Hope you all enjoyed Halloween! I have to admit I didn’t do much, but watching these horror films at the last minute was a lot of fun. Too bad I didn’t think to review a survival horror game, huh?
Films watched in October 2018:
- A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018)
- First Man (Damien Chazelle, 2018)
- The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr., 2018)
- The Old Man & the Gun (David Lowery, 2018)
- Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018)
- Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
- Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, 1953)
- Stray Dog (Akira Kurosawa, 1949)
- Giant (George Stevens, 1956)
- The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)
- Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
- Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1965)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
The films I’ve seen in October have been, for the most part, very good watches. A Star is Born managed to shock skeptics everywhere when it turned out that A) Bradley Cooper can direct and B) Lady Gaga can act. See why it doesn’t pay to jump the gun, critics? Next, First Man managed to shed some light on a story many Americans take for granted by now. It hammers home that, at the time, nobody was thinking “I’m going to make history”; the potential consequences were staring at them in the face for the entire mission.
After that, I saw The Hate U Give, which is the second-best film I’ve seen in theaters this year behind Leave No Trace. I hope authors writing about social issues are paying attention to both the film and the book because that story has something many of them lack: empathy. Actually caring about where your audience is coming from goes a long way. Now, don’t be fooled by the fact that The Old Man & the Gun and the 2018 Halloween are highlighted in yellow; I still mostly enjoyed them – just not quite enough to give them straight recommendations.
Meanwhile, at home, I managed to get around to viewing various films I had discovered some time ago, yet didn’t get around to for some reason. Persona is a great example of an art film that knows where cleverness ends and pretentiousness begins. Tokyo Story is one of the country’s hallmarks alongside films such as Ugetsu and Rashomon. While I didn’t like it as much as those two films, there’s no denying that it’s an essential watch. Stray Dog, meanwhile, managed to be a far superior effort compared to the disappointing The Bad Sleep Well, being a rare Asian film noir. On that note, I enjoyed The Cranes Are Flying much more than I did Nostalghia, the latter of which was the first Soviet film I watched. As it turns out, having a comprehensible story with interesting characters counts for a lot. Who knew?
Then, because I realized I didn’t bother writing anything Halloween-related this month, I finally took it upon myself to watch, well, Halloween. As I said in my feature, it’s a lot like Animal House in that it inspired an entire subgenre and can claim to fall under that “original and still the best” clause that tends to get thrown around too often in film criticism.
The following week, I felt it appropriate to round out October with an entire Halloween-themed Reel Life feature. After seeing the 2018 Halloween, I decided to watch Kwaidan, a film that draws on Japanese folklore. It’s a lot like The Twilight Zone in how it’s divided into vignettes – each of which tell a story to enforce a poignant message. Finally, to cap things off, I took the plunge and saw the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Long story short, it’s a film that encapsulates the best and worst aspects of its scene.
And, of course, it bears mentioning that the clear winner this time around was George Stevens’s epic Western drama Giant. Whenever the general public expresses displeasure with a critically acclaimed film, fans are quick to rush to its defense. One fallacious, yet distressingly common argument I see is the film didn’t give them what they expected. I am going to point to my experiences watching Giant as to why that defense is untenable. Going into it blind, I assumed Giant would be an action-packed Western somehow stretching past the three-hour mark. What I got was a slice-of-life film that takes place over several decades and deals with many social issues. The result? I quickly considered it one of the best films I’d ever seen. I’m going to hypothesize that in most of these cases, the audiences didn’t like the film in question because they genuinely didn’t enjoy it. They could have varying reasons why they didn’t like it, but it’s incorrect to assume it’s because they’re stupid or lack culture.
Games reviewed in October 2018:
Nerves of Steel (Rainmaker Software, 1995)
Hey, it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed an irredeemably bad game, hasn’t it? I certainly picked a winner because I have little doubt that Nerves of Steel is, as of this writing, the single worst PC game I’ve ever played. Ever wondered what would happen if Call of Duty: Ghosts was made in 1995 by some of the most miserably incompetent coders to have ever programmed a game? No? Well, I feel the end result would be very similar to Nerves of Steel. It may not be as bad as some of the other terrible games I’ve played – I would rather play this again than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Metal Morph, but it is the worst game I’ve played this year, and I doubt anything I play in the foreseeable future will top (bottom?) it. Like Isle of the Dead before it, I’m not lying when I say the only fun I had with Nerves of Steel was when I deleted it.
King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown (Sierra, 1984)
For that matter, it’s also been some time since I’ve talked about Sierra games. I reviewed The Colonel’s Bequest and Police Quest all the way back in 2015, yet I never quite got around to talking about their sequels for some reason. Being some of my earliest reviews, I’ll likely rewrite them somewhere down the line. As for King’s Quest, I feel it is, at this point, more of an adventure game style guide. It or its remakes can be played by newcomers to learn what an adventure game entails, and it wouldn’t be a bad one to start with because of that. However, even if it hasn’t aged as poorly as other games from its era, it’s still pretty bland by modern standards.
King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne (Sierra, 1985)
As much as critics like to complain about token sequels these days, they were even more of a problem back in the eighties. In fact, between games such as Ultima II and King’s Quest II, the eighties were a time in which token sequels had a reasonable chance of being outright bad rather than merely uninspired. But there’s no getting around it – King’s Quest II was my introduction to adventure games, and I have to say it was (and still is) a spectacularly bad one to start with. Between its fickle text parser, persistent random encounters, and boring world design, King’s Quest II doesn’t really have anything practical going for it at all. It served its purpose in that it allowed the series to continue, eventually producing a true classic seven years later. Once the series gained momentum, it was rendered obsolete.
Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1990)
Though it may not have the same quantity of levels, I feel Super Mario World edges out Super Mario Bros. 3 because its stages are more elaborately designed on top of providing a more solid solo experience. Mario fans may not have provided a definitive consensus as to which one is better, but I feel you shouldn’t put too much thought into which one you should play. Both are all-time classics that have stood the test of time magnificently. Super Mario World itself is a lot like A Link to the Past in that later side-scrolling installments would try, and ultimately fail, to grasp what made it so good. Maybe it was the secret paths within the secret paths. Perhaps Yoshi’s introduction left a profound impact on us all. Either way, the way Super Mario World was originally received would foreshadow how the series would fare in the coming decades. A noisy vocal minority would claim Mario is old hat only to have egg on their faces a few years later when the series proved it has many more tricks up its sleeves. Don’t they ever get tired of being wrong all the time?
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Nintendo, 1995)
Yoshi’s Island is notable for having started a subseries of its own starring the titular dinosaur in the lead role. It’s quite a bit different from Nintendo’s other series. Most Nintendo series had decent debut installments, but wouldn’t achieve a level of true greatness until a few installments in. That’s not the case with Yoshi; his first game reigns supreme over the sequels. In fact, this is yet another case in which my conclusion changed gears roughly halfway through writing the review. Originally, I was going to give Yoshi’s Island an 8/10 while still claiming it to be better than Super Mario World, yet when I typed it out, I realized I couldn’t give it anything less than a 9/10. It and Donkey Kong Country 2 are some of the greatest 2D platforming games of all time, providing disparate challenges for every single one of its stages. It was one of the first SNES games I played (I played it long before Super Mario World, in fact), and it’s still just as fresh and original now as it was back in 1995.
Undertale by Matt @ Nintendobound – As his avatar and blog’s namesake suggest, Matt is quite the fan of Earthbound. It was therefore quite fun to read his take on Undertale, which is a fantastic indie game that took many cues from the Earthbound/Mother trilogy.
Metal Gear (NES): I Feel Asleep by Hundstrasse – Even if it’s not as good as the MSX2 original, the success of the NES port of Metal Gear inspired Konami to make a follow up in the form of Snake’s Revenge. From there, the series blossomed into quite a force that lasted for a few decades until Konami pulled the plug on their credibility in the mid-2010s. I enjoyed seeing what Hundstrasse had to say about it.
Mega Man X8 Review by Scott @ The Wizard Dojo –Scott over at The Wizard Dojo took it upon himself to review every game in the Mega Man X series. The series had its highs and lows from the classic original game to the super-terrible seventh installment. Congrats on talking about every single one!
Friday the 13th’s Virtual Cabin and Challenges by Matt @ The3rdPlayer – I liked reading a Friday the 13th fan’s take on the official video game that dropped some time back. Even if the execution lacked polish, the idea of pitting one player as the movie monster against a team of civilians is quite a viable one.
Dear Video Games – The Witcher 3 Review by mchotstuff – This review of The Witcher 3 was quite interesting to read, being presented like a letter to the game itself. I really should check this game out at some point…
Top 5 Modern Co-Op Games by brinkofgaming – The Brink of Gaming talks about five games that are something of a rarity in this era of gaming. Many games don’t have local multiplayer let alone same-room co-op modes.
Still to come:
Okay, this month, I’m going to change things up a bit. I am officially retiring the Reel Life segments in favor of writing individual film reviews. I’m doing this for one of two reasons. The first is that my assessments have been getting longer, so I feel making them into full-fledged reviews wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. Secondly, I want my opinions of these films to be a bit more professional in tone. I’ve enjoyed writing my informal thoughts, but I’ve basically been saying the same things across multiple segments, so I’m going to try to focus entirely on the films themselves rather than talk at length about how I got into them. Because of this, they will be edited in the same way I edit my game reviews. Furthermore, I could end up talking about films that I didn’t see recently, which will be cleared up in the monthly update post.
I realize that’s going to make my posts less predictable, so I’ve worked out a solution. To begin with, game reviews will still be posted on Sundays. In a given week, I tend to see anywhere from two to five films, so I’ll be posting more frequently. Going into a new work week, I will have a good idea of what I’m going to accomplish, so on my Twitter account (found here), I will post my itinerary every Monday.
And on that note, I already have my November lineup prepared. My first piece is already finished and ready to go. It will be a review of the obscure |(for a VERY good reason)| Anubis II. After that, I will finally review Metroid: Samus Returns. Once that is completed, I will talk about King’s Quest III to continue this mini-retrospective. Finally, to cap things off, I will review the highly influential Super Mario 64.
Links to my reviews:
- Nerves of Steel
- King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown
- King’s Quest II: Romancing the Stones
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Links to my other posts:
- Reel Life #22: Mandy, Persona, and Tokyo Story
- Reel Life #23: A Star is Born (2018) and Stray Dog
- Reel Life #24: First Man, The Hate U Give, and Giant
- A Question for the Readers #11: “Well, YOU have a gambling problem!”
- Reel Life #25: The Old Man & the Gun, The Cranes Are Flying, and Halloween (1978)
- Reel Life #26: Halloween (2018), Kwaidan, and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)