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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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My Six Favorite Fictional Moms

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I spent the day seeing The Avengers for the second time with my mother. It was quite exciting! And by exciting, I mean emotional.

Anyway, while we were sitting in the coffee shop, waiting for the movie to start, I decided to come up with my list of my six favorite fictional mothers. Mostly from television, these are the mothers that make me wish I lived in their universes, no matter how screwed up those universes actually are. And believe me… some of them are…

Let’s start with our honorable mention, though.

Honorable Mention: President Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)

While Laura herself was not a mother to anyone person, she was very much like a mother to the fleet and to many of the people on board the Galactica. Smart, caring, and headstrong, Laura did what she needed to do to help with the preservation of the human race. All while fighting cancer. She made her mistakes, but there was no one in the fleet more fearsome than President Roslin. Well, maybe Admiral Adama, but considering the fact that she stood up to him more than once, I have to give it to the teacher.

 

 

6.) Marlene Griggs-Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Oh Marlene. The Iron C**tian of Pawnee. While we may not see a whole lot of Marlene Griggs-Knope, she’s still an awesome lady who you don’t want to cross. Her daughter may not always agree with her method of doing things, but it’s easy to see where Leslie gets her determination and drive from. I hope that now that Leslie has succeeded in getting on the Pawnee City Council that we’ll be seeing more of Marlene in City Hall.

 

5.) Katara (Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra)

Katara is another one of those mother-like figures. Caring and sweet, yet stern and tough, Katara of the Southern Water Tribe is always looking out for the best interest of her friends and people who need her help. She refuses to leave people behind, and she always stands up for the people she loves and herself. Of course, she can have a little bit of fun too. While we haven’t seen a whole lot of Katara actually being a mother, I bet that she was an awesome mother to Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin. And to Korra too.

4.) Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler (Doctor Who)

In the Whoniverse, there are some fierce mothers who stand up for their children, no matter how old they are. Or in the case of Amy Pond, how displaced out of time their daughters are from them. Still, this example is truest for Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler. Francine is the mother of Martha Jones, my favorite companion and it’s easy to see that badassery runs in the family. While Francine doesn’t become a part of Team TARDIS the way Rose’s mum Jackie does by the end of Davies’ run, she still stands up for Martha. Hell, she nearly shoots The Master after the Year That Never Was is reversed! Jackie is very similar to Francine in that she may not care completely about the Doctor, but she supports her daughter every step of the way. Of course, Jackie learns how to hold her own against the aliens of the universe and even makes the Doctor cringe a little bit.

3.) Morticia Addams (The Addams Family)

It’s hard to say why Morticia is just so perfect as a mother and as a person. Is it her cool demeanor? Is it the way that she cares about her children and how they get along? Or is it just the way that Morticia makes morbidness seem completely normal? Whatever it is, this matriarch of the Addams clan has continued to stand the test of time through comics, television, movies and broadway and has stayed the mother that every darkling wished they had.

 

 

 

2.) Joyce Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Starting off as the stereotypical ignorant mother to all of the things Buffy does, Joyce Summers ends up becoming a mother to two fierce and lovely daughters and pretty much all of the Scoobies in Sunnydale and beyond. While she initially disapproves of Buffy’s status as The Slayer, she comes to accept her daughter’s involvement with the supernatural and becomes her biggest line of support. When her character began to face health problems, we all worried and hoped that she would pull through in the end. Which, of course, didn’t happen, because Joss Whedon likes to break your heart in the worst possible way. Whenever I watch ‘The Body’, it becomes impossible not to mourn for Joyce. She wasn’t just Buffy’s mother. She was our mother too.

1.) Madeline Westen (Burn Notice)

I should preface this with how hilariously behind I am on Burn Notice. Like to the point that if I was to catch up, I would just have to go to the beginning and just start all over. However, no matter how behind I am, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I love Maddie Westen with a fire that can burn a million suns. While she may not be the perfect mother, she’s still a fierce and determined woman who will put her children first and will put a stop to anyone who tries to harm them. Even if one of them used to be a spy for the US government. Of course, she is the same mother who makes that spy shake in his boots. Maddie Westen, I love you and your chain-smoking self.

That’s it for fictional moms. Next month, I’ll feature my favorite dads. And on Wednesday, I’ll be spilling my feelings about The Avengers.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Film, Television

 

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Hunger Games Month: Six Reasons Retrofuturists need to pay attention to The Hunger Games

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers! You get a special today due to the fact my own personal schedule made it impossible to do my blog on time this week. Instead of one blog post, I’ll be posting two!

First off, I just wanted to share my recent Backing Steam column, in which I interview Professor Elemental. Lovely chap, the Professor. I’d love to speak with him more in the future. Even more lovely is that he has since reached his goal on Crowdfunder! Splendid!

Anyway, to what I promised to post.

You know how they teach you in school that every rectangle is a square, but not every square is a rectangle?

That’s how I feel about Retrofuturism and Steampunk.

Steampunk is Retrofuturism. There’s no doubt about that. It’s what happens when the Victorians get a hold of our technology, or when we have to depend on advanced steam technology to get things done.

However, people tend to forget that not all Retrofuturism is Steampunk. Retrofuturism is a blending of old and new technologies and concepts. This can be Dieselpunk, Da Vinci’s technology advancing the Renaissance, or, in today’s case, a dystopian future where most of the world is in desperate poverty.

The Hunger Games is one of the best examples of Retrofuturism in mainstream media. However, I haven’t seen many people who share the same opinion. I can get enough opinions about the love triangle or the battle to the death (more on that next week), but I’ve only known one other person who’s recognized the Retrofuture elements of The Hunger Games.

Well, that’s what I’m here to do. Here are my six reasons that Retrofuturists need to pay attention to The Hunger Games. Spoilers follow!

1.) The setting dichotomy – The Hunger Games deals a lot with the settings of the District 12  and the Capitol and how different they are. The Capitol is pure luxury and technology that we only dream of today. District 12, however, is extremely poverty stricken and feels like it’s mostly out of place. Most of the districts from the reader’s understanding are. Their technologies are no where near as advanced as The Capitol’s. They live a life that doesn’t feel like a future society, so the Capitol lifestyle sticks out like a sore thumb.

It’s not just the setting though…

2.) The District 12 lifestyle – Getting to know life in District 12 feels like what would happen if people from the Coal Mining South held onto their traditions while the rest of the world collapsed and rebuilt around them. Life in 12 revolves around the mine and it’s very much set up like a mining town. The differences in culture definitely stand out in Mockingjay during the wedding scene in District 13. Where 13 is probably what many sci-fi writers had in mind when they came up with a militaristic utopia, for a brief moment, they get a shock of 12 culture when they celebrate with folk dancing and a fiddle player.

3.) The fashion – As I mentioned in my Effie post, Capitol fashion takes well after Neo-Victorian fashion with big hats, big bustles, big ruffles, and sleek suits. However, the clothes of the other districts, while simple, do have a twist of the old. Take Katniss’ Reaping dress compared to Effie’s for example. It’s such a similar vein of time at two different ends of the spectrum. If you hadn’t told me that The Hunger Games was set in the future, I wouldn’t have known any better.

4.) The technological imbalance and dystopia – From my personal experience, while many Retrofuturists believe in utopianism, they LOVE some dystopia. Especially when there’s a certain technological imbalance with who has access to what, who can make something out of nothing, and how the technology is used to keep those who can’t access it down. This happens a LOT in The Hunger Games, the biggest example being Lavinia’s capture in the woods of District 12 and subsequent punishment. Also, the main character in this science fiction series hunts with a bow and arrow. That’s about as archaic/anachronistic as you can get in a society such as Panem’s.

5.) The music – I’m reviewing the soundtrack next week, but oh man, I nearly jumped for joy when I saw the tracklisting. Seriously. Look at it. I don’t want to know any Steampunk/Retrofuturist who doesn’t want to hear most of that. Plus, along with their contributions to the soundtrack, Arcade Fire and The Carolina Chocolate Drops have also contributed to James Newton Howard’s score, which is sure to incorporate many of the retrofuturistic elements, but I cannot stop thinking about the fact that Arcade Fire wrote The Capitol anthem.

6.) The anachronistic elements help tell a timeless story – This one is sort of self explanatory. While science fiction is used as a way to tell stories of the fantastic that somehow relate back to our current society, it’s my personal belief that these stories are more effective if there’s something about it that is not quite current. This is part of the reason why Firefly was such a great series. Even though it was set in space, the more anachronistic elements of the show helped tell a very timeless, human story about survival and family. The Hunger Games does a lot of this as well. Through Katniss and what she experiences, we get a very intense story about survival, poverty, and (in the later books) dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s made even more real by the fact Katniss isn’t living with the colorful Capitol beings or surrounded by the highest technology when we initially meet her.

My fellow Retrofuturists, I hope that my list had convinced you. If it did, I will see you at the Games. If not, well, I guess the odds (and my writing) weren’t in my favor.

Stay tuned to this blog today. Later, I will be talking about the brilliant irony of Lionsgate’s marketing for the film.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Books, Film, Steampunk

 

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Six(-ish) Things to Look Forward to in 2012!

Just a final reminder that there are only a few hours left to donate to The Extraordinary Contraptions kickstarter! Help a Steampunk band pull off a massive victory if you haven’t yet!

So, 2011 was a pretty good year in media, but what do we have to look forward to in 2012? Well, a lot of things, really! I’m here to highlight just a few of those things! Starting with…

6.) Indecision 2012

Elections are a rough and terrible time for everyone. It’s a lot of mudflinging, drama, and statements so painful, you could cry. However, for every election year, there is a shining light.

And that is The Daily Show’s Indecision coverage.

While Jon Stewart and his crew have already had a hell of a time covering the candidates so far, it’s sure to kick off into high gear this year as the Republicans pick a candidate and the various campaigns really get rolling. For every painful moment, you can be sure that The Daily Show will be there to cover it.

5.) New albums from Janelle Monae, Murder By Death, Shovels and Rope, The Extraordinary Contraptions, etc.

The exciting thing for any New Year for me is how much good music comes out. This year is already shaping up to be pretty awesome with Murder By Death, Shovels and Rope, Frenchy and the Punk, and my very own The Extraordinary Contraptions set to release new albums that are sure to appeal to the retrofuture lover in all of us. Even better is that the retrofuture cyberpunk queen Janelle Monae is planning on releasing not one, but TWO albums in 2012! And of course, that’s only just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps we will see new albums from Mumford and Sons, Black Cards, and Muse! We’ll definitely be hearing new albums from VV Brown, Santigold, and Garbage. Hell, we might even find something new this year too and there is sure to be someone I missed! How can you not be excited?

4.) The League of S.T.E.A.M., Season 2! Coming soon to an Internet Browser near you!

After a very successful Kickstarter campaign, everyone’s favorite team of Steampunk Paranormal Investigators will be returning to your computer screens with new adventures! With a bigger cast and more gadgets to boot! And if you’ve seen either, you know that both are quite impressive! Of course, there’s still plenty of time to catch up on Season 1 before the next season starts!

3.) Archer (and hopefully The Venture Bros.) is coming back!

Archer season 3 is probably the earliest thing coming on this list. Picking up where ‘Heart of Archness’ left off, season 3 sees Ray Gillette permanently paralyzed and Sterling and Lana still stuck in their endless loop of feelings. And the first episode, ‘The Man From Jupiter’, has Mallory going out with Burt Reynolds, Archer’s very favorite actor. While time will tell how this season measures up, it’s already proving to be just as hilarious as the previous season.

As for The Venture Bros, not much is known about Season 5 so far. We know that Doc and Jackson have signed on for it, and that they’re writing. Hopefully though, we’ll see some new episodes this year. Or at least a hint of how this season is going. After how ‘Operation P.R.O.M.’ left off, it’s going to be a doozy of a season.

2.) The Avatar cycle continues with The Legend of Korra

While I still have yet to finish Avatar: The Last Airbender, I’m still excited to finally meet Aang’s immediate successor in the Avatar cycle. She’s a headstrong, muscular waterbender from the Southern Tribe named Korra. The series is already setting out to be much darker than the previous series, with Korra being older and more trained than Aang and her main enemy being those who wish to eradicate the Element benders. Oh, did I mention that the series stars a tall, muscular Inuit woman? I’m sorry, I’m just really excited for an action series to have this kind of protagonist! And with each episode of A:TLA, my excitement for the future grows.

1.) Archery being popular thanks to Katniss Everdeen, Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, and Princess Merida

There is going to be a strangely coincidental trend in action heroes next year. In that three of them in highly publicized movies are going to rely on a bow and arrow as their preferred weapon. While Hawkeye will probably not be the main focus of The Avengers, he’ll still be a part of the team Marvel has been building up to since the release of Iron Man in 2008. As for our other two heroes, they’re both dynamic female characters. One character who values her family above all, and one who realizes her fate is not tied to marriage. Well, maybe that applies to Katniss too. Either way, not only will this hopefully lead to a spike in girls taking up archery lessons, but maybe it will lead to girls realizing they don’t need a Prince Charming. That they’re just fine without him. Either way, The Hunger Games and Brave are sure to be two shining examples of women in action adventure films.

 

Thank you so much for reading my blog so far. May your 2012 be joyous and wonderful!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Film, Internet, Music, Steampunk, Television

 

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