Saturday, July 31, 2021

Stubs - Downstairs

Downstairs (1932) Starring: John Gilbert, Paul Lukas, Virginia Bruce Directed by Monta Bell. Screenplay by Lenore Coffee, Melville Baker Story by John Gilbert Produced (None Credited) USA Run time: 77 minutes. Black and White. Drama. Pre-Code.

There were many silent stars who did not fare well with the coming of sound but none may have been more famous than John Gilbert. Once the rival of Rudolph Valentino as a box office draw, Gilbert was once known as "The Great Lover". The coming of sound didn’t end Gilbert’s career, but it did correspond with his decline.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Mummy Demastered (PS4)

Only a few months after Universal’s critically-panned 2017 take on The Mummy, which also failed spectacularly at kickstarting yet another cinematic universe, WayForward Technologies released a retro-styled video game tie-in, The Mummy Demastered. Unlike many other movie tie-in games, this one released to critical praise, with fans and critics considering it a major improvement over the actual movie. Though I haven’t seen The Mummy (2017) myself, I did hear all the praise and eventually got a physical copy through Limited Run when I had the chance. As I’ve grown more familiar with WayForward’s library, and found an opportunity to play the game myself, it definitely lives up to the hype.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Peanuts Movie

Note: This review contains spoilers for The Peanuts Movie.

My own experience with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip has been somewhat minimal, having read one collection of the comic and watched a handful of the TV specials, so I’m not too much of an expert on Peanuts lore. That said, I still enjoyed what I knew of it, so when The Peanuts Movie was announced from the now-defunct Blue Sky Studios of Ice Age fame, I was somewhat curious about it because of the animation style, and especially after hearing a lot of positive word-of-mouth. However, I would not end up seeing it in a theater and it wouldn’t be until years later when I finally watched it through Disney+ to satisfy my own curiosity. Once I finally did watch it, I was amazed by its faithfulness to the source material and loved every minute of it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Blacksad: Under the Skin

Beginning in the year 2000, the independent album-format comic Blacksad by Spanish duo Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido tells the adventures of private investigator John Blacksad, set in a version of 1950s America populated by anthropomorphic animals and heavily inspired by noir films. Though I had been aware of the comic for a while, what spurred me to actually try and read the comic via an all-in-one collection was the announcement of a video game adaptation, Blacksad: Under the Skin. Even knowing the game had some technical issues at launch, when I finally read the comic, I enjoyed it enough to immediately track down a physical copy of the PS4 Limited Edition version of the game and start playing it as soon as I could. While the game does a great job at emulating the original Blacksad comics, and is worth experiencing despite the technical issues, said issues could not be ignored entirely.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy

If you’re reading this, you’ve very likely heard of Space Jam, a 1996 film where Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan team up to defeat a group of aliens in a game of basketball. While it did okay critically, the film proved enough of a financial success that Warner Bros. immediately went into talks for a sequel. However, the project languished in development hell until 2014, when a sequel featuring LeBron James was officially announced, though filming didn’t start until 2019. The final product, whose production was largely unaffected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16, 2021 as part of the slate of day-and-date releases for the platform. Unfortunately, the 25-year gap between films resulted in something less of a real sequel to Space Jam and more of a glorified ad for both Warner Bros. and LeBron James.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Cartoonist

Whether you’re a longtime comic book reader or just exploring works that fall outside of the Big Two of Marvel and DC, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Bone, a highly-successful, award-winning 55-issue epic from the mind of Jeff Smith. During a quest from one of our contributors to devour every piece of Bone media, we obtained a copy of The Cartoonist (full title The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, Bone and the Changing Face of Comics), a 2009 documentary about Jeff Smith’s career and the creation and surprise success of Bone. With the success of Smith’s first Kickstarter, for two TUKI graphic novels, we finally watched the documentary, which proved insightful even for those who hadn’t read any of his works before.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable - Chapter I

Note: This review contains massive spoilers for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, begun by mangaka Hirohiko Araki in 1987, tells the multi-generational story of the Joestar family and their continuing battle against the forces of evil. The series is split into currently eight Parts, each focusing on a different Joestar, with Part 3 introducing the concept of Stands, which are psychic powers reflecting the personality of the user. Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable (1992-1995), tells the story of Josuke Higashikata and his misadventures in the fictional town of Morioh, solving mysteries about his hometown along the way.

I will admit that, while I had heard of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and was aware of its limited US import in my high school years, it didn’t really grab my attention until the series received a proper anime adaptation in 2012, and since then it has become one of my favorite anime/manga series in spite of whatever flaws it has. My curiosity was piqued when, at the height of the increased popularity of Diamond is Unbreakable following its anime adaptation, a live-action film based on the series, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Chapter I (JP: JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken Daiyamondo wa Kudakenai Dai-Isshō), was announced in 2016 to be directed by prolific director Takashi Miike, though I held off on actually trying to watch the film until it had a proper release stateside. The opportunity finally presented itself when Viz Media brought it over in subtitled form on Blu-ray in 2020, though I did not end up actually watching it until some time later. As someone who has read the official English translation of Diamond is Unbreakable from Viz and watched the anime twice, once in subtitled form on Crunchyroll and once in English dubbed form through a Toonami broadcast, I thought it was a good movie overall, though it could have been improved in places.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Stubs - Black Widow

Note: This review contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

Black Widow (2021) Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz. Directed by Cate Shortland. Screenplay by Eric Pearson. Based on Marvel Comics. Produced by Kevin Feige. Color. USA Runtime: 134 minutes. Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Superhero, MCU.

MCU Phase 4 is upon us and it starts with an interquel about Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). While it is good to see her finally get a backstory film of her own, the film feels a little out of place. Why start a new Phase with a look back at a character that, spoiler alert, has died. It’s sort of like ending Phase 3 with a film after Avengers: Endgame; oh yeah, they did just that.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (PS4)

Last year, the Kingdom Hearts series concluded the long-running Dark Seeker Saga with Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, which also included a glimpse at the series’ future. Although no one knew how the series would continue from there, it’s safe to say that few expected the announcement of a rhythm game, Melody of Memory (MoM), as the first post-Kingdom Hearts III (KHIII) title. Upon its announcement, Tetsuya Nomura also revealed that it went into development at the same time as KHIII and would serve primarily as a celebration of the series’ iconic music. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure about actually playing the game right away after playing the demo, but the knowledge that it also contained new story content intrigued me enough that I picked it up during a sale. Suffice to say, while the gameplay felt fresh, I made the right decision not buying MoM at full price.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Night in the Woods

Since its original release in 2017, I had heard good things about Night in the Woods, an indie game developed by Infinite Fall and published by Finji after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, but I didn’t have the opportunity to actually play it until I got it as part of an bundle. Since the version I ended up playing was the Weird Autumn Edition, which added a few things to the base game, I have no experience with the originally released version. All the same, I ended up liking the town of Possum Springs and its inhabitants, though the game itself isn’t perfect.

Saturday, July 3, 2021


Of the many (many) films I had watched growing up, I have distinct memories associated with Holes. Around the time I had watched Holes during its initial theatrical run, I was reading the original novel by Louis Sachar, who also wrote the adaptation, and had actually finished reading the book in the theater right before the lights dimmed. Though I don’t remember every detail from the book, many elements of the film stuck with me for eighteen years, which ultimately led me to rewatch the film. To my surprise, Holes held up really well and stands out as an example of great storytelling that anyone can get into.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Stubs - The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross (1932) Starring: Fredric March, Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton Directed by Cecile B. DeMille. Screenplay by Waldemar Young, Sidney Buchman. Based on the play The Sign of the Cross by Wilson Barrett (London, 27 May 1895). Cecil B. De Mille's Production. Run time: 126 minutes. USA Black and White. Melodrama, Historical, Religious. Pre-Code.

Feature filmmaking in Hollywood owes a lot to Cecile B. DeMille. Along with Jesse Lasky, Sam Goldfish (later Samuel Goldwyn), and a group of East Coast businessmen created the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company in 1913, one of the companies that would eventually become Paramount Pictures. DeMille became director-general of the company. He would also co-direct the first full-length film shot In Hollywood with The Squaw Man (1914).

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Stubs - Trouble in Paradise - "The Lubitsch Touch"

Trouble in Paradise (1932) Starring: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Greig. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Screenplay by Samson Raphaelson. Based on the play A Becsuletes Megtalalo (The Honest Finder) by László Aladár (Budapest, Dec 1931). Produced by Ernst Lubitsch Run time: 83 minutes. USA Black and White. Pre-Code Romantic Comedy.

Director Ernst Lubitsch was an early émigré from Germany to Hollywood but he didn’t come to America to escape the Nazis. Instead, by 1922, he had seen enough American films to know that Hollywood had more financial resources than the rather spartan German one. While making films in America he became known for his urbane comedies of manners and something called the “Lubitsch Touch.” One of the better examples of that is Trouble in Paradise (1932).