I gave a bit of a spoiler to this article about a week ago with my ranking of the Spider-Man movies. I tried to cause a little bit of controversy, but proved to be rubbish at doing so. If you didn’t read that article, I put Across the Spider-Verse at number 3 behind the first Spider-Verse and Far From Home. I heard some people say that they considered this one the best Spider-Man movie of all time.
Why don’t I agree? For the clicks? Well, if that’s true, then it hasn’t worked. Also, I never perform simply for the reaction. All of my opnions, even the rotten ones, I come by honestly. So, what caused me to show (little horse racing humor for ya) this one?
To Be Continued…: I mentioned this one in my rankings. I also wrote about the other topic that I included in this section. But, we wait to discuss that one further. First, I understand that cliffhangers at the end of movies used to be more commonplace. But, I feel like we grew out of that and figured out how to tell coherent and cohesive storied to avoid that fate.
I mean, even Infinity War that left on one of the biggest cliffhangers of all time felt like it stood on its own as a movie. Plus, Endgame gave us a time jump that made the end of Infinity War feel more like an ending. Building the snap into Endgame and then giving the time jump feels uglier to me. This ending feels more like the Back to the Future series, which I love. But, the seamless transition between movies just gives off bad vibes.
The Decent, Part 2
Too Much Story: Obviously, this follows from (or leads to) the previous. Trying to jam The Spot (especially when they transitioned him to massive Avengers level threat) and Miles as the ultimate threat to the multiverse into one movie feels like a bit much. I understand that these stories are intertwined and that writing them can be difficult.
A bit of an aside here, but hopefully I pull it off. I talked all kinds of shit about Brian Michael Bendis with Chris when I heard that Marvel planned on rebooting the Ultimate line. I tried to comment a couple of times on their social media that I hope they leave out cannibalistic Hulk and incestuous Maximoff siblings, but they deleted them. So, I discussed it with Chris. I said, “All I want is a viable 2099 reboot and they’re bringing back the Ultimates.” Then, “I mean, Ultimate Spidey launched BMB’s career, so isn’t that enough hate for one lifetime?” Well, I come not to bury, but actually praise Mr. Bendis. I think, as the godfather of the serialized trade format in comics, he’d figure out a way to separate the two stories if they gave him a chance.
Supporting Spider-People: Seeing Spider-Man 2099 in the post credit scene made me more excited that I’m willing to admit in public. Like the movie before it, in Across the Spider-Verse, Miles finds himself teaming with others who lived a life very much like his. Spider-Gwen (more in a minute) makes a return. They also follow The Spot and pick up Spider-Man: India, Spider-Man (Hobart Brown, don’t call him Spider-Punk!), and our friend Peter B. Parker from the original. Because I love Hobie and Spider-Man: India grew on me, I wish they gave them move screen time and the team up potential with the players from the first movie is too enticing. Perhaps in the next movie.
Spider-Gwen “Controversy”: I said several times to my family, “People are big mad because the trans community identified Gwen.” Now, I just read that they banned Across the Spider-Verse in UAE becase of the presence of the trans rights flag in the movie. Mind you, none of this is discussed outright in the movie. There are some subtle mentions like the flag above (the only time I even noticed it in the movie), a discussion where Gwen talks about living two lives (which can be interpreted as her spider life, but I can see where the trans community identify it otherwise), and the fact that as the movie progresses and the stress gets to her, her color scheme reflects the trans colors very prominently. So, stay mad if you must, but I’m here for all of it.
The Spot Evolved: After saying they did to much with the two stories, I feel compelled to come back and explain myself a bit. Don’t get me wrong. I love both stories. There are things I’d do differently about the movie and both stories, but I’m a frustrated author blabbing on a blog and they’re all making one of the greatest animated movies of all time. With that being said, The Spot went from a literal joke at the beginning of the movie to a character that I legitimately feared by the end. When they revealed his final form and he spoke, I got chills. Maybe that’s why I’m so mad about this. I can’t wait to see the smack down that he delivers.
Right Place, Right Time: When Christine and I watched the Across the Spider-Verse trailer, we both cried. That’s not news. Getting older and watching your kids grow up changes your perspective and, apparently, you cry at the drop of a hat. Both of us sobbed at the Alanis Morrissette musical, too. Well, watching the movie and seeing a family on screen that genuinely loves each other (and finally getting that from Gwen and her dad) gives me the warm and fuzzies all over. I don’t give too much credit to pop culture (but I do give it credit when due) but I’m glad to have been able to experience all of this with my own family and share it with them.
So, if you think I “dissed” Across the Spider-Verse in my rankings, hopefully I redemmed myself here. I enjoyed the movie. Very much. As I said, there are things I’d change about it on a fundamental level. I watched the first one again the other day and I can’t say the same about that one. It is just a perfectly crafted story from beginning to end. Again, perhaps I’ll revisit my rankings after the next one.
I planned to release another episode of Ready Player One today. However, we have a surprise 40th birthday party for my brother in law. Besides, I started reading the chapters on Thursday at soccer and then never finished reading or writing up my summary and reponse notes. And, so, to make it up, I wrote my Spider-Man Movies Ranked list. Buckle up, there might be some controversy here.
Spider-Man Movies Ranked
10. Amazing Spider-Man 2 – I think we rewatched this one to get ready for No Way Home. Not as bad as I remember it, but definitely not good. Like Clone Wars, it will take something truly terrible to usurp this one.
9. Amazing Spider-Man 1 – Sandwiched between a good Tobey Maguire performance and the politics that ended that series and the rejuvenation of the character with Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield never stood a chance with me. And, to this day, he remains #NotMySpiderMan. Granted, like Doc Ock, Sandman, and Electro, No Way Home went a long way to rehabilitating him with me. Hell, I even cheered when he got redemption by saving MJ. All of that being said, though, I still refuse to watch these movies.
8. Spider-Man 3– We all remember this one. At the very least, we all remember the emo dance scene. This one also introduced Venom and referenced the Spidey No More story. I know that Raimi wanted to tell all these stories and got a bit steamrolled by the studio. Given at least one more movie, he could have spread them out a bit better. But, trying to do too much will get you in trouble every time.
7. Spider-Man 2 – I’m gonna be honest. I don’t remember this one at all. Oh, it’s the Doc Ock one. Well, I think that they made the Doc Ock character so much more relatable and enjoyable in No Way Home and that’s how I will remember the character from now on. Being forgettable lands you in this spot.
6. Far From Home – My least favorite of the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies so far. I liked the Mysterio angle, but the story just dragged for me and it feels like they were going a little too hard in the wrong direction with this one. I’m glad they altered the course in No Way Home and brought back fun loving Spidey.
5. Homecoming – Spider-Man in the MCU? Finally? When I saw Holland as Spider-Man, that cinched it. He played the role perfectly and he is #MySpiderMan. As I wrote above, with Miles, he brought hope and joy back to the role. The two Amazing movies explored too much of the dark side of the character and the comics have followed suit in some ways. I don’t want dark and brooding Spider-Man and I’m glad they took Ben Reilly to task in the latest movie.
4. Spider-Man – Really, this might be a tie with Homecoming or Homecoming is actually slightly above this one. But, I wanted to give this movie its due credit. I’ve mentioned more than once, but I grew up in a time when Hollywood didn’t give comics any credit. Granted, the old guard still bangs that drum. But, the comic book movies coming out today owe a great debt to Sam Raimi and the amazing job that he did bringing Spider-Man to the big screen in a respectable way.
3. Across the Spider-Verse – So, why don’t I agree that this one should be number 1? While I agree that it is an amazing movie, here’s how I framed my argument earlier. I just think they tried to tell too many stories in this one. Also, “to be continued…”? I know we used to do that a lot with movies, but I feel like that era is gone. If they split the stories better, I think they could have wrapped up with the one major story (Spot) while concluding the Miles as a major multiversal threat in the next one. Like Aiden said, I’m sure once the other one comes out, it will feel like a more cohesive story. And, who knows, maybe I’ll revisit this after that
2. No Way Home – Those of you who think that Across is the best are having a bit of a conniption right now. What can I say? I got caught up in nostalgia just like everyone else. Plus, between Miles and Holland’s Spider-Man, they brought hope back to him and made him the hero that I remember growing up with. Leave the brooding for other heroes. I want my Spidey happy and healthy in spite of his hardships.
1. Into the Spider-Verse – I know this might be a controversial opinion. Some people, including some in my own home, consider Across the Spider-Verse as the best Spider-Man movie they’ve seen. Aiden and I were just talking on the way to pick up his girlfriend and I said, “I think I like the first one better.” He sighed, agreed, and said, “I didn’t want to say anything yesterday, but I do, too.”
As with all of these things, this Spider-Man Movies Ranked list is subjective and subject to change. If you disagree, I’d love to have a conversation why. I still have to have the talk with Liam about why he likes this one so much. I tend to think it’s recency bias, but I love having these discussions.
I wrote in my previous article, a review of the Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves move, that young me crelebrated the release of the movie and current me enjoyed the viewing immensely. It bears repeating. We grew up in a time when nerd culture got no respect from television and movie producers. They thought, just as with cartoons, that stuff is for kids and we should gear it towards kids. Granted, the animated entertainment provided us with something at least. Nothing at the time, though, came close to the production value of Honor Among Thieves or The Super Mario Bros Movie (click the “?” box).
I know that other web sites surely have gone into the how and why this happened now. I’m not all that interested in any of that. I just enjoy the fact that they gave us good, quality entertainment that we can share with our kids. Ah, there it is. That just triggered something cynical in me. But, you know what? I’m going to ignore it and bring the usual (possibly toxic) positivity that we’re know for here at 2 Generations Gaming.
Training Montage: When Mario agrees to embark on the journey with Peach, she trains him in the ways of the Mushroom Kingdom. I appreciated the nod to other action movies and the tongue in cheek treatment. Even though it made little sense in the context of lore, I hope I proved in the D&D movie article that matters little to me.
Peaches, Peaches: All most people talked about (at least according to the article that stated, “After the Mario movie, this is all anyone is talking about!”) after the movie is the Jack Black song peaches. I heard about it before the movie because of just such an article. However, I saved the song until I actually saw the movie. It didn’t disappoint. After the movie, I made my family laugh by mentioning that it hit the top 100 and, therefore, qualified for Grammy status.
Lumalee: This movie introduced us to nihilist Lumalee, the star companion from the Super Mario Galaxy series. I laughed and laughed with every line that came out of the adorable Nietzsche wannabe. Granted, I have a dark sense of humor as a optimistic pessimist. But, I think everyone can find something lovable in the darkness that is Lumalee’s attitude towards it all.
I know that! I also wrote about this phenomenon in the Honor Among Thieves article. However, being able to catch even a fraction of the easter eggs in the movie made me very happy. What brought me more joy was that my kids were all there to point them out either during the movie or after we left the theater.
Donkey Kong: All of the characters lived up to expectations. I know some (probably literally nobody other than douche bags trying to make money with “content”) derided the movie as “woke” because they portrayed peach as a “strong independent woman who don’t need no man”. Other than that, every time a character appeared on screen, it put a smile on my face. In my opinion, one voice actor went above and beyond to bring his character to life. And, he basically just played himself like he does in nearly every movie. Like Robert Downey Jr. before as Iron Man before him, Seth Rogan was born to play DK.
Kids/Nostalgia: More and more I admit to being bit by the nostalgia bug. More and more I realize that it bites me because of my kids. We went to see this one while on vacation in the Berkshires for Quinn’s birthday. Unlike many family outings lately, every single one of our boys chose to join us without a fight. During the movie, Liam wore a smile on his face that indicated that some of his greatest memories came to life on that screen. I think I wrote in an earlier article that sometimes brings me pause that fictional characters mean so much to us. But, then I shut up that part of my brain and enjoy what I enjoy. Helping to bring that same joy to our kids makes everything else feel small by comparison.
Great super hero movies? For the most part, check. I give DC a pass and often turn off my brain enough to enjoy them even if I know they’re not very good. Plus, James Gunn? We’ll see. Live action (and CGI, of course) Dungeons and Dragons that delivers? Check. Amazing video game movies? Well, it remains to be seen if Nintendo can do it with other franchises, but they delivered with The Super Mario Bros movie.
I said it before. If you told 11 year old me that within my lifetime, they’d make comic book, video game, and Dungeons and Dragons movies respectable and profitable, I’d never have believed you. Sure, I’d want to time travel into this magical future. But, I’d also scoff in my usual teenage way. We grew up in a time where super hero movies got barely B-level treatment and the best cinematic version of Dungeons and Dragons was animated. Certainly nothing on par with the movie, Honor Among Thieves.
I started watching the movie a week or so ago while visiting a small Twitch streamer. For some reason, I switched to Ready Player One in the middle of the movie. I remember Aiden saying that he enjoyed Ready Player One and my ADHD pushed me in that direction. Then I got the idea to make this month’s theme (with no banner again!) Spring into Gaming and Pop Culture. My trademark honesty incoming. I played so little games recently, that I made up for it with pop culture to keep the page running. Comic books took a week. Hearthstone filled in nicely with the new BG update and a post about buying a new Switch. I think that last one maybe gave away that I ran out of ideas this month. But, Ready Player One lifted me out of the funk with a discussion of Tomb of Horrors. Then two of my kids saw GotG 3 without me and I remembered Mario and Dungeons and Dragons. May wheezes to the finish line with some pop culture reviews.
Owlbear – Relax, I haven’t gone full purist on you here. I refuse to complain about anything when it comes to this movie. Are there things I enjoyed more than others? Sure. But, I already spoke of the horrors of nerd pop culture from my youth. The fact that they made this movie and brought Dungeons and Dragons to life for me is enough. And, yes, technically, even though it technically goes against the rules of the game, it fits with the spirit of the story. The first rule I learned about D&D is have fun. Well, a druid that can wild shape into an Owlbear is hella fun.
Fat Dragon: I love that in a movie called Dungeons and Dragons, we get both a dungeon and a couple of dragons. But, more on that in the “Great” section. With most of the stuff I didn’t understand because of my unfamiliarity with the source material, I Googled and one of the first results answered my question, “Why is that dragon so fat?” I wanted a murderous hell machine bent on death and destruction of entire villages. Not some chonk too fat to leave his own lair. But, I searched and got some satisfaction from the back story I found.
Forgotten Realms: Look, I get that the Realms are D&D and that most people get their introduction to the game through them. But, I’m not about that life. Dragonlance introduced me to the game and that still resides at the top of my list of what I consider pure and true D&D. So, feel a little let down by the choice of setting. Nevertheless, I also understand that Forgotten Realms lends itself better to generic protagonists, too.
Backstory: I put this one first because I went back and forth between putting this one here or in “Decent”. I ultimately decided that I liked having the stories repeatedly told in Honor Among Thieves so that I didn’t need to Google more than I already did.
Forge: Look, I understand that some DMs enjoy the double cross and big twist reveal towards the end of the adventure to blow everyone’s mind. Honestly, some like it so much that they always go that route when designing and telling an adventure. I also respect that choice. However, I also rolled my eyes pretty hard when it became apparent that Forge double crossed everyone (spoiler alert) and I thought they set him up as the “boss” of the encounter. They redeemed themselves somewhat by making the evil red mage (spoiler alert) the actual final encounter.
Humor: Some fans, especially MCU fans recently despair at the amount of humor in the movies. I rarely understand these criticisms by purists, but I especially find this one confusing. First, an aside. Chris went to play Old School Magic the Gathering with a friend. He told me a story about a guy he played against that got so offended by seeing “new” lands that he gave him a set of old Swamps to play with. I replied, “You’re a more patient person than me. I’d have told him to shut up and play.” Now, aside from showing what a rotten person I am, this illustrates that I just believe that life is too short to waste it worrying about such nonsense. I like to laugh. The humor in these movies never feels “forced” as the nerds like to say. It just makes me laugh and enjoy the movie more.
I Know That! To be expected in such a movie, but they put all sorts of Easter Eggs in Honor Among Thieves for those of us who play the game. You know I like a good lore rabbit hole and this one had me in one of those the entire time. In addition, I found myself smiling when the red mage case meteor swarm or I realized that Simon has a bag of holding. I love when the creators love the thing that they’re creating.
Arena Battle: Along those same lines, I thought I might not enjoy the arena battle towards the end of the movie. As a DM, I dread running large scale battles like that. However, since playing Warhammer and getting a better sense for how they handle large armies, I think that will be less of an issue going forward. In any event, I liked the battle because they made it more of a corridor crawl and because of what I just said. Oh, that’ s a displacer beast. Hey! A gelatinous cube!
Dungeons and Dragons: I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. In a movie named Dungeons and Dragons, I appreciate that they kept true to the title and gave us both a dungeon and some dragons. I see another dimension where they tried to make the movie more appealing to wider audiences and I’m glad they kept the movie for the fans.
Honor Among Thieves met my expectations. I won’t say it exceeded them. Because I heard good things going in, I expected good things. And, they gave me good things. Hell, I liked it so much, I’m not even going to give you the old, “Sure, it had flaws…” speech. I just want to finish this article by telling you again how much I enjoyed it. If you haven’t already, watch it. You will have fun.
Ever since the first time I saw Coco, I loved the movie. The story and music both brought me great joy. So, it was only a matter of time until my family and I decided to make it a cheesy family tradition to watch it on the day after Halloween.
Like Frozen before it (and yes, I understand that it is not technically a Christmas move), the tradition started innocently enough. Two years ago, I suggested the movie for a pick me up during a particularly long and difficult Covid year. November 1st was a Sunday, so we all faced some bastardization of remote and hybrid learning.
Then, we watched it again last year. Because nothing actually happens unless social media knows about it, I posted something on Instagram about it. Several people reached out to say what a great tradition we started and that cemented it for years to come.
At the end of last year, I bought a record player for myself. Liam found out about it and thought it was a Christmas present for him. So, I repurposed it into a family gift and bought him Abbey Road in tandem. Earlier in the month, I saw that Wal*Mart had the Coco soundtrack LP. So, I picked it up.
As soon as Christine saw the record, she said, “I knew it.” I listened to the thing three times in the first day. Ever since, I looked forward to this day to be able to watch the movie again. Thanks for taking a walk down memory lane for me. Come back later in the week for our opening celebration of “Thankful for Gaming”.
In my last review, I mentioned that I only consider Halloween and Scream to be worthy horror franchises. Two things as a follow up. First, I looked at Hellraiser 2022 several times in the queue before finally firing it up to watch it. When Christine found out that’s what I was watching she said, “I don’t remember if I ever saw Hellraiser.” I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure myself. I might have watched it. Maybe I just absorbed the basic plot points from years of seeing clips on television and the internet.
Second, Christine finally admitted that she hated the new Halloween. Okay, that’s not entirely correct. She said it took her a week, but she decided that she didn’t like it. After a week myself, the thing that bothers me most is that Michael went from an unstoppable murder machine at the end of Kills to a murder hobo living in a sewer pipe without proper explanation. Otherwise, I’m okay with what I said last week.
The Decent: A Good Start
As an introduction to the Hellraiser universe, this movie fills that role nicely. I know that Hellraiser generally has a different vibe from other horror movies. It plays up the sadism much more than this movie does. However, we live in a different time now and I don’t think that many people are as enamored with watching sexual abuse play out on screen as maybe they were in the past. Sure, call me a melting snowflake who is woke (more on that in a bit), but I’m okay with the implication of the act without witnessing it firsthand. Besides, isn’t that supposed to make it scarier?
The Good: It’s Not Hellraiser from the Early 2000s
Again, having not watched the original Hellraiser (at least that I can remember), I never knew what I missed from the series. Like any of these franchises, though, it suffered some lean times towards the end of the initial popularity that got even leaner as they milked the cash cow for all it’s worth. So, I consider myself lucky that I came into the series during the trip back up to prominence.
The Great: Try Something New
Like Halloween Ends, this movie went in a different direction. Other than tone down the ultraviolence, a woman plays Pinhead in this iteration. Again, I’m sure some basement dwelling cave troll immediately went to some message board to scream about how Hellraiser is somehow now woke, but as usual I don’t see a problem here. I thought she brought a cool energy to the role and hope they do make more movies.
If they make another one, as tends to happen with these things, they will probably push the envelope a bit more. Perhaps, then we can see what people’s appetite is for the horrific “pleasures” normally dished out by the Cenobites. Until then, let them wallow in their misery. I, for one, enjoyed Hellraiser 2022.
I don’t mind going into a movie with spoilers. What I generally try to avoid before watching a movie is reviews. So, it surprised me a bit when Aiden mentioned that one of his friends rated Halloween Ends 4 out of 10. So, while watching the movie, I looked up some reviews and found them to be…mixed at best. Horror movies often receive poor critical acclaim, so no surprise there. However, fans, in somewhat shocking amounts, crapped on the movie, too.
Full disclosure: Halloween (and Scream) are the only two horror franchises worth watching in my opinion. I liked the first two movies in this series and thought they went a long way to reinventing the saga while staying true to the roots. So, if you are looking for another hate watch of the movie, go somewhere else. In addition to being so overwhelmingly positive of creative projects that I needed to change my format (also, the old format referenced a 60 year old movie), I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie with Aiden and Christine.
The Decent: The Story
Having grown up with Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street (though I liked reading the novelization of that one because it went into more detail on Freddy’s background), I laugh when people talk about the story of horror movies as a reason for their negative review. And, yet, here I am mentioning story as my first reason. Was it the best story? No, of course not.
But, both Aiden and I agreed that they made these movies because it means that I never have to watch the Rob Zombie version of Halloween ever again. You want to talk about garbage? Those movies are the epitome of terrible story and unnecessary ultra violence. We also both convinced ourselves that Halloween Ends was only a portal into another reboot on the 50th anniversary. They made the story so compelling, in my opinion, that I even searched on Google to see if they put a hold on a Halloween Begins web page. For the record, I didn’t find any evidence.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still possible.
The Good: Connections
One thing these movies always do well is connecting the new to the old. This one went especially out of its way to put references into the other movies. More than once, I found myself doing the Leonardo DiCaprio meme to the television. Once, I shouted, “They’re going to do it! They’re going to do the kill from the first movie!”
The Great: The Theme Song
Just kidding. But, on the real, when the credits finally rolled and the song started playing, I said, “This is the best theme song ever. It fits the movies so well.” The actual great is Jamie Lee Curtis. People say that they come to these movies for the killing, but we all know we are there to see how Laurie is adapting to the latest horrors thrust upon her by her psychotic brother.
Curtis again masterfully plays the part of grieving mother and pissed of survivor in equal parts. We watch as she feels the spirit of Michael in Corey and the corrupting influence spreading to her granddaughter, Allyson. Like I said in the “Decent” section, Aiden and I both wanted this to end up leading into the next generation of Halloween. For some of the movie, we both said, “Is this is going to be a tandem going forward?” Unfortunately, not, but they kept us going for a while and I still can’t wait until 2028 when “Halloween Begins” hits theaters.
Of the three of these movies, Halloween Ends is by far the weakest. I still prefer it to the Rob Zombie fiasco. I will watch all three of them annually until the next set of movies in 6 years. Be on the lookout for them. Even if they don’t actually happen, I’ll spend some time writing them.
I watched “High Score” Episode 1 yesterday while I was working out. It was suggested to me by Netflix when I logged into the account to watch another docuseries I had been watching, “Champions”. Well, not one to pass up history of video games, I switched for the next week or so. Look, I realize that this isn’t at all related to Nintendo or Pokemon, as promised earlier in the week. However, TLDR, it was good enough to inspire me to write this review.
Space Invaders – “Grandpa”
There’s a reason that I went gender specific with the subtitle and it isn’t strictly personal bias. They mention in the episode that women felt left out of the realm of video games. I think the exact quote was, “There are no games for women.” That’s not a surprise. For much of the history of math and related subjects, women have been a footnote of that history. Unless, they are seen as consumers to be exploited. But, more on that in the next section.
My favorite part of the Space Invaders story is that a woman became the first Space Invaders world champion. And so, once again, a woman ignored the restrictions placed on her by society and proved herself as the “best man for the job”. Congrats, Rebecca Heineman, your story was inspiring and I genuinely smiled at the conclusion.
Before we move on, a couple of notable factoids. The game was so popular that arcades were often called “Invader houses”. Also, Japan suffered a 100-yen coin shortage because of that popularity. Crazy.
Pac-Man – “A little somethin somethin for the ladies”
I will give the compsci nerds credit. When they realized that women weren’t playing video games, they tried to do something about it. Generally speaking, that segment of the population (be it women or men like me) aren’t attracted to games that are simply shooting at things. Enter Pac-Man.
The creator of the game insists that the iconic shape is, in fact, inspired by a pizza with one slice missing. No idea if that’s actually true, but it does validate years of speculation. During the segment, they talk to two teenage girls from the time that seem to uphold the theory that Pac-Man brought girls into video games. I’m not sure what it says about me that I’ve always preferred Pac-Man from that generation of video games.
I hadn’t planned on ending each section with a random factoid, but I have one for our round yellow friend. His name was originally Puck Man, which makes more sense. However, as Puck very easily becomes a well know obscenity, they changed it.
Father of the Cartridge – Jerry Lawson
They interviewed his kids in High Score episode 1. Unfortunately, he passed away about 10 years ago. However, when his son said his name, I paused briefly and said, “Hey, I know that name.” It’s no wonder why. For a generation of gamers my age, he revolutionized the way we played. No longer were consoles restricted to one game any more.
With cartridges, as his son says, your library increased exponentially. Alas, other than video game historian nerds like me, his name has been relegated to an afterthought. Once Atari got into the cartridge business, nobody else stood a chance. More on that 900-lb gorilla in the next section.
Random Factoid: When I was younger, I split my head open and had to get 14 stitches. My parents, so impressed by my handling of the situation, let me get a gift. I chose Jungle Hunt because I played the game in the arcade and enjoyed it so much. Incidentally, when we got the Atari 7800, I bought the game again, making it the first game I purchased more than once.
Atari – “Big Bad”
Like most people at the time, I loved Atari. Even after they crashed and burned with ET (see next section), I still loved the company and support them even today. I haven’t ordered their new console, yet. However, one of the first things I do when I get a new computer is download Stella and a few of my favorite games.
I probably should have, but I had no idea that they were such bullies in the industry. It started innocently enough as a bunch of guys making video games. Then, the company sold to Warner and its a tale as old as time. The suits tried to squeeze every last penny out of the company. They sued a bunch of college kids for making improvements to their games. They bullied Midway into allowing them to release a version of Pac-Man using pretty much the same technology that they attempted to end with the lawsuit. And then, their come uppance.
Random Factoid: I promised a conversation about ET in the next section. Before that, I did want to speak on the process. Apparently, the programmer had 5 weeks to program the game. At the time, it took anywhere from 6-8 months to develop a game. Also, when meeting with Steven Spielberg (after only 36 hours to develop a pitch), the programmer said that Spielberg wanted the game to be more like Pac-Man. See, it could have been worse.
ET – What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Apparently, you can’t have a video game documentary without mentioning ET. Hell, they made a whole movie about that single game. As is often the case, the story is a bit more complicated than just ET killed Atari.
But, for the sake of this article, I’m choosing to be poetic about it. Karma can be swift and furious vengeance. Atari paid for their hubris when they made the “worst game ever.
Random Factoid: I know I’ve told this story before, but here goes. I liked the ET game. Yes, the controls are frustrating. Sure, given more time, they could have polished it a bit more. But, I played the hell out of it and beat the game. Hell, it is one of the games that I download first after configuring Stella. It certainly doesn’t deserve the reputation it’s gotten. Alas, that’s how myths grow.
The Verdict – High Score episode 1 makes me want to watch the rest of the series
If you read the TLDR at the beginning of the article and you are still here, it bears repeating. High Score episode 1 is entertaining and engaging. I’m looking forward to watching the other five episodes. If you like human interest stories or video games, then I think you’ll like this series. Come watch with me!
It would seem that our “week” of Pokemon coverage has expanded into weeks and might even surpass a month once all is said and done. If you’re okay with it, I’m okay with it. I’m just glad to be covering gaming content again on the gaming web page. That’s why it is exciting to be covering Detective Pikachu.
Wait, what’s this? It’s a movie? There’s a Pokemon movie and it’s not the one where Ash is perpetually 8 years old? I’m going to steal from my own Facebook page and say, “What even is this?” Well, the kids like Pokemon and it’s raining out. Might as well give this a chance.
The Great (There’s quite a bit to enjoy about Detective Pikachu)
Pokemon are real – If that statement sounds weird, that’s because it is. I mean, who among us didn’t want to live in a place where Pokemon are real at least once in our young lives. Well, technically not me because I was well into high school when Pokemon released, but you get the point. How cool would it be to live in a world with Pokemon.
Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu – Wait, that voice is familiar. Is that…Deadpool? Yes, true believers, your favorite merc with a mouth is voicing Pikachu for the movie. My wife, who is hopelessly in love with him, said, “Oh, I’ll stick around if he’s in it.” Well, jokes on you, Missy, it was just his voice! Ha! Take that! Jealous? Who’s jealous? Deadpool wasn’t even that good.
Easter Eggs – There are so many references to the games that I lost count very early in the movie. Obviously, the kids (especially Quinn, but Aiden, too) were name checking every Pokemon that showed up. However, if you’ve ever played a Pokemon game, chances are that you’d have recognized many of the references in this movie.
Mewtwo! – Mewtwo has been my favorite Pokemon since I learned about the existence of him as the mythical 150th Pokemon. Sure, I didn’t include him in my cube, but that’s more a function of simply copying something that already existed. Perhaps my next swing at a cube will involve Mewtwo. You know what. It most certainly will.
The Good (As you might expect, a movie about Pokemon in the real world is a bit uneven)
Funny – There was more than one part where we were all (minus my wife who was probably just imagining Pikachu in a Speedo) laughing hysterically. The movie is funny and not just in an inside joke way, either. Of course, there are the jokes that only Pokemon fans will get, but the movie does attempt to appeal to a broader audience.
The Decent (What even is Detective Pikachu?)
Weird Story – While I appreciate that they went away from the perpetually 8 years old Ash as the protagonist, I’m not entirely sure where the inspiration for this story came from. I do appreciate that the tongue in cheek film noir vibe that the movie is trying to emulate. But, it’s just so weird.
Audience? – Speaking of weird, I’m not sure who the target audience is for the movie. Obviously, you would think kids and that would make sense. However, I remember when the movie came out that some people were saying the movie most definitely wasn’t geared to kids. That might be true but it made me think that it would be more “adult”. But, it isn’t. It’s in this in between mode that adds even more weird to the proceedings.
The Verdict (Detective Pikachu is mostly harmless)
The kids enjoyed the movie. You could tell by the way that they name checked the various Pokemon and Liam especially was enamored with the region that was the movie’s setting. Christine didn’t like it. She was not shy about saying to Quinn, “No” when he asked if she liked the movie.
I was busy cooking a turkey dinner during the movie so I can’t say definitively if I liked it or not. You might expect that I didn’t because I kept referring to it as “weird”, but that’s not entirely true. I liked what I saw of the movie and I’d like a second chance to see if I can figure it out.
When discussing this article with Chris, I initially told him that I was going to write a defense of Cloverfield Paradox. After thinking about it for a minute, I amended that to support. First, I’m sick of defending things that I like from people who don’t like them. You don’t like something? Fine, but at least come up with a reasonable defense of why you don’t like it. We live in a culture that has glorified hate simply for the sport of it.
It has most recently coalesced around the release of Black Panther. I knew from the beginning that the release of the movie was going to be an epic crap storm of racists posting, tweeting, and outright lying about both the movie and the events surrounding the movie. True to form and the human condition (of which I am both amazingly inspired and terrifyingly suspect), things were much worse that I could ever have expected.
But, this article isn’t about Black Panther. There will be an article about Black Panther once I get around to seeing it. I’ve been so busy with my 3 jobs that I haven’t had a chance. This article is about Cloverfield Paradox specifically and the Cloverfield “franchise” in general. I put franchise in quotes because nobody is entirely sure if these movies actually share anything in common other than the fact that JJ Abrams has chosen to take movies, insert out of context plot elements into them, and let people argue over what those out of context elements might mean.
“Okay,” some of you are saying, “you are making our argument for us. I thought you said this was going to be an article supporting the movie.” Well, you can interpret that last statement as a negative if you want. I think that says more about you than I ever could. I was simply stating a fact. As of right now, there is no judgement in that statement. The judgement comes next.
Marketing: If there’s been one consistent in the three movies that can loosely be called a franchise, it is that they have mastered marketing. The first one was involved in a ridiculously intricate viral web campaign back when that was a thing that led people chasing wild goose after wild goose. Not being one to be in the loop on these things, I had no idea about any of it until after I saw the movie and went searching for some background information. For some reason, I don’t care all that much about the origins of Godzilla or King Kong. But, this movie left just enough unsaid that I wanted to know more.
The second movie was so under the radar that I only peripherally knew about it because it used the word Cloverfield in the title. Huh, I thought,that’s weird that it is called 10 Cloverfield Lane. For some reason, though, this curiosity didn’t lead me to explore further. Probably because they marketed it as a completely different movie. It was a closed house thriller along the lines of Panic Room. Or, so I thought.
It wasn’t until the third movie that I realized that there were three. Netflix released this movie after the Super Bowl ended, showing that they can basically just beam stuff into your brain, or they will be able to once they figure out the technology, truly on demand. Well, at least on me (someone who isn’t often affected by ridiculous gimmicks), it worked and I stayed up until almost 2 o’clock in the morning watching the movie even though I had to be up at 7 for work. Furthermore, I wasn’t upset that I had given up sleep.
Science?: For a science fiction movie, the science of the movie wasn’t the focus. While that isn’t unusual, this seemed like the type of science fiction movie that wanted to focus on the science and have the option for fiction due to the science. Does that make sense? Probably not, so I’ll try to explain.
I don’t go into Star Wars expecting exact, or even accurate, science. Nerds are constantly trying to point to the fact that hyperspace can’t possibly be real and that lightsabers are physically impossible, but I simply don’t care. The latest nerd rage came when (spoiler alert), the ship jumped to lightspeed and blew up the other ship. That’s not why I’m at Star Wars. I’m there for the pew, pew, the vwoom, vwoom, and the music mostly. The plot is basic and some of the characters are cool, but for me Star Wars is just the comfy blankie from when I was younger.
Other science fiction stories try to get it right. They mostly fail, but at least they put some science stuff in there to make it seem like they know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m referring to the disaster movies like Twister or Armageddon. They throw all kinds of smart stuff out there for what they believe is the benefit of the audience to keep them in the fiction. Ultimately, though, they just end up sounding foolish and like theater people that failed science in high school.
At the beginning of the movie, I thought that the Cloverfield Paradox was going to be like the second type of movie. Because JJ Abrams made Star Trek more like that type of movie with the dark matter explanation. I should have known better. JJ Abrams likes to think that he’s one step ahead of people and zig when they expect him to zag. I wasn’t exactly zigged or zagged. Just a bit surprised.
The movie starts with some discussion of physics and the physics of alternate realities. Past, present, future, distorted time and space, that sort of thing. Then, it gets real quiet about it and just lets the science sort of tell the story. There is some mention later in the movie, but they don’t keep hitting you over the head with what is happening. Really, in my opinion, this is the best way to do things. Give the science and then just get the hell out of the way.
Weird: As a result of the introduction of quantum physics into the movie, they can make it weird and have a reason for it being weird. Because people, including those like me who only study it as a hobby, don’t completely understand the science behind it, you can do almost anything and it becomes plausible in the fiction.
While this kind of story can make some people uncomfortable, I absolutely love it. It gets my brain moving and causes me to think. Since most entertainment is just about turning off our brains and marveling (pun fully intended) at the two freaks of nature punching each other, I find it refreshing when something comes along and challenges me to be a little more active in the process.
Just Dumb Fun: I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about the movie. See, I posted there that I had watched it the night of the Super Bowl and then suddenly, I started seeing posts about it in my feed. It’s built into Facebook’s mind reading…er, algorithms. You get stuff that they think you want to see. It’s not that I didn’t want to see other opinions. It’s just a little unsettling anytime that Facebook gets that far into your brain.
He was one of the people who didn’t particularly care for the movie. I had no idea that there was such a backlash to it until I noticed that he didn’t like the movie, so I went in search of other opinions counter to my own. I saw that there were, in fact, people who didn’t like the movie. And, it wasn’t just that they didn’t like the movie. They really didn’t like the movie. That was how his post came across. He really didn’t like this movie.
Well, armed with this new information, I decided to show my support. I responded, “I liked it. It was just dumb fun.” He replied, “Is that what we’ve come to expect from this franchise?” I was dumbfounded. Suddenly Cloverfield is a venerated franchise that we’ve come to expect things from? I mean, it was ultimately revealed that the first one was about a giant baby monster destroying Manhattan in a temper tantrum because he missed his mommy. That’s a fairly ridiculous premise. I know what you’re probably thinking right now. This movie both made you think and was just dumb fun? What the hell?
Note: I’m going to change the format a bit for this article. I couldn’t argue anything negative about the movie. That’s not to say that it is a perfect movie. I wouldn’t even argue that it’s a great movie. But, it was a good movie and that’s how I want to remember it. Since I am mostly a positive person, instead of arguing my own bad, I will argue against the negatives that I’ve seen online and elsewhere. Besides, the article is supposed to be in support of the movie.
Not related to the other movies: I have seen and heard this argument made more and more in the weeks since the movie was released. Most recently, I’ve heard it argued as being a movie that was another movie that got bought out by JJ Abrams production company, slapped some Cloverfield paint on it, and released it straight to Netflix. This argument goes on to say that the “Netflix Exclusive” label is starting to lose some of its shine and starting to become this generation’s “Straight to cable/DVD”. I won’t argue with that. Netflix has had some strong original programming, but they are starting to get a little lazy with their originals lately.
This movie might be an extension of that and the fact that JJ Abrams seems to have created this “world” in which he can just drop some monsters or aliens, put the “Cloverfield” label on the movie, market it with some intrigue, and people will watch. I certainly did. But, I will argue that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve had a discussion with a few people, including those who are involved in creative careers and they all agree that every now and then you just have to shut off your brain and have fun. Not everything needs to be a life changing experience. So what if Abrams has demystified the Cloverfield mystique? Honestly, if it could be taken away that quickly, was it really even there to begin with?
Confusing: The other argument that I’ve heard against the movie is that it is confusing. Honestly, if this is a complaint that you have about the movie, I can’t really help you. As I mentioned earlier, it is weird (even campy), but that weirdness gets an explanation almost as soon as the movie starts. Again, some have pointed to this explanation as evidence of the previous point. Again, I won’t argue against that. Clearly, Cloverfield isn’t a franchise in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, every few years, we will get another “Cloverfield” movie.
Back to the explanation. Donal Logue, who I know as the stoner guy from VH1’s “I Love the….” series, is a paranoid YouTube personality (Maybe? It was very late/early in the morning when I watched it) that explains that by doing what they are about to do, they can affect multiple dimension, past, present, future. Call it lazy. Call it irresponsible. Call it whatever else you want to call it. I call it genius. In one reshoot, they explained the whole damn thing and set it up for whatever the hell they want to do going forward.
I’ve written several times of the toxic influence of the internet and how quickly things can spread. I had always hoped, perhaps naively, that would mean that information could become so ubiquitous as to make it irrelevant in the constant power struggle that we seem to have set up for ourselves and our species. I never considered that it is just as easy to spread misinformation and disinformation and lead to an increase in that struggle. I suppose I should have. I also suppose that I should be grateful. As an educator, I am a professional mythbusters, so the more myths, the more busting I have to do.
As a result of the ease with which information travels over this superhighway, fringe elements have become just as “reliable” as the general consensus for a lot of things. People who shout that they are mad about a black stormtrooper in Star Wars might only be a couple of dudes in their mom’s basement posting the same message over and over on message boards and social media. Due to the overly reactionary news cycle, someone picks it up, and then it becomes a platform upon which people are willing to fight and die.
I don’t know if this Cloverfield Paradox reaction is indicative of the majority or simply a fringe element. I do know that it hasn’t been met with the same vitriol as some of the other movies that have become a target recently. People are mostly just disappointed, which makes me think that it is a genuine reaction. However, the fact that there were such high expectations going into the movie that those expectations would not be met is puzzling to me.
Note: A visit to Rotten Tomatoes shows that it has a 17% with critics and a 48% (with a 3.1 out of 5 star average, so not sure how that works) score with fans, so it appears to be more or less not great by most standards.
Is Cloverfield Paradox a great movie? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Cloverfield Paradox a good movie? Not by many traditional measures, no. Is Cloverfield Paradox an entertaining movie? Yes, I can confirm that my sleep deprived brain got full entertainment from the movie.
And, honestly, that’s all I’ve come to expect from the movies. The first one was silly, dumb fun. I never saw the second one, but it sounds like it might have been the one to set expectations so high for this one. Although, from the sounds of it, the ending should have drawn the battle lines pretty clear for people. There are no rules in these universes. Anything goes. Be prepared for good, bad, ugly, and the just plain silly. Have some fun with it. Or don’t. We’ll keep on doing our thing.
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