For the record, I was criticizing Naughty Dog way before it was cool. In fact, it was back in September of 2013 that my extreme disappointment in the first The Last of Us caused me to form strong opinions of the games I played, which, in turn, eventually resulted in the creation of this site, so don’t forget to thank Naughty Dog for making this all possible. And then, seven years later, the sequel managed to disappoint a much larger portion of the audience. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Films watched in September 2020:
- Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
- Othello (Orson Welles, 1951)
- All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
- The Fireman’s Ball (Miloš Forman, 1967)
If it’s one thing that made Roger Ebert such a great critic, it’s that he did not blindly go along with his peers. When Casino was released in 1995, many critics dismissed it as Goodfellas 2.0. It was an unfortunate consensus because while there are many similarities between the two works, Casino is absolutely not a carbon copy of Goodfellas. Similar to how he didn’t buy into his peers’ dismissal of Red Beard as a Japanese soap opera, Mr. Ebert recognized this immediately, and inducted the film into his “Great Movies” list. Meanwhile, his peers wouldn’t warm up to it until many years later.
I myself think it’s an incredible film, not only being one of the best films of the 1990s, but right up there with Goodfellas and Raging Bull when discussing Mr. Scorsese’s best works. It’s one of those rare works based on a true story that takes massive creative liberties with real-life events, yet still manages to be great. I think what helps is that the characters’ names were changed from their real-life counterparts, so it is openly admitting to being a work of fiction inspired by true events rather than an attempt to recreate said true events. This was an especially smart move because it was revealed in 2008 that the person who formed the basis of the character Robert DeNiro played was an FBI informant – something Mr. Scorsese and company couldn’t possibly have known or predicted at the time. It’s not as well-known as some of his more famous films, which is a shame because it is incredible. A highly recommended watch.
Citizen Kane was a very Shakespeare-like story set in then-modern times, so Orson Welles directly adapting one of the bard’s plays was the logical next step in that progression. The play has been adapted many times over the years, and Mr. Welles’s take was a solid one, deservedly winning the Palme d’Or (or more specifically, its predecessor) the year it came out. Recommending it does kind of come with the standard “It probably won’t win you over if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare’s style” clause, but I’d say it’s worth checking out regardless. You can’t really go wrong with Orson Welles, after all.
What I find interesting about watching old films is that occasionally, I’ll come across a standard present-day auteurs tried to achieve only to fail because they didn’t have a certain something required to pull it off whether it’s finesse, charisma, or talent. In the case of All About Eve, I think of it as the kind of film The Favourite wanted to be. They both involve a very conniving person attempting to worm their way into a favorable position using incredibly underhanded tactics |only to find they got much more than they bargained for|. However, The Favourite fell short because it was based upon slanderous rumors and hearsay while All About Eve is entirely fictional. In doing so, it is far more focused on the story it’s trying to tell, and it’s a much better work for it. It’s actually kind of amazing the film was greenlit in 1950 because it is not the kind of fare you would expect from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Finally, at the end of the month, I ended up watching Miloš Forman’s The Fireman’s Ball. Most people know of him through One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Amadeus, but this ended up being my introduction to him. It was one of the films he made in his native Czechoslovakia. It’s a satirical film wherein firefighters attempt to throw a ball, and things go wrong long before something catches on fire when it turns out they’re all incompetents. It’s considered one of the highlights of the Czechoslovak New Wave, and it is definitely worth checking out.
Games reviewed in September 2020:
The Last of Us Part II
This is review number eight to exceed 10,000 words! I actually had to cut a few talking points out of this review to avoid going even more off-topic than I already had. Plus, I didn’t want to give Naughty Dog the pleasure of inspiring my longest review.
There is little question that The Last of Us Part II inspired a lot of outrage among enthusiasts. That the respected series effectively fell from grace as early as its second installment was one of the most shocking developments in gaming. Personally? I wasn’t at all surprised that that Naughty Dog managed to lose their sacred cow status. To me, the only shocking aspect about all this was that it all happened so quickly. The warning signs that Naughty Dog would eventually churn out something this disastrous were present as early as Uncharted 4 when Neil Druckmann made his aversion to constructive criticism known, but I still didn’t think his audience would turn on him and company to the extent they did – and practically overnight at that.
There is so much to unpack about the backlash to The Last of Us Part II and the events leading up to its release that I actually intend on writing a follow-up editorial about it, but for now, I’ll just say this: The Last of Us Part II is – to an even greater extent than its predecessor – the worst game I’ve ever played to have amassed that amount of critical acclaim. The original was dire, but at the end of the day, the biggest mistake that story made was that it was in a video game. Had it been a film or miniseries, 99% of its problems would’ve been avoided. This wouldn’t have helped The Last of Us Part II; the story is just that fundamentally broken.
It’s an interesting contrast with the original game because The Last of Us was weighed down by a few key, persistent issues. The gameplay wasn’t at all polished, so when the story eventually lost me, it didn’t have anything to fall back on. Meanwhile, I went through many of the same motions when playing The Last of Us Part II, as Todd in the Shadows did when he reviewed Robin Thicke’s Paula as part of his Trainwreckords show in that I wondered if the game could actually be kind of good before eventually wondering if the game is bad after all once it started making its missteps.
I still think that the actual gameplay is markedly improved from the original because despite Mr. Druckmann’s notorious aversion to the dreaded “F” word, there were several sequences I actually thought were fun to play through. However, whereas the original had a much more focused narrative, The Last of Us Part II has about a dozen different concepts – none of which the writers manage to explore competently. While the original was squashed by a comparatively low number of large problems, The Last of Us Part II has several small problems littered throughout the entire experience, thereby suffering a death of a thousand cuts
Indeed, it actually managed to surpass Ride to Hell: Retribution for the record of most entries in the “Cons” list. I thought that was a little strange at first. Is it really the most problem-filled game I’ve reviewed? I think it very well could be. After all, the number of problems a game has doesn’t really correlate to its overall quality. Technically speaking, the NES edition of Dragon’s Lair and Metal Morph had fewer problems than Ride to Hell: Retribution or The Last of Us Part II, but the former two games are much, much, much worse than the latter two. There have also been plenty of times in which a game didn’t fail, yet I didn’t add anything to the “Pros” list because it didn’t stand out at all. I don’t even think The Last of Us Part II’s worst missteps are as bad as those of the original, but in exchange, there are much more of them and some of them manage to be almost as bad. The result is that while The Last of Us had to make an especially bad case for itself to end up in the 3/10 tier, The Last of Us Part II ended up there naturally.
As mentioned in the review, The Last of Us Part II also fails for much of the same reason its predecessor failed (or any given walking simulator, for that matter). It has about as much respect for the medium as the average enthusiast had for gaming journalists in 2020.When a work suffers from this severe of an identity crisis, it is fundamentally incapable of inspiring others to follow its lead. After all, if you don’t have real confidence in the medium, that lack of confidence will transfer to your audience and they, in turn, won’t have confidence in you. That and the painfully outdated “you’re a sucker for actually caring about things” edgelord attitude that rightly died with the 1990s makes the game feel several decades behind the times. If The Last of Us Part II is meant to be the game of my generation, we’re in big trouble.
On the use of public office to suppress the display and sale of artistic works – Recently, Australian state legislator and extraordinary lightweight Connie Bonaros complained about Sword Art Online, claiming it and other manga series violated Australian law, thus resulting in a ban (one wonders how she’d react to stuff like Berserk). AK uses this opportunity to talk about unscrupulous attempts to censor art from a lawperson’s perspective.
When Movies Outlast Their Expiry Dates – On some level, I really don’t like to take the “old movies are better than new movies” stance because it comes across as rather stodgy and conservative. The reason I tend to stick with it is because there really is no getting around that the level of talent among filmmakers took a nosedive in the early 21st century (despite what Paul Schrader would have you believe). That said, if it’s one thing I will grant fans of new films, it’s that when old films don’t age well, they really don’t age well (I myself would argue that’s the case with Blowup). Comedies seem especially susceptible to this, and Ruth of Silver Screenings takes a look at a specific example in the form of Never Wave at a WAC, which seemed behind the times even back in the 1950s, let alone now.
Ghost of Tsushima – Game Review – Black Disc Gaming takes a look at Ghost of Tsushima, which is one of the few respected American AAA productions released this year. Much of it is inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa, which I can get behind, so I’m definitely going to check the game out when I get a chance.
Mario’s Cement Factory: Game & Watch Classic is Concrete – Mr. Wapojif takes a look at one of the many portable Game & Watch games Nintendo released in the 1980s: Mario’s Cement Factory. It’s definitely one of the better games within that catalog, and I played it for the first time when it was included in the Game & Watch Gallery 4 compilation (which I personally felt had the strongest lineup of any of them).
How and Why BioShock 2 Failed Me – I’m not as down on BioShock 2 as critics such as Bob Chipman and Yahtzee are, but I do agree that it was a step down from the original. It wasn’t planned for, and it shows. Reading Amanda Hurych’s reasons for not liking the game was definitely interesting.
The Interesting Case of Metal Gear Solid, or Groundbreaking Gaming – Metal Gear Solid, to me, falls in that same category of works that also includes stuff such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and The Deer Hunter in that I think it’s a good game, but I’m not as sold on its impact on the medium. This is the game that likely cemented the “games = bad, films = good” mentality infecting many AAA developers now, and it was an extremely mixed blessing. On one hand, it sold a lot of people on the idea that you can tell interesting stories in games. On the other hand, it eventually resulted in Metroid: Other M and The Last of Us Part II. Regardless, it does have its rightful place in history, and reading Athena’s take on it suggests it was a case where inspired took all the wrong lessons from what was a very innovative game.
Bloodless Bollsheviks and Soulless Suckers! Boll’s Best BloodRayne! Third Reich Review! – A direct-to-video Uwe Boll film? That’s a double whammy right there. I have to give Pinkie credit for getting through this terrible trilogy – I know I wouldn’t have had the patience for it.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Lacks Humor & Wit – I’ve remarked in the past that today’s filmmakers (or showrunners) are terrible when it comes to satire, but they generally don’t fare well in the comedy department either. You know a Star Trek series, as part of a franchise known for humor and wit, is bad when it’s utterly lacking in both. Starloggers takes a look at the much-maligned Star Trek: The Lower Decks.
SUPERHOT – Review – Nepiki takes a look at Superhot, an indie first-person shooter with a very unique style and gameplay to it. It’s actually been on my to-play list for a while, and the indie gaming scene has been killing it lately, so I will definitely check this one out as well.
That Time I Helped With AnimEVO – Due to the pandemic, gaming tournaments such as EVO have been moved to an online setting. Frostilyte got to help out with it this year, and it was cool seeing how it came together.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Movie Review – What is it with trilogies ending with their weakest installment? In his final review of the trilogy, Lashaan Balasingam of Bookidote takes a look at the controversial The Dark Knight Rises.
Mystik Belle Review – The 2010s may not have been a good decade for Metroid or Castlevania, but it was a great decade for Metroidvanias. Thedeviot reviews one of the games to spawn from the Metroidvania indie boom: Mystik Belle, which appears to have a Puyo Puyo/Madou Monogatari vibe to it.
Farewell, Nintendo 3DS – September of 2020 marked the end of an era when Nintendo discontinued their 3DS console. Between stuff such as Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem: Fates, Virtue’s Last Reward, Bravely Default, and Spirit of Justice, the console had a great run. Scott of the Wizard Dojo takes a look at what he considers to be one of Nintendo’s greatest portable consoles.
Project G-Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) – After the disaster that was All Monsters Attack, there was nowhere for the Godzilla franchise to go, but up. In the latest installment of his Godzilla retrospective, Aether takes a look at Godzilla vs. Hedorah. It was probably made on drugs, which, given the time in which it was made, isn’t an impossibility. Still, I think I would take a coke-fueled fever dream over anything with Minilla in it – even if we could totally troll cinephiles by pointing out that, technically speaking, All Monsters Attack made it into the Criterion Collection before Ex Machina.
Links to my articles:
- The Last of Us Part II (3/10)