Sunday, May 01, 2016

VBS Athletics

As what have become an annual tradition, we once again made a recording of our renditions of this year's Vacation Bible School songs...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

With 'Risen', Hollywood Pulls Off a Miracle -- a Respectful and Enjoyable Fictional Retelling of a Bible Story

Plot summary:
Fearing that the disappearance of the recently crucified Yeshua of Nazareth (Cliff Curtis) from his tomb will cause a general sense of unrest in Jerusalem, especially during the upcoming visit of the Roman Emperor, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) tasks a Roman tribune named Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), with the help of his aide (Tom Felton), to find the missing body quickly.  The agnostic Clavius initially dismisses the rumors that Yeshua has risen from the dead.  But as he immerses deeper into this remarkable mystery, his sense of reason struggles with the things unraveled by his investigation.

Being the “Greatest Story Ever Told”, various takes on the life of Jesus have been conveyed many times already in various media.  But the premise of Risen is a brilliant, distinctive one.  As a mystery story through the perspective of an unbeliever, it’s a fresh and unique approach.  (It reminded me of a novel I read years ago called The Christ Commission by Og Mandino, since that has a somewhat similar premise.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Even Those Unfamiliar with 'Gundam' Mythos Will Enjoy the Chic 'Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt'

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a four-episode ONA (Original Net Animation) that takes place concurrently with the events of the original 1979 Gundam series.  It focuses on the brutal battle between the forces of the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon in the “Thunderbolt Sector”, an area littered with debris of destroyed space colonies and is known for its recurring sharp electrical discharges (hence, the name).

I haven’t been into the Gundam franchise much.   Thus, I am not too well-versed about its mythos, particularly its main timeline, wherein Thunderbolt is set upon.   The only Gundam series I saw in entirety, from start to finish, are Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and Mobile Fighter G Gundam, and they aren’t part of the main timeline.  As a result, the backdrop of Thunderbolt was hazy to me.  I don’t know its history.  I don’t know why the two sides are at war.  And it was very difficult to determine which side is the “good” or the “bad.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

'Captain America: Civil War' Is the Greatest Movie I've Seen in, Like, EVER!!!

Okay.  The title of this review might eventually turn out to be excessive.  But this movie has put me in such a high (I’ve never had this kind of excitement and elation since the first Avengers) that it’s what I feel at the moment: Captain America: Civil War is the best movie I’ve ever seen.  All throughout, I was either grinning in delight or open-mouthed in awe.  Now, I might think differently in retrospect at a future time, once the high wears off.  But even then, I can be sure that I will contend that it’s – at the very least – the greatest comic book movie of all time.  Civil War is like a comic book mega-event popping out perfectly to life in the big screen.

'Akito the Exiled' Wonderfully Enriches 'Code Geass'

I’m a huge fan of Code Geass.  It’s my most favorite anime series of all time.  And through the years, I’ve re-watched it many times over.  However, despite my fandom for it, it’s just this year that I learned that there’s such a thing as Akito the Exiled, a spin-off OVA.  It has already been around since 2012, thus, it came as a surprise to me that it took all these years before I encountered it.

But that just might be as well.  Code Geass: Akito the Exiled is a five-part movie series (which are theatrically released in Japan).  That means one movie came out annually from 2012 to 2016.  Waiting for the next installment would have been torturously frustrating if I got to start with it in 2012.  Catching it in 2016, I was able to pleasurably watch all five movies successively in a short period of time.

Code Geass is a thrilling, cerebral anime.  The storytelling is immersive, and the character arcs are terrific.  It has unique mechas (called Knightmares), complex themes of morality, fascinating alternate history, thought-provoking politics, and elements of the supernatural (e.g. Geass).  It’s a fantastic mythos.  And Akito the Exiled wonderfully adds and expounds upon it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

'Erased' Is a Thought-Provoking and Moving Anime That Fantastically Blends Time Travel and Murder Mystery

Erased – or Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (translated to English as “The Town Where Only I Am Missing”) – tells the story of Satoru Fujinuma, a 29-year-old pizza deliveryman who aspires of becoming a full-time manga artist.  He has the talent for it, but his creations lack the emotion which readers can connect to.  This is due to his own “artificial” personality – something he obtained and honed as a child and carried towards adulthood – which he utilizes to have people like him.  However, this approach never allowed him to have meaningful connections with them.

In addition, he has a supernatural ability that he calls “revival.”  It activates whenever someone nearby is in grave danger.  It sends him a few minutes in the past, giving him the time to save the person’s life.  He takes no real joy or pride from this, but he considers it a duty, and thus, he always makes the effort to do right.

One day, something from the past resulted to the murder of his mother.  Worse, the murderer sets him up to take the fall for the crime.  On the run, he has a “revival” that takes him eighteen years into the past.  Trapped in the body of his ten-year-old self, he realizes what needs to be done: to prevent his mother’s murder, he needs to stop a string of child murders that happened during that time – murders that were committed by the same person that killed (or will kill) his mother.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In 'The Night Manager', Loki and Dr. House Engage in a Riveting Espionage Drama

Based on the novel of the same name by renowned spy fiction novelist John le Carré (pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell), The Night Manager is a six-episode TV miniseries about a former British soldier turned hotel night manager named Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) who is recruited by intelligence officer Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) to infiltrate the organization of notorious arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie), that he may be brought down once and for all.

I haven’t read a novel written by le Carré yet.  In my espionage thriller readings, I had gone the route of Ian Fleming (007 novels) and Tom Clancy (Jack Ryan novels).  But I’ve come to the understanding that le Carré’s spy novels are less romanticized, more realistic – at least, compared to 007.  In addition, I’ve seen almost all of the movies based on his books.  And they are great.  Though they don’t have much action, they nonetheless have enthralling storytelling, build tension well, and are intellectually satisfying.  The Night Manager is the same.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Though Fun and Fresh, 'Supergirl' Strongly Needs Improvement

Supergirl has gone a long way since I weighed the underwhelming pilot’s pros and cons.  Many of those cons have gradually turned to pros over time.  Its elements either improved or eventually grew on me.  One of its episodes is even the best thing I’ve ever seen in TV this year so far.  It has been an overall fun first season, and it established itself as one of the TV series I currently enjoy following.

That said, though the positives outweigh the negatives, this series still has a considerable amount of the latter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

'The Witch' Is a Subtle, Unsettling Folktale

The Witch (subtitled A New England Folktale) is a chilling tale about a 17th century Puritan family banished to the New England wilderness, wherein they build a farm near a big forest, attempting to start a new life.  However, evil lurks this nearby forest, and the family’s relationship with each other and faith are strained by a series of disturbing occurrences.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

'Dirty Grandpa' Is a Relentless Barrage of Horrible Jokes

It’s baffling how Robert De Niro can have a classy role in a feel-good comedy (i.e. The Intern), and then, in the following year, have a debauched role in a crude comedy.  That’s a testament to his range.  Unfortunately, Dirty Grandpa is a waste of his talent.

Dirty Grandpa is about a recent widower named Dick (De Niro) who tricks his uptight grandson Jason (Zac Efron), who is a week away from getting married to his over-controlling fiancé, to drive him to Daytona Beach, to mingle with college students on spring break.  A wild and crazy grandpa-grandson bonding time ensues.