100th Film Review Special! The Worst and Best So Far, Part 1

Well, it finally happened! As of last Saturday, I have officially reviewed 100 films. I’m not surprised that it took me less time to reach this milestone than for game reviews given that video games take a much longer time to review properly. Whereas the game review I’m working on for my 200 special will exceed 10,000 words, my longest film review doesn’t even go past the 3,000-word mark. If it’s a film that has a loose structure or a minimalistic plot, you can safely bet it’s going to be around 1,000 words. Epics, on the other hand, tend to be around 1,500-2,800 words.

Anyway, to celebrate, I thought I’d take a look at the worst and best I’ve reviewed so far. Unlike with my game review specials, I don’t intend to rank the films from worst to best. Instead, I’ll be covering films I’ve awarded one, two, three, eight, or nine points. This way, you can get an idea of the material I’ve covered in addition to getting the best recommendations quickly. So without further ado, let’s dive headfirst into the bomb pool and get the worst over with so we can end this special on a high note.

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[GAME REVIEW] Pokémon Snap

Introduction

Prior to the launch of the Nintendo 64 in 1996, Nintendo announced the development of a magnetic drive peripheral for the console dubbed the 64DD. The 64 references the console to which it was intended to attach along with its sixty-four megabyte magnetic disks and DD stood for “disk drive” or dynamic drive”. The peripheral as was to have features such as the ability to connect to the internet, a real-time clock, and rewritable data storage. Nintendo themselves touted the machine as “the first writable bulk data storage device for a modern video game console”. Because even a peripheral console wouldn’t amount to much without a library of games, Nintendo turned to their various development teams to create original titles for the 64DD.

One such company up for the task was HAL Laboratory. Their proposed game was entitled Jack and the Beanstalk. It was named after the famous English fairy tale and inspired by the numerous beanstalks Mario could climb throughout his series. The development team itself was dubbed “Jack and Beans”. The project’s existence was revealed in 1995, but no screenshots or videos were publicly released. There was much speculation as to how the game would have played with some fans suspecting certain elements found their way to Earthbound 64 – another title intended for the 64DD. This is because in an interview with Benimaru Itoh, one of the art designers for Earthbound 64, he revealed players could plant seeds that grew in real time using the 64DD’s internal clock. However, the Jack and Beans team wouldn’t have to wait for long before a sudden development caused them to shift gears.

The year 1996 marked the debut of Game Freak’s Pocket Monsters franchise. Although released to a lukewarm response, it had little trouble finding a fanbase. With the Game Boy considered a passing fad by then, the millions of units sold revitalized interest in the aging, portable console. When the game was translated for Western fans under the name Pokémon, it became a hit overseas as well, causing it to become a worldwide phenomenon. This led a plethora of spinoff media, including an anime series, several manga stories, and a collectable card game. Once it was clear that the Jack and the Beanstalk project had made no significant progress, the team eventually proposed turning it into a Pokémon spinoff. From there, the Jack and Beans team had a definite direction, and in 1999, they at last completed the project. The game’s final title was Pokémon Snap. Because 64DD had been delayed countless times, they converted their game to the Nintendo 64 platform whereupon it sold 1.5 million copies. Exactly what kind of experience does this game, released during the height of the Pokémon franchise’s popularity, have to offer?

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[FILM REVIEW #100!] Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019)

Hustlers is a tale set in the seedy underbelly of New York City. Although the city’s most violent period is behind it, there still exist many stories of people barely scraping by and having to resort to desperate measures in order to make ends meet. In the year 2014, journalist Elizabeth approaches a former stripped from New York City named Dorothy for an interview. Dorothy is initially hesitant to tell this story, not wanting to put her friends in jeopardy. Eventually, she relents, though she makes it clear that Elizabeth isn’t to probe certain subjects.

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[FILM REVIEW] Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995)

In July of 1969, history was made when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins manned the Apollo 11 space shuttle and touched down upon the moon. During this expedition, fellow astronaut Jim Lovell hosts a house party so they can witness the moment on television themselves. As they’re watching, Lovell tells his wife, Marilyn, that he intends to walk on the moon one day – having previously orbited it in the Apollo 8 spacecraft. Three months later, complications cause Lovell’s crew to fly Apollo 13 instead of the slated 14. It would appear that Lovell’s goal will come to pass sooner than expected.

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[GAME REVIEW] Aegis Wing

Introduction

In the 2000s, J Allard of Microsoft proposed a summer internship with the express goal of focusing on game design. Three interns for Microsoft, Scott Brodie, Danny Dyer, and Matt Monson, in turn created a game during the summer of 2006. Their effort was a shoot ‘em game named Aegis Wing. Mr. Dyer and Mr. Monson had been members of the Texas Aggie Game Developers, which was a student organization at Texas A&M University established to nurture new talent. The three of them collaboratively did all of the groundwork, though outside sources provided art and audio support.

The team ran into a few difficulties due to having but three months to see this project through and XNA, a freeware toolkit commonly used for Microsoft products such as the Xbox 360, was not yet available at the time. Nonetheless, the three-person team soldiered on, completing their work by the end of the summer – though they had to cut out a few planned features along the way. They handed their work to Carbonated Games, an internal studio of Microsoft Game Studios to be published. The fruits of their labor were then released on the Xbox Live Arcade service as a freeware title in May of 2007. What was this small team able to accomplish in three months?

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A Question for the Readers #18: Phony-ing It In

Monetary transactions should be a no-brainer, right? Someone has something you want, you pay them money, and they will turn over ownership of the item to you in exchange. However, things aren’t always that simple. Sometimes, the proprietor runs into a shipping error or perhaps they oversold their stock. Then there are times in which it turns out the item you purchased was, in some way, a fake. I know I have, on occasion run into situations in which I have come across some less-than-scrupulous sellers.

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[GAME REVIEW] Pokémon Black 2 and White 2

Introduction

Although they didn’t move quite as many units as the preceding set of games, the Black and White versions of Pokémon were the basis of yet another success story for the juggernaut franchise. Their scenario was especially praised for its sophisticated story beats, with many considering it the spiritual successor to Shigesato Itoi’s lauded 2006 effort, Mother 3. Having sold millions of copies, that there would be a follow-up to these games was a foregone conclusion. Indeed, previous generations had a standalone version to complement the initial two games. With the versions being called Black and White, many fans anticipated that a “Grey” version was just around the corner. However, the development team felt such a choice clashed with the theme of contrasting opposites that ran throughout the original games. Therefore, in defiance of enthusiasts’ expectations, the successors to Black and White were to be direct sequels: Black 2 and White 2. With many considering the fifth generation the series’ shining moment, the idea of returning to Unova for a second adventure was highly appealing.

Feeling satisfied with how Black and White turned out, director Junichi Masuda handed the reins to Takao Unno for this project, though the former remained to help produce the games. Because these games were to heavily draw resources from the set directly preceding them, the development process went without incident. Black 2 and White 2 saw its domestic debut in June of 2012 before being released the following October in North America, Australia, and Europe. Although these games were well-received overall, the critical enthusiasm didn’t match that of their predecessors. This reflected in sales figures as well with a little under eight-million copies sold by March of 2013. Could there be something about these games not reflected by the numbers?

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[FILM REVIEW] The Peanut Butter Falcon (Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz, 2019)

Zak is a 22-year-old man with Down syndrome. Because he has no family that can take care of him, he was made a ward of the state and lives in a retirement home in North Carolina. There, he is cared for by a woman named Eleanor. He has made several attempts to escape the retirement home, but to no avail. Idolizing a professional wrestler who went by the sobriquet of The Salt Water Redneck, he dreams of entering the business himself. One night, he sneaks out with the assistance of his elderly roommate, Carl, and hides in a fishing boat.

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