Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christina's The Best (And Best Attempts) of 2016

By Christina

What did I like about this year?  What did I read or listen to?  Who did I think did it best or worst?  Let’s find out, shall we?  Here is my 2016 year end review!

Best Television Show:  Supergirl
This show won me over fast.  I was sold mid-way through the first season and it just keeps getting better.  It can be action packed and still colorful instead of dark, positive like only a “Super” from the House of El can be without losing the grit, and Cat Grant is just the most awesome character ever written.  I have fallen in love with her complexity.

                                                     Best Cartoon:  Teen Titans Go!
I can’t help it.  Teen Titans Go! is the most freaking adorable cartoon out there.  It is hilarious, stupid, and I want Starfire to come live with me because she is so adorable.  The animation is just askew enough to set up the ridiculousness of the storyline, and the fact that they got the original cartoon’s voice actors to come back for this campy cartoon?  Oh…priceless.

Best WTF Moment on TV:  Just how far Flashpoint reached in the Arrow crossover.

Felicity:  “Baby JOHN.”
Barry:  “No…baby SARA..”

Ooooo snap.  When Barry realized just how far the ramifications of his actions reached and how many people he’d screwed with, that’s when I think things hit Barry even harder.  It wasn’t just his world that was changed; the entire world was changed.  When that picture of John and “John” popped up I started thinking “Will Tommy be back?  Will Killer Frost come up?  Will Cisco go “Reverb” mental?  What about Laurel?  And if he reverts this will he regret the good stuff that goes bad again despite the bad stuff going good again?”  Barry is always the optimist to Ollie’s pessimist, but man, he is in for a head screw.

Best Movie:  Doctor Strange
That movie was physical and mental mind screw to the nth degree and I loved every minute of it.   Bendaloo Cumblybumgarden (I had to, okay?) was the best choice hands down for the role.  Best casting choice since Downey for Iron Man.  The movie set the tone for its sequels and for Strange’s place in the MCU to perfection.  I couldn’t be happier.  Edit:  Now PLEASE bear in mind I wrote this before Rogue One hit the big screen.  Now I am honestly putting both at a tie for first place. 

Best “Well, at least you tried” moment:  The entire DCU
They gave it a shot at least.  The movies are good.  Not great, but good.  But Marvel has set up the Infinity Wars for YEARS, people.  YEARS.  You don’t make one or two movies and then stumble upon a secret file that throws up hints to a JLA movie, and them bam…make one.  That isn’t how this will be expected to work if you want character and team development.  Look at the numbers.  Heck, read my previous piece on the difference in the Marvel and DC history in TV and movies and see for yourself.  It won’t end well, but their effort to pull it off has been much appreciated.  Heck, they gave us a fantastic Lois Lane, in my opinion.

Best Actor:  Benedict Cumberbatch
Cumberbatch takes that award for his role in Doctor Strange.  To play that role is one thing, but to play the man before he became his mystical self and play him as the broken and tortured man that he was, and before that the pompous and arrogant surgeon?  Wow.  He nailed all facets and that was a lot to take in.  Basically three people in one body and he pulled them all together.

Best On-Screen Couple:  Felicity and Oliver in Arrow
At DragonCon 2016 I sat on a panel discussing couples in genre shows.  What worked, when it didn’t, etc.  The first couple discussed was Oliver and Felicity from Arrow.  Paraphrased, this was my response:  “I constantly hear how some people think “Ollie is so weak and suckish now.  Love made him suck.”  And this is why that statement is ridiculous.  My favorite episode to date is the Pilot, and this is why.  When Moira and Walter find Oliver curled up in the floor at the foot of his open window during the thunderstorm?  See, I have PTSD, and that [scene?]  THAT is reality.  That is what it is like.  Having PTSD is like falling into Hell and clawing your own way out, then falling back in, and then clawing your way out, rinse and repeat.  And to have someone who loves you enough to stand at the edge of that Pit, with an outstretched hand, and pull out of Hell again and again?  That means something.  They see your best and your worst.  When you can’t see anything but the darkness, around you AND inside you, and then here comes this person that is terminally allergic to negativity and is this big ball of light for you and they reguse to quit on you because they see in you what you can’t?  That doesn’t make you weaker; it makes you stronger.  And it makes you see one thing VERY clearly: with all the people you are always trying to save, it makes you think that, for the first time, maybe YOU are worth saving too.  And that’s just my take on it.”  Majority audience approval.  So…there you have it.

Best Ongoing Comic Book:  Jem and The Holograms and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Off the beaten path, I know.  But for a reboot of the originals they hold amazing amounts of water.  The Jem comic holds true to the concept of how Synergy came to be, but gives modern twists to the technology.  They have rearranged the characters in look and design which I like, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pizzazz.  Unlike the cartoon they give her depth and a storyline that makes her more than a monster.  She is a person trying to escape a horrid life of a lack of love and has a sincere passion for music with real friends that love her.  She is my favorite in the book.  The MMPR comic is grittier than the show.  More danger, more seriousness, and more of a sense of urgency for the characters themselves in terms of their situations and their lives.  You feel for them and have more story behind them as people.  The art styles vary in both comics; Jem is more sharp and edged and bright…like a glam rock album art cover.  MMPR is drawn and inked very well, with extreme detail and not overly bright colors.  They were nice enough to avoid the 90’s styling.  Well worth the read for both.  A+

Best Comic Book Miniseries:  Star Trek/Doctor Who Crossover
Yes, you heard me correctly.  Matt Smith’s Doctor and Captain Picard’s crew collide.  I don’t have to say anything more.  Check this out or regret your sad existence.

Best Video Game:  Uncharted 3 and 4
Thanks to my Tomb Raider/Uncharted Review I fell for the Uncharted series.  Uncharted 3 became my favorite.  Despite a few gameplay bugs the game’s difficulty level was higher, the puzzles were more difficult, the storyline was solid, and things were fast paced and exciting.  My favorite in the series so far.  Part 4 has increased the stakes, the story line, and the game play.  The PS4 graphics give facial expressions so much more, the trigger sensensitivity on weapons is hands down the best in the series (they are made more realistic to trigger pull timing,) and the increase in action by the use of new vehicles and gear (such as grappling hooks and sliding) just make an already awesome series, well, awesomer.  Yes, I said awesomer.  I'm a friggin' writer.  I can make up words.  Deal with it.

Best Toy Line:  Shopkins and POP Figures
I’m a mom so I’ve seen how well these little toys work in this household; I can’t go from a collector’s standpoint here.  I have to go with Shopkins this year.  Durable, and sadly collectible, these adorable things are the new fad that are catching on and work as great ways to motivate the kids to save their money, do extra work around the house to earn more change to go get more their collection, etc.  But from a geek collector standpoint…I’m going with Pop figures.  Had to throw that out there because hey…I love my Dark Phoenix, She-Ra, and Crow.  My favorites so far.

Best Individual Toy:  Motion Activated Singing/Dancing Gizmo Doll
Touch it and you die.  MY Gizmo!  I cried when my husband bought him for me.  Yes, I cried.  Me.  Real tears.  Not ashamed here!

Best Card Game:  Sushi Go!
The Tabletop Channel on Youtube’s Geek and Sundry network is responsible for well over 99% of the games my family has bought in the past year and a half.  We had already planned to buy  Sushi Go! after watching the Tabletop episode on which it was played, but while waiting in line at a DragonCon 2016 panel someone passed by with a brand new copy that they had bought at the CoolStuff Inc booth for a paltry ten bucks.  It was fate.  My husband snagged us a copy without blinking and we cracked it open on our designated game day that weekend.  It quickly became our card game crack.  The cards are delightful and delectable pieces of sushi, each with their own point scoring.  You pick your sushi and pass the hand you draw around the table.  The objective is to build the points up based on pairings of certain types of sushi (EX:  certain amounts of dumplings or rolls add up points,) adding wasabi to nigiri (one nigiri per wasabi,) or snagging lots and lots of pudding to be the pudding master for mondo points.  The person with the most points after three rounds wins.  Its strategy to the core, trying to decide if you want the points or simply want to get a bad card to deny another player the really good one that will up their points.  Go to Youtube’s Tabletop channel for their Sushi Go! episode.  It’ll make you buy the game.  And it will also make you hungry.

                                                   Best Gaming Company:  Toy Vault
You wouldn’t think that a Podunk town in the middle of the Southeast would have a handle on board game or have its pulse on the geek culture.  But this one has proven its worth and has also lent a hand in keeping the Browncoats flying.  Toy Vault, a company based out of London, Kentucky, specialize in everything from plush toys to action figures.  Yet they also stretch themselves into the board game arena, and none have proven their worth more than their multiple Firefly releases.  If you look through my previous game reviews, most of the Firefly games that I have reviewed were Toy Vault releases.  The game creators know the world, are die-hard fans that are true to show, and the mechanics are made with the characters and their abilities well in mind.  Everything is paced well, played well, and the quality of the pieces are far from third rate.  This is a company that has the potential to expand its own gaming division if it sees fit and by the looks of some of the releases it has under its belt I certainly hope to see that happen someday.  I expect even more amazing geekdom faire from this little southern company.

                                                  Best Board Game:  Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter has become the family favorite this year.  A co-op game set in the zombie apocalypse, you play in a colony of survivors trying to find food, fuel, medicine, etc., all while trying to keep zombies out.  But be careful, one player might be a betrayer trying to kill you.  You never know if a player drew a betrayer card or not, so all could be innocent or one could be out for blood.  You always suspect your other players, which makes this game that much more fun.  The best game to lose friends because of.  Check out the Youtube Tabletop channel for their Dead of Winter episode or my previous review of the game here on Needless Things for a more in-depth look.


Best Musical Artist:  Us The Duo
My teenager was treated to a birthday surprise by her grandparents, my husband, and myself.  We pooled money together for a Pentatonix concert.  We got her fifth row center seats; you could make out the eyeshadow on the people on stage.  This concert sold me on a band I was already interested in, but it introduced me to a band that blew me away and made me rush home to add their album to Spotify.  Us The Duo was the second of Pentatonix opening acts.  Never in my life have I heard music quite like this.  A keyboard, sometimes a tambourine, timpani, an acoustic guitar, and that was it.  A husband and wife team that wrote their own songs and did covers of their favorites.  Inspired by the likes of Johnny Cash to Michael Jackson, Prince to Dolly Parton, this duo had the most haunting voice, the most inspiring tones, and songs that literally brought the house to a standing ovation.  The first opening act, while good, didn’t get this kind of reaction.  No one in the audience could contain the emotional reaction that this band brought out, and it was simply quiet music with powerful and eerily gorgeous voices.  PLEASE, look up their music on Youtube and Spotify.  This will be a life-changing moment for you.

Best Album:  Us The Duo’s Just Love  and Prince’s One Night Alone:  Live!
See my post above?  Well that answers the question on what the album is.  Us The Duo’s newest album is titled Just Love.  Which is exactly what you will do once you heard it.  Just love it.  Songs like “Safe” will haunt you forever.  It’s quiet and eerie, yet romantic and so beautiful that it brings you to tears.  I’m even making a fandom music video to the song for one of my all-time favorite couples….and I’m not telling.  I’m not letting someone else steal my idea!   The song “(Stop) Just Love” is honestly what rain on a summer day would sound like if it had lyrics to it.  It’s this refreshing song that just has a sound to it that makes you happy even if you don’t want to be.  Minimal arrangement with their amazing harmonies makes for a tune that just floats through the air.  “Right Where I Should Be” is simple, to the point, and a quiet tune that sounds like it belongs in a piano bar in the late night hours, making a man who is down on his luck suddenly happy again and rethink his life, and turn around and go home with a positive attitude.  Even if you don’t listen to their style of music you will fall for this band and this album will be a permanent edition to your collection. 
Now I had to split this into two albums, even though this second listing didn’t come out this year and even though this second choice was a 3-disc set.  I put this album up on a shelf to protect it when I bought it as it was a collection piece; I didn’t want it damaged.  Upon Prince’s passing I took it down to download it onto my iPod to listen to for the first time; one of the FEW Prince albums I have NEVER dissected.  One Night Alone:  Live! is possibly one of my favorite Prince albums in the history of his catalogue.  I have seen him live and it is a religious experience.  And I mean that sincerely as I am a religious person; you can feel that he was sent from God to use his talents to move the world because his pull on a crowd was otherworldly.  As he got older his shyness ebbed; the only place he was never shy was on stage.  But even as his age progressed he began to crack jokes on stage and engage the crowd more.  This album showed that.  Joking with the crowd, talking to them about everything from politics to theology, racial equality to religion…even bringing a woman on stage to play guitar for her, asking her, “Can I get you anything?  You cool?”  And you can see why the album he was working on before his passing was a Jazz album; the tone of the album rings heavy with late night sessions of blues, jazz, glorious funk rhythms led by Prince and the beautiful George Clinton, throw backs to the glory days of his early work and lead-ins to his less known but underappreciated jazz-infused gems like “Rainbow Children.”  Coworkers thought I was crazy because I was smiling so hard my face hurt for four hours while listening to this treasure.  I hadn’t smiled that wide in a long time.

                           Best Convention Moment:  The Shannara Chronicles Panel

The Shannara Chronicles Panel.  Best book EVER and I am so happy to have sat on that panel as a 

Best Book:  “Children of The Promise”  by Dean Hughes
An LDS family during WWII, it’s an historical fiction piece that had me hooked by the first chapter of book one and the funny thing is that I normally don’t dig historical fiction.  This man has written over seventy books and it shows.  Fantastic.  Highly recommend.

Best Cosplay

DragonCon 2016, I saw a boy standing in the Westin, dressed AS the Westin.  Seriously.  In L200 foam decorated as the Westin Hotel, complete with the towering sign, and it even lit up.  I am not worthy.

These are the moments, people, and things that stuck out to me.  In a wild and crazy 2016, these things made it great.  What worked for you?  Let me know in the comments!

Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)

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