Just as the internet commotion covering Cuphead‘s huge success, intense fan community, and difficulty has finally seemed to die down, I’ve had a chance to complete it. Long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it checks many of the boxes that make it a great experience both in style and mechanical substance.
The game’s complete name, Cuphead: Don’t Deal With the Devil, handily explains what you’re getting into. Cuphead and his pal Mugman stumble upon a casino where they make a lot of money. However, they (more specifically Cuphead) fall into the trap of gambling against the Devil. Losing their bet, they beg for an alternative. In order to save their own souls, they must hunt down other debtor’s soul contracts, which comes down to getting in lots of fights.
Until recently, I wouldn’t have considered myself a horror movie person by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been improving my horror education. I decided to watch the original 1990 It movie which came out this weekend in preparation for the the new one, which I greatly enjoyed—well, for the most part. Let’s face it: Stephen King isn’t exactly known for his stellar endings and the original It was no exception. The movie might even be the most infamous of Stephen King’s bad endings. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the movie and Tim Curry’s performance of the menacing clown Pennywise. With that in mind, I was excited and anxious about the new film. It is pretty much considered a horror movie classic at this point and remakes don’t always live up to the original, but the trailers looked good and so I entered the theater with high hopes. While the movie was excellent, scary, and extremely well made, I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, by the lack of representation. Just a fair warning, I have not read the book so I am entering into this critique not knowing the original source material, only the movies.
There were two things I knew when I went into this movie a couple days ago. For one, Beauty and the Beast is a classic among classic Disney animated films. More pertinently, though, is that I am way behind on any sort of analysis I could offer on this movie. Beauty and the Beast’s 2017 remake came out back in March and despite me kind of wanting to see it, I never got around to it while it was in theaters. For the sake of full disclosure I’ve never watched any of the previous Beauty and the Beast animated films in their entirety, so I don’t really have any of that childhood attachment or nostalgia for the film that the remake was trying to desperately to cash in on. When the 2017 version was originally announced, I wanted to watch it mostly because of the darker aesthetics–I wanted to see if Disney had learned anything from their Alice In Wonderland mess. As fate would have it, though, I jumped into the film with the aesthetics’ unwanted friend tagging alongside it: the painfully laughable characterization of Le Fou that Disney (or Le Fou’s actor, Josh Gad, at least) tried so hard to call “gay representation”. I’ll admit, that may have colored my viewing more than a little bit. Still, that alone didn’t make it a bad movie. What made it a bad movie—maybe bad’s a little harsh. Exhausting?—was how hard it tried to convince me that it was better than the sum of its parts.
Video games are often compared to other art forms, typically movies. One question reflective of this comparison is the question “What is the Citizen Kane of video games?” In other words, what is a video game that some consider to be the best of all time, or one that was an innovative game changer?While I look forward to experiencing a game with that level of praise, I think it is going to be difficult for the medium to come to a consensus on what that game is, due to the short memory video game culture has.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? “It will get better”? “Don’t stress too much about fitting in”? “Yes, what you’re feeling is love, and that’s okay”? “The future is awful and sad and I want you to work tirelessly to make sure you don’t end up a regret-stricken wreck like me”? Orange takes this last approach, and the result is a series that I have a barrel full of mixed feelings about.
Spoilers and content warning for suicide ahead.
On the first day of the new school year, protagonist Naho finds a strange letter addressed to her, which was apparently sent from herself, ten years in the future. Naho is confused and dubious that such a thing can be real, but then the events the letter describes start coming true: the letter tells her that a new student, a boy named Kakeru, will be joining their class that day, and he’ll sit next to Naho. Naho’s friends will attempt to be welcoming and invite the new kid to hang out once school is over, but, the letter warns, they should absolutely not do that. Not that day, at least.
Naho soon realizes that the letters are full of specific advice from her future self, chiefly about things that Future Naho regrets and wants to change. These mostly concern Kakeru, since, as Naho is shocked to find out, ten years in the future Kakeru is no longer alive. In Future Naho’s world, Kakeru died—in an accident later discovered to be suicide—when he was seventeen, and she’s sending these letters back in time to try and stop that from happening.
“Slice of life with a sprinkling of the supernatural” has long been my favorite genre, though it’s harder to find than you might think. Most often fantasy authors choose to take things in an epic direction, flinging their protagonists out of their ordinary day-to-day existence into some sort of magic adventure, giving them high stakes to deal with. Granted, that’s generally what makes for an engaging fantasy story, but sometimes you’re looking for something that’s more relaxed and grounded in recognizable daily struggles. Sometimes you just want to see an all-powerful otherworldly monster do her grocery shopping without having to worry about a big scary epic background plot, you know?
If this is the case, you might want to take a gander at Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. It’s cute, funny, follows the beats of a slice-of-life show to a T while managing to feel fresh, and while fantastical elements are interwoven inescapably into the plot, the main focus is not so much on magic but on interpersonal relationships and exploring the everyday domestic delights of a found family. Its sense of humor is sometimes incredibly skeezy (read: sexual harassment of minors played for laughs) and it may or may not be as gay as we all wanted (though it comes pretty damned close) but overall it’s quite a sweet and pleasant viewing experience. And there are dragons!
Spoilers (and content warning for said sexual harassment of minors) under the cut.
I don’t have to tell you, dear readers, that Jordan Peele’s Get Out is good; all other film review outlets have done that for me. But allow me to say that if you haven’t seen this film yet, do so as soon as you can. If you’re worried that this film is a Boo! Haunted House sort of horror, then let me soothe your fears. Get Out is absolutely a horror film, but it’s horrific more in its realism than in any sense of gore or otherworldly fiends (though there is gore to be had). More than horror, though, the film is clever in its message. Like Zootopia, Get Out relays the message that racism continues to be damaging in its persistence in modern-day culture, but unlike the Disney flick, Get Out doesn’t lose its message due to a lack of direction. Instead, Get Out focuses on exposing the subconscious racism that lingers in a portion of its audience. Get Out sets itself apart by subtly—and then not-so-subtly—showing that white people who consider themselves progressive can be just as racist as the blatantly racist, and that this liberal-coded racism can perhaps be some of the most damaging racism of all.