Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Though the rematch between monster movie icons King Kong and Godzilla lies just around the corner, our buildup to Godzilla vs Kong wouldn’t be complete without a look at its direct predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. With a five-year gap from Hollywood’s previous Godzilla film, Godzilla (2014), the film also doubles as a celebration of the franchise’s 65th anniversary and the first Hollywood Godzilla to feature other Toho kaiju. Though King of the Monsters generally pleased Godzilla fans, critics were harsher, mainly citing issues with the story and characters. After finally getting a chance to watch it ourselves, in 3D no less, we find ourselves agreeing more with the critics.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

Following the debut of Godzilla (aka Gojira) in 1954, the film proved popular enough to spawn arguably the best-known series of kaiju films that continues in some form to this day, even spawning a recent American-produced series of films known as the MonsterVerse that includes a crossover with King Kong. In the spirit of things, I decided to take another look at a Godzilla movie from 2001 I happened to own, dubbed Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (JP: Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijū Sōkōgeki) (GMK). What I watched in particular was the US DVD release from 2003, which featured the original uncut Japanese version with English subtitles. Though the 25th installment in the series, produced during the Millenium Era, the film bills itself as a direct follow-up to the 1954 original, which worked out for me continuity-wise since I’m not the most knowledgeable in the Godzilla mythos. The movie itself holds up pretty decently, though I had some minor issues with it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Stubs - Kong: Skull Island - Even Bigger and Better

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, and John C. Reilly. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly. Based on King Kong by Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace. Produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia. Run time: 118 minutes. USA Color Science Fiction, Monster, Adventure.

It’s starting to seem like Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace’s King Kong is becoming like Shakespeare in Hollywood, a go-to commodity that filmmakers hope they can make seem fresh and new, even though in many ways, they’re telling the same old story over again. With Kong: Skull Island there are some efforts to tell something different, though the main player King Kong has pretty much the same lines he’s always had.

Now, if it seems the remakes are coming quicker than ever since it was only 12 years since Peter Jackson’s take on the big ape, it should be noted that Kong is getting a new treatment for an old cause. There is a battle to be fought between America’s Kong and Japan’s Godzilla but that heavyweight fight has to be set up with a series of movies, of which Skull Island is just a part. It is also why the film, originally set up at Universal, ended up at Warner Bros.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Stubs - Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Algee Smith, Martin Sheen. Directed by Shaka King. Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King. Produced by Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Shaka King. USA Color Run time: 126 minutes. Biography, Drama.

The effect of COVID is still being felt well into 2021. While movie theaters may be opening up again, there is no film that would be worth risking my life to see. Say what you will about Warner Bros. and their day and date releases on HBO Max but that very well may be how I watch movies for months to come. That is how I was able to watch Judas and The Black Messiah, my first new film of the year, even though it was recently nominated for Awards based on its initially planned release last year.

Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) was a very charismatic man.

Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, and an FBI informant, William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield).

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Stubs - King Kong (2005) - Bigger, longer but not necessarily better

King Kong (2005) Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Evan Parke, Lobo Chan, Kyle Chandler, Andy Serkis Directed by Peter Jackson. Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson. Based on King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper. Produced by Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson. Run time: 187 minutes. New Zealand, United States. Color. Monster. Adventure.

One of my favorite quotes is from Gene Siskel, the deceased film critic from Chicago. I forgot the film he was discussing with his co-host Roger Ebert, but it had to be a remake because Siskel opined something to the effect of "don’t remake films that worked, remake the ones that didn’t." Case in point here, King Kong (1933), which happens to be one of director Peter Jackson’s favorite films. So what does he do with the clout he had developed from directing The Lord of the Rings trilogy but to remake King Kong.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Stubs - King Kong (1976)

King Kong (1976) Starring: Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange. Directed by John Guillermin. Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. Based on the film King Kong written by James Creelman and Ruth Rose (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 1933) from an idea conceived by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Run time: 135 minutes. USA Color Horror, Adventure, Monster.

As we’ve discussed before, Hollywood can’t stop itself from doing remakes. One might think that the classics would be off-limits, but even those occasionally get the remake treatment. RKO’s 1933 King Kong would seem to be untouchable but, alas, Hollywood has not only remade the film once, but they’re on their third revision of the legend, with Kong: Skull Island (2017) and its soon to be released sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong.

It has also been noted that Hollywood seems to go through cycles, in which the same types of films come out at the same time. This goes back to the Pre-Code days but still seems to continue to this day. King Kong is also a case in point in that trend. Back in 1975, two separate production companies had the idea to remake the 1933 classic; producer Dino De Laurentiis and Universal Pictures both approached RKO General, the successor to RKO Radio Pictures about the rights to the picture. And for a time, both thought they had exclusive rights to make their film. I won’t go into the grisly details of the dispute but safe to say that De Laurentiis would win the first round. Universal’s remake would have to wait until 2005 when director Peter Jackson, fresh from his success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would do his own take.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

House of Leaves

We wish to inform you that the following review will contain spoilers for House of Leaves. — Ed.

During my research for a review of The Beginner’s Guide, I came across a comparison to the books House of Leaves and Pale Fire, neither of which I had heard of until that point. After reading the premise for both, I was more intrigued by the one for House of Leaves, a twenty-year-old novel by Mark Z. Danielewski, and later received the Remastered Full-Color Edition hardcover release as a Christmas present. The sheer size of the book intimidated me at first, but I worked up the courage and dove right in. Finishing it took a little longer than I thought, but I felt strongly enough about my opinion afterwards that I thought I’d do a one-off book review due to the book’s connection with film and the game that led me to it. To that end, I respect Danielewski’s commitment to painstakingly writing and formatting a novel exactly the way he wanted it for the effect he sought over the course of ten years, but it’s a bit overhyped.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Beginner's Guide

Two years after the retail release of The Stanley Parable, Davey Wreden released his follow-up, The Beginner’s Guide, which I had purchased along with its soundtrack. I remembered that I liked it at the time that I played it, but had never reviewed it for whatever reason. Right after I had replayed The Stanley Parable, however, I gave this game another shot to see if my opinion on it had changed. Though I still appreciated its ambition and the point of its message after five years, I’m not sure that I thoroughly enjoyed it as much as I once did.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

Note: This review contains spoilers for Dr. Langeskov.

In 2015, developer Crows Crows Crows, then-newly founded by William Pugh of The Stanley Parable fame, released an experimental project titled Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (aka Dr. Langeskov). The fact that the game was free, as well as the refreshing transparency about its 15-minute length, got me to try it out. I remembered liking it when it first came out, though I recently decided to try it out again, partly to be able to give my own thoughts on it after five years and to try and obtain some of the achievements I missed the first time. Even after a small time gap, the game holds up really well as a worthwhile package for what it is.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Second Look – The Stanley Parable (+ Demo)

Note: This review contains spoilers for The Stanley Parable and The Stanley Parable Demo.

Back in 2013, we reviewed The Stanley Parable, the first game commercially released by developers Davey Wreden and William Pugh under Galactic Cafe. I would later feel embarrassed by the original review and rewrote it a year later, but I still never really felt satisfied with it. As such, I decided to once again revisit The Stanley Parable and give it more of a proper review that explains why I still love it after all these years.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021


Back in 2013, The Fullbright Company made waves with Gone Home, which ushered in the “walking simulator” genre. However, I wasn’t as impressed by it and didn’t pay attention to their 2017 follow-up game, Tacoma. After I revisited Gone Home, I felt more inclined to try Tacoma and found that it happened to be on sale for $3 on Steam as opposed to $15 (though due to how Steam’s bundle system works, I got it for only $2.89). A couple hours later, I felt that while Tacoma improved from Gone Home to an extent, I might have felt ripped off if I had paid full price.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Gone Home

When Gone Home first released in mid-2013, it received lavish praise from game journalists, including perfect or near perfect scores and several Game of the Year nominations. However, it also received a lot of backlash and, as a result, birthed the term “walking simulator”, a label used unironically by both developers and detractors. I didn’t play it when it initially released, but I did get it as part of a 2014 Humble Bundle, Humble Indie Bundle 12, and played it to see what all the fuss was about. It didn’t really click with me at the time, but I never wrote a review to express that. A few years later, I decided to take another look at it and see if my opinion had changed. Although I now have a better idea of what worked about it, I also have a much clearer idea of why I’m still not that big of a fan.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Stubs - Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Spider-Man 3: The Editor's Cut (2017)

Spider-Man 3 (2007) Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace. Directed by Sam Raimi. Screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi. Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, Grant Curtis. Run time: 140 minutes. United States. Color.  Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Superhero.

I don’t know but if you’re like me, when the credits on Spider-Man 2 (2004) rolled and “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional played, I was more than ready for Spider-Man 3. When I did see that film at an employee screening at Sony Pictures three years later, I did not have the same reaction when the credits rolled. I don’t think I knew at the time that Sam Raimi wasn’t going to direct Spider-Man 4 but with the downbeat ending of Spider-Man 3, I can’t say I was surprised to learn that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Short Hike

It’s not often that I go out of my way to look for indie games to play, but when I got my hands on a massive bundle, I looked for recommendations and consistently saw A Short Hike come up. The game, developed and published by Adam Robinson-Yu and originally released in 2019 as a Humble Original, looked promising and I dove right in when I had the chance. Although I had no expectations going in, I’m happy to say that it’s well worth the time and money.