Saturday, February 29, 2020

Recess: School's Out

One show I had watched in some form growing up was the Disney animated series Recess; though it originally aired as part of the One Saturday Morning block on ABC (before it was rebranded as ABC Kids), I remember watching it via reruns on Toon Disney (prior to its own rebranding as Disney XD), which was one of a few formative animation outlets for me as a child. For those who haven’t seen it, the show revolved around the misadventures of six fourth-graders (T.J., Vince, Gus, Spinelli, Gretchen and Mikey) as they make the most of the school year, with a heavy emphasis on what occurs on the playground during the recess period. During the show’s run, it had received a theatrically-released movie in 2001 known as Recess: School’s Out, however I never ended up actually watching it, and even then, I had only seen it in parts when it ran on TV. After having finally seen the movie in full, on what was coincidentally a few days off from the 19th anniversary of its US premiere no less, and spurred in part by the (as of this writing) recent passing of Jason Davis (Mikey), I found it to be a solid movie that holds up surprisingly well.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Slayer: The Repentless Killogy

Note: This review contains spoilers for Slayer: The Repentless Killogy.

As Slayer wrapped up their final tour, they released The Repentless Killogy, a movie that combined an original short film with a concert film showing their full August 5, 2017 performance at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood, CA. As I was actually at the show they chose to immortalize, which also featured Behemoth and Lamb of God as supporting acts, I was excited at the idea of owning a version that I could watch/listen to whenever I wanted. During our annual movie day, the day after Christmas, we watched the short film preceding the actual concert and found ourselves disappointed in more ways than one.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (Film)

As we’ve mentioned previously on this blog, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has gone through its ups and downs, but still remained popular. This popularity led to a film deal that went through its own form of development hell for decades before finally landing on the version that just recently hit theaters. Following a disastrous initial trailer and a far superior second trailer, I remained cautiously optimistic going in, but now I can confidently say that the movie won me over in the end. Like Pokémon Detective Pikachu before it, Sonic the Hedgehog has broken the video game movie curse.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind + Concert Video (DLC)

Note: The following review contains spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III.

When I played Kingdom Hearts III last year, I liked it overall, but thought it had something missing within the comparatively weak storytelling and mishandled gameplay. A free Critical Mode patch fixed this, but the idea of paid DLC was still officially on the table. This came to fruition with Re Mind, a $30 expansion ($40 if you want exclusive concert footage) that promised additional story content related to the ending of the game, along with some additional bonuses. Naturally, I pre-ordered the $40 version and played it as soon as I could to see if it could fill in that part of game that felt incomplete. While it did accomplish that to some extent, it felt overpriced for the amount of content I got.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (OVA)

Though a big budget live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie is on its way into theaters, there was another animated Sonic the Hedgehog movie released in the 1990s, though its history is a bit interesting. In 1996, two Japanese OVAs were produced and released in collaboration with developer Sega and the studio Pierrot (of Naruto fame), “Journey to Eggmanland” and “Sonic VS Metal Sonic!!”, for the Japanese video rental market before seeing wide release later. In 1999, an English dub combining the two OVAs as Sonic the Hedgehog: the Movie was produced by ADV Films (now pronounced Sentai Filmworks), who had previously released a subbed version in its original two parts, and released straight to VHS and DVD, which has since gone out of print. Fortunately, I happen to own a copy of the English DVD as I had watched it when I was a kid, only watching it again recently in light of the new movie. For what it is, the movie holds up surprisingly well and stands as an enjoyable piece of Sonic media.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice

Around 2014, Sega launched Sonic Boom, a short-lived side series to the main Sonic series set in a new continuity across a handful of games, a TV series and an 11-issue comic series from Archie Comics (before they would lose the Sonic rights to IDW Publishing); notably, it also introduced the character of Sticks the Badger, who has since made minor appearances in games outside the Boom continuity. Though I was initially unable to play any of the main games on Wii U and 3DS, I was a fan of this continuity from watching the TV series and reading all 11 issues of the comic, though during its run that comic was roped into the Worlds Unite crossover with Archie’s other Sonic titles and Mega Man (and a bunch of other Sega and Capcom properties). While I still haven’t played Rise of Lyric (due to not owning a Wii U) or Shattered Crystal on 3DS, I was able to play the follow-up 3DS title Fire & Ice, even getting the Launch Edition that comes with a DVD containing 3 episodes from Season 1 of the TV series the game is modeled after. Though the game has its shortcomings, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sonic Forces (+ Episode Shadow)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Sonic Forces.

The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, including a rocky transition to 3D, but nevertheless remained popular and profitable. To commemorate the franchise’s 25th anniversary, Sega announced Sonic Forces in 2016, which released the following year in 2017 and notably featured character customization. I had pre-ordered it at the time, mainly for the Persona 5-related DLC that came with it, and felt that the game was lacking at its initial $40 price point. Now, nearly two-and-a-half years later with a full replay of the game, my original opinion hasn’t changed all that much.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Sonic Mania Plus

Note: This review contains spoilers for Sonic Forces.

After the original Sega Genesis titles, Sonic the Hedgehog went through endless experimentation, including the original jump to 3D with Sonic Adventure, but there didn’t exist a true follow-up to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. Dimps made an attempt to recapture the Genesis era with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I & II in 2010 and 2012 respectively, but the project was cancelled before they could develop an Episode III. Then, in 2017, Sega would release Sonic Mania, a game that was widely considered a true follow-up to Sonic the Hedgehog due to its deliberately retro style that aimed to replicate everything about the classic games, down to the physics and gameplay. Now that I’ve finally had a chance to play Sonic Mania, thanks to a PlayStation Plus subscription, I can totally see the hype and how well it modernized this style of game, but some annoyances still popped up here and there.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sonic Generations (PS3)

I would consider myself more of a casual fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, though when I was younger I was really into the character despite not being able to play many of the games, thanks to other media such as The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) via rental, as well as the Sonic X anime series (yes, the 4Kids dub), Archie comic and an official website that kept me up to speed on everything prior to the infamous Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (Sonic ‘06). Fast forward to 2011, the announcement of Sonic Generations seemed intriguing to me, primarily in its goal to celebrate 20 years of the franchise’s history. Though it came out that year, I wouldn’t get to actually play it until 2012 due to receiving it as a Christmas present, though I didn’t get to actually finish it after finding the final boss fight to be a horribly-designed mess. Eight years later and almost to the day, I replayed every level of the game for this review before finally taking another shot at the final boss and actually won, allowing me to finally see the ending. Overall, I find the game to be a good representation of the franchise, though not without some issues.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sonic Week

We on this blog, or at least a couple of our members, have sort of an on-off relationship with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Though we weren't there for the era of games on Sega consoles (unless you count disc-based PC ports of Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3), our fandom has been satisfied in other ways, including various TV shows and the official website, before finally playing a number of the games on various Sony and Nintendo consoles. Despite this, we have generally avoided talking about the series directly on this blog due to its infamously splintered fanbase. However, with the upcoming live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie starring Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey and James Marsden, we have decided that now is the time to finally break this streak in a big way. As a lead-in to the movie's premiere, every weekday this week will feature a new Sonic the Hedgehog review across the series' lifespan and multiple continuities, beginning with the 2011 game Sonic Generations.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Stubs - Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit (2019) Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson Directed by Taika Waititi. Screenplay by Taika Waititi Based on Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. Produced by Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley Run time: 108 minutes USA Comedy, Drama, War, World War II

While Nazi Germany might seem like an odd backdrop for a comedy, Jojo Rabbit, the latest film from Taika Waititi, the director of Thor: Rangnarok, manages to pull it off so well that the film received several Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (Carthew Neal and Taika Waititi) ; Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson); Best Adapted Screenplay (Taika Waititi); Best Production Design (Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková); Best Costume Design (Mayes C. Rubeo); and Best Film Editing (Tom Eagles).

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Stubs - Parasite

Parasite (2019) Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin Directed by Bong Joon-ho Screenplay by Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won Produced by Kwak Sin-ae, Moon Yang-kwon, Bong Joon-ho, Jang Young-hwan Run Time: 132 minutes. South Korea Dark Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Foreign

It is rare to see a film for the first time with as much hype behind it as Parasite (기생충) does. Prior to my seeing it, the film had been lauded at the Cannes Film Festival, The Golden Globes, and Writer's Guild Awards. It is also nominated for a string of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, and Best Film Editing. Quite a coup as the first Korean film to be so honored.

I recently had the opportunity to watch the film, though it was transactional rather than theatrical. While I like to see films for the first time in theaters, the way they are meant to be seen, sometimes compromises have to be made. And I wanted to see this film before the Academy Awards to see for myself what the hype was about.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Frozen II - Lost in the Woods

When I first saw a teaser trailer for Frozen II, I was curious to see how it would play out since it would be going beyond the original film’s source material and said movie was actually really good in spite of some faults. In the lead-up to the movie’s release, I was hoping it wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Ralph Breaks the Internet, that being a very weak follow-up to such a very amazing movie. While I wouldn’t get to see Frozen II until several weeks after its release, I found it did some things right, however it was ultimately unsatisfying.