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I Think Pacific Rim Ruined Godzilla for Me

I went to see Godzilla last night on a hot date with myself. I dressed up nice, wore black stockings and blue lipstick along with my Gipsy Danger shirt, and treated myself to a movie and cheese sticks.

While I do enjoy hot dates with myself from time to time, I realized after I finished the film and drove home that I needed someone to sound off to. Because while I ended up liking the film and it was certainly better than that 1998 one, there were so many things about it that bothered me the more I thought about it. Maybe because I was so spoiled by Pacific Rim last year that the things that bothered me about it, I kept comparing to how Pacific Rim did it.

This is a list of all my grievances about the film compared to things I enjoyed in Pacific Rim. Note that this is only my opinion and I would still suggest seeing the film. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GODZILLA. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

GO GO GODZILLA! [hdiwallpapers.com]

GO GO GODZILLA! [hdiwallpapers.com]

1.) Godzilla was barely in the damn thing – Say what you will about Pacific Rim, but the film delivered on the trailer promise of giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. Which, hey, made me enjoy it on a base level even without the cast and storyline. If you call a film Godzilla, I kind of expect him to be there more than the MUTOs that were trying to destroy San Francisco with their mating and radioactive babies. When Godzilla was on screen kicking MUTO ass and telling those damn teenage kaiju to get off his lawn, it was amazing! But there wasn’t enough of it.

2.) Everything the Navy did was basically what the Pan Pacific Defense Corps learned not to do – I kept jokingly referring to the film as “The Pan Pacific Defense Corps: The Early Years” in my head. I know that they don’t have a lot of experience dealing with ancient creatures from beneath the sea sucking on radiation to survive, but how do these people really think “Shoot bullets at the giant monster while people taking refuge from a tsunami stand nearby. That’ll slow it down.” There’s a reason the Jaeger program exists and it’s because it was assessed to do the least amount of damage and be more cost effective in the long run than trying to have the army shoot down a kaiju in a three day battle and irradiate a metropolitan area to the point no one could live there anymore. At least there was some damn sense to take the bomb attempt as far away from land as possible. You know, if it had worked. Which brings me to my next point…

3.) Does no one listen to scientists? – I understand that Dr. Serizawa was working on a hypothesis that Godzilla was the alpha predator coming ashore to fight the MUTOs and establish his dominance. He had no way to confirm it until the very end of the film when that’s actually what happened. However, you think with how many times Serizawa and Dr. Graham said the monsters feed off of radiation, you think the Navy would want to come up with a better plan besides “Put some old bombs that run on clockwork on a train to San Francisco, then put them on a boat as far as we can possibly get.” I mean, they were also working on a hypothesis that the force from the blast would kill them instead of the radiation making them stronger. Or the radiation from the bomb attracting one of the MUTOs to the train. You think when you’re dealing with people who have studied these creatures for YEARS, you might want to consult them on plans for minimal damage to both the city and your men.

Poor Serizawa. He had this look on his face that said 'The Sound of Silence' should have been playing anytime he was on screen. [everythingkaiju.com]

Poor Serizawa. He had this look on his face that said ‘The Sound of Silence’ should have been playing anytime he was on screen. [everythingkaiju.com]

4.) The film doesn’t even pass the Sexy Lamp Test – I know it’s a huge point of contention over Pacific Rim and the Bechdel Test. And it’s a valid concern. However, the Bechdel Test isn’t the end all, be all test for female representation in film. I also Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Sexy Lamp Test concurrently. The Sexy Lamp Test is simple: if you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp and still get the same plot, maybe you should go back and rewrite those characters. Mako Mori may not interact with any other women in the Shatterdome on screen, but she is a central part of Pacific Rim’s plot. Replace her with a sexy lamp and Raleigh doesn’t get back in the pilot seat nor does Gipsy Danger win the day against Otachi.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Godzilla. There are three major female characters in Godzilla and on top of not interacting with each other, it feels like there’s not a whole lot of reason for them to be there. Ford’s wife Elle mostly sits around and waits for him to come back, even keeping herself in danger to wait on him instead of getting the hell out of dodge with her son. Replace her with a sexy lamp and you can easily change all of Ford’s motivation for getting home to his son. The only part where it would be hard to replace her with a lamp is when she hands her son over to her co-worker instead of going with him. Mom of the year, everybody. I guess it was Elizabeth Olson prepping herself to be Wanda Maximoff.

Dr. Graham keeps being presented as Dr. Serizawa’s partner, but she often comes across more as an assistant to him more than anything else. She has a few lines of exposition, but I feel like if you gave her lines to Serizawa, you still got the same movie. Which is disappointing because I would have loved to have seen more of a kaiju studying lady scientist.

I guess you couldn’t replace Joe’s wife Sandra with a lamp, but her whole character was basically set up to die and motivate Joe to find out what really happened the day she died. She may not be a sexy lamp, but she’s certainly the woman in the fridge.

I DEMAND MORE FOR LADY SCIENTISTS IN FILM. [freshnessmag.com]

I DEMAND MORE FOR LADY SCIENTISTS IN FILM. [freshnessmag.com]

5.) At the end of the day, there’s not a whole lot of diversity – You know, for a film that starts in the Philippines and Japan and features a monster created by three Japanese men, there’s not a lot of Asians in the main cast. In fact, the only one is Ken Watanabe. Even San Francisco, a city with a high Asian population, looked pretty white. I’m glad Bryan Cranston was there and the acting was well done for the most part, but would it have really killed the studio to have some people of color coming together to assess the MUTO threat?

At least the two black men we see on screen don’t die horribly. In fact, one of them was sensible enough to bypass a police blockade and drive a schoolbus full of children over the Golden Gate Bridge before it collapsed. In fact, I think that bus driver was the smartest guy in this film. Four for you, dude!

Still, it was beautifully shot and when the monsters were on screen, it was amazing. Especially the mating ritual between the MUTOs and Godzilla just being his badass King Kaiju self. It’s a good dramatic popcorn flick for yelling at the screen. Give it a shot. You might enjoy it.

Or go watch Pacific Rim again. That’s cool too.

YEAH. [ghostlittle.com]

YEAH. [ghostlittle.com]

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Film

 

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Discussing Dreams and Reality with The Wind Rises

“Would you like to live in a world with or without pyramids?”

After a lot of thought, I realized that this is the essential question asked in Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film The Wind Rises.

The Wind Rises is an interesting film. I haven’t seen every single one of the films he’s directed or worked on with Studio Ghibli, but I’ve seen enough to know that his final film is a very different film from the rest of his work. Where Miyazaki’s work is usually people with very real issues in a very magical situation, The Wind Rises is very much grounded in reality, but enhanced by the main character’s dreams.

Jiro and Naoko. [theverge.com]

Jiro and Naoko. [theverge.com]

Perhaps it’s because of the film’s background. The story of The Wind Rises combines the work of aerospace engineer Jiro Horikoshi and the novel The Wind Has Risen by Hori Tatsuo. It tells a fictionalized version of Horikoshi’s life leading up to World War II with his work on the Mitsubishi A5M and is inspired by his quote, “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”

Which brings me back to that essential question.

Part way through the film, when it’s implied that Germany and Italy are leading up to the war, the dream mentor of Giovanni Caproni asks Horikoshi if he would prefer to live in a world with or without pyramids. The implication is this: would you rather live in a world with beautiful things that are rooted in hardship, or would you want to live in a world where our dreams remained untainted by the outside world and therefore unrealized.

It’s an interesting way to look at the realization of dreams and makes me wonder why so many have seen this as an anti-war film. It doesn’t really take a stance either way and certainly doesn’t go into how the war affects Horikoshi’s life in the way Grave of the Fireflies looks at how the war affected Japan. In fact, it seems to look at war as a necessary evil at some points. For all the horribleness and hardship it brings, it also produces technological advancements the world has never seen. Technological advancements that Horikoshi dreams about when he sleeps at night. It reminded me of the Wernher von Braun quote about the V-2 rocket he created being used in the Blitzkrieg: “The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet.”

Horikoshi on his first "meeting" with Caproni. [filmjunk.com]

Horikoshi on his first “meeting” with Caproni. [filmjunk.com]

However, the film doesn’t really try to justify the war in that sense either. With the focus on this fictional Horikoshi’s life as he creates the A5M and falls in love with a woman doomed to die, it ultimately becomes less about the war and more of a bittersweet lesson. That sometimes our dreams don’t work out exactly how we hoped, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to live them out.

This was a hard film for me to process. It’s not that it wasn’t beautiful. It was gorgeous both in scope and story. It also sneaks up on you because I found myself tearing up a lot at it when I least expected. It was challenging and quite the shakeup for Miyazaki in a good way.

I just don’t know where it falls for the rest of Miyazaki for me.

I know he can handle mature subject material just fine. You only need to see Princess Mononoke to see that and this film does it well too. It’s less that it’s bad in my book, but more of if it’s going to be my next Children of Men: A film I love and admire, but could only watch once due to the number it did on my mental health. I don’t think it will be that bad, but I don’t see myself revisiting this film a lot in the future just because of the context and content of the film.

I would like to rewatch it at least once though to hear the original Japanese with Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno as Horikoshi. I love Joseph Gordon Levitt, but his performance as Horikoshi felt a bit flat. Perhaps that was intentional and I would love to get some perspective.

Horikoshi and his dream of the A5M. [highsnobiety.com]

Horikoshi and his dream of the A5M. [highsnobiety.com]

It’s a film worth watching though, and it’s a shame that many members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dismissed this film (and the other films in the category) as for children without giving it a serious view. It’s a very different film from Frozen and could have been a serious contender for the win if it had been looked at more seriously. Because really, it is a film that deserves to be watched, no matter if you think it’s an anti-war piece of garbage or the best film Hayao Miyazaki ever made. Even if I remain forever unsure about it, I’m glad I saw it because it reminded me to go forward with my dreams and live.

Because even with the most important question, there’s an even more impression that overrides that coming from Caproni.

“Is the wind rising, Japanese boy? Then we must try to live!”

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Film

 

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Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a Brutal and Relatable Look at a Hard Subject

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

There are just some things in life not everyone is going to understand completely. You can study the subject all day, but there are things about that subject that you won’t understand unless you’re going through it yourself. The best you can do in those situations though is have empathy for those who experience it.

In this case, it’s being trans.

I’m not trans. Being a cis bisexual white girl from North Georgia, I didn’t meet someone who identified as and was out as trans until I got to college. Since then, it’s been a lot of re-education about the subject. I know I will never understand the subject completely, but I’ve tried my best to have empathy and understand when I screw up.

This is a bit of a weird way to lead into a review of a punk album, but trust me, it’s very related.

I’ve talked about Against Me! before on my blog way back when I first started listening to the band after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender. I fell in love with Grace’s emotional and honest lyrics that dealt with depression, growing older, falling in love, and drug use, among other things. One of those things being gender dsyphoria. Minus the very obvious hit-you-over-the-head-why-did-no-one-get-this-in-2007 reference in ‘The Ocean,’ it’s rather subtle and hidden away in the lyrics. White Crosses as an album is a lot about growing older and becoming a parent, but I think on my 100th listen, it started to click that White Crosses was very subtly about Laura considering coming out and transitioning.

On Transgender Dysphoria Blues, she’s not being subtle about it anymore.

The band's current lineup. [npr.org]

The band’s current lineup. [npr.org]

Initially billed as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, Grace has since admitted that the record is completely autobiographical and she talked about the album as such to deal with the anxiety she had about releasing a record like this. While the album definitely tells a story, I’m kind of glad it’s not actually a concept album. For some reason, the album hits more knowing that it isn’t a fictional turn at events.

“Your tells are so obvious/Shoulders too broad for a girl,” growls Grace on the opening line of the album. From that moment, you know that Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn’t your average story. It’s about everything that crossed Grace’s mind as she started her transition. How sad she and afraid she felt. How she hid in plain sight for years in the straight male-heavy punk scene. There’s a lot about death and change here, especially in the song ‘Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ,’ where Grace evokes the violent images of the public hanging of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, expecting her fate and public perception to be the same.

This makes it all sound like an inaccessible record, but it’s really not. There are things on there not everyone can relate to, but there is plenty that evokes empathy on the record. I don’t understand personally what it’s like to have gender dysphoria, but I understand depression. I understand anxiety and nervously trying to hide parts of yourself. I understand fear, not feeling wanted, and wanting to rise above what’s made you feel the weakest. I know Grace wrote this record for no one but herself, but the way she contextualizes her experiences in the music to the outside just makes the thoughts that were running in her mind that much more raw.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one of the most honest albums they’ve heard and I really do agree with that. Grace has nothing to hide anymore and mixed with the more stripped down production on her part, she lays herself out there more than she ever has before. And considering her past work, that’s no small feat.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues can be a rough record if you’re not ready for it, but it’s also an extremely rewarding listen if you are. It’s not here to be a teachable moment, but an honest story of one woman’s experiences and personal struggles. It’s still all Grace’s at the end of the day, but with how much she opened her heart to the world, it’s hard not to connect with it on some level and begin to sing along.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Music

 

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Ashley’s Favorite Music of 2013

Well, here it is. The grand finale of my favorites of 2013. It took me two weeks to compose my thoughts on this topic… Or rather, I’ve been stupidly busy with work that I haven’t had a chance to write it. I like the first excuse better though.

Last year was a pretty damn good year. Favorites returned, new people surprised me, and there were some great indie stuff that popped up in my personal circle. I talked about some of it in the middle of last year, but what made it to the end? Well, let’s start with

Favorite Singles

Honorable Mention: ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

I hate that I like this song. I hate that Katy Perry songs keep getting in my head and every time I say I don’t like it, it beats me into submission until I do. It happened again with ‘Roar’ to the point I would turn it up and belt Katy’s turn at an empowerment anthem after her divorce from Russell Brand. Though, due to Katy’s writing style, I still think she’s writing about Travis McCoy.

6.) TIE: ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk and ‘Holy Grail’ by Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake

Lots of people got sick of these songs rather quickly, but strangely, I never did. Even though I couldn’t get into Magna Carta Holy Grail the way I did Watch The Throne, there were several tracks on the album that completely stood out to me like ‘BBC,’ ‘Picasso Baby,’ and ‘Jay Z Blue.’ The lead single of ‘Holy Grail’ was completely entrancing. I think I might have ended up liking Justin on this track more than on most of his singles from The 20/20 Experience. Well… most…

As for ‘Get Lucky,’ it really was everyone’s song of the year. It was a fun disco track that felt more genuine than any other track on the radio this summer. It also probably sealed the deal for the awesome year Pharrell had. Well, maybe it was that OTHER song, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Canadian Creep.

5.) ‘This Is Gospel’ by Panic! at the Disco

I really only liked about half of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. The half I really liked was sexy, catchy and weirdly emotional. The half I didn’t was boring to the point it began to run together. Thankfully, the second single ‘This Is Gospel’ was on the half I liked. It’s a stand out song on the record even without single status due to the sung in a church like feeling of the song and the pure brutal emotion. I’ve cried to this song, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Even if the rest of the album is dull, I’m glad that this is the song that shines.

4.) ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’ by Fall Out Boy

It’s been a year and a day since this song roared into my life and it hasn’t gotten old yet in the million times I’ve listened, screamed, drove and rocked out to this song. The band came back with a vengeance and this song did a great job of staking their claim in the year of music. Not to mention the Butch Walker handclaps certainly help.

3.) ‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills

This was the year I discovered Natalia Kills and I feel like it improved my life in so many ways. The album Trouble is full of gems, but the lead single ‘Problem’ was blowing cigarette smoke in my face with a smile and I was loving it. ‘Problem’ is an anthem for bad girls everywhere who love their vices and don’t give two fucks about who judges them. As I slipped into that side of me throughout the year, that song played in my head and guided my steps.

2.) ‘Closer’ by Tegan and Sara

I feel like a bad queer girl when I admit that I haven’t really listened to Tegan and Sara seriously. I know I would like them and I love the song ‘Hell,’ I just keep forgetting to listen to them. Still, even with my constant forgetfulness to listen to Tegan and Sara, I fell in love with the song ‘Closer.’ Never has a song so accurately reflected what it’s like to be so completely smitten with someone that all you want to do with them is get them to sit a bit closer to you. You bet I turned this up when I finally heard it on the radio.

1.) ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu

In an alternate universe, this song became a massive hit, Janelle Monae gets the fame she so rightly deserves, and everyone recognized ‘Blurred Lines’ for the date rape song it is and lets Robin Thicke wallow in obscurity forever. Unfortunately, my physical body does not reside in that universe. However, I still have ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and I still have Monae rising, showing the world what she’s made of.

EPs

I should note that I usually never cover EPs, but this year had three that definitely stood out to me that are worth noting.

Who's gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

Who’s gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

3.) True Trans by Against Me!

This EP was more of a two-sided single to tide people over as they waited on Transgender Dysphoria Blues (that review is coming, by the way), but splitting hairs doesn’t take away from the fact that this EP is fantastic. It features acoustic versions of the song ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ and ‘Fuckmylife666,’ which are probably two of my favorite songs on the record. On the record, the songs are plenty emotional, but there’s a personal vulnerability in the EP versions that pack more punch than their electric counterparts.

Must Hear Track: The entire thing. It’s two songs.

2.) Pax-AM Days by Fall Out Boy

This eight song EP that the band recorded over a drunken weekend in Ryan Adams’ studio only clocks in at 13 minutes. It’s the very definition of loud and fast with the band only taking one or two takes for each songs. It was an interesting experiment considering how perfectionist they can be. It was loud, fast, and rage filled like the early days, but with skills that don’t make the record too painful to listen to for long. I’m sad I didn’t get to run around a field blasting this album like I originally planned. THIS SPRING IN THE MOUNTAINS…

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside,’ ‘Caffeine Cold,’ ‘Love, Sex, Death’

1.) Peachtree Battle by Butch Walker

Wherever you are, that's my home. [butchwalker.com]

Wherever you are, that’s my home. [butchwalker.com]

I cried like a baby listening to this EP. I’ve cried even harder hearing these songs live. Butch has always been an emotional songwriter, but Peachtree Battle drives right to the heart. When Butch began writing the songs, his father had been on a slow decline in health and Butch began writing the five song EP to come to terms with his father’s mortality. Before the EP released, Big Butch Walker passed away, which ends up magnifying the emotional impact of the songs even more. It’s a personal reflection on the effect one person can have on our lives, especially one as big as a parent. Still, it’s not all about death. There are plenty of life lessons that Big Butch taught Butch in these songs too. Ones that we can all learn from.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This,’ ‘Let It Go Where It’s Supposed To,’ ‘Peachtree Battle’

Favorite Albums

Well, here they are. The cream of the crop. What albums prevailed to be my favorites in 2013?

I’m up all night to get lucky.

5.) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

I think I ended up liking this album less as the year went on, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it gets ragged on way too much. Daft Punk has always been about bringing art to electronic music and this album was very much about exploring their roots in several ways. Some of it was disco like ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and ‘Get Lucky.’ Some of it was more experimental. A lot of it really, but it works because there really isn’t anyone out there that gets it like Daft Punk. Just because I can get down to ‘Get Lucky’ doesn’t mean I can’t chill to ‘Touch’ or appreciate/rock out to the reverse engineering of ‘Giorgio by Moroder.’ It isn’t Discovery, but we need to stop expecting Daft Punk to make that album again.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Touch,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ ‘Doin’ It Right’

4.) ARTPOP by Lady Gaga

I was worried about this album, but it ended up pleasantly surprising me in the end. It’s not flaw free, but ARTPOP is definitely one of the best albums Gaga has released. It was an honest and beautiful look at the life of an artist trying to balance her life and art. With some catchy dance numbers and lots of modern art, of course.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ ‘Do What U Want,’ ‘Artpop’

3.) Rated Heart by Professor Shyguy

I'll attack you once, you attack me back!

I’ll attack you once, you attack me back!

Meanwhile, I ended up liking this album more. Maybe I’m a little biased towards my friends, but Professor Shyguy can write a damn good chiptune pop song. Even if I don’t always get what he’s singing about, I can get down without hesitation. I feel like I should have a deeper reason of liking this record so much, but I don’t. It’s geeky, catchy, and fun, which is all I need sometimes. As I said before, “the Poor Nerd’s Justin Timberlake” mixes geekdom and pop music with ease.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Keywords and Dubstep,’ ‘Weak,’ ‘Destroy Metroid’

2.) Trouble by Natalia Kills

I must confess, when one of my online friends asked me if I had heard the new Natalia Kills record, I had no earthly idea who the hell she was talking about. The album took forever to get on Spotify, but I ended up blasting ‘Problem’ for weeks until it did. Where I started to scream “I PUT MY HIGH HEELS ON SO I’M CLOSER TO GOD” at random points up until I finally bought the album and long since after. Much like ‘Problem,’ Trouble is an album about girls with their middle fingers in the air as they party, but it also shows the motivation and sadness that fuels it. Trouble isn’t just a party record, but a record about broken people putting on their best faces.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Problem,’ ‘Stop Me,’ ‘Devils Don’t Fly’

1.) TIE: Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy and The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

I don't know where you're going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I don’t know where you’re going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I debated this for WEEKS. I’ve talked at length about these two albums online and in person to anyone who will listen. I’ve listened to them over and over again that I sing along with instrumentals. I’ve cried and rocked out to both of these artists live. And in the end, I could not decide which album I really wanted to put as my #1 of the year: Janelle Monae’s genre bending entry of love, heartache, and standing up for what you believe in her Metropolis epic or Fall Out Boy rediscovering themselves and setting out to make a record to inspire the next generation of garage bands. Both records meant a lot me last year while being simultaneously fantastic. What else can be said?

Must Hear Tracks:

Save Rock and Roll: ‘The Phoenix,’ ‘Rat a Tat,’ ‘Save Rock and Roll’

The Electric Lady: ‘Q.U.E.E.N,’ ‘Givin Em What They Love,’ ‘Victorious’

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Well, that finishes up my favorites of last year. What were your favorites of last year? What did you disagree with me on? And don’t worry, we’ll stop dwelling on last year soon enough. My review of Transgender Dysphoria Blues is next.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Music

 

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Ashley’s Favorite TV of 2013

When I started working for Nerdophiles last year, a lot of my work became TV recaps. So you can imagine that TV became more of a part of my life than it usually is. I mean, I already love TV, much to the horror of some of my friends who brag about how they don’t watch TV.

So what were my favorite TV shows last year? Well, that question might be more than you’re prepared for. I’m breaking it down by new shows, returning shows, and favorite episodes. Got it? Good. Here we go then.

Oh, and it should go without saying, but prepare for spoilers!

Favorite New Shows

Credit: IMDb

Credit: IMDb

Honorable Mention: Masters Of Sex (Showtime)

It’s kind of insane how quickly I got addicted to watching this show. What started off with me and my friend Roger just wanting to watch a few episodes lead to us mainlining the series over the course of several nights. There are parts of it that can be silly and tropetastic as hell (like the finale with Bill Masters waiting in the rain to tell Ginny how much he needs her), but it’s also a compelling well acted drama that Showtime should be proud to have. Even if it does occasionally fall under the HBO trope of drama and boobs. I can’t wait to sit on the futon, eating pizza and cry over the somewhat fictionalized lives of Masters and Johnson more next season.

6.) Wander Over Yonder (Disney Channel)

This is such a weird little show that I’m kind of surprised it made it on Disney, but they’ve also been playing Phineas and Ferb for several years that I really shouldn’t be. This Craig McCracken created show also features major collaboration from his animation partner and wife Lauren Faust. Combining the wackiness of 90s Cartoon Network with the heart of the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Wander Over Yonder is an adorably sweet and silly show about the misadventures of a kind space traveller named Wander and his best friend/companion/steed and certified badass Sylvia. It can be weird, but it’s the good kind of weird that gives you the warm fuzzies when you’re done watching.

5.) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)

Credit: IMDb

Credit: IMDb

I can practically hear your eye rolling from here. I’ll admit that this show did have its bumps early in the season, but a lot of good shows have. Around episode six, we do see an upswing in quality not unlike its Whedonverse predecessor Dollhouse. Maybe I’m a little biased since I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much, but the show is a whole lot of fun with the stories and characters and it gives us a chance to see the MCU outside of the movies. Instead of just hearing about a brave new world post-The Avengers every six months, we get to see it. And now that this season’s Big Bad is starting to unfold, I’m looking forward to the back half payoff.

4.) Bravest Warriors (Cartoon Hangover)

Technically, this show started in late 2012, but so much of the show aired in 2013 that I’m giving it a pass. This show is like Adventure Time’s weirder, cruder, and yet somehow cooler older brother. Which is not to say that Adventure Time isn’t cool anymore. It just means Bravest Warriors can get away with more shit. It’s strange, compelling, and funny as hell. The best part of the show though? CATBUG! Because your life needs an adorable cat-ladybug hybrid that’s voiced by a six year old boy. Don’t tell me it doesn’t.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

3.) Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

BLESS REBECCA SUGAR SO MUCH. THIS SHOW IS A GIFT.

A lot of people have dismissed the show because of Sugar’s involvement with Adventure Time, expecting it to me more of the show’s usually weird out humor. However, I wonder if these people miss the fact that Sugar co-wrote some of the show’s most emotional and feminist episodes. Lucky for us, Steven Universe carries so much of Sugar’s touch that made those episodes stand out. About a young boy named Steven who wants nothing more than to be like his magical girl guardians The Crystal Gems, the show mixes a lot of Adventure Time with the magic and beauty of 90s shojo/magical girl anime. It also doesn’t hurt that on a show and network aimed at boys, three of the main characters we see nearly every week are women that Steven loves and who love him right back. Women that are easily distinguishable from each other in appearance and personality. It’s something that is needed more of in animation and I’m so happy that this show does it.

2.) Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

I’ve talked at length already about the original Netflix comedy-drama set in a women’s prison and for good reason. It’s a rare show, even for premium outlets like HBO, Showtime, and Netflix. It’s smart, funny, emotional, and actually gives women a chance to be in stories that are usually reserved for men. In fact, a lot of the men in this show fulfill the roles usually filled by women in shows like this and it’s an interesting switch up to see. Really though, for me, it’s all about Burset and Red. It’s Laverne Cox and Kate Mulgrew’s world. We just live in it.

This bathroom has way more stalls than the actual bathroom in the series...

1.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)

I did not expect to watch this show, let alone love it so much. And yet, I fell so hard, I’m surprised I didn’t bust my head on the pavement. A workplace comedy that my friend Missy has described as “Parks and Recreation meets Reno 911!,” this show is gut-bustingly funny while giving us characters to root for each week. It’s also probably one of the most diverse shows on TV right now, with characters that paint a wide swath of demographics without ever depending on stereotype humor to get it done. If you’ve been hesitant on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, just watch this clip of Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) trying to build a princess castle and get back to me later.

  

Favorite Returning Shows

(Note: For the sake of this section, a returning show is defined as a show that started a new season, a previously established show that chugged through all of 2013, and/or returned from a hiatus of four months or longer.)

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

6.) The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon)

I feel like I need to put a huge caveat right at the beginning of this segment since I recapped the entire season for Nerdophiles. That caveat is that I ONLY LIKED THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON. The second half is pretty much the only reason The Legend of Korra is on the list. The first half was a confused mess of episodes. Every episode from Beginnings on was some of the best TV I watched all year. However, you probably have to endure the first part of the season to understand what’s going on. Still, for the terrible buildup, the payoff is fantastic with gorgeous animation and emotional stories that no other show could do.

5.) Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)

Adventure Time didn’t really go anywhere in 2013. Season 5 has been plowing through since 2012 and is finishing up its season now. That doesn’t mean the season didn’t actually go anywhere though. This season was probably some of the darkest, most absurd and most dramatic this series has gotten. In the best way possible, of course. Instead of feeling like experiments in randomness like the first season or two, the fifth season of Adventure Time has proven that it does indeed have a rich universe at the core.

4.) Arrested Development (Netflix)

Credit: IMDb

Credit: IMDb

Mitchell Hurwitz finally delivered on his promise of more Arrested Development this year with the series’s highly anticipated return on Netflix. I’ll admit, the way the story was told this season was a bit jarring, with each episode focusing on one character at a time and telling their part of the giant story of the fourth season. However, it actually made for interesting watching and upped the rewatch value of a show that has traditionally made its viewers pay attention to the jokes. Plus, it was just really fantastic to see Maeby struggle for once and GOB just be… well… GOB.

3.) Elementary (CBS)

Elementary had a lot riding on it going into the second season. What, with Sherlock’s one true love also being his one true enemy and Joan coming into her own as a detective. So far though, the second season has kept up that quality with introducing the audience to Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and Sherlock having to come to terms with the fact that his methods do often conflict with how others perceive him and do their work. However, that also brings out Sherlock’s humanity, which isn’t really seen in other Holmes adaptations. It’s also just immensely satisfying to see Joan grow into her own as a detective and do so enthusiastically.

Welcome to Gravity Falls!2.) Gravity Falls (Disney Channel)

Technically, the show was still in it’s first season this year, but experienced a four month hiatus between the episodes ‘Summerween’ and ‘Boss Mabel.’ However, the second half of the season was well worth the wait and showed why the show has the devoted fanbase it does. The episodes were adorable and funny, but also had the characters dealing with real things amongst all the supernatural that lives in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Dipper learned that interfering with someone’s life for your own gain doesn’t mean they’ll appreciate it, no matter how good your intentions were. Mabel experiences her first love and learns what it really means to love someone. Stan has to learn how to be a guardian and not just… well… Stan. It was compelling and fantastic, especially when the characters really became tested in the later episodes. Not to mention the season finale is what dreams are made of.

1.) Parks and Recreation (NBC)

I think the second half of season five and the early part of season six just prove why I love this show so much. We see Leslie and Ben get married! April becomes the head of animal control! Andy bounces back from failing to get into the police academy! Ron gets married to a woman who isn’t Tammy! Leslie loses her job and is starting to realize that she might be too big for Pawnee now! Most comedies would have fallen into a usual cycle by this point, but Parks and Recreation still delivers the character development that makes us love the characters and want them to succeed instead of laugh at their failures.

 

Favorite TV Episodes

Honorable Mention: Colbchella ‘013

As much as I love The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, it’s often hard to remember them by whole episodes. Segments, yes, but not entire episodes. There are a few standout episodes though and the Colbchella ‘013 episode of The Colbert Report is one of them. Born out of the most bullshit Viacom contract ever, the episode came together out of a mix of original plans and winging it to create what was one of the most epic episodes of anything on Comedy Central. Most people will remember the elaborate music video to Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky,’ but there was so much more there to be had if you’re willing to set aside the 23 minutes to do it. Well, 20 if you skip ‘Blurred Lines’ like I do because fuck that song.

6.) ‘FZZT’ (1×06) – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

You know what I said earlier about S.H.I.E.L.D? Yeah, this is the episode you realize you’ve started to care about the characters on the show. Centered around the apparent murder of a first responder to The Battle of New York (aka the entire third act of The Avengers), it soon turns out to be an alien disease killing the firefighters and puts one of the team’s own in danger. I did a full recap of the episode here, but it’s definitely the episode where the emotional resonance and cliffhangery action makes me want to tell people to give the show another shot.

5.)’Sky Witch’ (5×29) – Adventure Time

As I mentioned before, there were a LOT of episodes of Adventure Time to choose from this year. From ‘Bad Little Boy,’ ‘Simon and Marcy,’ ‘Frost and Fire,’ ‘Jake The Dad,’ ‘Be More,’ ‘James Baxter The Horse,’ and ‘The Vault’ were all contenders. However, when I began to think of episodes, ‘Sky Witch’ was the first one that came to mind. The first episode focused solely on Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, it has the two perpetual teenagers going on a hunt for Marceline’s long lost bear Hambo in the lair of Maja the Sky Witch. It was not a Rebecca Sugar episode, but an episode I don’t think could have existed if she hadn’t laid groundwork for these characters. Marceline is determined and stubborn, but still a softie who just wants to hold on to that last piece of Simon she has. Bubblegum doesn’t really get it and can be quite abrasive, but she uses her brain and comes through for her friend in the end as a result. The show could benefit from more episodes like ‘Sky Witch,’ and I’m not just saying that as a Sugarless Gum shipper. Though, really, the fact that the shirt Marcy gave Bonnibel had more sentimentality in it than Hambo did really set off my shipper alarm.

4.) ‘The Chickening’ (1×05) – Orange Is The New Black

Most of what people will remember about this episode is the chicken and for good reason. The hunt for the mystic feral chicken leads to some of the funniest moments on the show in the first season and is part of the reason I think Kate Mulgrew needs an award for her performance on the show (that, and the ending of ‘Bora Bora Bora’ where she resolves to end Pornstache). However, the episode is also astounding for seeing how prison life is starting to get to Chapman, seeing the beginning of the friendship between Burset and Sister Ingalls, and just how messed up the relationship between Daya and her mother Aleida is. It’s my favorite, and one I’m looking forward to rewatching on my Orange is the New Black rewatch in a few months.

3.) ‘Leslie and Ben’ (5×14) – Parks and Recreation

This episode was written to be a series finale just in case they didn’t get a back half order for season 5. If this is where the show had ended, I would have been so happy. After seeing Leslie’s plan for the Pawnee Commons come together, Leslie and Ben decide that they’re going to get married at the benefit gala for the new park that night. Everyone scrambles to get the wedding together, but they do so happily for their friends and even come through when it seems as if everything they worked for that evening is in jeopardy. I cried so many times watching the episode, but all happy tears to see Leslie and Ben get their own happy next chapter. Plus, Ron punches Councilman Jamm and it’s the best.

2.) ‘The Woman/Heroine’ (1×23-24) – Elementary 

I’ll admit, I predicted the twist that happened in this episode a few weeks prior, but it was more of “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool?” versus an actual episode prediction. But nope, this episode turned my expectation that they wouldn’t have the balls to make The Woman into Sherlock’s greatest villain, but it did and it was amazing! Natalie Dormer was perfect as the cunning Jamie Moriarty and her character Irene Adler, and to watch her contend with Sherlock to the point she didn’t even see Joan coming to take her down reminded me just why I was all about Elementary from the beginning. Sherlock Holmes may be one of the smartest men around, but even he has his blind spots to be exploited but also protected. And Joan Watson is never to be underestimated ever.

1.) ‘Beginnings, Parts 1 and 2’ (2×07-8) – The Legend of Korra

I’ve gone on at length about these episodes. I’ve cried at length about these episodes and how they’re some of the best stories told in the Avatar universe. The animation is beautiful and the story is emotional to the point I can’t think about Avatar Wan or Raava without getting a little teary eyed. Even if Korra has left you cold, ‘Beginnings’ is worth a watch to see how the universe came about.

Well, that’s it for TV in 2013. If you thought this post was bad, well prepare yourself now because guess what?

I saved my music post for last. 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Television

 

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Ashley’s Favorite Movies of 2013

In 2012, I feel like I spent most of my summer at the movies, watching nearly every big release between May and July. Well, at least the ones I felt like seeing.

This year, not so much.

Last year, I saw a total of nine new releases. That means I’m leaving off a total of three movies. One of them because I’m horribly biased towards it, the other because it was an awful, horrible misogynistic piece of crap, and the last one being just okay.

So out of the nine films I saw last year, which ones did I actually enjoy?

Warm_Bodies_Theatrical_Poster6.) Warm Bodies

Well, I never thought I’d say this, but who knew that a zombie movie could make me coo so much? Especially one based on Romeo and Juliet!

Warm Bodies was an interesting turn on the zombie movie. Told from the inner monologue of a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), the film turns from one creature’s acceptance of his de-evolution into a ravenous monster into finding something worth fighting for all thanks to THE POWER OF LOVE.

Which does sound pretty cheesy when I type it out, but it’s a really sweet film that’s extremely funny too. I don’t think I’ve stopped laughing over Rob Corddry as M since last February. If you haven’t seen Warm Bodies yet, add it your watch list for Valentine’s Day this year.

5.) Thor: The Dark WorldTHURS_003B_G_ENG-GB_70x100.indd

I still haven’t made up my mind over if I liked this movie more than the first Thor film, but there was still a lot of fun to be had along the way. Marvel continued into Phase 2 of the Cinematic Universe by showing us more of Asgard and throwing in the fact that other dimensions do exist within the MCU. Which makes me want some hilarious MCU/616 crossovers.

The film wasn’t perfect. Some characters felt pushed to the side and Christopher Eccleston sure as hell wasn’t used to his full potential as Malekith, but the humor was spot on and it was fun to watch Thor and Loki banter, argue, and annoy the ever loving crap out of each other. My favorite past-time while watching the film was utter “Loki, you little shit” over and over again until I screamed it by the end.

Of course, if you really wanted to see me dork out over this film, it was for Idris Elba as Heimdall and the post credits scene that sets up for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. If you want my more complete thoughts on the film, scroll down to the end of Therese’s review at Nerdophiles, but prepare for spoilers!

MV5BNzA1MTk1MzY0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjkzNTUwMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_4.) The World’s End

Well, the Cornetto Trilogy came to an end this year, but man, did it go out with a bang.

Once again, director and co-writer Edgar Wright was there to turn genres on their heads, this time with the friendship comedy-drama with an secret alien invasion movie ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The action was amazing and the comedic timing was so spot on that I could barely keep up to the next joke sometimes. However, the most astounding part of the film were the more dramatic moments. The Cornetto trilogy has had them in the past, but never as tragic as the ones in The World’s End. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carry the film beautifully as Gary King and Andy Knightly, but the supporting cast is just as amazing too.

With an unexpected ending that made me stop and think for a bit after the movie was over, The World’s End took the unofficial trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead almost ten years before out on a high note. Plus, the action scenes that made me notice that Wright learned a thing or two from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World made me super excited to see what he has in store for us in Ant-Man.

3.) Iron Man 3She's a damsel. She's in distress. She can handle it.

So nice I saw it twice in opening weekend. I’ve already talked about the aspects of the film relating to Tony’s anxiety, but this is exactly the kind of film Marvel needed to kick off Phase 2. Complain about the ending all you want, but it’s not going to take away the fact that we needed a film that explored what being Iron Man means to Tony and how it affects his life after what happened to him in The Avengers. Shane Black delivered that film in spades, and probably better than what Jon Favreau could have done.

Also, if you don’t like Rhodey being the best in this movie, I don’t like you.

2.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

This is another film I’ve probably said all I need to say about it, but it was just so damn good that I saw it twice in the same day! No, really.

As a fan of this franchise, I was super proud of this adaptation of my favorite book in the series. It was so spot on to what was happening in the book and all the changes made for the movie adaptation made sense and actually made the story better. That’s rare and beautiful. I just hope the Mockingjay movies will be just as good, but they’re already ahead with Natalie Dormer.

1.) Pacific Rim

I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO HARD. So much so to the point my friends automatically associate the film with me. My review of this movie even got me my job at Nerdophiles, so that’s another reason I have to thank Guillermo Del Toro for making this film. It was prettiest, most fun summer blockbuster I’ve seen in a long time and it was well worth the three times I paid to see it. Including IMAX 3D.

Striker Eureka reporting in!

Next up will be my favorite TV of the year. Heads up, it’s going to be a little more intensive than this one.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Film

 

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Ashley’s Six Favorite Comics of 2013

Well, they’re finally here! Nearly a month into 2014 is a perfect time for me to share my favorite things of 2013. Everyone is done talking about it. It’s the perfect time to strike!

(Or I’m just trying to compensate for the fact I got busy with work, Nerdophiles, and starting Fashionably Animated.)

Anyway, I’m going to start with the most basic list. This year was the year I really got into comics. Maybe it was because I was going to my LCS every month for Killjoys or because I had friends trying their hardest to get me reading the series they loved, but I fell in love with Image and Marvel pretty hard. Here are my absolute favorite comics of 2013.

prettydeadly02-cover6.) Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios (Image)

This comic has a bit of notoriety already with a story floating around that the owner of a Los Angeles comic book store ripped up a copy of the book. However, that wasn’t what got me to read the book. It was all the good things said about the comic in the aftermath.

I’m a lover of weird west comics and this is about as weird as they come. The comic has a Sandman-esque vibe, but the Death seen here is far from Gaiman’s perky Death. Death is ruthless, and his daughter Deathface Ginny might be even more so. It’s only three issues in as of right now, but those three issues have me entranced with the brutal, beautiful universe of Pretty Deadly.

Must Read Issue: #2, where Deathface Ginny and Big Alice face off.

5.) Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Image)

This series is the current crown jewel of the Image Comics line and for good reason. This space epic may have saga14-coverthe backdrop of two warring planets, but it’s not about anyone with a destiny to end the war or star-crossed lovers doomed to die at the hands of their terrible warring families. It’s about a family trying to find their way in the universe, despite all odds.

Granted, those odds include bounty hunters, a Robot Prince, and journalists looking for the truth behind the story, but hey, new parents deal with a lot worse, I’m sure.

Not to mention the art is gorgeous. Vaughn’s writing may be poignant and sarcastic, but they wouldn’t have as much life as they do without Staples’ art. It almost makes up for the rage inducing cliffhangers at the end of each issue. Almost.

Must Read Issue: #14, where we finally meet the illustrious Oswald Heist and Gwendolyn and The Will discuss the future.

portrait_incredible4.) Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, and Matt Hollingsworth (Marvel)

I know, I’m a bit of a Johanna Come Lately to this series, but I couldn’t exactly read it until I could afford it on Comixology. It was definitely worth the wait though because the series is easily one of the best things Marvel has going for it right now. The art manages to be gorgeous without fail with every issue and the writing manages to be dramatic without being overly so. I love the humorous moments of self-deprication or pure ridiculousness. I expect nothing less from Clint Barton’s life and I’m so happy it delivers. If we ever get a Hawkeye movie, I really hope it’s based on this series.

Must Read Issue: #11, where we get Pizza Dog’s side of the story on the death of Grills and the opening moments of the Hawkeye Annual.

3.) Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, and CAPMARV2012009_COVFilipe Andrade (Marvel)

The statement I’m about to say is not one that should be taken lightly.

When I read Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel series, I felt a feeling inside that I haven’t felt since I read Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s work on Batwoman: Elegy in 2009. Here was a superhero I truly wanted to be. One that inspires me to be more than I am. Like Batwoman, Captain Marvel’s story inspires me to soldier on and not take anyone’s bullshit.

Unlike Batwoman, it all comes from a very sarcastic character who named her cat after Chewbacca.

Granted, the art isn’t at Elegy caliber, but it’s a comic where the story matters more to me than the art.

Must Read Issue: #9, where Carol has a full day that goes completely wrong. Includes a gorgeous cover from Jamie McKelvie and Captain Marvel punching a dinosaur.

167082.) The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan (Dark Horse)

This series emotionally compromised me in the best possible way.

I’ve talked at length about the series and my connection to it already and I’m sure to talk about it even more once the big hardcover trade comes out in May, but this series defied my expectations and gave me the closure I needed on the end of an era. It was a story about survival, cutting your own path, outgrowing the shadows cast over you, and love. Most of all though, it was about finding hope again when it’s been lost. It was subtle, yet dangerous and beautiful all the way.

Killjoys never really die, and this series proved it.

Must Read Issue: #4, where everything hits the fan and Way punches me in the gut with feelings.

1.) Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)sexcriminals3-cover

I honestly did not expect a series about two people that could stop time whenever they had sex and use that power to rob banks to steal my heart the way it has, but it did and I’m totally okay with that. This series is deathly funny and extremely smart. It’s not just a sex comedy, but a honest look at sex, the effect it has on us, and how we work around the lack of education about it given to us at a young age. I’ve already written at length about this series, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the series goes into the future.

And you want to know how much I love this series? I had a letter published in issue #4 and I went to Applebee’s to take pictures with my comics all in the same week. THAT’S how much I love Sex Criminals.

Must read issue: #3, where Suzie sings ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and the plan to rob banks is hatched.

Next post will be about the six movies I actually saw last year! …Yeah, I didn’t get to the theater much, unfortunately.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Comics

 

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