Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010: Music

1. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
2. Daft Punk - Tron Legacy
3. Spoon - Transference
4. The Black Keys - Brothers
5. Cage The Elephant (2009)
6. The Golden Hits of Louis Prima
7. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
8. She & Him - Volume Two
9. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
10. Weezer - Hurley

I didn't buy a ton of music in 2010, and didn't find a lot that I loved. I bought two Weezer albums (Hurley & Death to False Metal) which were, respectively, disappointing and *really* disappointing. Likewise, the She & Him follow-up, while solid, wasn't as good as their first album.

However, Mumford & Sons was a revelation, and the Tron Legacy soundtrack was as good as the movie was bad. Spoon's latest was a solid offering, and the Black Keys' new album was a good listen as well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010: Movies

Top 5 Movies of 2010
1. Inception
2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
3. Toy Story 3
4. Iron Man 2
5. How To Train Your Dragon

I saw only a dozen movies in theaters last year, and I saw about that many this year, too, if you count the viewings at Paramount of classics like Casablanca and The Thin Man movies. My "if you know it's going to be a shitty blockbuster, skip it" philosophy continues to work for me, although I did get suckered in by Tron Legacy. I also saw The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but I knew what I was getting into with that one, and I saw Karate Kid, but that was for Katy, and she liked it and I found it tolerable, at least.

There were disappointments, though. I thought Shutter Island was OK, but probably not worth a theater viewing. Ditto The Good, The Bad and The Weird, which had an *amazing* trailer but I found the story just bewildering, and the action often disappointing.

Overall, though, my top five represents a pretty good series of films, I think. Any of the first three could easily be my favorite movie of the year, and my love for them is separated out by only the barest of degrees. And Kick-Ass just barely misses the cut-off, as does the Spanish film [REC] 2, which is even better than the first one. But I couldn't make room for 10 great movies in 2010 without including movies I haven't seen, so I left it at top five this year. If I'm being 100% honest, [REC] 2 is probably better than Iron Man 2 and How To Train Your Dragon, but I'm much more likely to rewatch the latter two, so the genre (horror, not my favorite) drops it a couple points for me.

On DVD was another story. I saw a couple through Netflix that I missed in theaters: Daybreakers, Hot Tub Time Machine and The Losers. In every case, I was glad I didn't pay theater money to see them. The Losers was the worst of the bunch, I didn't even finish it.

Of course, I missed a few in theaters just because I haven't had time to see them. I wanted to see Megamind, Despicable Me and Due Date, although it sounds like I may have dodged a bullet with that last one. I also wanted to see The Warrior's Way, but I expect it's not as interesting as the trailers make it look, ditto for Machete and Predators.

I am legitimately sad that I haven't made time for Black Swan or True Grit, but I expect I'll see those on Blu-ray in 2011.

On Netflix streaming and DVD, I filled a few holes in my cinematic education, as well as watching a few movies from the last year or two that I'd heard were good. Despite my general disinterest in documentaries, I found both The King of Kong and This Film Is Not Yet Rated pretty compelling, although the latter was a bit too strident in its point of view. When I agree with you and I still find you preachy, that's a problem.

From recent years, I caught Moon (great sci-fi), Black Dynamite (way more funny than I expected), Sunshine Cleaning (disappointing indie-by-numbers), The Goods (hysterical comedy with a great cast, Craig Robinson steals the show as DJ Request) and Cashback (great little British twenty-something angsty romance with a narrative trick I really liked, and guest starring the gorgeous Michelle Ryan).

Going a bit further back, I watched Excalibur (liked it OK, didn't love it), Dr. Strangelove (bizarre and fun, but I probably won't watch it ever again), Donnie Brasco (solid if cliched crime thriller), The Man With Two Brains (one of Steve Martin's weirder and weaker movies, but funny in parts) and Jaws (just as good as everyone always said it was).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best of 2010: TV

Top 20 TV Shows in 2010
1. Terriers Season One (FX)
2. Breaking Bad Season Three (AMC)
3. Boardwalk Empire Season One (HBO)
4. Community Season Two (NBC)
5. Treme Season One (HBO)
6. Lost Season Six (ABC)
7. Louie (FX)
8. Parks & Recreation Season Two (NBC)
9. Party Down Season Two (STARZ)
10. Archer Season One (FX)
11. Chuck Season Three and Four (NBC)
12. Rubicon Season One (AMC)
13. Sherlock Season One (BBC)
14. Better Off Ted Season Two (ABC)
15. 30 Rock Season Five (NBC)
16. Cougar Town Season Two (ABC)
17. Modern Family Season Two (ABC)
18. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season Six (FX)
19. The Walking Dead Season One (AMC)
20. Castle Seasons One - Three (ABC)

Favorite Hour-Long: Terriers (FX)
There's no competition here. Boardwalk Empire is close, Breaking Bad is closer, but there was no question in my mind that Terriers was my favorite new show this year. It might be my favorite new show of the past five years. So of course it was under-rated, under-watched and canceled. But it was a perfect single season, which takes the sting out a bit. And Treme was fantastic, although it was early enough in the year that I forgot it in early drafts of this list.

Lost had an ending that I liked quite a bit, and while I understand the disappointment of many, I don't share it. However, while I did enjoy it, looking back, Breaking Bad probably should have topped my 2009 list, and Lost did lose some ground to pretty amazing competition on cable.

Chuck, a consistent favorite, is just outside the top 10. I'm still very much enjoying the show, but it hasn't been as consistently great as it was in season two, which in retrospect was kind of the peak of the show. Rubicon just misses the top 10, largely because of its weak ending, but the rest of the show was really, really good. And Sherlock sits further down than it otherwise might because there were only three episodes, and it honestly feels like cheating to consider it anything but a miniseries.

Then there are the procedurals. TV is lousy with these "formula of the week/weak arc" shows, and I don't have patience for a lot of them. Hawaii 5-0, probably the strongest new network show that wasn't immediately canceled, doesn't make my Top 20... it might squeak into the bottom of a Top 25. I finally started watching Castle, and while I still feel like Nathan Fillion isn't getting to use his full range there, I can now see the appeal. I also continue to enjoy Burn Notice and Leverage, although both can occasionally lapse into basic cable cheesiness, the kind of thing that put me off White Collar and Covert Affairs, and both just missed the cut-off for the top 20.

The Walking Dead sits a lot lower on my list than many critics, but that's because I felt like the 6-episode season was a bit rushed and the characters were more of the USA/TNT caliber than what I expect from AMC. Good, with potential, but not as great as many are claiming.

Doctor Who just barely misses the list, and it would have rated higher had more of the episodes been of the quality of the first episode that introduced Matt Smith, who I think is doing a great job as the Doctor. Despite how much I like him (and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond), the stories have been very standard Doctor Who material for me, not as engaging as Steven Moffat's one-off episodes or most of the other shows he's run.

Also just missing the top 20 cut-off is Dexter Season Five, which had a pretty solid arc with Julia Stiles and a good scenery-chewing villain in Jonny Lee Miller, but was very much in the Dexter formula. I like the show, but I don't love it the way I did in season one.

Best Comedy: Community (NBC)
As with Terriers, there really isn't anyone even close. Much as I loved, and laughed at, Party Down and Archer, Community has shown a willingness to experiment with format that is matched only by how well that experimental spirit pays off in big laughs. One of the most talented ensemble casts on TV, matched with some of the best comedy writing we've seen this decade. And, of course, it's rated much lower than a lot of really poor comedy on TV.

Better Off Ted was another one like that. Great show, got a second season largely due to the strike and the need for fresh content, and was funnier and smarter than most of the comedy on TV. Too funny and smart for the vast majority of the modern sitcom audience, of course.

I don't know how Louie rates, but it almost doesn't matter, because it's so cheap for FX to make. And it's great. Dark, honest and unbelievably funny. I loved Louie C.K.'s stand-up, and I'm glad to see it translated so well into a half-hour comedy on TV.

Parks & Recreation, due to its low ratings, got held back for a midseason launch for its season three. A shame, since after a forgettable first season, it came back strong as one of the funniest shows on network TV, just behind Community, actually. NBC's comedy block is actually stronger than it's been in years, but long-in-the-tooth favorites like The Office and inexplicably green-lit crap like Outsourced keep it from becoming "Must See" again.

Speaking of NBC comedies, 30 Rock has gotten off ratings life support, but has struggled a bit creatively. It's still funny more often than not (unlike say, The Office), but it's only in the past few weeks that it has started hitting its stride consistently again.

More consistent, but alas not as funny at its peaks, is Cougar Town, which I finally gave a shot to despite it's horrid name. I found a fun ensemble comedy that is the heir to Bill Lawrence's Scrubs. Not as funny as Scrubs, unfortunately, but in that same ballpark.

Modern Family is another one that started strong, and had pretty great ratings, but hasn't been as consistent in season two. It's still very funny, though, when it's hitting its stride.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, now in its fifth season, is also uneven, but their boldness in terms of subject matter makes up for one-note characterization. And the occasional highs, like Lethal Weapon Five or the culmination of Dee's pregnancy, or Frank's charity dinner/the Gang lost in the woods episodes, make it worth watching.

Not making the cut is The Office, which had a few really funny episodes but many more that were just really weak, and How I Met Your Mother, which hasn't been consistently funny or clever in a while.

Weekly* Recap - December 27, 2010

God damn, Alamo Drafthouse Butter Beer is delicious.

The newest employee at Rogues Gallery: Mortimer T. Talkingstick

Neither Community nor Terriers are on AFI's Top 10 TV 2010 list. So I declare it invalid.

Watching Top Chef makes me hungry... but not for anything actually served on Top Chef. Same thing used to happen with Iron Chef. Mine is not a sophisticated palate. Give me comfort food any day.

Chris Schweizer draws the cast of Community... as the Avengers. So very awesome.

WTF? Favreau, Fincher and Del Toro, instead of creating projects based on their own ideas, are churning out theme-park-based films for Disney? And Aronofsky is doing Wolverine.... it's all just kinda sad. They may (hell, probably will) produce good movies out of these franchises, but... I wish they'd pull a Nolan and give us their own "Inception" instead.

Happily, I only saw one of these shitty films. I would have made it out at zero, but Craig Robinson and Rob Corrdry lured me into Hot Tub Time Machine. Bastards.

Saw Tron Legacy and... uh... the music is cool, at least. What a disappointment, even with my lowered expectations.

Another game of Fiasco played. There were no rape yetis this time. There were, however, Were-Seals. From both the KGB *and* the CIA.

After *another* game of Fiasco... I now know who really killed JFK. The mafia was involved... just not in the way expected. Nor did anyone expect the budding transsexual novelist to be the one to make it out the best of any of our cadre of criminally-minded characters.

I *love* Fiasco. And my parents got me the Fiasco T-Shirt (with Mall playset) for Christmas... I'll be playing more in the New Year.

Always nice when a customer tells you your shop is the best place he's ever shopped.

I'm way behind in making my Free Comic Book Day plans this year... I started (sort of) at NYCC, but this time last year I think my guest list had pretty much been set. Time to start sending out emails!

Things I'm already thankful to 2011 for #1: New Xombi series by John Rozum!

Pandora Christmas station found a duet on Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Frank Sinatra... and Cyndi Lauper. Well played, Pandora.

Here's a sentence I never expected to post: I just bought tickets for the Austin Ballet Nutcracker performance. Katy was really excited about it, so we did a father-daughter trip on the Thursday before Christmas.

I am now the proud owner of a new iPod and Bluray player, among several other gifts from friends and family. It was a good Christmas. The iPod in particular allowed me to take some video and pictures of the kids getting their Christmas presents.

Also? Turns out a surprising number of people drive between Dallas and Austin on Christmas Day around midnight. And it also turns out that driving from Dallas to Austin with the check engine light on the whole time was *not* tempting fate, as I feared it might be.

I *love* when Jon Stewart gets angry. Because this is a total evisceration of the hypocrisy of the GOP. Shame it won't make a tiny shred of difference, because he's just preaching to the converted. (Or maybe it did... everyone started picking up on this story after The Daily Show covered it.)

Other Links:
This Word Lens app is pretty awesome.

Chris Sims digs into Sage Advice for some of the weirdest questions ever asked about D&D. And it's *gold*

No agenda here, I just think it's a funny piece by Ricky Gervais.

I love my city.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weekly* Recap - December 11, 2010

*Not really - More like every few weeks

Rest In Peace, Leslie Nielsen.

Roku remote broke, after only having it for a month, maybe two. Good news is, there's an iPod app that can sub as a Roku remote. Bad news is, the iPod is usually out of the house with me, and the Roku is mostly for Suzanne and the kids. The other bad news is that the Roku remote was apparently a cheap piece of crap.

Early Christmas present for the gaming group from Chris. Awesome.

The Tron Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk does not disappoint.

Food Blogging:
Apparently it is impossible for my local HEB to keep Sweet Leaf regular flavor tea in stock. Mint, Diet, sure... regular, no.

I have learned something very important today. Potbelly has a sandwich called the Lucky 7 that is the Wreck and the Italian combined. #thisiswhyimfat

One of my New Year's resolutions is to lose (or at least not gain) weight. Another is to make sure and eat at any of the places on this list I haven't been to. For I am large (and getting larger) and contain many contradictions.

Terriers Finale:
I *loved* the finale of Terriers. And I was really, really hoping it was a season finale, not a series finale. We did another "commentary" podcast for the TV Dudes, and had a lot of fun talking about the show.

And sadly, the next week, the cancellation notice came down. This blows. It's understandable from a business standpoint, I can't really blame FX for the decision... so I blame everyone out there who has a Nielsen box and didn't watch it. The best show of 2010 gets canceled. Outsourced will probably get a 2nd season. TV, you are a total bitch whore.

Ted Griffin talks with Sepinwall about Terriers, and a key moment that would have been in season two.

There is a Terriers sized hole in my Wednesdays... that will never again be filled

Sunday is a pretty good night for TV: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Walking Dead. And I'm really enjoying that despite having read every issue of the comic, the Walking Dead show has mostly new stories for me.

So OK, there's no denying it now. I guess I'm a Top Chef watcher. Wow, most twenty-something chefs have *no* idea what kids will eat, do they? First episode, I loved Jamie, second episode, I think she's a kid-hatin' wuss.

Yay to Bravo for getting Anthony Bourdain to blog weekly for them. Boo for not having RSS feeds. Also, I'm quite certain Bourdain would be *horrified* by my taste in food, but that's OK... I watch him on TV, I'm not gonna eat with the dude.

The concept's a little... meh - but it's the creator of Better Off Ted making a new sitcom, so that's good news, at least.

In other good sitcom news, Sepinwall has seen all 6 episodes of Parks & Rec Season 3 that will be airing soon and declares it to be good.

Brainstorming possible Crocodile Dundee III ideas at work: Explosive Crocodile Nun-chucks to feature, possible title: Outback For Vengeance!

Having reached the halfway point of Annie Hall without anything to show for it other than a desire to strangle Woody Allen, I moved on to Jaws. Which was as great as advertised. Most intense knot-tying scene ever

Add to the list of Dark Horse's out-of-print list: Amazing Screw-On Head and Blacksad. Back in print? Only Umbrella Academy. Other publishers are guilty too: New Mouse Guard HC went out of print immediately, and Blackest Night is out just in time for the holidays.

And, of course, Spider-Man Noir has been out of print for months, despite much increased demand related to the Shattered Dimensions game. And despite the second volume, Eyes Without A Face, having just now come out.

Wow, a USA Today story *and* special strip in USAToday Online! This would be *fantastic* promotion if, y'know, the first volume of the Goon hadn't been inexplicably out of print for *months* now.

Previews: The "anticipated run" of Batman & Robin. Not "highly anticipated," but "anticipated." Way to sell excitement there, DC Marketing.

Previews: Deadpool/Cable #26, Wolverine #5.1, Wolverine #1000... Marvel is king of nonsense numbering.

Do people go into Best Buy and ask about the process of buying somewhere else online? Or do just comic shops get this particular joy?

If I had a nickel for every person who wanted to know what their Spawn #1 and Death of Superman were worth, I wouldn't have to sell comics.

Kevin Smith's CBR column is no real surprise. He's never handled criticism well. About as well as he handles writing Batman, actually.

I'm *very* excited to note that DC is finally collecting the Abnett/Lanning Legion Lost series in July 2011. In hardcover, no less! Hope it does well enough that they collect the rest of the series, especially Legion Worlds.

Yay, more cosmic from Abnett & Lanning! Boo, only 4 issues!

The Angry:
I swear, when I first saw this story, I thought it was real.

Because it's not so much more of a reach than their backscatter/fondling choice. This is an awesome choice. Do I get life-threatening radiation or felt up by TSA agents? Even better, next time I fly with my kids, I get to make that choice for them.

New Christmas wish: I wish the Westboro Baptist Church would burn. to. the. fucking. ground. Preferably with the congregation in it.

Part of me wants to be glad the Democrats finally grew a spine. *Most* of me wants to know where it was when this fight would have been helpful, instead of detrimental to actually getting something done.