[FILM REVIEW] Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)

With Andy Davis heading for college, his toys begin to worriedly reflect on their own future. They have not been played with in years, and a majority of them are gone. The army men, declaring their job done, parachute out the window. All hope isn’t lost, for Andy decides to take Woody with him to college and intends to place the rest of his toys in the attic. However, through a series of misunderstandings, Ms. Davis believes the bag containing the toys for a normal trash bag and places it on the curb. Saddened that Andy would throw them away, they climb into a donation box along with Molly’s old Barbie doll en route to Sunnyside Daycare. Knowing Andy has not abandoned them, Woody attempts to convince his fellow toys of the truth, though he will find the task more difficult than he ever could have imagined.

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[FILM REVIEW] Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 1999)

Andy Davis is preparing to go to summer camp. He intends to bring his favorite toy – a cowboy figure named Woody. However, while playing with him, he inadvertently tears the figure. Andy’s mother tells her son to leave Woody behind out of fear of damaging him further. Woody is now highly afraid of being thrown out – a fear that has come to pass for one of his peers. Wheezy, a squeeze toy penguin, has not seen the light of day for several months upon breaking his squeaker. Andy’s mother then sets Wheezy up at a yard sale. Determined to rescue his friend, Woody leaps into action.

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[GAME REVIEW] Super Widget

Introduction

Graphic Research’s attempt at adapting Peter Keefe’s environmentally conscious, animated show Widget for the Nintendo Entertainment system proved less-than-satisfactory. Not only did it sell very poorly, the few people who did purchase it immediately dismissed it as an inferior take on the run-and-gun gameplay pioneered by Mega Man. Even those willing to ignore the subpar controls were ultimately treated to an unstable mess of a game that threatened to crash at the slightest provocation. Nonetheless, a sequel to the game was greenlit. However, taking up the reins of the development process was the company that published the original game: Atlus.

The Setagaya-based developer had made a name for themselves in their native homeland due to their successful adaptation of Aya Nishitani’s Digital Devil Story. From this adaptation, their flagship series would soon be formed: Shin Megami Tensei. However, because none of these games saw an international release, Atlus was fairly obscure outside of Japan. As such, their adaptation of Mr. Keefe’s animated series, released under the name Super Widget in late 1993, was one of the very few games of theirs Western enthusiasts got to play during the fourth console generation. With its predecessor leaving much to be desired, does Super Widget manage to be an improvement?

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[FILM REVIEW] Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

Andy Davis is an ordinary boy growing up in a suburban home. Like many kids, he loves playing with toys. His favorite toy is a cowboy figure named Woody. However, the world in which Andy lives has a secret. Toys are living beings that simply pretend to be lifeless whenever humans are present. Because Andy’s family intends to move soon, his parents decide to celebrate his birthday a week early. Little does he know that one toy he receives will end up disrupting the dynamic between the ones he currently owns.

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[FILM REVIEW] F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1973)

After the Second World War ended, a man hailing from Ibiza, Spain named Elmyr de Hory arrived in Paris and attempted to make a living as an artist. Through his endeavors, he discovered he had an uncanny ability to copy styles of famous painters. In 1946, he sold a pen-and-ink drawing to a British woman who believed it to be an original work by Picasso. Having little money to his name, he went against his scruples and sold his forgery as the genuine article. Nearly three decades later, the French filmmaker François Reichenbach hired Orson Welles to edit and narrate a documentary about de Hory. However, as the project blossomed, more and more narratives became intertwined. When all was said and done, the result would be the final film of Orson Welles’s released in his lifetime: F for Fake.

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Sunshine Blogger Award from AK of Everything is Bad for You

I have been tagged once more with a Sunshine Blogger Award. This time, it is from AK, who runs a blog called Everything is Bad for You. It’s an amusing blog that manages to highlight many games I grew up with. Plus, unlike the gaming press, he actually acknowledges what indie games have accomplished in the last few years. Anyway, he asked eleven questions, so here are my answers to them.

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[GAME REVIEW] Monster World IV

Introduction

With Ryuichi Nishizawa and the rest of Westone having created Wonder Boy in Monster World, the versatile franchise now had a presence on the Sega Genesis. However, while Wonder Boy had arguably been Sega’s premier franchise throughout the third console generation, the company provided its answer to Nintendo’s Mario with their own mascot in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog. His debut in June of 1991 garnered a lot of critical and commercial attention, moving millions of copies. Suddenly, the Genesis could stand toe-to-toe with Nintendo’s then-newest console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES). However, the success of Sonic the Hedgehog ended up being a radical paradigm shift for Sega. Because they had a popular franchise on their hands, they focused their attention on making Sonic as versatile of a character as Mario. This ultimately overshadowed their third-generation triumphs. Most jarringly, their previous mascot, Alex Kidd, was left to fall into obscurity when his Genesis debut failed to resonate with fans.

Nonetheless, Mr. Nishizawa and his team were determined to create a follow-up to their fifth Wonder Boy game. Realizing that Monster World was far more popular than the Wonder Boy franchise from which it had spun off from, it seemed highly fitting for Westone to drop the original title for the sixth installment. The result of their efforts was thus simply entitled Monster World IV and released in 1994. Although fans of the Wonder Boy franchise existed in the West, Wonder Boy in Monster World would be the last time they ever saw a new entry.

As the century drew to a close, the internet began rising in popularity. It was only natural for the first adopters to be savvy in the art of programming and, by extension, video games. Through using the internet, they learned of the many games that never left Japan – including installments of popular franchises such as Square’s Final Fantasy. In extreme cases such as Intelligent Systems’s Fire Emblem, entire series were never released in the West. Among the games Western fans learned of was Monster World IV. The use of the internet along with the widespread availability of the titles’ ROM images allowed enthusiasts to band together to translate these Japan-exclusive games – including this one. Thankfully for Western fans who weren’t knowledgeable about emulation, Monster World IV did at last see the light of day in May of 2012 on the Xbox Live Arcade, the Wii’s Virtual Console, and the PlayStation Network. Unlike most cases of a game not previously localized being imported, Sega went a step further and provided an official translation for Monster World IV. Unfortunately, in the eighteen years since its domestic debut, Westone had gone out of business. Monster World IV was the newest installment in the series in both 1994 and 2012. Was Westone able to end their most famous series’ initial run on a high note?

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[GAME REVIEW] Widget

Introduction

In 1984, American television producer Peter Keefe launched a show known as Voltron. The show was about five pilots who commanded a robotic lion. When combined, they would form the titular robot. They would use their technology to protect Planet Arus from an evil warlord by the name of King Zarkon. During its three-year run, Voltron became the highest-ranked syndicated children’s show. Creating the show involved cutting pieces of Japanese animated shows such as Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. As a result, Voltron ended up being an unconventional gateway series for Japanese animation – or anime, as it is more commonly known. After the success of Voltron, Mr. Keefe would go on to create other animated series such as Denver the Last Dinosaur and Twinkle the Dream Being.

The year 1990 marked the debut of another one of his animated shows: Widget. The protagonist and title character of this show was a purple extraterrestrial being from a planet within the Horsehead Nebula. Making use of his curious shapeshifting abilities, Widget would team up with a group of young human friends to protect the environment from those who sought to harm it. Because of its themes, the show was often compared to Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle’s Captain Planet and the Planeteers. As a result of its environmentalist themes, Mr. Keefe’s show was recognized by the National Education Association, who recommended it for children. Sometime into the show’s run, a developer in Japan named Graphic Research was commissioned to create a video game tie-in. The fruit of their labor was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1992 – two years after the domestic launch of its successor. Did Widget provide one last classic experience for the aging NES?

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[FILM REVIEW] Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

A sixteen-year-old high-school student named Juno MacGuff has just discovered she is pregnant. The father is a good friend of hers – Paulie Bleeker, though she didn’t count on this to result from his first time. Realizing she wouldn’t be fit to raise this child, she initially considers an abortion. When she reaches the clinic, however, she changes her mind and decides to put the baby up for adoption instead. Juno manages to find a couple – Mark and Vanessa – willing to agree to a closed adoption.

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[FILM REVIEW] Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Rob Letterman, 2019)

Tim Goodman is a 21-year-old insurance salesman who once aspired to become a Pokémon Trainer. These dreams came to an end when his mother died. Because his father was never around, he distanced himself from the creatures that inhabit his world. One day, he receives terrible news. His father died in an automotive accident. Upon visiting his father’s apartment in Ryme City, he meets an individual who may prove instrumental in investigating the circumstances of his father’s fate.

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