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Movies of 2012 [FB]
Jan 3rd, 2013 by Dan

cinema

(Photo by jimmymac333)

Man do I love me some movies, guys. The following listing of my favorites is not limited to movies that were released in 2012, but rather what I saw in 2012 that I most want to talk about.

Prometheus – I’ve never seen a movie from the Alien franchise, but something about the trailers and the Fassbender hype made me want to catch this one in the theaters. After failing to get most people interested, Ian and I caught this flick. Look, guys, it’s not the greatest movie out there, but Fassbender is amazing, the movie is stunning, and that emergency “caesarian”? Absolutely terrifying and awesome to watch. I want to make everyone watch that hyper tense scene.

The Cabin in the Woods – Kind of related to the previous movie, but I don’t really watch horror/monster movies. They’re not my thing. The buzz on Cabin was so great that I had to face my fears and step in. What I got was a brilliant subversion of the horror genre with Whedon’s fingerprints all over it. It’s not really that scary and I honestly believe that everyone should suck it up and check this flick out. You’ll never look at a horror movie the same way.

Young Adult – The first of these flicks to have actually come out in 2011, Diablo Cody’s look at a thoroughly unpleasant woman seeking to reclaim her glory days is relentless in its brutal look at the awful person that Charlize Theron plays. The absolute kicker is in the scene where Patton Oswalt’s character’s sister effectively destroys the character progress Theron has made. Watching everything shift into place on her face was probably the best acted moment I saw this year.

The Descendants – Or the movie that convinced me that George Clooney was brilliant and that Shailene Woodley had real acting chops. It’s a beautiful family movie with an almost tacked on real estate sideplot that doesn’t quite tie in like I think they wanted it to, but it’s full of great performances and it’s definitely worth seeing.

Higher Ground – I’ve been enamored with Vera Farmiga ever since I saw her in Up in the Air, so I had to check this movie out. It’s about a woman constantly searching for meaning, but frustratingly never able to find it. She plays the part with a lot of emotion and subtlety and I just adored every minute of the performance.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Fits in thematically with the previously mentioned movie since it’s also about a girl so lost that she ends up involved in a cult (to be fair, Higher Ground is about a fundamentalist Christian sect). Elizabeth Olsen plays the confused, frightened escapee with great skill as her brain struggles to reconcile what is real with what was brainwashed into her head. Of course you also get to contrast the horrible, but peaceful cult with the materialistic and unfulfilling real world that alienated Olsen in the first place. The film is most notable to me with how it closes. Is Olsen in her right mind and is the cult actually about to exact vengeance or not?

Wanderlust – The first truly slight movie on this list, Wanderlust has David Wain’s quasi-troop at their funniest. It’s not gonna win any Oscars, but Wanderlust is a happy, fun movie filled with funny people. I mean, any movie that makes me like Jennifer Aniston has got to be worth mentioning.

The Five-Year Engagement – Sure, it’s just shy of a standard rom-com, but this flick is getting special mention for the fine work of Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Those two are amazing.

Goon – A hockey epic for the modern day. I have almost zero complaints about this movie. It tugs on all the heartstrings with a story as far from cloying as possible. It’ll make you laugh, wince, and maybe cry, but you’ll love it.

21 Jump Street – Who knew that Channing Tatum was secretly hilarious? It’s probably getting a little too much credit, but this is a genuinely funny movie that I expected to be completely idiotic and forgettable.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home – My first Duplass Brothers film. I guess they call this kind of indie film mumblecore, but that’s kind of reductive. It’s a sweet story about brothers, which is the kind of thing I’m a sucker for.

The Avengers – The biggest movie of the year! Do I even have to talk about it? I want to give props to Mark Ruffalo for being brilliant as Bruce Banner and, hey, while we’re at it, I thought ScarJo did a fine job too (so did everyone else).

Argo – A strong competitor for my favorite flick of the year. Who doesn’t love a heist flick? Especially one that’s actually based on real events. 70s facial hair, great, tense performances, and international spy intrigue. It goes to show that you don’t need James Bond flair to make a good, exciting espionage movie. Plus “Argo fuck yourself” is a great line.

Lincoln – Another heist flick, but this one is about getting votes for the 13th amendment. Everyone you could possibly think of is in this flick, but I think its fatal flaw is the whole biopic aspect of it. Lincoln was an incredible man, I don’t doubt that, but in this movie he’s never wrong, always gets the last word in, and is generally a god among men. Worth seeing.

Holy Motors – Gets the WTF? Award this year. Truly bizarre in a way that only French cinema dares. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s also brilliant. The accordion segment was pretty sweet too

Pitch Perfect – I love movies about music or singing. I don’t care that this is the most stereotypical, formulaic plotting out there. Obviously there’s gonna be discord, one girl is devoted to the old way while the new girl has a revolutionary way to look at things and, guess what, she’s right! Look, who cares about that? Rebel Wilson is hilarious and Anna Kendrick is super charming. Don’t fight it, just enjoy.

Django Unchained – I’m not above stating that this is the most important movie of the year. I’ve heard that some of the events depicted in it are exaggerations of the horrors of slavery. I don’t know if that’s true because I didn’t live in the 1800s, but I think that this movie is properly intense and strikes the right balance between over-the-top violence and the real gravity of the situation. Cristoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, and Samuel L. Jackson all deserve recognition for their amazing performances. If you’re only gonna see one movie on this list, make it this one.

What I’ve Been Doing 22 Oct. 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 22nd, 2012 by Dan

What a bizarre TV show theme to remake. Just obscure and weird and I loved every second of it. Hilarious.

Movies

The Avengers – Viewing numero tres. Still really enjoy this movie. Was hoping to make it four viewings, but bedtime for Eric and Danielle came too soon.

TV

New Girl – They really have no clue what to do with Winston. This most recent episode has Schmidt at his most unbearable too. If they were firing on all four cylinders at the start of this season, they certainly aren’t now. On a far less damning note, Zoeey Deschanel’s character is a billion times better written and realized than when she was just “adorkable”.

The Mindy Project – Mindy Kaling’s distinct comedy voice is still working pretty well for me. I loved how the nurse ended up being a bathroom attendant in the club. Nice comedic turn.

The Greatest Event in Television History – An elaborate setup for an ultimately ridiculous premise. I mean, remaking the opening to Simon & Simon? So bizarre, but definitely hilarious.

Childrens Hospital – Really ambitious episode about a year in the hospital. Very well done, but no Malin Akerman makes me sad.

The League – Everyone’s favorite inappropriate fantasy football comedy is back with a vengeance. Every Shiva blast makes me cackle with laughter. Glad to have it back.

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives – The Cuban restaurant in Chicago didn’t look that great, but I would have dug the lobster corn dogs or the Annapolis, MD BBQ.

Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates – Both of these shows are filled with people that drive me crazy. I can’t talk about this without ranting…

Misc. SNL Sketches – Eric showed me some stuff from the Applegate and Mars episodes. I’ll get to them on my time too.

Music

This guy, Nils Frahm, plays piano quietly with a mic turned up super high to capture everything. That includes creaking chairs, the sounds of the hammer striking the strings, and, naturally, the haunting beauty of his piano playing. Enjoy!

Books

Off-week

Video Games

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Oh god, soooo much XCOM. Totally worth it to make it through Classic Ironman. Too bad that wasn’t my recorded game!

FTL: Faster Than Light – Had some good, eventful runs to film. Had a lot of fun filming them too.

Pokemon White Version 2 – Oh man, down to only two pokemon, my Herdier and my Pignite. Stupid crit-ing Rattatas…

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Making good progress! I’m up to Ch. 4 or 5 and I’m beginning to get to the bottom of these mysteries. I think that the townspeople might be clockwork people and I’m fairly certain Inspector Chulmey is a bad guy. Enjoying the puzzles too much, actually. I was up until like 0030 solving them.

Diablo Returns! – What I’ve Been Doing 28 May 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
May 21st, 2012 by Dan

Diablo 3

I played so much Diablo 3 this weekend my arm feels like it's gonna fall off. (Photo courtesy katie bellman)

Though I did not play nearly as much as Min, much of my week was consumed with playing the Tuesday release of Diablo III. I mean, we’re talking I didn’t even watch the TV shows I like kind of dedication.

Movies

The Avengers – My dad was in town so I thought it would be fun to take him to see a movie he wouldn’t have anyone to go with him to see back home (my siblings are too young and it’s not my mom’s kind of movie). He seemed to really like it as did I upon second viewing.

TV

None. I’m pretty surprised too.

Music

Maroon 5 – Tiffany and I went over to Preakness to catch Maroon 5. It was lots of fun out in the sun just hanging out, drinking beer, and enjoying the day. We even managed to get ourselves pretty close to the stage. Band sounded good live and the day was lots of fun.

Books

Moe Berg: Athlete, Scholar, Spy – Got a little more of this in. It’s an old biography-type book and it’s written in a style that is antiquated, but not so archaic that it’s unreadable.

Video Games

Diablo III – Wow…Just been playing so much of this. It’s really fun and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but my weekend plans caused me to fall so far behind Min that I worry/wonder if I’ll ever be able to catch up! Hopefully once I’m done moving I’ll be able to get back up to speed quickly.

What I’ve Been Doing 7 May 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
May 7th, 2012 by Dan

avengers-photo-3

Robert Downy, Jr. was definitely the MVP of the movie. (Photo courtesy JakesplacePS)

Readership assemble! Min and I made the great sacrifice of seeing The Avengers for you. Our verdict? It’s excellent. Go see it, y’all. Seriously.

Movies

The Avengers – It does precisely what I thought was impossible by focusing on each individual character for a bit and giving them all arcs. Granted, most of the groundwork was laid in all the other Marvel movies, but it’s still tough to do. High props to Mark Ruffalo for his portrayal of the Hulk. His barely contained anger was chilling and, most importantly, awesome. Joss Whedon’s writing also gels quite nicely with the movie, RDJ version of Iron Man.

The Five-Year Engagement – It’s a little long, but it’s also very funny and definitely well acted. This movie gave roles to all kinds of hilarious guys like Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, and Kevin Hart. Not to mention the supporting roles for Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Emily Blunt remains charming and Jason Segel is his usual lovable oaf self. Don’t expect anything amazing and you’ll enjoy this light romantic comedy.

TV

Mad Men – I have no idea where this season is headed, but man am I just stoked to be on the journey. Last week had all-star performances all around. Can’t wait to see what happened last night.

Girls – Best line: “Ok, American History X.” Awkward humor is where it’s at now, huh? Not complaining, but it’s interesting how that’s the norm now. This show continues to surprise me week to week. It’s better than you might think.

Veep – Another solid, solid episode. I wasn’t sure if the show would be able to maintain its awesomeness, but it has met and exceeded expectations. I really do love this show.

Parks and Recreation – I read one reviewer call the campaign bus running over the Sweetums guy overkill, but I thought it was hilarious. Great work by the cast, but I’m ready for the election storyline to finish.

New Girl – From week to week you’re the one show that really gives me pause, New Girl. You’re really not the best hang-out comedy out there, but you put in work that is passable and regularly funny. I feel like you get more credit than you deserve, but I do enjoy watching you, I guess. At least you name dropped Coach this week. I know you couldn’t bring him back to prevent confusion and because you had to build Winston up from scratch, but I hope you bring back Coach for an episode one day.

Community – Starburns is dead. The study group is expelled. I liked that they rallied from that dark moment thanks to Troy. Makes me wonder what’s coming up at the end of the season. Will they succeed in taking him to the A/C Annex or will the group rally in his support? Does it matter if they’re not all taking classes together any more? This season certainly deviated from that…

Music

The Fez soundtrack deserves special mention. It is a joy to listen to in the background thanks to its ambient nature, but it doesn’t let the listener get too comfortable. The dissonance creates an uneasy feeling that I’m perhaps pairing with my game experience too much, but I think it’s still absolutely worth listening to. Especially for you, Min. It’s got no words.

Books

Eh, nope. I gotta get back into reading soon. I almost bought a book this weekend, but physical books feel so expensive to me now!

Video Games

Fez – Certainly the best downloadable console game I’ve played this year. We’re talking Grade A awesomeness in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. Figuring out a puzzle will make you feel like a genius. Turns into a bit of a pain to navigate as the number of secrets narrows down, but still a game that everyone should play as soon as it’s out on PC, I guess, since none of my readers have an Xbox (that I can think of)

Mass Effect 3 – Played a couple of levels from the Resurgence Pack. They seem big and/or complicated, but I like them. If only they’d vary the enemy types or game modes I’d be happier spending a ton more time in this game. Oh well.

Shadow Complex – It’s funny how I find save rooms so antiquated now. Losing a bunch of progress and listening to the same dialogue over and over because I died isn’t acceptable any more. Still scratches that Metroidvania itch and I dig that.

Devil Survivor 2 – Just unlocked the ability to transfer between Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya instantaneously. I wish the third region had been Sapporo, Hiroshima, or Okinawa. This is a sharp game. Very similar to DS1, but that was a sharp game too. I’m wondering where the story is going in this one, but not in a bad way. I really should play this more…

The Old Republic – The Trooper story continues to be interesting to me. I like the whole “Reassemble Havoc Squad” thing it’s got going on. I even like the companions! Sergeant Dorne, the Imperial defector, seems like she’d add an interesting wrinkle to my game, especially since she disapproves of my character’s rule-breaking habits. The storytelling in this game is absolutely superb. So glad that Min and I are playing this now, but we’ve only got a week before Diablo 3…

What I’ve Been Doing 19 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

"Shit"

It may look like I’m insulting Gears, but I’m really not. That’s legitimately the closest those guys come to eloquence most games. They’re fantastic games, but their stories are fundamentally idiotic.

Movies

Thor – I’m pretty sure that complaining about blatant product placement in a movie was last interesting five years ago, but I found the Southwest Airlines advertising in Thor to be too much. Did not like. The movie itself was cool, although Natalie Portman’s character had nothing to do but be a pretty damsel. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good at that, but I wouldn’t have minded her being more active (like Peggy in Captain America). Her portrayal of Jane was true to Thor: The Mighty Avenger, aside from her career, so at least there’s that. I hope she comes back for The Avengers (and that The Avengers is good).

Adaptation – Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) really kind of cheats here in a movie screenplay that we’ve all just thought about handing in, but that is ultimately kind of lazy on a spectacular level. On the other hand, it’s not too much unlike the New Yorker articles it’s quasi-about where the writer is as much a part of the story as the story (in that Gonzo/New Journalism kind of way). Adaptation is postmodern and deconstructionalist and it works best when it’s not pointing out how obvious it is that Kaufman’s doing this (see the obnoxious callback to McKee and voiceover in its final voiceover), but it’s a clever movie that’s more interesting that it ever should be. If you’re really bored this can entertain you, but this movie about writing a movie strains interest. Perhaps if it was written a little better?

TV

Weeds – About two weeks too late I called that this season is all about Silas and Nancy and it became truly obvious now. It’s funny how the Botwin lines have been drawn since the Lars revelation last season. I can see trouble starting in a lot of directions for Nancy, so I wonder if the payoff this year will be worth it, because I’m not seeing it yet.

Top Gear – Didn’t finish the episode!

Archer – So funny this week! This three-episode mini got off to a great start. Can’t wait for the rest of it next week. The jokes about Rip Riley being a 1930s relic were absolutely hilarious.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Yep, these guys are still the worst people in existence. Loved the closing scene with abandoning the prostitute in the hallway, even if it was shockingly terrible. I don’t think the “Mac gains 50 pounds” gag is working yet.

Parks and Recreation – Finished rewatching S3 with Min this week. So great! “Calzones are useless. No one likes them.”

Music

Even more Wild Flag – I think I’ve hit my threshold with obsessively listening to this new release. I’ve got tickets to see them in October, so I can’t wait.

Books

Collected Stories – Still no stories not obsessing with death. Still interesting in a surreal, well-written way. Still tough to read.

(THAR BE COMICS BELOW!)

Batwoman – Not sure if this was the best book of the week or Daredevil was, but it was certainly the prettiest. J. H. Williams III’s art was astounding. I’m so in for this new book.

Amazing Spider-Man – Still enjoying Spider-Island, even if this book was relatively mediocre. Stage 2 mutations begin!

Ultimate Comics Spider-ManThe new Spider-Man is Miles Morales. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see where this goes. It was surprisingly well done and unique from Peter Parker’s story.

Spider-Island: Herc – This book was terrible. What a waste of time. If you want a good Silver Age-style story, read Thor: The Mighty Avenger instead.

Spider-Island: Spider-Girl – Middling. When you’ve only got three issues, you can’t waste the first one because then your second and third will feel rushed. This felt kind of rushed.

Daredevil – Still the best book, all-around, that Marvel is putting out. Loved it and I loved the way that the sound villain was integrated with Daredevil’s sound “vision” for ludonarrative resonance. Great stuff.

Nedroid Read the first printed collection that Anthony Clark signed and sketched in. Super funny stuff. I love Nedroid.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m up to 210 achievements in this. I think I’ve got 169 to go! Can’t believe how much I play this game nowadays, it’s so good! Loving the way that the new trading systems are integrated with Steam. It might even get me playing Spiral Knights at Min’s behest.

Gears of War 2 – Min and I beat it this weekend. As I said before, the story is idiotic while the gameplay is mostly solid. Hey game devs: the parts where you make us drive tanks or ride Reavers and stuff are stupid. Torque bow enemies are also assholes. Min and I spent an hour clearing this one room because we kept getting shot with arrows. Ian was also over on Saturday for a marathon session that was lots of fun. Can’t wait for Gears of War 3. I’ve always felt that I’d missed the boat with the releases so now I’ll get the chance to be “in it” for the co-op campaigns and maybe a little Horde/Beast multiplayer. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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