Saturday, December 14, 2013

Best In Geek 2013 - Part 1: Andrew's Picks

Best In Geek 2013-Part 1 By Andrew O’Brien

So I’ve been writing a few articles for Idle Hands over the last couple months, and it occurred to me that you (yes, you again) the reader knows nothing about me. And I mean nothing. All you know is that I went to NYCC, and read some Image and Dark Horse comics once in a while. Personally, I think this is a travesty and you should know a few more things about me, but I’m not just gonna write a personal ad and drone on and on about myself. No, I’m gonna make this fun, and what’s more fun than an END OF THE YEAR AWARDS SHOW! (Well not a show, per se. You get the point.) It’s December, and each year I like to take some time and reflect on the last 12 months in media and pick my favorites. I’ve done this twice before on a podcast I host once in a while, and I thought this would be the best thing to bring to Idle Hands.  The categories are as Follows:
Best Ongoing Series
Best Writer
Best Artist
Best Publisher
Best Limited Series
Best Story Arc
Best New Series
Most Dangerous Book (more on this one later)
Best Surprise
Most Disappointing
Best Hero
Best Villain
Best Single Issue
Best Movie
Best Live-Action TV Show
Best Cartoon
Best Video Game
We’re gonna start this from the bottom and move up from there. (Cause who likes lists that start from the top?) Let’s get this started. Wait wait wait no. Let’s pump the brakes here. This is the internet, so I need to put out a disclaimer. (In bold, italicized underlined letters of course)
Disclaimer:  These are my personal opinions. I am not the Internet. I repeat I am not the Internet. If you want me to reassure your unnatural love for Scott Snyder and Chris Bachalo, you came to the wrong place. If you want places that will affirm your extreme affections, I know some. Also, this doesn’t mean I dislike creators like that. They are really good... I just don’t love them unconditionally like the Internet seems to. If they’re your favorites, good for you, more power to you.. (Snyder was actually a runner-up for Best Writer, but I can’t justify it when he pretty much only writes Batman and there are three astoundingly mediocre issues in-between Death of the Family and Zero Year.) So there you go. disclaimer.
Ok NOW here we go.
Best Video Game: Bioshock: Infinite (Irrational Games)
This was a banner year for the gaming industry with the arrival of the next generation of consoles. And that last generation ended with a bang. This was a tough decision, but Bioshock: Infinite stood above the rest. If you’re out of the loop, Bioshock: Infinite was a First-Person Shooter set in the early 20th Century in the fictional city of Columbia which floats high above the land. You play as Booker DeWitt, a mysterious man sent to Columbia with a simple job; to find and rescue Elizabeth. The gameplay was fantastic with the balance of a weapon in one hand and a superpower in the other. The story was, by far, the best of all video games this year with excellent plot twists and intriguing characters. I think one of the best parts of the game is that it takes the best parts of Bioshock and improves upon it. The added dimension of Elizabeth’s time capabilities makes the entire experience highly innovative. The world of Columbia was so refined and immersive that I was fully dedicated to exploring every square inch of it. I was hopelessly addicted to this game for its longer than modest play time.
Runner-Up #1: Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)- The last installment of GTA was definitely innovative and a lot of fun, yet I found myself falling into the same trappings of past GTAs where I would abandon the story just to cause random chaos. I also had some nitpicks that annoyed me as the game went how there were absolutely no cops until you committed a crime.
Runner Up #2: The Last Of Us- Naughty Dog makes fantastic games which could be turned into great movies, and The Last of Us is no exception. Unfortunately, The Last of Us was probably a movie I wouldn’t be interested in. It was a lot of fun, but I thought it ended suddenly and without much resolution. If it was only an hour or two longer it would have most likely been Game of the Year.
Best Cartoon: The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon)
This was the opposite of my Video Games conundrum. It really was. Last year, there was a real contest for best cartoon, but with the losses of Young Justice, Green Lantern, and sub-par Marvel animation, Korra rises above the rest. (Ultimate Spider-Man sucks.) Although Book 2 (Spirits) is not as tight and well-executed as Book 1, the positive aspects shine through. If you haven’t been watching (and the ratings swing shows a large chunk of you haven’t been), this season continues Korra’s time as the Avatar while her uncle, the water tribe chief, makes a grab for power over the entire civilized world using  dark spirits. The characters are all well thought out and solid. Varik, a Tony Stark/Walt Disney combination, is quite possibly the best. The expansion of the families both in Tenzin’s and Korra’s lives were both great progressions for the characters. There is a fantastic balance between comedy, drama, and action. The romance was less of a focus, but you have to admit it was fairly unnecessary in the story they were telling.  The family theme that runs throughout the entire show is strengthened further throughout this season, and overall the show continues to be delightful and complicated. 
Runner Ups: None (Avengers Assemble sucks too.) (Beware the Batman is just ok)
Best Live-Action TV Show: The Newsroom (HBO)
This year I discovered HBO. (I know. I Know I’m late to the game.) Oh, and yes I do watch Game of Thrones. It’s what got me into HBO, but I just can’t love fantasy enough. (Maybe next year. I hear the second half of Book 3 is better than the first half.) After Game of Thrones ended I went looking for more shows and discovered The Newsroom. This Aaron Sorkin show about a 24 hour news network as it tries to shift from unopinionated and safe to a 24 hour news station I would watch, is easily the fastest show I’ve ever related to. Jeff Daniels is Will McAvoy, the lead anchor of ACN’s primetime show, and he is tremendous to the point where I can’t even believe he was Jim Carey’s opposite in Dumb and Dumber. The rest of the cast is also great, and if you need any further incentive beyond my words, here are two more. Olivia Munn. The dialogue is snappy and hilarious in that classic Sorkin fashion. (if you’re not sure what that is watch The Social Network before checking this out.) The characters are relatable and quite possibly the most human of any on television. If you’re not into politics, don’t worry, because The Newsroom is more about the people presenting the news than the news itself.
Runner Up #1: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special (BBC)- This was so good that I wish I could justify one episode as the best TV series of the year. Unfortunately, I can’t, but this was definitely the best episode of Doctor Who in a while, so take that as you will.
Runner Up #2: Arrow (CW)- At this point you’re probably sitting there going, “What? No Walking Dead or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Really?” Yes, really, because Arrow is best comic book based TV show on right now. Period. Not only is it surprisingly engaging, but it’s also fantastic at building the DC Universe. I would have never expected anyone to be able to build the DCU around Green Arrow, but they’ve done it.
And speaking of DC world-building….
Best Movie: Man of Steel (Warner Bros)
This is probably my most controversial pick. The undisputed box office hit (making just over $650 million in it’s stay in cinemas) was also the most debated film of the year due to a few questionable choices Snyder and Goyer made...but I’m not here to argue Man of Steel’s morality. I’m here to praise its victory. There are so many positive things to say about this movie. First and foremost, Henry Cavil is Superman; aking the character completely his own, which is refreshing since Brandon Routh was pretty much a clone of Christopher Reeves. I loved how Krypton was an actual planet people could live on instead of the barren ice wasteland we’ve accepted for over 30 years. Snyder had some big shoes to fill following both the Donner films and Smallville, but I think he worked out wonderfully without blatantly copying what came before. I’m getting a little tired of origin movies (especially since Superman had a 10 year origin TV series), but the way Snyder utilized flashbacks and Clark’s in-between years to tell this story worked excellently. And we can’t forget about the action! The fight sequences in Smallville and Metropolis were by far the best of the year. Even with horrible product placement, the film makers still showed the kind of excitement people have been looking for in a Superman film since the production of a Superman film was first announced. As far as building the DC Cinematic Universe, Man of Steel wasn’t as in your face as Iron Man’s last scene, but it still had many references to such things as Lex Luthor, Bruce Wayne, and even a little Green Lantern. In a year following the epic movie year of 2012, Man of Steel does a great job of getting us ready for the oncoming storm of fantastic comic book movies.
Runner Up #1: Thor: The Dark World (Marvel Studios)- The second installment of the Thor solo franchise was superior to it’s predecessor solo film, which is very high praise to Alan Taylor who managed to direct a better film than the great Kenneth Branaugh! As expected, the main villain was overshadowed by the incomparable Hiddleston as Loki, and the overall film wasn’t as sleek as it could’ve been if they’d trimmed some of the unnecessary scenes.
Runner Up #2: Pacific Rim (Warner Bros)- This year was a banner year for innovative, original science fiction and Pacific Rim was by the far the best. The action sequences rivaled Man of Steel’s and the Jaegers were the coolest things since the Megazord. Unfortunately, some laughably mediocre acting and strange plot holes made this title fall back from the top spot.
That’s it for now folks. Join me next week when we start to discuss the important stuff. Comics!

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