Leslie's Films in 2013 Review Part 2: Krypton, Gods, Lots of Beer & Zombies (Again)

Over the last few days, I've been looking back on 2013 and figuring out my favorite reads, where I stood on television and yesterday I presented some thoughts on the films of last year. Here continues part 2 of my review of 2013 films.

Movie That Surprisingly Met Expectations: Ender’s Game


My favorite childhood book became a movie after forever and I was honestly scared. There hasn’t been the greatest book to watchable movie adaptation ratio around here, so I went in a little scared. But the people behind this film picked a great Ender and built a battle room that I just wanted to live in. Tons of things were cut from the book and, yeah, Ender is a violent 5-year-old, but for mainstream audiences, this was a fantastic adaptation.

Movie That Was Tons of Fun in Theatres, But Put Me To Sleep on Television: Pacific Rim


Dude, robots! GIANT ROBOTS! SMASHING THINGS! That was all I needed to get me in the theatre and I had a stupid childlike grin on my face from beginning to end. I left the theatre downright giddy even though I could poke holes in the plot until it was in complete pieces. It didn’t matter – GIANT ROBOTS! Then we watched it on television and I fell asleep, so… I’m not sure what that means.

Pleasant Surprise of the Summer: Now You See Me


I didn’t see this until just recently, but I was very surprised at how entertaining this magic mystery movie was. I’m indifferent to most of the cast, but together they held up a pretty straight forward story. Plus Mark Ruffalo is always great as the gruff, slightly grumpy foil.

Movie That Fandom Hates the Most, But I Kind of Love: Star Trek: Into Darkness


There is a lot of fandom angst about the second JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, and yes, the “he’s not Khan, but wait! He’s Khan” publicity thing was really stupid. Overall the second film lacked the same level of humor that made the first one so enjoyable, but this cast has great charisma and JJ toned down the lens flare to more manageable levels. Also Benedict Cumberbatch is in it and he shoots people with a giant laser gun and speaks in a growly voice and yes, I am a fangirl. What of it?

 

And those are the bulk of my thoughts on movies that I saw in 2013. What movies have I missed?

Leslie's Films in 2013 Review Part 1: Krypton, Gods, Lots of Beer & Zombies (Again)

So yesterday I took into consideration the general blah-ness I felt towards pop culture in 2013 and pulled out some of my personal highlights for television. Today we hit up movies. Yet another area where mediocrity seemed to be the norm. We didn’t see nearly as many movies this year as previous years and there are some we missed completely that may have turned out good. Here is part 1 of my highlights for films in 2013.

Movie I Was Honestly Surprised to Enjoy As Much As I Did: Thor: The Dark World


I was completely indifferent to the first Thor film. It was okay, but I enjoyed Captain America more (which is saying something, since I was indifferent to that one too). Perhaps it was the Tom Hiddleston’s dance tour that got me jazzed for it or maybe it was genuinely more enjoyable, but The Dark World had a spark that the first was missing. The plot was super silly, but it works for a movie about Asgardian gods.

Movie that Contributed to my Confusion towards Crushing on Zombies: Warm Bodies


I’m not sure what it says about me that I have never had a fangirl crush on Nicholas Holt until they put him in zombie makeup. This was the year’s other great book-to-movie adaptation. It’s a strange little film for a strange little book.

Best Movie that Wasn’t: Man of Steel


This was the very best movie of the year until Krypton blew up and cardboard not-Matt-Bomer went on his walkabout of heroism. The visuals, the technology, even Russell Crow – that was the movie I wanted, the war that led to Krypto’s demise. Everything after Clark lands on Earth was rehashed back story, stupid, nonsensical plot points (seriously, with the dad and the dog thing?) and explosions for the sake of explosions.

Movie Where I Felt Someone Had Spiked My Drink: The World’s End


What did I just watch? This was completely bonkers and yet tonally different from the other two films in the trilogy. Perhaps it’s Simon Pegg playing the slacker instead of the straight man, but something about this movie left me flabbergasted and I felt like I was the one drinking 12 pints. Nearly six months later and I still haven’t decided if I liked it or not.

 

Tune back in tomorrow for more highlights (and not so highlights) of film in 2013. What movies are on your favorites list?

Leslie's Favorite Television of 2013: Robots, Clones, Superheroes & Crazy Vampires

There is something about 2013 entertainment in general that has me feeling a little down. Looking back on the year of television, movies, video games and even books, I’m having a hard time truly getting that excited about much that I consumed. So instead of a favorites list, here is part one of my random thoughts about the best (and not so great) of 2013.

Favorite New Show: Almost Human

I will admit that the most recent episodes have had some issues, particularly when it comes to portraying females, but this is still the most fun I’ve had with a new show in quite some time. The relationship between Karl Urban’s Kennex and Michael Ealy’s Dorian holds the show up even when the gender politics start becoming a little uncomfortable and plot lines get a little silly. I hope this series catches on and the writers can find their feet because this has the potential to become a really fun science fiction escape. Plus Urban on my television every week will never get old.

Favorite New Show Not Involving Robots: Orphan Black


What is Tatiana Maslany? It’s a rare talent to play so many characters and have the ability to make them all unique and identifiable at a glance. Just with a shift of posture and a subtle change of expression and she becomes a different clone. From beginning to end, this science fiction clone show is phenomenal and more people should be watching it. The second season begins in April and it can’t come soon enough. What other show will you see someone dancing in a laser-filled club while waving a man’s tale around in the air?

Most Anticipated Weekly Watch: Arrow


What has happened to Arrow? When did it become so awesome? Building out the world to include the League of Assassins, Barry Allen and assorted DC villains and heroes has worked well for the series and Oliver’s task of protecting the city while following a new moral code have been fascinating to watch. After the midseason finale, I can’t wait to see what the second half of the second season has in store and hope that the awesomeness can continue.

Show Most Likely to Have No Idea What It’s Doing: The Vampire Diaries


Don’t even ask me to tell you what’s going on this season. It’s a jumbled mess of crazy, and not necessarily the good kind of crazy either. New characters are introduced and disappear a few episodes later. Entire plot lines come and go without much effect on the rest of the story. Character development gets thrown in the trash when it’s convenient to the story, so everyone seems to be working multiple personalities. I continue to watch, but it’s no longer a must-watch-day-of type of show. (True Blood was a close second choice for this one for all the same reasons - what is up with these vampire shows?)

Most Surprisingly Awesome Import: The Returned


Zombies that aren’t zombies in a French import with subtitles? The hype was well deserved for this 8 hour mini-series. It’s French, so it’s left wide open and nothing is really spoon fed to you as far as explanations go. It makes the entire thing a little more creepy and haunting. This isn’t your standard American zombie gorefest, but something far more subtle that is way more frightening.

Show that Won Us Over After a Second Chance: New Girl


This was actually my Most Disappointing Show for 2011. The slow motion chicken dance in the third or fourth episode was far too twee for my taste. After many people recommended it to us, we gave it a second try. Zooey Deschunal is still too quirky for the sake of being quirky, but the rest of the show turned out to be pretty fun.

 

What shows were your favorites in 2013? I'm always open to new awesome!

Leslie's Favorite Reads of 2013: Time Travel, Aliens and, Of Course, Zombies

I actually hit my goal of reading 100 books in 2013, barely squeaking out that last book just a day or two before the end of the year. Despite the long list of reads, I found myself having a difficult time remembering enough awesome books I’d read to justify a Best Books of 2013 list. Nothing immediately jumped to mind like with last year’s list when Feed, Robopocalypse, Dearly, Departed and Cinder refused to let my brain go months after reading them.

Of the 100 books I read, I rated only 1 with a single star and five others with 2 stars. That seems pretty good, right? Another 26 got three stars, though looking at the list, some of those might need to be demoted. The bulk of my reads got 4 stars with 44 books landing in that category. And yet there aren’t that many in the list that I would be happy to revisit.

What was even more bizarre that, of the 24 books I rated 5 stars, not many of them truly got me excited to write another word about them. Most of the year was spent reading the second books in series that didn’t live up to their predecessors or the final books in series that just made me depressed with boredom. Despite that, I was able to pull together a list of 8 books that I could honestly recommend with a happy heart and a clear conscious.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – This was one of only three books that came to mind when I started to compile this list. I was happy to find that Meyer recreated the magic of Cinder despite adding an entirely different story line and a new set of characters. It was difficult to put the book down from beginning to end and it even distracted me from an on-going illness, so you know it must have been good.

Something Strange & Deadly / A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard – I thought I’d read SS&D ages before, not as my first read of 2013, but Darkness was going to be on this list anyway. Dennard created a new sort of zombie thriller with steampunk elements, highly amusing side characters and a truly amazing heroine with a mind of her own and an attitude that was a match to any of her male counterparts. Though Dennard made me wait 200 pages until the dashingly ungentlemanly Daniel made an appearance in the sequel, it didn’t dampen the fun and excitement of the story. I have high hopes for the final book in the series and hope it will break me out of the series ending blues I’ve found myself in.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – The world needs more alien books where the aliens are both creepy and yet certain “bad guys” are steeped in shades of gray. Yancey got my heart pounding and in return I beat the book against my couch repeatedly in my strange way to encourage the characters to RUN FASTER. Despite being the first of a series, there were answers without the explanation police stepping in and yet still so much mystery that I need more NOW!

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman – I discovered Angry Robot publishing in 2013, which is probably the most fortuitous moments of my blogging career. Though vN and iD didn’t make this list, they were some of the most unique and intriguing reads I’ve set my eyes on in ages. Newman’s start to her faerie series, The Split Worlds, left me a little speechless with its vivid world building and her ability to somehow make faeries living concurrently with the real world make sense. It was one of the books I truly couldn’t put down. I can’t believe I haven’t made it on in the series, but that’s definitely a goal for 2014.

Three by Jay Posey – Speaking of Angry Robot, I couldn’t leave this book out of my top of 2013 with a clear conscience. I was blown away with this book and Posey’s narrative style. It is nothing like I’ve read before and takes played out tropes from horror and western genres to mold them into something new and creepy and exciting. And then the ending knocked me off my feet, leaving me stunned and with no idea of where this series is headed. That, of course, just left me wanting more.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – Another book where I had no expectations or idea where things were going to go. That worked out for the best with this twisty time travel story that actually made sense. I wasn’t really able to write much of a review of the book back in August and I write one now because this is one book best read blind. Having no idea what to expect or any preconceived ideas on plot made this an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas – I wasn’t overly enthusiastic for Throne of Glass, probably because by the time I read it, the entire blogosphere was going nuts over it and too many people were comparing it to Game of Thrones. Despite that – because I am a completest that can’t stop a series in the middle – I picked up the sequel and was delighted by its mix of romance and wizardry. Putting Celaena in the awkward position of working for the man she hates most while she falls for the head of the guard made for an exciting set up. COM built extensively on the mythology started in TOG, which combined with the action to become a fun ride full of adventure and drama.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chang – What is a favorites list without one comic series? I read a lot of DC comics this fall, catching up on all my favorite characters’ adventures in the New 52. Unfortunately the Bat Family stories got incredibly convoluted and twisted together, and while Batwoman and Nightwing remain my favorites and Batman & Robin started winning me over towards the end, it was Wonder Woman that really surprised me. Azzarello and Chang surround Diana with mythological gods and fantastical wars between super-powered deities to great and surprising effect. It thrilled me while at the same time making me depressed that no one seems to be able to create a viable film showcasing the awesome that is Wonder Woman. This is unlike any of the other DC comics I picked up this year and it benefits from going a little out there.

In retrospect, my reading list for 2013 was severely lacking in science fiction, which could explain my general blah-ness towards the year’s books. It’s all heavy on YA romance fantasy, so perhaps some adjustments will have to be made for 2014.

What are some of your favorites from 2013? I need some great books to add to my 2014 TBR mountain.