Saturday, January 29, 2022

Encanto (+ Far From the Tree)

Within the last few years, the Walt Disney Company has made greater attempts at representing previously underrepresented cultures, with the side effect of opening up new storytelling opportunities and leaving room for experimentation. In this vein, Encanto, the sixtieth film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, explores Columbian culture while telling the story through a tight-knit, and for some relatable, family dynamic. Though the film underperformed at the box office, earning about $216.3 million against an estimated budget of $120-150 million, it achieved a newfound success from its recent Disney+ release, which was also how we finally saw the film. Indeed, a combination of passionate writing and directing, along with the unique Disney flair, elevate Encanto as one of the studio's better films in recent years.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4)

In 2013, developer WayForward had a successful Kickstarter campaign for the fourth Shantae Game, Half-Genie Hero, which finally saw a proper release in 2016. This would also serve as my formal introduction to the series, as I found the Risky Beats Edition at a Best Buy and, somewhat aware of the series at the time, decided to give it a try. As later purchases of the rest of the series from Limited Run would show, I got hooked. However, I never gave this entry a proper review, so I decided to rectify that with a second playthrough. Though I still enjoyed the game and found it improved over Pirate’s Curse in some aspects, I now believe it needed a little more development time, or at least more of a concrete plan.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Whether or not you’re aware of the anime/manga franchise Lupin III, there’s no understating the influence of Arsène Lupin III’s second feature-length adventure, The Castle of Cagliostro, best known as the directorial debut of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Scenes are often lifted from it or referenced in some fashion in both animated and live-action works and it’s one of the most, if not the most, well-known Lupin III adventures, despite its initial poor box office in Japan. At this point, over forty years after its initial release, Miyazaki’s involvement makes The Castle of Cagliostro a must-see for animation fans and students, though those who have seen other Lupin III works beforehand would have a different perspective. Indeed, our initial viewing of the film, through the Discotek Blu-ray set, came after we saw a few Lupin III anime and Lupin III: The First, which we enjoyed. As such, while we loved The Castle of Cagliostro, it noticeably feels different from what one would expect from Lupin III.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (Switch)

Four years after the release of Shantae: Risky's Revenge, WayForward Technologies released their third Shantae game, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, in 2014 for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, marking the first home console release for the series. While I was aware of this entry for the longest time, including its growing legacy as a modern classic, I wouldn't actually get a chance to play it until the release of the physical Nintendo Switch port through Limited Run Games, which I played while waiting for the delivery of my Limited Run copy of Shantae and the Seven Sirens. In the time between when I first wrote and posted this review, the price of this particular release of the game rocketed to hundreds of dollars on the second-hand market, literally at least ten times that of the original 3DS cartridge. While the game is nowhere near worth paying that kind of money, I still agreed with the hype around Pirate's Curse after about 11 hours of play.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Stubs - Arsène Lupin

Arsène Lupin (1932) Starring John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Karen Morley. Directed by Jack Conway. Screenplay by Carey Wilson. Based on the play Arsène Lupin by Maurice Leblanc and Francis de Croisset (Paris, 28 Oct 1908) and was based on the book of the same name by Maurice Leblanc, first published in Paris in 1907. Producer (none Credited) Run time: 84 minutes. USA Black and White Pre-code. Drama. Crime. Comedy.

If you’re like me, you may be aware of Arsène Lupin through Lupin III, a series of manga and anime about the supposed grandson. The origins go back to a short story written by Maurice Leblanc, "The Arrest of Arsène Lupin", which was published on July 15, 1905. The character would go on to be featured in 17 novels and 39 novellas by Leblanc published until 1935.

It should come as no surprise that films would be made as well. The surprise may be in how many. The first film was The Gentleman Burglar (1908). The German film Arsène Lupin contra Sherlock Holmes followed in 1910. A French film called Arsène Lupin came out in 1914. A new version of The Gentleman Burglar (1915) was followed by a pair of films called Arsène Lupin (1916; UK) and (1917, US). Overall, there have been at least 25 films made, with the most recent being the Japanese film Lupin no Kiganjoh (2011). That doesn’t count the television series (Lupin III), stage plays, comic books, and video games based around the character and his descendant.

While the finished film would star the acting Barrymore siblings, they were not the first choices for the roles. Robert Montgomery and John Gilbert were both considered for the starring role in the film. This would end up being the first of four films to feature the brothers. They would also appear in Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Rasputin and the Empress (1933).

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut (Switch)

When the original Shantae released back in 2002, it didn’t sell very well, partly due to its low print run and poor distribution. However, that didn’t stop WayForward from envisioning a sequel, which wouldn’t see the light of day until it finally released in October 2010 for, of all things, the Nintendo DSi. This game, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge would then receive an iOS port the following year with a new Magic Mode, followed by a Windows port in 2014, now called Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, featuring a new Warp system and the iOS version’s Magic Mode. Following my playthrough of Shantae, I naturally went to Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, but much like the original game, I opted for the physical Switch port from Limited Run Games instead of any of the downloadable versions. While perhaps not as fleshed out as later entries, Risky’s Revenge still proved itself a great step up from the original.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion

Note: This review contains spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion.

When the Puella Magi Madoka Magica (PMMM) anime first aired in 2011, its dark take on the magical girl genre made a big splash and received critical acclaim for its deep storytelling and discussions of the concepts of selflessness and hope vs despair, among other topics. The following year, animation studio Shaft would follow up their big hit with two recap films, subtitled Beginnings and Eternal, and then a third film in 2013, a sequel story subtitled Rebellion. For one reason or another, it would be about a decade before I finally watched PMMM, which I did through a cheaper UK Blu-ray set to avoid paying Aniplex’s notoriously sky-high US Blu-ray prices. After finishing the series, which I enjoyed but didn’t think was a flawless 10/10 masterpiece as some might be led to believe (I personally enjoyed works like Paranoia Agent and The Big O more), I grew curious about the Rebellion film and how it would continue the story. However, I had to wait until the release of a pricey 10th Anniversary movie trilogy Blu-ray set to watch the English dub, for lack of another legal option. Sadly, as much I liked a lot of the film, I wasn’t sure that it was entirely worth the money and effort required to watch it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Shantae (Switch)

While Shantae is one of the more well-known indie game series now, to the point of getting a Mii costume in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it didn’t start out that way. Back when the series debuted on the Game Boy Color with Shantae in 2002, it immediately fell into obscurity, due in part to releasing one year after the Game Boy Advance and its initial low print run of 20-25,000 copies. As interest in the franchise grew, starting with Risky’s Revenge in 2010, prices on the original cartridge went up, though a digital release would thankfully alleviate the issue of accessibility. After I started the series much later, with Half-Genie Hero, I wanted to experience the rest of the games and eyed the digital release of Shantae, but instead went through a physical copy of the Nintendo Switch port from Limited Run Games. While the half-genie’s original adventure is worth seeking out, even digitally, it has certainly shown its age the most.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

A Celebration of 1300 Reviews

Another 100 reviews and not much has changed since the 1200 review milestone. Though vaccines are being rolled out, the continuing evolution of COVID-19, to the point of necessitating booster shots with varying degrees of effectiveness, means we are still not willing to risk our lives in a movie theater and instead continue to rely on streaming services and physical media to keep up with newer movie releases. Our video game consumption has also grown to include more of a mixture of both retro and modern games, so long as they remain affordable. Not sure how fast the next milestone might arrive, though in the meantime we have some interesting content planned for 2022.

Below is a list of links to every review from 1201-1300, broken up every 25 links for easy navigation. Each review will also be color-coded as such: MovieVideo Game, DLC.

1201. Watch Dogs: Legion (PS5)
1209. Cars
1211. Cars 3
1216. Her Man
1217. Chances
1221. Holes

1297. Octodad

Movies: 51 (826 Total)
Video Games: 48 (424 Total)
Comic Books: 0 (27 Total)
DLC: 1 (22 Total)
Book: 0 (1 Total)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The 25th Ward: The Silver Case (PS4)

Note: This review contains spoilers for The 25th Ward: The Silver Case.

After the positive reception to The Silver Case, Suda51 developed a sequel, The 25th Ward, but released it for mobile phones rather the initial planned console release under the idea that he could get it out more quickly. Unfortunately, this meant that the game only saw a Japanese release and as soon as the game was eventually shut down in 2011, The 25th Ward became lost media or, as Suda51 put it, a “ghost game”. Once the remake of The Silver Case performed well, however, Suda51 decided to resurrect The 25th Ward as a full remake, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, rather than a simple remaster and released the completed game through publisher Nippon Ichi Software in 2018. This release meant that international fans of the Kill the Past series could finally experience another chapter. As much as I enjoyed The Silver Case back when I played it, however, the unnecessary tedium in The 25th Ward, both in its writing and gameplay, made finishing it more of a chore.