Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

With 2019 approaching, now’s the perfect time to reflect back on the highs and lows in 2018 entertainment, in no particular order. I didn’t play as many new games this year, but the movie category has more than enough to make up for it, plus the return of the Worst Movie and Worst Game categories, reserved only for the particularly horrible.

Top Movies of 2018

After ten years of commitment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Infinity War made the journey feel worth it. Thanos was fleshed out to a greater extent than his previous appearances and the story is surprisingly tragic in its development and conclusion, all while teasing the true finale, now known as Avengers: Endgame. Perhaps the only thing holding this movie back, however, is the fact that, for better or worse, a complete understanding of the events in Infinity War requires knowledge of all 18 previous MCU movies.

Deadpool 2 is an R-Rated superhero film, and sequel, done right. It’s hilarious like the original, but is also able to couple that with a story that explores more of the tragic aspect of Deadpool. Two recuts would follow, Deadpool 2 Super Duper Cut and Once Upon a Deadpool, and while they are enjoyable in their own right, neither of them can quite top the original theatrical cut.

Despite releasing in February, Game Night was the comedic gem the trailers made it out to be. The premise of a game night gone wrong went a long way thanks to clever writing and smart, well-timed humor backed by talented actors. Definitely worth watching more than once.

Though lumped in with all of the live-action Disney remakes, Christopher Robin is actually more of a continuation of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that explores how Christopher Robin’s life turned out after going off to boarding school and serving in the war. While not perfect, Christopher Robin is a welcome, optimistic change of pace.

Given the dwindling reception of the previous live-action Transformers films, Bumblebee managed to finally do the property justice. Thanks largely to a change in director, Travis Knight instead of Michael Bay, as well as a tighter script and relatively conservative use of special effects, it’s now possible to wholly enjoy a Transformers movie as a movie rather than a guilty pleasure at best.

Considering the reception to Sony’s take on Spider-Man after Sam Raimi’s trilogy and the poor reputation of their animation studio, it’s amazing that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse turned out as well as it did. Into the Spider-Verse offers a refreshing take on the property with stellar animation and a well-written story, as well as featuring Miles Morales as the main character. Whether you’re familiar with Spider-Man films or not, this is a movie you don’t want to miss.

Top Games of 2018

Dragon Ball FighterZ

After decades of attempts at perfecting a Dragon Ball fighting game, FighterZ feels like the one that finally got it right, courtesy of Arc System Works. The attention to detail, including individual character animations and an art style that looks exactly like the anime, is what helps sell the presentation, which is fortunately coupled with gameplay mechanics that are focused more on competitive viability rather than fanservice. Playing Dragon Ball FighterZ is a worthwhile experience, especially if you’re a Dragon Ball fan.

While the God of War series is an all-time classic, the games went on long enough that the formula was getting stale. Enter God of War (2018), which managed to find a way to breathe new life into the franchise. Though there are legitimate criticisms, this game’s take on an older Kratos, the new approach to combat and the exploration of Norse mythology, as opposed to Greek mythology, are nonetheless captivating and the sequel hook at the end felt very much earned. Simply put, it’s a must-play game for PS4 owners.

After the sleeper hit that was Undertale, TobyFox has proven that he is capable of even more with the surprise release of Deltarune Chapter 1. While the story is sort of a compressed version of Undertale, the party-style combat system is a natural expansion of the unique TPS/Bullet Hell hybrid of its predecessor, the combat sprites are colorful and more detailed and the new characters are written so well that they leave a lasting impression even months after you finish your first playthrough. Hopefully, TobyFox finds the resources necessary to deliver on additional chapters of Deltarune in the future.

Top Disappointments of 2018

I wasn’t that enthusiastic about Solo based on the initial trailers and the reports of a troubled production and actually watching it didn’t do much to change my mind. It’s by no means a bad movie, but the story is weakened by its use of Expanded Universe lore, something that maybe only a fraction of fans would’ve been invested in from the get-go, plus the fact that the actors seem more like they’re playing dress up. Add in a hook for a sequel that’s never going to happen and you’re left walking away with a feeling of emptiness.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jurassic Park going in, since the premise is pretty dumb when you think about it, but I still enjoyed certain aspects of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World and hoped Fallen Kingdom would be an improvement. Unfortunately, it’s anything but, largely due to poor logic and terrible decisions on part of the characters. I don’t know why they ever thought keeping the dinosaurs alive was a good idea, but if the teased sequel ever comes to pass, then hopefully, by some miracle, the characters finally come to their senses.

For a movie as good as the original Wreck-It Ralph, I didn’t expect Ralph Breaks the Internet to be so disappointing. Where the original was very well-written and executed, the sequel feels like more of a quick cash grab so that Disney could spend a good chunk of the movie advertising all of their properties. The characters are a little more self-absorbed, the writing relies too much on ignoring the consequences that the original revolved around and film’s interpretation of internet culture will unfortunately date the movie within a few years, in spite of how clever some of the references can get. Unlike the original, this one is more of a take-it-or-leave-it.

Worst Movie of 2018

I don’t know how it was possible, but the Sharknado franchise somehow got even worse in its final installment. With rocky time travel logic, a number of Z-list cameos, terrible special effects, an abundance of anachronisms and a wholly unsatisfying ending, only Sharknado die-hards will find The Last Sharknado even remotely entertaining.

Worst Game of 2018

There’s no way to really sugarcoat this, but The Quiet Man is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. It’s a three-hour movie with some buggy, glitch-ridden brawler segments tacked on so that it can just barely qualify as a game. It fails as a movie because you need to sit through an indecipherable mess to view The Quiet Man -Answered-, a marginal improvement that elevates it to merely an unwatchable mess, and it fails as a game because of tedious and grindy combat sequences with poorly explained mechanics and missing animations that cause both Dane and the enemies to teleport everywhere. Add to that the ugly graphics and terrible soundtrack and you get a “game” that you are honestly better off experiencing through a Let’s Play on YouTube. Even then, however, there are far better things you could do with three to six precious hours of your life.

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