This choice might be purely situational - it was Christmas day, the BBC had shown an excellent animated feature immediately before it, and then they broadcast this. In any other circumstance, it might've been a lousy watch and nothing more, but in this sitting, it was like torture. I was trying desperately to get up and walk away, but I couldn't. It was Christmas day! You're expected to sit on your arse in front of the telly box! And this is what they chose to run.
It no doubt has its appeal to some folks, but this film just served as a reminder that Tim Burton isn't my bag. I was glued to the chair in abject horror - how could a movie with such whimsy bore me so? How could I care any less about a film's cast? It's like the very essence of Burton himself - having buckets of money thrown his way and used to create something that might have had potential, but got lost and replaced with tedium and substandard cinema somewhere along the way.
What a way to end the year.
Runner-up: Flightplan was a stinking pile as well, but at least with it I wasn't so concerned over so many talented special effects and CGI artists taking part in a film so unsatisfactory.
The only thing I knew of this was its oddly-cut trailer that played it up as a slasher film in space. What I got was definitely something more up my alley - a slower-going, contemplative adventure with an intriguing cast of characters and some truly beautiful sights to behold. It does go off the rails in the third act, going a bit too sci-fi-slasher to be taken seriously, but the ending is relatively satisfying, and overall I'd say it's a good watch. Worth checking out again!
Runner-up: Likewise, I didn't know what to expect out of Drive. It seemed like a very barebones mobster story at first (and indeed it is), but the film stuck in my head long afterwards because of its excellent cinemtography and imagery. There's many quiet shots of the lead character simply driving at night under the neon lights, and, curiously, that's the sort of thing I remember the most. It's a good film and all, but darn it, don't show me pretty things, I'll forget anything else exists.
Producing a sequel so many years after the last instalment is always a bit of a gamble, and Terminator 3 simply isn't in the same calibre. There's no way it can simply do exactly what T2 did, but none of the changes it makes do it any favours either - the characters are obnoxious, the enemy Terminator is poorly defined and unimaginative, and despite its attempts to ramp up the action, it simply doesn't put you on the edge of your seat like it should do. In the catch-all action movie category, it's fair enough, but being a Terminator film effectively seals its fate.
Runner-up: After hearing so many words of praise for it over the years, Beetlejuice did little to impress me. It had great special effects and plenty of imagination, but the actual concoction it made from them simply didn't elicit laughs or entertainment from me. It works for some folks, but it didn't for me.
Choosing an absolute best watch out of fifty movies is a tough choice, especially for a wishy-washy sack of shit like myself. Of the films I watched there were great thrillers, there were great comedies, there were great miscellaneous...
... but I think I'd have to choose Psycho. It's a sterling piece of cinema, with cinematography and performances that still hold up. I frequently enter movies like this dreading it'll be completely ruined for me after years of parodies, references and spoilers turned into pop culture osmosis, but Alfie's stuff remains rock-solid after these decades. Boffo!
Runner-up: Well, darn it, How To Train Your Dragon just plain tickled me. I confess the shorts running on the following days gave it a leg up, and altogether they helped make Christmas television somewhat worthwhile this year.
The poster boy for "frustrated obligation" this year. I spent over a week bashing my head against this game in a desperate attempt to see it to completion, just so I could tick it off my list of games from childhood I'd never finished. It was a most unpleasant experience.
The game occasionally sees remarks online from people regarding it as a competent beat-em-up, a half-decent game that stood out from LJN's lousy publishings. It makes me concerned if I wasn't seeing the right side of the game, if I was approaching the gameplay in the wrong train of thought, even if the Super Nintendo version was more competently designed... or perhaps if those people simply didn't play far enough for the game to really start chewing them a new one.
Runner-up: Mega Man Battle Network was another game I left unfinished and sought to complete. After one obscenely crappy dungeon, the rest of the game was a breeze, but it was overall a rather lacklustre experience. I hear the sequels are more rounded experiences, though I'm in no rush to find out.
I had played the first Lost Planet to completion in 2011, and it was a very lousy experience; a sub-par third-person-shooter mired by clunky mechanics, a slow-going campaign, and a most unhelpful UI. I wasn't expecting a lot when I revisited this out of boredom.
Lost Planet 2 has the budget to iron out a lot of the kinks - the mechanics still aren't for everybody and its menu is still a confusing mess, but the game is bigger, better, and a lot more epic in scope. More importantly, this time around I discovered the training mode, which is actually home to some very entertaining time trials, obstacle courses, and CPU battle royales! Features like these boasted a lot more replay value and desire to improve over just replaying the campaign over again, and the bite-sized gameplay it offered was more entertaining than the often-lengthy story chapters.
This game filled up my entire December, and occupied me until halfway through the following year, to boot. It's not a perfect game, but it's miles better than the last effort, and well worth checking out.
Runner-up: Bill & Ted's Excellent Game Boy Adventure was a lot better than it had any right to be. Okay, it's a bare-basic collect-em-up with barely any graphics and some odd mechanics, but it's a solid little game, perfect for quick pick-up-and-play action with a sizeable amount of levels to work through.
There weren't many disappointments this year! Okay, I could have chosen some Xbox Live Indie game that wasn't what I expected it to be, like Akane the Kunoichi, but that was down to my foolish decisions as a consumer. I was intrigued to play New Super Mario Bros. afresh, but I'm unsure if it's held up. The hype for the return of 2D Mario was all the appeal, and once bigger, better platformers were released like Donkey Kong Country Returns, this one just can't compete. It's a solid engine with great new additions, but the levels feel so mundane and underwhelming. I might warm up to it again once I get a completed save file again, but maybe it's had its day.
Runner-up: Nothing springs to mind! If I wanted to be controversial, I could say Rayman Origins, though that's more to the lack of secrets and bonuses, compared to other Rayman games. A slightly disappointing product, perhaps, but the game itself is relatively solid!
Well, I don't think any other game comes close to time spent on it this year. Resident Evil 5 was a real treat to discover all its extra modes, and how much challenge there was to be mined out of them. Spending the time finding all the secrets in the campaign, improving my Mercenaries scores and faffing about in co-op was a blast, and it's almost disappointing to know I'd done (almost) everything. Still, there's RE4, isn't there?
Runner-up: Choosing one runner-up is going to be tough. Playing Goldeneye on a harder difficulty was a fun new challenge, and a great game to revisit. Monster World IV might not have been challenging, but it was bristling with charm and colour. And, well, Lost Planet 2 really made an impression on me, it might just need to be mentioned twice. I can't decide! ABANDON SEGMENT
It was nice to finally see what all the fuss was about after all these years, but I'd probably missed my opportunity to be invested in it by decade or two. It's certainly a curiosity, sporting a mood one didn't commonly see in shows of the time and being one weird interpretation of a chirpy and cheerful video game series, but the show itself only rarely caught my interest. Not a show for me, I suppose!
What a show to start the year with! I fell in love with M*A*S*H from the get-go; a unique setting one rarely saw in media (never mind comedies!), with a cast of colourful and entertaining characters, and varied stories covering the gamut from hilarious to morose. I found so much to love in the show, and blasting through it in seven months was exhilarating, but came with serious withdrawal problems. I'm serious, I had a craving for more M*A*S*H, and what else out there is like it? One of the best watches of the year sadly led me to...
"It's always jumpin' here at General General. Just like MASH. But the pace is different."
-- s1e15: "Yours Truly, Max Klinger"
... a show infamous for disappointment. There is a certain novelty to it; it's nice to see the civilian lives Potter, Mulcahy and Klinger settle into to after Korea, and seeing the old tropes given new spins in their home turf is a nice change. However, a majority of the time the show is startlingly unfunny, and wildly uninteresting to boot - it's a difficult show to recommend on entertainment value.
Watching it to try and figure out how they wanted to make it work is almost a morbid curiosity. The show seems unhappy with its cast, constantly introducing new ones towards its later half, and most of the big laughs come from random bit players. When it tries to create a dramatic storyline, it often leaves you liking the characters less than you did before. It's darkly fascinating, but if you've any attachment to the original M*A*S*H, expect to feel more than a little heartbroken by the end of it.
I could just list M*A*S*H here again, but I don't want to look like I'm biased or anything. And Cowboy Bebop was a darn good watch! It's a great anime with solid production quality, a terrific voice cast, and surprisingly easy to rewatch at your leisure, too. That's a quality you don't find enough.
None of the books I read were particularly bad. One or two might have had stumbling points, or weren't quite my kind of book, but I wouldn't say any were dreadful. What Katy Did is chosen because... you know when I said the book nearly put me to sleep? I can't stress that enough. It's totally a sleepy-time book. If I'd recognised this and read it before going to bed, it could very well have had pharmaceutical purposes, but since I chose to read it during work, it didn't do me any favours.
Having read Tim Kreider's The Pain; When Will It End? for a few years, I figured I'd give back to the man and buy his book. This is the guy responsible for such comic masterpieces as "Adventures in Poor Judgment", "Drugs Fer White People", and "Oh, He's Not Gay, He's Just A Big Fag".
I'm not sure what I was expecting out of it, but the book I got was an excellent, leisurely read. A surprisingly heartwarming book, of all things, full of events and thoughts that reflected on, well, being human. My ponderous wankery no doubt makes it sound classier than it is, but it was a far more entertaining and heartwarming than I expected it to be. A buy I definitely don't regret.
I'd enjoyed Matheson's I Am Legend a couple of years prior, and after being blown away by Philip K. Dick's short stories a few months before, I was hoping for something of a similar stature from this. Of the eleven stories inside, I'd say only two or three of them were worthwhile reads, but even they aren't without their flaws.
It is seriously unfair of me to be comparing such disparate authors based purely on reading them not long after each other, but where Philip used each story to explore strange, far-out concepts, The Box seriously feels like a dummy's guide to campfire stories. Dying Room Only and Mute are engaging reads, but the rest aren't worth tracking down.
A lot of the books I read in the latter half of the year were ones we were chucking out, so I had no expectations of them. They were not only all sound, but this book took me by surprise with how intense it was. Action movie: the book! This paperbook was positively wedged in my hands. It's high-octane, it never lets up, and it's a gosh-darned intense thrill ride from start to finish. It has its crass aspects, but it's a long time since a book got this kind of wild-eyed reception out of me. A series I might have to investigate further!