You know, I think I talked about most of this stuff already, but it’s too damn awesome not to be remembered for this year. Let’s begin!
Back Dynamite: Okay, so technically the movie was released in 2009, but how many of us saw it in the theater? The awesomeness of this film became truly widespread when it was released onto DVD back in February. The internet was abuzz at the uniqueness of this film, and after at least six different viewings this year I can see why. The brilliance of this film isn’t in it’s clever writing, quotable one-liners, or how it never really takes itself seriously; no the magic comes in how every time you watch it you pick up on something new and funny. It has become my “go to” movie whenever I have company over, and I’m always thanked when the film is done. As of last week, this film was one of the few Netflix streaming videos that won’t allow you to have a Netflix party with. The reason? Everybody would be doing it as this movie is even more awesome in a shared viewing. I don’t believe Netflix has the bandwidth available for the nightly Black Dynamite parties that would no doubt be going on. Until then, I say you go just go and buy this film. It will sit nicely next to The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and Caddyshack.
The Walking Dead: You know, the sad thing about a zombie movie is after two hours the feature ends and we are left wondering what happens next. But what if we could watch what happens to our survivors for a long period of time? At least that was the concept behind the popular comic series developed by Robert Kirkman. For a comic, The Walking Dead is unique as it focuses far more on character development and less on the zombie hoard. The zombies, in fact, act much like a dangerous natural element that the characters have to deal with and less of a plot element. The other cool thing about The Walking Dead is how real it is. People resort doing doing some pretty nasty things to one another in their quest to stay alive just one more day. Main characters come and go and we should expect that in a world where the dead rule the Earth. This past Fall, AMC released a six-part mini-season based on the comic. I was both excited and a bit anxious as to what we might see onscreen as Hollywood has a tendency to mess things up or dumb things down for their audience. But this was AMC, and the first episode stuck true to the comic storyline. And with over five million viewers, it was the highest-rated premier on AMC and became the most watched cable series for its demographic. The storyline would eventually split from the comic, but the overall tone and emphasis of character development over action stayed the same. AMC has picked up this classic for another 13 episodes, and I personally can’t wait to see what happens next.
No Ordinary Family: 2010 had some great TV shows: Madmen, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, but this little show on ABC has become a guilty pleasure for me. The show is essentially a live-action version of one of my favoriute films, The Incredibles. The Powells are an ordinary, dysfunctional family who gain super powers after their plane crashes in Brazil. The father (Micheal Chiklis) has super strength, can leap several blocks, and is seemingly invulnerable. The mom (Julie Benz aka Rita from Dexter) is super fast, and as a scientist by trade she is more than curious about how they got their powers. Their kids (Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett) have lesser powers as the girl can read minds while the son has become a Reed Richards super genius. There is a bit of Heroes-like mythology going on in the back-story, but the real strength of the show is the characters and how they interact with one another and grow from their new found abilities. Whomever is writing the reboot of the Fantastic Four should pay attention to this show, as Disney and ABC “get it.” It’s campy and fun, and even the bit characters play their roles to the tee. Even the unlikely pair of Chiklis and Benz seem to pull off a believable couple together. Bottom line, the show is just plain fun, and I hope I get to see more of it in 2011.
Kinect: I’m one of those people Microsoft was targeting when they thought up Kinect. I don’t own a Wii, but I am interested in what it can do. But with all the shovel-ware and stories about it collecting dust, I could never get myself to drop the cash to jump into the experience. Kinect seemed like a more logical transition for me, and upon purchasing one last Fall I can finally understand what motion gaming is really all about. Folks can argue that there really isn’t a lot out there right now, especially for the hardcore gamers. I can admit that may be true, but I am also convinced that Kinect is here to stay and that the future looks bright for the peripheral. I say this for many reasons, but mainly because the tech just seems to work and there is something magical about gaming with no controllers. It has revitalized the gaming experience for my entire family, and for me that is well worth the money I paid for it. Here’s hoping that the new titles that come out for the system are as tantalizing and cool as Dance Central and Kinect Sports.
Red Dead Redemption: I might piss off some Grand Theft Auto fans out there, but Red Dead Redemption is a better game. In fact I do believe that it is RockStar’s BEST game yet and one that I can’t seem to stop playing. Maybe it’s the newness of the Old West that got me hooked. Or perhaps it was the amazing storyline and characters. Or maybe it was the surprise ending that got the internet abuzz with discussions. Whatever the reason, Red Dead Redemption is in my top ten list of favorite games ever played and the new DLC keeps me coming back to the environment for more fun partners. Not to mention that the DGR night we had in the game, holding the fort from sleazebags on our server was quite frankly one of the best times I have had on Xbox Live ever. Thanks guys (and Token).
Inception: Christopher Nolan has proven that he’s the King of the Mountain when it comes to directing movies. Not only did he make us rethink how we view one of the most iconic super heroes of all time, but he can take us to places we never dreamed of before. Such is the case of Inception, a movie that is as close to perfect storytelling as I can remember. We follow Leonardo DiCaprio and his team into the world of the dream and are left wondering if what we experienced was ever real at all. When asked if he could explain what he actually meant by the end of his film he stoically explained, “If I did that it would ruin the entire reason why I filmed Inception. The movie is supposed to leave you questioning. If you feel that way, it did its job. The man is a stud, and I can’t wait for how he ends his Dark Knight trilogy and the upcoming Superman project.
Lost Finale: Never has a show left me feeling so satisfied and with so many unanswered questions at the same time. For six seasons we watched the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 unravel the mysteries of the strange island they were stranded on. The storytelling and acting were top notch, and the show spawned several podcasts as viewers tried to decipher the clues left behind in each episode. Whether you enjoyed the final episode or not, Lost and its canon have secured their place in our society and lore. Just the other day my colleagues warned us not to open the hatch when dealing with a sticky project. It is a show that I will miss, and one that I will also enjoy revisiting on BluRay.
Mass Effect 2: This is my pick for the Daryl Awards this year. Why, you ask? No, not just because I can bone alien creatures (ohhh yeah) but because the character development in this game is so strong, I actually miss them when I am not playing. Bioware has simply mastered the dialogue tree and you can’t help but feel a connection to the characters in the game. That, and it’s the only game I can remember that built on my decisions from the previous game. Countless references to seemingly unimportant characters and my encounters with them solidify that the world of Mass Effect is uniquely mine; there are no two universes that are exactly alike. They fixed the combat system so things flow much smoother and no more tedious armor and weapon upgrade guessing games, just lock, load, and kick ass. Downloadable content for the title has been nothing less than stellar and the last installment (Lair of the Shadow Broker) dramatically changed the universe I play in. I have to wonder how the addition of that single piece of content will affect Mass Effect 3. That, my friends, is sheer brilliance in game design.
Good BAD Movies: As Hollywood searches for some creative ways to express itself without rehashing old ideas (thanks but no thanks Yogi Bear) certain directors have seemingly created their own genre by making really bad movies that are just plain FUN to watch. The story-lines (if any) are paper thin, the acting is laughable, and the effects are ridiculous, but for some strange reason they work. Maybe because these movies know they are bad and never try to be anything other than what they are. This summer, we saw what may be the goriest and most awesome killer fish movie of all time, Pirhana 3D. A movie that took the 3D realm to new heights with 3D boobage (and mind you there was not one boob onscreen that I didn’t care to see, they were all excellent). It was campy and fun and one of the best times I have had at the movies this year. Later in the fall, I gathered my fellow DGR faithful for a Netflix showing of Bitch Slap, a movie that truly must be experienced in a group setting. The movie was awesomely terrible and one that I plan to enjoy with a group of friends over and and over again. Let’s hope that we see this trend continue as directors take their craft just a bit less serious. It may not make a good movie, but if we are entertained I certainly don’t care.
Robot Panic: I remember when I got the email from Hilden, “Hey Ryker thanks for submitting all this cool shit. Here’s access to the blog and keep up the good work.” Those that read my stuff know that I haven’t always been a good writer, in fact we might be able to make a pretty good argument that I’m the opposite. But at least I have the opportunity to contribute to a community that shares my interests and is pretty bad ass. I’ve also been blessed to help the guys do their live shows and that is a real treat. I am always impressed with their passion in delivering a great show every week, and just how genuine they all are. Last Summer we all got together at Moe’s for the 5th anniversary show and bonfire (sorry about your neighbor’s house Moe). It was one of the best times I have had all year; hanging with the good friends I have made here and enjoying a night together. For the real magic in all of this isn’t in the articles I write, or the awesome shows the guys do, but it’s in the community that we all share. So thanks to all my friends here, your are truly amazing. Here’s hoping for a great 2011!