Saturday, March 30, 2019

Stubs - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon. Directed by Kerry Conran. Screenplay by Kerry Conran. Produced by Jon Avnet, Sadie Frost, Jude Law, Marsha Oglesby Run Time: 106 minutes. USA Science Fiction, Action Adventure

Few movies create new ways of production. Such a case was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, known as the first major motion picture to be shot completely on a blue screen with computer-generated backgrounds (with the exception of the two sets built due to time and budget constraints). Films such as Sin City (2005), 300 (2006), and The Spirit (2008) were all influenced by Sky Captain. But being first does not always mean best. For all its inventiveness, Sky Captain borrows heavily from other stories and in the end is rather boring, which is practically the worst thing you can say about a movie.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Devil May Cry 5 - Pull My Devil Trigger

Six years after the release of DmC: Devil May Cry, an attempted reboot of the Devil May Cry continuity, Capcom released a proper fifth installment in the series, Devil May Cry 5. Boasting a return to the classic style of gameplay and featuring the return of director Hideaki Itsuno, who had been with the series since Devil May Cry 2, the game released to critical acclaim. Having played it myself, I find myself agreeing with the praise, though as I kept playing, through the Xbox One version, I noticed some minor issues that held it back from perfection.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Wonder Park - Not An E-Ticket Ride

In 2014, development on an animated feature by Paramount Animation called Amusement Park began, eventually getting its name changed to Wonder Park. While I had been updated on its development, what got me interested in seeing this movie was a series of character designs and storyboards for older versions of it disclosed by two people that worked on it across two different seminars I had attended, one of which was a character design seminar hosted by David Colman, referred to internally as “patient zero” due to remaining on staff the longest through the most director/story changes before finally leaving (in the final product, he is credited as a Story Artist). When the film was finally approaching release, the trailers and critic scores didn’t exactly exude much confidence (not helped by it having a similar run time to the panned Sherlock Gnomes and The Emoji Movie, that being under 90 minutes), however I was determined to see it anyway to see how it all turned out. I ended up liking the movie, though it wasn’t exactly one of the best animated films I had seen.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stubs - Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind (1939) Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Thomas Mitchell, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford, Hattie McDonald, Butterfly McQueen. Directed by Victor Fleming. Screenplay by Sidney Howard. Based on the novel Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (New York, 1936). Produced by David O. Selznick Runtime: 220 minutes. USA Color. Romance

Few films have made as big a splash as Gone With the Wind, based on the runaway best seller of the same name written by Margaret Mitchell and published in 1936. The book, which was a top seller for two years, sold 30 million copies worldwide.

Making it into a movie might seem like a foregone conclusion, and it was independent producer David O. Selznick who, prior to its publication, saw the potential, writing in one of his famous memos to his Eastern Story Editor, Katherine “Kay” Brown, “...the more I think about it, the more I feel there is excellent picture in it....”. It was Brown who first read a galley of the 1000+ page book and suggested it to Selznick. The book was published on June 30, 1936, and by early July, he had purchased film rights for $50,000.

Not letting any grass grow up under his feet, he brought in director George Cukor in September 1936 and by September had hired Sidney Howard to do a treatment and write a screenplay. But like practically everything associated with the film, they would not be the last ones. Cukor’s relationship with Selznick seemed to strain as pre-production went on. And even though the film’s principal photography began on January 26, 1939, Cukor left the film on February 14th.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Witness

In 2008, game developer Jonathan Blow released Braid, which proved to be a major success for him. His follow-up game, The Witness, actually piqued my interest on the premise of it being a puzzle-based game taking place on an island in homage to Myst. When the game finally came out in 2016, I was one of many who was turned off by the initial $40 price tag, though I still kept track of the game on digital platforms to see when it would reach a good discount. I ultimately ended up finally playing the game when it became available for free for PlayStation Plus members in March 2019. While I did feel the 3-year wait was worth it, I overall have mixed feelings about my experience.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Stubs - Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel (2019) Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law. Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck Screenplay by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Based on Captain Marvel (comic book) by Stan Lee and Gene Colan; and Carol Danvers (character created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan). Produced by Kevin Feige Run time: 124 minutes. USA Color Superhero, Action

At the end of Infinity War, the Avengers, and the rest of the world for that matter, found themselves in dire straits. Thanos (Josh Brolin) had, with a snap of his finger and because he was in the possession of the infinity stones, wiped out half of the population of the universe, including some of the well-known heroes of the last twenty films from Marvel Studios. In his last actions before he vanishes, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sends out a signal to Captain Marvel, someone who had not yet been introduced to the series.

This film, which opened this past Friday, introduces us to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and gives us not only her backstory, but Fury’s and, to some extent, Agent Phil Coulson's (Clark Gregg) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s as well. The title character, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, is played by Brie Larson, perhaps best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in Room (2016). However, from now on, she’ll also have the role as Captain Marvel added to her name whenever her career is mentioned.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Stubs - Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers Directed by Bryan Singer Screenplay by Anthony McCarten. Produced by Graham King, Jim Beach Runtime: 134 minutes UK/USA Color Biography

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had this experience before. I can say that I liked the film but at the same time think it took too many liberties with the story. What was supposed to be a biography is really more fantasy than fact. I know that’s what this year’s Rocket Man promises, this isn’t what Bohemian Rhapsody was supposed to be about.

Yes, I did get a new appreciation for the subject of the film, Freddy Mercury fka Farrokh Bulsara. He managed to transform himself from a baggage handler at Heathrow into the lead singer of one of the most popular bands in the world, which is quite a feat. And, as we always suspected, he enjoyed the company of men and ultimately died from the curse of AIDS. It’s quite a story, however, so much of what we learn that fills in all the gaps borders on pure fiction.

Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen served as Executive Producers on the film.

The film takes his story and the story of the group Queen and twists it so that it is nearly unrecognizable as his or the group’s story. While I liked some of the group’s songs, I cannot say I was a die-hard fan but even I know that much of the film doesn’t ring true and the more I learn about the real story the more it feels like fiction, almost for the sake of fiction. And what is the biggest surprise to me is that members of the group, Brian May and Roger Taylor, people who would know the story, are Executive Producers on the film. They were apparently in on the ruse.

Rami Malek won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Freddy Mercury.

This is not to take away from Rami Malek’s portrayal of Mercury. He does a very good job in the role and is to be commended. (Since we’re publishing this after the Academy Awards, it should come as no surprise that he won for Best Actor.) Malek really does his best to become Mercury, with all his faults and talent. The singing is a mixture of Malek’s voice with Mercury’s and new recordings by Marc Martel, a Canadian Christian rock singer who sounds eerily similar to Mercury.

Lucy Boynton plays Mary Austin in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Lucy Boynton does a very good job as Mary Austin, Freddie’s one-time lover who gets pushed aside as Mercury explores his homosexuality, though he still loves her. Boynton, who is also Malek’s real-life love, should have a great future ahead of her based on her performance here.

There is a bit of brilliant stunt casting, Mike Myers as Ray Foster, a fabricated record executive who doesn’t believe in Mercury’s dream. Myers, you may recall, was Wayne Campbell in Wayne’s World (1992) and had that great scene in which the entire carload of friends bang their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody, something that gets referenced backhandedly during one of his scenes.

The more I read about the actual Mercury/Queen story, the more divergent from the truth the film seems to be. One of the big points, Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis, doesn’t come until after the group’s performance at the Live Aids concert in 1985, which serves as both a bookend and as a coda for the story. You might be left with the impression that the group came together for one last gasp but in reality, they were on tour prior to the concert and would continue to tour and record until Mercury’s death in 1991.

Despite its own issues with the real story, Bohemian Rhapsody is really a very good film and one that I would recommend not only to Queen fans but to most movie watchers. While you might not learn the real story of the group you will no doubt come away with a better understanding of Freddy Mercury thanks to Malek’s performance.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review Hub - Devil May Cry

Spawning from a scrapped concept for Resident Evil 4, the original Devil May Cry made a big splash when it debuted in 2001, leading to a number of anachronic prequels/sequels as well as an anime series, Devil May Cry: The Animated Series (the first game also got a comic book adaptation by the long-defunct Dreamwave Productions that no one likes to talk about). Following the release of Devil May Cry 4, the series would receive a new title developed by Ninja Theory and set in an alternate universe, entitled DmC Devil May Cry; the divisive nature of this game has since led to a Definitive Edition re-release that fixed all of its reported gameplay issues and then some, though it did manage to succeed in bringing the franchise back out of obscurity. The franchise has since revisited the original continuity with Devil May Cry 5 due to high demand and will appear to stay within this universe for the foreseeable future.

Below is a list of links to every Devil May Cry review on this blog, presented in approximate order of release and separated by continuity. (Second Opinions and re-releases are presented next to the main review in parentheses.)

Update (3/23/2019): Added Devil May Cry 5

Original Devil May Cry Continuity


DmC Devil May Cry Continuity

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Bendy and the Ink Machine (PS4)

Back in early 2017, Chapter 1 of Bendy and the Ink Machine was released and became quite a sleeper hit due in part to exposure from YouTube. A large following built up and eagerly awaited each new installment, with the inevitable merch and a tie-in mobile game to follow. The game’s creator, theMeatly, would also get involved with the fanbase and feature fan art and fan songs within the game as future Chapters were released. Once the game finished development and release in late 2018, a console port followed, which was the version I bought and later played for this review. While it was satisfying to actually experience it for myself, I ran into a number of annoyances which hindered my overall enjoyment, including two specific bugs that severely hindered my progress.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Kingdom Hearts III

Thirteen years after the US release of Kingdom Hearts II and over five years after its surprise announcement at E3 2013, Kingdom Hearts III, the twelfth game in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, has finally been released to the world. Within that time, wild fan speculation turned into hype that grew with each new trailer released, though an early leak did cause some to initiate a media blackout for a month as opposed to only four days (the game launched in Japan on January 25, 2019, with a release in the US on January 29, 2019). I played for as long as I possibly could at every opportunity as soon as I picked up my copy of the Deluxe Edition, though once I finally finished, I took some time to process my thoughts before writing this review. As someone who had been genuinely waiting thirteen years for this game, I generally enjoyed my time and don’t regret it, but the experience was ultimately not completely satisfying.