Tuesday, 31 December 2013

52 Books read in 2013

At the start of the year I began reading to fill some time. I'd been given The Pillowman for Christmas and Life of Pi was one of Apple's free things in their 12 Days of Christmas App. I read through the first three books of the year at a pretty quick rate and got caught up in the hype of the annual pledge to try and read a book a week; mostly inspired by Joe Hill doing it in 2012. This also lead to me finally reading Joe Hill's novels, with Horns possibly being my favourite thing that I read this year.

Anyway my definition of book included plays, prose, non-fiction of any length but did not include comic books in their collected form or original graphic novels. I read enough comics, this was an attempt to get me to read other things.

Today on the 31st of December, I finished the fifty-second book I've read this year. I finished kind of close to the mark but I guess that's what makes these things exciting.

Anyway, here is the list of 52 books, that I have never read before, which I read in 2013:

  1. The Pillowman - Martin McDonagh
  2. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  4. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  5. The Lieutenant of Inishmore - Martin McDonagh
  6. On Film Making - Alexander Mackendrick
  7. Bossypants - Tina Fey
  8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks
  9. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Anno Dracula - Kim Newman
  11. Jurassic Park - Michael Chrichton
  12. Horns - Joe Hill
  13. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  14. The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M. Cain
  15. 22.11.63 - Stephen King
  16. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
  17. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
  18. The Bad Popes - E. R. Chamberlin
  19. The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
  20. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
  21. Gun Machine - Warren Ellis
  22. The Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy
  23. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
  24. Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion
  25. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  26. NOS4R2 - Joe Hill
  27. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
  28. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  29. Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
  30. The Ocean at the end of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
  31. Moon over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
  32. The Strain - Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  33. Whispers Underground - Ben Aaronovitch
  34. Heart Shaped Box - Joe Hill
  35. Cast Member Confidential - Chris Mitchell
  36. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman - Richard P. Feynman
  37. To Be Or Not To Be: That is the Adventure - Ryan North
  38. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
  39. Telegraph Avenue - Michael Chabon
  40. I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan - Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Rob Gibbons and Neil Gibbons)
  41. The Final Solution - Michael Chabon
  42. A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
  43. Casino Royale - Ian Fleming
  44. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  45. For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
  46. Tales from the Black Meadow - Chris Lambert
  47. Joyland - Stephen king
  48. The Crossing - Cormac McCarthy
  49. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  50. A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
  51. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
  52. London Falling - Paul Cornell
And for posterity's sake, here is the list of collected comics I read this year:

  1. Secret Warriors Omnibus
  2. iZombie Vol 3
  3. Blacksad: In Silent Hill
  4. Detective Comics: The Black Mirror
  5. Thor: The Mighty Avenger
  6. Uncanny X-Force Vol 1
  7. American Vampire Vol 2
  8. Spider-Man: Flying Blind
  9. Uncanny X-Force Vol 2
  10. Uncanny X-Force Vol 3
  11. Uncanny X-Force Vol 4
  12. Uncanny X-Force Vol 5
  13. Chew: Volume 6
  14. Locke & Key: Clockworks
  15. iZombie Vol 4
If I wasn't setting big enough goals for myself, I also pledged to watch 100 movies that I've never seen before. You can see that list here.

42 Films of 2013

I saw 42 films that were released in 2013. I have, as usual, attempted the ridiculous task of ranking them. I've written this one rather quickly and so I'll probably disagree with it more than I usually do. These things are kind of elastic anyway but I've attempted to put them in order of my favourites based on how I'm feeling now (or earlier when I wrote the list).

I told Yashoda and Jackie in January that my favourite film of the year would probably be Gravity. Well done Gravity you met expectations. Well done Michael, you are aware of your tastes.
  1. Gravity
  2. Django Unchained
  3. Iron Man 3
  4. Alpha Papa
  5. Stoker
  6. Mud
  7. Robot and Frank
  8. Hungrier Games
  9. In A World
  10. Pacific Rim
  11. Much Ado About Nothing
  12. Cloud Atlas
  13. Blue Jasmine
  14. Side Effects
  15. The Place Beyond the Pines
  16. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
  17. Frozen
  18. Thor: The Dark World
  19. The World's End
  20. Wreck-It Ralph
  21. Warm Bodies
  22. Pain and Gain
  23. Lincoln
  24. Reign of Assassins
  25. Star Trek Into darkness
  26. Spring Breakers
  27. Desolation of Smaug
  28. Anchorman 2
  29. Zero Dark Thirty
  30. The Paperboy
  31. This is the End
  32. Monster's University
  33. Class of '92
  34. A Field in England
  35. The Iceman
  36. The Wolverine
  37. Elysium
  38. A Liar's Autobiography
  39. The Hangover 3
  40. The Lone Ranger
  41. I Give it a Year
  42. Man of Steel

100 films watched in 2013

In 2012 a friend of mine attempted to watch 100 movies, that he'd never seen before, in one year. Inspired by Tim I also attempted this endeavour but fell short at 89 films. This year I wasn't going to fall short, I went into this year with the goal in mind, updating the list with every film, calculating what the average needed to be. It meant watching some films without Jackie, watching some terrible films just so I could watch something and choosing to watch new things over the comfort of old favourites. I've still watched Demolition Man three times this year (and then chunks of it at other times this year) but I could have watched Demolition Man even more if I had the time.

This year I watched 100 films that I've never seen before.

These were those films:

  1. A Monster in Paris
  2. Magic Mike
  3. Safety Not Guaranteed
  4. The Imposter
  5. Mirror Mirror
  6. Dredd
  7. Blazing Saddles
  8. Django Unchained
  9. Horrible Bosses
  10. The Five Year Engagement.
  11. Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But were too afraid to ask)
  12. The Purple Rose of Cairo
  13. Broadway Danny Rose
  14. Lincoln
  15. Wreck-It Ralph
  16. Sunshine Boulevard
  17. Reign of Assassins
  18. Danger: Diabolik
  19. The White Ribbon
  20. Jackie Chan's First Strike
  21. Cloud Atlas
  22. Ted
  23. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  24. Robot & Frank
  25. Side Effects
  26. The Master
  27. Rust and Bone
  28. End of Watch
  29. Paranorman
  30. Room 237
  31. Spring Breakers
  32. Planes, trains and auto-mobiles
  33. Sightseers
  34. Senna
  35. The Place Beyond the Pines
  36. Iron Man 3
  37. A Liar's Autobiography
  38. Star Trek into Darkness
  39. The Sapphires 
  40. Spirited Away
  41. Indie Game: The Movie
  42. Berberian Sound Studio
  43. The Hangover 3
  44. Fast Five
  45. Valhalla Rising
  46. A Serious Man
  47. Man of Steel
  48. Much Ado About Nothing
  49. I Give it a Year
  50. The Expendables 2
  51. This is the End
  52. Pitch Perfect
  53. A Field in England
  54. Searching for Sugar Man
  55. The World's End
  56. The Wolverine
  57. Life of Pi
  58. Pacific Rim
  59. Run Lola Run
  60. Badlands
  61. Warm Bodies
  62. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
  63. Throne of Blood
  64. The Red Shoes
  65. Elysium
  66. Intolerable Cruelty
  67. Zero Dark Thirty
  68. The Long Kiss Goodnight
  69. O' Brother Where Art Thou
  70. Pain & Gain
  71. Rushmore
  72. Safe
  73. Blue Jasmine
  74. Road House
  75. Ghost World
  76. Adaptation
  77. The Paperboy
  78. In A World
  79. Highlander
  80. Barton Fink
  81. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
  82. Monster House
  83. Thor: The Dark World
  84. Gravity
  85. Mud
  86. Celeste and Jesse Forever
  87. The Iceman
  88. Coffee and Cigarettes
  89. Frozen
  90. Stoker
  91. Monster's University
  92. Gambit
  93. The Lone Ranger
  94. Hungrier Games
  95. Battle Royale
  96. Oldboy
  97. It's a Wonderful Life
  98. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
  99. Class of '92
  100. Anchorman 2
42 of these movies were released in 2013. This means I didn't achieve my usual target of 52 films from this year, but I had other targets in mind. Still, I've ranked those 42 films in this list.

I also read 52 books this year. You can see that list here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Full Stage Splash: A Comic Look at the Comic Book

I haven't really posted to the blog this year because I didn't want to do anything half-heartedly and because I've been terribly busy writing and producing for my theatre company, The Sigil Club.

We created a show back in August which comically told the history of comic books. It was well received by critics, comics fans and non comics readers. One kind soul even said that with some polish and confidence, it has the potential for a long and successful future as a fringe favourite.

Well I took that to heart and we're performing Full Stage Splash at the Hen and Chickens this Saturday at 9:30pm and then the following Saturday (same bat-time, same bat-venue). Tickets are £8 and are very much worth that price (or more). You can buy them here. There are some puppets, a fight scene, some terrible accents and I really think anyone can enjoy it. You may not get *everything* but you will enjoy it. If you haven't seen the show, then please give us a chance; we're damn good at what we do and if nothing else, some of the performers are rather attractive. If you have already seen the show why not tell other people to come see it? Word of mouth really is the best marketing we can get. Also we've added a scene, so, there's an incentive to see it again?

This might be the last time I get to do this brilliant show with some fantastic people and if that's the case then we're going to enjoy it but I would be very grateful if you could help me make this show successful enough to keep us going.

Here is the obligatory facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/522878754408959/

P.S. Sorry everyone who isn't in London.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Project 52 - Second Wave: G.I. Combat #1

It was only upon Alex requesting that I review G.I. Combat for the second wave of Project 52 that I realised I'm not sure what G.I. stands for. And so I've gone in to reading G.I. Combat hoping to find the answer. Good idea? Well let's get into it and find out.

G.I. Combat #1 contains two stories, "The War That Time Forgot" by J.T. Krul and Ariel Olivetti, in which the US army fights dinosaurs and "The Unknown Soldier", written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and with art from Dan Panosian which is about a scarred soldier of relentless malice fuelled by revenge.

"The War That Time Forgot" goes by very quickly. After a very brief, rather bland character introduction, in which it's established that one of our protagonists has a family and the other is his friend, we follow the US investigating an area of anomaly in North Korea.When they spot Pterodactyls, the grossly incompetent soldiers think it's a good idea to shoot at the dinosaurs. This goes as well as one might imagine leaving our not so gifted individuals stranded in the middle of a war between the North Korean army and dinosaurs.

Luckily whilst the dialogue isn't to my liking Ariel Ollivetti's realistic artwork works well in a book filled with vehicles of destruction, giant Indosuchus, Tyranosaurus Rex and pterodactyls. His digital colouring might be jarring to those not used to it but it's the best I've seen of his recent style. The characters faces are smooth and expressive and whilst previously his photo referenced objects like guns or backgrounds seemed to stick out from the figure work, they now blend together more. I find it hard to complain about anyone who draws a fighter jet tearing through a pterodactyl. Guts, intestines and blood spurting out the other side.

"The Unknown Soldier" is a standard origin story told through two narrative devices which don't entirely mesh together. We're introduced to the Unknown Soldier as he ruthlessly and effectively kills Al-Qaeda soldiers told through a US soldier's letter home. A colonel then interviews the Unknown Soldier about his past, revealing his origins and the reason for his brutality. It functions similarly to a superhero origin and makes better use of its 14 pages than "The War That Time Forgot", feeling more like a complete story. There's a really nice touch of black humour at one point and a genuinely intriguing ending.

Panosian's art is kind of scratchy during moments of conflict but cleaner during flashbacks to a happier time in the Unknown Soldier's life making it quite effective. His action makes war chaotic but has few moments of depicted violence, often focusing on the person shooting than who they're shooting at.

G.I. Combat #1 is a bit of a mixed bag but there is something enjoyable there and it adds some diversity to the DC line whilst maintaining enough fantastical elements to stop it from feeling out of place. I still haven't learnt what G.I. stands for though. I'm going with Gun infested. 


Saturday, 31 December 2011

So that was 2011

Upon reflection 2011 (Twenty-Eleven) feels rather busy, which is comforting as it explains why both my stress levels and the mess in my flat have so rapidly built up. When first looking back on the past year, my mind leaps to the theatre work I’ve done through the Sigil Club but I also somehow managed to balance all that with my full time job, enjoying great company and finding ways to enjoy myself from those small commitments like scheduling time to play Arkham City or meeting Grant Morrison to the bigger weekend events. Kapow was a fun experience probably made richer by having good company like Colin, Robin and Elisabeth to cling on to amongst the madness. The Empire Big Screen was an interesting mess that Jackie and I look upon fondly; we packed a few films in, got some cool stuff and had a pretty unique experience - where else can you see Jason Momoa be mobbed in front of a Nandos and then go outside to see a terrible band dressed like characters from Pulp Fiction (including someone in black face)?

I think the only way I’ve been able to have this full life is due to the patience and understanding of my brilliant friends who haven’t taken offence when I’ve told them I’m busy or have scheduled stuff around my one free evening a week, often coming to me rather than me going to them. Tim (Nolan), Gavia, Yashoda, Alex (Millington) and Grace have been friendly faces popping up throughout the year and I’m really glad they’ve been there. Robin is consistently awesome, evidenced by how much I’ll mention him. Israel gave Jackie and me really useful advice for when we were in Barcelona and all my Castaway/Caballero buddies are permanently there for a good joke, interesting discussion or unexpected support. I’ve probably seen less of The LSS, Dos, Splinter and Paddington than I would like to but they too have had really busy years so it’s just nice that we have made time for each other where possible.
Whilst all that fun has been on the fringe of my life the rest of the year has been concerned with the Fringe (Har-dee-har). At the start of 2011 we were in the middle of rehearsing Stripped, we had just had to replace one actor and it was a rather dramatic time as we upped the rehearsal schedule. Everything clicked though once we started seeing each other more and brought all the production bits together. I was worrying about designing and launching the Sigil Club website and selling the show and freaking out about very small things (and writing two other projects) but I think the actors started enjoying each others company and we really pulled together to make a good show. My nerves and anxiety showed even more once we were in the theatre but that unpleasant experience has meant I was much stronger by the time we performed Stand-Up Comics and I feel like I continue to grow as a director.
Focus quickly shifted to Stand-Up Comics which really did encapsulate a lot of my time. I was writing the script as well as my initial Camden Fringe Festival application in the beginning of the year whilst giving and getting advice from Grace about the festival process. We cast the show over a few weeks at the end of April/beginning of May before rehearsing in June and July, performing in August. Not to mention writing the press release, working on the posters, promoting the show, recording the shorts, organising props, naming a pigeon, the major analysis of trends I did when looking at all the festival shows and of course meeting everyone involved and making new friends. The Camden Fringe was a great experience with a rough patch at the end before giving us some wonderful fallout which meant we did pretty much the entire process again during October and November. I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing (maybe the performance dates in August) because whilst as trying as those experiences were, I got to work with some wonderful people (whom I thanked here for Stripped and here for SUC), a lot of whom I consider friends and really push myself to do better and I’m proud of what I achieved this year.

Oh and I had the monologue I wrote for the Orpheos Productions Machine of Death project come out this year, which I wrote about here.

However I think I let writing slip a little this year due to how much time I spent producing. I wrote a sitcom episode for a BBC Writersroom thing in January/February called Horsemen which wasn’t as strongly thought out or as tight as it could have been but it got my mind ready for sitcoms again, which came in handy for the Stand-Up Comics rewrite. But I do like the concept for Horsemen and have thought about it since so I might be able to get something out of it in the future. Stand-Up Comics was written between February and April but apart from fleshing out a handful of ideas and some extensive plotting and dialogue exchanges for Highwaymen that was the last time I’ve really written a play. I’m slightly worried that I’ve forgotten how to do it but comforted by how quickly I managed to get a decent script done this year by just ploughing forward.
Part of the reason I haven’t written any theatre was because I tried my hand at writing webcomics. I was asked to pitch a few scripts for a project and wrote about 25 between the end of May and the end of August but they decided to go in a different direction. Writing three-panel gag strips really is a different beast to what I’m used to and I’m not sure how well I adapted but it was nice to get the opportunity.
So really I tried to write in small doses; inspired by the varied content Yashoda produces, Alex’s wonderful film and comics analysis, Gavia’s perfect blog, Emily launching Bearded Eloise and the fun stuff on friends’ tumblrs I’ve tried to do a bit more with the blog. I redesigned, started the Comic and Sandwich of the month write-ups plus the infrequent Friendly Friday and “Which of these isn’t in my backpack?” games. I also did that post of  super awesome movie pitch ideas (He Fights Robots became one of our fake comic covers in Stand-Up Comics). A lot of my silliness and weird humour has been expressed here and it’s nice to have an outlet for it. And I think that my rushed monthly comic reviews were part of the reason Alex let me sub in for him for Project 52 and rush those reviews.

I might have had more time to write or eat or see the sunlight if I wasn’t obsessed with the goal of watching 50 new releases a year. Annoyingly I only managed to watch 49 films from 2011. It's still a decent number and better than 2010; plus it gives me something to work towards in 2012. But at what cost? At what cost? (Roughly £250 I’d say). I’ve done a separate post for that though as it’s a pretty big list and, as usual, I’ve done that thing where I roughly rank them based on how I’m feeling right now; it can and will change any other time you ask me because some films fight for power depending on the mood I’m in or if I’ve recently re-watched them. Other rankings might change because films are sneaky like that and sometimes they crawl into your brain when your not expecting it and hold your thoughts hostage. And Jackie has done a list too. As you can see, my list is better than hers [written before actually reading her list]. She thinks The King's Speech is better than True Grit and doesn't even have Kung Fu Panda 2 in her top 20.

Because we’ve been staying in a lot this year because the ghosts are out by the time we’re home or we’re too tired to do anything else we have been watching a lot of TV. In fact we spent all of New Years Eve and New Years Day watching Misfits for the first time. I like Misfits, I think it has a really strong cast and benefits from being the vision of one person. It’s funny and has adult storytelling in equal measure and paces its storylines really well rather than dragging things out, often doing something unexpected. It’s always visually interesting, from great depictions of superpowers to filling the shot with hilarious reactions from actors in the background. I thought the Nazi episode was a slight misstep this year, it not feeling like the Nazis had been around for 70 years, but otherwise it was strong.
We got two small doses of Doctor Who this year, which made it feel like it never really left rather than like we didn’t get enough of it. A series in which I enjoyed a lot of individual episodes (“The Doctor’s Wife” especially) but wasn’t overly fond of the series arc. Mrs Pond started to grate on me towards the end but Matt Smith is a joy to watch.
I continued my obsession with Community, understandable considering that in just this year it gave us the Dungeons and Dragons episode, “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”, “Critical Film Studies” A clip show with all new clips, A Spaghetti Western which transformed into Star Wars, “Remedial Chaos Theory”, horror stories, an anime sequence and a musical. And Magnitude. Can you believe that before 2011 we didn't have Magnitude? That’s an incredible amount of variety for a show that is consistently hilarious and tightly scripted.
Jackie and I watched all of Parks and Rec in a very short amount of time because it’s remarkable. It’s just so positive rather than being cruel or cynical, without ever feeling saccharine; instead it gives us characters to root for, with friendships and relationships we care about, and lets them be funny in the situations presented, often strengthening them rather than taking anything away.
Cartoons that you probably aren’t watching but that I was watching because I am cool are Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I think the success of both cartoons stems from the fact that they’re both made with utmost sincerity without any irony. Scooby Doo can be a surreally funny show with interesting character work and cool action set pieces and MLP can be genuinely about the sacrifices involved in friendship and the benefits that come from them (whilst referencing comics or The Big Lebowski) and both work because they play it straight whilst having fun with their characters and concepts. (From MLP “I’m going to do what I do best. Lecture her!” or from Scooby Doo “I took months of Pilates to reach the point where I could control the mouth with my abs”). In fact I’m constantly impressed by MLP subverting cliché “friend arguments” and remaining optimistic.
Like a lot of people this year I became obsessed with Game of Thrones. It’s really great to see serious fantasy on television with a decent budget and fantastic cast. But beyond being immersive and gripping GoT is a televisual miracle because it inspired my brother to actually buy and read books.

I’ve immersed myself in comics more than ever this year; I’ve dwelled on things from a reader’s, creator’s publisher’s and retailer’s perspective to have my mind right for SUC. So it’s really lucky that, beyond the comics that I’ve highlighted (Venom, Criminal, Osborn, The Sixth Gun, the X-Men relaunch, Ultimate Spider-Man) there have been so many good comics this out this year. Kieron Gillen has had a consistently good output; Uncanny X-men embraces bold superheroics combining good humour with tight plotting. If mutants are the next stage of evolution, then the X-men are about our future, our next generation and Generation Hope put unique, perfectly formed teenage characters forward, addressing current social problems alongside zombies, genocidal robots and Akira homages. Journey into Mystery is one of my favourite kinds of stories, one about the importance and power of myths and stories and by extension it often plays with and twists words.
Daredevil written by Mark Waid is a fun and lively pop book and Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera support with a great visual style that finds new ways to represent Daredevil’s powers. And I love the irony of people having to see Martin’s and Rivera’s art to fully grasp it.
I’m along for the ride and eager to find out all the secrets in Morning Glories, the book that’s like Runaways meets Lost mixed with The Prisoner has answered some questions whilst ramping up the tension and making things even more mystifying. Writer Nick Spencer had a few other books out this year that I have enjoyed especially his Jimmy Olsen story which was an exciting humour book that worked well as both a serialised story and when it was collected.
Pre-New 52 I was really enjoying Batman Inc with its fun, world travelling action, visual gags and attempts to fit as much information into a page as possible. Post New-52 I’ve mainly clung on to Batman and The Flash (and need to catch up on Animal Man). Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman (which I reviewed the first issue of here) launches with a story that simultaneously shows Batman’s strengths and weaknesses and easily shifts between something dark to bombastic comic book action. And whilst Bruce is at the forefront there have still been wonderful moments for Alfred, Dick and Commissioner Gordon and Gotham itself. The Flash is vibrant and kinetic with a story that I’m really interested in. Francis Manapul’s pages are some of the most exciting visual storytelling at the moment.
Matt Fraction continues the layered, dense storytelling in The Invincible Iron Man, exemplified by the giant size issue 500 with a fantastic art team covering multiple deftly structured stories. And 2011 finally saw the return of Casanova, my favourite comic, with its third arc “Avaritia”. Now packed with more pages, a letter column, dazzling colours, spacemen, pandas and spatiotemporal holocausts, Casanova only seems to be getting better.

I’ve also used a lot of that spare time I’ve spent in the flat (afraid of the world outside) to play rather a lot of video games (for me anyway) made easier because I invested in my first portable console for about five years.
Marvel Vs Capcom 3 gives the initial frenzied buzz as one is given the opportunity to use Iron Man’s repulsors to blast Ryu from Street Fighter in the face and eventually the initial confusion of the frantic combos gives way to sense of achievement when you finally manage one of the more complex manoeuvres. Of course now I haven’t played it in a while the best I can manage is probably crouching in a corner flailing limbs and wondering why the catgirl can constantly defend against my bullets.
My 3DS was purchased pretty much so that I had something to play Pokemon White on (and to show off) and whilst I eagerly anticipated it I wasn’t as obsessed post game as I was all those years ago playing Blue and Gold. Perhaps one needs to live Pokemon, watch the cartoon to find creatures you want to catch, breed new armies to fully appreciate everything. But I fought tiny monsters with a sentient ice-cream and a firey pig wrestler so it made me happy. And it meant I now have a 3DS, which aside from giving me a weird sense of joy at seeing it’s green light flash whenever I pass someone else with a 3DS and have the closest thing possible to social interaction, has given me the opportunity to play some cool games. I didn’t own Ocarina of Time before (I know) but can see why people love it so much and the updated graphics make it look better than ever. Having played the games since it doesn’t feel as revolutionary but still a very very fun game. Super Scribblenauts was a cute way to spend evenings after rehearsals when all I wanted to do was create a metallic dinosaur in a top hat. It’s a game only limited by your imagination and some of the things I made come to life from my magic notebook to complete the puzzles had me laughing out loud. Mario Kart 7 is Mario Kart at its best, the controls are fantastic, the action unrelenting and after mastering all the cool new tracks, it’s really simple to play online for some real competition. And my brother bought me Super Mario 3D Land which is really simple to pick up and play but there’s so much to do and find that I think it will keep me challenged for a while.
Arkham City may not have had the best story and it was slightly frustrating to have a whole chunk of Gotham to play in but still feel restricted but it’s definitely a game that makes you feel like Batman and I’m the kind of guy who likes to hang from gargoyles and punch sharks in the face.
Dynasty Warriors 7 felt more on form than DW6 but the return of Lu Xun’s belly shirts and the addition of fighting pandas wasn’t enough to stop it from feeling a bit too repetitive. I’m not even sure I unlocked every character...maybe I’ll start playing again. It’s possible I only stopped because I got busy, I can’t remember. Though, that’s not a good sign is it?
I’ve also been given Skyward Sword and Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 for Christmas and are eager to start playing through them. Expect many declarations of love for Voldemort on twitter in the near future.

Musically Childish Gambino was a great discovery; there are a few tracks on his first album, Camp, that I really enjoy but perhaps not as much as the stuff on EP. Both Patrick Stump and Patrick Wolf had some pretty cool pop stuff on their albums this year and The Lonely Island gave us Michael Bolton cross-dressing.
But the highlight of the year musically for me was going to see Jimmy Eat World play all of Clarity and Bleed American with Jackie, Robin and Elisabeth.

Moving into 2011 was interesting because I had a vague idea of what it was going to be like. Stripped and Stand-Up Comics gave it a structure to build my life around from months in advance. But now I don’t know what lies ahead. I do know some of the things I’d like to try but no big plans. I’d like to find a way to repay everyone that made this year great and not lose the momentum I’ve built up this year. And with a lot more friends moving in to London now I hope they can tolerate me enough to hang out more.

Jackie's 47 films of 2011

[The following is by guest poster and personal plaster provider, Jackie O'Sullivan]

So I saw 47 films released this year, be it at the cinema or on DVD. My apologies to Tyrannosaur, Warrior, Arrietty and all the other films that I’m sure would have fared well but I didn’t get to see. Here’s my ranking of the ones I did get to see.
  1. Drive
    Hypnotic from the near-silent opening sequence to finish, Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling took a script that was originally imagined as a Hugh Jackman studio flick, stripped it to the bone and created a masterpiece. This is my film of the year because it’s one of the only times I’ve felt I’m not watching a movie, but CINEMA, iconic, destined-to-be-cult cinema. Drenched in 80s style but feeling completely original, with Gosling on sensational form, this is also the best directed film of the year and has an absolute killer soundtrack, bristling with tension. Just so damn cool. 
  2. Tangled
    The film that restored my faith in Disney! Quite simply gorgeous animation, an excellent script, a fantastic passive aggressive villain, Menken songs..what more does a girl want? Jeffrey Tambor singing and a funny, engaging male lead who isn’t the titular character, you say? Jackpot! I will never get tired of watching Tangled. It was robbed at the Oscars.
  3. Hanna
    Joe Wright needs to direct more action. Saoirse Ronan was mesmerising as always, but the direction really made this film, juggling themes of self-discovery, family, kick-ass action and government villainy without ever feeling muddled or in any way predictable. Also had a fantastic soundtrack. 
  4. Crazy, Stupid, Love
    Entry number 2 for Ryan Gosling! I only saw 2 of his movies this year and they both made my top 5. CSL’s script was sharp, savvy, sexy and only elevated further by a wonderful ensemble cast. Creating more believable relationships onscreen than you seen in several movies over a whole year, this was truly romantic and truly funny. I’m not just being girly and putting a romcom in my top 5. I’m putting the best romcom since Intolerable Cruelty in my top 5. 
  5. Black Swan
    As dark in topic as it was elegant on the surface, Black Swan was the film I felt most deserving in the awards season early this year. The cinematography here was extraordinary, and Portman’s performance was fantastic. It also drew unexpected parallels with Tangled, so bonus points. 
  6. Thor
    Branagh brings us.. a superhero movie that does a surprising amount for feminism! Shakespearean family dynamics! A hero with really pretty hair! A complex villain who we feel for! An opulent and believable Asgard! A camera that has never met a spirit level! Kat Dennings! 
  7. Source Code
    Proving that Moon wasn’t a one off, Duncan Jones blended thriller and twists to great effect, with one of my favourite endings to a film this year. 
  8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    Best of the summer blockbusters, with an unexpected intelligence (much like that of the apes) and anchored by Andy Serkis in yet another mo-cap performance that leaves critics chasing worthy adjectives. 
  9. Attack the Block
    Just so fun, with a great young cast, genuinely scary monsters and real slang that I hope will confuse Americans as much as the fact it’s about 15 minutes until someone drinks a cup of tea in an English film. “This is too much madness for one text!” 
  10. 50/50
    Perhaps it’s the medic in me that made me put this is my top 10, but I have so much respect for how well cancer comedy was pulled off. I was really looking forward to it and it just left you feeling all the lows and highs (some literal) and uncertainty that the writer Will Reiser must have felt. Excellently handled, it made me laugh a lot without ever feeling mawkish or shying away from tough moments. 
  11. 127 Hours 
  12. The Fighter 
  13. Submarine 
  14. The King’s Speech 
  15. Hugo 
  16. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 
  17. Never Let Me Go 
  18. True Grit 
  19. Tucker & Dale vs Evil 
  20. Bridesmaids 
  21. X-Men: First Class 
  22. Love & Other Drugs 
  23. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 
  24. Fright Night 
  25. Real Steel 
  26. The Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec 
  27. Captain America 
  28. Kung Fu Panda 2 
  29. Super 8 
  30. Rango 
  31. 30 Minutes Or Less 
  32. Winnie the Pooh 
  33. Rubber 
  34. Scre4m 
  35. Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 
  36. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 
  37. Paul 
  38. The Adjustment Bureau 
  39. Green Hornet 
  40. Morning Glory 
  41. Limitless 
  42. Super 
  43. Green Lantern 
  44. Cars 2 
  45. Cowboys & Aliens 
  46. No Strings Attached 
  47. Your Highness