Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review Final Post--Fiancée of the Year

Love is a Many Splendored Thing
I wasn't sure what to make my final post reviewing 2014 discuss. Then I realized it made sense talk about my favorite person in the world whom this year became my finacée and in my opinion is the best fiancée currently in existence. Should you have your own fiancée feel free to disagree, but if you lack one go ahead and tell all your friends I've got the best one. Now, for those of you who don't read the blog enough to already know, here is the Fiancée of the year!

Fiancée of the Year--Samii
There are many people who have finacées, but none beat Samii! I met her in October of 2011 and as of March 2014 we are officially engaged to be married. We have not yet set a precise date but are thinking probably sometime in 2015 or 2016. Samii is someone that is extremely friendly, caring, smart, and also pretty! Oh, and she's an awesome singer, which makes going to karaoke fun because I can turn to people and go, "Yeah, that's my lady," when she impresses others with her voice.

Despite being so incredible she is quite humble and never brags about herself, hence my choosing to do so. Should you not be in love with someone I would recommend it, because love is a great feeling, and my love for Samii is why I thought it made sense to have my concluding post of 2014 be about her and how amazing she is.Having spent these last few years with Samii I know I want to spend all future ones with her, and with her by my side 2015 will surely rock! I hope you had a superb year too and enjoy our entry into the new one!

2014 In Review--Best Writer-Arist

Jack of All Trades, and Master of All!
Earlier on in these posts I talked about my favorite comic-book writers, artists, and colorists. What about those creators who do it all though? The ones who are the writer of their comic, do the art, and if it is in color cover that aspect too? Such a person is indeed quite talented and a rarer entity. This year there was one writer-artist I found myself especially impressed by...

Writer-Artist of the Year--Michel Fiffe

Michel Fiffe is an incredible creator. Starting out a smaller-name and relatively less-known except among some independent comic-readers, Fiffe has been increasing in stature lately thanks to his contributions to various titles (writing for Marvel, a segment in "Captain Victory", and more), but he is especially drawing eyes for his stellar title, "Copra" which I gave a beaming review to for the release of its first trade-paperback, and it continues to be a stellar title as we head into the next year.

Fiffe has continuously put-out great work, be it with him as just the writer, artist, or doing what I feel he especially excels at--being both. I encourage you to seek out his work in the new year as you will definitely be impressed. I am quite sure Fiffe is a name that we will be seeing a lot of in the future!

2014 In Review--The Best Video-Game

Gaming the day away
I don't play video-games as much as I did when I was younger, but I still get some quality game-time in on occasion. I tried out a number of titles this year on my consoles, but found there was only one addicting enough that I would play it a bunch, stop, and then feel a strong urge to play it again--and this one wasn't even on a PlayStation or Xbox!

Best Video-Game of 2014--Hearthstone
Before you argue with me, I am fully aware that Hearthstone was playable back in 2013 during a beta stage, that said, it officially was released in March of this year, so hush-up if you have any protests! Also, I played Hearthstone mostly on the iPad which was available a tad later, so for me my Hearthstone enjoyment didn't really go into full-swing until late-April and early-May or so. I've written about Hearthstone before, be it the "base" game or the first expansion/adventure, and find that whenever I start to get tired of playing with the virtual cards, something happens to draw me back in.

For example, I hadn't been playing it as much lately, thinking that due to the current number of cards everyone appeared to be using the same decks, with little variation in strategy. Thankfully this issue was recently remedied by the release of a whole bunch of new cards that can dramatically shake-up games and has Hearthstone feeling fresh again. Just when I thought I was mostly done with the title, they came out with these"Goblins vs Gnomes" cards and went and drew me back in!
The changes the new cards bring aren't so dramatic as to utterly change "Hearthstone", they just help it keep feeling new and exciting--with that same sense of discovery I had when I first started playing and gaining new cards. I've put a lot of time into Hearthstone, and consistently enjoyed it throughout the year. For that reason, it is in my opinion the best game of 2014.

2014 In Review--Weirdest Comic

Getting Strange
There are good comic, there are bad comics, and then are weird comics. Weird comics can be good or bad, although that tends to be ancillary to the point--the point in this case being the creation of something incredibly bizarre. My weirdest comic of 2014 is a title that started out strangely and has continued to be a surreal ride. Then again, with as provocative a name as it has, would you expect anything less?

Weirdest Comic of 2014--Sex

Writer Joe Casey tiled his comic an act, "Sex". With that simple action he already sets us up with many questions. After all, most of us often think about sex, enjoy sex, talk about sex, and so forth, so what is "Sex" about? That's a good question, as I and other people still aren't really sure.

"Sex" is a comic about a man named Simon who is a billionaire that prowled the streets of Saturn City as the "Armored Saint", spending years fighting crime. Then, his assistant died and he promised to stop, with this comic portraying all that happened after. Clearly full of pent-up rage and sexual energy, Simon has been shown to us struggling to adjust to a "normal" personal and professional life. Meanwhile, we see various crime-elements of the city that had once struggled to survive the Iron Saint now flourishing and unsure what to do with their newfound freedom to operate. Oh, and a lot of characters have quite graphic (at least for a non-adult title) sex. That's basically the plot, but an assortment of other odd things occur too as this book is loaded with subplots--then again, maybe the subplots are the actual true plot?
I say that the sub-plots could be the main story as I still am not sure just what the specific tale is which Casey is trying to tell. Is this a post-modern super-hero yarn that happens to lack any dressed-up heroes? Is it just a weird statement-comic about how people who dress-up (or did dress-up) in exotic personas probably have some unique sexual kinks? Is it just an excuse for Joe Casey to give artist Piotr Kowlalski cool stuff to draw? I don't know, but it does make for a comic that is quite weird.

As I said, a title being good doesn't really matter for this award, but I wanted to point out that "Sex" is actually quite fun, so it does have that going for it also. Any enjoyment aside this is still quite the strange title, and that's why it is my weirdest comic of 2014.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 In Review/Television Tuesday--My Guilty Pleasure of the Year

I've Got a Confession To Make...
We all have guilty pleasures. Those things we are embarrassed to admit--even to friends and loved ones--that we enjoy. I like anyone else have guilty pleasures too. My guiltiest pleasure in 2014 however was something that isn't necessarily bad for my health, but could be considered bad in terms of lacking almost any educational or useful-for-my-time value. Yes, I'm talking about reality television, specifically on TLC and Food Network.

Junk Television at It's Finest
You can judge me for watching trashy reality television, I don't care. Okay, I do, but I'm still not going to stop. I just love watching restaurants see how their employees are behaving awfully on "Mystery Diners," or viewing Americans with a foreign love struggling with the decision to get married or not on "90 Day Fiance". I know often the shows stage scenes, stretch the truth, or otherwise engage in activities that make for, "Good T.V." but as I said, I just don't care. I just love watching people struggle to make a dish where all the ingredients start with the letter, "G," on, "Guy's Grocery Games," or viewing a man and his five wives figure out what to do about their house on, "My Five Wives."

It is something that I should perhaps be ashamed of, that with all the good, smart television out there I often still love to watch the most junky absurd fare. I find two short folk raising their kids on, "The Little Couple" sweet and fun to watch though. I work hard to stay edumacated an' smurt by looking at world events online, reading a newspaper now-and-then, or catching up on various broadcasts. I just also really like to watch people on a cooking show where you are encouraged to sabotage your opponents (It's called, "Cutthroat Kitchen," for those of you who are curious).
At the end of the day we should do what makes us happy as long as it doesn't hurt ourselves or anyone else. Therefore, watching trashy reality television on TLC and The Food Network may not be the smartest of most life-improving thing I can do, but we all need a little bit of our guilty pleasures now and then.

2014 In Review--My Favorite Album, Or Lack Thereof

Pleasing Sounds
Last year there were a number of albums I greatly enjoyed listening to. I liked Kanye West's strange minimalist-packaged "Yeezus" and Camera Obscura had a solid title too with "Desire Lines". This year what was my favorite album though? I guess there really wasn't one--at least not one that came in 2014.

Award Not Applicable
What does this mean that I can't immediately conjure up an image of my favorite album of 2014? Am I getting old and cranky, thinking all of today's music is subpar? I wouldn't say that, as there were plenty of songs I at least somewhat enjoyed this year, but to declare something the best? No, nothing actually was awesome enough for me to think of it as topping 2014.

Now, there were plenty of wonderful albums I discovered within 2014, but they didn't actually come out in this year. For that reason, I can't say something snazzy such as Girl Talk's "All Day" deserves the award as that is older at this point. Due to the constraints of only wanting to award a, "Best of 2014," to an actual album released in 2014, I guess this year we lack an actual winner. Perhaps in the future I'll discover something which came out in 2014 that is absolutely incredible, but that isn't the case today. Ain't that a shame?

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 In Review--My Favorite Comic-Book Colorist

Important but Often Overlooked
The colorist for a comic is quite often extremely important, and even more often overlooked. I've seen it said many times that when a colorist is doing their job right you don't even know they are there. I suppose there is some truth to that, but I would argue that when a colorist goes beyond doing their job right, and in fact excels, you really notice. The person I have chosen as my colorist of the year is someone whose coloring-work has gone far and beyond what one would expect, hence being my favorite.

Colorist of the Year--Jordie Bellaire
Should you have been following my blog much lately there is one colorist you've undoubtedly seen me often reference as creating stellar work. That colorist is Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire has worked on other comics I've enjoyed such as "Deadpool" and "Venom" but this year she performed some astounding feats of coloring on a variety of titles, with two in particular standing out. The two titles were in fact also among my favorite ongoing titles of this year--"Zero" and "Moon Knight" and some of the credit for that surely goes to Bellaire. 

Whether giving us beautifully muted colors in "Moon Knight" except for our titular hero whom Bellaire left a stark white, or helping create a somewhat-unified feel to "Zero" despite it having a different artist every issue, Bellaire did some amazing stuff. I usually don't notice a great colorist on a comic unless it really is crazy-good, so clearly Bellaire was mind-blowing in her work, and that is why she is my colorist of the year.

2014 In Review--My Favorite Comic-Book Artist

This One is Always Tough
It is always tough to say an absolute favorite when it comes to comic-book art. It is tricky because so many people create such a variety of incredible works in different styles. Who is to say that Declan Shalvey's work on Moon Knight is any better or worse than Frank Quitely's incredible contribution to "Pax Americana"? Seriously, all art is subjective, but then again, so are my lists that declare what I thought was the "best" of anything in 2014. With that in mind, and having chose to limit myself to just picking one artist I now will declare my thoughts.

Comic-Artist of the Year: Fiona Staples.

Fiona Staples is a beast. I did not really know of her work at all until I started reading "Saga", and once you enjoy that title it makes you go, "How did I not hear about this person before?" I mean yes, plenty of the joy of "Saga" comes from the masterful writing of Brian K. Vaughn, but if it weren't for Staples the book would not be nearly as awesome as it is. "Saga" is a strange space-based comic, and Staples has never met a surreal-looking alien she couldn't draw the Hell out of. Whether showing our main characters with their horns or wings, a spaceship made out of a tree, designing the strange costumes for actors on a virtual space-opera, or otherwise being incredible, Staples has made it so that anytime a new issue of Saga comes out I know it will be as much a feast for the eyes as it is good brain-food too. This is why Staples is my comic-artist of the year. I look forward to seeing more of her work on "Saga" and enjoying the premiere arc of the reboot of "Archie" comics that she will be illustrating!

Honorable Mention: Jamie McKelvie
I know I said I would only have one artist, but come'on people, we're talking about Jamie-freaking-McKelvie here! The man turns in art like nobody's business, be it through his collaborations with Kieron Gillen or when doing his own thing such as with the strangely under-read "Suburban Glamour". Therefore, having seen McKelvie's art in "The Wicked and the Divine" this year I just had to give him a shout-out and credit for being as superb an artist as he is. Anyways, I just wanted to put that out there.

2014 In Review--My Favorite Comic-Book Writer

The Joy of Text
When reading a comic book the writer's job is obviously important. Not only do they supply the speech and narration, but if they aren't illustrating the comic they write the directions to the artist about how the comic should look too. There is a writer who this year had a number of quality titles which I consistently enjoyed enough to think of him as my best writer of 2014.

Writer of the Year--Kieron Gillen
Kieron Gillen is a writer who started out in video-games journalism and then later moved into writing comic books. His absolutely stellar "Young Avengers" came to a wonderful close early this year, and his writing on the title "Uber" has been superb in its portrayal of a world where super-powered beings altered the course of World War II. He also has of course been doing an incredible job on "The Wicked and the Divine" where with Jamie McKelvie illustrating the book (McKelvie also drew "Young Avengers", interestingly) we have been getting a super-enjoyable title, one which I considered to be among my favorite ongoing comics of 2014.

One thing about Gillen  that makes his writing so delightful is that unlike some other writers who have certain methods or tics which they always seem to fall victim to, Gillen can write anything, in any fashion. You wouldn't realize the man behind the pop-culture influenced "The Wicked and the Divine" was the same person writing the grim-and-gritty "Uber" because even though they are both great titles, their styles are so incredibly different it is shocking to think one mind is behind both. I love Warren Ellis, but you usually know when you're reading an Ellis comic, but with Gillen you don't automatically know it is him besides "knowing" you are reading an excellent title. For that reason of such high quality, I declare that Kieron Gillen was my favorite writer of 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 In Review--The Food Item I Enjoyed The Most in 2014

Last year I found myself highly attracted to and often enjoying turkey burgers. As I have a beef allergy regular burgers were a no-go, and the food I found myself gravitating to especially heavily this year is also poultry-related. The food I am going to talk about is one I feel sometimes gets a bad rap, making it deserving of my defense. I am referring to that delightful dish known as chicken fingers.

Some people say chicken fingers are kids' food. Those people are horrible morons and if you are friends with any of them you have my full permission to slap them across the face (Note: Please do not actually assault your friends). Chicken fingers are the kind of food you bite into and say,"Damn that's delicious," about. Plus, they go great with basically any kind of sauce. You want ketchup with your chicken? Go for it! Buffalo sauce, ranch sauce, or something more exotic such as plum sauce, you may ask? That's great too, with each one giving the fingers their own unique flavor that makes each dipping option give off the impression you could be eating a completely different meal, but no, you're just eating some god-damn delicious chicken. Plus, you can get fries with chicken fingers often, which are also tasty but not the focus of my post so I will digress from that.

I think the folk who claim chicken fingers belong on the kiddie-menu mistake certain things for being childish. Just because you can eat chicken fingers without utensils that doesn't mean they are meant for babies, they are just perfect for people who want to forget about cleaning a bunch of silverware or are perhaps juggling multiple items at a sporting event, restaurant, or wherever the chicken fingers are had. The ease of eating chicken fingers is so superb it deserves a public service announcement--something along the lines of a guy sitting down and going, "Oh no, all my silverware is dirty," followed by me bursting into the room as if I were a less-obese Kool-Aid man and yelling, "It's all good muthafucka, I brought chicken fingers!" Then one of those, "The more you know" stars fly by on the screen.
Aw yeah, that's the stuff.
Chicken fingers taste good, are easy to handle, and often come with tasty fries on the side. What more could you want? Hell, they are easy to cook at home too if you desire! All of these reasons and more are why chicken fingers are the food I enjoyed most in 2014.

2014 In Review--Best Single Issue of a Comic

A Single Shot of Awesome
There are some comics that are amazing series, but to turn in that one utterly stellar issue of a title that just causes the reader to pause and say, "Wow," can be awfully difficult. There weren't too many individual comics that on their very own in a singular issue made me feel utter amazement (some issues of the Ellis-penned "Moon Knight" did though) but one just utterly blew my mind. That comic interestingly enough is itself sort-of a one-shot, but also takes place as part of a larger over-arching event. In case you aren't sure what I'm getting at, I am discussing "The Multiversity: Pax Americana".

Just Stellar Stuff
"The Multiversity: Pax Americana", or "Pax Americana" as I will now call it to save on space and time, is one of the strangest, most twisty and surreal comics ever. I may have mostly quit DC some time ago, but "Pax Americana" and the rest of "The Multiversity" is an example of the kind of amazing stuff you can get when you let a writer and artist loose with their genius ideas. I already wrote pretty extensively about the entirety of the "The Multiversity" so far (besides the now-newest issue, "Thunderworld"), so I would encourage you to check out that post for my thoughts on the "series" itself. "Pax Americana" is definitely the highlight so far, though.

Equal parts a riff on "Watchmen", a piece of "The Multiversity" and its own unique beast, "Pax Americana" is the kind of comic that you have to read multiple times to even start grasping what is going on. There are jumps backward and forward in time (sometimes on a single page), a spacious cast, multiple ideas or concepts being explored, and the art, dear God that beautiful art.

 Morrison writes at the top of his game, Quitely draws at a level beyond I would think possible, and it is just something marvelous. "Pax Americana" is the kind of comic that serves as an example of why I read comics. It is a unique and marvelous artifact of our culture that shows what can be created when people work incredibly hard to design something amazing. As I've said before, even if the rest of "The Multiversity" were to be terrible somehow, it wouldn't matter, because we got "Pax Americana" out of it, and that's just wonderful.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 In Review--My Favorite Cancelled Comics of 2014

Why Do Good Things Have To End?
I have two series I absolutely loved this year that sadly are not long for this world or have just ended. Interestingly enough, these are both Marvel titles and prove how while Marvel may be willing to take some risks with quikier titles, if they don't make enough bank they'll get canned just like any other book. Let's examine the duo now, shall we?

Two Awesome Comics That Shall Be No More
All-New X-Factor
Peter David of course was the writer behind one of my favorite comic series of all time, "X-Factor". I was horribly sad to see it end but was pleased when I heard how it would be kind-of rebooted as "All-New X-Factor", featuring some characters from the last iteration but a bunch of other ones too. The 18th issue came out just this week and I haven't read it, but I imagine it continues the trend set by the previous 17 of being just a joy to absorb. Peter David's writing is one thing that always shines in any title, with its mix of humor, drama, and sheer cleverness, plus the art has been solid throughout this series also. Basically, it has just been a consistently great comic.

I suppose the re-launch ended up hurting this title more than helping it, something Marvel and DC never appear to take into account, instead assuming a re-launch equals more money, somehow. In this case that didn't happen, and instead of a comic that went a bunch of issues as "X-Factor" did we will find this series ending with its 20th. I just hope Peter David goes on to do another comic even half as rad as his "X-Factor"-related work has been.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Only a comic as strange as this could have the characters flipping off the reader,
and the result being readers such as myself loving it!
The writing of Nick Spencer and the art of Steve Lieber resulted in a series that was consistently incredible from start to finish, never failing to delight (what's that? Two mediocre fill-in issues? I can't hear you!). A superb mixture of super-villains, well-timed popular-culture references, humor, and some good ol' fashioned heist-planning-and-doing, "The Superior Foes of Spider-Man" was simply a treat to read. I always found myself laughing, emoting, and otherwise marveling at the clever twists in the plot Spencer would consistently spring on us, with Lieber contributing impressive art along the way too.

"The Superior Foes of Spider-Man" is the kind of comic you can love because it mostly stands alone from any other title (no need to read a Spider-Man comic unless you really want to), was great fun, and otherwise was just--as I said earlier--a treat. It had become a bit of a running-gag after the 12th-or-so issue how Marvel hadn't cancelled the comic yet, but well, as of the 17th they did, and here we are, with it out a tad ago and now this big hole in our hearts. I had discussed before about how Spencer can be a really good writer or a really bad one, and I had yet to see something from him at Marvel I loved. "The Superior Foes of Spider-Man" changed that, and clearly illustrated that given the right material and a chance Spencer can make magic for any company. Now it's over. Ain't that a shame?

No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk/Cancelled Comics
"...and he shed a single tear as the milk poured out of the glass onto the floor."
I suppose there really isn't any reason to cry too much over cancelled comics, especially super-hero ones. The creators often will go on to do something else enjoyable, and the characters might reappear under the pen of someone else and still be quite fun to read. It just is still a shame when an ongoing title you really enjoy ends up actually, you know, ending. At least I have all those older "X-Factor" comics along with the newer ones and the 100% amazing issues of "Superior Foes" (what are you saying about two miserable substitute issues? I still can't hear you!) to look back upon fondly. I guess it is better these titles end while they are still good as opposed to the worse fate some comics end of forever dragging along, terrible to read but too important or popular to be given the axe. Yes, better to go out on top than peter out at the bottom.

2014 In Review--The Discontinued Food Item I Will Miss Most

The Slow Disappearance
This year a food item I always loved was discontinued. Well, it was more of a seasoning, but bear with me here. At first it was hard to find in some grocery stores, then Walmart had some bags of it but once those were gone none returned to refill the shelves. Eventually it became apparent that yes, Kraft Fresh Take was cancelled.

Now It's Gone

Kraft Fresh Take was like a shake-and-bake deal where you could take your chicken or pork chops, and shake them up in a bag of deliciousness. You went from having a dull raw piece of meat, to dipping it into heaven, and after letting it cook in the oven for awhile taking it out and devouring the tastiest pork chop you've ever had. I myself loved the "Cheddar Jack & Bacon" recipe along with admiring the "Southwest Three Cheese". I could take-or-leave the "Four Cheese" one however, and wouldn't hesitate to pass on the "Italian Parmesan". I really loved "Fresh Take" but apparently not enough people did because it's discontinued. Sigh.

Should you desire to try something at least resembling Fresh Take you can go to a website Kraft has helpfully assembled with substitute recipes. It of course will never be the same, but it's a nice thought. As it is now though, unless you have a local grocery store that somehow is carrying older Fresh Take items (and if it is, make sure they aren't already expired) the odds of you getting to try this delicious item are basically zilch. It's a shame, because I really do miss that Cheddar Jack & Bacon one. Oh well, at least I have my memories.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 In Review/Film Friday--The Best Movies I Still Need To See

We're Doing This Again?
Last year I put up a list of the best movies of 2013 I had yet to see. I felt it was appropriate to do so as there were so many flicks out there in theaters, on DVD, or streaming via Netflix which I desired to give a gander but found it just too difficult to get out to/find the time for. Well, the same thing happened this year with a ton of movies coming out which I would love to digest, but was unable to. Therefore, I now present the best movies from 2014 I have yet to see.

In Alphabetical Order:
This just sounds right up my alley, so to speak. We have Michael Keaton--an actor I often enjoy--playing an actor within the movie who used to be in super-hero blockbusters (just like Keaton in real-life with "Batman" so now we're getting meta) and now is trying to prove he still has talent through putting on a big play; plus, and the entire movie is presented as if it were done in one long take (although there are some cuts cleverly disguised). It sounds funny, touching, clever, and otherwise like a rip-roaring time. I definitely want to see this.

This is the favorite movie from 2014 for many people this year, it seems. Shot over twelve years as the child actor aged from 5 to 18 and everyone else grew older too, this is a, "Coming-of-age" drama with quite the killer hook of how--as I just said--this thing was actually basically filmed in real-time--e.g. they didn't get another actor to play the kid as he grew up, he just did! While that is a unique gimmick, one cool trick does not a movie make. The story is good however, I have heard; we basically see scenes from various points in our character's lives and in the process probably learn more about parenting, ourselves, and what-have-you. I've read it is great and I am a fan of Ethan Hawke (who plays the Dad), so it's worth a viewing.

The Equalizer
Denzel Washington as the lead, Anton Fuqua as the director, and plenty of action? I'm in!

Gone Girl
David Fincher directing, Ben Affleck acting, a whole bunch of other great people involved, and the script was actually written by the person behind the book so you don't have to worry about the author complaining the film-version of her story ruined it--a good recipe for success. I've been told this is an intensely thrilling movie, one that has you constantly second-guessing yourself as a town struggles to figure out what caused as man's wife to suddenly disappear--and how responsible he could be for it.

I enjoy films by Christopher Nolan so even though I know next to nothing about this, I think I will see it when it comes out for home-theater viewing. I just didn't really read much about the movie so all I am aware of is that it involves space, love, and has Matthew McConaughey. Lots of special effects occur too, apparently.

John Wick
I like Keanu Reeves. I read articles about how he is a nice person, and it makes me feel bad for him when I also read how hard it can be for him to get roles in movies. Some folk make jokes about his acting being wooden, but from the movies I have seen him in I would say they are plenty of times he, "Registers a pulse," and emotes just fine. That said, I enjoy action movies, so Reeves playing a retired assassin who ends up having to kick some assess most likely will make for an enjoyable piece of fun.

Scarlet Johansson is a strong actress, and even though I was extremely annoyed by previews for this movie furthering the absurd myth we only use 10% of our brain I thought it looked like good fun. Luc Besson has made some enjoyably bizarre films ("The Fifth Element") and from what I read this is quite an out-there movie too. Oh, and Morgan Freeman is in it, he makes almost anything extra fun!

I love the movie "Network" with its biting commentary on how the media functions (so much still rings true today about what it says), and "Nightcrawler" is getting a lot of buzz for doing the same--albeit in a way that is less comedic and more creepy through Jake Gyllenhaal's electrifying performance.

I've already heard a ton of great things about "Selma" and as this did have an official limited release in theaters on Christmas day I put it on this list even though it doesn't actually go into widespread release until January. "Selma" is about Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroes, displaying their struggles and successes. While there have been many films about MLK and the Civil Rights movement, this one is apparently superb, getting rave reviews. I'll check it out in theaters if I get the chance or be sure to rent it later in the year.

This has been sitting in my Netflix list, just waiting to be watched. Based on the French comic (now translated into English) and starring a quality cast made-up of folk such as Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, this looks quite promising. Set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) with what remains of civilization riding on a train where the carriages are separated by class-status, this film deals with the kind of troubles that could bring, and focuses on an uprising, I believe. It sounds unique and interesting, something often lacking from today's movies.

Under the Skin
Another movie starring Johansson, of all things! A strange science-fiction flick about an alien (played by Johansson) who lures various men hanging around Scotland to their doom, this sounds quite odd. In a strange twist, many of the men Johansson picks-up while in character are not actors, but real people who were out and about, finding themselves lured into the car of an in-character Johnasson and only being told they were filmed with hidden cameras after pieces of story with them had been recorded! I've been told this is an eerie and quite minimalist experience, with people either loving or hating it. I'd be willing to give it a chance and see how I feel.

A Good Assortment
I've got a good assortment of movies I would like to see from 2014, and while I wasn't able to view everything from 2013 I was interested in, I can hope I'm able to get more of these watched in the upcoming year. We will see, I suppose. Anyways, there is my list for 2014 in review!

2014 In Review--My Favorite Ongoing Comics This Year

And The Winner Is...
To kick-off my series of segments looking at 2014 I thought I would make sense to start with some of my favorite comics from this year that were ongoing series. Now, I do have another post that deals with my favorite cancelled comics of 2014, but that will go up at a later date and these are ongoing titles that seem to be continuing into the foreseeable future. Now, in no particular order my top three ongoing series and an honorable mention...

...These Comics!
Ales Kot has a fascinating comic he is writing here. Each issue has a different artist (but the same colorist in Jordie Bellaire) but it isn't too jarring as often we view different times in the life of Edward Zero, a man who was raised by "The Agency" but then left it. It is a fascinating series exploring the mindset of a man who for so long lived in violence and then tried to achieve peace, but as we see from scenes set far in the future with Zero as a young man things went horribly wrong. Each issue's artist compliments the plot well, be it brutal violence, a peacefully quiet vignette, or whatever else Kot feels like having occur. I just really, really, enjoy this.

Moon Knight
Warren Ellis absolutely killed it on the first six issues of this comic with artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire (the same person from "Zero"!) contributing art that complimented the writing in ways that resulted in something quite often amazing. I was concerned when Brian Wood took over writing with art by Greg Smallwood, but since came on I have continued to be impressed. This results in a comic that despite having a big change in writer and artist (thankfully Bellaire continues to supply amazing color-work) still found itself as one of my favorite books of 2014.

Moon Knight is of course a hero I absolutely love to a degree you could argue is an unhealthy level of fanboy-ism, so even if his comic were terrible I would probably pick it up. Therefore, it is just wonderful that a comic about one of my most beloved characters can also be a book I think is just stellar and which continues to impress even as it seems Marc Spector may not be as much of the "Moon Knight" he once was. What will happen before the next creative team appears for the next arc will remain to be seen, but as long as it continues the trend of quality work I'll be eager to read "Moon Knight".

The Wicked and The Divine
This one took a little while to grow on me, besdies instantly loving Luci. The early issues had me unsure what exactly I was dealing with, the immense cast could be confusing, and I wasn't sure if the main protagonist Laura was especially interesting a person. However, as the first four issues passed I found myself being more and more drawn into this world where every ninety years Gods manifest on Earth--but only for two years. I was fascinated by the pantheon of characters as we got to know them a bit better, and then the absolutely shocking events of the fifth issue (why did they do that to Luci?) followed by an ominous sixth have me completely hooked.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie are of course a stellar team, turning in such amazing works as  "Phonogram" or "Young Avengers", so when you get a writer and artist duo that seem to work so perfectly in sync it just results in a wonderful title. "The Wicked and the Divine" is a prime example of that and I am excited to see where it goes.

Honorable Mention--Afterlife with Archie
Is this really an ongoing comic? I mean, I suppose it officially is in that there is no determined final issue and we get a new entry in the zombie-infested adventures of Archie and crew every long once in a while. That said, this just comes out so rarely I wasn't sure I could truly say it was one of my favorite ongoing comics this year so much as declaring it is a stellar comic on the rare occasion an issue comes out of this sadly oft-delayed title. How delayed is it? Well, this issue discusses Thanksgiving and the next one which has an undetermined release date is the Christmas issue...and Christmas just passed us. All of that aside however, this is a stellar comic with art by Francavilla that blows my mind and quality story-telling by Aguirre-Sacasa. I just wish "Afterlife with Archie" came out more often than every 4 or 5 months.

There Are Plenty More Thoughts on 2014 to Share
That's the start of my thought-pieces on 2014. Come on back soon for more. It should be a fun six days.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! Also, My "2014 in Review" Posts Start Tomorrow!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas full of joy and cheer. I myself celebrated the end of Hanukkah on the 23rd and now will enjoy this day too. It might interest you to know that I have a whole bunch of posts discussing 2014 in review that I plan to put up over the next six days between Christmas and the start of the New Year. I hope you enjoy all the posts, whether you agree with my thoughts or not. Now, the spirit of the season I wanted to share the video Christmas card Kanye West and Kim Kardashian put out last year. Well, Saturday Night Live's version of it at least:

Friday, December 19, 2014

(Not A) Film Friday: So Much for "The Interview"

A Bland Title, A Big Controversy
So, "The Interview", you may have heard about it. A comedy movie featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco, they play the head of (and producer for) a tabloid-styled news program. They learn the leader of North Korea--Kim Jong-un--is actually a fan of the show, and get invited to interview him. This leads to the CIA asking them to assassinate Kim, at which point I imagine various shenanigans and acts of mischief occur. I may never actually know, as Sony has basically given in to the demands of self-declared terrorists hackers and announced that "The Interview" will not be coming out on Christmas day, or possibly at all. That's right, there isn't even a plan to delay the movie or make it go straight to video-on-demand. It's just cancelled. Wow. How did we get here?

How We Got Here.
Another thing you may have heard about was that just recently Sony was hacked (yes, again, but this time it was even worse than in 2011). It now has been confirmed that North Korea-located hackers were behind it, and all sorts of things were leaked. Nothing illegal has come out about Sony, but private details and correspondence now is being gleefully reported by various media outlets. Putting aside the ethical question of if we really need to know about what was in the leaks (if Sony wasn't doing anything illegal do we have the right to pry into the privacy of employees who sent messages about actors they disliked or such? I mean, this isn't at all like with the NSA leak...) it has caused a headache for Sony. In addition, further threats that theaters showing "The Interview" could face attacks were made, and within this week "The Interview" has gone from being an upcoming Christmas release to basically dead in the water.

This cancellation of "The Interview" has upset basically everyone. In the delightful paradox of how we always want to see things we can't people now are saying that they had minimal interest in "The Interview" but now they have to see it. Mitt Romney said Sony should offer it for free online as a big middle-finger to North Korea,and Obama said Sony made a mistake choosing to not release it. That's right, Democrats and Republicans agree Sony should release the flick--and the rarity of politicians from both side of the aisle agreeing is equivalent to your odds of seeing a White Rhino.

So, Here We Are
We are basically now at the point where is Sony doesn't release "The Interview" they look like terrorist-capitulation-types who hate America, and if they do release it basically everyone is going to go see it, whether it is good or bad. This actually has had some folk mulling over if we are playing into a secret plan of Sony. I mean, Sony getting hacked clearly wasn't a trick, but seeing all the heat "The Interview" is causing and threats it is getting might have had some crafty Sony executives think, "Hey, this movie is getting so much press, what if say we aren't going to let folk see it?" and of course people will go ballastic because we as a society are more prone to the Streisand-effect than one could believe. I'm not sure how likely this conspiracy-theory is. I would totally believe it that Sony freaked out when threats were made that theaters could be attacked and due to their own choice or because the film industry was nervous at the idea of people avoiding cinemas on Christmas, any immediate release of "The Interview" was canned.

The exact reason behind why Sony chose not to release "The Interview" may be unclear, but now everybody wants to see it for reasons that range from having just been interested in the movie and its actors (as I had been), to feeling it is now a political act. I myself just really enjoy movies with Seth Rogen and James Franco, finding almost anything they team-up in to be good--except maybe "This is the End" which I found extremely underwhelming--so I was excited to see "The Interview" and now am sad that I may not be able to. We will probably see in the upcoming days something definitive occurring. Namely, Sony gives a new release date, puts "The Interview" online, or something of that sort. I would be a bit surprised if they really do just scrap it and try to have us all forget it existed. We will see. In the meantime I can always re-watch "Pineapple Express" to get some laughs.

UPDATE On 12/23/14:
It took until Tuesday, but it seems Sony is going to allow theaters to show "The Interview" and offer it as a video-on-demand for those who feel unease about going to see it. Now the question becomes what theaters will be willing to show it (some independent ones have already said they will) and if all of this hullabaloo over the movie will end up helping it, hurting it, or having little effect on the total profit.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reviews of some BOOM! Studios Comics from the Last Three Weeks

The Fuse is Lit...

I enjoy reading comics from a variety of publishers, but there are some who have stuff I've followed from when they first started to where they are now. One example of a publisher this applies to is BOOM! Studios, or BOOM, as I will refer to them from this point on so as to make my spell-check freak out less about the grammatically-inconvenient exclamation mark. BOOM came into existence in 2005, around when I started reading comics again, and I recall the old and new material fondly.

I remember some of their early stuff, be it Cthulhu-themed comics or the book "Tag" about a curse that causes you to decompose and which the only way to stop is by passing it to someone else--i.e.--tagging them. Yes, there was some good stuff from BOOM. Over time they have grown from their smaller output however, now releasing many comics from a variety of creators, and even acquiring another publisher--Archaia--a little while back as an imprint now. Thankfully, despite getting larger in size and number of comics that hasn't stopped BOOM from putting out books I mostly like. With that in mind, let's examine some of their recent output and my enjoyment of it...

Memetic #2
I absolutely loved the first issue of "Memetic" and while this one isn't quite as amazing (which is not its fault, as part of the appeal of the first issue was the suspense of wondering what the mysterious meme would do) it still is a really good time. Throughout this issue it begins to become more apparent how the meme may just look like an image, but in fact is a dangerous idea that's in a way viral--and constantly evolving.

In this issue we get a bit more character development between our two main protagonists, a young fellow who is unaffected by the meme due to being color-blind and a former military-man whose loss-of-sight spares him from the danger. I still love the concept as it is still terrifying of how it seems eerily possible for a potentially innocent Jpeg such as the comic's, "Good Times Sloth," to in fact be wielded as a weapon in our incredibly-technologically-connected society. Plus he just looks so cute:
Throughout this issue society continues to fall apart, our characters fight to survive, and the mystery of just who could have been behind the meme grows. All-in-all its a stellar issue and I am excited to see what happens in the upcoming conclusion!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Escape from New York #1

I haven't seen the film "Escape From New York" in quite a long while, and while I can barely remember the details, this sequel-comic thankfully requires you only recall the ending of the flick (or check Wikipedia for a light plot description) in order to have an idea of what is going on. The reason for this is the comic is written quite well and fills-in-the-blanks of any questions that a reader who is mostly unaware of how the film took place may have. As I mentioned, this is in fact a sequel, starting up at the last moments of the film and proceeding from there. Basically our "hero", Snake Plissken, is on the run from the United States government due to his general refusal to play nice, and along the way encounters a variety of interesting characters.

The comic does a good job supplying the action-feel and dark humor of the original movie, making it clear that this isn't some straight-faced shoot'em-up comic, but one with a bit of a satirical bent, mocking a potential future (now past) in which society has become a laughable mess. Snake doesn't say too much in the comic, but he doesn't need to, what he does says more than any words. It is clear that Snake isn't a simple do-gooder willing to follow orders, but he also can't stand people who are evil and violent for no reason. This leads him to start heading down to Florida to confront a cult-ish militia which seems to have a strange view on the world and which has taken over the state.
This issue ends with Snake arriving in Florida and coming face-to-face with its twin rulers. It is abundantly clear that despite all the trouble we saw Snake go through things aren't going to get any easier, and that is perfectly alright as Snake has yet to meet a task he's unable to tackle.

I enjoyed this comic, but wasn't overly amazed by it. Snake is kind of a strange character, in that he's so amazing and talented it's tricky to give him a true challenge with some risk. If the next issue shows the apparently uber-powerful twins to be that, it will make for a good read. However, should the series just consist of Snake easily dispatching foes it'll get boring fast. As it is, we will have to wait until the 2nd issue and see what happens. For now though, I'm awarding this comic a very respectable...
3 out of 5 stars.

Thomas Alsop #7
This has been an interesting and very weird series. A surreal mixture of magic, media, and a main character who is as easy to despise as he is to love, the life of Thomas Alsop throughout this comic has been one of struggle. Whether that struggle is a personal one in trying to get along with his friends, or a professional one in facing constant backlash for his announcement of how he is going to perform an exorcism on Ground Zero in New York City, Alsop is always up against something, and that's how I like it!

This issue Alsop manages to break out of a police station and narrowly avoid being murdered by some other magic-users who would prefer he didn't exist. Chris Miskiewicz continues to expertly walk the fine-line of dealing with a recent tragedy such as 9/11, having other characters point out how to someone who isn't aware that Aslop means well, his proposal of a big exorcism event is quite offensive.
This is another solid issue of "Thomas Alsop" and with the final one coming up next I am intrigued to see what will happen. Depending on that conclusion I also wonder if we may see more of Alsop in future mini-series or an ongoing-series, but time will only tell about that.
4 out of 5 stars.

Deep State #2
"Deep State" started out in a way I found a bit interesting, with my hoping that we would learn more about our main characters--and the mysterious John Harrow in particular. Unfortunately, this issue is mostly just our main characters dealing with an alien threat from the moon, with us readers seeing the creature beginning to take over a town. It is perfectly alright, but has more of a horror-bent than the first issue with its mostly sci-fi feel, and lacks much of any character-development for our main duo.

The thing keeping this from being an utter disappointment is that the mysterious thing that is working its way through this town is fascinating in its foreign biology. Seeming to be a weird mesh of flesh and machine, the resulting creations it makes are familiar in some ways and entirely alien in others.
As it is, I would say this is perfectly average, but writer Justin Jordan has me hoping he will start to delve into our characters' psyches a bit more at the end of the issue, so this could in fact end up going somewhere pretty cool.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Eternal #1
A series about a future where people can make clones of themselves with all their memories--thereby making a person potentially immortal--this new comic was as interesting to read as it was confusing. The confusing aspect was that there is a lot of talk about "pures" and such, but the comic never exactly spells out what a "pure" is and why it is so important. I'm actually okay with a comic choosing not to hold the reader's hand and give them a big info-dump, instead leaving us to fend for ourselves and figure things out. As best as I can tell, in this future certain people haven't been cloned, and that makes them worth a lot genetically as their "code" is needed for everyone else to continue being cloned--at least, that is my guess.

Another thing that is a bit confusing is that it is not exactly made apparent who the main characters are. Could it be the officer fed-up with how "pures" are treated? Is it someone working to sabotage the genetic purity of others and save them from being harvested (or whatever happens to them)? I don't know, and that is perfectly alright as each individual we see a vignette with seems interesting enough to carry the book on their own. It does bother me that we meet so many characters though, giving each scene a somewhat annoyingly short feeling where as soon as we are getting the feel for things the focus changes.

While I don't mind the lack of having everything spelled-out for me, I do wish the comic explained a little bit more about the background of this cloning technology, and how it came about. I imagine how that occurred along with why exactly "pures" are needed will be touched upon, so I'm not overly worried. I am more perturbed by how the sheer avalanche of characters has made it a bit tricky to keep track of who is who, however. All of that said, this looks to be a promising series and I am interested in seeing how it proceeds.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

And There Was The Explosion
BOOM clearly puts out some good stuff and I didn't even review any titles from the all-ages KaBOOM imprint or now-imprint Archaia in this segment! While not everything is amazing, there still is a good deal to read, and that is why I thought I would spotlight BOOM in this segment. So, go out there and check out some BOOM! Studios comics.