WB Top 100: Best & Worst So Far, Part 2

After another 25 movies, it is time to look back at the second quarter of this overall list and do some comparisons and ranking. For our previous “Best & Worst”, click here.

As a reminder, here are the 25 movies we watched:

My Top 5

#5: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “I finally found out, and it was a terrible, horrible, thrilling story.

#4: A Star Is Born (1954) – “I didn’t expect much, but what I got had me tearing up in the end. Always swim with a lifeguard, kids.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “Strangely funny and endearing, this is that every dude movie should dream of being.”

#2: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “Powerful from beginning to end. This has made me rethink Andy Griffith the actor, a staple of my childhood, and wish more people watched this film for it’s haunting reflection of modern politics.”

#1: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “It was hard to pick this over my #2 choice, but Bogart’s descent into madness from his greed will forever stay with me.”

Diane’s Top 5

#5: A Star Is Born (1954) – “Solid movie despite the racist song and missing scenes (included in our version as stills).”

#4: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “Nice to see two stars channeling their real life hatred in such a productive way.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “I bet my dad watched this movie so many times.”

#2: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “Finally, a Bogart movie we actually enjoyed.”

#1: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “I’ve never watched “The Andy Griffith Show” and now because of this movie I never will be able to.

Our Worst 5 (Combined)

#5 (Combined): Bullitt (1968) – We forgot too much about this boring film to come up with a good quote. Car chase, maybe?

#4 (Me): Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

#4 (Diane): How the West Was Won (1962)

#3 (Me): Viva Las Vegas (1964)

#3 (Diane): Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

#2 (Me): How the West Was Won (1962)

#2 (Diane): Viva Las Vegas (1964)

#1 (Combined): Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – “When people think of a musical where women get kidnapped and develop Stockholm Syndrome they usually think of Beauty and the Beast when they should really be thinking about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers“.

Halo Again

I preordered the original Xbox at Gamestop (then EB Games) in the mall. For $500, I got the system and three games. Two of those games were Dead or Alive 3 and Project Gotham Racing. The third? Like almost everyone else, it was a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved, and it changed my gaming life.

I love Halo. Maybe not as much as I did, but I always have a soft spot for it. Whether it was the multiplayer over LAN or over Xbox Live starting with Halo 2, I played games in the series a lot. More than that, I loved the single player. The original Halo felt revolutionary compared to other FPS games I had played. It had vehicles and big open sections. The enemy AI felt somehow more real. I even grew to like Master Chief, despite having little personality, and love Cortana for her snark.

I was a big enough fan to even read a few of the books.

Halo 4 was not a bad game. As 343 Industries first attempt at a new Halo trilogy, it did not upset things too much. I mean, I kind of hated seeing the Forerunners return and the main villain was a snooze, but it was more Halo and that is what I wanted.

However, my love of all things Xbox faded quickly after Halo 4. The Xbox 360 and I had some good times, but I also liked having a gaming PC around. With it, I only needed an Xbox to play Halo and without more Halo, why keep an Xbox?

I skipped the Xbox One entirely. It was the first Xbox system I did not own. When Halo 5: Guardians came out in 2015, it was tempting, but I ultimately opted to keep playing games on my Playstation 4 instead. Ever since though, I wanted to play Halo 5. Me and Halo? We are old friends, and I needed that old friend feeling.

I bought an Xbox Series X at launch. There were no launch titles that sold me. Instead, I bought in entirely on the merits of Xbox Game Pass. It is by far one of the best deals in gaming, and I wanted its convenience in my living room (in addition to the office). I also knew I could play Halo 5 with it.

And I think I hated it.

Halo 5 starts off where Halo 4 left off … I think. There were a bunch of characters I either forgot or was never introduced to. You spend most of the campaign not playing Master Chief. There is a new team – Fireteam Osiris – starring Nathan Fillion as himself along side some other people.

Actually, let me do a brief side rant here first: Nathan Fillion is okay but I hate hearing him everywhere. I am sure there are counterexamples, but he seems to always play the exact same character. Plus, I hate using real actor faces in video games. It somehow makes them feel more fake to me.

I have nothing wrong with any of the actors playing team members in Halo 5, but the fact that they are there on every mission bothered me. This game does not feel like Halo.

I know I am rusty, but I never felt like that bad ass Spartan of old. More often than not, I would get shot down by overwhelming firepower from dumb enemies, and then I would be forced to wait for an AI teammate’s pathing to not break so they could resurrect me.

Rinse and repeat. Die and wait.

If you were the one fan who loved fighting beside the marines in the first Halo and said, “Why can’t this be the entire game?”, then first of all, I hate you. Second, Halo 5 is your fault. In Halo 5, you are only allowed to feel badass in the cutscenes where physics cease to exist. It is cheesy and goofy. Otherwise you will make your AI partners look bad.

The story also sucks. It is hard for me to put a finger on exactly why, but it is the same issue I had with Halo 4 and a similar concern I have with Destiny 1 and 2. Everything is “The <Noun>” and it is supposed to be this grand, epic, universe-spanning idea. Every name, plot point, and story beat sounds like a cheesy game of mad libs and it grates on my nerves.

But, I finished it. That says something. The guns were fine. The vehicles were fine. It was a perfectly average game with the production turned up to eleven. Finishing it has made me less excited for Halo Infinite though. I think the series needs a reboot, not the epic conclusion to a trilogy with no real purpose.

2020, A Year in Gaming

I hate that December is the month to look back on an entire year and make sweeping judgments like “Game of the Year”. After many began posting about their favorites, I was still padding my completed games list for the year. Instead of in December, I thought it better to try and do this early in January once the year has switched over and I can truly say the year is done.

All-New Everything

I was lucky in 2020 to make a series of upgrades. I mostly rebuilt my PC early in the year. This led to me thinking I could finally pull-off a virtual reality headset on my computer. I had been using my Playstation 4 Pro and, despite loving it, PSVR always felt limited. It took four months of waiting, but I got my Valve Index in November.

Also in November, I got both a Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X. Excessive, I know, but the wife owed me the PS5 (for prior debts I took on when we were first starting out). The Xbox was more an impulse buy. Back in the day, I was a bigger Xbox fan than most anything else, but I skipped the prior generation entirely. With Xbox Game Pass being a great deal (I am paid out three years in advance), I thought also having an Xbox in the house to play games easily was a good idea.

Here are quick reviews of each:

My computer now handles any game I want to play perfectly on my 1440p monitor. Also, I have two additional 1080p monitors going for work purposes. It has been a long time since I was truly a PC gamer, so the parts I bought were not top of the line, but I am excited to have them all the same. My computer feels like a beast especially since I only play games like FFXIV which, albeit beautiful, are not that intense.

The Valve Index is a dream. I sold my PSVR to help make financial sense of buying the Index. I do not regret it. With the mounted base stations in our office, it has never been easier for me to play a game in VR. With the PSVR, I had to keep the camera mounted on a mic stand which needed to be pulled out and adjusted each time I wanted to play. It was a huge hassle. Furthermore, the higher fidelity on the Index has led to a lot less motion sickness for me.

The Playstation 5 is perfect. The PS4 was one of my favorite consoles in recent memory, if not ever. The PS5 is strictly an improvement. I opted for the disc-based version since I wanted to play UHD movies on it. My television is limited in HDMI slots for HDR, and I knew PS5 would be guaranteed my best HDMI slot.

The Xbox Series X has been an experience. As I said, I skipped the prior Xbox generation entirely. I did not miss much. Still, with the entire Xbox Game Pass available, plus all the games I owned on the Xbox 360, I filled up my Xbox’s hard-drive with games on day one. I focused on playing other stuff, but I am excited to finally play Halo 5 or replay all the other Halo games or finally finish Child of Eden.

My 2020 Dropped List

Time is our most precious commodity. I spend most of mine on games. Sometimes a game does not work out and it makes my dropped list. A game could be dropped because I did not like it, was not feeling it, or just got away from playing it so much that I know I may never go back. I used to look at this list as a waste of money too, but that is less the case. With so many services, more and more games are dropped after trying them rather than trying them after having also bought them.

Presented in no particular order:

  • Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
  • For the King
  • Scourgebringer
  • Nex Machina
  • Farcry: Primal
  • The Outer Wilds
  • Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
  • Pit People
  • Monster Train
  • Knockout League
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  • Dicey Dungeons
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Blood & Truth
  • Beat Saber

2020 Games of the Year

Here are all the games I finished in 2020, ranked from least enjoyed to most enjoyed.

#17. Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem
#16. Airborne Kingdom
#15. Panzer Paladin
#14. Timespinner
#13. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
#12. Final Fantasy IX
#11. Final Fantasy III
#10. Control
#09. The Messenger
#08. Cuphead
#07. Red Dead Redemption 2
#06. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
#05. Sackboy: A Big Adventure

I never intended on buying Sackboy, but after reviews came in, I decided it was worth a shot. I am glad I did.

Despite having played a ton of platformers in the last couple of years, they have all been 2D. Sackboy was the first 3D platformer I have finished since Mario Odyssey and the first non-Mario 3D platformer I have finished since Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

Those are both huge titles to live up to and Sackboy does it. The game oozes charm and imagination. It is fun and inviting. There is the right blend of humor and challenge whilst never being overbearing with either.

Sackboy was a perfect launch title of the Playstation 5. I obsessed over playing it and did almost everything I could to 100% it. I still have a ways to go, but I never try to 100% a game unless I care about it.

#04. Half-Life: Alyx

Half-Life: Alyx is not my favorite VR game. That honor remains with Astro Bot Rescue Mission. However, I have always loved the Half-Life universe. Alyx is no exception.

As my first ever Valve Index game, Half-Life: Alyx was a crash course in what VR should be, can be, and is. Few games have inspired the same level of intensity. While the puzzles and story were a bit weak for my tastes, the game’s focus on survival horror-esque elements (darkness, limited ammunition, etc.) always kept me on my toes.

As an experience, Half-Life: Alyx is unlike any other. It was totally worth the investment I made in order to play it. I hope to see more like it in the near future.

#03. Ghost of Tsushima

I loved Ghost of Tsushima for its atmosphere. The gameplay was fun too. I had high hopes that I would fall deeply in love with this game as I had with other open world games like Horizon: Zero Dawn. While I did not, that is no critique of the game overall.

More than its atmosphere or gameplay, I most enjoyed just standing around in this game. That is not a common thing for me. The island of Tsushima is so beautifully rendered and lovingly crafted, that I valued my long horseback rides through its countryside more than anything else.

I have no idea where a potential sequel might go, but I am ready to go wherever it takes me.

#02. Hades

As of writing, I put almost four days of time into Hades. I bought the game shortly after it first hit early access on the Epic Game Store. I have loved it ever since. By far, it is my favorite Supergiant game which is saying something because I have loved (and completed) every game they have put out.

Hades though brings in another passion of mine: Greek mythology. It also taught me that I too can enjoy cute boys and shipping them like some internet-raised teenager. That part is a stranger thing for me to admit, but no less true than my other feelings about the game.

The combination, along with its replayability, makes for as close to perfect as I think a game like it can get.

#01. The Last of Us Part II

If Hades is perfect, then what is The Last of Us Part II?

I always knew I was going to buy a Playstation 5. My wife has promised me one well in advance of any details. With that knowledge and knowing it would be backward compatible, I chose to wait to play The Last of Us Part II until I could play it on my new Playstation 5 rather than my old Playstation 4.

The wait was difficult. I loved the first game and thought it story hit deeper than any other game (and more than most other kinds of media too). The Last of Us Part II hit deeper, harder, and stronger. The game is not perfect in the way that Hades is perfect, but it resonates in its exploration of the human experience. It demands many emotions and earns them all without question.

The Last of Us Part II is not more perfect. It is more human. And it is terrifying.

An Honorable Mention

I played a ton of Final Fantasy XIV this year too. Though I technically finished Shadowbringers, I did not want to include it here as I never feel any kind of completion with FFXIV in the way I do with other games. There is always more to do now and more to come.

Contrast that with World of Warcraft, which I also played a great deal of this year. Both earlier in the year and later in the year for the expansion, I realized more and more that WoW is not the MMO for me anymore. I could write another tireless rant about why, but what is the point of that?

I Played Wolcen

I realize in writing this review of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem that I am evenly split in my regards to the game. On one hand, it is by far the most successful Action RPG for me personally. I have tried (and failed to enjoy) genre titans like Diablo, Torchlight, and Titan Quest. Wolcen is the first and only Action RPG I have ever “finished”. At the same time, the game is horribly balanced, and I found the plot hard to follow. Completing the game was more chore than anything.

If you are unfamiliar, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is an Action RPG in the same vein as games like Diablo. Similar to Warhammer, it features absurdly sized characters in absurdly sized armor yelling at one another about demons, cults, rival political forces, etc. 

As I said before, I felt the game’s plot was hard to follow. Each act (the game is broken into three acts) seemed to introduce a new faction to contend with. However, since the gameplay largely revolves around wandering empty canvases in search of loot pinatas, there weren’t any side quests or side NPCs to exposit more about the story.

And, if I am completely honest, that may have been for the best. Of the bits I did understand, none of the story or its characters landed with me. It felt under-cooked, generic, and overly derivative.

Wolcen does stand out in its freedom. Rather than picking a class, your character is free to specialize in a number of different passives while also improving broadly applicable stats and leveling up skills tied to specific weapons. The game also smartly features a dual resource mechanic (willpower and rage) that is hard to describe but easy to understand once you play for a bit.

The game lacks properly balancing though. Initially, I went with a melee-centric build, but I found it impossible to beat the game’s first boss with my setup. After a little grinding, I managed to switch over to a caster build that made short work of the boss. For all of Act 2 and some of Act 3, I used the same build, but it made the game laughably easy. In Act 3, I switched back to melee after getting some lucky drops and, though it worked better, it wasn’t nearly as smooth or enjoyable.

Still, in my final build for completing the game, I went my own way with a bow build that I enjoyed playing and found reasonably balanced between my two previous extremes. Your mileage may vary, but from my experience, put everything in ferocity, learn how to dodge, and pick one of the top 2 or 3 skills to base your entire build around. Everything else is a trap.

As down as I may sound, I did mostly enjoy my time with Wolcen. It was a solid filler game to occupy my time (mostly while I was battling allergies). The endgame opens up a bit for some repeat activities, but I am not sure how much more juice I can get out of this lemon. If these is your type of genre, then you’ll probably enjoy Wolcen, despite its faults. For someone like me, who clearly doesn’t favor Action RPGs, it was probably worth the money I spent, but I am unsure if I will ever go back to it.

Timespinner (PC, 2018)

I don’t have a lot to say about Timespinner except that it was fun enough. I kickstarted the game on a whim back when kickstarters still seemed like good ideas. I finally got around to playing it and breezed through.

I found the game to be more interestingly, narratively-speaking, then in how it played. It was otherwise a reasonably competent metroidvania.

All that said, it was nice seeing my name amongst the other Chris’s when the credits rolled:

Timespinner - Name in Credits
That’s me!

My 2019 in Gaming

After seeing Belghast (Tales of the Aggronaut) do it, at the beginning of the year, I created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of all the games I played. Here are the categories I landed on:

  • Own – Easy enough: games I own (and intend to play) but haven’t played yet.
  • Playing – Games I am currently playing.
  • On Hold – Games I was playing that I have placed on hold. I mostly used this one to feel slightly better about games I knew I was going to drop.
  • Finished – Games where I felt like I got all I wanted to get out of them. For the most, that meant some kind of end screen, but not always.
  • Dropped – Games that I stopped playing and never finished.
  • Wishlist – A category I used track games I wanted. I swore I would only buy games that had been on this wishlist for a month or more, but that quickly fell apart.

At the time of writing this, I am at 26 Own, 3 Playing, 1 On Hold, 16 Finished, 9 Dropped, and 5 Wishlist. We’ll ignore everything but Finished and Dropped for the rest of this post.

In order from least favorite to most, here are all the games I finished:

16. Alliance Alive HD (PS4, 2019)

Do not recommend. The wife said it wasn’t fair to include this game in the “finished” column since I quit it on the last possible fight. In all honesty, I am surprised I made it that far. For all the reviews that sold me on it having similarities to Bravely Default, I only found a bland JRPG.

15. Forager (PC, 2019)

Do not recommend. I was utterly hooked on Forager when it first came out, but its an incredibly shallow game. I recently read an internet comment about Diablo-likes where the person said they felt “dirty” for spending so much time on an otherwise bland genre. Forager isn’t a Diablo-like, but that feeling applies here.

14. Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! (Switch, 2017)

Recommend with qualifications. Snipperclips was a fun coop experience for Diane and I, though we had long breaks between beginning it in late 2018 and finishing it in late 2019. It was also surprisingly short, even with the year break. Good for coop only.

13. Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (PS4, 2017)

Recommend. I sold my copy of Horizon Zero Dawn before its one and only DLC hit. After tracking down the Game of the Year edition for a fair price, I went back. Horizon was already a game I platinumed, so more of the same was absolutely more of what I wanted.

12. SEVERED (Switch, 2017)

Recommend with qualifications. SEVERED is a unique experience, to say the least. After seeing it originally on the app store, I waited for it to come to Android, but it never did. When I had a chance to play it on my Switch, I jumped at it, played it for about an hour, and then forgot about it. Once I finally got hooked on it, I realized it was good enough, but nothing amazing.

11. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, 2019)

Do not recommend. In a post-Hollow Knight world, Bloodstained needed to be perfect to compete, and it just wasn’t. For me, it was the worst parts of the Game Boy Advance Castlevanias (mostly convoluted anime stories) with nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

10. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4, 2016)

Recommend. Uncharted is one of those series I like in small doses. As the oldest game on this list, I bought it cheaper, but also just after marathoning 1-3. It was fun though I am especially burnt out on the series now.

08. TIE The Outer Worlds (PC, 2019)

Recommend with qualifications. Like Pokemon Shield, The Outer Worlds turned out to be a disappointment in the end. Its still a good game, but far less than I wanted (or expected). You could do worse, as far as RPGs go!

08. TIE Pokemon Shield (Switch, 2019)

Recommend with qualifications. Like The Outer Worlds, Pokemon Shield turned out to be disappointment in the end. I was never bothered by nonsense like “Dexit”, but I was hoping Game Freak might play it less safe with their first main series console generation. Instead, they played it really, really safe.

07. Hades (PC, 2019)

Recommend. Hades was awesome when I first played it, if a bit too hard. Its only improved since, and do intend on returning, but for now I fondly remember it.

06. Pyre (PS4, 2017)

Recommend. Pyre was so cool. I fell in love with the setting hard. I actually bought it around the time it came out, but I kept putting it off. I would love to see a sequel someday, but I am obviously happy Supergiant went on to make Hades since you just read my thoughts on it.

05. Ghost Giant (PSVR, 2019)

Recommend. Ghost Giant is less a game and more an excuse to cry uncontrollably in your expensive VR headset. I actually thought the gameplay was pretty boring, but damn if it was not a totally charming experience regardless. Easily my emotional gaming experience of the year.

04. Astro Bot Rescue Mission (PSVR, 2018)

Recommend. Astro Bot Rescue Mission, like Super Mario 3D Land, is one of my favorite platformers of all time. Its also one of the best VR games I have played that didn’t involve repetitive gameplay.

03. Slay the Spire (PC, 2018)

Must play. This one feels like cheating because I marked it as “finished” in February and picked it up again a few months ago. At this point, I am maybe 60 hours shy of hitting the 1,000 hours played mark on Steam. Slay the Spire is a rogue-like on par with Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a game I obsessed with for years.

02. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, 2013 – Present)

Must play. Before 2019, Final Fantasy XIV and I had an on-again/off-again relationship. Now that I have finally gotten a character to max level in current content, I think I get it. This is the MMO I will go back to now, regardless of what happens in World of Warcraft. I marathoned the base game and all three expansions over eight continuous months this year. Of all the games on the list, this is the one I played the most in 2019.

01. Golf Story (Switch, 2017)

Must play. Golf Story was a bit of a sleeper hit for me. I bought it cheap after seeing a few recommendations but kept ignoring it. One day, when I was sick and staying home, I decided to finally give it a go. I didn’t put it down for a few days. Its sequel, Sports Story, is due out next year, and it will be a day one buy for me.

Dropped Games

In the Dropped category, we have:

  • Bloodborne
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • EverQuest (Project 1999)
  • Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Iconoclasts
  • Nuclear Thone
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Warhammer: Vermintide 2

I have decided Dark Souls likes are not for me – Super Smash Bros. either.

Hellblade was interesting, but a bit dull and I forgot I was playing it. Nuclear Throne was heavily recommended, but it did not grab me.

Both Divinity and Warhammer were “play with a friend” games, but after a few sessions for each, we stopped.

EverQuest should’ve probably been treated as “Finished”, since I got about what I was expecting. I kept intending to play it more – and I was actually enjoying it – but I am just not setup to play something that slow.

The Outer Worlds (PC, 2019)

After two playthroughs, I am ready to pass final judgment on The Outer Worlds – and move on.

The Outer Worlds is the latest RPG from Obsidian Entertainment. Of the entire Fallout series, their turn with Fallout: New Vegas is likely my favorite. The Outer Worlds stands on its own, but it shares similar gameplay and sensibilities.

In The Outer Worlds, you play a recently unfrozen member of the colony ship Hope. You are taken out of cryosleep by a science named Phineas Wells. Wells is wanted for crimes against the colony and its leaders, a Board made-up of the colony’s corporation heads.

Screenshot 6.png

At first, I was quite taken with The Outer Worlds. New Vegas (and much of Fallout’s brand of retrofuturism, in general) worked best when it managed to combine the darker edges of science fiction with absurd characters, situations, and anecdotes. These games like to take seemingly reasonable ideas from politics, science, and philosophy and take them to their (mostly) logical extreme.

Likewise, The Outer Worlds is all about corporations and capitalism run totally amok. In breaking off from our real world timeline prior to Teddy Roosevelt’s trust busting ever happening, corporations have taken complete control of society and replaced government and economic with bureaucratic nightmares. People live and die as indentured servants, and are so indoctrinated at such an early age, that they recite corporate mottos, jingles, and advertisements with the ease of a minister reciting a psalm.

From the start, I loved the setting. Early on, there is a quest involving a suicide. The coworker that found him was forced to pay for his required burial expenses because she discovered. Second, the colony had to cover it up, because a suicide is technically vandalism of company property (that property being human) and if it were known, then the whole town would be forced to pay for it – something it cannot afford.

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Its stories like these that set The Outer Worlds apart, but after a strong initial outing, I found the game dwindled in its impact. The setting remained unique and there were interesting characters, but it all felt neutered somehow, not unlike Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. Obsidian still has plenty of talent – or else I wouldn’t of finished this game twice – but Chris Avellone was sorely missed. All of the social commentary was there from the beginning, but the overall story, including Phineas Wells and the Board, really ended up missing the mark for me.

Gameplay-wise, the game was passable. The perk fill-in is filled with lame rewards, and the game never feels very challenging. I did try it on a harder difficulty, but like most games, all that did was make everything a bullet sponge rather than add any need for tactics or strategy.

In my second playthrough, I created a melee brute who was comfortable murdering people to get quests done quickly. By holding the sprint key and ignoring most enemies (save for the few innocent people I had to murder), I managed to finish the game again in four hours. There’s plenty of content to mess around with, and likely many things I missed, but the game felt smaller than any I played like it. It didn’t help that melee combat was about as good as Morrowind’s (which was okay back in 2002).

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After both playthroughs, there were still some locations on the map I could not visit. It turns out these places are unavailable. There’s also not a very deep series of quests for each companion (though the few I did were worth the trouble), and the game lacks an equivalent to the faction-specific quest lines of the Elder Scrolls series.

Though there are a lot of pieces of The Outer World I enjoyed, they never really came together to finish the puzzle I was hoping to solve. The game is inferior to New Vegas in every way, and despite being more a more topical commentary on today’s economic and political climates, that could all probably be best experienced by watching someone else play the game instead.

Creed II (2019)

“Creed II” is the 2018 sequel to “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan (Adonis Creed), Tessa Thompson (as Bianca), and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. In addition, Dolph Lundgren reprises his role as 80s supervillain, Ivan Drago, the man who killed Apollo Creed, Adonis’s father, in Rocky IV. There’s also an appearance by Brigitte Nielsen whom I only know, regrettably, from VH1’s The Surreal Life.

The first half of “Creed II” was painful to watch. In place of Ryan Coogler’s well-executed and well-directed “Creed”, it’s obvious from the beginning that the sequel (without Coogler in the director’s chair) is a pale imitation.


Worse, the first half feels both fast and slow. To give the audience all the reasons to care about the fight at the heart of its plot, the film breezes through a bunch of personal things (Adonis proposing to Bianca, Bianca getting pregnant, Bianca’s advanced hearing loss, Adonis and Bianca moving out of Philadelphia, etc.) In the first film, these would’ve all felt monumental, but “Creed II” treats them like checklist that must be completed before people will care about Creed versus Drago II.

The fights also suffer, either from new direction or perhaps a change in budget. Each feels closer to what the Rocky series managed to do in the 1980s. Gone is the fight choreography and film from the first movie. With it, much of the weight and realism that made “Creed” standout are replaced by with the floaty physics of film (less than) magic.


The performances also take a hit. Though much of the film’s latter half redeems it, especially in terms of acting, Michael B. Jordan is far less impressive in this one. He has the physicality of the performance perfect, but his motives suffer from poor writing early on. I am still not 100% sure why he and Rocky have a falling out or why Adonis Creed felt he absolutely had to fight Ivan Drago’s son. It all felt forced.

Thankfully, the second half of the film, and the final fight (the film’s second between Creed and the Drago) go a long way to rehabilitate an otherwise forgettable sequel. Michael B. Jordan finally turns on his talent when he plays the beaten and battered Creed who won the first fight only technically. In addition, he must face a fear of not wanting to box again and his role as a new dad at the same time.


I found it important that Adonis and Bianca’s daughter was born with Bianca’s hearing loss. So often, movies, especially these kinds of movies, tend to gloss over the personal life or use it solely as a fuel for the film’s greater conflict. The couple knew that it was a risk their child could inherit Bianca’s hearing loss. Adonis struggles with the news at first, but the movie neither gets bogged down or ignores this struggle. Rocky, as the wise elder in these films, wakes him up to the truth that, no matter what, he will love the child. And, to be honest, that kind of messaging is important in films and adds valuable depth and honesty to what could’ve been a moment of suspense and an otherwise perfect baby born to two perfect-looking people.

With all that in mind, I was prepared to really hate this movie until its final fight. After “Creed”, “Creed II” felt like a wasted opportunity that rested too neatly on nostalgia for the most popular of all Rocky films. And that remained true until Ivan Drago, 80s supervillain and the sole reason why Russia lost the Cold War, threw in the towel to save his son who refused to stay down in a grueling fight with Adonis.


Whereas 80s villains were often one-dimensional, this was “Creed II” reaching back in time to add layers to the hated bad guy. It was awesome. It reminded me why I like modern films so much more: the attempt to humanize even our worst enemies. It is one of the biggest draws to sports anime as well. Anime like Hajime no Ippo or Yowamushi Pedal go to great lengths to introduce new villains as terrifying things to overcome, but after they are overcome or sometimes simultaneous to the overcoming, they are almost always given new life and dimension as the author actively seeks to tell their side of the story in a way that makes them appreciable as human beings and not just monsters.

Likewise, throwing in the towel makes certain the fact that “Creed II” should’ve been “Drago”. After being abandoned by his country and his wife, the elder Drago raises his son to be a boxer in relative obscurity and poverty. It’s only through a boxing promoter that they manage to get the fight with Creed and only Creed taking and failing to secure a true victory that puts Drago back in the good graces of high Russian society. It’s a heartbreaking story covered up by the red herring that Ivan Drago is still a monster when he just wanted his son to have what was wrongfully stolen from him.


Some of that may be projection, but so much of “Creed II” is better if you project or, even better yet, remix it. The emotional arch conclusions that come at the end of the film when Rocky finally meets his grandson and Adonis finally goes to see his father’s grave would’ve fit so much better in the middle of the film. Or, leave them at the end, but at the end of “Drago”.

“Creed II” was okay. That’s unfortunate because “Creed” was such a fantastic film and I genuinely looked forward to seeing the sequel. It could’ve been easily improved with restructuring and the adage about how often broken clocks are right probably applies in terms of how the Dragos were handled. Sadly, unless Coogler returns, I won’t be so interested in a probably “Creed III”.

WB Top 100: Bullitt (1968)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

We both have heard of Steve McQueen – thank you Pixar – but neither of us had ever seen any of his movies. I had expected an action-packed adventure. And, though I am sure it got pulses racing in 1968, “Bullitt” played more akin to a Film Noir movie than anything with any real action.

McQueen plays Lt. Frank Bullitt, a renowned San Francisco police officer. He and his men are entrusted with protecting a key witness for an upcoming Senate subcommittee hearing by a senator (Robert Vaughn) with eyes on a bigger office. So far, so good (for an action movie plot).

“Bullitt” isn’t an action movie, however; it is a fairly by-the-books police procedural. There is nothing wrong with that, but I found the film to be painfully slow. The long, drawn out moments of suspense were about as suspenseful as driving over a suspension bridge. That is to say, only if you try holding your breath because you will likely run out of air before anything happens.

Even the movie’s renowned car chase sequence was a letdown. Sure, it is shot great and took real talent to pull off, but flying through the deserted (huh?) mid-day streets of San Francisco either means lots of uphills or downhills. Once they got out of the city to straighter roads and they had to weave through traffic, it got exciting, but then it ended on the forever cheesy trope of “running over something explosive and dying horribly”.

The problem with a movie like “Bullitt” is that it’s kind have not aged well. More realistic portrayals of police procedures and the inside of an emergency room help, but Law & Order does that even better these days and you can watch it all day long when you visit your parents/grandparents. Plus, each episode is a tight 45 minutes (forgetting the commercials).

That’s not to say it was a bad film, just one I didn’t enjoy. The shots of San Francisco and the cinematography are all fantastic. I can buy into Steve McQueen as a cool dude too. I also loved that we got some actual blood and gore for a change. It made me realize we are getting closer and closer to the modern era after all.

I am sure this film is a favorite for a lot of dads and granddads out there, but film and television have done everything “Bullitt” does better and more often. Appearances from Robert Duvall and Stanley from Three’s Company couldn’t even save it. I would turn on whatever channel in your country marathons Law & Order or its international sibling and take a great nap.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

For dad’s birthday weekend extravaganza, we took a break from eating lobster tails and watching baseball to watch a movie. We chose “If Beale Street Could Talk”, the 2018 drama, because dad had “heard a lot about it on TV”. This isn’t a shocking reason for choosing anything and it was a welcome choice when we easily could’ve queued up any number of bad action films that were also present in Hulu’s movie library.

I am unsure if dad liked the film. As dads do, he took a smoke break during the sex scene, nodded in and out of consciousness, but otherwise paid some attention. Diane and I both enjoyed it, however.


“If Beale Street Could Talk” follows Tish (played by KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), two young African Americans who grew up together, fall in love, and have an unplanned baby while Fonny is falsely imprisoned. Unfortunately, it is a uniquely American story and one worth hearing. Despite the charges against Fonny being flimsy at best, there is little they can do to fight against the American justice system.

The story was moving enough on its own. Throughout, I wanted Tish and Fonny to be together. Interspersing the horrible present with moments of their past happiness only heightened that want and made plainer the horror of their situation. Even with a realistic, albeit happy ending, “Beale Street” is a hard film to watch with a lot of terrible things happening to good people.


The story may have felt tired (although it has a social conscious motive that should never be ignored) if not for the wonderful directing, acting, and editing. To me, “Beale Street” felt every bit as good as a film like “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” only without the baggage of being based on a play since being based on a book means the characters can go places and do things outside the confines of a one-room set. 

Similar to “Cat” and movies like it, “If Beale Street Could Talk” focuses on dialogue and relationships between characters. Every performance sells each well-written line with the utmost respect that each deserves. The close-ups on the actors faces and their emotions punctuates each scene. It was a deeply moving film and one I hope not to forget. Barry Jenkins, the film’s director, did a phenomenal job.


Diane and I shared a favorite scene. Early on, when Tish reveals to Fonny’s family that she is pregnant (this occurs after Fonny is already in jail), the way everyone acts and reacts was so familiar to some of the same people I grew up with and around. Fonny’s mother is deeply religious and she is immediately offended. She thinks the baby is born to sin and a proof to her belief that Tish is a bad influence on her son. As Fonny’s two sisters share their mother’s distaste, two dads celebrate, and Tish’s sister jumps in to protect her little sister’s honor, the scene plays out in chaos and fury. It was as well-executed as it was hard to watch.

And that’s true of the whole film, not just that one scene. Everyone, and I mean everyone, brought their A-game for this one. Even the smaller roles for actors I did not expect to see were heartbreaking, especially Brian Tyree Henry as Fozzy’s friend who is suffering from his recent stint in prison. They even managed to get a non-distracting performance from Dave Franco!


“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a wonderful, fantastic movie. It’s exciting and beautiful and terrifying all the same. I hope to see more of its leads, and I wish to see less truth in the reality the film reflected. Until then, movies like this are what we all need to be watching.