So apparently this thing came out a month ago!? See, I thought that IDW was just giving everyone a nice break for the holiday season which is why we didn’t get an issue from the main series in December, but NOPE! While I was scrambling to not only get my personal life in order during that horrendous month but finish up ALL my year end work for the site, they managed to slip this one right under the radar and the only reason I picked up on it NOW was because the issue I’ve been waiting for from the main series is finally coming out! Well, I guess better late than never which seems to be the motto of Sumo Digital who pushed the actual game this one shot issue is about back to all the way in May, and with this being the beginning of the year and me still trying to recover from a TRULY awful bout with the flu, I could use a nice and easy softball such as this to get me back in the swing of things and distract me from how much my stomach feels like someone’s been kicking it with great gusto! If this is to be my epithet, let it not be said that I didn’t go out completely on brand. ANYWAY! Does this shameless bit of native advertisement for Team Sonic Racing (which REALLY should be called Sonic Team Racing) manage to be just as engaging to read as the main series, or did I seriously just pay IDW to tell me to go buy this video game? Let’s find out!!
So as shocking as it is to hear, there ACTUALLY is something of a plot in here! I know, right!? Apparently this dude named Dodon Pa who has a glorious, yet sinister, mustache has called Sonic and his various friends to come to Planet Wisp for a race to win some nebulous prize. Okay Sonic, good guy 101: DON’T ACCEPT INVITATIONS TO MYSTERIOUS TOURNAMENTS HELD BY ECCENTRIC WEIRDOS!! It’s either gonna end in one big death match or is a front for money laundering. Either way, you should probably steer clear and find a better use of your time!
“My mustache is quite pleased with all the carnage!”
Escape Room and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Adam Robitel
Oh boy! Is it January already!? We all know that this is the BEST month for movies, am I right!? Okay, so the conventional wisdom has been that movies released in January are in a sort of deadzone where there’s next to no chance for an awards worthy movie to get recognition (especially when we’re still talking about awards for movies last year) and it’s far too early to start releasing the blockbusters since the box office is still densely packed with what came out at the tail end of last year. Whatever is coming out right now didn’t is usually doing so because there wasn’t much hope that a more valuable timeslot would have amount to much, but then that’s not necessarily the same as a movie being BAD; just not particularly marketable. After all, Proud Mary was pretty good and came out in January! Okay, so did The Commuter, but the point is that it can go either way! Will this be the rare exception of not just a good movie in January but a good HORROR movie in January!? Let’s find out!!
Six people, Zoey, Ben, Amanda, Mike, Jason, and Danny (Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, and Nik Dodani) are given invitations for this super awesome Escape Room with the added incentive that if they manage to solve it they’ll get a ten grand prize! Well that sounds so good that you CAN’T pass it up, right!? Sure enough it turns out to be an elaborate trap where they have to solve the riddle of each room or die horrible deaths. Well that sounds like a poor way to spend your weekend (I’d certainly give this Escape Room Company a bad review on Yelp!) and it’s not like they have any idea why this is happening in the first place which is admittedly sort of a moot point if they can’t manage to find a way out before it’s too late. Can these six strangers work together in order to solve each room’s puzzle and make it to the very end of the game? What is it that connects these people together, and what does the Escape Room Company expect to get out of this in the first place? Who the heck is in charge here, anyway!?
“She may not be the most helpful, but at least she’s here nights and weekends.”
We’re back with Part 2 of this list! Let’s not waste any time and jump right into the games!!
Developed by Insomniac Games
Am I getting too old for this? I might be getting too old for this. As I’m sure is a common consensus among those of us over twenty-five playing this game, I still feel a stronger connection to Spider-Man 2 from all the way back in the stone age than this one despite it still managing to be one of the best games I’ve played this year even if it can’t quite surpass my nostalgia for the one with Bruce Campbell in it. I don’t know, I just feel that the new game is guiding me too much in my web swings; pulling visual tricks or redirecting my momentum to minimize mistakes, and while I will never claim that harder games are inherently better (or that players just need to “git gud”), I found the hectic and less controlled web slinging in Spider-Man 2 to be more rewarding and much more engaging on long trips to far off objective markers. Other than that, the game is an improvement in every way. The combat is fluid and allows for lots of varied combos, I LOVE it whenever a level has multiple levels so you can swoop in, kick butt, swing away, and come back to smash some faces one floor below, and even though the stealth sections are pretty unengaging, they at least function well enough. That said, it can get a bit monotonous with some of the combat sections and I would have gladly traded all the battle challenges on the map for just one more fine-tuned and well-crafted story stages like the skyscraper one that was shown in the trailer. Also, it felt a bit… anachronistic I guess to have the bad guys be SO defined by their Asian culture especially since the game doesn’t have much to counterbalance that. When a minority group of people is almost exclusively shown to be terrorist (Yuri Watanabe is the only other Asian character of note), well at that point you’re basically recreating that one episode of Sherlock that’s always gonna be a bit uncomfortable to watch. Still, this is a Spider-Man game that, at least for the modern era, will define what it means to be a Super-Hero game, and while I’ll always carry a torch for the PS2 game I won’t begrudge the new generation for having a version made for them to enjoy.
Now that we’ve got the movies of 2018 out of the way, it’s time to tackle a subject I very much enjoy but have much less experience in. Very rarely will I talk about video games on this site as my focus is almost exclusively on movies and television, but I do play a lot of games throughout the year and as a critic I can’t help but have opinions on them, so what I do is I save up ALL those thoughts and put them right here for you to enjoy! Well, either enjoy or utterly detest me for. I’ll take either one! Let’s get started!!
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC)
Developed by Techland
Man, was THIS a fun little surprise! The only thing I know about the Call of Juarez series is that it was as series of ho-hum cowboy shooters that eventually jumped the shark when they went to modern day and made it SUPER racist. This game on the other hand, while admitting that there is a level where you track down a Native American, seems to have been a total course correction or at least something of a soft reboot; a la when they did that 2D Blood Rayne Side Scroller or when Sonic the Hedgehog took a brief respite from being awful in Sonic Mania. From what I saw of the other Juarez games, they were mostly drag and went for an authentic aesthetic where this game is all about charm, wit, and stylistic excess. The character designs are bright and colorful which is not only more appealing but a practical improve since it makes them stand out more prominently against the landscapes, and the overall feel is that of an over the top spaghetti western; encouraging you to make the big moves and go in guns-a-blazing just to see if it’ll work. That’s actually something I think game developers should explore a bit more; how aesthetics and style can change the way that players make decisions in the game which may be a more powerful incentive than more straightforward gameplay design incentives. In something less fantastical and more serious I probably wouldn’t have even bothered dual wielding pistols and unloading them into a group of enemies when my trusty rifle can do the job with fewer bullets and at a safer distance. With the visual design, the UI interface, and ESPECIALLY the story which is a series of flashbacks conveying a story that your player character is narrating as you play through it made me feel more inclined to try and be the BIG HEROTM than play practically. It can be a bit buggy at times as I’m pretty sure I ran into one enemy who was shooting me through a wall, but despite its modest scale it’s still one of the most enjoyable First Person shooters I’ve played in a while!
Are we done with the good stuff of 2018 already!? It’s really starting to get a bit annoying how lopsided things have gotten with just how much bad there is to get through compared to the good, but as your travel guide through the highlights of the year that came before I will be here to fulfill my duty and give you an idea of just how bad movies had gotten in 2018! Okay, it wasn’t a SPECTACULARLY bad year at the movies as my initial assessment of good versus bad films I reviewed this year came out to pretty even split, but it’s not as much fun making these WORST THINGS EVER lists when everyday life is pretty much that already. At the very least, I hope that I turned at least some of the negativity you’re about to see on this list into something that’s at least informative enough to justify my salty attitude! Anyway, we might as well dive in head first and hope we come out on the other side no worse for wear! LET’S GET STARTED!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Robin Hood & Holmes and Watson
I figured I’d start this list with something a little light as both of these movies are utterly DREADFUL, but I really couldn’t get too mad at either one of them. Robin Hood is certainly the more watchable of the two as its mistakes are downright laughable, but even with Holmes and Watson being an unfunny and painfully boring slog to sit through it at least didn’t have some really messed up message or an utter scumbag on screen. If nothing else, these two are more or less the baseline for what would qualify as a WORST OF THE YEAR contender. These movies are terrible, but they don’t have something extra to make it a MEANINGFUL selection for highlighting on these lists. Robin Hood’s earnestness and some decent (if utterly anachronistic) designs as well as how much fun I had laughing at its many ridiculous ideas such as crossbows that work EXACTLY like pistols or making a visual allegories between the Crusades and the War on Terror balanced out its worst moments. Holmes and Watson is a terrible comedy but ultimately a harmless one which means that even if it doesn’t make ME laugh it’s not something that is active detriment to the genre; something we GENUINELY have to worry about now with more comedians coming out as rather terrible people in recent years. I don’t recommend you watching EITHER of these movies, but if you did and your baffled why they didn’t actually make it on the list, just know that it has to be a lot worse (or at least terrible in a uniquely specific and off-putting way) for it to be listed below. Speaking of which, let’s get the click-bait one out of the way first!
At this point, the only thing more cliché than being thankful that the preceding year has finally come to a close is whiny Star Wars fans being wrong about The Last Jedi. Yes, I am in fact THANKFUL that we have finally gotten out of the horror show that was 2018, but 2019 looks to be a lot more of the same, albeit with a SLIGHTLY less destructive Congress and a lot more speculation on the 2020 election. Jeez, the idea is so deflating to me that I’m actually kind of glad to take one last look at the preceding year before charging face first into whatever nightmares 2019 will surely have for us. Anyway! Let’s take a look at the GOOD movies that came out and hope that the year ahead of us will bring us even more great films to love! ON WITH THE LIST!!
Honorable Mentions: Black Panther & Ant-Man and the Wasp
While Marvel’s usual output is at a consistently decent quality, this was a year of great highs and one PHENOMENAL low for the company which we’ll get to on the bad list. On the good side though, these are the first two movies they’ve released since I’ve started doing these lists that have come close to making it on the top ten, and frankly they are my favorite films that they’ve released in some time with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which arguably should have been included on last year’s list. Black Panther, while still feeling a bit too conventional to the Marvel Formula and having a few oddly placed ideas here and there (how does a civilization THIS advanced still determine their leader through DEATH MATCHES!?) was quite the revelation and became something of a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the year which we’ll get to further down on this list, and while I’m not quite on board with it winning for Best Picture, I do see where a lot of people who are advocating for it are coming from. Ant-Man and the Wasp on the other hand felt like something new as well, albeit in a much less radical way as Black Panther, and is the template I’d like to see from Marvel films going forward; where there’s room for films that don’t take themselves QUITE as seriously and don’t hinge the fate of the world on the outcome of their adventure. Sony and WB might be gathering a bit of steam with their recent films, but this year showed once again that it’s gonna take a lot more to unseat Marvel and Disney from their well-deserved throne of money, and hopefully THESE are the kind of films we’ll be getting from them going forward instead of… well we’ll get to that one later.