Boy, Avengers: Endgame was something else wasn’t it? I’m glad I got to see it during its opening weekend. Also, I managed to review all of the mainline Mario games! Between getting all of those Avengers reviews out and rebutting to Paul Schrader’s petulant audience-blaming interview, this has been quite a month. It wasn’t easy, but I managed.
Films watched in April 2019:
- Pet Sematary (Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer, 2019)
- Shazam! (David F. Sandberg, 2019)
- The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, 2019)
- High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
- Missing Link (Chris Butler, 2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (Anthony Russo & Joe Russo, 2019)
- Three Outlaw Samurai (Hideo Gosha, 1964)
- First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
- Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973)
- The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)
- Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013)
- Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
I started off April by watching Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s latest attempt to adapt Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. As far as horror goes, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. It’s pretty much right in the middle. The next day, I ended up seeing Shazam! The only other DC Extended Universe film I’ve seen is Wonder Woman, and I would honestly have to deem Shazam! the superior effort. Turns out having a solid third act counts for a lot. Who knew? As this was going on, I realized I would need to get an advance ticket of Avengers: Endgame if I were to have any chance of seeing on opening weekend. It was already breaking presale records left and right, so I only had one theater left from where I could get a ticket. Taking note that an acclaimed film, The Mustang, was being screened in a theater next door to the one selling advance tickets, I effectively killed two birds with one stone. Amazingly, I was able to get the ticket – and in a good seat too. The Mustang itself ended up being a good watch; it’s a film dedicated to a prisoner’s rehabilitation process – something that doesn’t get enough attention. Later that day, I ended up watching Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai. Given the international popularity of films such as Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, it’s a shame that this film doesn’t get as much attention. While admittedly not on the same level as those two films, it is definitely worth watching.
After that, I ended up watching First Reformed – a 2017 (released to the public in 2018) film directed by Paul “It’s the audience’s fault I can’t work with Kevin Spacey anymore!” Schrader. Like Brazil, I was going into it with a sense of dread because it had all the makings of what I find particularly tedious about Serious™ movies of the 2010s. While I have to admit it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, it was a far cry from the pleasant surprise Brazil was. I find it a little too convenient how Mr. Schrader’s twenty-first century efforts were dismissed more often than not (his 2014 effort Dying of the Light has 9% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing and it wasn’t a crowd pleaser either with only 15% of the audience polled on the same site enjoying it), yet the exact second he A) told critics exactly what they wanted to hear and B) partnered up with A24, they immediately went flocking to him, acting as though the decades-old rough patch never happened.
I started off the following weekend by seeing Claire Denis’s High Life. As far as A24 efforts go, it wasn’t bad – certainly better than Gloria Bell or First Reformed, at any rate. It’s not nearly as good as The Disaster Artist, Moonlight, or Good Time, but I do like that Robert Patterson has well and truly proved his acting chops after he got away from Twilight. It is very much of its time when it comes to science fiction, but it managed to be mostly passable in spite of it. The following day, I ended up seeing Laika’s latest animated feature Missing Link. It’s a shame it underperformed in the box office because it was a solid effort. I was surprised it was only 94 minutes long because its grand sense of scale made it seem longer than that (in a good way). Later that day, I ended up seeing Sidney Lumet’s neo noir crime drama Serpico. I really enjoyed Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico is another classic that is worth looking into.
In the days leading up to the release of Avengers: Endgame, I decided to fill in the gaps by watching the two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I had not yet seen: The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World. The Incredible Hulk may not have been the pleasant surprise Iron Man was, but its success is a major reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is even a thing. For what it’s worth, it is a decent film – even if it’s not among the stronger films in the franchise. Thor: The Dark World is a common pick for the worst film in the franchise, and it suffers from a lot of the problems plaguing Phase Two in that it was more interested in setting up future plot points than telling a story. Still, I’m glad I saw it because it does tie into Endgame quite well. It’s been a long, long time since I was this excited to see a film in theaters. It was an event in the purest sense of the term, and I’m glad that A) I was a part of it and B) it absolutely lived up to the hype.
Finally, at the end of the month, I saw the first installment of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy. They are considered some of the greatest films of all time, and I can certainly say the first one is something special. I’ll be interested to see what the other two are like.
Films reviewed, but not watched in April 2019:
The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012)
A lot of people will argue that The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero of all time, but I wouldn’t agree. I have little doubt that The Dark Knight is a good film, but I would argue it’s not a good superhero film. It’s a good film that happens to have a superhero in it. The Avengers, on the other hand, is an unabashed, unapologetic superhero film, and while I’m not sure if that makes it better than The Dark Knight, it is, at the very least, a better example of the genre, deftly translating everything great about superhero comic books to the big screen. I still remember how excited the crowd was when I watched it in theaters.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015)
Age of Ultron is pretty much a bog-standard token sequel. There are certainly things I like about it and I enjoyed watching it when it came out, but there’s no getting around that even four years later, it really has not held up well. It features a very underwhelming villain that, while certainly threatening, isn’t particularly intimidating. It does set up many important elements and characters for future films in the franchise, but other than that, it’s clearly going through the motions of its predecessor, and it’s less memorable as a result.
Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo & Joe Russo, 2018)
Hey, I finally got to render a verdict for this film after a year of equivocating! As you all know, I visit the theaters very frequently to see if the critical darlings live up to the hype. In all my years of seeing films in theaters, I have never seen the audience as agitated as when this film ended. Make no mistake, they weren’t angry at the film; they just couldn’t believe what they just saw. Even keeping in mind the circumstances, it was an extremely brave ending on the Russo brothers’ part. Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe was doubtlessly good, it had become a bit predictable by this point, so Infinity War was exactly what the series needed to keep things fresh.
Games reviewed in April 2019:
Bubsy 3D (Eidetic, 1996)
Talk about going from one extreme end of the scale to the other, huh? Even if it wasn’t obvious without the power of hindsight, I think Bubsy 3D could very well be the single worst game I’ve ever played to have received any kind of praise.
It’s weird because I don’t have quite as much contempt for Bubsy 3D as I do its predecessors. The original and its first sequel were made in a time when what does and doesn’t work in 2D platforming was fairly obvious whereas the number of precedents Bubsy 3D had when development began could be counted on one hand – and there’s a good chance you’d have all five fingers left over. Don’t get me wrong, Bubsy 3D is deserving of its status as one of the worst games ever made, but it ended up in its position as the result of an honest mistake as opposed to the deceitful tactics of a boldfaced cynical developer such as Rainmaker Software – a team whose deficit of competent coders didn’t stop them from trying to scam money out of Wolfenstein 3D fans.
That being said, what ultimately does make it worthy of contempt is that the developers clearly hadn’t improved in the three years since Bubsy’s inception. Whenever I see somebody trash this game, it’s clear they’re doing so under the belief that Bubsy had been a passable series up until this installment, which killed the franchise for two decades. However, as I touched upon in my reviews of the original Bubsy and its first sequel, many of the problems plaguing Bubsy 3D originated in those games. What Bubsy 3D did was make flaws that had always existed impossible to ignore. On top of the new ones created when it attempted to make the 3D leap and you’ve got yourself one of the most frustrating games in existence.
Pokémon Stadium (Nintendo EAD & HAL Laboratory, 1999)
Pokémon Stadium is another one of those games that I loved as a kid only to realize it’s not so great now. It’s a bit different than most games that fall under that category because the fact that it hasn’t aged well can be summed up simply by noting the presence of the Transfer Pak. Pokémon Stadium is a rare example of a work that was designed in a way that it couldn’t possibly stand the test of time. I have little doubt that, as an experiment, it was quite daring, but like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures after it, it would be unreasonably difficult and time consuming to gather the materials required to play it as intended. Unlike Four Swords Adventures, which has decent gameplay that can be appreciated regardless of how you play it, Pokemon Stadium outright requires you to have a physical copy of Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow if anyone were to get anything out of it. Nowadays, that would be limited to those who have held onto their old consoles and cartridges this entire time. If you aren’t one of those people, you can rest knowing it’s not worth the effort – even if Nintendo made this possible via emulation.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD, 2017)
Super Mario Odyssey along with Breath of the Wild was exactly what the medium needed in the 2010s; an antidote to the super-serious works dominating gaming earlier in the decade. Who would have thought the medium is at its best when it’s fun? Not a significant portion of the Western AAA industry, evidently. As I’ve expressed in the past, it got to the point where by the end of the decade, the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Nintendo games were some of the only ones I could take at face value anymore. They continued to be so fundamentally against what critics were looking for in games that I know they couldn’t possibly have achieved those impressive accolades by pandering to them (not unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe in relationship to film critics, really). No further description could do the journey justice; you need to play it yourself if you haven’t already.
Wonder Boy (Escape, 1986)
As a result of playing through the excellent (so far) Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, I was inspired to go through the entire Wonder Boy series. Although it is modified slightly from its original form, I do technically have memories playing Wonder Boy as a kid by virtue of having checked out its NES Adventure Island reskin. I was always confused as to why jumping on enemies only killed off my character. I didn’t grow up with Mega Man, so I assumed that was the only way you could defeat enemies back then. The idea of only being able to use a ranged attack against them didn’t cross my mind. If what I’ve played of this franchise is any indication, it has one of the most bizarre evolutions I’ve ever seen in gaming, and I look forward to talking about future installments. Wonder Boy itself is a pretty standard platformer. It ultimately doesn’t grasp what made Super Mario Bros. good, but this was not a soulless cash grab. Still, its many flaws make it a difficult sell.
A Marvel or a Blunder: Captain Marvel Review – Amanda Hurych of The Below Average Blog offered an opinion of the year’s first MCU film that took a middle ground. She makes the case that it’s neither the best nor the worst film in the franchise, which is an opinion I can get behind. Regardless, given the cacophonous, preemptive backlash against it, I’d still say quite a lot of people are missing out.
My Experience With MMORPG’s – I have never played any MMORPGs. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed reading Leeks Everywhere’s Krista talk about the ones she played over the years. I had completely forgotten about Runescape until I read her post.
Game Corner; Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Xbox One) – Related to the above, Tomb Raider is one of those series I’ve heard of all my life, yet never quite got around to playing. Despite this, reading Dr. K’s account of playing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition made me even more interested in checking out the 2013 reboot at some point.
[Review] Cuphead – benez256 over at I Love Old Games! wrote an excellent piece on the well-animated indie title, Cuphead. He details every single boss fight and what he was feeling for each encounter. With it coming to the Nintendo Switch, you can expect me to get into it as well.
11 Games I Loved But Never Finished [11:11] – It is said that gamers tend not to finish the games they play. I have to say that when I get far enough in a game I like, I want to see it through to the end. Nonetheless, there are a few exceptions here and there. Skylar-Mei over at gamergal.exe recalls eleven such games. She enjoyed playing them, yet for one reason or another, she didn’t quite finish them.
Make Like a Tree and Get Out of Here – Nintendo Entertainment System – Back to the Future – 1989 – The3rdPlayer wrote an amusing article about the terrible NES Back to the Future adaptation. It was a product of an era when many developers thought “Hey! We can make a game out of anything”. The NES Back to the Future demonstrates that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
A review of OneShot (PC) – Glad to see more people are starting to play OneShot because it really does blow away 99% of what the AAA industry and contemporary filmmakers have done in terms of storytelling in the last decade. AK’s take on the game really encapsulates everything I enjoyed about the journey myself.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins – Neppy over at Nep’s Gaming Paradise wrote a great review of the second Super Mario Land game. I was never able to figure out why the original is so highly regarded when its sequel is a marked improvement.
Still to come:
First off, I want to apologize to everyone. I was not able to get my King’s Quest V review done in time before the end of April. I am putting the finishing touches on it, and I intend to post it this weekend. I still intend to review Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire this month, and if my schedule allows it, I will review King’s Quest VI as well. I’m also close to finishing my playthrough of Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, so you can expect a review of that as well. In case you’re wondering, yes, there are two Wonder Boy IIIs; it only makes slightly more sense with the appropriate context.
As for film reviews, I’ll be discussing The Incredible Hulk and Pather Panchali. I’ll likely review Thor: The Dark World, but not before discussing the original.
Links to my articles:
- Gloria Bell (4/10)
- Cold War (6/10)
- Us (8/10)
- Pet Sematary (4/10)
- The Mustang (7/10)
- Shazam! (7/10)
- The Avengers (7/10)
- Three Outlaw Samurai (7/10)
- First Reformed (3/10)
- High Life (5/10)
- Missing Link (7/10)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/10)
- Avengers: Infinity War (8/10)
- Avengers: Endgame (8/10)