Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Aperture Desk Job (PC)

Recently, Valve released the Steam Deck, a hybrid console similar to the Nintendo Switch designed for compatibility with the entire Steam library. To coincide with this release, Valve launched a tech demo called Aperture Desk Job, a short game set in the Portal universe designed to show off the features of the Steam Deck. Fortunately, for those who can’t afford the system, Valve also released Aperture Desk Job for free on PC, with the tradeoff that the experience isn’t as optimized. As one of those who didn’t get a Steam Deck, I can safely say that even if you only own a PC, Aperture Desk Job is still worth the half-hour it takes to complete.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Cat Returns

In 1995, Studio Ghibli released a film in Japan known as Whisper of the Heart (JP: Mimi o Sumaseba or If You Listen Closely), based on a similarly-named manga by Aoi Hiiragi, and later received an English dub in 2006. This movie features a minor character known as the Baron, who would prove popular enough that a spin-off film was released in Japan in 2002, titled The Cat Returns (JP: Neko no Ongaeshi or The Cat’s Repayment), based on the Aoi Hiiragi manga Baron: The Cat Returns (JP: Baron: Neko no Danshaku), and was dubbed in 2005. While the manga has been translated to English and is apparently still available for purchase online, I did not know about or read the manga before watching The Cat Returns, nor have I seen Whisper of the Heart. That said, after watching The Cat Returns in English through the Blu-ray release from GKIDS, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the film’s overall quality.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

After the success of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy in 2017, a similar remaster of the original Spyro trilogy went into development and released in 2018 as Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Since the game required an additional download to have full access to everything, I didn’t buy it at first out of disdain for the practice. Eventually, however, I caved and got a copy so I could compare it to the original PS1 games, which I owned. While I think Toys for Bob made a valiant effort at bringing the original trilogy into the modern day, it does have issues that got increasingly more difficult to ignore with each game.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Stubs - Wife vs. Secretary

Wife vs. Secretary (1936) Starring: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, James Stewart. Directed by Clarence Brown. Screenplay by Norman Krasna, John Lee Mahin, Alice Duer Miller Based on the short story "Wife Versus Secretary" by Faith Baldwin in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (May 1935). Produced by Hunt Stromberg Run time: 88 minutes. USA Black and White Comedy, Drama

Let me start off the review by saying I’m a very big Jean Harlow fan. I know the hair is peroxided but there is something very genuine and genuinely sexy about her. I have not had a chance to see all of the films in her sadly short Hollywood career but I do look forward to seeing them all. The more I see of her films, the more I see that she co-starred with Clark Gable in six films, this being the fifth. I’m sure it was a match made in Hollywood heaven.

But Clark Gable was not the first choice for the male lead. That was originally going to William Powell, with whom Harlow was an item at the time. But Powell was too busy with other productions to appear in the film.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Spyro: Year of the Dragon

Just one year after Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, Insomniac released the third and final game in the original Spyro trilogy, Spyro: Year of the Dragon, in the actual Year of the Dragon before they shifted their focus to the still-ongoing Ratchet & Clank series. This entry also had a more ambitious scope, with more playable characters and gameplay variety. Though admirable, I feel from playing it now that it really did more harm than good.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Stubs - Turning Red

Turning Red (2022) Voices by Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong Directed by Domee Shi. Screenplay by Julia Cho, Domee Shi. Produced by Lindsey Collins. Color. USA.Run time: 100 minutes. Animated, Coming of Age, Comedy, Fantasy.

Domee Shi, the winner of the Academy Award Winning Animated Short Bao (2018), is back with her first feature, Turning Red, an animated coming-of-age film set in 2002 Toronto. Meilin "Mei" Lee (Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian student prodigy with three close friends, Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park), and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), who accept her and love her. 

 Meilin "Mei" Lee (Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old
Chinese-Canadian student prodigy n Turning Red.

Everything seems to come easy to Mei as she is smart, gifted, a violinist, and artist. However, nothing she does seems to be good enough for her helicopter mom from hell, Ming (Sandra Oh), whom Mei wants to please. Nothing too out of the ordinary really until one morning when Mei wakes up as a Giant Red Panda. After that nothing is the same for Mei.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

There’s no denying that Sony Pictures Animation productions are very hit and miss. However, some of their recent films have shown that with the right people on board, they can actually advance CG animation in bold new directions. Such is the case with The Mitchells vs. the Machines, written and directed by Mike Rianda. Originally scheduled for a 2020 theatrical run, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a change in plans that led it to a 2021 release on Netflix. Now that the film has made its way to home video and other streaming platforms, however, more people have the opportunity to experience one of the more innovative CG films in recent memory.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage

With the success of Spyro the Dragon, Insomniac attempted something more ambitious with Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, which included missions and a bigger story, while addressing some of the issues with the original game. This entry released to critical acclaim one year after the original Spyro the Dragon and has stood the test of time. Looking back on it now, however, I feel I have a more mixed opinion on the more drastic changes to the original formula.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Free Guy

There are two kinds of video game movies: adaptations and original works inspired by the medium. Films in the latter category have improved over time, due in part to involvement from those who are more passionate about gaming, as well as the more positive outlook on the hobby as a whole. The most recent effort on this front, Free Guy, had a bit of a rocky start, with no less than four release date changes as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but still did well at the box office, earning $331.5 million against a reported budget of $100-125 million, once it finally released in August 2021. Since it released exclusively in theaters at the time, however, we didn’t end up actually watching it until it came to both HBO Max and Disney+ in 2022. Was it worth the wait? For the most part, yes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Spyro the Dragon

Insomniac games may be best known for their Ratchet & Clank series and Marvel's Spider-Man right now, but their earliest success involved an early PlayStation mascot, a purple dragon named Spyro from their second ever video game, Spyro the Dragon. Spyro is far from obscure, but with Insomniac’s more recent successes, I thought it would be interesting to look back at their roots and see how well their first series held up today. Spyro the Dragon certainly feels like an experience only Insomniac could deliver, but time has only highlighted its flaws.