Saturday, August 28, 2021

Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train

While Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (aka Demon Slayer) had modest success when it started publication in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2016, the strength of its 2019 anime adaptation by Ufotable made it explosively popular, enough to make it the ninth best-selling manga series of all time. This popularity helped feed the box office sales of a pre-planned film, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train (aka Mugen Train), which made $500 million on a budget of $15.8 million and broke several box office records, including both the high-grossing anime and Japanese film of all time. The worldwide box office number also made it the highest-grossing film of 2020 in spite of its release during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which made it the first non-Hollywood production to top the annual box office.

Of course, due to the pandemic and a lack of a vaccination at the time, I hadn’t seen Mugen Train during its theatrical run in the US and tried to wait for a Blu-ray release of the English dub, as I had viewed the first season of Demon Slayer through a Toonami broadcast. When they hadn’t announced a Blu-ray for months, however, I caved and bought the digital version of the English dub through Amazon Prime. During my viewing, I had the unique opportunity to watch it alongside others who hadn’t seen the anime and concluded that it’s definitely a film worth watching in more than one sense.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (+ DLC) (Switch)

What journey to No More Heroes III (NMHIII) would be complete without a look at Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (TSA), the first in the series released on the Nintendo Switch and the first one directed by Suda51 himself sine the original game? Back when this game first released, its connection to the other games wasn’t certain, so we ended up skipping it. Once NMHIII received a formal announcement, however, we regretted this decision, as demand made owning a physical copy prohibitively expensive, so we ended up buying the game and DLC digitally. While this may be a cheaper and more convenient option for many, however, I’m not sure I would recommend it at full price unless you’re a hardcore Suda51 fan.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Switch)

After playing through both the original Wii and updated PS3 versions of No More Heroes, the next natural step was to play No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, originally released on the Wii in 2010. Much like the original game, however, we didn’t own a Wii at the time Desperate Struggle came out, so when we wanted a copy of our own, we found that due to its low initial sales, it was harder to find. As such, we opted for the physical Nintendo Switch release from Limited Run Games for the purpose of this review. We also discovered that at this point in Suda51’s career, he had less direct involvement in the games developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, so Nobutaka Ichiki directed Desperate Struggle instead. While the game still has merit, the general lack of involvement from Suda51 still shows.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise

A few years after the release of No More Heroes, it received a home console port for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (PS3), though only the PS3 version made it stateside. This port, subtitled Heroes’ Paradise, served as an upgraded HD version of the base game, complete with extra content and, notably, standard controller support. As I didn’t own a Wii at the time, and wouldn’t for a few years, I intended this version as my entry point into the world of No More Heroes, but certain statements in reviews of the time put me off. However, when Sony originally announced the end of PS3 store support in 2021, until they reversed it, I snagged a sealed copy before its price could climb out of my reach. As part of our buildup to No More Heroes III, I finally broke the seal and found myself enjoying an overlooked port of an already great game.

Monday, August 23, 2021

No More Heroes (Wii)

Our gradual journey through the work of Suda51 led us to one of his more well-known works, No More Heroes, developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Ubisoft in the US in 2008. Though we got a copy over a decade after its original release, and even got it signed by character designer Yusuke Kozaki at a character design workshop, we wouldn’t get around to actually playing it until we started burning through our gaming backlog during a global pandemic. After all the good things we had heard about it until then, I can safely say that the original Wii release of the game holds up surprisingly well, but holds itself back with some design choices that obviously came from changes in direction during development.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

PAW Patrol: The Movie

One of the most successful toy brands in recent years is Spin Master’s PAW Patrol, about a group of pups with transforming vehicles who go on rescue missions, thanks mainly to its popular tie-in animated series on Nick Jr. While I fall well outside the target demographic, I have seen a handful of random episodes in the background while performing other tasks, and I can see why the show is popular with said demographic. When a theatrical film, PAW Patrol: The Movie, was announced, I was a little curious to see how they would adapt the formulaic nature of the series into a cinematic experience, however my curiosity was piqued when I read an interview in Animation Magazine about the production and the steps that were taken to make it worthy of a theatrical presentation. After watching the movie through Paramount+, I felt that it succeeded in this way, as I found it to be far better than I expected.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Stubs - Rain (1932)

Rain (1932) Starring: Joan Crawford, Walter Huston, Matt Moore, William Gargan, Guy Kibbee, Beulah Bondi Directed by Lewis Milestone. Screenplay by Maxwell Anderson. Based on the play Rain by John Colton and Clemence Randolph (New York, 7 Nov 1922) as adapted from the short story "Miss Thompson" by W. Somerset Maugham in The Smart Set (Apr 1921). Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Run time: 94 minutes. USA Black and White Drama. Pre-Code.

Hollywood loves to tinker with films and remake them, usually aimed at a new generation of moviegoers. Once sound had become the norm, silent films were considered passé and some of them were remade to take advantage of the “talkies”. Case in point, Rain. What had been a very successful silent film, Sadie Thompson (1928) starring Gloria Swanson, seemed ripe for a remake.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Return of the Obra Dinn

Shortly after Lucas Pope’s successful Papers, Please in 2013, he started development on Return of the Obra Dinn, which launched in 2018. Though I didn’t closely follow the game at all, I heard enough positive word of mouth that I eventually bought the physical PS4 version through Limited Run. Waiting for the opportunity to play it this way was well worth it, as it’s easily one of the best puzzle games in years.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Stub - Yankee Doodle in Berlin

Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919) Starring: Bothwell Browne, Ford Sterling, Malcolm St. Clair, Bert Roach Directed by F. Richard Jones. Written by Mack Sennett. Produced by Mack Sennett. USA Run time: 65 minutes. Black and White. Silent. Comedy. WWI.

Propaganda films about evil Huns were quite common from Hollywood during World War I. Titles like The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin (1917) and To Hell With the Kaiser (1918), gave little to the imagination about whose side the US was on during the war. While Eric Von Stroheim is best remembered as a director, during this time period he was pretty busy playing sadistic Prussian officers in films like The Unbeliever (1918), The Hun Within (1918), The Heart of Humanity (1918), and D. W. Griffith's Hearts of the World (1918).

Late to the game was Mack Sennett’s send-up, Yankee Doodle in Berlin. And by late, I mean after the war had ended. The armistice which ended World War I happened on November 11, 1918 but this film wasn’t released until March 2, 1919.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Papers, Please

When Lucas Pope released Papers, Please in 2013, it quickly received critical acclaim and landed on lists of the best games of that year. Though I had an awareness of the game at the time, including a hilarious Mega64 sketch, I didn’t get around to actually playing the Steam version until faced with a global pandemic and, even then, only after watching a few videos on YouTube of people playing the first few in-game days. As I watched these videos, however, I felt that they had, unintentionally or not, made the game look more difficult than it really was. After finally playing it myself, I can conclude that while it didn’t feel as difficult as it looked, it really deserved all the praise it got.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Suicide Squad

Of the DCEU films that I’ve seen, the Academy Award winning 2016 film Suicide Squad is easily one of the worst, which was sort of a misguided attempt to emulate Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, only with a haphazard and forgettable story thanks to heavy executive meddling. When I heard the announcement of a sequel known as The Suicide Squad, I already wasn’t sure about it since I had been burned the first time, however my hopes were raised when I learned James Gunn himself was attached to direct, during the brief period in which he was not working for Disney (I will not get into why). Though it was one of several movies affected by the ongoing pandemic, I awaited this movie as the release date approached in the hopes that Gunn would be able to salvage the original film. After watching it on HBO Max as part of their day-and-date programming, I found the movie to exceed my expectations, even being a vast improvement over the original.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Stubs - The Racket (1928)

The Racket (1928) Starring: Thomas Meighan, Louis Wolheim, Marie Prevost. Directed by Lewis Milestone. Screenplay by Del Andrews (Scenario), Harry Behn (Scenario), Tom Miranda (titles). Based on the play The Racket by Bartlett Cormack (New York, 22 Nov 1927). Produced by Howard R. Hughes Run time 84 minutes. USA Black and White. Silent. Gangster

During the first Academy Awards, in 1929, films like Sunrise (1927) and Wings (1927) may have captured glory but there were other films that were also nominated for the two top awards. A film like The Racket was overlooked then but deserves a second look now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Phineas and Ferb: Day of Doofenshmirtz

Earlier this year, Sony announced the intent to shut down the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita digital storefronts, leaving countless digital games forever lost, only to reverse this decision later. It was during this brief period where we panic-bought a number of PS3 and PS Vita titles, during which we discovered that a game based on Phineas and Ferb had been released for the Vita, Phineas and Ferb: Day of Doofenshmirtz, which we did not know about previously. Since the game only received a digital release in the US, I opted to purchase a European physical copy to take advantage of the system being region-free. Some time after the PS Vita store was announced to not be shut down, I decided to play the game to see what it was like. While it is generally decent, my feeling are mixed on how well it works as a Phineas and Ferb game.