Summer Movie Round Up

Usually I do a wrap up of all the movies I watched during the summer, but this year I am doing a top 10 of the Summer. That is because this summer, thanks to MoviePass, I saw more than 20 films in theaters. It was a top heavy summer, so there are several movies I quite liked that didn’t make the top 10, a big change from years where I listed everything thing I saw and ran out of good movies by number four or five on the list. So just because a movie is not on the list doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. (I’m talking about Solo) I will call out three movies I saw this summer that I would call bad. The first is Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which was disappointing from a craft perspective, as it really wasn’t a good thriller, and also kind of gross in its politics. The next is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a movie the further I get away from it the less I like it and I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with. And finally there is Skyscraper, which squandered so much potential and ended up being a cut rate Die Hard knock off. To the List:

10 – 3 Identical Strangers/Won’t You Be My Neighbor – I can’t really separate these two documentaries for the last spot. I thought about leaving them both off, and giving the slot to the next film down (Solo), but these two really were some of the better movies I saw. They are both just really good.

9 – Hotel Artemis – This movie didn’t quite capture me like I’d hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t greatly enjoy it. I think it needed something more explosive in the final act to really put it over the top and I don’t think it quite got there. Still, I enjoyed every second of it, even if it left me wanting more in a somewhat bad way.

8 – Ant-Man and the Wasp – Delightful and forgettable. I really enjoyed this while watching it, but it didn’t really stick with me at all. That is mostly par for the course with Marvel movies. I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to return to this movies. Still, there is something to be said for nearly perfectly executed popcorn entertainment.

7 – Ocean’s 8 – Me feeling are pretty much the same as for Ant-Man above. This was fun and empty, just like a good summer movie should be. I hope it did well enough to get a sequel, because while I am a sucker for heists, this really could have done with fleshing out its cast a little more.

6 – Avengers Infinity War – I can see where a lot of the complaints about this movie come from, as it is a sequel to at the very least 3 separate movies and it doesn’t do much to ease viewers in and it does kind of feel like half a story. That said, there is something amazing about how it well it works despite breaking all the rules, like how it is almost all high tension, with little down time to build. Not it is five or so mini-movies strapped together. It feels big. It perfectly translates the comic crossover to the screen, warts and all.

5 – BlacKkKlansman – This movie, as well as my number 1 and number 2, are not really what I am usually looking for in my summer movies. I thought about leaving them off the list and just focusing on the blockbusters, but these made up a significant portion of what I really enjoyed this summer, so they stayed. This is a little shaggy and messy, but it is also really thoughtful and engrossing. It is really good.

4 – The Incredibles 2 – I am on record as loving The Incredibles. While I am the tiniest smidge disappointed that the sequel is mostly just the same movie again, with the roles of the parents switched, I can’t say that I didn’t love this movie. It is great, if lacking a little of the spark of the original.

3 – Mission Impossible: Fallout – I am not prepared to call this the best movie in the series, it was the best blockbuster of the summer. Cruise and company have found a perfect niche and are mining it expertly. I hope they have at least one more in them.

2 – Blindspotting – This underseen drama is very, very good. It feels a little stagey at times, but it also presents some very compelling characters and the single tensest scene I’ve seen in a movie in years.

1 – Sorry To Bother You – This is probably my favorite movie of the year so far. It is a wild satire of the current state of our capitalist system. While it is a movie with a message, that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly funny and constantly surprising. I loved every second of it.

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Ranking Final Fantasy Games

At one time I had planned a whole series of posts that was nothing but lists, but I never got around to getting it started, leaving me with a handful of lists waiting for me to feel like posting them.  The Dragon Quest one already went up, I have a Mario one waiting for me to finish replaying the series to see how it needs to be adjusted and there are a couple more in various stages of being finished.  Lately I’ve been blitzing through Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age, so today I am tossing up my ranking of the Final Fantasy series. The main series; I also have a list of spin offs and direct sequels, but those are another beast entirely. I thought about swapping in some games to take the place of the not present MMO’s, but decided to just leave them off.  11, 14 and 15 are not the list because I haven’t played them.

12. Final Fantasy 2 – I feel like a bully putting this at the bottom, but while it is interesting, it’s just not good.  It is the only game in the series I’ve never felt compelled to complete.

11. Final Fantasy 3 – There is a lot I like about this game, but I’ve only played the DS version and it is a rough draft of the perfected job system from 5.  Still, even this far down on the list is a game I like.

10. Final Fantasy 13 – I actually like this game a whole lot even if it appears unfinished at times. It plays like a fairly unsuccessful combination of 10 and 12, but I enjoyed it well enough.

09. Final Fantasy – The original has a lot of charm even if options for playing it are either brainlessly simple or annoyingly tedious. For all of its faults, I still prefer the NES version. It is a simple game, but there is a lot to love here.

08. Final Fantasy 4 – My enjoyment of this game mostly came from reading Nintendo Power and wishing I could play it. Once I finally got the chance to play it, FF4 never quite clicked with me the way plenty of other SNES JRPGs did.

07. Final Fantasy 8 – I find the plot of this game to be a mess and the junction system is fiddly and breakable, but I still find the game wholly compelling every time I play it.

06. Final Fantasy 10 – It loses the feeling of exploring a real world, but it has one of the best realized stories in the series and a solid battle system.

05. Final Fantasy 5 – This has my favorite character building system in any game. FFV’s job system is perfection.  The story is nothing, but this is a perfect systems game.

04. Final Fantasy 7 – For a long time I had it out for this game. The love it got seemed to detract from what I felt, and still feel, are superior games in the series, like 6 and 9.  But I can’t let that blind me to the fact that this is a phenomenal game.

03. Final Fantasy 9 – It isn’t the best game from a story or systems point of view, but there is something charming about the setting and characters. It is the perfect synthesis of old and new Final Fantasy.

02. Final Fantasy 12 – Playing the remake has solidified just how much I like this game. The gambit system is brilliant and the world is the best in the series.  This is a game you can get lost in for hours and hours. It also has the most underrated cast in the series.

01. Final Fantasy 6 – Still the best in the series. It has a great cast, a terrific story and pretty great systems.  FF6 isn’t just my favorite FF game; it is one of my favorite games of all time.

Dragon Quest Rankings

I finished up with Dragon Quest 8 3DS a few weeks ago, but since I’ve already said just about everything I have to say about it in this post, I figured I would mark the achievement, such as it is, by making a list ranking the main line Dragon Quest games. I could have tried to fit in some of the spin offs I’ve played, but what I’ve played and what I haven’t outside of the main series is pretty spotty and it’s been so long since I’ve touched the original Dragon Quest Monsters, for instance, that I thought it better to just stick with the main series.

  1. Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride – This is just about a perfect rpg.  It is Dragon Quest at its best, with solid if basic gameplay and interesting narrative experimentations.  Playing through the life of the protagonist, from starting out as a little kid until he has kids of his own. It is just a delight
  2. Dragon Quest 4: Chapters of the Chosen – Much like 5, this is another game that plays around with narrative structure, opening with several short sections with completely different casts until they all come together under the protagonist.
  3. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King – Possibly the simplest game in the series since DQ4.  Yet is is also the most charming since 5.  8 deliberately breaks no new ground, but it is a perfectly executed classic style jrpg.
  4. Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – The only new DS entry is the best version of the series’ class system.  The gameplay is fine but nothing more than the enjoyably basic JRPG that most of the series offers, though it does have a somewhat enjoyable multiplayer mode.
  5. Dragon Quest 7: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – I’ve only played the recent 3DS version and I liked it, but between this and DQ6, no series is better at bungling a class system than Dragon Quest.
  6. Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Revelation – I kind of hate most of this game’s characters and it takes forever to really get going.
  7. Dragon Quest 3: Seeds of Salvation – Full disclosure: I haven’t played more than an hour or two of this game.  Instead of using that as a reason not to include it or to postpone this list, I am instead considering it a mark against the game, since I’ve found the time to play all the rest. I will revisit when I finally do play it.
  8. Dragon Quest – There is stuff to like about the original Dragon Quest, but there really isn’t that much there all told.
  9. Dragon Quest 2: Luminaries of the Legendary Line – Grindy and not all that fun.

Top 10 Superheroes

Thanks to a persistent request and enough desire to do it anyway, here are my Top 10 Favorite Superheroes. It is an eclectic group, split pretty evenly between Marvel and DC as well as between men and women. I think it’s a good list, and if you disagree you are objectively wrong.

10: Wolverine –

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I got into comics though the 90’s X-Men cartoon and I think it is impossible to come out of that show not loving Wolverine.  It also helped that he was short like me. Most of his solo comics have not been especially good, but his time with X-Men has featured quite a few memorable stories. He is kind of the prototype for all the crappy 90’s anti-heroes, but none of them ever did it as well as it was done with Wolverine.

9: Wildcat –

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He is almost as much of a joke character as a real superhero, but Wildcat is still one of my favorites. He is in some ways the JSA’s Wolverine, except not as useful. He has no powers, other than sometimes having 9 cat lives, he’s just an old boxer who dresses like a cat and beats up crooks. He is also the heart and soul of the team. In most DC continuities, he’s also responsible for training many other heroes. He’s taught Batman, Black Canary and Catwoman how to box. He did something similar in his sporadic appearances an Arrow. When the JSA’s adventures get big, I always like seeing how the largely normal Wildcat deals with things.

8: She-Hulk –

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I’m not sure what She-Hulk has been up to lately, but I really fell in love with this character during Dan Slott’s run with her in the early 00’s. She is one of the fun Marvel characters, like a version of Deadpool that isn’t completely obnoxious. She is capable of 4th wall breaking hijinks as well as more serious superhero stuff. She is just a lot of fun.

7: Superman – The original and still best. There is something more pure about the best Superman stories than with most other superheroes. I don’t think this pick needs any justification, other than that every year I think I like him more.

6: Captain Marvel Carol Danvers –

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I have less of a reason for liking this character than most. I read her last mediocre run as Ms Marvel in the middle 00s and it was fine. The more recent stuff with her as Captain Marvel was simply great. There is something about brash, no-nonsense superheroines that really appeals to me.

5: Power Girl –

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See above about this sort of superheroine. The stuff starring her by Palmiotti, Gray & Conner, her own series and her Harley Quinn mini, has been inspired stuff. She is DC’s answer in a lot of ways to both She-Hulk and Captain Marvel.

4: Mr. Miracle & Big Barda –

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I am cheating a bit here, but this pair almost always operates as a pair and they are really only interesting to me as a pair.  I’ve written about them before, but these two are great. They make a great couple that is physically an inversion of the usual gender roles, but they spend a lot of their time trying to conform to those roles anyway. It also helps that most of the appearances I’ve read of them, the original Jack Kirby stuff and their appearance in the JLI, have all been very good comics. Also, it is great that Mr. Miracle’s power set is largely non-combative.

3: Stargirl –

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From her own short lived series to her appearances in JSA, Stargirl has long been a favorite of mine. She is that teenage superhero Spider-Man riff, but with some of DC’s special legacy baggage. Being the young hero who ended up with the old guys instead of the Teen Titans made her seem special. Plus, she has the added benefit of just being a lot of fun.

2: Hercules –

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There is something really enjoyable to me about a hero that treats superheroing like fun. That is Marvel’s Hercules. He is a big goofy Thor. Every adventure with him feels like half a party, but his best stories also have strong character moments.

1: Green Lantern Guy Gardner –

Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1

Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1

The one requirement to be a Green Lantern is to have no fear. Guy lives up to that by being kind of a douche. He is also a surprisingly complex character, a hero who has to put up this brash front rather than admit he feels inadequate.

The Best Games Ever

Recently, this conversation and this blog post gave me the idea to post my own 50 favorite games list.  The forum thread asks, “When was the last time you played you 50th favorite game?”  (Now it has been revised to better reflect the true nature of the question; how often do you play that games you liked but did not love?)  So, I thought I would list my 50 favorite games.  While some thought did go into this list, it is off the top of my head, so it is very possible there is some oversight and I left off some game the should be on this list.  Of course, if I liked it so much then I probably would not have forgotten it.  Here is the list, in mostly alphabetical order:

  1. Beyond Good and Evil
  2. Chrono Cross
  3. Chrono Trigger
  4. Dragon Quest 4
  5. Dragon Quest 5
  6. Earthbound
  7. Final Fantasy 6
  8. Final Fantasy 9
  9. Final Fantasy Tactics
  10. Final Fantasy XII
  11. Ico
  12. Kirby Super Star
  13. Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past
  14. Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time
  15. Legend of Zelda:  Majora’s Mask
  16. Legend of Zelda:  Wind Waker
  17. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  18. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
  19. Mega Man 2
  20. Mega Man 3
  21. Mega Man 9
  22. Metal Gear Solid 3
  23. Metroid Prime
  24. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  25. No More Heroes
  26. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
  27. Ogre Battle 64:  Person of Lordly Caliber
  28. Okami
  29. Persona 3:  FES
  30. Persona 4
  31. Phoenix Wright:  Ace Attorney
  32. Phoenix Wright:  Ace Attorney:  Justice for All
  33. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
  34. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
  35. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
  36. Resident Evil 4
  37. Retro Game Challenge
  38. River City Ransom
  39. Shadow of the Colossus
  40. Soul Caliber 2
  41. Star Fox 64
  42. Suikoden 2
  43. Suikoden 5
  44. Super Mario Bros. 3
  45. Super Mario World
  46. Super Mario 64
  47. Super Mario Galaxy
  48. Super Mario Galaxy 2
  49. Super Metroid
  50. Super Smash Brothers Brawl

I’m happy with this list.  It is an accurate representation of what I like and what I play.  Lots of Nintendo classic franchises, Mario and Zelda etc., and lots of RPGs.  (Now that I look at it, I realize I completely ignored computer games, which would have added at least a few games, like The Sims 2, Red Alert 2 and Baldur’s Gate 2.)  These are not the only games I play, but they are the ones that tend to resonate with me.

How often do I replay these games?  Most of them I’ve played through multiple times.  The shorter games, like Star Fox 64 or any NES game on the list, I play often.  If I can sit and beat a game in less than 2 hours, I am more likely to come back to it.  With the exception of the Persona games, I have also played all of the RPGs at least twice, although for some I haven’t played them in years.  The only games I do not see myself replaying are the Professor Layton games.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Professor Layton, but the whole game is based on solving puzzles and I’ve already solved them.  Maybe one day I will forget the solutions, but if I went back now it would be rote and boring.  I haven’t, however, played most of these games in the last couple of years.  I have played tons of new games, but my old favorites have sat on the shelf.  Which is a big change from how I’m used to doing things.  I rarely bought new games in high school; instead obsessively playing the ones I had.  I think I’ll fire up my Wii and play through Star Fox 64 or Mega Man 3 tonight.