Sunday, May 29, 2022

Stubs - Downton Abbey: A New Era

Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022) Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Dominic West, Alex Macqueen, Nathalie Baye, Jonathan Zaccaï. Directed by Simon Curtis. Screenplay: Julian Fellowes. Based on the television series created by Julian Fellowes. Produced by Gareth Neame, Julian Fellowes, Liz Trubridge. Run time: 125 minutes. UK, USA Color Drama, Period.

Downton Abbey: A New Era, which recently opened nationwide, is a continuation of the British television series Downton Abbey and the film Downton Abbey (2019). New Era continues the storylines and deepens the relationships started with the series. While one hopes that New Era will open the door to new stories, it also closes doors on others.

The film walks the line between being a stand-alone film and an extended episode of the original series. Prior knowledge of the series, its characters and their relationships would definitely enhance your enjoyment of the film, but is not necessary. However, coming at it as someone who watched and enjoyed the original series, the film can be very emotional. Not sure someone just watching the film for the first time would have the same experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Stubs - Top Gun

Top Gun (1986) Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt. Directed by Tony Scott. Screenplay by Jim Cash, Jack Epps, Jr. Produced by Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer. Run time: 110 minutes. USA. Color. Drama, Romance, Action.

Some films define a decade and some films are defined by the decade in which they were made. While you might want to think the former is true of Top Gun, I would say that the film has the 1980s written all over it. Some may consider it a modern classic, but that would mean that it has aged well and frankly the film has not.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano

Australian box art used for representational purposes.

Following Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2, Tate Interactive did produce a third game, Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano (aka Kao: Mystery of Volcano) (Polish: Kao: Tajemnica Wulkanu), however it was never released in the US, leaving US fans who knew about it to have to import foreign copies. In anticipation of the release of a fourth Kao the Kangaroo game, this game made its way to GOG as part of a bundle with the other two games in the trilogy. Though I already had a free Steam copy of Round 2, I purchased the bundle for a chance to play the other two games without having to pay potentially exorbitant prices for a physical copy. After getting to play Mystery of the Volcano, I liked how it built on what Round 2 did, even if there wasn’t too much content by comparison.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Stubs - Our Town

Our Town (1940) Starring Frank Craven, William Holden, Martha Scott, Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Guy Kibbee. Director: Sam Wood. Screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Frank Craven, Harry Chandlee. Based on the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder (New York, 4 Feb 1938). Produced by Sol Lesser. Run time: 90 minutes. Black and White. USA. Drama.

Even before Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town went into production on Broadway, there were plans for a motion picture based on it. Producers Jed Harris and William K. Howard purchased Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 1937 with the intention of producing it on Broadway and making it into a motion picture. In 1939, producer Sol Lesser bought the motion picture rights for $75,000. Originally planned to be shot in Technicolor and directed by Ernest Lubitsch, the film adaptation had a major issue. The play was produced on a nearly bare stage and its main character died at the end.

But this is Hollywood and films are supposed to have happy endings. Lesser worked closely with
Wilder before changing the play. Wilder consented, writing to Lesser, "Emily should live...In a movie you see the people so close 'to' that a different relation is established. In the theatre, they are halfway abstraction in an allegory, in the movie they are very concrete. So, insofar as the play is a generalized allegory, she dies-we die-they die; insofar as it's a concrete happening it's not important that she die; it is disproportionately cruel that she die. Let her live--the idea will have been imparted anyway."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2 (PC)

Among the more obscure mascot platformers, Kao the Kangaroo from Polish developer Tate Interactive (now Tate Multimedia) was one that had slipped under my radar. So much, in fact, I was not fully aware of it until the second game, Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2, was released on Steam in 2019, when it was offered for free for 24 hours to promote a new Kao game in development. Since I knew it was the second game in the series, I tried looking into playing the first game, only to find that it was both hard to find and expensive second-hand. With this in mind, I opted to skip straight to the second game in order to see what exactly Kao the Kangaroo was. For a game originally released on sixth-generation consoles, I thought it held up really well, though not without issue.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Wonder (2017)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Wonder (2012).

As part of an effort to read more books, I read the 2012 middle grade novel Wonder by R. J. Palacio and, while not perfect, I found myself hooked. Soon after I finished the book, I felt like watching the 2017 film adaptation from Lionsgate and found a free on-demand listing. As expected, the film takes liberties with the source material to help suit the new medium. However, I still found the adaptation well-crafted and just as worthwhile as the book.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Stubs - The Egg and I

The Egg and I (1947) Starring Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Marjorie Main, Louise Allbritton, Percy Kilbride, Richard Long. Directed by Chester Erskine. Screenplay by Chester Erskine, Fred F. Finklehoffe. Based on the novel The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (Philadelphia, 1945). Producers: Chester Erskine, Fred F. Finklehoffe. Run time: 108 min. Black and White. USA. Comedy

A businessman decides to quit the 9-to-5 rat race and buys a farm. Only then does he tell his wife about the move. If it sounds like the setup of Green Acres, you’re not wrong, but it is also the setup for The Egg and I, based on the book by the same name by Betty MacDonald, about her adventures and travels as a young wife on a chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in the US state of Washington. A little change was made to make the husband a World War II veteran in the film.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Second Look - Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Note: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Skywalker Saga and Avengers: Endgame.

As the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy went on, though I noticed some issues with it, I made the choice to reserve my judgement on the trilogy as a whole until the release of the final part, The Rise of Skywalker, cautiously optimistic that it might make the journey worth it as Revenge of the Sith did for the prequels. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker proved what happens when you devote yourself to a trilogy without a solid outline, dragging down the entire trilogy as a result. This eventually led me to reevaluate the trilogy with the context provided by The Rise of Skywalker, though it wouldn’t be fair to go through said reevaluation without looking at the third part again, which I have not seen since the original theatrical release in 2019. Upon a second viewing, my opinion didn’t change all that much, and in fact it may have lowered a little bit.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Second Look - Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

Note: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Skywalker Saga.

Among the films in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi easily proved the most contentious when it first released in 2017. While critics clearly loved it, as reflected in the Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% at the time of this writing, audiences felt mixed. Some liked the bold choices made throughout the film while others disliked certain plot and character developments. Personally, when I first saw The Last Jedi in a theater, I had mixed feelings on what this film did, but I didn’t fully hate it because I had given the then-unfinished Sequel Trilogy the benefit of the doubt. With this trilogy now long-since completed, I went back and reevaluated my feelings on The Last Jedi, since I now had the full context. Unfortunately, placing this film within that context doesn’t really do it any favors.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Second Look - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Note: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Skywalker Saga.

Between The Walt Disney Company’s acquisitions of Marvel and 20th Century Fox, the company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, and with it came the announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars films, collectively referred to as the Sequel Trilogy for taking place after the Original Trilogy. The announcement of the first film, The Force Awakens, naturally generated an amount of hype not seen since the Prequel Trilogy to the point where I saw the film opening weekend and enjoyed it on my first viewing. The further away I got from this first experience, however, the more problems I began to see with it on subsequent viewings, to where I wanted to reevaluate it following the trilogy’s lackluster conclusion. While The Force Awakens did do some things right, it’s not nearly as good as I once thought it was.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Second Look - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (PS3)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.

After the success of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, LucasArts capitalized on its success with a sequel, The Force Unleashed II. Unfortunately, the end result fared far worse critically, followed by lower sales numbers. As I would learn later on, the state of the finished product came as a result of a rather troubled development, which included an unusually short production period of only nine months. This made me curious how well the game had aged, so I fired up my PS3 copy after over eleven years and played through the entire campaign. Suffice to say, my outlook on it has since lightened up, but its short development certainly held it back from greatness.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition (PS3)

Note: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, the Original Trilogy and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

A long time ago, before Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, LucasArts existed as a well-known game studio. They not only made a lot of adventure games for multiple platforms, but also, in their later years, plenty of official Star Wars games. One of these was the 2008 game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a game that bridged the gap between the Original and Prequel Trilogies while introducing the character Starkiller, who had a good amount of notoriety at the time. A year later, in 2009, the game would also receive a release called Ultimate Sith Edition that collected all of the DLC while also offering additional costumes. Twelve years later, I had the urge to revisit the game, both in part to finally play through the DLC campaigns and see how well it had held up after so many years. While still a fun experience today, it has admittedly started showing its age.