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How do “Superman Unbound” and “Iron Man 3” ultimately measure up as movies? Noe knows

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The most recent DC Universe Animated Original movie, "Superman Unbound" , is not the best release by Warner Bros. Animation. The production quality is up to par with previous releases. "Unbound" has solid animation, memorable action sequences and a good story. However the film was lacking.

Superman Unbound title card
Copyright 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

The movie was based on the story arc "Superman: Braniac " which was an attempt to understand the classic villain and his motivation. For those unfamiliar with the character Braniac was a highly intelligent alien that became an artificial life form in later incarnations of the series. The supercomputer in a humanoid frame would collect data on alien civilizations before destroying the planet. A version of this story was included in the film.

The plot in "Unbound" revolved around the city of Kandor which Braniac had taken, miniaturized and placed in a specimen jar before the destruction of Krypton. Supergirl was one of the survivors from Kandor and had gone to Earth to join her cousin and try to start a new life. When Braniac sent a probe to Earth Superman decided he would have to intercept the alien and prevent the destruction of planet. Supergirl had to deal with the fear that Braniac had instilled in her during his attack on Krypton.

Superman comforts Supergirl
Copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

The voice acting was well done but the story seemed thin. On paper the Geoff Johns story worked because the issues allowed all of the major characters to develop over several issues. The same intimacy was lost in 75 minutes of film. For example the portions where the sexuality of Clark Kent was questioned came off more like in-jokes rather than a real challenge to the relationship between Lois Lane and Kent. The art in the comics by Gary Frank had a more grounded, almost classic Joe Kubert aesthetic. Director / Producer James Tucker steered wide of the comic art and stuck with character designs that looked more animé influenced with the exception of Supergirl who appeared based on the Michael Turner designs. The art style and story never quite complimented each other.

Comic book fans, even those that did not read the original series could see where the story was going well ahead of time. It was simply too predictable. The film did earn a PG-13 rating for violence rather than language. Most of the killing was done off screen and the most brutal shot actually happened in the first few seconds of the film over the credits. During the transformation of Braniac from biological to synthetic components his eye got pulled right out of the socket. It was a gross visual and easily the goriest part of the film.

Brainiac gets transformed from biological to synthetic
Copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

"Superman Unbound" did not do a good job at making the characters sympathetic or even relevant. This is bad timing with the live-action Superman feature right around the corner. There was little to make the film as memorable as earlier DC Universe Animated releases. I would advise comic and non-comic fans to skip this release.

"Iron Man 3" is earning the Disney / Marvel empire an outrageous amount of money, over $1 billion so far. If receipts could be equated to the quality of a film then this would probably be the Citizen Kane of comic book features. Unfortunately the Shane Black authored and directed feature was easily the worst film in the trilogy. The name and momentum of "Marvel's the Avengers " must have had a hand in the successful release. Iron Man 3 pulled so far away from the source material that I have to wonder if producer Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. were not trying to remake the canon in their own image.

Tony Stark in Iron Man 3
 Copyright Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

The film was a nonsensical mess of special effects, easily identified enemies and "twists" which were more absurd than unexpected. In the comics the Mandarin was the long-time enemy of Iron Man. The character was unique in that he had rings that contained magical properties. The master of technology was rivaled by a master of the supernatural. This made for a memorable conflict in the comic books. In the film the Mandarin did not have supernatural powers. He was nonetheless portrayed as a cold and methodical terrorist leader by Sir Ben Kingsley. It appeared that Tony Stark and his mechanized alter ego finally had a true rival in the franchise. That was until after the second act when (SPOILERS AHEAD) it turned out that the Mandarin was actually Russell Brand in disguise and completely destroyed the believability of the villain.

The Mandarin was a throw-away character, the film actually revolved around scientist Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, and a drug named Extremis that turned former soldiers into super beings. The soldiers healed from wounds almost instantly, could regrow limbs and generate tremendous heat. The soldiers were used to create fear and instability in the life of Stark and the nation. Don Cheadle returned as the War Machine, now rebranded as the Iron Patriot. He had a bit more movie time and had a brief chance to shine as a hero. Killian targeted the vulnerabilities of Stark by using Pepper Potts, again played by Gwyneth Paltrow, to his advantage.


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The film had some great effects moments but the story was flat and character development nonexistent. The anxiety that Stark was suffering from after New York seemed tacked on. The use of Christmas to ramp up the tension seemed tacked on. The amazing fire-breathing powers that Killian exploited seemed tacked on. His "dragon breath" and dragon tattoos were a nod to another major rival of Iron Man, the ancient dragon named Fing Fang Foom. Apparently audiences would have tuned out if Stark had to fight a talking dragon in the film so Killian was inserted with awesome abilities.

"Iron Man 3" demonstrated the error that the super hero franchises, specifically the Marvel ones, have suffered from over the past five years. The villains posed no real threat to the main characters or the universe they resided in. They certainly roughed up the protagonists but never managed to humble them. The villains lacked real dramatic tension. Almost every villain introduced in the Iron Man series had been killed off, leaving Stark without a worthy rival. Long time villains the Iron Monger and Whiplash were killed off in "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2 " respectively. The Mandarin was reduced to a punchline in the final film in the series.


Copyright Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

If Marvel could learn one thing from perennial rival DC it would have to be the way in which movie villains were treated.  In feature films most audiences expected the main villain to die. Batman director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer did not create throw-away characters for the series. Henri Ducard aka Ra's al Ghul was  immortal in the comics. Demonstrating that in a film heavily rooted in reality posed a challenge to the team. To solve this they killed the character off screen when his elevated train derailed. The director never showed the body. This allowed audiences to guess that he might have escaped the explosion through some miracle rather than a tacked on super power. His brief return for the third film delighted audiences without explaining if he was a hallucination or indeed back from the dead. Even Thomas Crane, the Scarecrow from the first film, managed to appear in each sequel.

Goyer and Nolan understood that he was a major character in the DC universe and should not be killed off so easily. If not for the accidental death of Heath Ledger chances are the Joker would have returned as well. The Mandarin should have been extended the same courtesy as Ra's al Ghul. He was a powerful warlord in the comics and the longest-serving rival to Iron Man. His armies could have posed a threat to SHIELD and the Avengers. By diminishing his presence Marvel let down the franchise. The studio relied on old habits when audiences were desperate for something new.


Copyright Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

The Red Skull was killed off in "Captain America ." The Abomination was subdued in "The Incredible Hulk ." Loki was the only villain that managed to keep returning. Thanks in part to the compassion that Thor had for his brother. By pulling away from the comics and making up their own canon the studio has weakened the IP. Who will these heroes fight once all the major villains are killed off? Thankfully the Iron Man trilogy is over and the studio can no longer damage his reputation.

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“Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” game coming this summer

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Adventure Time Pirates of the Enchiridion

“C’mon on, grab your friends … ” A new Adventure Time game is coming out across multiple platforms.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

In this open world game, Finn and Jake will be sailing on a raft (Named Jeff) through the flooded land of Ooo to solve the mystery of why water engulfed their home and to help others & get in hijinks along the way. With a ragtag gang of friends (From a vampire, to an Ice King, to a little robot) Finn and Jake will travel from the melting Ice Kingdom to the Fire Kingdom and fight in turn-based combat like an RPG.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

The trailer shows off some absolutely gorgeous character models and environments. I’m particularly enchanted by the gorgeous Candy Kingdom that’s briefly shown in this footage. The art design sticks close to the show, but brings with it a soft, sweet design rarely seen in adventure games. Which is a refreshing thing to bring to the table. Likewise, it’s a joy to see the characters translate to 3D so well. Outright Games has done some fantastic work here with their art design.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

Likewise, the voice cast for the show will be reprising their roles as characters in the land of Ooo. And they’ll have a lot of lines to record. Not only can you control Finn and Jake, but you’ll be able to play as BMO and Marceline as well. You can upgrade these characters to unlock unique abilities for combat and the map holds plenty of fun mysteries too. With side stories and secret locations, this seems like a game that’ll have hours & hours of fun.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

What strikes me particularly about this game is how much it resembles Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is no coincidence. Adventure Time have a history of being direct corollaries to Legend of Zelda games. “Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!” ‘s gameplay references “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and “Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom” has the same top down look & combat stylings as “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” With this in mind, it’s absolutely delightful to see a Wind Waker homage with a series like this. Wind Waker was a gamechanger for the Legend of Zelda series, and it feels like “Pirates of the Enchiridion” will be a gamechanger for the Adventure Time games.

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‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ will be out July 17th for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. 

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Do you like treasure hunting and/or cooking soup? Then Pokemon Quest is the game for you

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Pokemon Quest

Immediately after the Pokemon press conference on May 29th, the mobile-switch cross platform game Pokemon Quest was available to download on the Nintendo eShop (with the mobile device version debuting later this month). Curious about the ‘Free-to-Start’ game, I snagged a download and started playing.

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Pokemon Quest is a game that feels best letting itself auto-run. You check in several times a day to see what Pokemon have appeared at your camp (The conceit behind this game is that you’re a treasure hunter & Pokemon flock to you to fight their brethren in your honor. They also sometimes just come by because you make really good soup. What can I say?). With the Pokemon at your disposal, you build a small exploration team much in the same style as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game series. And you then set them out to fight other Pokemon in open levels. From these battles, you win power stones (which allow you to upgrade your Pokemon’s health & attack power), and ingredients to lure other Pokemon to your camp.

You may’ve taken notice use of the term ‘Free-to-Start’ earlier in this article. That’s because — like many mobile services — this game offers add-ons for purchase. I don’t see any age limit on the Nintendo Switch version to take away ads for purchases (which many mobile games have chosen to add. See Disney’s own ‘Disney Crossy Road’) but the Pokemon Company may be expecting parents to set their own controls over the switch with the parental controls available on the system.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

Still, the game is typical in mobile game fare for trying to wring money out of players. Energy to play the game costs P tickets, which you can earn 50 a day … or you can just buy. The game gives you an amount to start with, shows you how to use them to speed up your game, and then takes you to the shop where you can see an advertisement to buy it — along with Pokemon furniture to help your team.

These packages can go up to $30 and include Pokemon in-game items & exclusive furniture. And while Pokemon Go offered items in bundles like this, it’s still odd to see in a Pokemon game — let alone a Pokemon game on the Nintendo Switch (albeit, this is a cross-platform game). The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sort of hard-pay line for gameplay, though. I’m up to the fifth world in my game without making any purchases. And while the game difficulty has dramatically ramped up, likely to encourage purchases, it’s still completely manageable to play without paying.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

In that sense, for a free game, it’s really cute & enjoyable. The graphics are pleasing and colorful. And if you return to camp, you’ll find all the Pokemon you’ve befriended hopping around adorable decorations. Sometimes stacking on top of each other, other times following each other around in what seems like games of tag.

The ‘cooking’ mechanic to encounter a random Pokemon makes encountering them feel less like gambling and more like strategy. By cooking certain recipes from materials you find on missions, you can draw certain types of Pokemon to your camp. Cooking in certain pots (unlocked by playing through the game) can draw higher powered Pokemon at the cost of more materials. And waiting while your energy fills up means running out of ingredients (At the point of the game I’m at, about half-way through) doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

All in all, I’d say, if you have access to this game, check it out and see if it’s for you. There doesn’t seem to be cross platform support for other Pokemon games. But as a standalone, it’s a cute, fun blip of a game. The hard ‘end’ of the levels within surprises me, especially since it seems to end with 150 Pokemon (out of the over eight hundred available). So I’m not sure what there is to get out of it when you get to the end level outside of getting every Pokemon. But it’s still a fun, very casual strategy game. Just keep an eye on purchases if your children decide to play. 

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” & “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” to come to the Nintendo Switch this year

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

During a conference in Japan earlier this week, the Pokemon Company revealed three new games : A mobile and Nintendo Switch cross platform game, “Pokemon Quest,” with graphics similar to Crossy Road and some absolutely adorable furniture in a “free to start” format; and for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !”

Taking inspiration from gameplay styles from the popular “Pokemon Go” for mobile devices, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !’ adopts the thrown Pokeball system. By using one controller with the Switch system, you can make a tossing motion to throw a Pokeball and capture a cute critter for your team.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

Additionally, you can buy the “Pokeball Plus” accessory to act as an additional “Joy-con” controller for your Switch to capture Pokemon. Then load a Pokemon into your pokeball, and take it out on the go.

From there, with the accessory, you’ll be able to interact with the Pokemon you have inside. Although current information doesn’t offer whether we’ll have more options than putting Eevee or Pikachu in the Pokeball Plus, the footage seen in the linked trailer is absolutely adorable.

The game itself seems to be a remake of Pokemon Yellow, a game released twenty years ago for the Game Boy Color. You explore the Kanto Pokemon region, and seem to be limited to the 150 Pokemon available when that game was out (Well, 151, if you were lucky, or good at exploiting glitches). But these games ditch the random encounters of mainline Pokemon games and adopt the overworld encounters of Pokemon Go. What Pokemon you see on the overworld is what you get.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

Additionally, Pokemon can follow you around and you can ride some of them. In footage, we see a trainer riding a giant Onyx (i.e., a giant snake made out of rocks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable riding on that?) and followed by a starting Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Although in these two games, you start instead with the series mascot Pikachu, and the evolution Pokemon Eevee, which can evolve into several different pokemon. You can also put little outfits on them. Which is – frankly — incredible.

Likewise, this seems to have local multiplayer. Hand the left Joy-con to a friend and let them enter your game. Or if you’re feeling really lonely, put the left Joy-con in your hand and pretend you have a friend while controlling the new trainer that arrives. What a fun time!

You and your friend can then team up to capture Pokemon together, or go exploring together- And you can have Pokemon you capture in Pokemon Go (of the original 151 Pokemon) arrive in your game. You can also send “Presents” back to your Pokemon Go game, including a possible new form of Pokemon as the trailer discusses.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this November. Likewise, a new Pokemon game will be released in the second Half of 2019. With a Mario movie in development and theme park additions on the way, it’s sure to be a busy year for Nintendo. 

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