Movie Review: “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story” –  spoilers at the end

The biggest question on my mind was, how will this fit with the Saga films? Prior to Rogue One, we have had 7 installments in the Skywalker saga, and with Rogue One being a stand alone piece, how would it fit? In a word, perfectly. Rogue One fits so perfectly into the Star Wars world that to describe how perfectly would actually be a spoiler in itself.

Without spoiling too much, the positives for me were the characters themselves, just coming together and becoming a family of rogues, definitely Rebels, but somewhat outsiders with the Alliance. Jyn Erso is an interesting protagonist who leads the plot, but isn’t the only focus, and a complete world is built around her and Captain Cassian Andor. By far the characters who stole the show for mewere the reprogrammed K2SO and Donnie Yen’s force sensetive but not a Jedi, Chirrut Îmwe. Other characters Baze and Bodhi round out the main protagonists nicely. Villain eise, Orson Krennic comes off smart, a little bit naïve, but also as an opportunist, always looking to force his way up the ladder. The narrative also addresses a huge plot point from Episode IV that fans have been debating and discussing for years. Well, it’s now settled (you’ll understand when you see it). My biggest bonus, was the very last Darth Vader scene. We often heard how much of a bad ass mofo he was, but this time, we really got to see it. And wow, was it incredible.

Other areas I need to critique, there were a few uses of CGI (two in particular) which were a very good effort at bringing certain characters to life, but as with most CGI, the uncanny valley hits, and though the CGI is 95% there, that last 5% can be a bit jarring and off. Also, apart from Jyn and Cassian, I would have liked a bit more back story on our other 3 rogues. 

Overall, it was a great addition to the world that is the Star Wars post Disney Canon. Would definitely (and probably soon) watch it again. 

Minor Spoilers below:

The CGI used on Tarkin and Leia was great, and as I said, 95% there. While I was taken out a bit, at the end of the day, seeing Peter Cushing standing there and interacting with the other characters was amazing. And it made sense to have a young Princess Leia on the Tantive IV.

The Alliance scenes were cool, especially a young Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, a throw away line referencing Obi Wan Kenobi, and pf course in the finale, the return of Red Leader and Gold Leader from 1977’s A New Hope with some reused footage. 

Finally, Darth Vader, the scene where he is just cutting up Rebels at the end, amazing!! And how that scene leads directly into the opening of A New Hope, also amazing!! 

Ok, now go watch it!!

Movie Review: Doctor Strange – NO SPOILERS

Now I’m not the biggest Doctor Strange fan by any stretch. Even among the Marvel fanbase, he’s not huge front line wise compared to say the X-Men, Spidey, and the Avengers. However my limited knowledge of the character was enough for me to walk into this movie excited. How was it? Well, it was pretty good. But it didn’t wow me the way I had hoped. Not too long ago, Marvel made Ant Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy work on screen. Trying to ground everything in realism for Phase 1 to talking raccoons into the later Phases of Marvel, it was always going to be interesting how they would bring the Sorcerer Supreme to life.

Starting with Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how much I liked him as a character. I did go in a bit worried that I’d be taken out of the movie because all I’d be seeing was Sherlock on drugs. But instead I was presented with an updated Stephen Strange. Though at times, he was almost bordering on Tony Stark lite. Here’s hoping for a Mustache Bros high five later on. The decision to make Baron Mordo a secondary protagonist as opposed to his arch villain from the comics was also quite interesting. The story of Strange and Mordo works well enough that the conflict suddenly becomes more personal if and when Mordo shows up and turns bad like he does in the comics. The Ancient One worked quite well, and the slight tweak to the story we all know was welcome enough that I could see it eventually driving a wedge between Strange and Mordo. As for our main villain, typical Marvel bad guy, it’s especially difficult when with any Marvel movie, most tend to measure any antagonist against Loki.

With regards to the story, not much else to say except for the fact that it really is a standard Marvel Origin story, but with Magic. I will however say that there were times I felt that the jokes were getting to be a bit too much. Having said that, it was no where near the level of over the top one liners that we got in Age of Ultron. The magic and spells were great and while they still leaned towards a science and magic approach like Thor, it was still great once the actual fighting happened. And rather than the old traditional Magic battles that you would think of,like in Harry Potter for example, here, we’re effectively getting Kung Fu Magic. My own personal take, this is how the action in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender should have been.

Overall, the movie works as it is, but it’s not going to be at the top of my Marvel list. However, when the top of the list of favorite Marvel movies is The Winter Solider, it’s actually not too bad. It’s still miles ahead of Iron Man 3. The characters are likeable, and there is, as always room for a sequel. This may have also detracted from it a bit, because of the need to keep sequels open. Having said that, it’s still a very enjoyable Marvel movie, and a good addition to the MCU as a whole.

Random Blog: DC Rebirth now a few months in

It’s now been a few months since DC Rebirth kicked off. When it was first announced, many screamed “another reboot?!”, especially since we only just had the New 52 a few years ago. Now a few months into reading some of the regular titles, I must say, DC Rebirth is easily one of the best things to happen to DC in a long time. I feel so engaged with the story and everything that’s happening, I can’t wait until the next issue to come out.

Titles I’m currently following are:

  • Superman
  • Action Comics
  • Batman
  • Detective Comics
  • Supergirl
  • Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corp
  • Green Lanterns
  • Nightwing
  • Justice League
  • Wonder Woman
  • Trinity
  • Titans

The two that have really stood out for me are the Action Comics and Detective Comics series. So many unanswered questions, but the stories are so good, I keep coming back for more! Detective Comics #940 for me was an incredible issue (which I won’t spoil)Full size image What I’m loving about it was the whole classic Batman feel to it that I had when I was reading the Batman and Robin stories from the 1990s.

Everything about Rebirth feels both new yet classic at the same time. And while we still have the whole Doctor Manhattan thing to address from Rebirth #1 (that’s not a spoiler…everyone knows this by now), I hope that DC doesn’t stop putting out great issues like this.

Random thoughts done!

Christ Bound – A reflection on SFC NZ Natcon 2016

Romans 12:2 says

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This was the theme for this year’s SFC New Zealand National Conference, as well as all the other National and Regional Conferences for SFC around the world. Now, for those of you that know me, you know that usually, I’m excited to attend, can’t wait to go, but for some reason, this year, I “wasn’t feeling it”. To put things into perspective, I’ve been a member of the CFC Family Ministries community since 2003. I came in through YFC, and transitioned through into SFC, with not much of a break. I had the odd inactive period here and there, but nothing major. And usually for more interesting reasons.

Over the last year, especially having transitioned from being Head of Music Min and handling a Household to now being Unit Head, things changed. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed with the duties I had to do, there was a lot to worry about, plan, a heck of a lot more admin, plus more meetings that I was used to, in addition to trying to balance work, social life, relationships, family, all of the above. Plus the feeling really hit home during the Covenant Orientation Weekend we had earlier this year when I stood there thinking to myself, “well, here we are again”. Not that it mattered when it came to the actual doing, I would still throw myself head first into whatever opportunity to serve came up because that’s what I would do, and part of it was because I felt like that’s what people expected of me. In my own mind, I began thinking that people saw me as “Kuya Carl”, the Leader, the reliable one, the one who would do anything asked of him. And I soon realized I was getting tired, not because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore, but because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

Everything about this Natcon was different, and admittedly, part of my own thinking was, “well that’s not how we would have done it if we were the hosts”, but I had to let that part go. And I was happy that I did, because everything about the weekend was pleasantly surprising. Leading up to Natcon, I remember we were asked to be the band for the Club Praise Evening, and also playing for one Worship, which I absolutely loved because it reconnected me with one of the things I enjoyed about service in the first place, Music Ministry. But the thing that I wasn’t expecting was being asked to be a sharer for Session 1. However, from the usual meeting new friends, reflecting on my sharing about spaghetti cans (you had to be there), I think a lot of what this conference did for me was remind me of the reasons why I do things. A call back to the commitment of “I want to serve” rather than “I have to serve”. A part of what this conference did was connect me with what I had not really forgotten, but put to the side, the one who I serve. A year ago, had you asked me why, I would tell you, “I say yes because God is asking. Because what He has done for me, I want to give to others also”. Leading up to Natcon, “…yeah I said yes, I guess I have to, but yeah, just want to rest. I feel like people are expecting me to, so I probably should do it. I’m a leader, I have to”. And that was the difference, “I want to” vs “I have to”. In essence, I allowed myself to be shaped by a worldly view, in this case, a position, a title. “Unit Head”, and because of it, I struggled, was tired, and began to feel burned out. Being in Christchurch, I remembered again, especially in one of the biggest areas – relationships.

Now I’m not only talking of romantic relationships here, but the relationships you have with people around you. This was the main focus of Session 3, and it was what stood out to me the most. Because I found myself remembering what it was that drew me in all those years ago. The relationships I built with the people I have been called to serve, why. because, as we were reminded over the weekend, we are called to see Christ in all those we serve and in all those around us. One of the best parts of the weekend was the reflection on St Theresa of Calcutta and how she always chose to see Christ in everyone, and it was there where I was reminded the answer to the question. why do I keep saying yes to service, because I see Christ in these people, and I want to give back what He has given me.

In addition to this mini realization of mine, I was also blessed enough to hear the stories of others, stories of their victories, their struggles and ultimately, where they saw God in all of this. And the encouragement to seek God in all we do, especially with the content covered during session 1, seeking God in career, lifestyle, relationships and service. And to be honest, this was the first conference which really challenged me to consider my career thanks to Session 2. Session 3, as I mentioned above, really hit home with centering relationships on Christ and seeing Christ in all that I do, where as Session 4 was the challenge to remain true to our destination on this journey we call life. One of the most refreshing things, surprisingly, was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, I heard a Priest speak on the actual effects of Sin, and the realities of Hell. Something we sometimes tend to shy away from, but as Christians, we must also realize that this is a very big part of our mission as members of the Church, to save souls and to bring and be Christ to others.

We all go to these conferences for many different reasons, but what I can at least share is that, God will always speak to you some how, there’s always something He wants you to hear. And while I may have felt a little lost for a while, I have been reminded to no longer be shaped by the world, but to seek God’s will in what I do. I have been reminded that, I no longer have to seek the approval of others views of my service, but I choose to serve because I see Christ in them, and because I also love them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been reminded that in this journey we call life, the greatest thing for all of us to do is to choose to be Christ Bound. A big thank you again to SFC Christchurch. Praise. For your service and an amazing conference! Shout out to our hosts, Einx and Iktong, love you both! 

May God Be Praised!

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond – No Spoilers

Having been a huge geek for a long time, I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, yes even the bad movies, and even the one with the whales (Nuclear Wessels anyone?). So when JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek back in 2009 with the original crew and new cast members, I was excited and nervous to see how characters I’d loved for so long would be portrayed by a new cast. In short, I enjoyed the first two “reboot” movies, but they never quite felt like old school Star Trek. Something was always a little different to the Trek movies I had watched in the past. And I’ve watched all of them, First Contact is still my favorite of the TNG movies, and of course, Wrath of Kahn for the Original Crew. Watching Star Trek Beyond, I actually felt like I was watching an old Star Trek movie again, with all the fun from the first two Abrams movies.

Starting out with a Captain’s Log entry was great. If I recall correctly, the other two movies didn’t start that way. Spoilers, in the 2009 movie, we’re shown the destruction of the USS Kelvin, and in Star Trek into Darkness, we’ve got that random volcano sequence. Here, after a brief little adventure and a nod to Kirk always having his shirts ripped, we’re straight into a Captain’s Log, and a montage of the crew of the Enterprise. Soon, we’re at the Yorktown Space Station for a bit of down time, until some stuff happens which sets our plot in motion.

The cast does quite well, I really enjoyed Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto’s moments as Bones and Spock together on screen, and as for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, I really did enjoy his performance which makes the news of his death earlier this year very sad. The rest of the crew function as they normally would. My personal biggest complaint is the whole Spock and Uhura relationship that has been going on throughout the reboot movies, because it’s the only thing that doesn’t seem Spock like when I compare them to the original cast. Everything else feels fine. The main villain’s introduction is cool, but you’re really left hanging until right near the end to see what exactly his main motivation is. It’s good motivation, but I do wish it had been fleshed out a little more. New addition to our team of protagonists, Jaylah is, for me, a very fun character. Again, wish we’d had a little bit more back story, but what we’re given is enough for you to figure it out. And without spoiling too much, the fact that the Beastie Boys are referenced as “classical music” during one scene definitely did put a smile on my face.

Overall, very enjoyable, and a good addition to the list of Star Trek movies that I’ll want to revisit again and again.

Album Review – “Liveloud: In Gloria Dei” by Ablaze Music

Because we’re here in New Zealand, I can only really rely on videos and photos from friends back home whenever Liveloud decides to hold a concert. So you can only imagine my initial state of shock when I was browsing through my Google Play Music and saw that Ablaze Music had released a new album, Liveloud: In Gloria Dei. I own both Liveloud 2013 and Liveloud: One in the Lord on CD, bought them when I was back in Manila. I was expecting to have to wait to go back to Manila before getting my hands on this, but thank you Google Play Music! I can stream it for free! On to the review!

The Album follows the latest Liveloud 2016 event, which I wish I got to attend, and has 8 tracks, which are as follows:

  1. Shout
  2. Take Me
  3. No One Like You
  4. With You
  5. Forever Be With You
  6. You Have Chosen Me
  7. You Alone
  8. King (Remix)

 

Tracks 1 and 3, Shout, and No One Like You, were tracks that I had been waiting for. Shout, I first heard during the SFC Oceania ReCon 2015, and No One Like You, during ICON 2016. Both of which, I really liked, and was so happy that I now had a clean recording of to play along to. This is especially important for those of us who are usually serving in Music Ministry. The other tracks which I’m still trying to get to know are Take Me, and You Alone. Both sound great! But, as with all new worship songs to learn, there’s that little lag in familiarity, but I could see them being used a lot! Seeing as it’s only been a few days since I’ve been listening to this, nothing has jumped out yet in the same way that Reaching did on Liveloud: One in the Lord.

Having said that, overall, the quality of what’s on the CD is pretty good. The one that did take me by surprise was the King Remix. Odd choice to be put onto a CD when compared to the previous 2, but a fun little edition. Though part of me does wish that another new song had been included in its place. I’m a bit bias toward a song one of the members in my Unit Household wrote, but aren’t all household leaders bias to their members? Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of With You, which took me straight back to my YFC days. I hadn’t heard the song for such a long time, yet there I was singing along straight away with no trouble at all.

Overall, good album to add to the collection. When I’m next in Manila, I will definitely be picking up a physical copy so I’m not streaming anymore (legally streaming though, Google Play Music). YFC, SFC, and CFC, I’d definitely recommend this.

Ablaze Music can be found on Google Play by clicking here and Liveloud: In Gloria Dei can also be found on iTunes here

God bless!!

 

Reflections: God is Enough

NOTE: Had a phone malfunction so some of my text got deleted. Here is what I was able to reconstruct after the edit 🙂

Hello all! Just wanted to share something Father gave me at Confession this morning. This is a poem by St Teresa de Avila called Nada te Turbe:

Let nothing frighten you (Nada te turbe)

Let nothing disturb you (Nada te espante)

All things are passing (Todo se pasa)

God cannot be moved (Dios no se muda)

Patient endurance attains all things (La paciencia todo lo alcanza)

He who has God lacks nothing (Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta)

God is enough (Solo Dios basta)

As I sat there speaking with Father, he reminded me that as we journey towards God, we will always encounter challenges because those who oppose God journey in the opposite direction. So we will always come head to head with those who choose to oppose God, and the forces of Satan himself. Trials, temptations, they all mean that the enemies of the Lord are hard at work.

Every now and then we will hit the tipping point where will feel like we are completely out of control. Where all seems lost and we feel like we’re falling down. But that’s when we need to be reminded that we are never in control, God is in control. The challenge Father gave me was this, whenever I feel myself on the edge of falling down, remember the prayer St Teresa prayed.

“May nothing disturb you, may nothing astonish you. Everything passes. God does not go away. Patience can attain anything. He who has God within does not lack anything. God is everything”

God bless!!