Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Films of 2012

2012 was a very good year for film. And it was a year that I was actually able to see a lot of new movies, which is very pleasing to me. These are my ten most enjoyed releases of 2012, stacked in order of the least and the most appealing to my own bias and taste. For the most part my picks aren't very surprising, but the order, I think, may be. And boy, the order was excruciating to set. Please enjoy. 

10. The Amazing Spider-Man 
The first entry in this new series of Spider-Man movies delivers in comedy, action, drama and romance. Andrew Garfield is perfect for this movie's new, hipster Peter Parker, and the wonderful Emma Stone works well to create an adorable romance between the two. The new Spidey suit is very cool and looks great as the webhead flings himself around as the agile, corny-joke-telling super hero I love to see Spider-Man portrayed as. Lizard gets his movie debut that felt criminally absent in Raimi's trilogy, and the action is quite entertaining to watch. It's a promising start to what I'm sure is going to be a stellar series of movies. 

9. The Watch
Yeah, I really liked this movie. Don't judge me! It's incredibly entertaining, with joke after stupid, stupid joke. The main cast of four - Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade - work very well off of each other and create a big, dumb atmosphere that is impossible for me not to enjoy. From the budding, calm start to the ridiculous conclusion, The Watch is a killer comedy.

8. Wreck-It Ralph
This movie made me feel good to be a gamer. It's filled with in-jokes for gamers and it's a big love letter to gaming culture. But it's not just that. It's a movie about accepting who you are and who your neighbors are. It's about not putting people down for being something other than a shining example of perfection. Most of all, though, it's a fun movie with bursting, colorful animation, good comedy, and endearing characters. It's a good time. 

7. Skyfall
Skyfall is the only James Bond movie I've ever seen. And I'd say it's probably a pretty good one to start with. Skyfall is a well-constructed thriller. There are lots of creative, big set-pieces; perhaps the best of which is the movie's first scene. Daniel Craig pulls off a super-cool secret agent that may be past his prime, and his bad guy adversary is equally compelling.  It kept me on the edge of my seat until it finished, and by the end I was nothing but satisfied. 

6. The Campaign
Democrat Cam Brady, played by Will Ferrell, vs. Republican Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis, is an awesome set-up for a movie. And it is, indeed, an awesome movie. It's a lot like Step Brothers in that it is absolutely ridiculous with its comedy. The movie gets more and more bonkers as it progresses, which makes guessing how much further it's going to go half of the fun. It also serves as satire on America's political discourse, poking fun at our dogmatic fear of terrorism, extreme rejection of Marxism, strong patriotism, and unwavering religious faith. Tons of fun. 

5. Django Unchained
Just as Skyfall served as my introduction to James Bond, Django Unchained served as my introduction to Quentin Tarantino's movies. And what an introduction. Django Unchained is one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. This movie goes as far as an R rating would allow it go with its violence, crude humor and profuse language. The action is incredibly bloody and very, very satisfying. The movie is absolutely hilarious, and all it really does is take simple situations and inflate them with shouting, f-bombs and flesh practically bursting apart. The conclusion takes the crazy bar and shoots it up even more. It's brilliant, really. 

4. The Dark Knight Rises
I love Batman. And I love Nolan's Batman trilogy. With Rises, Nolan finishes the series of movies in style. Christian Bale delivers what may be his best performance of the three films, as a Bruce Wayne that is more troubled than ever before in these movies. Anne Hathaway successfully pulls off the cunning, sharp and sexy role of Catwoman. And Tom Hardy is simply horrifying as Bane, this movie's villain. This movie has a big, epic plot that fires at all cylinders. It does this saga the justice not that it deserves, but that it needs. 

3. The Avengers
The talent behind this movie knows exactly what makes these characters so compelling, which is why The Avengers succeeds. Captain America is the inspiring hero that stands only for good. Iron Man is a cocky, self-absorbed genius that is cool enough to do some good. Thor is a noble God that is entrenched in mythology and comically out of place in the human world. Hulk smashes things. Loki is a fun, goofy villain. And Hawkeye and Black Widow are also here. The epic, energetic action sequence that seemingly lasts around forty-five minutes at the climax of the movie is truly a sight to behold, and that is because the filmmakers knew exactly how to use these awesome characters. 

2. Brave
At the end of my list-making process, I was surprised to see just how high this movie made it. The movie looked like it was going to be another Cars-quality-outing, which was very disappointing to me as a big Pixar fan. As it turns out, the movie is so much better than Cars, and actually manages to be in the top five best of Pixar's films, in my humble opinion.  The story of Merida and her Mother learning to properly love each other is immensely charming, and its themes of family, fate and love really connected with me. It's a gorgeous movie aesthetically, with some of Pixar's most vivid and expressive animation. My biggest surprise of 2012 and a very pleasant one. 

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
I cried. I smiled. I laughed. But I mostly cried. The other picks in this list were exceedingly hard to place, but putting this movie at the number one spot was an easy decision. This movie is delicately perfect. Subtle changes would have caused the film to simply crumble apart. What we get here is a moving story about childhood trauma, the pains of being a troubled teenager, and friendship, that is heart-wrenchingly grounded in reality. I was hit really hard by this movie. When I said I cried, it was mostly tears of sorrow, but when the movie ended triumphantly and joyously, I cried the most, and those tears were not of sorrow, but of bliss. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favorite film of 2012. 


I also saw Ted (pretty good), Lincoln (meh), and Frankenweenie (blech). I unfortunately did not see This is 40, Paranorman, Hotel Transylvania, The Hobbit, and The Guilt Trip, each of which may have made it on the list. 


What were your favorite movies of 2012? Dislike some of my picks? Lemme know in the comments below. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Love is Real (Fiction) - Christmas Special!

I wrote this for my Public Speaking class. It's goodish!


"Christmas, daddy!" Kate said.
"Christmas is coming, I'm so excited!" Kate said.
"Christmas, Katie!" Dad said.
"Christmas is coming, I can't wait either!" Dad said.

"But, Daddy," she started.
"Yes, my dear, what have you to say? Go on." Dad said.
"What about Santa, Dad?"
"Oh." Dad began "Yes, he will come this year, Katie."

"What happened last year, Dad?"
"Well you see Kate, times are tough, for everybody."
"Is it better now, Dad?"
Dad paused for a good bit. "A little bit, maybe."

"Do you promise he'll come?"
Dad stopped, thought, then said, "Yes, I promise. He will come."
"Will he have his red suit?"
"Of course! His red suit, black boots and his big white beard!"

"Yay, Daddy! Yippee! Yes!"
"Maybe, Katie, you'll be able to meet Santa!"
"Really?! Me?! Meet Santa?!"
"I can't guarantee, we'll have to see!" Daddy said.

Well, crap. Darn. Dagnabbit!
How will Dad get this outfit? The gift was hard enough!
Christmas is in three days!
Dad is one poor pup, can't buy a suit! What to do!?

He got an idea.
He does not need to buy it, he has another plan!
It will be real hard work
Oh man, it will be horrid, but he must do it!

On the first day, promptly,
He went to Joe's down the street, and asked him:
"Can I have your boots, please?"
"Oh, well, I don't know about that, you can work for them?"

He came later that day,
With the warmest getup he has, with his shovel,
He gets right down to work,
On the tons and tons of snow, covering the yard.

He got his boots, finally.
After all of his tons, and tons, of hard, hard work.
He rested for the day,
And felt tired, and only slightly satisfied.

Day two has now arrived.
Daddy goes down to Jim's down the road, this time.
"Can I have your suit, Jim?"
I don't know man, you are going to have to work!

Again, in his warm clothes,
Down to, this time, Jim's yard, he brought his shovel. Work!
He worked, for many hours!
He kept working, and finally, the suit is his.

Day three. It has arrived.
On day three, he went to Josh's house, and asked:
"Can I have your white beard?"
"The one I use on Halloween? Ya gotta work!"

Again, it's obvious.
He works, in his warm clothes, with his shovel, so long,
It is so tiring, but,
He must! He needs that beard! For Kate! She needs Santa!

He finishes his work,
And he gets that blasted beard, and it's about time!
He has his full outfit, and tomorrow? It is...
It's Christmas Eve! Oh boy!

When Katie was asleep,
Dad started his plan, starting to don his outfit.
First, the boots, then, the suit,
And lastly, he picked up his beard, and began to-"

But then. "Daddy? That you?!"
Kate has caught him. Red handed, he's not the red man.
She looked as though she'd cry.
"Daddy, did you tell a lie?" A tear formed, and fell.

Oh God, Oh Lord, Oh crap.
"Katie, yes, I did, I'm sorry. There's no Santa."
"Really, Dad? No Santa?"
"There's no Santa. Didn't come last year cus of me."

"What do you mean, Daddy?"
"I don't have much money, Kate. We're poor. I couldn't."
Kate looked oh so sad.
But she saw the present, and gave Daddy a look.

"Yeah, the present. You see,
"'Santa' was gonna give you this gift, that I gave him."
"Can I open it, Dad?"
"I guess, but it's not a good present, Kate, because..."

He stopped himself. Just watched.
"What is this, Dad?" It's a slip of paper, on it,
A poem, that Dad wrote,
"Something I wrote, Kate, I couldn't afford a gift."

The Santa outfit, well,
It was meant to counteract this poor man's gift, or,
Well, perhaps poor is wrong.
"Read it to me, Daddy."

"Okay, I will read it, Kate."
Dad took a seat, and she took a seat on his lap,
He's about to begin,
Alright, he thinks. I'm such a horrible father.

"'Katie, my little girl,
I'm not the best father, but you must understand.
I love you very much,
More than's possible, you are everything to me.

"'And even more, Katie,
We won't be alone this year, as we have a guest!
A very special one,
Katie, Santa is real.'"

"I'm sorry Kate, it's bad,"
"You deserve-" and then she stopped him. "Wow Daddy! Wow!"
"That was so nice! So nice!"
You did such a nice job, we do not need Santa!

"We don't need Santa, Dad!
I just need you, and I love you dad! Very much!
I have one problem Dad,
With your poem? It's the last line. Change it, Daddy.

To "Katie, love is real."
The lesson to be learned, ladies and gentlemen, is that love, is real, if that means anything to you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 12/12/12


December 12, 2012, for me, is relevant most for being the due date of this big Chemistry project that was way too lame because of my own procrastination and technical difficulties and indifference to the subject matter. But it's also relevant as a neat-o little thing! 12-12-12! Once a century!

And yeah it's also relevant for being a comic book day. And bejeezus, this was a good one! Death of the Family had three very compelling books! Matt Fraction's stellar Fantastic Four continued! The only Before Watchmen book I care about at the moment continued! Also an Amazing Spider-Man .1 I almost didn't buy came out! GET THE POINT I guess!

I chose to plow through the Death of the Family stuff first because it's so excitingly compelling so far. I tackled Batman #15 before any other, of course. I really love where the story's going, and Capullo's art and Scott's dialogue is still stellar. I still think Scott's tackling of Joker-maybe-knowing-their-identities is still pretty heavy-handed, but it's still enjoyable. Scott's arc also moves INCREDIBLY slow, which makes the wait for new issues pleasantly aggravating, but it also makes each read feel a bit unsatisfying. Either way, it ends on a very creepy, fun plot point, so I can't wait for #16.

I read through Batgirl #15 next and I really, really loved it. It was IMMENSELY satisfying to see Barbara LOSE HER SHIT and brutally beat the snot out of the Joker, FINALLY letting out the rage she's felt for four years. There's also a fun flashback to a therapy session Joker had, which is very creepy and cleverly relates to the present. My only complaints: Barbara walks RIGHT into a big trap, and the aforementioned therapist breaks down much faster than I'd expect from a professional of her assumed caliber (they chose her to interview the freaking Joker).

Then I read Batman and Robin #15 and HOLY CRAP book of the week by a long shot. SO, so amazing. The art is INCREDIBLE. Patrick Gleason does HORRIFYING and very gory things with Joker's detached face. It's saying a lot, but I can say - without a doubt - that his Joker kicks the crap out of Capullo's very impressive work. Tomasi's writing is also absolutely amazing. He has the Joker really dive into Damian's psyche and has the clown do some nasty things to him. Such a good comic.

I also read Dr. Manhattan #3 from DC, and it continues to be insane, high-concept, philosophical scientific awesomesauce.

And then Fraction, oh my Jesus, FRACTION, I LOVE YOU MAN. Amongst Hawkeye, Fantastic Four, FF... this dude is my favorite creator right now. His bizarre brain and uncanny ability to be simultaneously hilarious and charming is... amazing. I love this freaking book so much. Oh and THING AND SHE-HULK BOM CHICKA WOW WOW...

Finally, Amazing Spider-Man #699.1. I almost didn't buy it. But I'm very glad I did. It's very well-written and the artwork is really up my alley. This is essentially a prelude to a brand new ongoing series about Morbius, a vampire in the Spidey universe, and I may actually have to read it. He's a very compelling, interesting character.

That's it for this week kids. Allow me to take my pills because my back hurts!!!!!!!!!!! BYE!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Night Time Fun Times

How pitifully friendships work out for me is quite humorous. For whatever reason, when it comes to long-form, meaningful friendships, I can't get along with people, and other people can't get along with me. It makes me quite depressed but I've grown accustomed to the feeling of loneliness. Isolating myself in my room can be a bit of an enlightening, relaxing experience, really.

Around 8:00 PM or so, I decided to have my Dad drive me down to the local grocery store so I could grab a $50 iTunes card to have fun with for the night and to use for comics next week. I was going to walk down before dinner, as it's around a fifteen to twenty minute walk, but it was raining and I wasn't going to have that. Once I got home, I purchased two comic books - Matt Fraction's Fantastic Four #1 and Jonathan Hickman's Avengers #1 - and two games - Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery EP and Bastion - on my iPad.

I had some serious fun with these things.

Fantastic Four #1 blew my feeble mind. I'm starting to fall in love with Matt Fraction, if I'm going to be honest here. I really appreciate his sense of humor, and he does a fantastic job of writing these characters here. Thing and Human Torch are hilarious and charming as lovable-oaf and haughty-hotty characters, respectively. He can certainly bring the drama, too, which is seen most in this issue through Franklin's troubles as a troubled, "normal" kid in a fantastic family. I'm going to stick with this and FF for the long haul. In love.

And Avengers #1, I have to say, is incredibly epic. Hickman does a good job of showcasing the scope of the Avengers and establishing what's probably going to be a large thematic point in his run: expansion. The bad guys that Captain America and his massive team is up against at the moment is super-formidable and badass, which certainly helps. Oh and God I love the artwork. I'm gonna try to follow this book as well.

And yeah I played some of Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery. The graphics are breathtaking and the soundtrack is also quite wonderful. So far it's basically just pretty aesthetics and intrigue and quirkiness but that's cool. It's actually a bit of a creepy game, which I didn't expect.

And uh-huh I played some Bastion. I played the demo when it originally hit XBLA and loved it, but never bought the full game. For $5 I decided to finally pick it up on my fancy iPad. And it's very, very fun, and very pretty, and has some really good tunes. The game's gimmick - a dynamic narration that forms itself around the player's actions - is really neat so far. I think this is the type of game that may wear thin before its conclusion, but we'll see.

That was my night. It was fun. I chilled out and read comics and played video games. And I wrote this blog post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 12/5/12

This was a pretty darn good week for comic books; for what I pick up, at least. And pretty even on the DC vs. Marvel side of things. I'll write about them in the order in which I read them.

I decided to wake up and eat a Cheerios breakfast this morning because I'm on a diet and, ya know, eating breakfast is cracked up to be all healthy and stuff. And I also decided to read Swamp Thing #15 as I ate, as DC puts their books up super-early now and Swamp Thing was my most-anticipated DC book of this week.

It's sweet. I really enjoyed myself. This is easily Marco Rudy's best work on this book. The imagery here is very disturbing, very detailed and very interesting. The coloring is also fantastic! A good bit does happen here as well. A badass battle with William, creepy moment between Arcane and Abby, and tantalizing last-page reveal make this is a really good time. It's a good time!

When I got home from school (after a ruthless standardized test!), the first comic I read was the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man from that Looney Toon Dan Slott, #699.

Man, Slott is going there!

I've read Amazing Spider-Man since the Spider-Island prelude, barring the Alpha and Hobgoblin story arcs, and it's a bit of hit or miss. It's sometimes pretty great, sometimes meh. But I'm very excited about the ballsy crap Slott is doing with Spider-Man right now. The lead-up to "Superior Spider-Man" is very enjoyable, and man, when that new book hits, it's gonna rule.

For people that read the issue, though: That panel of Aunt May we see when Peter is looking through Doc Ock's mind?!? The hell was that!?

I read Deadpool next, and while this book is progressively doing less and less for me as issues come out, it's still enjoyable. The crazy gore and violence isn't here, and the jokes aren't as hot as past issues, but I laughed for about thirty seconds straight over a dick joke, so that's worth something.

Then, uh, Avenging Spider-Man #15 I guess was next? I absolutely ADORE the art in this issue: my new wallpapers for the week are both images from this comic. And the story was good fun too, unlike the issue before that set up the story that this issue completed - that issue's story wasn't all that entertaining. We get to see dinosaurs fight, Spider-Man consider taking up drinking, and the super-cool Horizon Labs crew held captive by a crazy evil genius guy. Which is EXACTLY the kind of things I love to see from this book.

Hawkeye! It's my favorite of the bunch! Pick of the week! Wee!

Excellent comic book. Loads of little touches of humor, wit, and witty humor. I didn't like that the last issue set up a two-part, high-stakes story, but this issue makes it all worth it. The story has a satisfying conclusion that makes what you read in the last issue seem a whole lot more light-hearted. This guest artist is pretty good but he ain't got nothin on Aja, which is my only complaint. And when the only weak aspect of a book is "pretty good," it's a good sign!

And what a sweet little ending this book had. <3

Up next was Animal Man #15, and it was a good read. It's not as good as Swamp Thing #15, but it's good stuff. I especially like the creepy moments between William and Buddy's little wing, which the book transitions wonderfully to and fro with stark changes in art style. Exploiting the inherent innocence and weakness of a child for horror always spooks me. And this book has a fun last-page reveal just like Swampy does this week. It does a great job of teasing the reader until the curve ball of an ending finally comes.

Lastly, Batwing #15, which is a little odd, as there's a new writer AND artist, even though this issue continues [and seemingly ends] the story arc that Judd Winick was writing. It's a good issue, though. The art appears more fitting than To's work, at least so far. The writing is high-quality, and the already-entertaining story arc came to an enjoyable conclusion. It will be interesting to see where this book goes next.

My head kind of hurts, I should probably go eat something! I'm thinking a banana!

ADDENDUM: hey, proof-reading matt here. i actually ate an apple.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Interconnectivity, Society, Empathy, and What I Believe

I feel as though my core principals - the ideas I revere the most, intellectually - are constantly running in the back of my brain. I don't think that I clearly express these specific principals enough. I've never produced a work that encompasses these principals, and I suppose it's time. What exactly do I truly believe? Well, my core principals essentially stem from my strong support of a few basic concepts: the interlocked nature of life, the position that people are largely malleable products of society, and the importance of empathy.

The popular and perhaps peculiar sentiment about time travel that puts forth the notion that killing a butterfly in the past can have drastic impacts on the course of history is an idea that has always intrigued me, and I think this is because it's a sentiment that makes immediate sense to me and a sentiment that seems to have significance beyond time travel. Time travel really is a goofy concept in general, but that's another discussion entirely. The point that is actually relevant to this piece is this: We're all connected. We're all in this together, and if we work with that idea in mind, it's ultimately best for us all. Selfishness, and vitriolic group formations with the sole intent of beating other groups - whether it be intellectually, physically, emotionally, etc. - is destructive. Acts of kindness for the greater good matter, generally no matter how small.

Us being so interconnected lends itself to the idea that society has a large impact on who we are and what we do. If you're reading this you probably don't support the enslavement of African Americans, but I don't think I could be so confident in that statement with an audience from the 1800s. I don't feel any anger towards homosexuality as I realize that this does not have negative effects towards me or society, and a lot of that is owed to my upbringing based more or less around the concept that we should live and let live. It's my opinion and I reserve the right to take pride in it, but I'm also honest in regard to how I got this position. A man who kills in cold blood is a murderer, and that was his decision, but we similarly have to be honest with how he got to that position and fairly handle crime and punishment accordingly.

It's an idea that I separate in my mind from the two ideas above, but empathy may be precisely the driving force behind them both. Our lives and actions are so dependent upon societal effects, and our own personal happiness and prosperity is so contingent upon how we work together, or against each other. Empathy, therefore, is crucial. Removing yourself from your own mindset and culture and thought-process and placing yourself in another's shoes is crucial to helping other people, as it tells us how to help other people. And a group effort that helps us all as much as possible is, again, crucial to our own happiness and prosperity.

It's not always pretty. It's not immediately pleasurable for just about all of us to be interlocked with certain types of people. Societies have a tendency to latch into and propagate arbitrary hatred. Empathy sometimes just shows us how wicked and perhaps hopeless some of us are, or at least have become. But if we're going to come to grips with reality and make the best of it, I'd say we need to accept that we're interconnected in a way that calls for working together, I'd say we need to understand societal influence and use it to our advantage, and I'd say we need to use empathy to understand not just who we are but why we are that way and how we got there. That's what I believe.