As with everyone else on the planet, I was such a huge fan of the first season of Serial, and couldn’t wait for the second season to start. After listening to just the first two episodes though, I was already ready to step away. It just didn’t grab me at all the way the first season did. I think it’s because what we’re getting this time is more of a whydunnit, and I was way more in the whodunnit of the first season, and the mystery that was evolving with each new episode. Here, it seems like everyone agrees on what happened, and it’s more about whether the suspect was justified or not. I’m not really interested in listening to that story, and so I’m out.
I watched the first two seasons of this a while back (when I was still in Japan), and recently decided to jump back in with season 3, and I gotta say that I’m really enjoying it, much more than I remembered. I’m sure it’s in part because of my current enthusiasm for all things Star Wars (well, most things Star Wars), but yeah, it’s well made, and easily surpasses what we saw from the prequels. It’s nice to know that I have a whole bunch more to get through, and that it’s all handily available through Netflix (and I think season 6 is in fact exclusive to Netflix).
I used to really like this show, but then stopped following it by the end of season 5 for no special reason. This past year I’ve been watching season 6 on Netflix, episodes here and there, and then last night finished off the season by watching the last 4-5 in a row. I gotta say that the last episode sure did feel like a (satisfying) series finale. It’s remained a fun show throughout – I especially liked the bits with that crazy board game towards the end of the season – and I’m looking forward to watching the short season 7 when it gets added to Netflix.
I’m aware of Bill Burr, having seen him on talk shows and the like, but I’m not really familiar with his style of comedy, so didn’t know what to expect from this new animated series that he created for Netflix. It debuted the other day, and I watched the first episode, and I liked it. It’s pretty damn funny, and I quite like the 1973 setting – and also that it can be more crass than shows on network TV. Definitely looking forward to watching more.
I mentioned earlier this year how I keep checking in on new sci-fi shows, hoping to finally get something that I really want to watch, and so far I keep getting disappointed after a couple of episodes. My latest attempt at watching a new sci-fi series is The Expanse, which at least has the pedigree of being based on a series of books that people seem to love (I haven’t read any of them). I’ve watched the first 2 episodes that have aired, and although I can’t say that I’m blown away by anything, I am appreciating the setting and look of the show, and you do get the feeling that a lot of thought went into producing it. I’m also getting a Babylon 5 vibe from it, which I like. And the way episode 2 ended, it really made me want to watch episode 3, to see what this Mars faction is like.
Always good to have Luther back for another go. I’m not sure if this fourth season is going to be 2 or 3 episodes long, but I’ll take whatever I can get. After watching the first episode, at first I didn’t like how it was taking too much time dealing with Alice, which I thought was going nowhere, but I guess I was wrong? I was happy to see him get back on a case though, and the criminal this time seems to be on par with what you’d expect from this series.
So here’s the second spy movie I see this year that is about losing trust from the people you work for, while you uncover an evil shadowy organization that is looking to destabilize the world. It really is eery how Rogue Nation follows the same basic blueprint as SPECTRE (and vice versa), but it didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the movie. It’s certainly one of the best in the series (along with the first one), and I absolutely loved Rebecca Ferguson’s role in it (and she, along with Alicia Vikander, have turned into my two new favorite actresses – funny how they both just happen to be Swedes). I still preferred SPECTRE, but that’s probably the Bond fanatic in me talking.
This is one of those movies that I’ve been meaning to watch all year – felt so much like something I’d really enjoy. What a fantastic little story, told in a delicate, if somewhat claustrophobic way, with great performances from everyone. When you see a movie get so much praise, it often leads to disappointment, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case here. Absolutely one of my favorite films of the year, and now part of my list of favorite 5 of the year. Can’t wait to see the next movie that Alex Garland directs.
The question is not really how much did I enjoy this movie, but rather, how many times will I go see it in theatres before I’m satisfied. The praise for this film seems pretty much universal – at least from the reactions from my friends I’m seeing on my social media timelines – but yeah, this was absolutely as good if not better as I think I could ever imagine getting. JJ absolutely gets what makes a good Star Wars movie, and I am truly bummed that he won’t be directing Episodes 8 and 9. Not only did I love the story, the visuals, the characters, but it was just a hell of a fun ride that I wanted to stay on forever. I lost track of how many times I welled up throughout, and my wife as well, who literally cried with joy when the opening scrawl started, and when the film ended. For me, there really was only one fault, and it’s that it ends, and didn’t just keep going… (And yes, it was added to my list of favorite 5 films of the year.)
It’s my annual tradition in December to write up a list of my favorite media that I consumed throughout the year, that was released that year (here’s my 2014 edition). This is a HIGHLY subjective list, and is made up of stuff that I liked the most out of the stuff I got to experience. As the title says, it’s not a “best of” list, it’s the stuff that tickled me the most, that excited me the most, that gave me joy, so basically, the stuff that rocked my world this year. Each category is made up of a top 5 that I list alphabetically, and then I include honorable mentions, to round things out. I do this every year as an exercise to reflect on the things that I took in throughout the year (which I try to log regularly here), and by sharing it, it can act as a recommendation sheet of things I’d tell anyone that they should check out.
Also, I do often update the list up until January, as I’ll often have forgotten to include something, or to add stuff that I’ll be experiencing over the coming weeks.
I usually have a separate category for mobile games, but I found that over the past year I’ve rarely been playing games that way. It’s not to say that there aren’t some great games that came out on mobile (like Lara Croft GO, which I’ve included below), but I didn’t end up playing enough of them to warrant a separate list.
- Destiny: The Taken King (PS4)
- Mario Kart 8 (DLC Pack 2) (Wii U)
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4)
- Splatoon (Wii U)
- Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Honorable Mentions: Broken Age (Mac), Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4), Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PS4), Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4/Vita), Her Story (Mac), Journey (PS4), Lara Croft GO (iOS), N++ (PS4), Super Mario Maker (Wii U), The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS), Undertale (Mac)
As I continue to move away from watching things on a weekly basis (with a few exceptions), instead preferring to wait for a full season to be done, you’ll probably find my choices to be light on things that launched in the fall.
- Game of Thrones
- Mad Men
- Master of None
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Honorable Mentions: Ash vs. Evil Dead,
Better Call Saul, Louie, Marvel’s Daredevil, Saturday Night Live, Sense8, Shameless, Star Wars Rebels, The Comeback Kid (John Mulaney stand-up special)
Let’s face it, there’s a very good chance that The Force Awakens will join this list. Or maybe it won’t. (Edit: It has.) Also, I’m noticing that I didn’t watch a lot of new movies this year (I watched a lot of movies, but not really stuff that was released this year). And I keep wanting to watch Ex Machina, which I think I’ll really like. (Edit: I did.)
- Ex Machina
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Assassin
- The Force Awakens
Honorable Mentions: Chappie, Hotel Transylvania 2, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Martian, Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
I had a really hard time coming up with a favorite 5 in this category – my only clear favorite albums this year were California Nights and Ibeyi. I did love a ton of great records this year though, and I could easily have added more to my “Honorable Mentions” list, but tried to keep it relatively short.
- California Nights (Best Coast)
- Ego Death (The Internet)
- Ibeyi (Ibeyi)
- I Want to Grow Up (Colleen Green)
- No Cities to Love (Sleater-Kinney)
Honorable Mentions: Acorn Man (Wild Billy Childish & CTMF), Art Angels (Grimes), Before the World Was Big (Girlpool), Brace the Wave (Lou Barlow), Currents (Tame Impala), Depression Cherry (Beach House), Eurydice (Moonsocket), Every Open Eye (Chvrches), In Color (Jamie XX), Magnifique (Ratatat), Slowtown Now! (Holly Golightly), Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Courtney Barnett), Teens of Style (Car Seat Headrest), Thank Your Lucky Stars (Beach House), Time to Go Home (Chastity Belt), V (Wavves)
As I say every year, I tend to read serialized stuff throughout the year, and then catch up on great graphics novels at the end of the year and beyond (for example, I haven’t read Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying yet, which I’m sure I’ll love), but here’s what I can say are most of my favorite things I was reading this year.
- Billy Bat
- Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels
- Southern Bastards
- The Multiversity
Honorable Mentions: Avengers/New Avengers (written by Jonathan Hickman), Doctor Strange, Head Lopper, James Bond, Star Wars comics (Star Wars, Darth Vader, Lando, Kanan), Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses, Sunny, The Goddamned, The Legacy of Luther Strode, Vision, Zero