Saturday, August 29, 2015

Media Update: End of Summer 2015

Anyone who knows me well - or at all for that matter - knows that I am constantly taking in different forms of media and that I try to keep up with the pop culture landscape around me - or at least my stated part of it. I also try to write somewhat intelligent discourse about my experiences, as I know that there are people who (rightfully) value my thoughts and find points of discussion in the midst of the overall dialogue about pop culture. But every so often, I feel like I have a build-up of things to write that mostly are not full blog material, but that might be too much for tweets. I want to write some thoughts, but not full posts on each of them; that is where these catch-all media update posts come in handy.

The purpose of these posts is to give a snapshot of the kinds of media that have been part of my life over the past couple of months. It's mostly just a series of lists, but I have attempted to include a few pithy observations along the way. I have divided each form of media (movies, TV, music, video games, board games) into three different categories: what I watched/listened to/played; what I missed (and need to catch up); and what I'm looking forward to over the next couple of months. As always, the main purpose here is to invoke dialogue, so I would love to hear your thoughts in response. On with the update!

Movies


What I watched:

Avengers: Age of Ultron - I outlined my thoughts extensively here, but let me summarize it for you simply. It was good, could have been better, wasn't Joss Whedon's fault that it wasn't, and I (like many others) am feeling close to done with the whole superhero thing and we're in for another five years of comic-inspired craziness.

Pitch Perfect 2 - Sure, it had a few funny moments (the sing-off particularly) and a couple of inspired songs (Muse!), but it mostly felt like the studios took things that worked in a fun indie film and sapped all of the fun from them.

Inside Out - The best movie of the summer and easily of the year so far, and arguably Pixar's best. At least Top 5, which is still an accomplishment.

Jurassic World - A misogynistic uninspired misanthropic mess of a movie. So no, I didn't care for it.

What I missed:

Ant-Man - I'll wait until Netflix.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Easily the movie I'm most disappointed to have missed; maybe I'll actually watch the original trilogy as well this fall.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - It's a super-cheesy action flick, just like all of the previous M:I films. I still want to see it.

Paper Towns - The newest John Green adaptation didn't do that well, but it's still my favourite John Green book, so I'll see it sometime.

Spy - Lost in the shuffle of big movies in May/June; looking forward to this one.

Tomorrowland - Didn't get the best reviews, but I'm a fan of Brad Bird, so I'll watch it.

What I'm looking forward to:

Black Mass (Sept. 18) - The real story of Whitey Bulger, a notorious Boston gangster who worked with the FBI. The real draw here is to see if Johnny Depp is back in form.

The Martian (Oct. 2) - The only non-biopic on this list; I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm excited to see what Matt Damon does with the character as an astronaut stranded on Mars.

The Walk (Oct. 2) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Philippe Petit, the man who walked on a high-wire rope between the Twin Towers in the 1970s. I'm not sure if this will be better than the documentary Man on Wire, but I'm interested to see it anyway.

Steve Jobs (Oct. 9) - Boyle, Sorkin, Fassbender, Winslet...and Rogen? It looks interesting, at any rate.

Bridge of Spies (Oct. 16) - The appeal here in the story of the U-2 spy crisis isn't really star Tom Hanks or director Steven Spielberg; it's that the Coen brothers helped write this movie.

Trumbo (Nov. 6) - Bryan Cranston stars as the infamous Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted during the Red Scare in the 1950s.


TV



What I watched:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 2; then Seasons 1 & 2 again. The Nine-Nine is easily my favourite comedy on TV right now, and I could watch it over and over again.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 1. I totally have a crush on Kimmy Schmidt. And I'm okay with that. Now I want to watch all of the 30 Rock again.

Better Call Saul - Season 1. Once this Breaking Bad prequel/spin-off got past the first two episodes and got the "we need to have some action so BB fans will stay" scenes out, this show got really good. Like, really amazingly good. I cannot wait to see where they take things next season.

What I missed:

Veep - Season 4 - My other favourite comedy right now, and I just haven't watched this season yet.

Louie - Season 5 - Just didn't get around to it yet.

Orphan Black - Season 3 - Well, I still haven't watched either Seasons 1 or 2, but I'm still feeling left out.

True Detective - Season 2 - I know it didn't get the best reviews, but I still feel like I should watch it. Maybe if I wait another month I won't feel that way anymore.

What I'm looking forward to:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS, Sept. 8) - He's no Letterman, but that's a good thing. I am just really interested to see Colbert as himself, not in character.

Doctor Who - Series 9 (BBC One, Sept. 19) - The more I think about it, the more the twelfth doctor (Peter Capaldi) might be my favourite.

The Muppets (ABC, Sept. 22) - I loved The Muppet Show as a kid, so this could be some fun nostalgia. Or a complete disaster - who knows?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 3 (Fox, Sept. 27) - 'Nuff said.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central, Sept. 28) - The big relaunch and revisioning of an institution that has shaped much of the way my generation interacts with media and the world over the past 15 years. So, no biggie.

Dr. Ken (ABC, Oct. 2) - Ken Jeong doing what he knows best - medicine (he is a licensed physician) and comedy. How can this go wrong? (It's on ABC, that's how. But I'm interested to see it anyway.)

Music


What I listened to:

Florence and the Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Welch's vocals are bigger, bluer, and more beautiful than ever. This is their best album so far.

Muse - Drones - I'm a fan of Muse, but I have to admit that their whole dystopian anti-authoritarian schtick is finally starting to feel tired. Still, there are a couple of really rocking tracks here.

Joy Williams - Venus - The chanteuse formerly of The Civil Wars soars on this solo album. But even with as beautiful as this album is, I really want her to try more collaborations with other artists in the future.

Death Cab for Cutie - Kintsugi - This is probably their best album since Plans, and I just love how poppy it is.

Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind - I do miss the banjos of Babel and Sigh No More, but I think Wilder Mind is a better album than it's being given credit for.

What I missed:

Jon Foreman - The Wonderlands: Sunlight and Shadows - The newest set of EPs from the lead singer of Switchfoot who is (I still think) one of the best songwriters around.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell - Some are saying this is his best work, which is really saying something.

Gungor - One Wild Life: Soul - The first of a trilogy of albums from the semi-experimental avant-garde worship group.

What I'm looking forward to:

The City Harmonic - We Are The City Harmonic (Sept. 11) - One of my favourite current worship acts.

Collective Soul - See What You Started By Continuing (Oct. 2) - I have listened to CSoul for 20 years, so I'm stoked.

Coldplay - A Head Full of Dreams (?) - I wouldn't be surprised to see this album drop without any notice.

Video Games


What I played:

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS - I totally got sucked in this summer, and I am loving both versions of SSB.

Splatoon (Wii U) - The new paintball-squid-kid-first-person shooter is zany, creative, and tons of fun.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) - I had a lot of fun with the nostalgia of this game, as it brought new life into the classic A Link to the Past from my childhood. I really enjoyed playing this game through.

What I missed:

Other than all of the games I didn't have a chance to play, nothing really. I think I played more video games than I had in a long time, so I don't feel like I missed anything.

What I'm looking forward to:

Super Mario Maker (Wii U, Sept. 11) - I doubt that I'll buy the whole game, but if Nintendo were to release a $20 eShop title that just let you play the levels that others designed, I'd be totally in.

New amiibo (Wii U / 3DS, Sept. 11 + 25) - I am really enjoying the amiibo craze, especially with Super Smash Bros. Ganondorf is the new release I want the most, but Bowser Jr., Dr. Mario, and Duck Hunt would be awesome too.

Super Smash Bros. DLC (Wii U/3DS) (Oct. ?) - It hasn't been announced yet, but the Fighter Ballot (to choose new fighters) is open until Oct. 3, so I think there will be some new DLC this fall.

Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U, Oct. 16) - This will be a fun easy visually stunning platformer - a short but fun game.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS, Oct. 23) - A truly multiplayer Zelda game could be interesting.

Board Games


I write comprehensive board game updates every quarter, so I will be summarizing my summer of games at the end of September. So, for the purpose of this space, I will list the games (and expansions) whose release I'm looking forward to over the next couple of months.

New versions or implementations of games I know and love:

7 Wonders: Duel - A 2 player version of one of my most-played game.

Fresco: The Card Game - I really like Fresco as a worker placement game, so I'm interested to see how they make it into a card game.

Mottainai - a revisioning of Glory to Rome that should arrive from Kickstarter soon!

Pandemic: Legacy - a legacy-style version of Pandemic in which things that happen in one game affect future games.

Tiny Epic Galaxies - The newest "Tiny Epic" game and one that I ordered on Kickstarter.

Expansions to games I already own and enjoy: 

Among the Stars: Revival - an expansion and a 2 player stand-alone game I ordered on Kickstarter.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets - New rooms and elements in Ludwig's castle - plus a fifth player!

Galaxy Trucker: Missions - bringing elements of the digital version to the tabletop!

Istanbul: Mocha and Baksheesh - new shops for the bazaar.

Takenoko: Chibis - baby pandas!

And finally, there is one new game I'm looking forward to, Codenames, which seems like a fun party game.

So that is my media update for the end of summer. Thoughts? Reactions? Let me know!

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