Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End of the Year

2013 is mere hours from unraveling, so hopefully I have just enough time left for one more post. And I figured, since I haven't done one of these in awhile, it's probably as good time as any for some...

UPDATES!
A post wherein I write about my writing, its current state, and where it's heading from here...


So, yeah... writing, amirite? Sisyphean like a Motherfucker, ya'feel me?

Yeah, you do.

Anyway, like I said above, I haven't done one of these in awhile and I know you folks out there have been literally gagging for news. I know it. For that, I apologize. For both of you long-time readers out there, my excuses will be familiar ones. I've been distracted. Or busy... whatever you want to call it. Basically, a big part of why I haven't posted about any of my writing stuff lately is because there just isn't much to tell. I'm at it. I'm in there. Plugging away. When I can. Things move. Some. And that's the TLDR version of the entire post right there, folks. Thanks for stopping in, see you next year.

But if you're not into the whole brevity thing... Life in general has been horning in on my "Shit I'd rather be doing" time these last few months. An unfortunate reality for which I only have myself to blame. I'll admit it. We all know it. Lotto, you have to be in it, to win it, right? Truer words, truer words... I mean, have I purchased a single ticket in the past five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? No. I could'a been a millionaire, man. I could'a been somebody... Come on, Jon!

Disappointing.


Also, I started a new job this summer. That's right. It's a real job too. No more Counter-monkeying. No more Salt Mines drudgery. No more shady mercenary positions in run-down organizations under the wretched gaze of tin-pot Dictators and half-wit Thugs. No! Now I am but a single cog in the great machine, the one responsible for cranking out the droves of useless and overly-entitled little carbon copy bastards of tomorrow.

It's kind of fulfilling.

But... as a result, I've been a bit of a different schedule lately, and adjusting to that hasn't been easy. I hate getting up early in the morning, y'see, because I always have trouble going to bed at night. I've always been a night owl. I don't try to be, but I can't not be. I'll just be home, doing my thing, and then I look up, and shit... it's Two in the God damn morning again and I have to be up by six. It's happens all the time. It's aggravating. It's tiring. It's leads to a somewhat disconcerting reliance upon daily tubs of iced coffee. And mostly, it makes it hard to work on stuff the next day. But I can't help it, it's just my nature. Plus, it's getting better. Actually, it's not that bad. In fact, it's mostly just the timing that's unfortunate, since everything was starting to even out right as the usual holiday season crap--which always takes up way more time than I ever want it to--started to pick up speed. Super annoying. And on top of all that, I don't know if any of you non-locals out there get the news wherever you are, but it has been the super-bitter cold as shit out here lately, and let me tell you, my friends, cold like this is an energy-sapper. So, in a nutshell, a sudden confluence of ill luck and previous engagements came crashing together and I have ended up slogging to catch up in an effort to eek out a new balance with my writing time. It hasn't been easy. Especially since I'm also a little lazy... I'll own that.

Shocking, I know.


But that's not to say that there hasn't been progress. There has been, in fact. There's been good progress. So enough with all the hoo-ha and the boo-hoo-hoo-ing, let's dwell on positive shit for awhile instead. You may have asked yourself as the days went by: "Where is he at? How's he doing? My God, what's the story?"

Well, here now, finally... Let me tell you:


The Impossible Virginia Dare (the current project)

Currently, I'm in the doldrums. Still sailing, still moving forward, but there's very little in the way of wind happening. Such is the way of things. Low tide. Low batteries. Depleted stores. The doldrums. Pick your metaphor, they all end up the same place. The story is maybe a third done, maybe more, maybe not. I know what I want from it. I have a pretty good idea what I need to do. And I know my ending. But sometimes things can get a little bogged down. The problem with times like this, is that other projects can start to seem pretty alluring, promising treasure and adventure and interesting and new paths easily forged, like sirens singing you toward the rocks. You stray too long, you're gonna end up dumping your project. You have to be careful. You have to know when to ditch and right now? This isn't the time to ditch. It's not broken beyond repair, it's just slow, but sometimes those other projects can help make excuses and...

In an effort to combat this, I am trying out a new technique lifted from friend and fellow Scribblerati Agent Mark Teats (and presumably others...). I'm writing the story non-linearly. Right now, I'm island hopping, basically, jumping back and forth along the story line and hitting on the moments I think I'll need or maybe just want. It seems to be working. Although, I'm prepared to eventually be faced with an extremely needy Second Draft, but... that's the future. Right now, I believe I can finish the First Draft by early Summer--I should be able to. Hopefully. Fingers crossed--and then I'll probably walk away and let it cool on the windowsill for awhile before diving back in.

Status: In Progress. Slow, but awesome. It might not work out, but I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.


Gunslingers of the Apocalypse

The Grand Old Dame of my writing efforts has been sitting out of the dance for awhile now. I put my time in with it. I finished it. I sent it around and it did respectably out there, but in the end, it also went nowhere. Don't feel bad, these things happen. Onward and upwards. Time to move on. But then, I had a friend of mine do a new read-and-respond. He's one of the guys responsible for putting out Cifiscape Vol. 2, and it went great. Very helpful. Very insightful and it might help me really nail down the third act. We shall see. So, newly armed, this year I intend to print the beast out again and start re-editing, perhaps Draft 9 zillion? I'm looking forward to tackling it again. It's actually been a long time since I've even opened the thing. Where does it go after that? Who knows. Nowhere, maybe. Probably. Doesn't matter. The point is, I think this could be the end-all-be-all final draft, the "for better or worse be done with it" draft. That's good news. When will I do this? Soonish, soonish. Honestly, the biggest hurtle is going to be printing the bastard out.

Status: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Monsters (Working Title)

That Working Title really bugs the crap out of me. It's definitely not right. I've been thinking about a more permanent one lately, but they're all still a little under-cooked and gooey, so we'll leave them aside for the moment. I finished the first draft a year ago? Two years ago? Nope... Apparently, it was on Oct 10th of last year, so it was a little over a year ago. I was not happy with the First Draft at all, but at least it was finished. That's something. However, I wasn't sure how to fix the issues, so since then the Draft has just been chilling out, marinating, and in that time I've had some ideas. Will they fix my issues? Will they even work? We shall see. I've decided what I'm going to do first off in an attempt to address its issues, so that's something. After that... eh, ya' never know. Sometimes you just have to hope a spark will ignite a blaze, y'know? Anyway, my plan is to print this one out, most likely on the same day I print out Gunslingers. And after I finish the First Draft of my current WIP, then I'll begin the Second Draft of this one.

Status: It's sat long enough, I'm ready to dig back in. Dragons, baby. Dragons.


Burgeoning Projects
The best news of all--or at least the most encouraging--is that besides these three projects, I have three strong ideas waiting on deck that are just a nudge or two away from blooming into full blown WIPs. I've got a couple of files of ideas and short stories in various stages of construction, but there isn't a lot of spark there, it's mostly just noise and imagery. But these three particular ideas here? They've each got their own folders now, because they grow easily and they need the space. With a little bit of attention, they could be something cool. Plus, I kind of like that all of my projects--past, current, and probable--are all different genres and, for the most part, sellable, I think. The flipside of course is that these are my previously mentioned Sirens. They call to me. It's nice to know they're there, but for now, I just have to ignore them. For now.

Status: Bountiful, but I've had to plug my ears with wax.


In the end, things are moving along, albeit slower than I'd prefer, but then, forward motion is good motion. Looking out over the width and breadth of my projects, I think I can say I have about decade of projects ahead me, give or take, and barring any new ideas shoving their way in... So as long as I don't die by Blue Ice Phenomenon or get kidnapped by Aliens--which I naturally assume to be my most likely scenarios--I'll have plenty of things to work on into the future.

Good.

Writing away,
Jon

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 10 comics of 2013


Comics books: blah, blah, sequential art blah, blah, blah, cave paintings blah blah blah oldest art form. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We've done this dance before, right? A couple of times... sort of. Look, long story short, I love them. You should too. Comics are amazing and fun. You will rarely find such a symbiotic marriage of two art forms coming together into a place of such unfettered creativity. Plus, there's tons of awesome action. And punching. And quips... lots and lots of quips...

On with the list!

My top ten favorite comics of 2013:

Battling Boy


Battling Boy is the story of a Great City overrun with villains and giant monsters. It's a story of a young girl named Aurora who has just lost her father, the City's greatest champion, the high-flying science-hero known as Haggard West, killed by the villain Sadisto. It's the story of Aurora, standing among her Father's legacy and burning for revenge. It's also the story of a young Godling, the titular Battling Boy, on the eve of his thirteenth birthday, the day he is sent by his Warrior-God father on his Coming-of-Age Quest. Armed with an Invisible Credit Card and twelve enchanted t-shirts that grant him the abilities of the animal totems emblazoned across their front, he arrives in the Great City ready to destroy all monsters. And a good time ensues, my friends, a good time ensues. This book fell out of the sky for me. A wild mix of kaiju and pulp sci-fi written and drawn by Paul Pope, it is just brilliant. Fun and fast and cool, Pope's art is amazing and the colors are fantastic. There's so much to love here. I didn't put this list in any kind of value order or anything, and the rest of the titles that appear are all great too, but I think Battling Boy might be my favorite title this year. It's fresh and it's new, but it's classic too. Only the first of two volumes is out currently. The second volume is supposedly due out this year, but y'know... comics. Either way, jump on now, you won't be sorry.


Hawkeye


The second title from Matt Fraction and David Aja, this is a book you will find on everyone's list this year. Really. Go look, I'll wait. ...See? Every list. Smart and funny and inventive and great to look at, this is simply a fantastic book. For the non-geek readers, the book is about Hawkeye (the guy with the bow from the Avengers movie) and what he does when he isn't busy being an Avenger... which is mostly get into trouble, be down on his luck, maybe drink too much, and screw up his relationships with his friends, his ex-wife, his current girlfriend, and his not-a-sidekick sidekick Kate Bishop, who also calls herself Hawkeye. She gives him lots of shit. She's smarter than him, so he takes it. It's a lot like the Rockford Files really, but with the occasional superhero freak out. Great action, fantastic panel layouts, beautiful artwork, and often surprisingly funny, I've talked about it before here.


Thor: God of Thunder


Marvel recently relaunched Thor with a new number 1 issue and a slightly new title and I probably would have avoided it totally, because Thor has never really been a character I was interested in, but then Esad Rebic's art caught my eye. Look at it. It is beautiful. Stunning. Images to pour over. It's so good, it's almost good enough that I might have stuck with the book even if the story was shit. Luckily it doesn't come to that, though, because the story is incredible. Man, do I love it. What a great book. Really. Just incredible. A twelve issue journey across time and space, it features three different Thors at different stages of their lives--young and brash, the modern day Avenger, and the grizzled old King-- who must contend with a monstrous killer bent on ridding the entire cosmos of all Gods everywhere. It's a galaxy-spanning, sci-fi, horror, time-traveling adventure. It's an unflinching story, gory and brutal and mean, but it doesn't wallow in it. It's gritty, but not in a false 90's comics kind of way. It's smart and wildly imaginative, there's big crazy ideas. It's funny too. It's a grand story, one that will come to define the character, I think. And honestly, Marvel is crazy if they don't adapt this arc for the eventual third movie. Like a lot of the titles appearing on this list, I've mentioned this one before, like on my 13 comics in 2013 list. To reiterate, if you've never read any Thor--hell, if you've never read any comics at all--issues #1 - 12 would make the short list of ones I would recommend you trying out. 


Saga


I've talked about Saga a lot before now, so you might be a little familiar with it at this point. What can I say? I'm a fan. If you're reading it, then I'm sure you understand my enthusiasm. A off-beat mash-up of sci-fi and high-fantasy, the story is about Alana and Marko, your quintessential star-crossed lovers from rival worlds. They have illegally fallen in love and, as a result, have been forced to go on the run with their new born baby Hazel, who is also the narrator. Now they just have to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, chased across the galaxy by bounty hunters and monsters and a Robot Prince with a TV for a head. It's great book. Smart and weird and funny with plenty of action, if you're a Whedon-Buffy fan, you will definitely enjoy this. Below is a scene with The Will, a bounty hunter hired to find Alana and Marko, and his partner Lying Cat. They're negotiating a possible partnership with Marko's ex-fiancee Gwendolyn, who wants to find Marko for some probably obvious reasons. This is a fun book and it looks great too. Highly recommended.


Prophet


Here's another book that I've talked about some before. Prophet is about an ancient super-soldier, a former slave who once led a revolution against a tyrannical empire, re-awakened in the distant future as his endless clone-progeny work to return that empire to its former glory. It's about a galactic war being waged in a run-down universe well past its prime and a bunch of old heroes returning to fight a battle they had believed long since won. It's an incredibly imaginative book, it's dense and cool, it's sci-fi pushed so far out it becomes fantasy. I love how the setting is so Post-Earth, Humans aren't even a represented species anymore and the greatest works of the fabled Old Earth Empire are just these broken-down ruins floating in space. It's so cool. With some of those images, you can really feel the kind of endless and uncaring void of the universe, how small and unimportant it all ends up being. I love that. Plus, as a bonus for the comic nerds, the book mines a bunch of crappy, put-to-pasture Rob Liefeld Image characters of the mid-90s and it takes their somewhat less-than-interesting templates and sort of hurls them out into this crazy setting, turning them from a bunch of uninspired knock-offs into a pantheon of crippled old Gods trudging forever back into battle. It's so good. Also of note, apparently the story is coming to an end this year, so it will be interesting to see how they wrap things up. Jump on now. However, all that being said and not to discourage anyone from this book, but while it's definitely a highly recommended one, I should probably also mention that Prophet might not be the best "New Reader" option, y'know?


Manhattan Projects


I think Jonathan Hickman is my favorite creator in comics right now. At this point, I will pick up anything with his name on it. He knows his continuity and the characters' histories, but he's not chained to it. Plus, I really like how he thinks big and long-term and he not only usually sticks his endings, but the pay-offs are great. His Fantastic Four run was incredible. Issue #600 of Fantastic Four was maybe one of the best superhero comics ever. His Ultimates run? Secret Warriors? Great stuff. And S.H.I.E.L.D.? Any book that stars Nick Fury, Leonardo DaVinci, Sir Issac Newton, and the time-traveling fathers of Tony Stark and Reed Richards is a-okay with me, kids. His Indie books are great too--more than one appears on this list, in fact--but I've found that whenever he is away from a more firm editorial hand, his narrative cohesion sometimes starts to unravel. Not always, sometimes. However, when he holds it together, he just kills it. This is one of those books. It's a story where the Manhattan Project (obviously), famous for creating the Atom Bomb, was actually a front for weirder, crazier, and even more dangerous experiments, moving beyond the global Cold War and out onto the galactic stage. And it all goes bad. It's a big crazy sci-fi story with some real history mixed in and featuring, among others, Oppenheimer's murderous cannibal twin brother, an insane Albert Einstein refuge from a parallel dimension, an alien Fermi, an irradiated monster Daghlian, the list goes on. It's a blast. I'd recommend this to anyone, especially for someone who wants to read comics, but maybe aren't interested in superhero stuff. It's great. I mean, Oppenheimer machine-gunning an horde of Kamikaze Samurai Kill-bots? Come on...


New Avengers


Here's another Jonathan Hickman title, the second of three, and this is the one firmly entrenched in the Marvel Universe. Recently relaunched with a new number one during the Marvel Now initiative, the New Avengers sees the return of the Illuminati, a covert gathering of some major figures in the Marvel Universe--Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Charles Xavier, Dr. Stephen Strange, Prince Namor of Atlantis, and Blackbolt, King of the Inhumans. They have a long history of behind-the-scene manipulations, all in the name of the greater good, of course, but then those types of ventures often have a tendency to go bad. Eventually they were forced to disband. But now a new threat has called them back together again, this time with T'Challa the Black Panther and Hank McCoy as well, replacing the now dead Xavier. One of the things I really love about this book is the hook: The multiverse is dying. It's dying because somewhere somehow a universe was destroyed. The sudden contraction set off a chain of dimensions/earths crashing violently together to fill the void and the only options are: either one Earth has to be completely destroyed, saving both universes, or both will be wiped out. The heroes are now in a race against time, wrestling with the enormity of their task: That they will most likely be forced to destroy another Earth in order to survive, and sooner rather than later, and probably more than once. It is a new reality that they must keep secret. It doesn't take long for them to discover that they are not the only ones on this path either. In fact they're not even the first versions of themselves to have to deal with this problem, and everyone has the same options of kill or die. I love it. I can't wait to read more. If you love various dimensions and secret wars, weird new realities, desperate last stands, and all the tropes that go with that kind of thing? This is the book for you.


Avengers Arena


There are people out there who will write this title off as a cheap, exploitive Battle Royale/Hunger Games rip-off starring a bunch of teenage Marvel superheroes. Let me assure you, those people are wrong. Well, I mean.... okay, they're not totally wrong, but they're definitely kind of wrong. Yes, the basic plot is the supervillain Arcade has kidnapped a bunch of teenage superheroes from their various teams and academies and has stuck them into a brand spanking new and even deadlier version of one of his Murderworld deathtrap parks. And yes, while there they must fight until there is only one of them left. But neither cheap nor exploitive, what follows after that is a surprisingly great story featuring well drawn characters, real motivation, actual tension and danger, and deaths that matters! Deaths! This a rare and beautiful thing, people. I can count on one hand the number of Marvel and DC comic books that feature all of that. Or any of that really... Dennis Hopeless is a creator I was not familiar with, but he is now someone I will definitely be watching in the future. Just 18 issues long, the story is all done, the last issue is out and it ended great. You want a book with consequences? You want a book with new characters? Here you go, kids. Enjoy.


East of West


Ah, the third and final Jonathan Hickman title on the list and it's probably the most "Hickman-y" title of them all. Set in a strange future wasteland, a a dystopian Wild West where a mysterious event fractured America sometime after the Civil War, it's a story about Death. He's a grizzled old cowboy, and lone Horseman of the Apocalypse, who is hunting the leaders of the new American Nations, a group trying to bring about the end of the world according to a strange scripture called The Message. Meanwhile, the other three Horseman--War, Conquest, and Famine--have all been reincarnated as homicidal children and they are itching to kill Death for reasons of their own. It's a story of big forces and old magic and gunplay. There's also a cyborg cowboy and former Marshall who is the Avatar of Justice. It's... an odd book, sure, crazy, but good. And beautiful. The art is great. I'll admit it though, your mileage may vary with this title, but I love it.


Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant


Delilah Dirk. Love it. Late to the race. Newly discovered. Totally adored. It's basically just a swashbuckling Sinbad the Pirate type of adventure featuring a daring young woman named Delilah and her friend, Selim, a man from Constantinople she rescues from certain death because he makes the best tea in the world. Then the duo go on a globe-trotting, sword-swinging type of adventure in Delilah's flying boat. Until it's shot down... It's pretty fun. Tony Cliff writes and draws and his style is quick and engaging. Beautiful stuff. fun stuff. Definitely worth checking out. My only complaint is that it went by too fast, I'm ready for more.


Honorable Mentions

Ten never seems like enough, so I tacked a handful of others onto the end. It's cheating, yes, but guess who doesn't care? That's right: Me. To continue, if you liked the ten I mentioned above, you may like these as well: Bad Houses, The Wake, Nowhere Men, Heck, and The All-New X-men.




So there you go, what'd you think? Thoughts? Questions? Answers?

Busy reading,
Jon

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 films of 2013





MOVIES!

2013 was a really good year in film. In fact, despite my being behind on movies this year, it was still hard to get this list down to just 10 out of the ones I had seen. Okay, sure... I'll concede that 10 is a completely arbitrary number, but that's where we are starting from, so let's just roll with it.

Ready?

Okay, so... What follows is a list of my Top 10 favorite films of the year. They might not be the best films, by whatever qualification you may want to apply, but that's not what I'm claiming here. These are my favorites. The films I enjoyed. The films I felt were well made. The films I will see again.

Most of all, they are the films I just might purchase.

My Favorites.

Also, while I usually do a Worst of List (see previous years here, here, here, and here), I won't be making one this year. Not because my taste got any better or that there was less crap out there this year or anything like that... I mean, I saw some ungodly shitty films, some just hands down fucking awful ones. Rest assured, if I were to make an absolute Worst Films of 2013 list, Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness would easily--EASILY!--take the top two spots. What a pair of terrible god damn films... So no, I won't be making a Worst of List, because I just didn't see many of the type of films I usually like to include, the big budget films, the ones with no excuse for being as bad as they are, the ones with all the money, talent, and connections of Hollywood available to them. Why is this, you ask? Well, you might remember me mentioning that Filmzilla closed earlier this year. With that went my supply of really shitty films that I could see for free. Without that what am I supposed to do? What, do you really think I'd pay to see The Lone Ranger? Fuck off. So yeah, that's what that's about, just so you know, in case you were wondering.

And just for the record: I'm really glad Ender's Game bombed.

My list follows. There's probably spoilers all over the place, but I don't care. As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts below, if you feel moved.

Top 10 favorite films of 2013:

10. This is the End


In a nutshell, This is the End is a movie about James Franco, Seth Rogan, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel trying to survive a Biblical Apocalypse. They're not playing characters; they're playing themselves. And not surprisingly maybe, I did not expect to enjoy it. Not in the least. Or even see it, honestly. I mean, I like these guys as actors, but you can see a Project like this coming from miles away and at that distance, it really looked like nothing more than a self-indulgent jerk-off of a film, nothing but a scam by a bunch of pampered celebrity douches to get the studios to pay for them all to hang out together. But... like 21 Jump Street, I was totally wrong. This is the End is ridiculously funny. Profane. Raunchy. The term "In poor taste" might come to mind at times, but it was still hilarious. Okay, okay, sure... It may not be for everyone, but I laughed all the way through. It's memorable. And quotable, too. Okay, maybe not Supertroopers/Army of Darkness quotable, but still, among my friends, all you have to say is: "Channing Tate-yum!" and people will start laughing.

9. Thor: The Dark World


I've never been a big Thor fan. In fact, until fairly recently, I had never even really read the comic. I knew the character, sure, but the whole faux-Shakespearean thing that most creators have leaned a little too heavily on in the past puts me off. And while I like the idea of a race of Cosmic-Space-Gods, the mythology tended to skew too far into the loosey-goosey and the wobbly for me. I like fun, but I'm not a fan of wacky and Thor could sometimes get wacky. But, being a Marvel-head, there was no way I wasn't going to the film. In the end, I liked it, but I only kind of liked it. It was okay. But it's probably my least favorite Marvel film. Of course, I really enjoyed Thor in Avengers, but y'know... feel free to take that with a grin of salt. All of this basically means, I was interested and intrigued by what I was seeing in the trailers for Thor 2, but I wasn't really giddy, understand? My point is: when I went, I went in somewhat reasonably, I think. "Entertain me, please." And that's what Thor 2 did. It entertained the hell out of me. The movie is a flat-out romp. It's not grim or dark or plodding, it is the tonal opposite of Man of Steel. It's fun and funny with some great set-pieces and pretty cool designs. The characters are well done. The mythology is more established. Best of all, it's sincere. All in all, this is a fun film. Watch it. It's a good time.

8. Iron Man 3


Ah, yes... Now here is a great superhero film. I'll just say it. I loved Iron Man 3. Loved it. I'm a big Shane Black fan--you've seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, right, you should--so when he was attached to Direct, I was very excited. In a nutshell, I pretty much liked everything they did in this film. I was happy to see them build off the events in the Avengers, but not chain themselves to it. I really liked the way they wrapped up the character arc of Tony Stark. I love that they saved Dummy. Plus, how great did the new armor look with the yellow and red reversed? All in all, this was the perfect cap to an already excellent summer movie trilogy (Yes, it's true, I don't have a problem with Iron Man 2, or at least, not enough of one to dwell on). And why we're on the topic of issues, I really do not have one with the way the character of the Mandarin was handled. In fact, I find the reasons people use, the ones who do claim to have a problem with it, to be stupid and hollow. I thought it was a brilliant move, especially in the face of the fact that the Mandarin has always been a ridiculously poor villain just in general (what's your favorite Mandarin story line, whiner?), not to mention a completely stale and an out-of-date racist caricature. So, yeah. Brilliant. As far as I'm concerned, that was just a cherry sitting on top of what was already a hell of a good time. Of course, it does leave me with one Nerd Question: If the ten rings in the Ten Rings Organization does not refer to the Mandarin's ten rings... then what does it refer to?

7. Side Effects


I'm a big fan of Steven Soderbergh, but perhaps strangely, not one of all of his films. I enjoy them. They're definitely gorgeous, but often times I find them a bit unsatisfying... or at least, I think I do, because despite this, I am always in line for the next one. Maybe it's because when I do connect to one of his films, I really connect. Side Effects is one of those films. I avoided this one for awhile. And when I finally got around to it, I went in expecting a film about Pharmacology and Psychiatric drugs and Chemical dependency and maybe something on the Mentally Unstable, and most likely, lots and lots of screeching and screaming and general crazy person unreasonable behavior, which is a total trigger for me. I really don't enjoy watching that kind of subject matter. Honestly, I'm kind of shocked I subjected myself to the possible experience. But I did, and while I did kind of get all of the stuff that I listed above, I also got a twisting and turning Hitchcockian thriller full of lies and set-ups and double-crosses. Just fantastic. What I got was a ton of stuff I did not see coming and I loved the whole thing. Ewan MacGreggor is great, as always, and Rooney Mara just gets better and better. Plus, I'll just admit it: I'm a Channing Tatum fan. I mean... Channing Tate-yum...

6. Gravity


I've gone on and on about this film, talking about my love of Alfonso Cuaron and astronauts and the space program, the movie Children of Men, and how my "almost as big as my fear of sharks" fear of being adrift and far from land somewhat naturally translates to space. On and on, as I am wont to do now and then. What can I say? I was very excited. And Gravity paid off in spades. Were there some on-the-nose visual metaphors? Sure. Were there some technical inaccuracies? Apparently, but I wouldn't have noticed them without the help of Dr. Tyson, and even though I know about them now, I still don't care. That doesn't detract at all, because this was a good movie. It's spare. It's bare bones, but it's a classic story, a man vs nature tale, short and sweet and focused, nothing but survival. It's Jack London's To Build a Fire... but in space. Now, for some (The ADHD crowd...), this is not going to be enough. Sucks to be them. For me, Gravity was a white knuckle adventure with barely any room to breathe and I was fully invested in from beginning to end. Loved the movie. Loved Sandra. I'm all about it. Loved it.

5. The Spectacular Now


I did not like 500 Days of Summer, the previous script by Scott Neustadter. Besides the kind of overly-cute "hipster-y-ness" of everything, all the "normal" stuff just felt too untethered from reality for me, which is strange, because the parts I did like, like the dance scene and when he looks in the mirror and sees Han Solo looking back, were complete un-reality. I don't know, I'm not a big fan. So--in what is apparently the emerging theme of this year's list--I wasn't expecting too much from The Spectacular Now. The story is just your basic slice-of-life, a pair of kids are on the cusp of graduating High School and are about to step out into the wide, wild world. It's a Coming of Age tale, as the kids call it. Yes, it's charming and funny and touching and sad and all very well done, no complaints there, but on a certain level, we've all seen it before. But what really sells the film are the two leads: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. They're both very good and their chemistry is natural and familiar. You know them. You've been them. They're a treat to watch together. Plus, despite its familiarity, or maybe because of it, The Spectacular Now is just a great film. I really enjoyed it.

4. Frances Ha


Noah Baumbach. Honestly, most of his stuff kind of bores me. For the most part, I think it can all be summed up as: the general malaise of white people. Other than that, I love Kicking and Screaming and I fucking hate Greenberg. HATE! If you ask me, if you ever need an example of everything bad in the loosely-termed "Art Cinema" genre, Greenberg is it. It's awful. Just terrible. Ben Stiller is a son of a bitch and he should have been sentenced to hard time for that film. So bad. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that may have been the last of Baumbach's films that I'd seen, so as a result, when I saw the trailers for Frances Ha--a film released in black and white with a synopsis that reads: "A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn't really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she's not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles." It is fair to say that I was dubious, but that would also be a huge understatement. Maybe it was more like: "I'm not even going to bother." But then I did... I'm not sure why. And it's fantastic. Co-written by Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha is about finding your place in the world and all of the missteps and wrong starts along the way. Is it still kind of about the general malaise of white people? Yes, but it's also a film that stuck with me, one I've found myself thinking about, something I definitely didn't expect, so I'm a fan. Like I said: the emerging theme of this list.

3. Upstream Color


I've been waiting almost a decade for the next Shane Carruth film. Primer was released in 2004, a mirco-budgeted, very smart, very clever, twisting and knotting Independent Sci-fi Time Travel film. It was a film that left a mark, heralding an interesting new filmmaker. The type of person you both want to be given some crazy-budgeted big summer blockbuster, but dread the idea of him being torn away from his own super cool, super interesting projects. I'm very much a fan. I don't know what took him so long to put out his second film, whether it was fear, pressure, or a need for obsessive planning (my bet is a whole heaping helping of that last one, if not all three), but I certainly hope it doesn't take him as long to put out his third. Upstream Color is a hard film to summarize. It's sci-fi. It's contemplative. It's interesting and it's weird. Here's a synopsis: "Upstream Color is about two people whose lives and behaviors are affected by a complex parasite—without knowing it—that has a three-stage life cycle in which it passes from humans to pigs to orchids." Yes, that is fair to say. There is some of that going on. Here's another synopsis: "A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives." Hmmm... yes, there is definitely some of that too. There's also some stuff concerning Water. And Pigs, of course. Pigs. Parasites. Powers. (Alliteration!) Plus: Weird relationships. I loved it. It's another one that sticks with me. I think I'll probably end up buying it and watch it and re-watch it and love it, but always feel like I never quite get it. Great film.

2. Short Term 12


I had no idea Short Term 12 was even a film until after it had been released. I hadn't heard anything about it coming down the pipe. I hadn't seen any trailers. No TV spots. No posters. Nothing. Then suddenly I read a couple of reviews and the reactions were so positive, that I knew I had to go check it out. This will happen sometimes, it's what happened with Children of Men, sometimes films drop out of the sky for me. So, when I went to see it, I didn't have any expectations. And I loved it. Brie Larson and Kaitlyn Dever--both of whom also appeared in The Spectacular Now...not a bad year for them--are fantastic as Grace, a 20 something staff member at a foster care facility called Short Term 12, and Jayden, one of the kids who ends up staying there. Grace is deeply invested in both her job and the kids that stay there and she bonds with Jayden very quickly and deeply. The movie is about many things. It's about growing up and moving on, and dealing with life as best as you can. It's about connecting and finding people who matter to you. It's basically about Grace trying to help the kids in her care while dealing with her own dark past and her impending future with her long-time co-worker boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.--who was also great.). It is a fantastic little film. You should definitely seek it out.

1. The World's End


Ah, and now the big winner. The prettiest girl at the ball. The World's End is without a doubt my favorite film of the year. Due to a heady combination of the most anticipation, the most enjoyment, and the best made god damn film, it easily takes the year's crown. This is the third and final film of the infamous Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy--also known as: The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy--all three are directed by Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead (Red Cornetto) was first and after that came Hot Fuzz (Blue Cornetto). Both are phenomenal films, sharp as a razor, funny as hell, witty and charming as all get out, self-aware and embracing all of it, they're two of my all-time favorites. The World's End (Green Cornetto) fits in perfectly with its successors. It's about of a group of friends--grown distant by life and the years in between--returning to their old home town for one last attempt at a legendary bar crawl of their youth. It is an attempt to recapture that old glory and simultaneously move past it, all while trying to salvage those old friendships for the years ahead... and then they discover that their hometown has been taken over by body-snatching aliens. Turns out you can't go home again, right? Like the two before it, The World's End is a flat-out hilarious comedy, a kick-ass action movie, and a touching character piece. It is a send-up of the Alien Invasion films and the "old friends/high school reunion" type of films and yet it is also a fantastic example of those types of films done really well. I loved the world's End. It is part of my all time favorite trilogies. They all have my highest possible recommendation. And just in case you're worried, you don't need to see any or all of them of them, in order to appreciate one of them, so don't be afraid. See this movie.

Honorable Mentions:

It was a tough call. There was lots of pacing and agonizing. There was hemming and hawing and teeth gnashing. It was a truly epic struggle. But in the end, someone had to get cut. Here are the five films that almost made my Top 10... almost, so close, but it was not to be. Even though they didn't make the list, I still encourage you to hunt them down and check them out. They are totally worth it: The Kings of Summer, Zero Charisma, Only God Forgives, Springbreakers, and The Conjuring.




Yes, it's true, I actually did include a Harmony Korine film. Insane, right? I know. Well, it's because it's actually good. Really.

And of course, there's always a few films I have missed that might have appeared on this list if only I hadn't been too busy to make it to the theatre. These might be good, maybe. I can't say for sure, of course, because I haven't seen any of them, so maybe this is a more of a short list of films that I'm suggesting we both check out, because they may or may not be awesome: Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers ClubHer, The Wolf of Wall StreetBlue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, and Rush.





I know... I'm totally behind on movies this year. It's the loss of Filmzilla, man. Sad shit... Anyway, what do you think? Did I forget anything?

Let me know,
Jon