July is usually my favorite month of the year, though these past two ones have been unusually difficult for some reason. I apologize for the sudden lack of content, though some decidedly strange circumstances ended up interfering with my writing process. For instance, my internet went down at the end of this month, resulting in this update post being delayed. I didn’t even get to see any films at home, though I personally blame that on Stranger Things.
Films watched in July 2019:
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts, 2019)
- Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
- The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
Before I went to see Midsommar, I predicted that chief Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman would somehow find a way to insult his audience, claiming they were too stupid to get Ari Aster’s vision. A lot of people like the idea of being right all the time, but like Hereditary, the ability is kind of overrated. Fun fact: One year later, he’s still not over having to see it with a mainstream audience.
Another fun fact: Midsommar actually has a higher audience score on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing than The Last Jedi. This is why it never pays to underestimate your audience; you’ll just look foolish whenever you’re proven wrong. Keep on messing up, and don’t be surprised if an acclaimed filmmaker sets the record straight.[Side note: I’m not sure if this commenter actually is Quentin Tarantino or not. Even if they aren’t, then the fact remains that Variety’s chief film critic fell for the oldest trick in the internet book, so there is hilarity to be found either way.]
Anyway, Gleiberman-related antics aside, despite having less acclaim, I myself would dub Midsommar a superior effort to Hereditary simply because it actually sticks the landing, but there’s no getting around that it’s a pretty basic “everyone is an idiot” horror film when you look past its gimmicks and A24 branding. Also, the previous day, I ended up seeing Spider-Man: Far From Home. It will probably hold up better for me once the Marvel Cinematic Universe has run its course. As it stands, it left me wanting more.
Christmas has obviously come early this year, for the middle-of-the-road Midsommar was then followed up with the single best A24 film since The Disaster Artist: Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. I think what allows it to succeed where every other A24 film I reviewed has failed to varying degrees is that it’s one of the only films associated with the company whose creator didn’t try deliberately shooting for that stereotypical hipster standard of being lauded in critical circles while making not even a small dent in the mainstream. Instead, Ms. Wang had a great story to tell and was one of the few directors to put A24 ethos to good use, ensuring it turned out exactly as she wanted. So naturally, being one of their strongest films, they decided, in true A24 fashion, to initially give it a limited release. Keep it classy, A24, it’s what you guys do best.
Finally, after putting Owen Gleiberman in his place (?), Quentin Tarantino saw fit to release his ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I saw during its opening weekend. All I can say is that unless Hollywood really steps up their game in the next five months (or on the off-chance A24 drops another film of the same caliber as The Farewell), it will make my top ten list for 2019. Certain critics may have had their reservations about the ending, but I personally had no problems with it whatsoever.
Films reviewed, but not watched in July 2019:
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)
So Michael Keaton, having stared in a film (Birdman) whose director denounced the MCU and all it stands for, proceeded to play one of the MCU’s more memorable villains? Well played, Mr. Keaton, well played. Anyway, Bob Chipman (a.k.a. Moviebob) once said anyone who believes Homecoming to be the superior effort to Sam Raimi’s trilogy is out of their minds. Well, here’s to being insane because I feel Tom Holland’s interpretation of the character manages to bring a lot of energy the character Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield lacked. The first two films in Mr. Raimi’s trilogy were better standalone features, but Jon Watt’s take on the character works much better as a complement to the series thus far, providing an interesting slice-of-life perspective for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Also, The Ramones.
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
I’ve said it before, but it really does bear mentioning that something about A24 really seems to bring out the absolute worst in film critics. Many of my film-related editorials have, in some way, involved the studio. Between the critics’ approval of A24’s abhorrent marketing tactics for Ex Machina, a certain someone waving his superiority complex around after Hereditary failed to resonate with audiences, and implicitly agreeing with Paul Schrader’s misbegotten conclusion that the audience not flocking to see First Reformed despite having airing in an estimated forty theaters nationwide meant they’re letting filmmakers down, there’s no getting around that the company has inspired a lot of hostility between critics and their audience (albeit unintentionally more often than not).
Then of course, in the midst of these ill-conceived think pieces was Lady Bird, which caused film critics and their readers to lose their minds twice – first when one critic had the audacity to not give it a positive review…
…and again when Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ended up winning “Picture of the Year”.
I’d also argue Exhibit B is a sign of how little film critics/fans care about imaginative storytelling, but that’s a subject for another post.
As for the film itself, there really isn’t much more I have to say about Lady Bird I didn’t already touch upon in the review. Despite being hailed as one of the greatest films of the 2010s immediately after it debuted, I found it to be average at best. Its missteps and tendency not to think through its implications were far too numerous to get a passing grade. As it stands, the main character’s mother is far too unlikable to illicit sympathy. If you’re looking for a film that successfully depicts a flawed parent character, check out Denzel Washington’s Fences. And if you’re looking for a film that covers the same themes as Lady Bird far more gracefully, check out Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen. One could argue it was ambitious of Ms. Gerwig to cover both topics at once, but I would rather have a work do one or two things extremely well than several things only semi-competently.
Games reviewed in July 2019:
Kirby’s Dream Land (HAL Laboratory, 1992)
I try not to look too far into the future when I write these reviews, but Kirby’s Dream Land is a case in which one cannot unring the bell. Its first sequel has so much more to offer that there really isn’t much point in revisiting this game. Kirby’s Dream Land is a game fondly remembered by those who grew up with it – including myself. However, there’s no getting around that it has far too little to offer these days. Even a novice could complete it in less than an hour while veterans are going to want something a bit more challenging. As difficult as it is for me to admit, between Nintendo’s major franchise debuts, Kirby’s Dream Land is definitely among the weaker ones.
King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (Sierra, 1994)
King’s Quest VII is probably the single most polarizing entry in the series. Although I remarked that the presentation leaves a lot to be desired, it honestly is fairly ambitious – especially for its time. It’s fascinating comparing this game to the one that started it all in terms of visuals and design choices. At the end of the day, however, it’s a game that has far more bad ideas than good, which is why I had no choice but to award it such a low score. If the characters were less obnoxious and if the game itself was made a little more challenging, I would be more forgiving of its flaws, but as it stands, there really isn’t anything it does that King’s Quest VI didn’t do several times better with a more simplistic presentation two years earlier. It probably has held up better than Phantasmagoria, though.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (Game Freak, 2006)
The fourth generation of Pokémon is the only one in which I played neither of the original versions. This is because I wasn’t really interested in continuing the series at the time, and ended up skipping the fourth generation entirely. The following generation, Black and White, ended up reeling me back into the series, and I would finally fill in the gap last year when I checked out the Platinum version. Coming off my playthrough of X, I found Platinum to be a better game; having an actual challenge to it really counted for a lot. I don’t think the fourth generation is quite as good as the third, but it managed to retain most of the momentum and deliver a solid experience in its own right.
One Punch Man (Season Two) Review – Coincidentally, after I recently picked up the One Punch Man manga, The Otaku Judge had to go and review the second season of the anime adaptation. It is apparently a step down from the first, but it was interesting reading his take nonetheless.
EarthBound Beginnings – Making the latter half of his site’s namesake relevant, Matt decided to at last take a look at the first game in the Mother/Earthbound trilogy. It hasn’t held up all that well, but its ideas are remarkably forward looking – they’re things you really wouldn’t see regularly until the 2010s.
Project G-A Primer – Sticking it to the critics, Aether ended up seeing Godzilla: King of the Monsters and had a great time with it. From having seen that film, he ended up starting what appears to be a new project: a retrospective of the Godzilla franchise. With at least one Godzilla film having been released in every decade since the 1950s, he certainly has his work cut out for him, and this post was a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the franchise.
Tales From Video Game Retail – The Creepy Grandpa – Some people are really determined to be walking stereotypes. They either have no self-awareness or far too much of it. One such person patronized a store where Angie (a.k.a. The Backlog Crusader) was working at the time. Having once worked in retail, I can certainly sympathize with her plight.
My Mario Maker 2 Courses – I’ve always really liked level editors whenever they’ve been available in old-school games, and Super Mario Maker 2 looks like it has even more to offer players in that regard than the first. It is highly enjoyable seeing the various levels people come up with around these parts – including those of Nathan of Gaming Omnivore.
On physical copies, bonuses, and Google’s Stadia – With Google’s
transparent attempt to violate as many antitrust laws as possible legitimate attempts at entering the games industry, many gamers have been speculating on what a digital-only future would be like. AK of Everything Is Bad For You gives his take while also offering his two cents on the ongoing physical vs. digital debate.
Samurai Museum – Tokyo Japan – Tokyo is actually the very first world capital I’ve ever visited. I sadly didn’t think to visit the Samurai Museum David & Laura Speer ended up going to, but their account of it certainly made for a great read. Should I ever visit Japan again, I’ll try to check it out.
Toy Story 4 Review – Hey, I wasn’t the only one who reviewed Toy Story 4! Scott of the Wizard Dojo, being the animation buff that he is, ended up seeing it as well. His take on the film ended up mirroring mine; we both feel that, while still a quality product, it is the weakest film in the franchise, having the most obvious flaws and somewhat cheapening the ending of Toy Story 3. Even so, I do think it was worth looking into.
Still to come:
Last month, I suspect I may have burned myself out a little attempting to get too much done at once. Therefore, this next month, I’m going to cut down on the number of posts I’ll be writing. This is a gaming site first and foremost, and while I will not give up on my film reviews, game reviews are my top priority. I will try to stick to my usual schedule of posting a new game review every Sunday morning. If my schedule allows for it, I will post two other articles on Wednesdays and Saturdays as well.
Right now, I have a review of Pilotwings ready to go, and I am currently working on a review of Kirby’s Adventure with which to follow it up. I also want to review Pokémon Black and White – the games that got me back into the series after a five-year hiatus. It won’t be easy, but I’m determined to see this retrospective of the mainline games to the end. I have also finished a review of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, so you can look forward to reading that sometime next week as well.
Links to my articles:
- Toy Story 4 (7/10)
- Midsommar (5/10)
- 24 Hour Party People (7/10)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (7/10)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (7/10)
- The Farewell (8/10)
- Lady Bird (5/10)
- Kirby’s Dream Land (3/10)
- King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (3/10)
- Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (7/10)