Thursday, October 31, 2019

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (PS2)

When SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, based on the long-running SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon on Nickelodeon, was first released in 2003, I did not actually own any of the home consoles it was initially released on, and so had to settle with experiencing the PC version, which was presented as a point-and-click game. If memory serves, it was generally serviceable, however for years I had been wanting to see what the console version was like, even after finally getting a PS2 as a gift just as the PS3 was around the corner. After finally getting a PS2 copy of the game a few months ago, I was just planning on playing it after playing through the Spy Fox trilogy when a remake was announced by THQ Nordic for later this year, entitled SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, which promises a Crash Bandicoot-style graphical upgrade and the inclusion of a number of cut content from the original release, making me anticipate playing the original even more to see what it was like. After getting the experience I always wanted, I found the game had held up surprisingly well, even with some minor setbacks.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island

In the 21 years since Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, the Scooby-Doo franchise has managed to remain stable enough for yearly direct-to-video films and the occasional new series to help it stay relevant, including Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Scooby-Doo, Warner Bros. released Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island, itself a direct sequel to Zombie Island. Since I liked the original film and had noticed from afar how goofy the DTV films had become, my curiosity was piqued and I wondered how they would try to follow up such a classic piece of Scooby-Doo media. About 80 minutes later, it seems that they made an attempt, but still fell far below the bar.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Second Look - Alice: Madness Returns

Note: The following review contains spoilers for Alice: Madness Returns.

When I first played Alice: Madness Returns, I enjoyed it for what it was as a follow-up to the dark and twisted American McGee’s Alice, playing which spurred me to actually read Lewis Carrol’s Alice duology. However, it only occurred to me after looking up the game later that I managed to somehow miss the point of the story to some degree, and so wanted to play it again to catch anything about the game’s themes I may have missed. That, and I had been meaning to try out a $2 DLC (still available as of this writing) that introduces new dresses and further upgraded weapons that “break” the game. After taking another trip through the corrupted Wonderland via New Game+, I felt as though I was able to fully enjoy the game and appreciate it more for what it is.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Banana Splits Movie

Despite its reputation as one of Hanna-Barbera’s more obscure properties, The Banana Splits has had a very odd history. First came The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, an hour-long children’s variety show featuring the fictional band The Banana Splits, which ran from 1968 to 1970 for 31 episodes, plus a 1972 TV movie, The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park. Then came a short-lived revival in 2008 through Cartoon Network, then nothing until a one-shot DC comic in 2017 that saw the Splits team up with the Suicide Squad of all things. Now, Warner Bros. has released an R-rated horror film based on the property, a decision so baffling that I felt the need to see for myself how the property could possibly benefit from such a 180 in tone. While I’m now satisfied in my knowledge of what the film is, I’m not so sure if this is really something worth dedicating the time to watch.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Metallica & San Francisco Symphony: S&M2

20 years after the original collaboration between Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Symphony and Metallica (S&M), in 1999, the band was approached to do it once more for S&M2. Not only would this new concert celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original concert, it would also provide Metallica the opportunity to open San Francisco’s Chase Center. After a back-and-forth collaboration between the two groups over the course of Metallica’s WorldWired Tour, they performed two shows, one on September 6, 2019 and one on September 8, 2019. These performances were then edited together into a 160-minute concert film that was shown theatrically for one night on October 9, 2019. As a longtime Metallica fan, I naturally went out to see the theatrical showing and, fortunately, walked away satisfied.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Stubs - The Fly

The Fly (1958) Starring Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall Directed by Kurt Neumann. Screenplay by James Clavell Based on the short story "The Fly" by George Langelaan in Playboy (Jun 1957). Produced by Kurt Neumann. Run Time: 94 minutes USA Color Horror, Science Fiction

One of the more memorable science fiction horror films from the 1950s has its roots in World War II espionage. Paris-born British writer George Langelaan was an intelligence agent during the War and agreed to undergo extensive plastic surgery that would render him unrecognizable.  Channeling the motif of transformation, Langelaan wrote his 1957 short story, the tale of a French scientist experimenting with matter disintegration and reintegration who winds up atomically fused with a common housefly - with tragic results for man and insect. After being published in Playboy magazine in June 1957, the story came to the attention of executives at 20th Century Fox.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Joker (2019)

In the midst of their slate of big-budget action-driven superhero films, Warner Bros. has released a, comparatively, low-budget character-driven film based on one of DC’s most iconic villains, the Joker. Giving the Joker his own film and making it a psychological thriller is rather fitting, but making it unconnected to the larger, and still-ongoing, DCEU is a bit of a gamble, if only due to the risk of confusing audiences about continuity. This risk seemed to pay off early, however, when it got an eight-minute standing ovation at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, where it also won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. After I saw the film in its opening weekend through a 35mm print, I walked away feeling like I generally agree with its praise, but there are certain elements that are not for everyone.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Stubs - Cat People

Cat People (1942) Starring: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack Holt, Kent Smith, Alan Napier; Director: Jacques Tourneur; Screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen. Producer: Val Lewton. Runtime: 74 minutes. USA. Black and White. Drama, Psychological, Horror

Sometimes, films that were made for low budgets to feed a distribution pipeline can grow in distinction over the years and live long beyond the few weeks of release they were originally intended for. Studios like RKO needed low-budget films to do well at the box-office to make up for big budget films, like Citizen Kane (1941) that didn’t always fare as well as hoped.