Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Review

Another season of Star Wars Rebels wrapped up tonight with Zero Hour where the rebel alliance literally got it’s ass kicked by the Empire. I really enjoyed this episode and most of season 3 of Star Wars Rebels. There were some filler episodes I didn’t (Iron Squadron…)

Sorta Spoilers from this point on, I’ll kind of be conversing with this blog post. For reviews for each episode individually, please watch the reviews on Star Wars Explained. I really like this channel and find it very informative for both new and old fans of Star Wars.

Characters

So this season was advertised as Ezra being tempted by the dark side, Kanan discovering new powers in the force despite being blind, Maul being a big threat, Sabine having her own character arc, Kallus taking Ahsoka’s position as Fulcrum, and so much more.

The season brought more of Star Wars Legends back into canon with the characters Thrawn and Wedge. Thrawn poses as a major threat by allowing minor victories with the rebel alliance to happen in order to better study them and defeat them. I can’t speak too much about my opinion of Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels because I didn’t know of the character or his book series because the old expanded universe was too large for me to handle.

The season kicked ass in so many ways; the first thing fans noticed was that characters besides Sabine got new models to be used with Ezra and Kanan getting the most dramatic changes and Hera and Zeb getting the least changes in design. Ezra’s physical puberty finally caught up with his voice! It was nice to see all the characters given a redesign sooner in the series since the events of the season 2 finale left it’s marking on the main cast both physically and mentally.

Ezra’s journey this season starts off with him being seduced by the darkside; Ezra had been studying from the Sith holocron and through it gained some impressive battle tactics through it. At the start of the season Ezra has confidence and arrogance that concerns his friends since he willingly kills Stormtroopers in very dark ways and was reckless on missions leading him to almost getting killed. As soon as Maul came into the picture, he more or less snapped away from the dark side and the rest of the season is Ezra just being himself.

Kanan has issues at the start of the season due to losing his eyesight and feels incompetent as a person, Jedi, teacher, and soldier. It is after meeting and learning some wisdom from a force sensitive known as the Bendu does Kanan return to his normal self.

Hera is a slightly more stressed out version of herself, Zeb is more relaxed and brudes less, and Chopper continues to stir shit up in a comical way for fun. Sabine got her own character arc and I am very happy for that. Sabine’s past of working with the empire is slowly brought up again until she gets her hands on the dark saber from Maul. I liked her journey this season and how we learn of her backstory and the pain she had to live with knowing that she could never return home without the traitor brand being lifted from her.

I liked seeing Sabine wield a lightsaber, I actually had her wield one in Disney Infinity a few times so there was definitely something cool about having her actually use one in canon. My only complaint is that Sabine’s character arc was about three episodes in total this season, but with news that there will be a season 4 of Rebels and the Mandalore plotline still open I’m very confident that her story will continue on.

Maul’s arc this season actually got on my nerves a bit; I felt he just popped up to annoy Ezra and Kanan because they were the only force users left for him to annoy since all the other jedi that he knew of were dead and because he knew Palpatine would destroy him with ease. This led up to Maul meeting Obiwan one last time and the two having a duel with obvious results. All I can say is, that’s what he gets for killing Satine.

I was very excited to see the Bendu in the show since he is voiced by Tom Baker and I am a very big fan of Doctor Who. I was satisfied with the character of the Bendu because he was a neutral in terms of the light and darkside of the force choosing to be like nature. Instead of taking a particular side the Bendu chose to let let things fall as they may and help Kanan and Ezra (and maybe even Sabine) in their emotional journeys providing wisdom. In the series finale he is pissed at both the rebels and the empire for messing around with his sleeping patterns. After Kanan pisses him off further, the Bendu takes his anger out on both sides with Thrawn barely being able to guess a weakspot to defeat the being…or not.

Finally as mentioned above Kallus took on the position of being Fulcrum; at the start of the season he is pretty incognito about being a double agent with even the rebels not knowing who he was. It was interesting to see how he would continue to throw off suspicion that he was the spy for the rebels and staying clear of Thrawn’s suspicion of who he was. He gets discovered in the end, complete with a physical beating and being held hostage (oh how I wish he had been shirtless with his unkempt hair in that scene…), and at the end of the season he finally joins up with the Rebel alliance.

Favorite Episodes

My three favorite episodes would be Double Agent Droid, Secret Cargo, and Trials of the Darksaber. Double Agent Droid brought focus towards Chopper, AP-5, and Wedge. I thought it was a nice episode at how it was finally acknowledged that Chopper frequently went into Empire territory with nothing more but a paintjob and no one ever noticing it. Then in this episode, IT BACKFIRED! It also showed that AP-5 is significantly more observant and a more valued part of the rebellion than most of the rebels are giving him credit for. Also, WE GET AP-5 SINGING! I swear I fell off my chair laughing at the tragilarious sight. We also get to see what happens when someone truly pisses off Hera, and how she probably has the highest headcount of the Ghost crew. Also there’s space toilets!

Secret Cargo and Trials of the Darksaber were two emotionally driven episodes on two opposite spectrums. Trials of the Darksaber showed Kanan and Ezra training Sabine to use a lightsaber since she would have people coming after her because of her possession of the darksaber. The acting from Tiya Sicar and Freddie Prince Jr. really got to me leading me to relate more to the character of Sabine.

Secret Cargo was an interesting episode to watch, particularly considering the current time political situation we live in and how Mon Mothma was able to unite all the rebel cells into the rebel alliance.

The Season as a Whole

I will admit I wasn’t feeling it this seasons as much as I was last season, I think it’s because the mystery of the fate of Ahsoka Tano interested me significantly, I do have my favorite moments and episodes though. There are some concerns that next season will be the last for Star Wars Rebels and I wouldn’t be shocked if that were true. I was hoping the series would end with the Rogue One storyline, except through the perspective of the Ghost crew.

I liked the development of the characters, the voice acting, the fact that not all fallen allies are forgotten too. I look forward to the next season of Star Wars Rebels, hopefully I’ll be in graduate school then.

I give Star Wars Rebels season 3, three and a half space toilets out of five.

 

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, or rather twenty-five(ish) years old. In continuation with live action adaptions to their classic movies Disney adapted their animated classic Beauty and the Beast to live action film staring Emma Watson as Belle, because let’s be honest we all secretly wanted it that way and didn’t know it, I didn’t even know I wanted it that way.

Unless you’re just barely born, or just escaped North Korea or some other communist regime there aren’t really any spoilers beyond these bold texts. Okay fine there are SOME spoilers.

For the past few weeks I had been teasing my dad that if I ever had kids I would make him watch this new Beauty and the Beast with them countless times since I made him sit through the animated Beauty and the Beast countless times growing up. Yes I apologized to him for doing that and thanked him for being such a patient parent with me growing up.

This morning my dad got back at me by sarcastically saying “how different could the story be this time?” And he was right. This new live action Beauty and the Beast is nearly an exact live action remake of the animated film. There are some differences though.

In the beginning of the film rather than having stained glass windows and narration tell the prologue, we see the Enchantress do the deed of placing the spell on Prince Adam (Dan Stevens) with narration and the same score from the animated film. From there with some tweaking it is more or less the same movie.

Plot holes were addressed (such as the timing and pacing of events seen in the animated film) and corrected in this version. Characters are fleshed out, Belle is not a victim of Stockholm Syndrome (Emma Watson made damn sure of it).

I like that Belle was upgraded from just being a bookworm who longed for more. I know Belle was unintentionally the entry drug for little girls in the nineties to get into feminism. But to me growing up her ‘longing for more’ didn’t exactly scream ‘strong independent woman’ since she was living off her dad still. Now Belle is a book worm, one of the few literate people in the village, and a bit of a engineer since her dad makes music boxes. During the movie though part of me was searching more for Hermione in Watson’s performance as Belle. I then sighed and told myself that Emma Watson is not Hermione and that Hermione is not Belle.

Speaking of Belle’s dad, he too is upgraded from strange elderly person who is an adult child to balance the MAN the Beast is in Belle’s life. He has been downgraded from wacky inventor to heavily respected music box maker. His decisions in his and Belle’s life stem from the fate of Belle’s mother (I honestly don’t know why so many parents were killed in Disney movies up until recently).

The Beast is more or less the same, except he too is literate, so in this version when he gave Belle a library it really did mean something. It’s because of their love of books, his distaste for Romeo and Juliet, and bonding with Belle over stories that they do fall in love.

Our awesome household appliances also get screen-time, but not much of an increased role. The stakes are raised that if the spell cannot be broken they will literally turn into plain objects. What was interesting was that this time around there were family and loved ones of the castle staff who were unaware of what became of them due to the Enchantress’ spell.

Gaston (Luke Evans)  and LeFou (Josh Gad) also have extended roles. Gaston has a backstory of being a war hero and LeFou is confirmed to being in love with Gaston. Other than that they’re just the same, I won’t spoil what becomes of LeFou’s ‘gay old time’. Yes there was the gay controversy concerning LeFou, but let’s be honest you all don’t want to read ANOTHER blog post about that. And if you do, go google it somewhere else then.

Finally, there’s the Enchantress herself. She is actually present in the now unlike the animated film where she’s just illustrated on a window (we don’t speak of Enchanted Christmas here). Part of me was hoping it would be Helena Bonham Carter from the 2015 Cinderella film continuing her work as a fairy who gives a test of character to the people she’s watching and connect the two movies, but Hattie Morahan does a lovely performance as the Enchantress though, even if she doesn’t say a damn thing.

Artistically the film is beautiful, and the costumes are amazing to look at. Of course the music is a wonderful experience too, yes some of the original score from the animated film was kept in and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Beauty and the Beast was a huge part of my childhood, it made me interested in becoming an artist (how many three year olds do you know have the ability to stick to a dream to their early twenties and sort of accomplish it?) Seeing it on the big screen adapted to live action was great and I intend to watch it again and maybe buy the Beast at build a bear workshop, unless a wonderful (mentally healthy, book obsessed) man on the internet wants to propose to me with said Beast doll.

I give Beauty and the Beast 2017 three and a half places of The Grey Stuff out of five. (it’s caviar?????)

Toonami Twenty Years

Like some kids who grew up in the 1990’s I watched Toonami. It wasn’t my introduction to anime (that was Sailor Moon), but it had a major influence on my life. It exposed me to anime and the unique form of story telling that it brings.

As I’ve mentioned before I learned to draw and became an armature artist because of anime, so I have Toonami to thank for gaining these skills and abilities. Anime was unique to me; before anime the only cartoons I had were either comedy based which wasn’t artistically appealing at times to me (hey look at that, I was a kid who couldn’t draw for shit critiquing the artistic abilities of others!) or they were Disney. Alot of the times unless the animation was a movie, there was no closure to a story. In the 90’s you were lucky if you got a season 2 to your animated show. Anime and Toonami changed that for me, the first anime that I saw in completion within twenty six episodes was Outlaw Star.

It was intense to me because characters fought pretty violent fights and when someone died, they died for good. There was alot of attention to detail in the animation too. I stayed a loyal fan to Toonami because I slowly began to like anime more and more and all of the variety provided to me through Toonami exposed me to genres like Mecha, Magical Girl, Harem, etc. I also indirectly discovered my favorite anime and manga CardCaptor Sakura through Toonami.

When Toonami was cancelled I was a little shocked, but not terribly surprised since all they showed Naruto (I don’t care for Naruto). I was a little annoyed that I missed the final airing, but i accepted that it was time to move on with life since I was going to start college at the end of the month anyways.

THen on April 1st 2012, Toonami came back bitches. I remember the night that I just had the tv on in the background as I listened to what was happening. At the time and even now alot of my tv watching is me listening to what’s happening while reading an article or chatting with a friend unless I particularly like something. Then I heard Steve Blum’s voice. And that Voice saying “bitches”. It was kind of like hearing one of your parents swear for the first time. I stayed up the whole night watching anime and loving it.

You’re all probably thinking that this strange adult in his late twenties now spends his saturday nights watching Toonami. Sadly no because I now have a social life, okay not as much of a social life as I once had in the past few years, but I don’t watch Toonami anymore. But I’m happy it’s on.

These days I’m probably asleep Saturday night because old people just fall asleep the second they’re in a comfortable position in bed. And sleep is awesome, I try to get as much as I can (this might explain how I can function without coffee at my age). I’m happy Toonami is twenty years old and I hope it stays on for a few more years.

Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild Review

Last Friday after realizing what day it was and doing some quick calculations I got myself The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U (I traded in a few games. Kind of on a budget.) I had been happily waiting for this game since it was announced in 2014 and after one week of exploring Hyrule, going through dungeons, and creating a drinking game out of dying (essentially it was a shot each time a died, two shots if it was a boss fight, down a cup if I was doing something really stupid), I have finished the game. Also BEHOLD THE FIRST (and probably only) GAME REVIEW ON THIS BLOG!

Spoilers from this point on

It was a fun game and very unique in comparison to other Zelda games starting with the fact that there is voice acting and you can’t change Link’s name. Another major change is that the game functions mostly as an open world environment meaning little to no loading screens unless you’re doing a special challenge or decided to warp to a different area in the game.

Gameplay

I was a little disappointed to see that Nintendo wouldn’t continue using motion controls with Breath of Wild after having so much fun with them in Skyward Sword. Using the Wii U gamepad wasn’t a bad experience, however as soon as muscle memory kicked in things went along more smoothly. There was still parts of the game that involved using the gamepad as a motion control that didn’t quite go as smoothly and almost resulted in me throwing the darn thing out of a window.

Having this game be an openworld game was an interesting experience since I never had played one before and didn’t fully get the concept. There were a few times I was lost in the game and had to backtrack some steps and take things more slowly rather than running around gliding from place to place for the sake of doing things the fast way.

The dungeons in this game are Divine Beasts you have to purify from Calamity Ganon’s control. My only complaint is that at times going through the dungeons themselves seemed too short with boss fights essentially being “stab it until it dies” rather than using strategy the whole time to fight the boss. Fighting bosses at times could be breezy so long as you timed dodging an attack perfect to unleash fury on the boss, or just came fully prepared. The lack of finding hearts and rupees in grass was a very welcomed change in Breath of Wild bringing in a new challenge of how to prepare for boss fights by cooking specific food dishes out of the ingredients you find around Hyrule and creating very useful potions out of the remains of monsters you kill in battle.

The game also takes a step away from other Zelda games by not having specific items and weapons needed for dungeons. Weapons could also be broken with the sole exception of The Master Sword, and even then it would need recharging at times. This got annoying at times since very useful weapons got destroyed out of sheer anger with minor enemies.

One item of importance is the Sheikah slate; it’s Link’s smartphone. It can be used to download maps from various areas, take photos, become a makeshift pokedex for enemies, wild animals, and other things, set reminders on quests, and everything but make a phonecall.

Another nice twist is that the start of the game involves you avoiding most of the monsters in the game similar to one would do in the first Legend of Zelda game (well that’s how I played it anyways). You couldn’t just barge into a room killing all the enemies without some serious consequences of either nearly being dead, losing a valuable weapon, or just plain dying.

I also liked the inclusion of the environment affecting Link in the game; you had to change Link into different clothes to suit the condition he was in. Hot volcano area? Special Goron armor. Wanna swim faster? Zora armor. Wanna sneak around? Use the Sheikah clothing (which was THE BOMB to use when exploring while wanting to avoid enemies).

Finally a love and hate thing I had with the game was the fact that the game didn’t hold your hand while you were playing it. Unlike in Orcarina of Time and Skyward Sword, Breath of Wild gives you little to no hint of what to do outside of “go to these places” which was kind of bad for me since I would rush to marked areas, die, and start over. It was when I slowed down and took the rout to areas marked on the map that the game became easier to play.

The Story

I’m still having trouble trying to figure out where Breath of Wild takes places in the timeline of The Legend of Zelda. The only clue given is that there is still reference to the goddess Hylia still being worshipped, but in the stages of being overlooked by the citizens of Hyrule. There is no ill will to the Gerudo tribe and the royal family, oddly both the Zora and Rito tribes coexist, the Kokiri have become the Koroks, there is still a Sheikah population beyond Impa, and the royal family is all but dead.

The game starts with Link awakening from a hundred year slumber to Zelda calling out to him. From that point on Link is placed on his quest by the spirit of the King of Hyrule (who now slightly resembles the late Robin Williams) to save the land. Link is giving the Sheikah slate instructing him to go to Impa to figure out how to save Hyrule.

The story concentrates mainly on Link and Zelda’s relationships with the citizens of Hyrule in the past and their fallen comrades at the hands of Calamity Ganon. In this version of Hyrule things are not going good at all with the castle destroyed and Zelda being the sole survivor of the royal family.

The background of the story is that Hyrule has gone to shit with Calamity Ganon corrupting ancient technology the Hyrulians and other species were using to banish him once and for all leading to not only Link being mortally wounded, but all of Link and Zelda’s allies being killed. As mentioned in gameplay Link is required to purify the Divine Beasts and free the spirits of his fallen friends in order to bring peace back to Hyrule.

A major theme in the story is doubt and having the ability to overcome doubt and what others think is destined for you. During game flashbacks Zelda heavily questions if she, Link, and their allies can defeat Calamity Ganon constantly thinking Link isn’t skilled enough to win against Calamity Ganon and hating herself for not having the power of the goddess Hylia despite Hylia’s divinity flowing through her blood. Another key point is that Zelda is more interested in doing research and studying the past rather than her role as princess and relying on prayer and meditation to use her powers.

There is a better explanation on some background events seen in Orcarina of Time and other games when it looked like there was friction between the Sheikah and the royal family by introducing the Yiga who are Sheikah who broke away from the clan and seek to kill Link.

There is no mention of the Triforce, it is there, but I’d rather not say what happens for the sake of a lovely twist in the Legend of Zelda series.

Artwork

Breath of Wild is beautiful; the game continues using the same cellshaded artstyle seen in both Wind Waker and Skyward Sword leaning more towards the later. The game also seems to lean more towards Wind Waker HD with a beautiful combination of cellshading and HD. I will admit I was hoping the game would be like a watercolor painting the same way Skyward Sword tended to be at times, but I got over this desire pretty fast.

I played the Wii U version so I think I got the less fancy one. If I ever get a Switch I’ll do a comparison of both games to see which system brought out the full beauty of the game.

The music also compliments the artstyle of the game very much with music increasing in tension at times of danger and turning light and soft in times of normality in the game.

Final Thoughts

Waiting two and a half years for the game was worth it, trading in Pokken, Professor Layton, and Animal Crossing was worth it, literally spending all of last Friday playing the game and making some friends think I’d been kidnapped may have been going a little overboard.

But the game brings out the best of the Wii U and possibly the best of the Switch (I’ll probably have to buy one if Nintendo kills off the 3ds). There is so much to do in the game both in the main story and side quests and even just screwing around and exploring Hyrule is worth playing the games at times considering how huge it is now.

I give The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U and the new Nintendo Switch five out of five Sheikah Slates.

Before I Fall Review

My friend invited me to see the underperforming film Before I Fall because no movie is going to be a box office success when the competition is Logan staring Hugh Jackman. I had not seen any trailers to this movie, my friend invited me yesterday and I figured sure why not. Based on the novel of the same name by Lauren  Oliver, sadly I did not read the book first. Perhaps I will, but right now I’m on a book ban until I can make a decent dent in my To Read pile.

The movie felt like a more watchable and likable version of the Bratz movie that came out about a decade ago. It has four best friends that are more or less diverse who have thing for fashion, boys, and loving the shit out of each other.

Spoilers from this point on

The story and film follow the protagonist Samantha Kingston as she is trapped in a groundhog day situation of living her last day on earth before dying in a car accident. The film starts out with Sam and her friends essentially being rich entitled bitches who more or less rule their highschool treating their peers like shit.

Despite her best efforts the night ends with either Sam and her friends dying horribly in a car accident or their peer Juliet Sykes committing suicide. Through this groundhog day situation Sam begins to question her life, her friends, and how she treats people. Three of the constantly repeated days are of significant difference. The day where Sam lets loose on everyone in her life, the day where Sam spends the day with her family, and the day where Sam loves everyone and dies (I personally think she’s now in a coma and will wake up in five years as a paraplegic).

I feel like there were other days in Sam’s groundhog day life that were skipped over from the book. I was disappointed that the day Sam ‘let loose’ on everyone when she realized she could do whatever she wanted with no consequences and decided to be a bitch to everyone she knows. Maybe it’s because a few weeks ago The Mindy Project had a groundhog day episode (that was awesome), but I would think she would have done something more fun. Like spraypainting the school, or driving to Target and maxing out her mom’s credit car to throw Nerds at all of her peers, or donating all of her money to a charity for elderly cats and dogs. Instead we get Sam dressed in just black, being sexy and bad, and saying shit to everyone except a lesbian classmate.

The movie was kind of weird sometimes; like how is everyone at this highschool loaded? How can two different single moms be able to afford keep such badass houses? How in the age of tumblr, suicide hotlines, and Deviant Art has Juliet not gotten any support to continue on in life or any of the school faculty and staff not bothered to step in to tell Sam and her posse to quit their shit? Why is that school cafeteria so amazing? Are taxes a little higher so that kids in highschool, can eat at such a cool cafeteria?

I did like the visuals and the setting of the movie (I’m a sucker for beautiful rainy places). The movie was very good, I think it’s a big shame it was over shadowed by Logan and I know the movie will do alot better in terms of bluray and dvd sales compared to it’s box office success.

I give Before I Fall three and a half roses out of five.

 

“Christian” Movies

It seems that around the time of Lent a whole lot of what I like to call ‘holy crap’ comes along. I’m not sure if it’s strategically done because of the Catholic tradition of forty days of fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter. I haven’t seen too many of these movies so if you good reader are someone who would like to correct me on anything that I may have gotten wrong, please do correct me. Don’t worry I’ll be posting a few reviews as soon as I am done with The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild (the first video game to be reviewed here!)

I Don’t Watch “Christian” Movies

I normally don’t see these movies because it’s a personal belief of mine that most of these movies are made for the sake of making money off Christians, this belief was more or less solidified after discovering I Am Not Ashamed was made by the same people from both God’s Not Dead movies (granted I Am Not Ashamed was actually a decent movie while both God’s Not Dead movies made me wonder if God nearly croaked from how awful they were).

One of the other reasons I don’t watch these movies is because literally the whole plot from begging to end is given away with the trailer. A good example would be Miracles From Heaven where the smart thing to do would be to play up the daughter’s incurable disease and focus on the family’s faith within the trailer instead of adding the fact the daughter comes out perfectly fine from a crazy accident (bonus points for using Fight Song in the trailer since the song is a guilty pleasure for me).

Message Verses Story

A common issue among these movies is the concentration on the message of the film over the plot.  The message in alot of these films is to have faith, trust, and belief in God. The story usually suffers for the sake of the message. I’ll get to God’s Not Dead in a little bit, but that film is a good example of the message over taking the story.

One example is Christian Mingle (yes the dating site Christian Mingle inspired a movie), where the message is “Jesus is the only love you need in your life,” and it’s more or less banged into your head. The movie is sort of watchable since it’s a romantic comedy…just without swearing or hot men shirtless, but plenty of awkward situations for the heroin.

God’s Not Dead (I’m surprised He isn’t after these atrocities) 

god damnit I hate these movies. Granted I’ve only seen the first one (unwillingly) and turned down the opportunity to see Melissa Joan Hart in a movie (I guess she’s repenting for playing a teenage witch despite not being a teenager). I hate this movie; it’s not just because the main plot is essentially a chain letter passed around youth groups in the late nineties and through most of the new millennium (I got said chain letter when I was nineteen), it’s not because I thought it was a documentary style movie concerning the Christian pop band The Newsboys (which ironically consists of none of the original members along with one of the founders stating current members aren’t thinking about Jesus), it’s not just because they painted members of the Muslim faith to be horrible people (that does have a good deal to do with it though). It’s because the film is an awful mess where all the subplots are more interesting than the actual plot.

There are six(ish) subplots to the film that include the following;

  • Muslim girl who wants to convert to Christianity but isn’t sure how to do it with her devout Muslim family (this subplot could have also been handled better without the physical abuse).
  • Chinese student being told by the main protagonist of the movie about Jesus since religion and communism don’t mix too well.
  • Two devout Christians having trouble with their car rental business (all their cars keep breaking down.) I feel this would have worked better as it’s own comedy movie.
  • The relationship between big evil antagonist atheist college professor and his Christian girlfriend.
  • The relationship between the protagonist and his full of shit girlfriend.
  • snarky liberal blogger discovering she has cancer and converts to Christianity (I think the only accurate part of this movie is the fact that most liberal bloggers are snarky).

I feel removing the main plot of the protagonist constantly debating the antagonist on the existence in God and upgrading any of these plots would have made the movie atleast watchable. But no, we get the typical argument between Christian who is good and pure at everything and an asshole who happens to be an atheist. I do give the movie credit that both the Chinese student and blogger are pretty decent people despite not believing in God and the protagonist’s girlfriend is a total twat despite claiming to be ‘the best Christian ever’.

As I said before I did not see God’s Not Dead 2, from what I understand Melissa Joan Hart’s character is in deep shit for mentioning her christian faith in a highschool classroom for literally just one sentence. This sounds outrageous, but considering stuff happening right now (as of 2017) it’s more believable than a professor demanding students become an atheist or he will fail them.

There’s a thing called the dean of students kids. You go to them with your complaints and concerns because YOU (and the US tax payers) PAY for your education. There’s also a thing called Rate my Professor that could easily affect the future of any asshole professor. Also unless the school is an ivy league school, no one gives a shit about what’s going on outside of rape and sexual assault (which is actually an improvement).

Secular Movies that do a Better Job 

Here are some movies that more or less do a better job at the very least being an entertaining movie and keeping those Christian messages and values.

Saved!(2004), it has Mandy Moore being a total bitch and I love this movie. Alot of people see it as a teen comedy giving the middle finger to religious christian teens, however after looking up the directors and writers and listening to the commentary everyone involved worked at a christian highschool and wanted to make a teen movie showing that despite these kids being Jesus Freaks they were still normal teenagers. I see it more of a movie to reflect to yourself and see what kind of person you are.

Cinderella (2015), I actually like this movie alot; despite being a cute rated G version of Everafter there are themes of faith, compassion, and forgiveness. Our protagonist is obviously pure of heart showing goodness and love to all her friends and her cute animal helpers. She does her best not to let her jerkass stepmother get to her and despite all the attempts of said stepmother to corrupt Cinderella to become evil, Cinderella chooses to forgive her and move onto her happily ever after using her compassion and goodness to rule the kingdom.

Dogma (1999); FUCK YEAH DOGMA! Okay this movie doesn’t belong here at all to be honest, I just really love it. I like Alanis Morissette playing God, I like the song she contributed to the movie . GO WATCH IT YOU DAMN POLITICALLY CORRECT MILLENIALS!

The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe-how can you not know this is essentially a Christian move. Shame on Disney with doing nothing with the franchise after two movies.

Mentions both honorable and dishonorable

The Passion of the Christ-I saw this with my church group when I was thirteen, I threw up. After years of watching it over and over and having to review it to help with teenagers perform the stations of the cross on Good Friday, I kind of hate the movie. I do appreciate the effort and work placed into it, but at the same time I don’t much like Mel Gibson (he called my home town a shit hole, only WE can do that). I can’t watch the film anymore with a straight face and there are serious scenes where I’m laughing my ass off.

Hillsong United; Let Hope Rise-this movie was actually pretty good; it’s a documentary on the band mixed with scenes of them traveling around the world, the origins of the band, and the home lives of the band members. Many kudos to the band members admitting they’re actually “okay at best” musicians.

Full of Grace-a story telling the final days of Jesus’ mother Mary that talks about keeping faith despite times of hopelessness. I think my only issue with this movie is my belief that Mary ascended into heaven both body and soul rather than just dying and being buried (see readers, I have my own beliefs too).

For Greater Glory- the story of the Cristo Rey movement in Mexico when the Catholic faith was outlawed. There is also the story of Jose Sanches del Rio who became a martyr and was recently canonized as a saint. It also has Eva Longoria and Oscar Isaac in it.

The Nativity Story-I kind of feel sad that people cared more about the controversy over the movie.

Final Thoughts

I can’t force you to watch or not watch the movies. If you really have the ability to like God’s Not Dead…fine.  I do feel like most of these movies are just being made for money though and are rushed for the sake of getting them out for the Easter season. I also feel alot of these movies are in the wrong hands and most of these writers and directors want to make anyone that isn’t a christian out to be a horrible and evil person. Watching God’s Not Dead was not only bad because of the acting and what was going on, but pretty hurtful in many ways.

There are a few Christian movies I’m interested in seeing (particularly a comedy staring Brett Dalton), no not all of them are bad, but let’s be honest with ourselves here, some of these people need to put a little more effort into their craft.

The Subject of Race and Ethnicity

Today I read a blogpost called You can’t do that! Stories have to be about white people and it reminded me of a subject I had been wanting to write about for a while that isn’t about the representation of gays in the media (btw yes I will review When We Rise when I see it in it’s entirety), Christianity, or essays on genres. Today we are talking about race and how the default protagonist is still white. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but it’s something that still happens. and as Darren Chetty mentioned in his blog post if you want to write about someone who is black or of another race, you have to make your story about the fact they are black/their race (as in your black character has to struggle with racism, they can’t just be black), because if your protagonist isn’t white, it doesn’t sell books as well.

What do you mean you have to make the story about a person’s race if they’re not white?

One of the things I loathed hearing about in middleschool, highschool and my first few years of college was people assuming I would write about my Mexican heritage. Like THAT was the only thing ticking in my mind. It’s not a bad thing, but every time we read stories about Mexicans in school it was always about struggle and how life was shitty for the main protagonist.

Granted I acknowledge that these authors were writing about their own life experiences and respect their stories and life struggles, but my life wasn’t their story and isn’t that story to tell. I had my own struggles, they were nothing like the struggles seen in Hispanic literature. In comparison my life would be seen as a piece of cake by those authors and my struggles would be labeled as a first world problem (which sadly they are).

As I mentioned above Chetty did mention that if I ever write a story with a Mexican protagonist, I gotta write about Mexican heritage or problems or my book (allegedly) isn’t selling squat! For publishers to even consider publishing my book, my protagonist has to either have Mexican problems or have his whole plot centered around coming out as gay (yes I snuck that in too).

What about the TV?

Television has been interesting about race; let’s start with Star Trek the original series. It had Nichelle Nichols playing Nyota Uhura and George Takei playing Hikaru Sulu. A “black woman on the tv who wasn’t a maid” (as described by Whoopi Goldberg) and a Japanese man (who would later come out as a proud homosexual) portraying characters on a science fiction show treated as equal to their colleagues despite their ethnicity.

It took a while for both movies and tv to move past have characters of different races be portrayed as characters beyond just being token minority (it’s debatable if Uhura or Sulu were token minorities). As a kid in the 90’s I saw tokenism at it’s extreme in afterschool specials, and educational television. I remember this one show shown to us at school called The Human Race Club where all the races and ethnicities were represented…and led by a blond haired blue eyed kid with glasses (it had a smart Asian girl, a black kid who liked basketball, a tom boy ginger, and a fat kid).

There was also Power Rangers; three fifth’s of the main five rangers were white (Jason, Kimberly, Billy) with Zack and Trini as the token black and asian without the producers ever realizing that they assigned Zack and Trini as the black and yellow ranger to match their races until it was too late. There was also Tommy who was later revealed to be of Native American decent, not sure if it counts though since it took four seasons to reveal that. This was fixed later when Austin St. John, Walter Emanuel Jones, and Thuy Trang left the show with Rocky (Steve Cardenas), Aisha (Karen Ashley), and Adam (Johnny Yong Bosch) as the new red, yellow, and black rangers respectively of Hispanic, black, and Asian/Jewish ethnicities included.

After the first season, Power Rangers has actually been pretty good about representation of all the races and even had a few ranger teams where the girl or a black person IS the leader (Alien Rangers, Turbo, Time Force, SPD, RPM, Dino Charge). Still no female red ranger though…

Captain Planet also had a minorateam, with the only white American usually being the whiner who had to learn a lesson in the episode. If any of the other members had a plot devoted to them, they were not the whiner. Trust me.

On the CW DC television something interesting happened; races of characters were changed from white to whatever the creators wanted. The whole West family? Black. Jimmy Olson is no longer a adorkable ginger, but is now a hunky black guy with dreamy eyes for Kara and the audience to oogle at (don’t worry, Kara has an adorkable tech friend for fans who are into that sort of thing to oogle at too). There is the issue too some that even though diversity has been added to the cast of these shows, the leads are still white people. With the addition of Legends of Tomorrow (with no MAIN character, but rather having a team lead) and Vixen (female African american (she actually is from Africa)) things are nice and diverse in the live action DC universe.

Because I can’t cover ALL media, here are some honorable mentions. Codename Kids Next Door (it’s like The Human Race Club, except bigger budget and isn’t corny), Star Wars The Clone Wars/Rebels (they have aliens, it counts), W.I.T.C.H. (multiraced badass magical girls), Steven Universe, and Drawn Together (look that show was hilarious regardless of what today’s politically correct millenials will post on Tumblr)

TV comedies (Ugly Betty, The Mindy Project, and Fresh Off the Boat)

It seems races and ethnicities get an easier time at representing different races. In some cases, rather than playing their race for the sake of drama and story telling, they play them for comedy. In the case of Ugly Betty, being of Mexican decent wasn’t a big deal too often. While the show did fall victim to relying on problems faced by immigrants today (for the first and second season Betty’s father was illegally in the US), Betty’s heritage is played for laughs except for one episode (Mark said Betty only got a job to fill a token Mexican spot).

The Mindy Project is awesome; Mindy’s Indian heritage is a joke most of the time and has only been the subject of drama once when Mindy was scared that her son would only know of his Indian half based on a Indian food menu on Mindy’s fridge. Bonus points for Mindy being the subject to large amounts of slapstick humor during the show despite being a woman.

Fresh Off the Boat is a touchy subject; despite being based on the memoirs of Eddy Huang, Huang hates the show feeling they turned his emotional outlet of rap and hiphop and life struggles into one dumb asian joke for the other races to laugh at. Eddy Huang if you ever read this I am sorry, but it is a hilarious show, I have read your book and I understand your anger concerning the show. If it makes you feel better, it has given more exposure to asian actors and actresses.

A Wrinkle in Time movie adaption (this time it won’t be awful)

As many have heard Madeleine L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is getting a film adaption with an open cast. Meg Murry being played by Storm Reid and the rest of the Murry family (minus Chris Pine’s character) now black. To add to this Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which will be portrayed by Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey respectively (gotta read that book again and imagine Mrs. Who shrilling like Kaling now).

What can one do to add diversity to books and entertainment?

I’m not sure actually, but you can start by reading The Lunar Chronicles since it does have a racially diverse cast. And tell your favorite authors “hey, I would like some diversity in the fiction you are producing.” Support authors who do write about characters of different backgrounds. Write your own stories about these things fight to get them to be published, I know I am with my books.

 

Towers Falling Review

Towers Falling follows the first semester of eleven year old Deja as she begins a new school year at a new school in New York City. She becomes friends with classmates Sabeen and Ben and the three grow strong bonds despite being of different race, religion, and social class and have these bonds grow stronger while learning of the events of September Eleventh and how this tragedy strengthened their bond.

Spoilers from this point forward.

The book starts off with Deja narrating her life and her responsibilities in life despite being only eleven years old. Deja and her family recently moved into a homeless shelter with little to nothing to claim to their name with her mother working during the day and her father suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When Deja begins fifth grade she feels out of place because she is of lower income than the rest of her classmates.

She meets Sabeen whom she finds too friendly and befriends a classmate Ben. Over the course of the novel the three classmates become close friends. I actually like that Jewel Parker Rhodes chose to have Deja, Ben, and Sabeen be from different races and social classes and have the three characters bond despite these differences.

Sabeen comes from a higher income family and is very kindhearted and friendly to many people because of the American ideology of welcoming all people regardless of social class, race, or religion and because of her own Muslim faith. Ben is the more reserved of the three from Arizona who has a dad in the military who is divorcing his mother.

Because of a school assignment the three friends bond over the events of September Eleventh; Deja is out of the loop concerning September Eleventh due to her family choosing not to speak of the day with Sabeen feeling very sensitive about the subject due to her own religion. Ben on the other hand is very knowledgeable of the subject due to his father being a veteran from The War on Terror.

Choosing to have all three characters born post September Eleventh was an interesting choice by the author since it’s a clean slate for them to have no trauma from the events of the day. Ben is the only character to have seen footage of the actual day with Sabeen only knowing about the events of the day due to her family explaining to her about what happened and why she’s occasionally discriminated against because of it.

Deja’s world begins to turn around for both better and worse after seeing video footage of the day for the first time and asking her parents about the day and discovering the day is heavily connected to her father’s PTSD.

I very much enjoyed the book event though I didn’t realize the book was for a younger YA audience when I bought it, it treats it’s target audience with respect that isn’t seen too often in younger YA novels. I will admit there were times the writing style got on my nerves, but I had to remember it’s written from the perspective of Deja who even though is very intelligent, isn’t doing as well as she can in school due to lack of resources in her home life.

I’d say Sabeen was my favorite character who was genuinely kind for the sake of being kind rather than “I’ll just be friends with the new kids because they’re new”. I was a little disappointed Sabeen wasn’t present for the climax of the novel.

I felt the climax of the novel was very touching and glad to see that the actions taken by Deja and Ben were not met with anger and punishment from their parents, but with love and understanding and how these actions led to Deja’s father beginning the slow recovery from his PTSD.

There are strong themes of connection between people in general beyond family relations extending to friendships, social units, coworkers, classmates, and even just regularly seeing a person on a daily basis. A strong message of bringing and finding joy and beauty in life after a tragedy is present along with these themes.

I give Towers Falling by Jewel Parker Rhodes four out of five pretty scarves.

Wires and Nerve Review

Just when you thought you were done with The Lunar Chronicles, you were wrong. Granted I don’t think anyone thought things were done with The Lunar Chronicles, but things seemed to be fairly wrapped up. With the announcement of the graphic novel Wires and Nerve surrounding the character Iko I was under the impression it was a retelling through Iko’s perspective, I was slightly wrong.

Minor spoilers from this point onward.

Wires and Nerve functions as a continuation to The Lunar Chronicles showing the current lives of Cinder and her friends and aside from Cinder and company trying to tie up loose ends, things are more or less happy. We have Cress and Thorne travelling the world providing vaccinations for Letumosis and sight seeing, Scarlet and Wolfe living a happy quiet life in France, Winter acting as ambassador for Luna, Kai is working on convincing citizens to consider an operation to help resist the influences of The Lunar Gift, and Cinder is trying to convince the citizens of Luna that they do not need a monarchy to continue functioning.

The book’s main focus is Iko and her mission to hunt down the remaining Lunar soldiers on Earth to bring them to justice. However things are more complicated as they appear; with the army of Lunar soldiers on earth feeling Cinder is the same of Levana and would just have them return to their previous way of life.

The graphic novel is well paced and the story is very good, however the artwork of Doug Holgate did put me off at first. As I continued the story along I accepted this was the artstyle chosen for the graphic novel and decided to just go along with it since the story was really good anyways.

My only complaint is, it’s to be continued, like what the hell? I give Wires and Nerve four out of five fancy crowns.

Is Everyone Hanging Our Without Me (and other concerns) Review

Last October I had the opportunity to meet Mindy Kaling and get a book signed by her; sadly this opportunity was destroyed by my friend Sam and I not realizing that other people are huge fans of Mindy Kaling, that and I had some anxiety issues kick in and some other annoying complicated shit that kept me from meeting Mindy at Texas Teen Book Festival 2016 (don’t worry, this is the last time you’ll probably hear of Texas Teen Book Festival 2016 on this blog).

We got to hear a live conversation with Mindy, sadly I did not get to ask my question about how old Mindy was when she lost her Anne Rice virginity (I was 19 when that happened btw). I decided to buy her book anyways despite these two setbacks. I had discovered Mindy Kaling through the television (now Hulu exclusive) show The Mindy Project. It is one of my favorite tv shows and when I heard I might meet Mindy I was happy. For now I have to settle for seeing her in the distance and that I have probably breathed in air she farted in.

Upon realizing how big my list of books to read is I figured I should read ten of these books before purchasing more books, so I grabbed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and started reading.

Hey there are no spoilers, it’s kind of hard to spoil a story of real life considering Mindy Kaling has a really funny tv show. I just really like typing out these warnings in bold font to be honest.

I was partially convinced that this would be another piece dealing with race, gender, and family struggles because sadly that is what is expected with minorities. I was wrong! Within a few pages I was literally laughing out loud at what Mindy had to say to the individual who purchased her book.

The book is semi autobiographical, but it felt more like a conversation with Mindy; Mindy does touch upon authentic friendships and how some friendships in life die even though we don’t want them too. There is mention of assholes that will be present in life, struggling with post college life and “making it” as a writer for tv and as an actress, and other things present in life.

I thought it was kind of cool that Mindy is a little nutty in her book and that being plus sized isn’t a big deal to her. As predicted Mindy is someone very relocatable to (to a scary degree with me on everything except that I don’t think Will Ferrell movies are funny). My only complaint is that she did spend a lot of time talking about The Office and I’ve never watched The Office, so it’s more of a problem I have rather than the book has.

I give Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) three and a half cupcakes out of five. btw who ate half my cupcake!