June 2019 in Summary: Midyear Mayhem

2019 is halfway over if you can believe that. I can, given how long ago my first review of this month felt. So far, it’s been a slightly better year for films, with Us and Avengers: Endgame having debuted. Those two films are easily a match for the best ones I saw in 2018, and Rocketman is easily the superior effort to Bohemian Rhapsody. That said, the actual distribution of these remains highly fickle (seriously, A24, don’t be afraid to expand your audience). I have to admit I haven’t really played any games from this year, though I am keeping an eye on Fire Emblem: Three Houses


Films watched in June 2019:

In theaters:

  • Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher, 2019)
  • Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley, 2019)

At home:

  • Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)
  • Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
  • 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)

On the very first day of the month, I ended up seeing the Elton John biographical feature Rocketman (this time, Dexter Fletcher directed it for real). This is the kind of film anyone seeking to make a jukebox musical or biopic based on a musician needs to study because it manages to avoid a majority of the trappings in both genres. It’s an excellent tribute to a great musician.

The next week, I ended up watching Jason Reitman’s Juno. I was impressed with his most recent effort, Tully. I think Tully is a better film, but Juno managed to be mostly enjoyable itself. Some argue it hasn’t aged well, but considering the general attitude of contemporary critics, I can’t help but wonder if it’s sour grapes. After all, many of them subscribe to a stereotypical hipster mentality, which the narrative (correctly) condemns as pathetic coming from anyone over the age of twenty-five.

In anticipation of Toy Story 4, I decided to finally give Toy Story 3 a spin. I had somehow completely missed out on seeing it back in 2010, but I’m glad I saw it now because it really was a fitting conclusion to the original trilogy. Toy Story 4, while not quite as good as the three films that preceded it, didn’t entirely feel like an unnecessary token sequel, which is impressive given how conclusive Toy Story 3 managed to be.

Finally, bookending the month, I ended up seeing a different musical biopic on the very last day. Named after the Happy Mondays song, 24 Hour Party People details the story of the record label Factory and the profound impact it had on music despite its short life. I was inspired to see it after Mr. Wapojif and I got in a discussion involving Oasis and Happy Mondays.


Films reviewed, but not watched in June 2019:

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski, 2017)

The second chapter of the John Wick saga manages to be both grander in scale than the original while also staying true to what made it work. That is to say, Mr. Stahelski continued to prove to be a master of showing rather than telling, allowing him to convey many interesting story beats through subtle character actions. The subtle jump between genres was a nice touch as well, going from being a revenge film to more of a thriller. It too is worth a watch for those who love action films.

Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

Though one could say the visuals of the original Toy Story are dated, I still feel that it has held up in the ways that actually matter. Its writing shines through, and the characters are some of the most memorable the medium has to offer. It really was just about the best debut a studio could ask for, being very creative and financially successful enough to ensure they became a household name instantly. Indeed, even back when I didn’t pay attention to production companies, I recognized Pixar’s name whenever it popped up before the start of a film. Regardless of how you feel about animation, the Toy Story series is definitely one worth watching from the beginning.

Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 1999)

Oops, I gave an animated film a 9/10. There go my prospects of being a professional film critic. Then again, the fact that I have actual respect for my audience probably would’ve disqualified me anyway.

“You mean you don’t write every word with an underlying, seething contempt for your fellow man?! GTFO, scrub!” [Source]

Anyway, considering the typical gap between Pixar sequels that don’t have “Cars” in the title, it’s amazing to think that Toy Story 2 only debuted four years after the original. It’s equally impressive that a film that started off as a Disney made-for-video sequel with a production cycle that effectively made it the Apocalypse Now for computer technicians resulted in one of the best films of the 1990s. Though they have had a few minor slips, Pixar have proven they can spin straw into gold without even meaning to.


Games reviewed in June 2019:

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Westone, 1991)

Wonder Boy in Monster World is a bit of a paradox, being both better than Wonder Boy in Monster Land while also providing a much blander experience. Wonder Boy in Monster Land was such a groundbreaking arcade game and The Dragon’s Trap featured the kind of premise you wouldn’t really see until a generation or two later. With Wonder Boy in Monster World, on the other hand, you get a game that, while having plenty of polish, doesn’t really have any significant advantage over its more innovative predecessors other than having implemented an actual save system. If you liked The Dragon’s Trap, you might enjoy this game, but there’s an equally good chance you will just be bored by it.

Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (Game Freak, 2002)

If you believed my heretical opinions started in 2014 when I launched this site, think again. While it may have taken Pokémon fans some time to realize that Ruby and Sapphire were good games, as a kid, I immediately recognized them as improvements over Gold and Silver. I’m certainly aware the games have their flaws, but a lot of the complaints either don’t matter anymore (i.e. the lack of backwards compatibility) or could also be said of the preceding two generations (i.e. the annoying HM move management). Either way, I still believe that, at the time of their release, Ruby and Sapphire were the best games in the series. That is no longer true now, but the new ideas from the Double Battles to the increased customizability were exactly what the series needed to remain fresh and relevant.

Widget (Graphic Research, 1992)

Widget is a rare example of a case in which I played the ripoff before the genuine article. Although my brother had a copy of this game shortly after its release, I wouldn’t get to play Mega Man until 2006 when I got my hands on the Anniversary Collection. Needless to say, the difference is like night and day. Mega Man will completely destroy you if you don’t know what you’re doing, but as long as you persist, you can overcome its challenge. Widget, on the other hand, is such a broken mess of a game it’s a miracle it runs at all. The designers clearly didn’t think through their implications when they designed this game because the amount of tedious busywork is inexcusable for an action game.

Monster World IV (Westone, 1994)

It always seems like whenever one game in a long-running series doesn’t get localized, it ends up being the pinnacle. I don’t think this is actually true and that the lack of availability creates a “forbidden fruit” effect. For example, I would say Fire Emblem didn’t really hit its stride until after Nintendo and Intelligent Systems finally decided to localize the series – the only game made before that decision that has held up well is Genealogy of the Holy War. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to dispel this perception when quality games like Monster World IV end up getting passed up for localization. It succeeds where Wonder Boy in Monster World failed simply because it didn’t even bother trying to replicate what made The Dragon’s Trap such a classic, instead content on being a solid platformer – and one of the best the Mega Drive/Genesis had to offer that didn’t have “Sonic the Hedgehog” in its title at that.

Super Widget (Atlus, 1993)

Super Widget was actually the very first Atlus game I ever owned. I remember wondering to myself back then if they ever created any other games of note. This was before the Shin Megami Tensei games were regularly localized, so it wouldn’t be until 2009 that I would see their logo again when I got ahold of Persona 4. Super Widget itself is one of those games that I feel it’s a bit of a shame it’s not more well-known because it’s actually decent – shockingly so for those who played its lackluster predecessor. Playing it would definitely be a treat for platforming fans.

Check it out – it’s Armond White’s mortal enemy.

King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (Sierra, 1992)

I’ve always found the task of reviewing an entire game series interesting because it gets me to think of how the individual installments rank in relationship with each other. To wit, with the Wonder Boy/Monster World franchise, I feel Monster World IV is, at its core, a better game than The Dragon’s Trap, yet I rank the latter higher because its quality is a bit more consistent. With other long-running franchises, you tend to get differing opinions as to which one gets to be considered the pinnacle. Is the best Zelda installment Ocarina of Time or is that too obvious? Maybe you prefer the avant-garde storytelling of Majora’s Mask or the open-world experience that is Breath of the Wild?

The reason I say this is because King’s Quest is one of those series where I feel the question of which installment reigns supreme has an answer that can’t be contested. The only other installment that even comes close to matching the quality of King’s Quest VI is King’s Quest IV, which I have to say only barely scraped out an honorable mention 6/10 from me. It really is the moment when developers finally began to realize “Hey, maybe making the game unwinnable isn’t a good design choice, after all” and “Perhaps these random encounters aren’t working out so well and never have”. Doubtlessly are there growing pains present in the experience, but it really does feel as though the developers matured quite a bit in the two years between releases. It’s hard to believe when you consider it was from an age in which customer feedback was either nonexistent or significantly slower. Yeah, the writing is a bit hokey at times, but there is a real passion there that I wish more Western AAA developers had.


Featured articles:

Metroid – Matt over at Nintendobound took a look at the original Metroid, discussing its importance in gaming history in addition to highlighting what made it so groundbreaking back in 1986.

Memento: Christopher Nolan’s Breakout Masterpiece – Hey, remember back when indie films were defined by ambition rather than complacency? I don’t, but Mr. Wapojif took a look at one of my all-time favorites: Christopher Nolan’s Memento.

My pet peeves in Video Games – I’ve enjoyed gaming all of my life, but there are a few trends that lasted longer than they should have. Quietschisto managed to highlight five of them.

I’m Just Not That Into This… More Wildly Unpopular Opinions – Sarah over at Hamlets & Hyperspace wrote an article detailing what she believes to be her most striking, unpopular opinions. As someone who has gone off the rails for several rulings, I can sympathize.

A review of Our World Is Ended. (PC) – I have to admit I haven’t played that many visual novels, but AK’s review of Our World Is Ended really stuck out, though it does seem a little hit-or-miss.

Doom 3 – Demons In The Darkness – I haven’t really played Doom beyond the original and part of the second installment, but I really did enjoy reading what Nathan of Gaming Omnivore had to say of it. How the people of this setting couldn’t attach a flashlight to a gun is still beyond me.

The Dark Crystal Review – Despite being a cult classic, Scott of the Wizard Dojo suggests that The Dark Crystal is quite flawed. I’ve always found these takes on cult classics to make for good reads because they really benefit from an outsider’s perspective.


Still to come:

“No.”

Did you like that? That was my Carnac the Magnificent impression. Now to read the question.

“Do you have any shame whatsoever awarding Pokémon Detective Pikachu more points than Ex Machina?”

Anyway, I have to admit my plans for this month are a little vague. I intend to review both Pokémon Diamond and Pearl along with King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, but anything outside of those two games is up in the air. Naturally, having seen Toy Story 4 and 24 Hour Party People recently, you can expect a review of those as well. Speaking of 24 hours (to go), I got my ticket for Spider-Man: Far From Home. Before the inevitable review, I intend to discuss Spider-Man Homecoming.


Links to my articles:

Film reviews:

Game reviews:

Other posts:

13 thoughts on “June 2019 in Summary: Midyear Mayhem

  1. How dare you have respect for the audience! You’ll never be taken seriously as an elite reviewer.

    Seriously, I am amazed at how these guys get away with insulting their readers. Or maybe there’s an implication like “my readers are elite too; I’m talking about all those other people.” Either way, it’s shitty.

    And thanks again for the link. I’d say Our World Is Ended was more hit than miss, but it is definitely one of those games that’s not for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m a pretty blatant heretic in the critical circle, aren’t I? I can only imagine what the elites would think of that. The think pieces would probably go something like “Red Metal’s transparently populist leanings have no business infecting our sacred circle”.

      Yeah, Owen Gleiberman is a repeat offender in this regard – he was also the one who wrote that “How Did ‘Hereditary’ Get a D+ From CinemaScore? For the Crime of Being More Artful Than Sensational” article… which was a rather blatant piece of sensationalism if I ever saw one. He sums up pretty much everything that makes contemporary critics so weak; they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. They gleefully show contempt for the audience, yet the exact second their sacred cows are rejected, they fly into a frenzy. One needs to have thick skin in order to be a critic. A good critic is like a skilled boxer – able to withstand as much punishment as they dish out. Modern critics, however, resemble the small-time criminals who are willing to rob convenience stores and fight unarmed opponents, yet turn tail the exact second they realize their targets are capable of fighting back.

      And you’re welcome! I may seek it out to see how I feel about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did Dark Phoenix and MIB: International flop? I was so excited for both of them. I didn’t see them at the theaters because they weren’t kid friendly, but I’m definitely planning on watching them at home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That would appear to be the case. Gleiberman claimed it was franchise fatigue, but I believe it to have been a “people don’t want to pay money to see subpar films” fatigue. So much for his insinuation that the audience are a bunch of loyal puppies for the megaplex system, huh?

      Like

  3. Wow, that critic is an A-hole.

    I’ve noticed too many recent articles by critics who seem to be having a near-masturbatory glee that a number of sequels have failed to perform to expectations recently (sorry for the crude analogy, but I sadly can’t say it’s inaccurate). Despite their “best wishes,” sequels and franchise films aren’t going anywhere, and nor should they. It’s still astounding to me how critics are so quick to write off franchises and sequels, as if they’re all just cheap cash-ins (sure, cash-in sequels do exist, but that doesn’t somehow mean all sequels lack originality and merit. Believe it or not, the same worlds and characters can have multiple stories to tell. Shocking, I know). In fact, it’s possible for an “original” movie to not be that original at all *cough! Avatar! Cough cough! Insert countless critical darling indie films that take place in small towns and focus on a faux-quirky family dynamic here! Cough* Pardon me, I must be coming down with something.

    Also, I didn’t realize you reviewed Toy Story 3 (I’ll check it out when I’m less tired). WordPress is acting wonky for me again. It doesn’t register me as being logged in whenever I visit this site (and select others). Just leaving this comment I had to hit the “sign in with WordPress button,” and whenever I’ve tried to hit the like button on your past few posts, it just doesn’t work. I don’t get WordPress sometimes…

    At any rate, it really is admirable how you keep up the quality and quantity of content on your site. I can’t seem to keep up with everything I want to write, and my reviews are much less eloquent and detailed than yours. Doesn’t exactly say a lot about me that I can’t keep things consistent…

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you want everything wrong with modern-day film critics summed up in less than thirty minutes, read Owen Gleiberman’s editorials because he absolutely embodies the insufferable hipster stereotype. Sometimes I feel I’m exaggerating whenever I point out film critics’ shortcomings, but then I read something like that and it turns out I was inadvertently watering things down. I feel the need to point out that it’s a sixty-year-old man writing that garbage.

      You were well within your right to use that analogy because critics have become a highly prejudiced sort. They cannot accept that a film that wasn’t intended to stand on its own can still be good or that the audience can collectively move away from a film that isn’t that good. Never mind the fact that, as you say, there are plenty of original works such as Avatar, Vertigo, and two-thirds of A24’s output are lacking in originality. This is why I feel film criticism is by far the most conservative circle; anything that falls outside of what they consider good is bad by default. What’s worse is that the auteur filmmakers have bought into the critics’ ethos and are making stuff that panders to them, leaving the greater audience with nothing. Say what you want about video game and music critics, but at least they value innovation.

      I did indeed review Toy Story 3, but don’t worry; I figured WordPress was acting up again. It’s been working fine for me, but I did encounter a few problems myself. At least it’s better than YouTube in that regard.

      Thanks! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my musings. But I think there’s something to be said for writing short reviews. If you can make your own style work, go for it.

      By the way, which “small town” indie films were you not impressed with?

      Liked by 1 person

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