Stand: Do I need a lengthy paragraph on this one? I don't think so.

To be fair, there are things I like that others may not. Joe and I argue over The Big Bang Theory a lot. Although, I see his points, I don't watch it because of its "Geek" theme. I watch it because I care about the characters and it has some great humor (geek and non-geek). These are just a few examples of things I am not of.

Oh and Happy Presidents Day! I have to work!

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Real Prince Charming

Tomorrow marks the day that is adored and hated by millions around the world.  Some men will groan thinking of all the expectations to get their girlfriend or wife something to commemorate the occasion.  Singles will have to endure the bombarding of public proclamations of love while trying to ignore the fact that there isn't a special person in their life.  For everyone else, there is sweet candy, joyous affection, and thoughtful greetings.

I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's day.  I don't have anything against romantic love.  I think romance is wonderful and sweet.  What I do have a problem with is the fan base of romantic love.  If romance were a superhero it would be Wolverine.  Wolverine has a huge fan base and has been the lead character for all of the X-Men movies with the exception of First Class.  Even then, we can't have an X-Men movie without Wolverine and so we get a short funny cameo of the character.  The X-Men universe is rich with interesting characters that would make great lead characters.  Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men but doesn't get the screen time he really deserves in any of the movies.  (And he's played wonderfully by James Marsden!)

See, I don't hate Wolverine like Joe.  There's actually a lot about the character that I really like.  He's so over the top it's just awesomely silly.  But because Wolverine is so popular, he sells.  Since he sells, the studio execs over at Fox make sure that he's the main character for every X-Men movie created.  Forget Cyclops, Cable, Magneto, Shadow Cat, and Psylocke, there's only one character Fox cares about and it's Wolverine.

This is my problem with Valentine's Day and a lot (but not all) of Disney movies.  They support the idea that romantic love is the best kind of love and the most important.  Chick flicks, some Disney princess movies, and Valentine's day support unhealthy expectations and beliefs about relationships and what true love is.  Some writers have defined this as emotional pornography.  They're pretty much spot on too.  Think about all of the unrealistic expectations actual pornography creates in sexuality, relationships, and love.  Do certain chick flicks and the ideas fueling the sales of Valentine's day do any better?

This is also why I love movies like Brave, Scott Pilgrim versus the World, [500] Days of Summer, and Frozen.  Princess Merida doesn't wait for a prince in shining armor to come and rescue her.  She isn't looking to do sign language with the hero and say, "You complete me."  She wants a life that is her own.  The movie isn't about romantic love but the love shared between a mother and daughter.

In Frozen, Ana is accidentally cursed by her sister Elsa.  As the clock ticks she inches closer and closer to becoming a frozen statue.  The curse can only be broken by an expression of true love.  She is rushed back to the castle only to find that her "love"-at-first-sight boyfriend is a jerk and locks her away so that the curse kills her.  Ana breaks out with the help of Olaf realizing that her love for Kristoff is far more real.  Ana then faces a choice.

On one part of the frozen fjord is Elsa kneeling and sobbing while the "love"-at-first-sight ex-boyfriend gets ready to strike her down.  On the other part, is Kristoff.  Ana immediately goes to Elsa completely forgetting about her curse and leaps between the sword and her sister.  Ana turns to ice as the sword breaks.  Elsa embraces the frozen statue of her sister and sobs.  At this point, it would have been really cool for Elsa to sing a reprise of Do You Want to Build a Snowman but the movie is still great without it.  Ah, but what's this?  One of Elsa's tears drops onto Ana and she starts to thaw.  Ana is restored because of an expression of true love!

That's right.  The true love wasn't romance.  It was the true love shared between siblings.

I'm not saying chick flicks and romance are bad things.  I used to be a bit of a romantic.  I have even enjoyed a chick flick or two.  It's just important to not get wrapped up in thinking that romance is the only form of true love or to buy into the codependent ideas seen in the media.

I've bought into these ideas before.  I grew up watching the same Disney movies as everyone else.  I've heard gal friends lament of the loss of Prince Charming and Chivalry.  I used to think to myself, "I can be Prince Charming.  Chivalry isn't dead." The unrealistic expectations they found for a spouse I found for myself.  I believed I could be the knight in shining armor and live in some idealized world where I would be completely selfless and live to serve my princess.

The real Prince Charming is not like that.  The real Prince Charming may certainly have a princess in his life but he isn't controlled by her.  He certainly does many selfless things for his sweet bride but he doesn't neglect his own needs by doing so.  (Neither does the real princess.)  The real Prince Charming is assertive and has a lot of responsibilities and interests beyond his wife and family.  He doesn't feel completed by them but feels completed by his Heavenly Father.  He appreciates the opportunities his family gives him to be Christlike.  The real Prince Charming isn't shamed for not living up to what he's supposed to be.  He's loved, accepted, and supported to be the best he can be.

This Valentine's Day, let's celebrate more than just romance.  (Doesn't Wolverine have enough movies about him already?)  Let's celebrate fraternal love, maternal love, paternal love, the love of neighbors, the love of friends, the love of strangers, and the love of God.  There is so much to real and true love.  Romance is great but it doesn't replace the love you may have for your siblings, parents, and close friends.  Isn't that love just as meaningful and Christlike?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Andrew "Reviews" Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail was a game that I picked up on Steam after a friend said to me that I would like it. (At least I think that's what happened, I've had the game for a few months and never played it).  I decided to start playing it this last Saturday, and finished it the next day.  I probably spent around 13-14 hours from start to finish (I know, I can be a bit of an obsessive gamer).

Dust almost immediately pulled me in.  Normally, games take awhile to warm up, but Dust isn't like that.  It handed me some of the most powerful tools up front, and sent me racing on my way.  The game is an Action RPG, and feels like a mix between the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, a splash of Megaman, and Dragon Ball Z/Golden Axe.  Many times, I had energy bolts or fire pillars all over the screen and I had no idea what was going on, but at least I knew that I was winning!  Dust is basically an Action RPG.  There are combos that can be done with the sword (I honestly didn't play with those too much, I was too busy playing with the 'Dust Storm' ability), and the character can level up and become more powerful.  The game reminded me of Metroid because there are some secrets in the opening zone that can't be unlocked until later in the game.

The graphics of the game were equally compelling.  The entire game looks hand painted (maybe it was, I don't know) and is very beautiful.  It also has a scrolling background and foreground that added a lot to the beauty of the game.

I really liked the plot of the game too.  It was engaging and moving.  The way that Dust and his companions interact made me smile and laugh.  The game follows a man named Dust who is trying to remember who he is.  He is accompanied by a wise talking sword and a mischievous flying catlike creature.  The game isn't afraid to explore things like identity, purpose, choices, and death.  It even tackles a hard pill to swallow: even when we do everything right, when it's someone's time to die, they still die.

Overall, I'd highly recommend Dust: An Elysian Tail. Rated E 10+ for fantasy violence, mild blood, and mild swearing (I only remember one or two swear words).  Check it out if you see it on sale on the Steam store or on XBOX Live.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Turn Off the [Blue] Light!

It may surprise you to know that most of my roommates in my adult life have actually been kids.  I have shared living space with many adorable and chaotic nieces and nephews (whether by blood or through a pseudo adoption of family friends).  I know the painful horror of stepping on a Lego brick in the dark.  I actually broke my little toe one time on one of my nephew's toy bikes.  I've had save files from video games become overwritten and even had artwork destroyed.

What's even more surprising is that even after all of the annoyances of kids I have to say that I love each of them to bits and pieces.  They are so much fun.  I'm not even a parent!  I'm just an uncle.  I am always amazed at their level of energy.  I would get tired from them just being a roommate, I couldn't imagine the exhaustion of being their parent.

I noticed that with a lot of my little roommates that they sometimes kept up their energy well into the night.  Some of them would even wake up as early as 4am!  Although, I know that part of this is due to child development I've also seen a connection with my personal problem with insomnia.

I've had trouble with sleep ever since I moved up to Utah close to 3 years ago.  My whole life was ahead of me and I was really excited.  I had done so much personal development that I had become a better student and a better man all around.  I made goals and had a fierce determination and optimism to get them done.  (Still do.)  Part of this fed into my insomnia.   I got so excited about life that I just couldn't calm down.

Another part of this was all the assignments I worked on the computer at night.  I wouldn't work on it very late.  I usually turned off my devices about 9pm.  I found out later that the color temperature of LED lights can actually fool your brain into thinking that it still daytime.  Thus, your body keeps releasing chemicals to keep you awake when it's time to go to bed.

Wait a second!  What is the newest form of babysitting out there?  Kindles, iPads, and video games are taking childhood everywhere by storm.  They keep kids occupied and can sometimes even be educational.  (I don't blame parents for using them either.  No tech bashing here--all things in moderation.)  No wonder kids, teenagers, and all of us have trouble sleeping.  Our brains don't understand that it's night time.

Sleep doctors will often talk about practicing good sleep hygiene.  They recommend having a nightly routine to help tell your body that it's time to sleep.  Some stuff is hard to follow though.  Many of them recommend using your bed only for sleep.  Being a single guy, I sometimes use my bed as a couch when I have friends over.  I like to use my bed for reading too.  Not practical.  Also, my computer and cell phone are many times essential for getting homework done at night.  So what are we to do?

Download a light filter for your digital devices.

Free apps like f.lux and Twilight provide normal light during the day and a warm tungsten light at night for your computer/smartphone/iPad so your body will naturally get tired.  Want to get those adorable and exhausting kids of yours to sleep?  Download the free app.  Try it out.  There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to normal sleep cycles and getting a healthy night of sleep.  In addition to these filters on my phone and laptop, I also take some sleeping meds as well.  (Okay, they're actually relaxation meds normally meant for people with aches and pains but it works like magic.)

A good night's sleep is super important.  In fact, it's really important to our Heavenly Father.
"Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." D&C 88:124
I for one really struggle with this.  I believe our Heavenly Father is understanding and I know that these blessings are available for anyone who observes God's word.  From time to time, it's totally okay to pull an all nighter to have fun or to get something done.  In fact, many artists and podcasters have had some of their best work done in a late night.  (Or hit inspiration at that point.)  It's even okay to sleep for 12 hours if it's something that you need but if you're having trouble getting to or staying asleep, I recommend one of these free apps to turn off the blue light.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Wave Subs: Back to the Past

My co-workers and I have a monthly lunch trip.  Normally, we go to a nearby Costa Vida.  This week, we decided to try out a newish food place in our area called New Wave Subs.
As we walked over, one of my co-workers was reading off some of the ingredients they put on their subs.  Jokingly I commented 'it sounds like they take meals and put them on bread!'  As we walked in, I almost immediately turned to the right, and saw a big screen TV with Super Mario Bros 3 on it.


Forgive me for my exuberance but that game was one of the big hits from my childhood.  On the wall, they had movie posters from the 80's.  They even had a Galaga arcade machine.  The employees T-shirts from movies too.  One sported a simple 'Star Wars' shirt.  Another had a picture of Darth Vader pointing at Princess Leia saying "Give me some SPACE".  The place was like a blast from the past!  All of the sandwiches had different names that were in reference to various 80's things.  Some examples were The Hulkster, He-man, Joe Montana, Mario Bros, Ferris Beuler's Day Off, The Goonies, etc.  They had a lot of sandwich variety too.  Some of the things they put on sandwiches included breaded mozarella sticks, macaroni and cheese, sliced steak, jalapeno poppers, pastrami, ham, chicken tenders, and bodacious sauce.  I have no idea what bodacious sauce even is.  The one I ended up purchasing had sliced steak, macaroni and cheese, and marinara sauce on it.  It was totally delicious, and very filling.

All in all, it was a great restaurant.  The one drawback to the place would probably be the price.  The sandwich prices ranged from $8 to the most expensive being $14.  The kids meals had prices in the $3 range.  Considering what they put on the sandwiches, I think it's pretty reasonable.

Go ahead and check out their website here: New Wave Subs or go visit them in Riverton, UT at 13322 S. 3600 W. #105.