Monday, November 25, 2013

best of 2013: miscellaneous pt. 2

As the entry title states, this is part 2 of my favorite miscellaneous things from 2013. 

  • Not all of these made their debut in 2013, but that's when I first played/used/saw them.
  • This list is heavy on the video games, but I didn't have enough to give them their own list.  (Making a list of 8 would have been kind of weird, and I couldn't bring myself to make a list of 5 and knock 3 deserving candidates off.)  Some of them are available on more than one console; I used the cover art for the system on which I played it.  Also, because the original reviews are too long to repost here, I've given a truncated version instead.  If you want to read the full review, I've noted the month I reviewed it in parentheses.
  • Just in case anyone's interested, I asked G-Vo what his favorite video game of the year was, and he said Bioshock Infinite.  I really wish I'd been able to play that too because it sounds awesome, but it's first person and would make me vomit profusely.
  • These things are listed in random order.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

Man, the haters came out in full force for this game, but you know what?  It's freakin' awesome!  I had only played the very first Devil May Cry before this one, but G-Vo's played all of them and said this was his second favorite, so you know it was good.  Dante teams up with his brother Vergil to take down Mundus, the demon lord who murdered their mother; cue lots of blood, snarky quips, and seriously hardcore action.  My wrists hurt for two days after playing this, and I wasn't even mad about it.  (April)

In DS3 (the sequel to one of my 10 favorite video games of all time), you once again assume the role of space engineer Isaac Clarke.  He and Ellie became romantically involved after DS2, but they split up and now she's canoodling with a total douche.  But as much as Isaac would like to nurse his broken heart in peace, the Unitologists are up to their old tricks again, activating Markers and causing another necromorph outbreak.  Isaac reluctantly takes up arms again in hopes of ending things once and for all.  A gripping (if occasionally confusing) storyline is complemented by gorgeous graphics and hardcore gameplay that will make you feel like a total badass.  (March)

In NBC's Hannibal, Will Graham is an FBI profiler who has the uncanny ability to empathize with serial killers, which makes him a brilliant agent but takes a terrible toll on him psychologically.  While investigating a killer nicknamed the Minnesota Shrike, Will asks for help from psychologist Hannibal Lecter.  What Will doesn't know, however, is that...

(SPOILER ALERT if you've been under a rock for the last 22 years)

...Dr. Lecter is a serial killer himself, with the added bonus of being a cannibal.

This is by far the goriest show I've ever seen on network TV, but it's also one of the most beautifully shot, and the performances are terrific.  It took me a while to warm up to Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal, but once I did, I accepted him in the role completely.  (True, he's not as good as Anthony Hopkins, but those are enormous shoes to fill.)  And as troubled Will Graham, Hugh Dancy breaks my heart.  I just want to give him a hug and a cookie.  This show won't be your cup of tea if you're easily disturbed, but it's really damn good.

Side note:  I saw this Will Graham GIF on Tumblr and it cracked my shit up.  (Obviously, this is not an actual quote from the show.)

(Note: the picture above doesn't show what console this is available on, but we played the Playstation 3 version.)

While searching for the lost island of Yamitai, Lara Croft is separated from her crew.  She desperately tries to reconnect with her shipmates, but wolves, vicious islanders, and a host of other dangers won't make it easy for her.  The story is nothing special, but the graphics are stunning and it's a lot of fun; as G-Vo put it, it's like starring in your own action movie.  (June)

When Kotaku reviewed WataMote (the title is a shortened form of the Japanese title, which translates as No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!), they said it was the most meanspirited anime they'd ever seen and treated its socially inept main character like crap.  I was curious about it, so I watched it on Hulu, and I gotta say: Kotaku was way too rough on this show.

Tomoko thought that she'd be popular when she started high school, but she was dead wrong.  She suffers from social anxiety and can barely even manage saying goodbye to her teacher without freaking out.  She tries to learn how to be "normal" by playing video games and reading manga, but of course, their version of normal doesn't always work in the real world.

WataMote can be funny as hell, but there are also many cringeworthy moments that anyone who is or was socially awkward will be able to relate to.  Tomoko isn't always a sympathetic character, but I never stopped rooting for her to break out of her shell and really make an impression.  It's like a funnier anime version of Welcome to the Dollhouse, and if, like me, you spent high school eating lunch in the bathroom (sad but true) and dreaming of better things, you'll relate to WataMote.  (Available for free on Hulu)

(Note: the picture above doesn't show what console this is available on, but it was released exclusively for the Playstation 3.)

TLOU takes place in a postapocalytic United States.  A fungus called Cordyceps (which actually exists, but fortunately restricts itself to insects in real life) turns people into mutated monsters.  In one of their most advanced forms, they're called clickers because they are blind and use echolocation, like bats, to get around. 

Joel is a man worn down by tragedy.  He lives in a quarantine zone in Boston and works as a smuggler with his friend Tess.  One day they receive an unusual request: escort a teenage girl named Ellie across the country to a group of anti-government rebels called the Fireflies.  Joel and Tess set out on their mission, but in addition to the infected, they must deal with soldiers, hostile bandits, and cannibals.

I wasn't sure that I was going to like this game because of all the stealth involved (not my forte, mainly because I'm the most impatient person of all time), but not only did I wind up loving it, it earned a place on my top 10 video games of all time.  It's almost painfully intense, the story is intriguing and moved me to tears more than once, the graphics are mindblowing, and the voice acting is perfection.  (July)

Ever since she was born, Jodie Holmes has been connected to an unseen entity she calls Aiden.  They're bound together by a spiritual umbilical cord of sorts; if he gets too far away from her, it causes her great physical and emotional distress.  When Jodie's powers become too much for her foster parents to bear, she's sent to a military base and raised by paranormal researcher Dr. Nathan Dawkins.  As she gets older and more in control of Aiden, the CIA recruits her, but she quickly discovers that she doesn't always agree with what they want her to do.  Excellent voice acting (especially from Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe) and graphics, couch co-op, and the unusual addition of a "pet poltergeist" made this game great fun.  (Full review coming in my November media update)

Attack on Titan got a lot of buzz when it was first released, so G-Vo and I decided to check it out.

In the world of AoT, the world has been under attack by titans, enormous humanoid creatures who enjoy snacking on humans.  After living inside walled cities for over a hundred years, people have gotten a little complacent.  But after a titan breaches Wall Maria, an elite group of soldiers forms to take the titan menace down once and for all. Intense, violent, and filled with surprises, it's one of those series where you finish one episode and say "Okay, just one more because I have to know what happens", and then before you know it, hours have passed.  We aren't done just yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if we marathon the shit out of it over the long holiday weekend.  (Available for free on Hulu)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

best of 2013: miscellaneous pt. 1

Next up on the agenda, we have a list of my favorite things from 2013 that aren't movies or books.  Of course, I must start with the usual notes:

  • Not all of these made their debut in 2013, but that's when I first played/used/saw them.
  • This list is heavy on the video games, but I didn't have enough to give them their own list.  (Making a list of 8 would have been kind of weird, and I couldn't bring myself to make a list of 5 and knock 3 deserving candidates off.)  Some of them are available on more than one console; I used the cover art for the system on which I played it.  Also, because the original reviews are too long to repost here, I've given a truncated version instead.  If you want to read the full review, I've noted the month I reviewed it in parentheses.
  • These things are listed in random order.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

Sherlock Holmes is dealing with a blow to his reputation when he discovers the horribly mutilated body of a bishop.  Can Holmes (accompanied by his trusted friend Watson, of course) find the true culprits and clear his name?  An intriguing storyline with some genuinely funny moments and some very clever puzzles made this a fun surprise.  (February)

My moisturizer has SPF30 in it, which of course is vitally important, but it does lead to an unpleasant film on my face by the end of the day, especially if I've been sweating.  These wipes get rid of every last trace of moisturizer and grime, and they smell absolutely amazing.  Cute packaging too!

(Note: this picture doesn't show which system we played it on, but it was the PS3.)

Perennial fan favorites Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield fight horrifying creatures (but, astoundingly, no zombies) on a deserted cruise ship.  A welcome return to Resident Evil's survival horror roots.  (August)

RPGs aren't generally my thing, but I wanted to play this because it was developed by Vanillaware, who created Odin Sphere, one of my ten favorite video games of all time.  Choose a stock fantasy character (mage, elf, sorceress, fighter, amazon, or dwarf) and search for the legendary Dragon's Crown while plowing through waves of enemies.  As you'd expect from Vanillaware, it's absolutely gorgeous, and while the gameplay does get repetitive, it's still quite fun.  (August)

(Note: the above video is NSFW due to language/thematic content, but it does NOT include any visuals from the infamous video it's riffing on.)

G-Vo said that Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central) is like The Dave Chappelle Show with a white chick.  High praise indeed, and well deserved; this show is hysterically funny, and it's even managed to shock us more than once.

Part 2 coming next week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

my 25 favorite movie lines of the year

Note:  Some of these are from memory, so they might not be verbatim.  Also, not all of these movies first came out in 2013 (though that's when I saw them), and they're not in any particular order.

1. "Did you find a nice morbidly obese rest stop suitor to take the edge off the family road trip?"  (Another Happy Day)

2. "You look like a Campbell's soup kid who grew up to be an alcoholic."  (The Heat)

3. "Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better or more creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but have the urge to get caught, or what good would all those brilliant crimes do if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part is seeing the crumbs, the clues there. Sometimes it's in your thoughts where the most brutal part of a virus is. Turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch." (World War Z)

4. "See, the bright light... it ain't heaven, son. It's just a muzzle flare."  (Outpost)

5. "My shoe is bigger than this car!"  (The Expendables 2)

6. "By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you man and knife."  (The Expendables 2)

7. "I'm gonna finish him like a cheesecake!" (Pitch Perfect)

8. "Today we are canceling the apocalypse!"  (Pacific Rim)

9. "Is Michael Cera's butthole as adorable as I'd pictured?  I picture it looking like a donut.  Like a little pink sprinkled donut."  (This Is the End

10. "Do you ever wonder why, if you hear a word for the first time, you'll invariably hear it again within 24 hours?  Or why you sometimes see a single shoe at the side of the road?  I have been watching your species for a long time.  I once watched a man who masturbated until he bled.  Why did he do that?"  (John Dies at the End

11. "We accept the love we think we deserve."  (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

12. "Oh, I almost forgot.  I got you some stroke mags. I've been in the hospital before, I know what you need. I got Juggs, Hot MILFs in Heat, Ass Masters. You just stroke it all day, you're a hero."  (Flight)

13. "Dads leave. No need to be such a pussy about it."  (Iron Man 3)

14. "You don't believe in guns?  They ain't fucking leprechauns, you dumb mick."  (Seven Psychopaths)

15. "Boys believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.  I'm sure some of them even believe in God."  (The Awakening)

16. "Come on in.  We got to get this dog off the street 'cause it's been kidnapped from a maniac."  (Seven Psychopaths)

17. "You know, I've often wondered why it is we have children...and the conclusion I've come to is we want someone to get it right this time.  But not me.  Personally speaking, I can't wait to watch life tear you apart."  (Stoker)

18. "Here's your plastic penis full of liquor.  Enjoy your lifestyle!" (Paradise)

19. "What I'm saying is that the torment I had to endure didn't strengthen my faith in the slightest.  No benevolent being would do that to one of his children.  So I feel compelled to share my true testimony with you:  there is no God.  I don't believe in God.  What I do believe in is the doctors and nurses who saved my life in the hospital. I believe in prescription opiates, which work whether you put faith in them or not.  So don't pray for me, because the last time you prayed for me, I ended up looking like this!  My arms look like turkey bacon!  God WHO?"  (Paradise)

20. "This is it, ladies! The kitten whispers and tickle fights end now!"  (Wreck-It Ralph)

21. "What's going on in this candy-coated heart of darkness?" (Wreck-It Ralph)

22. "If you don't tell me what I need to know, I'm gonna press down on this chair until it crushes your trachea.  Trust me, it's agonizing.  Plus there's the posthumous humiliation of having been killed with a chair."  (Parker)

23. "Brace's like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets."  (Argo)

24. "The good news is I'm off for the night.  The bad news is humanity."  (Paradise)

25. "I made you sad face chocolate chip pancakes because the world is an asshole."  (Bachelorette)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

best of 2013: graphic novels and manga

UPDATE 12/11/2013:  #7 was changed from Castle Mango by Muku Ogura and Narise Konohara to Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

With only a month and change left in the year, I figured I better get started on my lists of the things that rocked my face off in 2013.  First up, the graphic novels/manga list!

With only a month and change left in the year, I figured I better get started on my lists of the things that rocked my face off in 2013.  First up, the graphic novels/manga list!

A few notes before I begin:

  • Aside from the first three titles listed, these aren't in any particular order.
  • Not all of these were first released in 2013, but that's when I first read them.
  • I've included cover pictures for all titles in the past, but due to continued issues with Photobucket and Blogger (I shit you not, this is my 13th attempt at posting this), I'm not doing it this year.  My apologies, but I need SOME hair on my head.
  • G-Vo, please skip #2 as I'm going to make you read it. (Everything else is safe.)
  • I doubt that anyone still labors under the belief that "comics" are strictly for kids, but just in case: some of these include content that some people may find objectionable.  I've listed anything problematic.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez:  After their father is murdered, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke and their emotionally and physically damaged mother Nina move to their ancestral family home, which is called Keyhouse.  There's a reason for that strange name:  the house contains several keys that grant the user magical powers.  The kids are enthralled by these keys, but unfortunately there's an evil spirit who wants them too.

You know, it's funny; I picked the first volume of this series up a couple of years ago, read the first chapter, was all "meh", and returned it to the library.  But after I read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and loved the hell out of it, I figured I'd give Locke & Key another shot.  Good choice, because Locke & Key is awesome.  Gabriel Rodriguez' art is gorgeous, the story is terrifying and touching and funny, and it's just fantastic.  I got G-Vo hooked on this series, and I hope I can get some of you hooked as well.

Content advisory: graphic violence, strong language, disturbing themes

2. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:  Marko and Alana should never have fallen in love, because they come from two different extraterrestrial races who are waging a bloody war against each other.  But Marko and Alana have ignored the prohibitions against their relationship and had a baby girl named Hazel.  This does not go over well.

Brian K. Vaughan has been one of my favorite comics writers ever since Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina (which still has one of the best endings of any series I've ever read), and he does not disappoint in Saga, because it's fucking great. 

Content advisory: strong sexual content, nudity, strong language, graphic violence, some REALLY weird shit

3. Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case:  The author's father, Tom Jensen, was one of the chief detectives working the Green River Killer case, trying to find the man responsible for the murders of at least 48 women.  In this graphic novel, he details the manhunt and the emotional toll it took on his father.

When I first saw this at the library, the Stephen King blurb on the front cover caught my eye.  When I turned the book over, I saw blurbs from Damon Lindelof, Gillian Flynn, and Brian K. Vaughan as well, and I immediately added it to my stack.  Fortunately, they didn't steer me wrong; the compelling text was beautifully accentuated by the simple yet haunting art.

Content advisory: language, violence, disturbing themes

4. Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, and Vicente Cifuentes:  I can't really describe this without spoiling a ton of backstory, but rest assured, it's exciting and gorgeously illustrated, and a great addition to the New 52 series.

Content advisory: superhero violence

5. Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga:  Mariko is a high school student who's shy and keeps to herself.  She catches the interest of Akko, the most popular girl in school, who befriends Mariko and decides to make her over.  As they become closer, Mariko starts to fall for Akko, but is it just admiration or something more?  A very sweet story with lovely art. 

Content advisory: non-graphic sexual content, nudity

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru:  This is another series that I can't properly review lest I inadvertently spoil things from the TV series (which, by the way, if you haven't seen it...get thee to Netflix immediately).  It was wonderful spending time with Aang and the gang again, and the ending of the first volume was a literal jawdropper.  If you loved the show, you need to pick this up.

Content advisory: suitable for all ages

7. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh:  The best of the blog collected in one full color volume, in addition to some new stuff.  Her series on her battle with depression is one of the best things I've ever read on the internet.

Content advisory: strong language

8. Relish by Lucy Knisley:  In this graphic memoir, Knisley explores her relationship with food and how it shaped her life.  The art is very charming, and it will make you very hungry.  I also highly recommend her previous graphic memoir, French Milk, which made this list back in 2008.

Content advisory: there's a scene where a friend of hers buys a ton of porn magazines in Mexico, but I don't remember anything else offhand.

9. Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.:  Hit Girl is trying to settle into life as a normal high school student, but she can't suppress her true nature for long.  This graphic novel is a bridge between the events of Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, and it does contain some things that wound up in the K-A2 movie, so I won't go into any more detail.  Suffice it to say that Hit Girl remains as awesome as ever.

Content advisory: graphic violence and, as you'd expect given Hit-Girl's infamously dirty mouth, a metric fuckton of swearing

10. I've Seen It All by Shoko Takaku:  The Saikawa Clinic specializes in treating men with penile disorders.  The doctor thinks he's seen everything, but when a gorgeous young man turns up for his appointment, he realizes just how wrong he is.  An extremely funny manga; I actually had tears running down my face at one point.

Content advisory: strong sexual content, crude sexual humor, some really gross descriptions of assorted medical conditions