Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Doctor Who Review: "Twice Upon a Time"


Merry Christmas! Merry Doctor Who Christmas Special! I just barely finished watching the Christmas special, so I want to share my thoughts ASAP. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

So I think this is the first multi-Doctor story that doesn’t have a villain. I recently finished classic Doctor Who and they all have villains: “The Three Doctors” (Omega), “The Five Doctors” (Borusa), “The Two Doctors” (Dastari and the Sontarans), and “The Day of the Doctor” (Sontarans and Daleks). This was definitely a twist, pulling out a person-versus-self plot, when most of us expected a person-versus-foe plot. So as far as this story goes, I was kept guessing and on my toes, so I liked it.

I wasn’t a big fan of bringing Bill back. Turned out okay, but it started out as another death cop-out. Bill had a good, satisfying ending and I was worried they’d mess with her ending. Turning her into a memory of herself was a lot more satisfying than somehow resurrecting her.

That being said, I enjoyed the cameos by previous cast members. It was also satisfying to see the Doctor regain his memories of Clara. I knew of course that Bill was returning, but Clara and Nardole returning was a pleasant surprise. We even got an appearance by the good Dalek, Rusty, last seen over two years ago. I also very much enjoyed the stand-ins for Polly and Ben and the incorporation of the Classic Who footage. On the topic of recurring characters, David Bradley did a great job as the First Doctor. His mannerisms and the portrayal was spot on for how William Hartnell carried the character back in the 60s.

Now the topic of the new Doctor: I have my opinions on how I feel about making the Doctor a woman now. Short version is that as long as it’s done without an agenda (which Doctor Who is pretty good at) I’m fine with it. I’m not sure yet how I feel about her entrance. It was reminiscent of the Eleventh Doctor’s entrance (TARDIS blowing up and chaos ensuing). Coincidentally, that time was also a turnover in Doctor, companion, and showrunner. So I guess we’ll see what happens. On a side note, it’s funny how so many of us Whovians associate Steven Moffat with killing off characters, and yet again we see Moffat not kill off a single person, even during World War I.

What did you think of the Doctor Who Christmas special? Thoughts on our new Thirteenth Doctor? Enjoy New Years, guys! I’ll see you in two weeks.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Other" Geeky Christmas Specials

Christmas is less than a week away!!! I’ve got one post left after Christmas and then I’ll be gone until after my honeymoon. In honor of Christmas, I wanted to share a few Christmas special episodes you may not have thought of or that you may have forgotten. Sure, everyone thinks to watch “The Santa Clause” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” but for how many decades have sitcoms and cartoons been doing Christmas episodes? Just something to give some variety to your holidays.

Can't have a Christmas special without a monster attack
Digimon: A Very Digi Christmas
In the second season of Digimon, we had a couple short story arcs ending off season two. The second generation of Digi-Destined brought the original Digi-Destined’s partners to the Real World to spend the holidays together. It set things up for the three part “world tour” arc and it meant that everyone was in the Real World for a few of the last battles. While it fits nicely into the storyline of the season (which is saying) it was also just nice to have a Christmas-themed episode.

What's Christmas without a simple
miscommunication getting out of control?
Pokémon: Holiday Hi-Jynx
So back when Pokémon was new, Ash and his friends found a Jynx stranded on the beach. They deduce that she belongs to Santa Claus, so they end up making the trip to the North Pole to return her. We also got some tragic backstory from Team Rocket’s Jessie, where she thought Santa’s Jynx stole her toy (really to fix it). So after Santa and Ash beat Team Rocket and resolve Jessie’s backstory, Santa goes off to deliver the presents with his flying Ponyta (back before Stantler and Deerling/Sawsbuck existed). It was a fun episode that had no relevance in the series after this. But then again that’s Pokémon; 90% of it is standalone stories. Still, a fun Christmas episode. Worth a watch.

And the party started out so well.....
Arrow: Dark Waters
So Arrow has been doing Christmas episodes since its inception five years ago. So the list of Christmas episodes actually also includes “Year’s End’ (S1), “Three Ghosts” (S2), “The Climb” (S3), and “What We Leave Behind” (S5). Season four’s “Dark Waters” felt like it had a great holiday tie-in, it kept the season’s story arc moving, and it was sufficiently emotional.  I’ll leave it like that, to avoid spoilers, but I enjoyed it.

Is it bad that I liked him better here than in Star Wars?
The Flash: Running to Stand Still
Like its predecessor Arrow, we’ve had a Christmas episode of the Flash each year since it started. “The Man in the Yellow Suit” (S1) and “The Present” (S3) were great, but I want to focus on Season two’s “Running to Stand Still”. Guest appearance of Mark Hamill as the villain and there was a great Christmas-themed plot to foil. If for no other reason, watch this episode because of how freaky Mr. Skywalker is in the episode. But like Arrow, I’m not going to give spoilers. Just go watch it.

The power of music and friendship!
Community: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas
So if you enjoy comedy and anything enjoyable, make sure you’ve watched Community. If you haven’t, go on Hulu and start episode one now. They do a wonderful job on this show of parodying other franchises and having plenty of pop culture references. So of course their Christmas episode had to parody “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and other Claymation Christmas classics. Musical numbers, Christmas-themed epiphany, and whatever wacky adventures they wanted to do. And it was all in Abed’s head (spoiler alert). Seriously, if you haven’t watched this show, do it now.


So obviously I haven’t hit all the Christmas specials, but in addition to these I’ve previously reviewed Doctor Who Christmas Specials and a variety of Disney specials. What Disney specials did I miss, particularly the geeky ones? Next year I’d kind of like to do a post on the Friends Christmas episodes. What do you think?

Don't forget there's a new Doctor Who next week, featuring the First Doctor and a likely regeneration.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars: A Retospective


There probably isn’t a point to lobbying yet another Star Wars: The Last Jedi review into the internet. If you haven’t seen it yet then you’re either planning on seeing it or don’t care about the franchise, so my opinon is probably moot on the film itself, so I’d like to go ahead and talk about the series as a whole, where it is, and what needs to happen next.

Spoilers: People fight
Where We’ve Been
Once upon a time the Star Wars franchise consisted of three films and a handful of novels considered by fans to be cannon. Back then fans begged for more cannon, anything (As long as nobody mentioned Life Day) that would add to the story in the galaxy far far away. So then they got it, a prequel taking place a couple dozen years before New Hope. To say that the Phantom Menace was hyped is an understatement. You couldn’t swing a dead Gungan without hitting something related to Phantom when it was first released. The film had mixed reception, kids loved it since there was lots of stuff blowing up and even some cool monsters, but longtime fans wanted it burned at the stake.
Fans got what they asked for but not what they wanted.

The Curse of Choice
HK-47, please come into the mainstream...
 Now we’re up to 9 official films, hundreds of novels and comic books, a couple dozen video games and at least three TV shows, most of which was erased from the main story with the exception of the films by decree of Daddy Disney, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Essentially there is something for everyone in Star Wars if you’re willing to look hard enough, and you can pick and choose which stories you subscribe to. This is the same problem DC and Marvel have dealt with for years. With so much content and more being added on a regular basis, it’s almost impossible to catch up let alone keep up. Now we have a 2+ hour movie sitting in the theaters adding even more to the already formidable pile, and while the movie was overall good, it didn’t really progress the story.

The Real Issue
The best part of any story is the conclusion. What would A Christmas Carol be if afterwards we kept seeing movies of Scrooge failing at being nice or honoring holidays and meet one ghost after another like a Victorian Scooby Doo? What would happen if Frodo came back to Middle Earth because Sauron’s son was now in Mordor trying to take over the world? Three words: Land Before Time. When a story is told it’s because someone had a story to tell. When a story is expanded because someone is dangling the carrot of more money over the writer, the story will suffer because there is no need for a satisfying conclusion. Star Wars had a satisfying conclusion once, it was at the end of Return of the Jedi. The Empire was defeated, Vader was saved and dead, all our mains ended dancing with teddy bears, alls well that ends well. It’s the adding of prequels midquels and the next generation that’s clogging this francise with bloated excess to the point where we’re no longer telling any kind of story.
The Disney Purge
Disney made probably the best choice if not the most controversial but declaring anything outside the films to be officially non cannon, essentially reducing the decades of novels, video games ect to extremely high budgeted fan fiction. This has helped with reducing the tangled octopus pod of stories to one quasi cohesive narrative but it has created its own set of problems. Remember a couple weeks ago when EA destroyed Star Wars Battlefront 2? Well it turns out that the story mode in that game is cannon, so if in the future someone from that game shows up in a movie with no introduction or back story then the audience is going to be completely lost. I understand that some characters from one of the animated series made a guest appearance in Rogue 1, but having never watched any of the animated Star Wars for any significant amount of time I can tell you that they had absolutely no impact on me as a viewer.

Happily Ever After?
I'd party with bears. 
I know you don’t want to hear this, but in the end I think what Star Wars, and a lot of franchises for that matter, need a solid conclusion. Not a reboot, not more prequels, an ending. I like how in Batman Vs. Superman that they put Batman’s origin story in the opening credits, basically saying “Yeah we know how this goes. Dirty alley, rich parents, pearls hit the ground” and then we roll into the story for better or worse. Compare this to Gotham, which has endeavored to stretch Batman’s origin story so far beyond from where it was that it barely resembles Batman. Plus considering how all his villains keep popping up years before he puts on the cowl, it’s a wonder why Batman didn’t just routinely head to the retirement home every evening instead of Arkham Asylum.

To put this massive rant into a more bite size portion: Star Wars: The Last Jedi was fine but where is this all going? 

-JOE

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part 8

Agents of SHIELD started up again recently! And with Runaways going right now too, there are so many Marvel things to keep up with. Unfortunately, this week isn’t about Runaways. But it is about SHIELD. I’ve got two small chunks of SHIELD as well as two feature movies. So here we go.

Becoming the Cavalry
Agents of SHIELD: Season 2 (Episodes 17-19)
  • 17. Melinda: We start seven years ago (2008). May and Coulson are in Bahrain taking care of an enhanced individual. As things turn out, the enhanced individual is an inhuman child with mind control powers. In present-day Afterlife, Jiaying teaches Skye to use her powers and reveals she’s Skye’s mother. Skye has dinner with her parents. Lincoln suspects Raina is clairvoyant.
  • 18. The Frenemy of My Enemy: Bobby and Mack discuss Fury’s Toolbox and Coulson. Simmons reaches out to May. Coulson, Hunter, and Mike team up with Ward, in exchange for helping him take down von Strucker. Cal and Skye visit Milwaukee, where Skye contacts May for backup. Skye and Cal get ambushed by Hydra agents. Needing support, Coulson surrenders to Bobbi and Mack.
  • 19. The Dirty Half Dozen: Jiaying talks to Raina about her dreams. Cal confronts Jiaying. Coulson teams up with Gonzales. Coulson’s old team works together (including Skye and Ward) to infiltrate the Hydra base and rescue Lincoln and Mike. Simmons accidentally kills Bakshi. The team escapes without Ward. Raina has a vision of Loki’s scepter. Coulson talks to Hill about another Hydra base.

Coulson's team reunites for one last mission
Random Trivia/Connections:
  • ·         Wolfgang von Strucker (who appeared in “The Winter Soldier” credit scene and who later appeared in “Age of Ultron”) appears in a photograph in “The Frenemy of my Enemy”.
  • ·         The twins mentioned in “The Dirty Half Dozen” were last seen in the credits scene of “The Winter Soldier” and they become an important part of “Age of Ultron”.
  • ·         The events of “The Dirty Half Dozen” foreshadow and directly precede the events of “Age of Ultron”.

Thoughts:
Nice little prelude to “Age of Ultron”. It led up well with the infiltration of Hydra. We also got some resolution on why May is called the Cavalry, which has been teased since the beginning of the series.

The Avengers take down a Hydra base.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Avengers take down a Hydra facility, capturing Loki’s scepter and encountering Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Analyzing the scepter, Tony puts it to use towards Ultron (an AI system to replace the Avengers). During their celebration, Ultron takes life and attacks. Ultron uses the scepter and allies himself with the Maximoff twins to fight the Avengers.

Obtaining vibranium, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Ultron fight the Avengers, driving them crazy with visions. The Avengers take refuse at the Barton farm. Thor looks for answers to his visions. Fury inspires the Avengers. Ultron works to make a real body, but loses the allegiance of the twins to the Avengers in the process.

With JARVIS in Ultron’s synthetic body, Thor energizes him and he becomes the Vision. The Avengers team up with the Vision, the twins, War Machine, the Falcon, and SHIELD assets to save Sokovia and stopping Ultron from killing humanity. The Vision ultimately defeats Ultron.
After creating a new base, the Avengers part ways for a time. Elsewhere, somewhere in outer space, Thanos obtains the Infinity Gauntlet.

The Vision faces off against Ultron
Random Connections/Trivia:
  • ·         Loki’s scepter, which contained the Infinity Stone which ultimately resides in Vision’s forehead, was given to Loki by Thanos in “The Avengers”.
  • ·         War Machine (from the Iron Man films) and the Falcon (from “The Winter Soldier”) appear alongside the Avengers.
  • ·         The Tesseract/Space Stone (from “The First Avenger” and “The Avengers”), the Aether/Reality Stone (from “The Dark World”), and the Orb/Power Stone (from “Guardians of the Galaxy”) appear in Thor’s vision.
  • ·         Leviathans from the Battle of New York in “The Avengers” appear in Tony’s vision.

Thoughts:
I remember seeing this movie when it came out while I was in Spain on my study abroad. It holds a very awesome and special place in my heart because it’s from when I really started getting into Marvel movies. There was a lot going on and it may have been a mistake to do this as one movie instead of two. I read once that Thor’s visions were very much cut down but hinted toward “Thor: Raganrok”. Now that I’ve seen “Ragnarok” twice I’m interested to watch “Age of Ultron” again. I know people who didn’t care for this movie, but all I remember was geeking out in Madrid over this movie.

Raina works with Gordon
Agents of SHIELD: Season 2 (Episodes 20-22)
  • 20. Scars: A year ago, Sam and Coulson discuss the Helicarrier for the Theta Protocol. In the present, Weaver, Gonzales, Bobbi, and Coulson discuss recent events in Sokovia. Coulson and Gonzales join forces. Raina and Gordon sneak into SHIELD and find the Monolith. Skye and Lincoln return to Afterlife before SHIELD arrives. Agent 33 and Ward kidnap Bobbi. Jiaying kills Gonzales and shoots herself to frame him.
  • 21. S.O.S. Part 1: Jiaying declares war on SHIELD. Skye goes to Raina for answers. May and Hunter go after Bobbi. Skye sees Jiaying kill Raina. Coulson questions Cal. Simmons and Coulson aggravate Cal. Gordon and the Inhumans attack SHIELD’s ship.
  • 22. S.O.S. Part 2: Skye and Mack attempt to liberate the SHIELD ship. Hunter and May rescue Bobbi, killing Agent 33 in the process. Fitz, Coulson, May, and Cal go after the SHIELD ship. Skye confronts her mom. Lincoln and May stop Alisha. Fitz traps Gordon. Jiaying tries to steal Skye’s lifeforce but Skye distracts her by getting rid of the Terrigen Crystals and Cal kills Jiayjing. In the aftermath of the fight, Skye (now going by Daisy) visits her mind-wiped father. In the ocean, the Terrigen Crystals dissolve. Simmons is swallowed by the monolith.

Coulson loses his hand.
Random Connections/Trivia:
  • ·         The events of “Age of Ultron”, specifically Agent Hill arriving with the Helicarriers in Sokovia, is directly referenced in “Scars”.
  • ·         Cal’s memory being altered is due to Project TAHITI.

Thoughts:
It was a satisfying end to the second season of SHIELD. The three-part finale put an end to the Afterlife arc and kind of set us up for some new stuff the next season. I loved the tie-in to “Age of Ultron”. I love it when Marvel uses SHIELD to answer small, unanswered aspects of the movies. Stuff that’s not big enough to warrant movie time, but easy enough to explain in an episode of TV. It was admittedly a bit slow of a season, but I binged this season on a grave shift, making it really easy for me (although it also made it hard to process).

Ant-Man faces off against the Falcon.
Ant-Man
Flashback in 1989, Hank Pym confronts Carson about stealing his technology. In the present day, Scott Lang gets released from prison but can’t get a stable job. Hank visits PymTech and Cross shows him the Yellowjacket. At his friend Luis’s advice, Scott breaks into the Pym home and steals the Ant-Man suit. Freaked out by the suit, Scott returns it but gets caught in the process.

Hank helps Scott escape jail and he and his daughter Hope train Scott to be Ant-Man. In training to break into PymTech, Scott fights the Falcon to get some tech. Hank tells Hope the truth about her mother. As Cross gets closer to perfecting the Yellowjacket, Hank, Scott, and Hope recruit Luis and his friends to help.

Scott gets caught in the break-in to PymTech. Hope and Hank escape. To win his fight with Cross, Scott ends up in the Quantum Realm, but manages to escape. Scott reconciles with his family. As everything resolves, Scott finds out from Luis that the Falcon is looking for him. Later on, Hank gives the prototype Wasp suit to Hope. At a later time, the Falcon and Captain America question Bucky Barnes.

Wonderful father-daughter moments in Ant-Man
Random Connections/Trivia:
  • ·         The events of “Age of Ultron” in Sokovia are referenced by Hank Pym when he refers to the Avengers dropping cities out of the sky.
  • ·         The post-credit scene with Captain America is a scene that takes place in “Captain America: Civil War”.
  • ·         A “Pingo Doce Soda” poster appears. Bruce Banner worked at their manufacturing plant in “The Incredible Hulk”.
  • ·         In Luis’s final conversation of the movie, he references a hero who swings from buildings, alluding to Spider-Man, who would later appear in “Civil War”.

Thoughts:
I loved the balance of humor and action in this movie. Kind of a nice in-between of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and  “Captain America: The First Avenger”. It’s also great because it could exist as a standalone movie. You don’t have to watch the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to enjoy it. Though the references to SHIELD, the Avengers, and other Marvel groups makes it that much better if you do watch it. Only thing that I’d really want to change is Evangeline Lilly’s wig.

What were your thoughts on “Age of Ultron”, the last third of “Agents of SHIELD” Season 2, and “Ant-Man”? Anythin 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pokémon Theories (2)

Last month, we got a brand new Pokémon game (and the last for the 3DS). So in honor of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, I’ve got some more Pokémon theories for you today.

In Generation V, a legendary pseudo-synthetic Pokémon named Genesect was introduced. It’s said that its original DNA was from an ancient Pokémon. Now go look at Genesect alongside Kabutops from Generation I. They’re both the same general shape and Kabutops is an ancient/extinct Pokémon. Simple evidence and I’m going to believe it until someone proves it wrong. (Source: Creeps Plays)

Next theory is about Haunter and Voltorb. The theory goes that Voltorb (and I guess Electrode as an extension) I just a Pokéball possessed by a Haunter. The eyes are almost the same between Voltorb and Haunter, so it would kind of make sense. Screen Rant further theorizes that Haunter just got stuck in the Pokéball, making it a weird genderless Pokémon/Pokéball hybrid. I don’t buy into this theory personally, but it’s still fun. (Source: Screen Rant)

Clefable and Gengar seem to genuine be opposites of each other. So some people believe Gengar is Clefable’s shadow. If you look at a silhouette of Clefable, it makes sense. They look very similar. More evidence includes Gengar’s classification as the “shadow” Pokémon. One more thing that “Creeps Plays” points out is that until Pokémon X/Y, when Fairy type was added, Clefable and Gengar were opposite types, unable to hit each other. (Source: Creeps Plays)

I’m not too familiar with Generation V (I’ve played through White and I’m working on Black2), but there is a character on White/Black named N. The theory goes that he is a Zoroark in disguise. Zoroark can mimic Pokémon (and I presume people as well?) so it’s reasonable to think he could take human form in N. We also know that N can communicate with Pokémon, which would make sense if he’s really a Pokémon. Finally, there’s a point in Black2/White2 (which I haven’t reached yet) where you see a flashback of N, but instead of N appearing, you see a mysterious Zoroark. I can give more input on this when I reach that part of Black2, but that’s all for now. (Source: Screen Rant)
  
Next is that the Kalos Elite Four is evil (or at least supportive) of Team Flare. Never mind the fact that one member of the Elite Four in Kalos is part of Team Flare. Also look at the fact that Diantha (the Champion) is chummy with Lysandre. After just re-playing Pokémon Y, I’m not sure I buy into this theory, because Diantha seems surprised about how fiendish and evil Lysandre is. I also noticed in my recent playthrough that people are still scared and worried about Team Flare, despite not helping to stop them. (Source: Pokémon Insider)

Another theory by Pokémon Insider is about Drasna and Cynthia. Drasna, member of the Elite Four in Kalos (Gen VI), mentions that her family comes from another region, where she was brought up on stories of time (Dialga) and space (Palkia). This hints that she could very likely be related to Cynthia, who is from Celestic Town in the Sinnoh Region (where “the past lives on”). Depending on how you look at the timeline of the Pokémon games, Drasna could even be the unnamed younger sister of Cynthia from Diamond and Pearl. Cynthia’s family is known for dragon-type training, so it would make sense that they’d both be dragon-type trainers. (Source: Pokémon Insider)

So I thought I’d run out of Pokémon theories, but I guess I still have more in my arsenal. Still need to track down sources for them, so I’ll let this post as is and come back with another Pokémon theory post another time. One of the ones I have yet to address is why Ash is ageless (and no, it’s not a coma) and the identity of Valerie, the Fairy-Type Gym Leader in Pokémon X/Y.


Any fun theories you subscribe to? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Top 10 Worst Christmas Songs

Yeah, I'm a Scrooge.

So sue me.

You'll probably win.

Anyway, here's ten short rants on Christmas songs you probably love for some reason.

10: Christmas Shoes
In and of itself this song isn't THAT awful. The message is alright if a bit corney. A child tries to buy a new pair of shoes for his dying mother at Christmas because he wants her to look beautiful when she meets Jesus. Why is it on this list then? Two words: Hallmark movie. They actually tried to milk this for a full length film, and when I hear this song I think of that train wreck of modern cinema. Shame.

9: Feliz Navidad
This song is hated less for it's connection to Christmas but more to its structure in general. It's the same couple lines repeated ad nausea. The gimmick is that some of the lyrics say Merry Christmas in Spanish. I don't get why there's this fascination with how Christmas is celebrated in other countries, but surely we could get a Spanish lesson and some sort of a narrative at the same time.


8: Anything by the Beach Boys
Again, another general issue I have with music in general, or at least with this band: The Beach Boys. Every year these idiots crawl back onto every radio station like a zombie from its grave, and every year I switch the station. It's just song after song about being with a girl on a beach, only this time it's Christmas-over and over again. They're not even that different. I'd welcome Billy the Christmas shark who brings presents to beach bums, but we don't even get that.

7: I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
This is a note to all parents of small children: You may think it's cute to hear your kid sing, but WE DON'T. Keep them off your voicemails, your Facebook pages, and please don't get them on my radio. This song has all the talent of a poorly rehearsed Primary program.

6: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Lyrically this song's alright. It basically sounds like several Christmas cards strung together. The issue is that the tune is something akin to a funeral dirge. It's a slow ploddy song that doesn't match the lyrics at all. It's as if they're singing it sarcastically, like a teenager in the local nativity. I don't care who sings it, it's a bore to listen to.

5: Chipmunk's Christmas
First question: Why do the Chipmonks have a Christmas song? Second question, why do the Chipmonks still exist? Turning the speed on the track up to give the singers squeaky voices is cute once or twice but these things have been around for a good 50+ years and the charm has warn off long ago. Its not even a song I could get behind if we did euthanize the little rodents, because they'd probably re cut it with children, and see #7 for my opinion on that.

4: Hard Candy Christmas
This one doesn't get played that often but when it does it's still baffling to understand why. Despite the title, Hard Candy Christmas is not about Christmas. The song, originally sung by Dolly Parton, is about getting through hard times. The reference to Christmas is incidental at best. Give it a listen sometime and explain to me how it's a Christmas song.

3: White Christmas
Here's an interesting one: Make Bing Crosby sing this song and it's another Christmas dirge. Make the Beach Boys sing this song and it's a tonal nightmare, but that's not why it's here. First the concept of a white Christmas is stupid at best. I get the wanting to feel nostalgic, but hoping that a major snow storm hits at or around a major travel holiday is borderline sadistic. On top of that, fun fact, the film this song is supposed to have sprung from isn't even the original film this song is from. It's from a delightful, arguably better if racially insensitive, film called Holiday Inn. Give credit where credit is due.

2: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
THERE IS NOTHING RESEMBLING ROCK ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SONG. This song sounds like someone's aunt was convinced to do karaoke. It's a boring song missing the beat, instruments and heart that any sort of rock would have. This song is a lie.

1: We Need a Little Christmas
This song is abysmal. It's about dragging out all the Christms stuff to make it feel like Christmas as soon as possible because we need it to feel like Christmas right now. Some selfish brat wants to bust open everything and destroy the house because she needs to be cheered up? Calm down, watch Frozen, and leave the Christmas stuff in storage where it belongs.

What Christmas songs can you not stand?

-JOE



Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Seventh Doctor

All done Classic Doctor Who! This is a project I started over two years ago on grave shifts, back when Classic Doctor Who was on Hulu. So for two and a half years I’ve used a combination of Hulu, Netflix DVDs, and Britbox to watch all available Doctor Who. So minus the missing and incomplete stories from the First Doctor and Second Doctor eras, I’ve watched all the Doctor Who stories. So without further ado, here’s the Seventh Doctor.



The new Seventh Doctor with the diguised Rani
Season 24
Top Story: Time and the Rani
This story gave a soft reset to the Sixth Doctor era. It also gave the Rani a second run. Wonderful use of her character. I liked it a lot more than her previous story in the Sixth Doctor era. Better use of her character. Better use of the Doctor. Just a good starting point. On a side note, I would love to see the Rani back, with or without a regeneration sequence. Since Gallifrey is back, it’d be so easy to give an already-regenerated Rani.
Flop Story: Delta and the Bannerman
So overall, just…. What was going on? The action of the episode seemed to be an action movie/mystery feel, but then the music reminded me of a comedy. To top it off, I don’t even really remember what was going on. The Doctor and Mel found a vacation spot, which turned into a mystery (not surprising) but it was just weird. Just weird.
The "Dragonfire" TARDIS team
Honorable Mention: Dragonfire
The episode itself was a little odd, but there were several reasons I enjoyed it. Firstly, with Mel leaving, we had a smooth transition to Ace. I wish we had more of that in Doctor Who. I’d imagine more feeling of continuity in the show, if we didn’t just abruptly leave the Doctor without any companion all the time. So just for the double companion nature of the story, I liked it. In addition, we had the return of Glitz. Also take note that the “cliffhanger” of the Doctor hanging from his umbrella reappeared in “The Name of the Doctor” with the Clara Oswald splinter seeing the Doctor.

Do you think we also punish people for being sad?
Season 25
Top Story: The Happiness Patrol
A bit of a convoluted story, but I really liked it for the message. Similarly to “Smile” in the Twelfth Doctor era, this story had the premise of any emotion besides joy being bad. I liked the emphasis of happiness being just one part of the spectrum of human emotions. As demonstrated by even the big bad of the story, grief and sadness have their place in life. It’s normal and healthy to mourn and be sad at times.
Flop Story: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
I really liked the premise of the story, but the execution was off. That was kind of how I felt about several stories at this point in Doctor Who. If one of the four episodes had been chopped off and the pace of the episode increased, this story would have probably worked. But as it was, it had some slow, dull moments that turned me off.
Epic Ace. Who else could kill a Dalek with a bat?
Honorable Mention: Remembrance of the Daleks
Honorable mention because of how much it hearkened back to the first story of Doctor Who. I wanted to make note of the return to Coal Hill and the return of Susan’s book about the French Revolution. We even got some answer about why the Doctor was in 1963 when the series began. We also had the return of the Daleks and the return of Davros (last time until the Tenth Doctor era). We also had the Doctor pretending to apply to be the school’s caretaker (like he eventually does in the Twelfth Doctor era). Also, just how awesome is Ace, taking out a Dalek with an amped up baseball bat.

The Doctor and the Master face off.
Season 26
Top Story: Survival
So despite Season 26 being dull, I enjoyed Survival. It was the last appearance of the Master, as played by Ainley. It also gave some backstory to Ace. I know Season 26 tried to give some history to Ace, but I found it hard to follow. This story, however, was a perfect example of why the three-episode stories worked well. This story was well paced, but any longer would have been exhausting.
Flop Story: Ghost Light
And to contrast “Survival”, this story was another four-part story that was too long. It was slow and convoluted and I felt like there was too much going on. There was a ghost story, references to Darwinism as an underlying theme, aliens, and then a weird personification of light and control. Other than some backstory on Ace, I didn’t really see what the point of this story was.
For possibly the last time, the Doctor reunites with the Brig.
Honorable Mention: Battlefield
This story had all the stuff I like of Doctor Who: an alien mystery, a tie-in of literature, and a popular recurring character. We had the reference to Arthurian legend, as visitors from a parallel world, and then we had the return of the Brigadier. Oh and we also had a future incarnation of the Doctor revealed to be Merlin. It reminds me of River Song’s line: “I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.” Now imagine if we saw a modern Doctor being Merlin in the story that would have chronologically happened before this for Camelot. (There’s another idea for a post: good wizards the Doctor could be and which Doctor would be which)

COMPANIONS:
Mel        (6th Doctor) - Dragonfire
Ace        Dragonfire - UNKNOWN

Ace: Obsessed with explosives
Favorite Companion: Ace was a wonderfully complex character. Her backstory and character arc were a bit too convoluted and not well developed. That being said, I didn’t need to see her backstory to enjoy her character. She was a confident, kick-butt companion, who didn’t need to hide behind the Doctor. It kind of reminds me of how Ian Chesterton and Harry Sullivan were used to be the action heroes for the First and Fourth Doctors, but in this case we didn’t need a male action hero because the female companion already kicked butt.

Holy 80s! Look at those shoulder pads!
Least Favorite Companion: So if you remember from my Sixth Doctor post, I like Mel. And I really liked her in “Time and the Rani” but she didn’t hold a candle to Ace. She also didn’t seem to mesh as well with the Seventh Doctor as she did with the Sixth Doctor (never thought I’d say that about anyone). So she wasn’t a bad companion, just the screamer companion I guess.


So what do you think of the Seventh Doctor? What other “good wizards” do you think the Doctor has been? You can expect one Doctor Who post each month now. Next month will be about the Christmas special with the First and Twelfth Doctors and then in the new year I’ll address the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors. 

Because the series was cancelled abruptly, we never see what happened to Ace. When meeting Sylvester McCoy at SLC Comic Con, he said he hoped Ace had gotten into politics. Alternatively, in the Sarah Jane Adventures, it's noted that a "Dorothy" (Ace's legal first name) who knew the Doctor, was raising millions for her charity organization.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Cost of Gaming

EA's latest scandal, in which EA made a video game with so many micro transactions some reports say that a person would need to spend around $2100 in order to play the whole game, has got me thinking: Do I need to keep buying video games? Any AAA game I buy anymore inundates me with invitations to spend money on in-game currency, DLC and general upgrades in order to get the "Full experience". Even Pokemon has its own version by releasing the next game before I finished the last one.

Even if I do choose to ignore it some of these games insidiously sneak in little incentives to get you to put more money in their creators pockets. Injustice 2, one of my favorite games this year, wants me to spend $30 to unlock the coloring slider for one character. A COLOR!

Frankly, i'm sick of it. I don't have the most extensive game library, in fact I usually only get 1 maybe 2 new major games a year, but I feel that's about the same as the average consumer. Buying a video game for me is the result of months of anticipation, watching trailers, saving money, then reading reviews from both consumers and video game critics before deciding if the game is worth my time and money, and after all that to then be asked to kick them another $20 for some extra piece is insulting.

This whole incident has lead me to the thought: If all AAA gaming can do is offer to sell me a bulk of a game and say that I can have the rest at a later date if I pay for it, and it looks like the trend is going to only get worse, do I need to keep buying video games?

My parents were taking turns beating Mario before I was born, so I have literally played video games my entire life. Video games are as much a part of my identity as my faith, or my dark hair, so to question weather they need to still be part of my life is not a question I take lightly. I certainly won't be wanting for hobbies, what with my drawing, cross stitch, writing, board/card games, Lego collection, action figure collection, reading and film, but it would leave a hole where my PS4 controller used to fill nonetheless.

Of course, my entire argument loses validity when just yesterday I spent $12 on the Witcher 3 DLC because it was on sale. Maybe if this is the trend of the future, I should just find games that I can deal with paying a little extra for DLC and accept it. Maybe eventually they'll find an easier way to pay for the microtransactions and DLC, like sending someone over to beat me up, take my lunch money and give me a wedgie.

-JOE


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Power of Friendship

Have you ever had a cartoon or anime hit you right in the feels? That's one reason why I loved Digimon as a kid, and why I've started rewatching it almost 20 years later

One episode that really connected with me and my own personal life experiences as I've rewatched the series is in Season 1, Part 2, Episode 30 -- the episode entitled "The Crest of Friendship"

One of my favorite characters from the show, Matt, is walking along in a dark cave accompanied by his trusty sidekick and Digimon partner Gabumon.

Matt began to feel depressed as he reflected on the relationship he had with his little brother. He began to feel useless, and had his self-declared life purpose of taking care of his little brother TK challenged by recent events. TK is growing up and Matt doesn't know how to handle it.

A darkness consumes him, but his friend Gabumon stays with him and reminds him who he is, and what he means to not only Gabumon, but the rest of the Digi-Destined.


With the help of his friend, the darkness leaves him and a dark cloud begins swirling above him. He didn't realize until after the fact just how much the darkness was consuming him.

Because of friendship, the power of darkness is shattered. 


Matt is a new man from this experience, and it is really cool to see how he uses the power of friendship in the fight against Piedmon.

Turning to the personal side of things, I see myself in Matt in this episode. I've often struggled with feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression. In fact, I still fight the battle against mental illness. 

Various times throughout the past two to three years I've been consumed by darkness and have been in some pretty low places emotionally and mentally. But what has made the difference is the friends that have walked in that cave with me. They reassured me of my value and self-worth. They have demonstrated in word and deed what it means to "mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."

I've had some really dark days, but because of friendship, the power of darkness in my life has been shattered. Many friends, scattered across the years, have acted as the hands of Christ to minister to me in my own Gethsemanes














And I am comforted to know through modern revelation the following eternal truth -- that friendship is not meant just for this earthly existence, but for eternity:


“That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory” 
(D&C 130:2)