Media Medley – January 2016

It’s the last Thursday of the month, and this year as I mentioned before I will be doing something a little different with my month-end Thursday posts. Instead of talking about just one piece of media that inspired me throughout the month, I will be breaking down all the movies, TV shows, books, comics, games, and whatever else I consumed during the previous month, talking about each one briefly and what I liked or disliked about it, with a single recommendation at the end.

So let’s jump right into this for January 2016!

Movies:

Serenity – The movie that I can watch over and over. If you’re not familiar with Firefly/Serenity, or Joss Whedon, you may enjoy this space western!

The Ridiculous Six – An insulting but sometimes humorous parody of the Cowboy Western. If you like or tolerate Adam Sandler you’ll likely find something worth seeing here.

Ant-Man – The first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie I didn’t go see in theaters. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it was better than it probably should have been, despite being nearly identical in the format of every other Marvel origin movie. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are pretty great.

TV Shows:

The X-Files – I started watching the new X-Files this past week. I’m what you could term a fanboy of X-Files and I’m pretty disappointed so far. Where Star Wars played on nostalgia well, X-Files did not. It needs to push its boundaries quick or I’m going to tune out.

iZombie – Season 2 – I got bored of iZombie during its first season, but when it hit Netflix I gave it another shot and decided I liked its more mature Veronica Mars shtick. Season 2 has been a little heavy on melodrama, but ultimately still really fun to watch.

Archer – Season 6 – I got caught up on this ridiculous animated show in the first week of the new year, enjoying the often lowest-common-denominator humor mixed with existential crisis mixed with reference so clever I didn’t get a lot of them the first time around. It’s an interesting animation style and well worth checking out.

Brooklyn 99 – Season 3 – This is my favorite comedy currently airing, and I am not an Andy Samberg fan generally. It is exceedingly clever, and its cast of characters are just shy of pure caricature, which makes their character arcs a blast to watch.

RocketJump – The Series – On Hulu and Youtube, a documentary series following the RocketJump crew as they create eight short films. The format is that they show the making of the film and then the end of the episode is the short film we just watched them make. It has several really good episodes that highlight filmmaking and indie filmmakers in a really positive way, and I highly suggest watching an episode or two.

Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow – Current Seasons – I lump these all together because they are so closely tied together. I never liked DC outside Batman, so the fact that I like these shows is something, all right. Arrow has almost completely lost my attention, making weird choices and repeating dramatic arcs. I watch it for crossover stuff. Flash continues to be a ton of fun and what superhero TV needs to aspire towards. Legends of Tomorrow suffered a bit from too many people in the first episode, but overall was a good time and I’m looking forward to more with some of my favorite Arrowverse characters.

IT Crowd  – Final Episode – This British office comedy is silly, fun, and memorable. When I randomly discovered it had a special double episode that helped close out the series, it was a joy to watch and remember all the good times, the jokes that spawned from it.

Agent Carter – Season 2 – Only the first episode so far, but the period drama in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, coupled with Hayley Atwell makes for a glamorous adventure well worth my time.

Supernatural – Season 11 – A monster/horror/supernatural show that should by all rights have ended six seasons ago, it has managed to find new steam in its current season and I’m really enjoying it again for the first time in a long time.

Warehouse 13 – Final Two Seasons – This show pinged a whole lot of things for me, but when I heard it was getting canceled I stopped watching and waited for it to finish its run before watching the rest of it. Then I forgot about it for a while and finally watched Seasons 4 and 5 this month. It had a light, airy quality that was fun, punny, steampunk, with a good cast of characters that had a lot of chemistry onscreen. The ending was bittersweet but ultimately it’s a show I will watch again because it’s just my kind of show.

Ash vs Evil Dead – As corny and gory as ever it could be, silly and fun in equal measure. I admire its commitment to practical effects, though a certain demon sure was a good use of CG.

Games:

Minecraft – Modded – I and a couple of friends return to Minecraft once or twice a year to explore, build, and fight in new mods and new mod packs. It is a great creative outlet and something fun that I can do with likeminded friends. If you know Minecraft, you know what I mean. If you don’t, well, maybe you should check it out. It’s like digital LEGOs and it is super addicting.

Alice: Madness Returns – A hack and slash platformer in a cutesy, dark, cartoonish style set in Alice’s Wonderland, but not the Wonderland you know. It satisfied my platformer and collectathon sensibilities and I may play it again someday. The story went much darker than I expected it to go, which was refreshing for the style but also hard to stomach.

Bastion – I come back to this one every so often, an isometric hack and slash with surprisingly deep mechanics and a fun, at-the-time unorthodox narrator. I haven’t beaten this game, but I enjoy its aesthetics and combat enough that I can easily recommend it. More than anything I appreciate how easy it is to control the difficulty within the game instead of forcing a setting at the start.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – I haven’t beaten this beautiful puzzle platformer yet, but I will in the next couple weeks I imagine. I had a keyboard issue that prevented me from continuing until I changed the keybinds. Being forced to control two different characters at the same time is a unique and dastardly challenge and I’m certainly glad I decided to play it.

Dear Esther – Not a “game” in any traditional sense, it is more like a visual story that you just follow and let wash over you while you move about an island in complete isolation, listening to your character read letters to his dead wife, coming to terms with the loss of her. Worth experiencing, but probably would have been stronger as a short film rather than an interactive experience.

And Yet It Moves – A really ugly puzzle platformer that required the rotation of the world as its main game mechanic. I hated the way the game looked, but I had a good time navigating a world I had to keep flipping about to get to the next platform.

Comics:

I read no comics during January.

Books:

Amalia Dillin – Blood of the Queen – Orc Saga 2 – My author friend’s second self-published novel in her Romantic Fantasy series, it is a contemplative ride and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Isaac Asimov – The Robots of Dawn – Robot Series 3 – The final book in Asimov’s Robot Trilogy following the exploits of Elijah Bailey as he seeks to solve murders and come to terms with robots in society. It suffers from the kind of things older Science Fiction suffers from, but it’s so inspirational to the genre that its dated foibles are easy to forgive.

Salla Simuka – As Red As Blood – Simukka is a Finnish author and her works have been translated into English quite well. This is the first in a trilogy about teenager Lumikki being pulled into a conspiracy of drugs and dirty cops to help a friend. It pinged the “young adult” meter for me in the way I enjoy most, which is that it is telling mature stories that do not pull punches or censor its content because it’s for teens. I’m excited to check out the other books in the series.

Peter David – Artful – In the vein of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it takes a well-known work and twists (pun) it for its own supernatural purposes. Artful follows the exploits of Oliver Twist character The Artful Dodger as he goes on an epic adventure of vampyre slaying. I’m only about halfway through with this book, but I admire its audacity and its wordiness by way of satire.

Gwenda Bond – Girl on a Wire – Just started this one, about a wire-walker for a circus and her talented family struggling to gain acceptance from a community that distrusts them. I’m not sure what to think about this one, and I have no idea if it’s going to go supernatural, but I think it would be interesting if it did not.

Various – Silvia Moreno-Garcia Editor – She Walks in Shadows – An anthology of Lovecraft-inspired short stories and illustrations, all by women. My writer friend Valerie Valdes has a story in this anthology and it is one of the best in the collection. I haven’t finished the anthology yet, but I’m really enjoying its dark and twisty narratives.

Christopher Ruz – Rust Three – A grotesque horror story in the vein of Stephen King or Dean Koontz, only not as wordy or clumsy. Ruz is an author friend of mine out of Australia and I’ve been keeping up with his self-published works for a couple of years now, and with each new book he puts out, I become a greater fan, whether it’s horror, fantasy, or spy thriller.

*****

So that’s the grand list of everything for January! Longer than I was expecting it to be, honestly.

If I were to pick a single piece of media that I enjoyed the most, I would have to recommend Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Its unique mechanical challenge and gorgeous aesthetics combine to really make a memorable experience I’ll be thinking about for months to come. RocketJump gets honorable mention for their candid discussion and meditation on racist, cultural appropriation in episode four, “Freddie’s Vlog”.

*****

So tell me, readers, what have you been up to? What have you been watching, reading, playing, listening to that you would recommend? I’m forever seeking out new experiences, so bring it all on!

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