In the fifth or sixth year of my life, our kindly guidance counselor, Mrs. Whitaker, came to my first grade class on chilly December day to engage us in talks about the Christmas holiday. She asked us individually what we wanted for Christmas, and I excitedly told her what I thought was the best answer in class … a Nintendo. She laughed and told me I had expensive tastes “for requesting such a pricey computer game.” I dismissed her comment as not being up to snuff on the latest Nintendo marketing campaigns. Had she not seen the dizzying levels of 8-bit graphics? Did she miss the enormous Nintendo display at the Hixson K-Mart, that always had a snaky line of juvenile Nintendo fans waiting endlessly for that chance to play a round of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out?
I did indeed get my Nintendo that very Christmas (which I still have today), and 35 years later, fresh off a Black Friday weekend of trying to score an Xbox X gaming console, I can tell you that the thrill of gaming and the chase for it never gets old. During “8-Bit Christmas,” I relived everything from 1988 with gusto.
The film stars actor Neil Patrick Harris as the grown up version of young Jake Doyle. One snowy day he breaks out the old Nintendo to regale his smartphone-addicted daughter (“Dad, it looks like a gray Tupperware box”) about what the console is and the powerful story behind it. The viewer is instantly transported to 1988 in suburban Chicago to see younger Jake, played by Winslow Fegley, engage his parents in Nintendo talk, only to be shot down at every turn. It’s all there in whimsical, nostalgia-filled scenes: the schoolyard Nintendo debates; Power Gloves; shopping mall sellouts; the overbearing neighborhood rich kid who already had the Nintendo; even the dreaded “video games cause violent behavior” talk. Jake’s adventures take him to incredible lengths all over the Chicago area in search of his greatest prize before he and his friends concoct a 15-point plan of epic proportions to procure the most coveted Christmas gift of all time. Perfect for pre-teens, this film will allow parents around during this era to fondly reminisce with their own kids, making this a funny family film to watch together. I really shouldn’t give this film three stars – truly, I shouldn’t. But for anyone who managed to get that Nintendo and still keeps up with gaming today (just like I still do), this film is for you.
Actor Will Smith is no stranger to sports biographies, but in “King Richard,” he takes a much quieter road and it pays off well. Smith stars as Richard Williams, father to superstar tennis players Serena and Venus Williams. The film spans the early years of the Williams sisters to their upbringing in Compton, where their father began to foster their love of tennis on bombed-out tennis courts - at all hours and in both rain and shine. Armed with an 80- page document, he bombards tennis coaches and media personalities with facts about his kids, showing commitment that knows no bounds. His zest for their success is tactfully balanced out by his wife Brandy, played with a solid resolve by actress Aunjanue Ellis. Director Reinaldo Green helps steer a powerful cast to put this film as one of the better sports biographies in recent memory. A feel good ride, “King Richard” is an uplifting film that shows dreams sometimes really do come true.