Wizards of Brandel Review


Wizards of Brandel brings us back to the world of high quality RPGs. The Asdivine Heart titles will always be legendary for their various quality of life upgrades to the genre and this one follows closely in its tracks. It may not be going as cosmic in is setting as those games but it’s got a fun story and you’ll have a fun time running through the game. It’s a bit on the short side but there are some post game elements that will help you run the length a bit more. I think I beat it at around 14 hours or so.
The story starts with Darius being evicted from his house since he hadn’t paid the rent in a very long time. All they left him is his bed so he now lives in the middle of a forest. One day he is approached by an immortal wizard named Mark who says he will allow Darius to live at his mansion as long as the hero does chores. Darius agrees but little does he know that Mark is a legendary demon lord who is wanted by the entire world. Is he really safe at this house?

The core cast is fairly small but each character is memorable. Brandel does a good job of giving each character a lot of character traits early on. First off you have Darius who is fairly emotionless most of the time although it’s very easy to tease him and cause the guy to blow up. He has a lot of different magical spells. Darius is obsessed with learning as much as he can but unfortunately none of those spells get him a lot of money. As he gets roped into this latest quest to save the world, he stows his fear and does his best.

Then you have the heroine Erica who is an agent of the government and was originally here to hunt Mark. Gradually she realizes that something isn’t quite right about all of this. Mark doesn’t seem like a villain and Darius is an upstanding guy so she aims to get to the bottom of this. She’s a good character and the game has an interesting dynamic with her and Darius. Usually you have the oblivious guy but the heroine likes him. In this game both of them only see the other as a friend so the supporting characters keep trying to push them together since that’s how it’s supposed to be…but the two main characters are both oblivious and just keep it moving. That was a fun twist and it must have been intentional.

Then you have Phelia who is a little girl that was kidnapped and experimented on until she turned into a plant monster. She has a lot of cool abilities now and may even be immortal but at the same time you never want to voluntarily have to go through experiments. The main characters decide to help protect her and ensure that this doesn’t happen again. It takes us back to our main plot where there is clearly someone evil in the world but it doesn’t appear to be the immortal wizard Mark. The heroes have to clear his name and find the main villain before too long.

In this case, the game is short enough where there aren’t many suspects so you’ll probably figure this out pretty fast. That said, the game does its best to still throw a few curve balls your way so it won’t be too easy to figure out what is going on. The story is interesting so you should be on board the whole time. The post game is more about tournaments and not really plot but there are some cutscenes to give closure to the characters as well. You can’t help but feel like Erica got the short end of the stick though.
Finally you have Mark who joins the party near the end. He has some kind of tragic backstory involving how he became immortal but the game doesn’t go into it. Every time someone asks him about it, Mark refuses to talk about it. It’s kind of neat that we don’t find this out, leaves a little mystery and room for your head canon here. I wish he would fight a little more since it seems like he should be pretty powerful but unfortunately that never ends up happening.

Then you’ve got Veldt who is the leader of the Guild. He seems pretty reasonable but the guy just looks like he’s a little more powerful than he should be. You’ll want to give him a second look to be sure and don’t let your guard down. Then there’s Cloney who is here to help the heroes. He will be King if our plan works out so that’s a pretty nice incentive for him to help us right? Not a bad prize for being a good citizen. There’s also the Warriors 3 who are pretty interesting antagonists. They are the best of the best in the kingdom and since they are after us, that means things will be tricky.

The gameplay is that of a turn based RPG. As I mentioned though, the game is light years ahead of most other titles in pretty much every way. You are able to speed up gameplay, go into auto battle mode, and use all kinds of tricks. You can turn animations on and off and so at all times you can play the game how you want. You may need to grind up some levels to beat the game but with auto battle turned on it’s not really much of a problem. It goes by very quickly and it’s just a lot of fun. I’d like to see more titles just make a game as smooth as these always turn out.

In a way you may get a little sloppy with the actual gameplay if you rely on this too much though so make sure you fight a bit on your own just in case. It shouldn’t be necessarily if you get a lot of level ups though. You have physical skills, magical ones, unity moves, and of course your physical attacks. Then you have the shop where you can trade in gems to buy incredibly powerful weapons, permanent EXP upgrades, and things like that. As a rule of thumb I always say to get the permanent upgrades first since they will come in handy for a lot of other things as the game goes on. By the end you will be really OP. A good way to grind is to click on the statues in each dungeon which let you run a gauntlet of 3 battles in a row over and over again. You get guaranteed gems which is huge.

The graphics are very good as you would expect. The art style always pops out for all the games from this company. The level designs are on point and the whole thing is just so colorful. Meanwhile the soundtrack is on point as well with a lot of tunes that sound just like something out of Asdivine Hearts. It’s all very fast paced and pretty hype. On a technical level the game really holds up.

Overall, Wizards of Brandel is great. It’s a relatively simple game as far as RPGs go but the execution in each area is just so good. You won’t be bored for a moment since there is always something happening here. The character cast is good and while the length isn’t very large, there’s enough content to keep you satisfied here. I’d definitely be down with this game getting a sequel and I hope the company continues to churn out more RPGs. I’d recommend getting this game if you like the genre or if you’re curious about starting this kind of game since this is a perfect entry point.

Overall 8/10

Toy Story 3 Review


Time to complete the trilogy! Toy Story 3 definitely came out quite a bit after the first two so it really looks a lot newer right from the jump. It’s definitely a big change in the status quo for the characters as well. Now does it defeat the first two films? On one hand it easily has the most action out of the 3 with a whole group of villains which was pretty intense. On the other hand you don’t get the fight between both Buzz’s. Hmmm….ultimately I would say this was the best in the trilogy although it’s close.

The movie starts off with a big homage to the first film. It’s the heroes all playing around in a classic wild west scenario only the graphics are way better than they used to be. We get explosions, boosters, and every cool gizmo you could want. We then cut to the toys being played with and it shows how good the kid’s imagination is. Well, it’s fun to reminisce about the old days but now Andy is heading off to college and isn’t really planning on bringing his toys. Why would he right?

Well, he plans on bringing Woody but everyone else is going to the cellar. Unfortunately due to a mistake, all of the other toys are sent to the junk pile where they narrowly avoid death. They decide to use this opportunity to go to the day care instead where kids will finally play with them again. After all the toys want to be played with rather than being stuck in the cellar. Woody disagrees with this and tells them to stay locked up in the cellar until Andy has kids some day.

Both sides are unable to come to a disagreement so the team splits up. Well, I say team but Woody is the only one who doesn’t follow them. He heads home but it isn’t a very smooth adventure as he ends up getting trapped at another kid’s house for a while. He has a good time there but ultimately needs to go home. Things should be smooth from there but he finds out that his friends may be in trouble.

See, the day care is run by Lotso, a powerful bear of big ambitions. He runs the place with an iron grip. See there are several rooms in the day care with one of them being for the little kids who don’t know how to play with toys yet. As a result this gets really painful for any toy who will be in that room. Lotso has it set up so the newest toys go there but when there are no toys available he forces others to go in and be destroyed. If Buzz and friends don’t find a way out soon then they will not be around for much longer.

Now, without knowing about the evil bear at the ready, I did agree with Buzz and friends about going to the nursery. Why stay in an attic where you may never be taken out again? Additionally there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t be thrown out eventually. That ultimately puts you in a pretty tricky spot. At least in the day care you figure there will always be a new group of kids ready to play with you every year.

Lotso just throws a wrench into that idea but I wouldn’t say it retroactively makes Woody right. Lotso is a very impressive villain though and definitely the best one in the trilogy. His origin story is pretty intense to the point where it feels like it could be a real origin story for a villain in something else. He was betrayed and as a result he has decided never to let that happen again. It’s all pretty intense.

Now you may have to suspend a little more disbelief here than in the other films because of how big this set up is. It’s hard to see Lotso actually having constant patrols, a toy at the security room, and the cages he has set up. Surely the school has some night staff or a night watchman right? The toys were doing a whole lot of things here unsupervised. Lotso basically created a kingdom so the school needs to step it up.

Not a big deal though since you could rationalize this if needed. Meanwhile it gives Woody a pretty good subplot since he gets to look really good in his rescue attempt. There’s a good amount of danger here as well since toys are actually dying and being dismembered here. It’s still a family film and all so it’s not violent in the sense that they don’t feel serious pain. Everything is more like a dull pain no matter what happens but it’s still pretty horrifying from the perspective of the toys. Woody can’t waste any time in getting to them.

There’s a pretty popular fan edit where someone cuts out the rest of the film after the scene where the heroes are falling in the quick-sand pit. It would be quite a dark ending there. We get a pretty wholesome one though that ends the film on a pretty high note. It’s hard to see this one being surpassed in the 4th but if it can pull it off that would be cool.

Most of the characters here are the same as always so you can expect a lot of good dialogue and character moments. Barbie gets a pretty big role as one of the new characters though. She is quick to side with her friends when she realizes that Ken is acting fishy which I appreciated though. She wasn’t going to buy any of his false stories and that’s the difference between a big player and a bit character. In a sense she replaced Bo who didn’t get to appear in this film.

Now there is one question that the third film sort of makes you think about. Since the toys are so desperate to be with Andy why don’t they just talk to him? That is never really contemplated so you have to assume it isn’t possible but then why even bother staying still? It seems like they think it’s possible for the humans to see them move so talking shouldn’t be out of the picture. Unless there is an official explanation for this, I have to assume that there is some kind of serious taboo that prevents this. Perhaps if you try to talk to a human you die instantly? Maybe it’s a Wixoss type enchantment that prevents you from revealing your existence unless the person already knows about it? I’d like some answers on this…maybe the 4th film can delve into it a bit but that’s my head cannon until it’s revealed. The toys can’t say anything because they would immediately die, it’s a universal rule of the world itself which cannot be broken.

Overall, Toy Story 3 is a nice way to end things out. The characters all had complete character arcs and had to accept that things would change some day. Staying with Andy may not have been a bad move but at the same time they wouldn’t be played with a whole lot and that seems very important to the toys themselves. The whole phone angle wouldn’t work and Andy wouldn’t even be home for a while anyway. Lotso really made for an imposing villain and the scene with the gang surrounding Buzz and taking him down was ominous. Seeing Buzz then attack the heroes while he was mind controlled was emotional as well. This one really escalated things to a whole new level with the drama which worked really well while keeping in the strengths from the first two titles. The 4th film has big shows to step into here.

Overall 7/10

Toy Story 2 Review


The sequel has arrived. Toy Story 2 is one of those films where I remembered the villain quite well but not some of the other elements as much. It’s definitely a solid title and for the big question of whether or not it defeats the original, I’d say that it does. It’s a pretty solid follow up to the classic and we get to actually have Buzz confront his ultimate villain. What’s not to love right?

Picking up where the first film left off, Andy is now growing older. He has to make certain decisions on which toys he wants to play with. Unfortunately for Woody, he has been ditched again after injuring his arm. We get the iconic scene where Andy drops Woody and runs off. Woody makes a daring rescue to save another toy but in his weakened condition he is unable to escape the powers of the chicken man employee who steals Woody and decides to make some huge profits.

Buzz and friends are naturally on the job to save Woody but it’ll be difficult. Buzz is used to these grand adventures but the rest of the toys are just normal house toys and don’t really know what to do in these situations. Buzz will really have to carry them here. Meanwhile for Woody, he starts having some doubts on if he really wants to go back home to Andy. If he stays with the kidnapper, Woody will be on display at a museum for many years to come and will effectively be immortalized. Additionally, if he leaves then the rest of the Woody collection set (Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete) will be thrown back into a dark box never to come out again. The stakes are a lot higher than they’ve ever been before.

In a sense there’s two main plots here so lets talk about Woody’s first. Once he is trapped by the collector it’s more of a low key plot where he has to decide what the right thing to do here is. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea to stay with the other toys if that’s what he really wants to do but he should at least let the others know that he will be gone. It’s a long journey but he would need to make it first. Additionally, I feel like he would end up regretting it eventually. The toys apparently don’t die of old age so he would be trapped inside glass at the museum for centuries with absolutely nothing to do. I don’t see a whole lot of fates being worse than that so it just doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea.

His new friends can also be a bit temperamental. Particularly Jessie who starts off dancing and singing about how glad she is to see him, to wishing he would go away and insulting him, to going back to dancing. She takes every bit of news really hard and the old man doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of Woody with his subtle digs. Considering these may be the only people he can talk to for the rest of his life…that’s going to be tricky.

So I think Woody could have thought about this a little more. His plan to ultimately offer to take them with him was always the best one. The climax would have played out a whole lot differently if he had led off with that, that’s for sure. It was an intense climax though with some solid action so that was a good way to end things.

Meanwhile you had the Buzz plot with the rest of the classic toys. They were good as expected. The pig is still nice and tough with the rest of the toys being there for backup. Buzz really gets a lot to do here as you would expect. He has to fight another version of himself and Zurg even shows up. It was a pretty intense confrontation to say the least.

I remembered Zurg’s role being a lot bigger personally but it’s been a while since I saw the movie so I suppose I just added extra scenes in my head. That kind of thing may happen once in a while after all. Still, he makes the most of every scene he’s in. While his battle with Buzz is ultimately played for laughs, it’s fun since it finally completes his character arc even if it was a different version. I’m just a little sad that we didn’t get to see the main Buzz fight him.

Both of them have the same core personality though so I guess that works out. Their fight was cool and it was nice for Buzz to finally have a worthy opponent. If you want a serious fight between them, then you have the opening scene of the movie which is played 100% seriously. It’s not quite real but you do get a cool what if of how things would go if both characters did have their respective abilities. As always Buzz is a blast in this film throughout.

The new characters were good too. Jessie can be a bit rough on Woody but she did have to endure a long time in pitch darkness so that sounds pretty rough. I think she probably should have just tried to escape now that Woody is here instead of banking on the museum idea. She can fight which is always good. The dog is hype and then you’ve got the leader of the Woody team who plays quite a big role by the end of it. He makes for a very intimidating presence and added a lot to the story so you definitely won’t forget him. In the end he had an even bigger role than Zurg.

As with the first film the writing is very solid. The characters are good and the story will keep you engaged throughout. The animation has improved from the first one so you can tell that it is quite a bit newer. It’s cool how the actual universe ages along with the films so Andy is quite a bit older than he was in the first film. He’s still more of a non character as he doesn’t do much but he is important to the story itself as a plot element.

Overall, Toy Story 2 is a very solid all around title. It improves on everything that made the first film good and never looks back. The humor is always good when it arrives and the film really feels like it ends in a flash. It’s a title I would definitely recommend to anyone that just wants to enjoy a pretty fun film. You can watch this one at any time and have a good experience.

Overall 7/10

DC3 Review


Manga one shots can always be a fun test of seeing how quickly an author can grab an audience. You only have a certain amount of pages at the ready in which you need to establish a concept, new characters, and resolve some kind of situation. It’s a lot of ground to cover and really tests your writing chops. Well, I liked this one shot so I’d say the author did a good job. I’d be interested in seeing how an ongoing for this series would fare.

The series starts by explaining that the whole world is after a girl named Saho Kisaki. Why is she being hunted? Well, she narrates that in the near future (Still 2020s) her father invented a monumental breakthrough in technology. Androids out of a sci-fi novel can now be mass produced and are helping the world in every facet of life. (This is basically the premise to Mega Man) Many people do not like this though. You have the usual crowd saying robots are stealing their jobs, a group who believes Saho is a demon threatening their life, you have people who believe that she is a god, and those who want to kidnap her for money.

Fine, but why blame her and not the father? Well, her father gave her all of the credit saying that the invention was a complete accident and only happened because as a toddler Saho was messing around on his keyboard which got to the right answer. Currently as a teen she is a genius so is it possible that as a baby she was able to solve the code? Either way, that is why the world wants her gone right now.

Saho is fine with this though and believes that she can protect herself. As a result she does not want to have any body guards since there was a tragic incident involving one she had as a kid. Still, she is nearly defeated by an angry mob when she is saved by a robot known as DC3. He explains that her father assigned him as her bodyguard and he has the power of 100 others. Saho is not thrilled about this at all but after he stops more threats and saves her a few more times she is on board with this. Now she will have to get used to having a bodyguard around.

There’s more that happens here but I’m not going to give you a full summary of the chapter. Read the rest of the one shot for the extra details. So here’s why it’s got potential. First off, the art is pretty good. I could even say really good especially for a pilot. The character designs are strong and the artist is able to handle the fight scenes well. At most you can say that there may be a few panels during the battles with too much detail so it gets scattered all over the place but on the whole I’m definitely liking how it looks.

I like the futuristic setting as well. Like I said, this is basically Mega Man. We’re in a world of robots now where a lot of humans resent them. DC3 is built to be a heroic bot (Although there’s a twist involved so he isn’t actually a robot) and is far stronger than all of the other androids on the market. He’s pretty serious all the time about guarding Saho so his character arc will probably involve him not being as ruthless and learning how to take a joke. He’s more literal than someone like Genos so he has a ways to go.

I also like DC3 already. He’s got a strong personality here as someone who really wants to save Saho and is very business-like. Now, he does murder a ton of people in this opening chapter and thinks of all human beings who aren’t Saho and her father as trash but that’s more part of the humor than a serious plot development. Saho’s father also thinks all humans should just die so there’s a lot of resentment going around.

Low-key though since this is always played for laughs. Even when the characters discuss how a lot of people died they literally laugh it off. As one person notes, the father owns the entire block and all other blocks leading up to the school so anyone attacking Saho on those premises is not an innocent civilian anyway. They have no qualms about murdering all of those guys. Saho is a little bothered by it but not really although I do expect if this becomes an ongoing they will scale back on that front unless this becomes a gag manga or something. Destroying people on the regular might be going too far.

As for Saho, she’s a good character. Right now she doesn’t want to open her heart up to anyone since she thinks they’ll just die but should come around pretty soon. She’s fairly dependable on her own with the various gadgets she has so that’s good. I think there’s a good amount of potential here. Just don’t have her try to tell DC3 to go away at critical times for drama since I like to think they should already be getting along pretty well after this one shot.

Saho’s father is pretty great as well. He never loses his cool even when held at gun point and tends to take things in stride. He was smart enough to have a backup plan after DC3 as well so the guy is ready for action. The father isn’t exactly a hero but he wants to protect Saho at all costs which is a great trait for a character. As long as she is safe he doesn’t care about his reputation.

So there’s a lot of green flags all around. Now, what are the red flags for the series? I think red flag is too strong a term since I liked this one shot so lets say yellow flags. There are several upskirts here as the characters all fight in school uniforms while performing flips. In this case they have shorts so it’s nothing crazy but I hope that’s not the artist testing the waters here. I would say in recent years Jump has been especially good with not having fanservice in their titles so I want this one to continue the trend.

Just in terms of series length, DC3 is already starting off as incredibly powerful. He’s stronger than 100 androids combined and is built by the greatest genius on the planet. That means the series can either go down the road of immediate power escalation with someone even stronger or it can go in a more casual direction as a school comedy. I’d say the cast is strong enough where you could go that route and make it good but my preference will always be with the fighting. Additionally, the action is already extensive enough where I think it has to play a part but you can still survive without going into city busters too quickly. (DC3 was already able to blow up a full city block range so the firepower is going to be intense here) Focus on the assassins and also give Saho a chance to fight off some with her inventions as you slowly build up the threats. I don’t see her staying relevant power-wise for very long on her own but as a genius surely she can invent an exo-suit for herself or something to stay in the game. The quick fights we did get here were exciting so I’d look forward to the next battles.

Overall, there’s not much more to say considering that this is only a single chapter. My verdict in the end is that this has a ton of potential. I’m a big Mega Man fan so seeing a manga try to tackle that concept is exciting. The main characters are likable and it looks like the dynamic with the main two should be entertaining. It’s also different enough where maybe it could be a hit among Jump readers. Feels like a while since we got a true technological title here based around androids. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I’d recommend reading through it. It’s currently free on the Viz site so there’s not a whole lot of effort involved in giving it a read. Only time will tell if it’s picked up.

Overall 7/10

Toy Story Review


Toy Story is certainly a classic movie that is extremely well known. It’s rare for Pixar to turn one movie into 4 like this but Toy Story has proven time and time again to be a big draw. It’s been ages since I saw the original and I never reviewed it so now was the time. It holds up quite well to this day with a strong story and quality characters. You can see how it ended up being a winner.

The movie begins with introducing us to Woody and his friends. On this planet, all toys are sentient creatures who simply live by a code not to let humans know that they are real. They’re quite good at playing dead to the point where it seems like an innate ability. One day, their owner Andy gets a new toy and that throws everything into a different perspective. His name is Buzz Lightyear and he doesn’t believe that he is a toy. The guy thinks he is legitimately a galactic agent and despite this, all of Woody’s friends are hanging out with him now. Woody makes a desperate attempt to take Buzz out once and for all, but this leads to both of them getting stranded away from home. Can they possibly return or will they die against the bully next door?

Since they are all toys here, even crossing a small distance can be difficult. After all for a decent part of the film they’re only a few blocks away but it’s still quite the journey. The toughest part of their journey was when they were only 1 block away so it gives you a good sense of scale here. Doing just about anything can be tricky for them.

The animation’s pretty solid. It’s fun how they make the toys move while keeping them looking fairly realistic. The Buzz figure for example is something I could definitely see myself having fun with many years ago. It’s quite high quality and had a lot of gadgets. Back in my day the action figures didn’t have voice acting like this. Aside from Andy the only humans we see are usually antagonists and are drawn to look rather ugly like the characters in Finding Nemo. Get ready for the main bully who even blows up toys.

Now if you think about it, the fact that toys are all alive can get rather dark for them. Still, when they enter their toy state they are able to block out pain and such fairly well so hopefully that helps when being blown to smithereens. It should help…right? It might also help with memory like Buzz thinking he’s real even while being played with the whole time. You can probably assume that he’s just in deep cover since he knows he couldn’t fight the humans or he’s a bit slow on the uptake. That’s one of the main comedic plots here so I suppose you just don’t want to look into it too much.

Buzz was the best character either way though. I liked his confidence and he’s definitely a lot more pro active than the rest of the characters. If he wants to do something then he’s just going to go ahead and do it. He doesn’t need any complicated plans or anything like that. Buzz is also quick to assume the best and help the others out which is why he fell for Woody’s trap. Woody may have thrown a lot of insults his way but Buzz didn’t take any of them too seriously. He was also beating Woody when they had their fight.

I think it’s fair to say that Woody was still the main character here though. His character arc here is really coming to terms with the fact that Andy wants to spend more time with Buzz. Woody had been so used to being in first place all the time that anything lower just didn’t sit right with him. In a way he probably can’t understand how the other toys feel as a result since they were never number 1. Gradually he realizes that he’s being better and starts being a nicer toy.

It’s a solid character arc from start to finish. Naturally there are a bunch of other main supporting toys but Woody and Buzz got the biggest roles. The pig was good for a lot of his one liners. He seems a lot more jaded than the rest and loves throwing out insults whenever he can. You’ve got the Potato Head who is reasonably tough. He’s a little less vocal than the others but is always around. Then you have the dog who can really stretch.

I’m not really sure what the point of that toy would be though. Do you play with it just by pulling it around? Dunno, it doesn’t have a whole lot of appeal but as a character he’s cool. The dog is useful in a lot of situations. Bo Peep was a nice enough character who gives Woody encouragement from time to time. She doesn’t appear as much as the main crew though and just comes in to save the day at times. Finally there’s Rex the dinosaur who may not be the toughest dino around but Buzz gives him some nice pointers.

A film like Toy Story will really live or die by the writing. You could say that for any film I suppose but particularly it’s true for films that aren’t big action thrillers or films with big emotional highs like a sport title. This is really a slice of life title about toys realizing what it means to be a toy. If the writing was lackluster or boring then the film would reflect that real quick.

Instead the film stays interesting throughout because the characters are all fun and the dialogue is good. The film also feels incredibly short though. It’s really over before you know it. Animated movies do tend to be on the shorter side but maybe it felt extra short because it was so good. It tells a complete story from the character introductions to the big climax at the end. The toys finally have a sense of unity to them so now they’re ready for the second film.

I wouldn’t say I have any complaints here. There wasn’t any part of the film I found weak. It’s a very unique concept and the movie had a lot of fun showing how crazy the whole thing was. The characters have to constantly run and hide not to mention how they live in fear of every Birthday party. It’s a stressful life being a toy but someone’s got to live it. I would say they should probably just hide somewhere so they’re never found and can just wander around all day but it seems like being played with is a toy’s greatest desire so that wouldn’t appeal to them. It’s interesting since the movie effectively built a bunch of rules around being a toy so that’s pretty neat.

Overall, Toy Story is a solid film. It’s definitely one of the stronger Pixar titles and has a lot of replay value. The gags all work well and the characters are likable which is all you really need to have a good hit. We’ll see if the sequels are able to match or even surpass the original or if it’s all downhill from here. Sequels always have a lot of pressure on them after all.

Overall 7/10

What’s the Matter with Helen? Review


What’s the matter with Helen? Is one of those films where you know from the jump that it’s probably going to be bad. You’re hoping that maybe it’s still decent or something, but the odds aren’t in its favor. It goes for the usual extreme amounts of shock value the whole time and throws in some animal violence for good measure. The film may not be particularly long but you will be shaking your head the whole time without a doubt.

The movie starts with showing us Adelle and Helen who are the mothers of two kids who became murderers. The world is blaming them for not raising the kids properly and so they have to discard their old identities and go into hiding. Unfortunately, someone seems to have followed them. They get calls from a mysterious man who says that he will be murdering them later on. Helen is terrified of this and wants to just stay home in hiding with Adelle. Adelle isn’t taking this as seriously and says they should just move on with their lives. Both of them are rather extreme in their views but Adelle is taking it a little better.

So, Adelle is right in the sense that you should not live your life in fear. I’m totally cool with that but she takes it pretty far when she starts forgetting to close the door behind her. Now that’s just common sense, why would you forget to do that each night? It’s even worse when someone is threatening your life as well as your roommate’s. It’s a lack of common sense on Adelle’s part.

Still, at least Adelle is trying her best to move on. She started her romance with Lincoln rather quickly but that may have been another way of coping. If she married him and they move off somewhere, perhaps she will be truly safe. Towards the end of the movie she is a bit slow on the uptake though. Lets face it, Helen’s been quite unhinged for a while at this point. Adelle continues to turn her back to Helen though even when things don’t seem to be in a good spot. Rule number 1 of any film even if you’re not a horror title…don’t give your back to someone when they are standing right next to a conveniently placed butter knife.

Now for Helen….I’ve got a lot of issues for her. She starts turning crazy very early on in the film to the point where the movie may have tipped its hand a little too early. You’ll be tempted to think that there never was a phone call if Adelle hadn’t heard it. You’ll be considering how Helen could have faked the call or if she hired someone. Neither option makes a lot of sense though so then you have some potential here.

I forget the exact name of the movie, but it might have been the Crow. Basically the plot is that there’s a villain who has decided to rob a bank and next he is going to murder Vincent Price. If you’ve seen any old film you’ll know…you don’t just bump off someone like Price without a fight. What the murderer didn’t count on was the fact that Vincent was also a criminal and he turns the table in an instant. The would be victim has now become the villain himself. I still remember thinking that was a brilliant twist. It’s why Willie’s Wonderland always looked fun in that sense.

There are so many horror films where the villain is just an ordinary person and yet they’re murdering dozens and dozens of people. After a while you hope that there will be a film where this killer runs into the wrong house and has to deal with someone just as crazy. You probably can’t do this plot too often or it would get old but once in a while? Absolutely that’s an excellent twist and a good way to subvert expectations. Now this might seem to be unrelated but here’s what I’m getting at.

The film could have had a really interesting dynamic with the mysterious caller breaking into the house only to find that Helen isn’t some powerless old lady. That would have made for a great confrontation. Instead the film doesn’t go that route and it’s unfortunate. The route we do go through is pretty much exactly what you would expect from the very beginning of the film. Helen gradually goes more and more insane as she consistently raises the body count.

It’s not a cool kind of insane either so she’s not exactly a villain you could root for. No, she’s still crying a lot the whole time and isn’t intimidating in the slightest. She only claims victory against others who were not expecting a battle or animals who couldn’t possibly fight back. It’s not entertaining at all and is just annoying to see everyone go down so easily. The cast is also pretty small so it’s not like supporting characters could save her. Lincoln is probably the only other real character here and he’s just around for the romance. You shouldn’t be trying to romance a teacher the first time you meet so I didn’t have a great first impression on him.

To wrap this up, it’s a very classic horror type film. It gets rather violent as Helen imagines dead bodies in front of her and stabs people quite a lot. There’s a surprising amount of blood in these murders as well. Then you’ve got the animal violence which really comes out of nowhere and is pretty awful. The film doesn’t have any particularly good scenes to bring it back up either. There’s no line of dialogue that impressed me or a sub plot that was interesting. It’s a movie that flops from start to finish.

Overall, What’s the Matter with Helen is a film that I would highly advise staying away from. Just take a look at the poster so you know how the film will end and then you can save yourself the full experience. A slow decline into madness is the kind of plot that may be easy to show in a film but it’s hard to execute well. This one just went through the motions with no real soul and as a result it was doomed to fail.

Overall 1/10

Wicked Stepmother Review


When you have a film about a wicked witch who joins the family you know that things are about to get rocky for the whole household. Unfortunately the witch tends to take everyone down pretty quickly so you don’t expect a lot of likable characters. I would say that’s true for this one as well. By the end of the film most of these characters just don’t stay strong. It’s a film that will give you a good amount of laughs but doesn’t overcome its negatives.

The movie starts with Jenny and Steve finally heading to her father’s home. He had been pretty quiet lately so they want to make sure he’s okay. Well, it turns out that he married an old lady named Miranda and she has completely changed him. Sam loves watching TV all day now and has stopped being a vegetarian so he could go back to meat. The two of them seem pretty content but Jenny doesn’t like this one bit. She wants her father back to his old self but to her dismay even her husband Steve is getting along with her just fine. Making matters worse is that Miranda’s daughter Priscilla has shown up as well and may try to break their marriage apart.

I’ll give the movie this, the opening scene is legitimately filmed as if this was a horror title. You have a lot of suspenseful music the whole time as an inspector walks in a house and we learn that the tenants have vanished. Apparently someone has been going around bumping people off across the country. We then find out that the family was shrunk into tiny dolls and nearly died since they could have easily been stepped on. At this point we learn that Miranda really does have super powers so this doesn’t bode well for the heroes.

Now, this is a comedy film so don’t think that the whole movie is going to be suspenseful though. It’s because this is a comedy film that they can effectively use horror scenes like that. It’s a great amount of contrast. There’s probably a name for this kind of scene but it’s a scene that’s so serious you can’t help but find it funny since you know the film as a whole isn’t a horror.

The scene with Inspector MacIntosh trying to find the culprit among a group of old ladies made for a fun scene as well. These ladies were really tough as they were beating people up and did not act their age. On the whole I would say the film had a lot of its best gags in the first half. You also have a scene where an old lady throws Priscilla out of the phone booth since she had dibs on the next call.

There’s a fun scene where Priscilla pretends that she is melting as well before revealing that the Wizard of Oz made that up and it doesn’t work on witches. MacIntosh actually going to a school for wizards was genius as well. Honestly, if I found out that witches were for real then it wouldn’t be a bad idea since all the things that I thought were hogwash would suddenly have some merit. It’s just a shame that he didn’t actually learn anything but I would say he had to be the best character in the film by far.

So we’re off to a good start but once we get to the actual film that’s where it falters. So with an evil step mother throwing a hex onto Sam you already know she is going to try this again. She messes with Steve as well. Honestly you expect that he’s going to cheat on his wife with her early on in the film since even as an old lady Miranda seemed to be flirting with him. With Priscilla around…well Steve never stood a chance. The guy faltered quicker than the poor guy in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch parody commercial. Steve didn’t seem devoted to Jenny for more than a few minutes.

The film plays up the fanservice angle with Priscilla quite a lot. Outside of the affair with Steve she gets a very random dance where she also seduces the private investigator that Jenny hired. So much for will power right? Priscilla is able to dominate any man that she sees in moments since as a witch she also has absolute hypnosis in addition to her other abilities. The heroes have no shot right from the jump.

Let me quickly explain the Miranda and Priscilla situation. So, they are mother and daughter, however they can’t inhabit the same body so one of them always jumps into a cat. The body seems to change around the soul so they still look different. It’s a little odd and you’d think that with their magical abilities Miranda could just make herself look young anyway though. If not for the issue of needing another actress in the first place the plot would have made more sense to just have said that Miranda was shape shifting.

Actually…that would have made more sense anyway. Just say she is constantly shape shifting to make it easier to seduce everyone. It also removes some of the plot holes from later on. Alas, the film didn’t go that route. Neither Miranda or Priscilla are all that likable or even logical. With the kind of abilities they have, there is no reason for them to even go through with the theatrics. They could have taken Sam’s money at any point. They could probably conjure it up, but if that’s not possible just mind control him to sign something giving her the money. With witch abilities this would be easy.

Well, we’ve established why Steve’s a pretty bad character and Sam’s in the same boat. He is mind controlled by Miranda rather easily. That leaves Jenny but I didn’t like her either. She really doesn’t give Miranda a fair chance. Yes, we know that Miranda is the villain from the opening scene but she has no reason to believe anything negative about the old lady. Yet from the start Jenny is antagonistic towards her and acts rather rude. It’s hard to find any scene where Jenny isn’t being mean to her.

The film has a lot of fun at Jenny’s expense that’s for sure. It’s all just done so drastically that she ends up being royally unlikable. I liked the investigator she hired except for when he suddenly fell for Miranda’s tricks. That was a low moment for him. At least he got the last laugh in the end I suppose.

We do actually get a real climax for the film though so that was pretty hype. There’s an actual magical battle filled with a building blowing up and both sides actually using their abilities. I wasn’t really expecting much action at all so I’ll certainly take this. The ending even leaves room for a sequel which would certainly be interesting. There’s always potential with witches and magical attacks, the film just needs to focus more on that and less on the homewrecking aspect next time.

Overall, Wicked Stepmother is a film that really does have a lot of good jokes but it’s not enough to distract you from the unlikable cast. Seeing Miranda/Priscilla seduce all of these guys without effort can be a bit much. Tone down the romance/affairs/fanservice and focus more on the actual comedy part of the film. More scenes with McIntosh would have done wonders for the film since he was actually on top of things. The scene of him quitting was pretty powerful and seeing more supporting characters would have been nice. There’s a lot of potential for interesting dynamics here but none of them ended up appearing. Maybe a reboot would have better luck.

Overall 4/10

Final Fantasy II Review


This game has certainly been sitting on the backburner for many years. After beating the original Final Fantasy I tried to get in on the action with the sequel but I just couldn’t pull it off. The gameplay didn’t click. Well, I finally played it from start to finish and I have to say that my view hasn’t changed a whole lot. The story is the strongest part of the game even if it doesn’t touch the newer ones.

The basic plot is that the world is under attack by the Emperor. He has decided to rule over everything just because he can. The heroes are in a rough spot so the queen will now rely on a talented swordsman named Firian, a mage known as Maria, and a strong axe user named Guy. The three of them will need to travel the world and get strong enough to defeat the Emperor. Do they actually have enough strength to do so though? The Emperor has many powerful allies as well as pretty impressive tech at his disposal as well.

This is one of the first games where it took me way longer to complete than the estimated time on the “How long to beat” site. My time nearly doubled it I think at around 20 hours. It’s pretty difficult and that’s due in large part to how the level up system works. See, you don’t have straight level ups like 1, 2, 3. Instead you level up your proficiencies and stats in battle one by one.

Lets say you defeat a minion but you took a hit in the process. You have the potential to increase your max health, speed, defense, and attack power. If you used magic during the battle you may increase that as well. You passively level up your weapon skill as well depending on which kind you have equipped. You can already see how a lot of this is luck based. You increase the chance of increasing your proficiency but it’s not guaranteed. There are a lot of other factors here as well like the strength of your opponents and the duration of the match.

It’s not a very satisfying way to level up though because it’s hard to see when you’re really getting better. You also need to make sure you choose the right spells and weapons or you’ll be wasting your time leveling up something that you’ll never need. Your 4th member of the team also tends to change every other chapter so don’t get too attached. Often times when they leave they will never return so say good bye to any level ups you got.

The weapons also don’t seem very balanced to the point where I discarded them entirely by around the halfway point of the game. Instead I focused on using the barehanded techniques for the climax and honestly they seemed better than weapons anyway. I would always deal heavy damage while the weapons would falter at the worst moments. I have little doubt that the weapons would ultimately be better than bare handed but at least to the point where I was up to this did not seem to be the case.

The final boss was very difficult to defeat like this though. RNG is partially what got me through. See, his attacks were strong enough to not only finish me in a single hit but also replenish almost all of his health. Of course, that was only with physical attacks. On one of my runs I got lucky because he kept spamming magical spells which deal far less damage. I was able to buy just enough time to defeat him before he healed. Even now I think I would have a very hard time trying to defeat him again. It’s rare for things to work out in quite the same way they did here.

I don’t understand why the game went so far as to also make the equipment work against you. Wearing heavier items makes it harder to dodge but you can’t see how heavy something is without going to your character status page and leaving the item screen. Everything just did not feel very intuitive at all. Perhaps there was an easier way and I just didn’t find it. It seems like Final Fantasy II was meant to be very experimental but in this case I felt like it just back fired completely.

FF II’s spawn rate is also extremely high. Enemies are constantly attacking you every few steps. I was able to get in a lot of good reading during every dungeon. I would just keep spamming the attack button as I read through the God of High School chapters. I finished over 100 chapters as I played through this game because the battles took forever and there were so many of them. It was also uniquely useful to multi task in this game since I didn’t need spells and could just use normal attacks for every minion encounter. If I had nothing to distract myself with that would have hurt though.

Final Fantasy II also suffers from being unclear at times. You just don’t know where to go or what to do in order to advance the plot. The worst is when you’re supposed to talk to someone again and forgot to do so. So you go to the next temple but it’s still closed so you have to travel the world again in order to open it. You don’t get to fly until the very end of the game so prepare for a ton of walking. The game doesn’t give you any real shortcuts either so you really feel like an explorer. Just not in a fun way this time.

I could go on, but as you can tell pretty much none of the gameplay elements worked for me. It’s just a title that offered no qualify of life features. The graphics are good though. The character portraits are on point and I did like the minion designs. The game has a very retro sprite look which works well enough. The soundtrack is also very classic Final Fantasy with how each tune sounds. It’s all got a lot of energy and works really well.

As for replay value, by beating the game it seems like you do unlock some kind of new game+. I’m sure that will take you quite a while. Considering that the game is 20 hours long to defeat once, this is probably a 40 hour game or so. I’m not sure what the price is nowadays but it was pretty cheap before so I doubt it would set you back all that much.

Overall, Final Fantasy II is one of the weakest Final Fantasy games for me. In fact, I would have to say it loses to Final Fantasy VII and is my least favorite title. VII has the better gameplay, characters, and stories so II loses around the board to me. Don’t get me wrong, the story is fun and all but it just doesn’t make up for the game’s weaknesses. I don’t really see myself recommending this title to others as well. I’m glad that it helped continue the franchise into its current state but this is an entry you can skip.

Overall 5/10

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Review


It’s time for the remake to the film I just reviewed. When you watch both of these films back to back you can really compare their strengths and see which one comes out on top. Ultimately I would say this one definitely beat the original. Both of them are solid and so I wouldn’t say the gap is big or anything but I was really able to get behind the remake. I felt like the main characters were stronger and with the added time you could do a lot more. Although ironically the villains have almost 0 development.

The film starts with Ben and Jo on vacation with their son Hank. They’ve had a pretty fun time of it so far and have a few more stops left. They nearly get into a fight with someone on the bus though when Hank steals something from a lady. They are saved by the intervention of a guy named Louis who is eager to know everything he can about Ben. He asks a ton of questions and every time Jo tries to ask him something the guy ignores or and asks Ben some more questions. Ben loves talking about himself so this is a fine set up for him. After telling Louis where they are staying, how long they will be staying and where they will go next, Louis leaves.

Jo warns Ben that he’s making some big mistakes with giving all the info away but Ben’s confident he’ll be okay. Louis ends up getting murdered but quickly tosses Ben a note. Ben thinks about telling the police but then he gets a call warning him not to tell them anything or Hank will die. Turns out that they swiped Hank away under the guise of a nice neighbor taking him home. Ben tries to gently break the news to Jo but she doesn’t take it very well. The two of them are going to need to try and track Hank down but it’ll be difficult since they aren’t exactly used to dealing with the underground. All they’ve got as a clue is a location from the note.

Like in the first film we get the return of the Church led by one of the villains. This time they aren’t worshipping the Sun though so it’s not quite as outlandish. It’s interesting because this could have been game set and match for the villains if there was any way to leave the Church without being noticed. Unfortunately for the heroes that isn’t exactly possible. In a small setting like that, everyone notices when you get up and the villains have a plan for everything. It was fun to see the various stare downs in there as well.

This time around we don’t get a big shootout climax. In fact, the climax is very low key with things happening quickly but quietly. The ending just sort of happens as we cut away from what would have presumably been the full climax. It’s a solid ending but I do think the first movie has the edge in that area. I was glad Ben went for the shove at one point since it’s always something I feel more heroes should do. Look, if you are being held at gun point and the guy is at your side instead of behind you, just quickly shove into him.

At that angle he can’t hit you in the head and a heart shot is unlikely. So now you’ve got him on the ground and even if you’re wounded perhaps you can hold him down until someone arrives to help. At the very least Hank is safe no matter what so you’ve accomplished your main objective. It’s certainly a whole lot better than just accepting your inevitable death. Because if you follow this guy into a car or a dark alley that’s all that awaits you. At least this way you have a chance.

Hank doesn’t do a whole lot in this film. He’s just a kid after all so he gets kidnapped and tricked but that’s about it. Jo’s a solid main heroine. I wish she wouldn’t panic quite as much when she learns about Hank going missing but after that initial scene she handles the rest of it pretty well. She was key in helping out at the opera as well as executing the big plan at the end involving her songs. She took a fairly large role in getting Hank to safety.

The same can be said for Ben who does his best to take on this criminal enterprise. He may not have experience but he’s got determination which is important. In this version of the film he’s with Jo a lot more while in the first film he was teaming up with the older fellow. The change makes sense since this way both parents get a sizable role here.

As mentioned before, the villains aren’t very memorable though. You have the old lady who starts to think that maybe she’s on the wrong side here. It’s way too late if you ask me though. She was completely fine with kidnapping the child and it was obvious what would happen to Hank in the end. Getting cold feet now doesn’t make her more heroic. The other villains are mainly just here as part of the story but don’t have a lot of character. At best you have the friend of the prime minister who had an interesting personality. He certainly doesn’t excuse failure a whole lot but as a political head he can’t go around shooting people either so he’s in a bit of a bind.

Overall, This was a pretty solid remake. The writing was very good as expected and I thought the characters were an improvement over the first film except that the villains were not memorable. The film had a little more humor than the first film and it all landed pretty well. One of the better gags was the main characters having to rush out all the time to the confusion of their friends and family who had gone over to have some fun with them. It wasn’t quite the house party they had in mind that’s for sure. I’d recommend checking this one out. Unless you want to compare both titles directly and just want to watch one, I would say this is the definitive version of the movie to check out.

Overall 7/10

The Man Who Knew Too Much Review


Whenever you know too much it can be tricky. Knowledge is hidden away for a reason after all and when you find out what it is, you’ve just put yourself in a whole lot of danger. It’s something that the lead characters learn quickly here although it’s not knowledge that they tried to learn so you can’t blame them. It’s a pretty solid suspense thriller with a surprisingly action packed climax.

The movie starts with Bob and Jill enjoying a nice vacation with their daughter Betty. Unfortunately Betty does wreck Jill’s chances of winning a shootout though by causing a lot of noise and distractions. She was goaded on by another character but it was still a tragic way to start the day. Bob and Jill head back in to have a good time but then a mysterious person they didn’t know very well hands Bob a letter and quickly gets murdered. Bob is about to tell the police about this when he reads the letter and sees that it’s a threat. If he tells anyone what he knows then Betty will die.

Bob confirms that Betty is gone and so this threat cannot be taken lightly. Bob needs to find these guys and fast so he heads out with Clive. The reason for urgency is that the cops are slowly gaining ground on the villains as well and if they do catch them, the antagonists may believe that Bob spilled the beans and take out Betty. The heroes will have to go to some dangerous places and dark alleys to find them. Meanwhile Jill has to do her best to stop another assassination attempt from taking place.

There’s a lot going on here which is something you always want to be able to stay about a thriller. Bob goes to different places from street corners to dentists to corrupt churches. In the dentist scene I was impressed with how he turned the situation around. Usually when the villain grabs their tube and starts to hit you with the knockout gas, the character will immediately fall to the ground and have no tolerance for the stuff. It’s not a very impressive look for them but Bob was able to rip it off and take the villain down. Now that was impressive.

In general I thought Bob was very good. He did a lot of the legwork in trying to find Betty and put himself in peril many times. He didn’t crumble under the pressure and kept a cool head about everything. His partner Clive also deserves a lot of credit for sticking with him on the adventures. He had a particularly rough time at the dentist’s office and was still able to keep it moving. He was certainly a loyal companion.

Meanwhile you also have Jill doing her best to handle this. We saw in the opening scene that she is good with a gun so the whole time you’re waiting for the payoff on this. Fortunately it does arrive and as the film’s climax is a giant shootout, that makes sense. This way each character got to contribute which was good. Only Betty didn’t I suppose but as a kid there’s not a whole lot she could do. The villains treated her pretty well at least so the experience wasn’t too traumatic.

The climax was extremely explosive though which is still surprising. The villains decide that they won’t go out without a fight and the nonstop shooting between the heroes and villains commences. The police didn’t look very impressive with their counter strategies though. If you see that your guys are going down one after the other you should probably rethink your strategy of plunging forward. They don’t and so by the end of the film a few villains have managed to take down almost 2 dozen cops. That was pretty crazy and I wish we had seen more tactics.

The main villain here is Abbott who looks shifty from the start. I think it’s safe to say that you’ll figure he is the villain almost as soon as he appears. You have the sinister music/atmosphere when he shows up and there aren’t a whole lot of other suspects anyway. Abbott does make for a good villain though. He seems a little insane but that’s not surprising for a villain like this. He’s the brains of the operation and the rest of the villains are fairly expendable to him. He made it pretty far in this plan.

The only character who didn’t seem to have much of a clue the whole time was Louis. I dunno, I suppose the whole thing wasn’t his fault since he had a mission to achieve but it felt like he didn’t act too cautiously. You’d never know that he was a professional agent with the risks he took. The guy thought he was James Bond with how he would party and hang out. I’m mixed on him since a decent amount of that may have been his cover. If he could have taken a few villains down before going out that would have helped.

The film is very strong all around though. The characters are good and the script is really solid. I’ve probably said this a thousand times but I love the good banter in the old school titles with the heroes and villains. There’s always a very fake polite type dialogue going on between them. If you read the text through an emotionless machine you could think the characters were friends but it’s all in how they talk to each other. The pacing is on point as well.

Overall, The Man Who Knew Too Much is a solid thriller. It is pretty tense with the child being kidnapped and all. We also get some rather atmospheric locations like the fake church. The characters balancing their attempts to save their kid while also being subtle or they will put her in more danger was effective. The cops also looked decent here as they were beginning to find Abbott, I just wish they had looked better in the climax. There’s no scenario where running into a stronghold filled with guns is a good idea without some kind of cover. You gotta be ready to adjust and then fight back.

Overall 7/10