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.

-JOE

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?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part 6

Today Mormon Geeks will take you far away across the galaxy (before abruptly returning) as we look at Guardians of the Galaxy and more Agents of SHIELD. This was an interesting part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking on a completely different tone, compared to the other movies so far. It also greatly expanded the universe that Marvel had set up. But we’ll get more into that later. First, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy
In 1988 shortly after his mother passes, Peter Quill is abducted by aliens. In the present day, Quill steals an artifact, known as the Orb, under the alias “Star Lord”. His old pal Yondu puts out a bounty for him, which Ronan (a Kree warlord) sends Gamora (Thanos’s adopted daughter) after the Orb. While trying to sell the Orb on Xandar, Star Lord, Groot (a humanoid tree), Rocket (a genetically engineered), and Gamora get in a big scuffle, which ends them all up in prison.

Using the help of Drax, the four escape the prison and go to Knowhere to sell the Orb. At Knowhere, the group learns that the Orb is one of six dangerous Infinity Stones, so they opt not to sell it, but to take it to Nova Corps. However, Drax has called Ronan in the meantime for revenge, which results in everyone getting attacked. To save Gamora, Quill lets himself get captured by Yondu’s men, but they convince him to help save Xandar from Ronan’s men.

So Yondu, the Nova Corps, and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” take on Ronan. Groot dies in the process, but the other four Guardians together manage to temporarily tame the Power Stone in the Orb. After defeating Ronan, the Nova Corps lets the Guardians of the Galaxy go with clean records, as Groot begins to grow again.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Members of the Kree race previously appeared in Agents of SHIELD episode “TAHITI”.
  • Thanos previously appeared during the credits scene of “The Avengers”.
  • The Collector also reappears after being entrusted with the Aether in the credits scene of “Thor: The Dark World”.
  • Other Inifinity Stones had previously appeared, including the Space Stone (Tesseract) in “The First Avenger”, “Thor”, and “The Avengers”; the Reality Stone (Aether) in “The Dark World”; and the Mind Stone (later revealed to be in Loki’s Staff) in “The Avengers”. Both the Tesseract and the Aether appear in the vision about the stones.

Thoughts:
This was a different story from the ones Marvel had told to this point. It was quite a bit lighter and while there was still plenty of action, it was probably the most humorous and light-hearted Marvel movie to that point. I don’t know if Ant-Man or Deadpool would have done as well if Guardians of the Galaxy hadn’t come first. As I mentioned in my intro, this movie also pushed things open a little more for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, we had seen Asgard in “Thor”, but most of the action took place on Earth. In contrast, only the first scene of this movie happened on Earth. Everything else spanned light-years and lots of space travel. Finally, I’ve also gotta add that this movie is the one that sold me on Chris Pratt as a celebrity man-crush. He’s light-hearted and super fit, with good values, and his character used dancing and friendship to save a planet. Pretty awesome.

Agent Morse and Agent Simmons escape
Hydra in "A Hen in the Wolf House".
Agents of SHIELD: Season 2 (Episodes 1-11)
1. Shadows: In 1945, Peggy Carter retrieves the Obelisk from Hydra, the original 0-8-4. In the present, Skye, May, Trip, and some hired mercenaries get ambushed trying to get Hydra intel. The ambusher is identified as Creel. Skye interrogates Ward. Creel attempts an attack on Talbot, but May intervenes. The team infiltrates an army base to get the Obelisk. Hartley dies after touching the Obelisk. Creel escapes with the Obelisk, while the team steals a Quinjet.
2. Heavy is the Head: May chases Creel, surveying him from afar. Hunter is caught by the army and offered a deal by Talbot, if he will turn in Coulsen. May witnesses the Obelisk kill another. Raina approaches Creel about the Obelisk, but contacts SHIELD when he turns her down. SHIELD tries to ambush Creel, but Hunter betrays them. Raina steals the Obelisk in the commotion and gives it to Skye’s father. Coulsen has an “episode”. Coulsen makes a counter-offer with Talbot, giving him Creel.
3. Making Friends and Influencing People: Hydra gets another former SHIELD agent. Coulsen checks in on Simmons. Donnie Gill hides from Hydra. SHIELD and Hydra track him to Morocco. Fitz attempts to kill Ward. At Bakshi’s request, Simmons attempts to trigger Donnie’s brainwashing, but he runs. Bakshi successfully triggers it to get Donnie to kill everyone on the boat, before Skye kills Donnie. Bakshi and Whitehall discuss brainwashing Simmons. Ward tells Skye that her father is alive.
4. Face My Enemy: A painting is found with Coulsen’s runes on it. May and Coulsen look for clues at a party, but are discovered by Talbot. However, the government buys the painting first. May discovers that it’s Bakshi and not Talbot. Agent 33 takes May’s appearance. After she gets to the Bus, Coulsen discovers she’s not May. Coulsen and May take down Agent 33 and Bakshi. Due to Agent 33, the Bus starts to shut down, but Fitz and Hunter manager to stop a self-destruct. Whitehall ambushes Raina.
5. A Hen in the Wolf House: Hydra attempts a massacre at a wedding. Skye’s father lashes out when she interrupts him. Raina blackmails Coulsen into a meeting with her. Hydra is tipped off about a spy, but Simmons manages to evade them. Bobbi Morse questions Simmons anyway. Raina threatens to turn Simmons in, unless Coulsen agrees to let Skye go with her to her father. With Raina’s evidence, Hydra goes after Simmons, but Bobbi helps Simmons escape to the SHIELD Quinjet. Coulsen sends Raina off with a tracker. Skye discovers that Coulsen’s runes are a map. Skye’s father teams up with Whitehall.
6. A Fractured House: Hydra masquerades as SHIELD agents to attack the UN. Bobbi and Hunter go after a Hydra scientist in Japan. Coulsen visits Senator Ward. Skye interrogates Ward about her father, before handing him over to his brother. Bobbi, Hunter, and May take down Hydra agents at a Belgian safe house. Talbot takes the Hydra agents into custody. Ward escapes his brother’s custody.
7. The Writing on the Wall: While May, Bobbi, Hunter, and Trip look for Ward, a string of murders involving Coulsen’s carvings pop up. Using the memory machine, Coulsen deduces that the killer must be a TAHITI subject as well. Hunter catches Ward meeting with Bakshi. The agents catch Bakshi. Coulsen discovers that the killer is a former SHIELD agent, Derik. Seeing Thompson’s body, Derik and Coulsen realize the carvings are the blueprints of a city. Coulsen starts the race against Hydra to this “city”.
8. The Things We Bury: In flashbacks, Whitehall is interrogated by Agent Carter and later pardoned by Secretary Pierce. In the present, Whitehall teams up with Skye’s father to find the city. The SHIELD agents discover Whitehall is Reinhardt from the past. Ward captures his brother and tortures him. Bobbi interrogates Bakshi. In tracking down the city, Trip and Coulsen are ambushed by Skye’s father. Later, Ward joins Whitehall.
9. …Ye Who Enter Here: May, Skye, Hunter, and Trip protect Raina from Hydra, while Bobbi, Coulsen, Mack, Simmons, and Fitz look for the city in Puerto Rico. Raina tells Skye more about the Obelisk. Fitz dwarfs shut down, heading into the city. Mack becomes infected by climbing in to the city. Ward takes Raina from SHIELD and insists on taking Skye too, who goes on her own.
Skye gets caught in the Terrigen
Mist in "What They Become". 
10. What They Become: May, Trip, Hunter, and the Koenigs escape Hydra and regroup in Puerto Rico. In Ward’s custody, Skye meets her father Cal, who tells her of her impending “transformation”. Coulsen, May, Hunter, and Bobbi attempt to save Skye. Coulsen kills Whitehall and is attacked by Cal. Skye convinces her father to stop and he calls her by her birth name Daisy. Ward leaves with Agent 33. Skye chases Raina into the tunnels. In the temple chamber, the Obelisk opens, killing Trip and transforming Skye and Raina.
11. Aftershocks: The team grieves over Trip’s death. Hydra’s heads agree to a competition to destroy SHIELD. A transformed Raina attacks Simmons’s team in the city. Hunter tricks Bakshi into taking him to their base. Simmons discovers that Raina’s DNA has changed. Bobbi and Hunter take down three Hydra heads. Fitz lies about Skye’s DNA being the same. Raina is rescued from some agents by a teleporting man with no eyes.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Peggy Carter and Captain America’s comrades from “The First Avenger” appear in “Shadows”.
  • John Garrett is revealed to be Creel’s supervising agent in “Shadows”.
  • The Chitauri, the Avengers, and the Battle of New York are mentioned in “A Fractured House”.
  • A Captain America propaganda poster appears multiple times in the SHIELD base.
  • Von Strucker, later seen in “Age of Ultron”, is referenced in “The Writing on the Wall” and “Aftershocks”.
  • Coulsen’s comment about “chasing windmills” in his madeness is a reference to Don Quixote.
  • In the flashback of “The Things We Bury”, Red Skull’s demise (which happened in “The First Avenger”) is mentioned to Whitehall.
  • Also in “The Things We Bury” flashback, it is mentioned that Whitehall was pardoned by Secretary Pierce, who was shown to be a Hydra agent in “The Winter Soldier”.
  • The Kree (previously seen in “TAHITI” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”) are referred to as “Blue Angels” in “The Things We Bury”.
  • While infiltrating the Australian base in “The Things We Bury”, Fitz’s codename is “Timelord”, likely a reference to Doctor Who.

Thoughts:
In some ways this part of the story dragged on a bit. At the same time, it flowed a lot better than season one. I got a little tired of Skye’s father at times and the constant running around about the runes/blueprint. However, the episodes culminating toward the end of this segment were great. Bringing in the Inhumans mixes things up for Agents of SHIELD. Instead of being just Hydra vs. SHIELD, we get more powered people. And at least up until the end of season 3, Inhumans are a core part of Agents of SHIELD mythology. In a way, this made Agents of SHIELD more legitimate as a series and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since it started to include some comic book characters, like Daisy Johnson (aka Skye, aka Quake).

That’s all for today. Next week I’ve got some prodigious coming. Also, keep an eye out for Doctor Strange, which is coming out sooner than it feels (at least to me). Expect a review after I see it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What we can learn from No Man's Sky

Every other gaming and geek website is talking about all the fumbles and missteps taken by No Man's Sky. If you're uninitiated, No Man's Sky is a game that promised the universe to players in the hype leading up to release and didn't deliver.

And somehow the world was surprised...

This isn't the first time consumers have been up disappointed in video game releases. Far from it in fact. It was just a few years ago that the makers of Aliens: Colonial Marines was sued for falsely advertising their game to the point where the trailer didn't even tangentially resemble the finished game. The last game in the Arkham series was met with hostility when the PC version had more glitches than features.

A lot of the conversations about these games focus on what the developers could've done differently, or how the public is responding to the latest developments with the latest gaming disaster, but little is ever said about how the consumer can avoid running into these games in the first place. Let's go through a few ideas so that your Christmas day doesn't turn into a gaming nightmare.

Learn Who to Trust
Most game companies have their occasional misses, but it's good to know who has the most reliable patterns. Nintendo is the king of what you see is what you get, as their releases are reliably ready to go out the door. An occasional patch is needed, but other than that the games are exactly what they advertise. Ubisoft and Bethesda usually come out with fun open world games, though they usually need a couple weeks to fix the massive glitches their games come with. Blizzard is usually reliable, since their only real miss was Diablo 3, but the game was fixed six months later to become one of many gamers favorite games.

Take the Hype With a Grain of Salt
Game trailers these days have the same development budgets as multi-million dollar movies. As impressive as they look, ask yourself how much of the trailer is gameplay and how much is pre-rendered cinematic. When the developers are doing interviews and press announcements, ask yourself what parts of the game they're not talking about, and then ask yourself why. If all of this seems up to par, remember also that the No Man's Sky crew seemed to do everything right but we still got what we got.

Patience is a Virtue
Developers have learned that they make the most money on the first few days a game comes out. Some retailers and developers will even offer deals or in-game content for buying a game day one. The problem is as soon as day two hits the reviews start, and the rest of the people have a chance to make an informed decision on weather they want the game. Wait at least a week after a game comes out, that way you can hear if the game is worth it or not, plus if the game has online components it always takes a week to hammer out the issues with the online issues.

What games have you been burned by?
-JOE



Friday, October 7, 2016

Disneyland Souvenirs

"It was my graduation gift to me. I'm so happy!"

In celebration of graduating from BYU, I spent a week in Southern California at the happiest place on Earth. As happens at Disneyland, I'm certain I spent too much money. That's why it's important to go in smart and be careful what you choose to buy for souvenirs, or else it adds up incredibly fast. So here are some tips about what to get for souvenirs and what not to get, to make the most of your money.


Good souvenirs:

Pins are relatively cheap souvenirs. However, they can get out of hand very quick. Each pin is about $10-$15. I tend to get a couple ranging in that price, but you can also get a smaller price for a random pin, which you can then trade in the parks. Any cast member with pins has to trade with you if you ask, so it's another way you can make the park fun.

Hats/ears: hats and ears are a toss up as whether they're a good or bad choice. I like to get a pair of ears to wear at the park, but they have to really speak to me. The downside of the ears, or character hats (Stitch, Pluto, Goofy), is that they're not exactly practice to wear in the outside world (people might look at you weird). If you're buying it simply to wear in the park, then that's one thing, so I guess it's all about intent. If you intend to wear them outside of Anaheim, be prepared for weird looks (like how people look at Joe). Alternative, there are baseball caps that would be appropriate both in and out of the park.


Pressed pennies: scattered through the the park are the pressed penny machines. Put in 51 cents and you can have a small little trinket from park. If that's something that interests you, come to the park with a bag of quarters and pennies. There's a cheap souvenir for you.

Autograph book: these are nice if you're into meeting characters like me. The characters are pretty good about giving guests attention regardless, but with an autograph book you're guaranteed at least long enough for the character to sign the book and to get a picture.


Photos: best souvenir is getting photographs. With smart phones we can get pictures almost anywhere in the park. Cast members will gladly take your picture with characters or at iconic spots. You can also buy picture from the photo pass if you want, so that's always an option too. For me getting these pictures helps me easily bring back memories later on.


Bad souvenirs:

Hats/ears: see above

Souvenir sippers: I've bought several souvenir sippers. They're alright, but I'd say they're not great. I got 2 during my previous trip to Disneyland, but never used them again. Just not practical. There are plenty of places to get them, but unless you're absolutely certain you'll use them again, just save the $3-$5 and get a regular drink without the sipper. You can just buy a water bottle in Downtown Disney.


Plush: I'm a big fan of Disney plush (my Stitch and Dug collections just keep growing), but be smart about it. I found a plush Pluto in Downtown Disney that looks very much like one I've seen at the Disney Store, but more expensive. So if you have a Disney Store near where you live, be aware of what they have and keep that in mind when you buy your plush souvenirs.


One final tip for Disneyland souvenirs: don't buy it the first day. Assuming you'll be at her park more than one day, leave the souvenir buy it for a bit. There were a few things the first day that I nearly bought, but I was later glad that I'd waited. So be careful. Disneyland is expensive enough. Don't get too carried away with stuff. At the same time, remember that all magic comes with a price. 

Why Batman is Not a Good Character

I'm going to get a bit of hate for this but hear me out.

I'm not saying that I hate Batman. He's not my favorite super hero, but I don't outright hate him. I love the Arkham game series and I grew up on Batman the Animated Series, but for the most part I follow those not for Batman but for everyone around Batman (though it is fun to beat up criminals).

Here's my issue:

We all know the Batman story: rich parents killed in front of him, training in martial arts, sciences and base jumping, discovering the cave under the house, build a giant costume, then fight criminals in a warped version of Chicago. My problem isn't with this part of the story. It's a good starting point for a character with plenty of aspects to explore, from right after his parents are killed (like in Gotham) to when he was training (like in Batman Begins), but my problem is that that's basically where the Batman story ends.

Sure other stuff happens to him, like when he picks up a hoard of impressionable teenagers to do his bidding, to meeting his villains, to stuff he does with the other super heroes, but this stuff rarely effects him as a character. One Robin retires and he picks up another. The next one dies and he gets another but puts pants on him. Batgirl is paralyzed and he makes her his tech support. At the end of the day, like most super heroes, by the end of the story Batman is back at status quo fighting crime with his entourage of Robins and villains.

When I pick up a Batman story, I know Batman is going to win using some sort of gadget or training and then disappear into the night. Sometimes the comic has him go through something emotional, like in Hush, but by the next comic he's fine again. This is not good character writing, which is a massive problem for the entire comic book industry. We don't get characters, we get action figures, and we get to see how they beat up other guys. Some heroes are more interesting than others, I certainly like Batman a lot more than I like Wolverine who is to super heroes as WWE fighters are to Joss Whedon characters, but that actually makes Batman more disappointing because he has so many places to go but he never gets to go there.

The best Batman stories for me are when they end him (SPOILERS), and that's not a sarcastic declaration. In Batman Beyond Bruce has been forced to retire due to his body breaking down after years of being Batman. He's retreated into Wayne Manor, sold his company, and is ready to just quietly die with the regrets of his past. Until the new Batman shows up he has pretty much lost his will to live. It's not a happy ending but it's a logical ending for such a dark and broken character.

The other Batman conclusion I like is from Dark Knight Rises (what is with that name?). In the end we see him with Selina Kyle in France after faking his death. They're just enjoying croissants and mimes and whatever else you do in France. I like to think that after that they never put on their masks again, and lived somewhere quiet happily ever after, both healing from the years of trauma they had. Or maybe they ended up starting a pyramid scheme after missing their wealth and became an amazing European Bonnie and Clyde, either way I doubt he was ever Batman again.

For me for a comic book character to be well written they either have to have enough character flaws to make them interesting to read or have a distinctive arc with a beginning middle and end, neither of which Batman has. He's just an unstoppable force that's been around for decades who only goes anywhere in branching fiction. And I know fully well that there's a list of characters a mile long that have the exact same problems, but none have as strong as a following as the Dark Knight, or one that more perfectly encapsulates the problems in comic book characters altogether.

What comic book character would you like to see a conclusive end to?

-JOE



Monday, October 3, 2016

Post-Conference

General Conference is a great spiritual boost every six months. Weather you attended at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, all dressed up and reverent, or listened while in your underwear on your couch trying to roll Oreos from your stomach into your mouth, you'll probably hear something that inspires you to grow as a person.

But what about the day after? 

It's easy to forget the spiritual feeding when you have to return to the real world. Work, school, getting ready for the holidays, whatever you've got going on is going to bring you off the mountain. By the time the next Sunday rolls around the week has destroyed the high and we're back to the same old habits.

About now is usually when I'd start listing a top ten list on how to keep the spirit of conference alive throughout the week, but honestly the only thing I can say is to go back and find that one thing that stuck out to you, that one message that you remember hit you like Mjolnir right in the chest. Whatever that thing is, focus on that. That is where your work is. That is what the Lord needs you to do.

What talk hit you in the chest?
-JOE

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Top Ten Best Written Disney Characters

Megara
Starting on the villains team, Megara is no damsel in distress. Her job is to lure Hercules into the clutches of the Lord of the Dead, but ends up falling in love with the hero. Most interesting of all is how she ended up working for Hades in the first place: she bargained her soul for her boyfriend to come back to life only for him to ditch her for another woman. This gives her depth not a lot of Disney characters have, since she's not after true love but is actively trying to avoid falling in love altogether. She just wants her soul back but falls in love anyway.

Jessica Rabbit
The wife of Roger Rabbit, Jessica is the epitome of the femme fatale. She's dangerous, mysterious, and up until the third act you never know who's side she's really on. In the end though, she's a devoted wife willing to go above and beyond to keep her beloved safe. Don't let her figure fool you, she's not bad, she's just drawn that way.

Quasimodo
The source material for the hunchback was extremely complex as are most characters written by Victor Hugo. Quasimodo makes it relatively unscathed into the movie as the film's outcast heart, showing both his incredible loneliness yet fear of the outside world masterfully throughout the film. While the Disney version gave the audience far more of a happy ending then the novel ever did, it didn't hold back from not giving Quasimodo a love interest in the end, instead making his reward the acceptance the people of Paris as well as the acceptance of himself. This was a perfect way to end a kids friendly Hunchback of Notre Dame film, so long as we ignore the sequel.

Mother Gothel
Villain complexity in Disney is rarely a thing, since the villain is mainly there to keep the story going, but we do get an extra layer of character from Gothel. Her motivation is to keep Rapunzel enslaved, and she does this not by bars or guards but by using mothers guilt. She is the shadowy side of the good mother seen in the few Disney films where the mother isn't dead, and this makes her a far more effective villain since no matter how good a person's mother is, we've all felt the mother's guilt trip at one point or another.

Lilo
By far the youngest entry on the list, Lilo is the kid we all wished we were. She's into weird stuff, from giving a fish a peanut butter sandwich to using voodoo on her friends when they mistreat her, and thus is probably the only person who could've seen the good in the alien monster Stitch. The interesting thing about her is her conflict between her own weird view of the world and wanting to be accepted by the world she doesn't fit into, which makes her to anyone who is into the weird but gets sick of being laughed out of the room or having nobody understanding them.

Aladdin
Before Aladdin we really didn't have a lot of complex male characters in Disney movies. Robin Hood was just a hero, and most of the princes had less lines than the supporting characters. We had the Beast, and he was pretty good, but Aladdin was better. He's a con artist. He cheats people into getting what he wants, not because he's evil but because that's what he does to survive. Lying isn't the only tool he has on his belt, but he thinks it is. He has to learn that there's more to himself than meets the eye, and that makes for the fantastic character arc we get in the film.

Hiro
Big Hero 6 is packed with fun characters, but Hiro is the most human, especially after Todashi's death. He's heartbroken, angry, and generally confused, as a child would be when dealing with death. He even nearly turns Baymax into a killer robot to go after the guy who was responsible for his brother's death. This film has a better grasp of the grieving process than the entire Batman cannon.

Belle
I mentioned earlier that Beast was a good character, but I think the better character here is Belle, the soft spoken outcast from the village. Some people may argue against this, citing Stockholm Syndrome as her main motivation for loving the Beast, to which I have to respectfully disagree. When given the chance to leave, Belle leaves. She only goes back when he's in physical trouble from her idiot stalker. Either way, Belle is smart, well-read, and doesn't compromise for no man. She's not even looking for a man, she just wants a life outside her podunk French village, which makes sense that the Mormon version of this movie had her living in Provo.

Ariel
Another misunderstood princess, I'd say that she's one of the stronger female princesses we've ever had, Anna included. Ariel knows exactly what she wants and will do whatever she can to get it. While she ends up doing it for a man, its established that she wanted to be a human long before she saw Eric, he just happens to be an extra prize. Ariel even manages to get so close to kissing Eric and thus completing the spell so she'll have legs that Ursula gets frustrated at one point and has to change her own plans. Ariel even has a couple kills under her mer-belt when she axes Ursula's sidekicks, making her not only one of the more complex princesses but one of the few with actual blood on her hands.

Kristoff
It's nice to see the love interests of princesses be something other than princes, and indeed seeing them even get the occasional line. Kristoff is interesting because he's the opposite of your average prince without being a villain or a criminal. He's just a guy, just a blue collar worker with a reindeer and a sled. He never tries to be something else to impress anyone or feel that bad about being who he is. While most of his traits are played for laughs, he's far more like someone you'd actually know then most love interests in any movie.

What characters do you find well written?
-JOE

Friday, September 23, 2016

Disneyland on the Cheap!

Hay all!
Disneyland is notorious for being the happiest place on earth and one of the most expensive. If you're on your way to the park but don't want to go through your entire bank account to do so, here are some tips to do Disneyland without doing in your wallet.

1. Tickets
Discount tickets aren't really a thing, unless you can get a military discount or have small children. However if you're plan beforehand you can plan ahead to make it easier on the bank account. Park Hopper tickets allow you to go from Disneyland to California Adventures as many times as you want in a day, which is great if you're only going to be in the park for a single day. If you're going over several days though, single park tickets can be cheaper. If you know you're going at least three times in a year, get the season pass. It'll pay for itself before you know it. Lastly, if you're looking at doing something more than just the Mouse's House, get the City Pass. It allows three days in Disneyland as well as a day in Universal and a day in Sea World.

2. Food
One of the best things about Disneyland is that they let you bring food into the park. Before you go in, supply up at the local Target or Walmart with trail mix and sandwich material. While waiting in line, munch on something healthy to keep your appetite in check. Some places in Disneyland have decent prices compared to outside the park, including a Subway in the French quarter. Plan at least one big meal in the park though, because the food is fantastic.

3. Souvenirs
You can't swing a Goofy doll in Disneyland without hitting a place to buy Disney related merchandise. Before you go into the park, have either a couple characters or items in mind and stick to that. Same tip goes for Comic Con. Right outside of Disneyland park is a mall full of Disney stuff at any price you need. These rules may be harder to apply to little kids who want everything in reach, but it can provide a perfect time to teach responsibility and how money works.

Got any other tips for doing Disney on the cheap?

-JOE

Monday, September 19, 2016

Digimon Adventure Tri: "Reunion"

Last week I went with my brother and a couple of his friends to a Fathom Events showing of Digimon Adventure Tri: Part 1, Reunion. I knew this 15th Anniversary event was happening (heck, I’d already watched part one and two on Hulu) but it was a different experience watching it dubbed. So today I’m going to review “Reunion”.

The Digimon and the Digi-Destined return!
Summary:
Digimon Adventure Tri happens 3 years after the battle between the Digi-Destined and MaloMyotismon. It’s been over a year since the Digi-Destined have seen their partners, because of the gate being closed. However, distortions have arisen that have let infected Digimon into the Real World, so the original eight Digimon partners make their way to the real world to help their human friends. The destruction and danger in the Real World makes it hard for Tai to be willing to fight, but with some “gentle persuasion” from Matt he gets into the battle to stop Alphamon from destroying a new Digi-Destined Meiko. In the final battle of “Reunion”, MetalGarurumon and WarGreymon DNA digivolve into Omnimon to fight off Alphamon, who escapes back into a portal.

Review:
Being a hardcore Digimon fan as a kid (and having rewatched each season in the last several months—I’m nearly done Season 5), this was a great addition to the show I watched a child. Original voice actors returned for many of the Digimon and Digi-Destined, including Tai, Agumon, Gabumon, Sora, Izzy, Tentomon, Mimi, Palmon, Gomamon, and Patamon. Granted, they could have recasted the voice actors just fine, like with Matt and Joe, but having the original voice actors made it even better.


One critique about “Reunion” is the slow start. My brother pointed this out, that while it was still worth seeing, it was slow. We got only a couple main battles. Everything else was standing around, slow, character-based action (or lack of action). Granted, my brother didn’t know at the time that it was part one of three; he was expecting one movie and that’s it. Seeing this movie as a third of the overall story makes it a little easier to handle. Still, it was slow. Even just the moments leading up to Tai coming back into the battle and getting Agumon to digivolve were painfully long.

On that note, I think many people at the theater went in with the wrong idea. When the show ended suddenly at the end of the battle with Alphamon, I saw several people (including my brother) who were confused. If you watch it later, keep in mind that it’s three parts. I’ve watched part two in Japanese (with English subtitles) and it’s similar as well. It’s not the typical Digimon action that we grew up with. It’s more character based and we’re looking at a lot of growth over the three 90-minute movies.


I was very glad that they didn’t retcon Digimon Season 2. Since Season 2 was less popular than the first season (and since the build-up showed no indication of including Davis, Yolei, Cody, or Ken) I was worried that they’d try to replace season 2 with this. However, as is evident with the small clips of Davis, Cody, Yolei, and Ken disappearing and also TK and Kari having their D-3s, this series does indeed happen after Season 2, after the defeat of MaloMyotismon.

Finally, one thing I found interesting with Tai in “Reunion” was his reaction to all of the destruction. His aversion to fighting and the media’s frustration with the good Digimon reminded me of “Captain America: Civil War” and the vigilante lawsuit in “Daredevil Season 2”. There’s destruction and danger as a result of the heroes saving as many people as they can. Fortunately, we didn’t see any human deaths as a result of the fights in Digimon Tri, but the possibility of human beings getting hurt in the fight was addressed and it was one of Tai’s primary concerns.


Matt and Tai may never stop fighting, but they're always
there for each other. #friendshipgoals
Overall, it’s worth watching. I don’t know exactly what plans there are to release the dubbed version (I only barely heard about the Fathom Events airing at Comic Con), but the Japanese versions of part 1 “Reunion” and part 2 “Determination” are currently available on Hulu with English subtitles (part 3 will be released later this month, so I expect it’ll be on Hulu shortly after).

Did I mention brand-new Digivolution sequences?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Life Lessons from Digimon

I debuted my sixth cosplay a week and a half ago at Comic Con. Though I was kind of struggling with the anime hair, I felt pretty good about my cosplay as Matt Ishida from Digimon. I can’t say it was one of my most popular cosplays, but it was great to hear compliments from those who understood.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a fan of Digimon since I was little and despite its popularity lacking in comparison to Pokemon, Digimon had some deep storylines and wonderful character development, even in its worse seasons. So for today I want to share some lessons that I’ve learned from watching Digimon.

Anyone can be brave: Each season tends to have at least one smaller child that joins the group. In Season 1 that’s TK and Kari. Season 3 has Susie, Henry’s younger sister. In Season 4, Tommy gets pegged as the cry baby. Each of these children bring themselves to fighting, despite their fears. Taking the example of TK, he was easily the youngest of the group for most of the season, until Kari joined them. Early on he was the cry baby of the group. In “DigiBaby Boom” while TK is separated from the other kids by Devimon, he bursts into tears because he’s scared. Later in “Forget About It”, while separated from his brother, he is emotionally volatile, because he feels abandoned. However, as the story progresses, TK becomes braver. His bravery leads him to crossing the bay on Zudomon on “City Under Siege” and being a powerful force in defeating Myotismon (“Wizardmon’s Gift”), VenomMyotismon (“Prophecy”/”The Battle for Earth”), Puppetmon (“Playing Games”), and Piedmon (“Piedmon’s Last Jest”). He shows that despite his fears (which persist even until the end) he is able to stand up and fight the dark Digimon.


Sometimes you have to make the tough call and do what’s right: In the show there are various characters who refuse to fight and defeat Digimon, because of how much they value life, but in the end they’re forced to do so in order to save innocent lives. In Season 1, Mimi refuses to fight (“Playing Games”), in Season 2 Cody and Yolei refuse to destroy dark Digimon (“Dark Sun, Dark Spore”), and in Season 3 Henry refuses at first to even let Terriermon battle (“It Came From the Other Side”). However, each of these characters recognizes that fighting is imperative in order to save lives. With the example of Henry, because of the darker nature of the season, Digimon do not get reborn, like in the previous seasons. As a result, Henry is reluctant to let Terriermon fight, both to keep his friend safe and to avoid the loss of the opponent’s life. However, when an innocent child is put in danger, Henry has to make the hard decision to let Terriermon digivolve to Gargomon and fight (“Much Ado About Musyamon”).


Anyone can change: Every season I’ve watched has some enemy turned ally: Gatomon in Season 1, Ken and Wormmon in Season 2, Impmon and Lopmon in Season 3, Koichi in Season 4, and Keenan and Falcomon in Season 5. Ken’s transformation from Digimon Emperor to Digi-Destined is one of the major plot points of the season. Not understanding that Digimon were living beings, as opposed to video game characters, Ken made horrible mistakes in the Digital World. Even until the final battle of the season (“The Last Temptation of the Digi-Destined”), Ken struggled to forgive himself and let go of the terrors he caused as the Digimon Emperor, despite his good heart and his strong compassion.


There’s goodness in everyone: Similar to the previous point, it was brought out that some dark characters had good hearts, despite their actions. In Season 4, Koichi appears first as Duskmon (“From Dawn to Duskmon”) before it is revealed that he’s human (“Stuck in Sakkakumon With You”). The Spirits of Darkness that had been given to him by Cherubimon corrupted him and let his resentments take him over. However, after being freed (“Ne’er the Twins Shall Meet”) he’s given the purified Spirits. Though still of darkness, his pure heart makes him even stronger as Lowemon.


We choose our own destiny: Just like the principle of agency in the Gospel, Season 3 of Digimon touches on the concept that the future isn’t set. After Jeri’s partner Leomon dies, she begins to believe that her fate is to be miserable. However, during the fight with the D-Reaper in the Real World, Jeri and the other Tamers become convinced that misery and destruction are not inevitable (“Jeri Fights Back”). It’s because of this internal strength that the Tamers are able to defeat the D-Reaper and save both worlds.


We’re stronger together: Just like Digimon often merge together to fight, like Omnimon in “Digimon: The Movie”, the DNA Digivolved Digimon in Season 2 (“United We Stand”/”Opposites Attract”/”Stone Soup”), the Bio-Merged Digimon in Season 3 (“Give a Little Bit”/”No Mon is an Island”/”Song of Sakuyamon”/”The D-Reaper’s Disguise”), and EmperorGreymon and MagnaGarurumon in Season 4 (“Takuya and Koji’s Evolution Revolution”), we are taught in the LDS Church that we are stronger together. In fact, that’s why we meet as Saints, to strengthen each other and to connect to a power greater than ourselves (D&C 6:32).


See life from another’s point of view: In Season 3 and Season 5, there are distinct storylines where Digimon invade Earth and do the wrong things for the right reasons. In Season 3, the Devas were trying to get back the power to save their world, which just happened to be inside Calumon. In Season 5, Merukimon sends Digimon to attack the Real World, because he felt like he was under attack, due to the Digital Gate being opened. However, it was a misunderstanding (for the most part) and it was only a small part of the human population (Kurata) who was a threat to the Digital World. Similarly, in our world, there are a lot of opposing voices, a lot of words on television and the internet, and many people yelling back and forth. Too often I get distracted by the things that don’t matter and I forget to try to understand people.


There are some other lessons from Digimon that I’ve thought of while rewatching it, but I’m going to save those ones for another post. If you grew up watching Digimon, let me know which character was your favorite and what you learned from them.

PS: The first part of Digimon Adventure Tri will be airing at select
theaters across the country this Thursday. Check Fathom Events for more
info. I'll do a review on it next week.