Best of 2012

There were many outstanding films and TV shows, etc. in 2012 and many letdowns. Here are our rankings for the best in sci-fi, fantasy and horror in 2012.

Best Sci-Fi TV Show
fringeFringe, now in its final season, the show left its X-Files trappings of government agents investigating unusual phenomenon and radically changed the show’s concept. The main characters wind up decades into the future and have become freedom fighters against the oppressive Observers, post-humans from the distant future who traveled back in time and conquered the world. It’s still head-spinning fun but the new unexpected plot development refreshed the show as Fringe marches towards its conclusion.

Best Web-Based Show
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, shame on Syfy for not greenlighting this as a regular series. The network took the pilot and cut it up into ten minute segments that appeared online, making it a web show. It was exciting with terrific f/x and production values, plus engaging characters. It was a perfect companion piece and prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

clone wars

Best Animated Show
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Darth Maul finally came back from the dead! Until Episode VII comes along this well-produced animated series is the perfect tonic for Star Wars fans waiting for the next big-screen installment.

Best Horror TV Show
The Walking Dead, the tension and developments kept viewers on edge as the characters’ plight in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world went from bad to worse. People unexpectedly died, the gore quotient was high and gross and the stories were some of the most riveting shown on TV. The Walking Dead only loosely followed the comic book it’s based on, which allowed it to take different paths, introduce new characters and kept fans guessing.

walking dead

Best Fantasy Show
Game of Thrones, two things made this fantasy show based on George R. R. Martin’s books noteworthy for viewers: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who despite his size manages to hold his kingdom together, and snow zombies a.k.a. the White Walkers and wights.

Best Documentary/Reality Show
Dark Matters: Twisted But True, John Noble (from Fringe) hosts this interesting and sometimes macabre look at some of the weirdest and most disturbing science experiments and discoveries throughout history.

Best Cancelled TV Show
last resortLast Resort, admittedly the show was borderline sci-fi (a nuclear sub with stealth capabilities, hints that it takes place in the very near future with nuclear warfare and $8 dollar a gallon gas prices), but this military drama about a renegade nuclear sub crew who commandeer an island retreat was suspenseful, gripping and entertaining. Too bad it didn’t catch on.

Best TV Character
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead, kudos have to go to Lincoln for his near-perfect characterization of a former deputy sheriff who struggles to keep his band of survivors alive in a world full of flesh-eating ghouls. Despite his best efforts, people die and he’s forced to become more and more ruthless to survive.

Most Missed TV Character
Etta Bishop (Georgina Haig) in Fringe, she only appeared for a few episodes but Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham’s grown up daughter while sweet and endearing to loved ones was surprisingly brutal against the Observers and their human allies. Her death was a sudden shock that nearly unhinged her parents in their struggle to defeat the Observers.

Most Improved TV Character
darylDaryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in The Walking Dead, at first he was a non-descript redneck but Daryl has shown an inner toughness and tenderness that was astonishing to watch. Usually quiet, Daryl has emerged as Rick’s most dependable ally and right-hand man, and is quite adept at surviving and killing zombies.

Most Improved TV show
Being Human, this American/Canadian adaptation being humanof the hit U.K. show wisely took the characters and situations of the original and spun itself off into different and unpredictable directions. At the same time, Being Human in its second season quickly developed an engrossing mythology as its non-human characters struggled to regain their humanity.

Best Series Finale
The River, this uneven supernatural series ended with the main characters managing to find the TV show host that they were all searching for in the Amazon since the show began. But the evil spirits that plagued them keep them trapped in the mysterious waterways. Not a bad way to end a horror show.

Worst Series Finale
Alcatraz, the producers of this low-rated show decides to end its first and only season with a cliffhanger that kills off the main character and leaves its core mystery unsolved! Way to go fellas!

john carter

Best Sci-Fi Film
John Carter, Disney should fire any marketing exec involved with this exciting, fun and action-packed thrill ride. Director Andrew Stanton skillfully presented a grand swashbuckling yarn about the very first space hero whose adventures predated all the familiar space operas and originated the sub genre. John Carter featured a rugged hero, a tough and beautiful damsel in distress, weird aliens, and fantastic f/x and production values.

Best Horror Film
The Cabin In The Woods, it wasn’t the cabinscariest horror film but it was the most original and fun. It took the concept of isolated young people terrorized by savage killers and went off in a unique and imaginative tangent. The way the entire premise switches midway in the film made it very memorable. BTW, we would’ve picked the merman premise too.

Best Fantasy Film
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, true, it’s too long and not as good as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but thanks to Peter Jackson’s direction it’s still a grand adventure with dazzling effects, a rich environment (made more real thanks to its 48 fps film), characters and a welcome return to Middle Earth. Better yet, more Gollum and Gandalf!

Best Animated Film
rise of guardiansRise of the Guardians, one of the most underrated animated films in recent memory features stupendous animation and at its core a hero (Jack Frost voiced by Chris Pine) with a surprising amount of depth and heart. It’s also a vibrant celebration of childhood and all of its innocent wonder, imagination and faith.

avengers

Best Superhero Film
Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s not like Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance had a chance! Director Joss Whedon hit this one out of the planet in a true epic that saw several of Marvel Comics’ popular superheroes teaming up in an eye-popping spectacular. Fans rejoiced in seeing the momentous occasion that was like seeing a superhero version of an all-star game.

Best Superhero On Film
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Hulk in Marvel’s The Avengers, finally a film captured the essence of the Hulk at his smashing best. The green behemoth stole the show as he pummeled Loki and his alien forces. So how about a proper film for the Hulk now?

Best Film Character
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) in Chronicle, DeHaan gives a great performance as a picked-upon high school loner who gets superpowers one day and basically doesn’t do anything with them. Instead of becoming a hero, Andrew slowly and disturbingly becoame more and more malevolent as Chronicle came to its terrifying conclusion.

dane deHaan in chronicle

Biggest Disappointment
Prometheus, wow was this a huge letdown. A poorly written mess where characters behave illogically and plot points appear and disappear at a moment’s notice. Ridley Scott and wiz bang f/x couldn’t salvage this disappointing Alien prequel. Note to Scott: forget about those Prometheus and Blade Runner sequel ideas.

Most Overrated Film
Looper, let’s see gangsters in the future only use time travel to get rid of bodies? Immoral types wouldn’t want to get rich or muck with timelines? What’s with the out-of-left-field plot development about the telekinetic mutants and a kid that belongs in an Omen movie? The unlikeable characters didn’t help matters with this unsatisfying time travel film.

hobbit

Best Use Of 3D In A Film
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, thanks in part to it being filmed in an immersive 48 fps, the 3D erases the barrier between the film and the audience.

Best Trailer For An Upcoming Film
Star Trek Into Darkness, while the trailer for J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film was more exhilarating this trailer promises excitement and vengeance-fueled destruction as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, the Star Trek film that all the others in the franchise try to emulate.

Best App
Angry Birds Star Wars, it’s the best mashup since peanut butter met chocolate!

mass effect 3

Best Video Game
Mass Effect 3, despite all the groans about its ending, the game featured stunning graphics, addictive game play and a solid storyline.

Best Hallmark Ornament
TIE: the time-traveling DeLorean car from Back To The Future and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. ’80s genre nostalgia lives on with these accurate and detailed ornaments.

Best Marketing Tie-In
SAMSUNGThe black, Avengers-themed monorail at Walt Disney World. It’s visually arresting with the movie heroes and logo boldly displayed on the sleek mode of transit seen around the Magic Kingdom in Florida. It continues to wow tourists.

Biggest News Item
Disney buys Lucasfilm and thus the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Not since Disney purchased Marvel Comics has there been such a cataclysmic happening in the world of fandom. Many had conflicted thoughts about seeing George Lucas stepping down and handing control of his beloved franchises to the Disney juggernaut. Feelings were also mixed but guardedly excited over the announcement of new Star Wars films on the horizon.

Advertisements

End Of An Era For Spider-Man

spidey 700Marvel Comics has just released the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in a story called “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. It’s publication can be seen as the nail in the coffin for the old Marvel universe as the comic book company re-launches itself with its Marvel NOW! comic books aimed at bringing in new readers. Their core titles have been canceled and relaunched with new number ones and new titles altogether. In Spider-Man’s case, an all-new comic book is set to debut in two weeks called The Superior Spider-Man.

Why such an unusual title? Well MAJOR SPOILER WARNING it turns out that this is a different Spider-Man. He’s actually Otto Octavius, yes, Doctor Octopus himself is now Spider-Man.

We have to go back to around issue 600 of The Amazing Spider-Man, in that issue it was revealed that Doctor Octopus was dying, in fact, his body is a shriveled, helpless husk kept alive in a mechanical cocoon. With his dying breath, Octavius has been obsessed with finally defeating his arch foe Spider-Man and making one big impact on the world. In issue 698, it was revealed that Doctor Octopus knew about Spider-Man’s true identity of Peter Parker (never mind that he learned this shortly before dying and forgetting it during the Clone Saga fiasco), then it was revealed that he had transferred his mind into Spider-Man’s body, while Peter’s mind was implanted into Octavius’ dying form.

In The Amazing Spider-Man # 700 Peter, in Doctor Octopus’ decaying body, desperately tries to undo the switch before time runs out. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Humberto Ramos, this issue is a bonafide tour de force that touches on all aspects of Spider-Man’s life. uncle benThe highlights were when Peter has a couple of near death experiences and glimpses the afterlife populated by his deceased loved ones like Gwen Stacy and his Uncle Ben. These sequences and Peter’s failing struggles are very heartfelt and exemplify why Spidey has been so popular. It nearly undoes the bad taste that the infamous “One More Day” storyline has left with many fans.

The ending to this issue and story will be as controversial and radical as that of “One More Day” for one obvious reason.

DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED

 

 

 

LAST WARNING

 

 

Peter Parker dies.

Ultimately, Peter was unsuccessful in switching back to his true body, and the effort made him consider doing the unthinkable such as attempting to willingly kill a person. However, his efforts weren’t in vain. While Doctor Octopus took Spider-Man’s body, his mind absorbed Peter’s memories and behavior. In the end, after Peter dies in Doctor Octopus’ body, Octavius finds himself learning about responsibility, empathizing with Peter and promises to take up Spider-Man’s heroic cause. The story has an epilogue in the comic book The Avenging Spider-Man # 15.1 where Octavius slightly alters the Spider-Man costume and leads to next month’s new title of The Superior Spider-Man.

death of peter

It’s always sad to see Spider-Man die (usually in What If? stories and most recently the Ultimate Comics version) because he always seemed so vulnerable compared to other superheroes. But this time it felt sadder than normal since this is the true Spider-Man that dies not an alternate version. It does feel like the end of an era, the comic book had its highs and lows but The Amazing Spider-Man was one of Marvel’s most consistently good titles. At the same time, this story celebrates all that is good and noble about Spider-Man and does set up a very intriguing direction for the character. Being that these are comic books, of course, this development will be undone in some way and Peter will be resurrected. If they could revive Steve Rogers and Barry Allen they can bring back the true Spider-Man. new spidey 2In the meantime, this new take of Spidey (is it even proper to refer to him as that? The new Spider-Man seems much less happy-go-lucky than the original.), offers a new way of looking at Spider-Man and brings up new questions. How will he fit in with Peter’s life? Can he really become a hero? Can he leave behind his former villainous life? Will anyone catch on to what is going on? Is Peter Parker truly gone? Careful readers will spot an escape hatch or two. One certainy is that Doctor Octopus has elevated himself to become Spider-Man’s greatest foe. He accomplished what others failed to do by killing him but now he has to pay the price by assuming Spider-Man’s heroic role.

The rest of the oversize comic book features two back up stories and artwork including a complete gallery of every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Hopefully by the time the next anniversary arrives, TPTB at Marvel will decide to resume The Amazing Spider-Man and with the original numbering. As to how readers will react to the new title and hero is open to question. While these new changes are a good jumping on point for new readers, “Dying Wish: Suicide Run” also serves as a bittersweet goodbye for older fans who may not want to follow the adventures of the new Spider-Man. At the same time, for cynical readers who have read countless stories about dying superheroes (only to see them resurrected), this can be more of the same even though it was well done in “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. The fact that the new title will be called The Superior Spider-Man belies its transient nature of this new Spider-Man until the proper hero makes his eventual return.

Until then, long live Spider-Man.

José Soto

2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Twelve

earth

Well if the Mayan calendar is to be believed our world will come to an end tomorrow on December 21, 2012. We’ve looked at many possible ways that we and our planet can be destroyed these past twelve months. Many of the methods ranged from the mundane and likely (viruses and war) to the bizarre and improbable (zombies and aliens). So without further ado, let’s examine one last scenario for the apocalypse and go right to the source and other beliefs.

Doomsday Scenario No. 1: Prophecies

calendarMany have panicked over the supposed end of our world after looking at the ancient Mayan calendar. The reason is that the intricate calendar (known as the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar) comes to an end on December 21, 2012 so people assume that it means the world will end. How would it happen? As with all prophecies that is open to interpretation. Even the date is open to interpretation among scholars. Many believe that our world will face a collision with another planet or that we will feel the effects of a galactic realignment, which would cause disastrous gravitational effects on our solar system. Others think that the magnetic poles will reverse plunging us into chaos or another ice age. Inspired by all these theories the film 2012 showed an Earth imperiled when a massive solar flare caused neutrinos to heat up the Earth’s core temperature, and led to a range of super disasters. On TV there are scores of special programs, usually on The History Channel or Discovery Channel, devoted to the Mayan prophecies.

2012

But closer examinations reveal that the ancient Mayans didn’t believe that their calendar’s end meant that the world was doomed. Rather, they felt the event signified the end of one era and the start of another. Some feel that we will enter a new age of enlightenment–and given the recent tragedies and tensions we’ve suffered perhaps it’s better to approach the unknown with a renewed sense of hope.

But many others tend to be pessimistic about the future or at least believe we will go through much more hardship before entering paradise. That is a basic tenet of Christian belief. The Bible’s Book of Revelations concerns itself with what is to come and that is the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The events covered in Revelations are truly cataclysmic and world changing. Basically, Satan and his minions like the Antichrist will come to Earth and have a final war against those who worship God. According to Revelations, Satan will be defeated and a new era of paradise and peace will come.

left behindThere have been several notable fiction books that dwell on Christian beliefs of the apocalypse. One of the most recent was the popular Left Behind books written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The book series begins with the true believers of Christ undergoing the Rapture and instantly being taken to heaven. During the chaos of the sudden disappearance of multitudes the Antichrist comes to power in the form a Romanian politician who becomes secretary-general of the United Nations. The series follows the quest of several people who try to prepare for the coming judgment from God and the End Times.

The Left Behind books have been adapted into a film trilogy that starred Kirk Cameron. Other films and TV shows also dealt with the coming End Times and the concept of Satan or the Devil coming to Earth. There are The Omen films, which center on the character of Damien supernaturalThorn, who is revealed to be the Antichrist; the TV show Supernatural, where in its middle seasons dealt with Lucifer entering Earth and triggering the apocalypse. Some more films include The Seventh Sign, Prince Of Darkness and End Of Days. In all of them, the main characters forcibly confront the fact that the world could come to an end due to demonic forces and they have to save the Earth and humanity.

Other cultures and religions have their own belief systems of how the world will end, many of which go back thousands of years. One of the better known ones are the ancient Norse beliefs about Ragnarok where Norse gods like Thor will have a final battle against their foes and die. Afterwards, the world will be flooded and eventually will rise from the waters and be repopulated by surviving gods and two humans. Ancient Egyptian beliefs held that the world will eventually end after a series of renewals and return to a primeval state. This is covered in the found Book of the Dead.

earthrise

While it may be easy to give in to the pessimistic nature of these doomsday scenarios, it is important to realize that many of them also signify a sense of renewal and enlightenment. They just reinforce the notion that everything in life is finite and cyclical as well. Also these scenarios can be seen as a warning to us to prevent these horrors from happening. While it’s highly unlikely that the world will end on December 21, it will come to an end someday via some of the scenarios covered in these past twelve months. To think otherwise is just being arrogant. While some may choose to give in to their fears it’s important to cherish and treasure what is truly important in life and to celebrate it. Until then, to help pass the time before we all step into the unknown future here is a video featuring a taste of doomsday.

José Soto, special thanks to GEO and C.S. Link for their contributions with the Doomsday Scenarios articles

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…For Trailers!

pacific rim kirk

A fairly recent trend with movie studios these days during the holiday season is to build up excitement for their upcoming releases. This is being done with long-awaited trailers, in this year’s case, trailers for upcoming 2013 movies. It seems that sandwiched in between the big summer conventions with their super-exclusive trailers and clips and the Super Bowl, the best time for fans to first watch trailers is during the holiday season.

In rapid fire, studios are ramping up expectations and satisfying all those who couldn’t make it to the conventions and had to resort to watching bootleg copies filmed on someone’s phone. Forget the Super Bowl, who wants to sit through hours of sports and inane non-genre commercials just to glimpse a brief look at a summer film? It seems as if the holiday season has become the best time to whet fans’ appetites. During summer conventions, the films are far from finished and all that is available are teasers, but by the time the holidays are around, special effects shots are done and if there is something that may not set the world on fire based on reactions, there is still time to tweak the film or the marketing. Sure it’s nothing but Advertising 101 but it works.

To date, this season has seen newly minted trailers for summer 2013 movies like After Earth, Man Of Steel, Pacific Rim, and Star Trek Into Darkness. One genre film that is coming out instead in the spring is the Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion and that is one of the most interesting trailers. Evoking a ruined Earth motif and a lonely observer ala WALL-E, the images of nature reclaiming man-made structures are very arresting.

man of steelThe Man Of Steel trailer was a mixed bag, however. Like the teaser released in the summer, it comes off as very pretentious like a Terrence Malick movie but midway through it, the tempo picked up with exciting action shots of Superman. Still many are feeling skeptical being that its directed by Zack Snyder, who has a hit or miss track record. Ditto with After Earth, which stars Will Smith and is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The director has hit a rough patch with his recent films and is in dire need of a comeback. Will After Earth do it for him? Or will it be The Happening of 2013?

Of course all this oohing and ahhing over trailers doesn’t mean the film will be great. Many of us are still smarting over being let down after all the excitement from seeing the Prometheus trailer that came out last year. At the same time, the trailer released last year around this time for The Avengers was just an average trailer. It wasn’t until spring that the definitive exciting trailer came out that set off a storm of anticipation for The Avengers.

So which trailers are the favorites? That is hard to say, but the spots for Pacific Rim and Star Trek Into Darkness caught my attention. Pacific Rim had those cool giant robots and the entire thing seemed like a mashup of Cloverfield meeting the Transformers. But being that Michael Bay isn’t directing Pacific Rim adds many points to it. It turned out that the recent trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t the teaser but the announcement for the teaser which came out today. The trailer was chock full of cool f/x shots, explosions and screaming, the kind of thing Star Trek is famous for, well not really. While Star Trek Into Darkness seems more like an action movie than one about exploration and not about the original spirit of Star Trek, the trailer does make it look exciting.

Now if only the movie studios would only give us a peek at The Wolverine, Kick-Ass 2 and Elysium.

Waldermann Rivera

Worlds Collide In The Walking Dead, Parts I & II

bite

Part I:

What you all did – leaving me up there – people wouldn’t do that to an animal…”

Merle to Glenn

In the pre-credits scene of episode seven of The Walking Dead, “When The Dead Come Knocking”, Merle (Michael Rooker) is brutally interrogating Glenn (Steven Yeun). Still bitter about being abandoned in Atlanta (in season one), Merle demands to know the survivors’ whereabouts. When Glenn refuses, Merle reacts savagely.

really tortured

Post-credits, Michonne (Danai Gurira) is standing at the prison gate, her walker-blood-drenched shirt serving as camouflage to the surrounding creatures. Before Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) can act, her open gunshot wound reveals her presence and the walkers attack. Michonne’s limp and fatigue hamper her ability to fight back, but Rick saves her just as she passes out. Inside the prison, Rick’s group tend to Michonne’s wound but they and she are mutually suspicious of each other. After she witnesses Rick’s touching reunion with Carol (Melissa McBride) – previously thought to be dead, Michonne opens up and tells about Glenn, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) held prisoner by the Governor (David Morrissey) in the town of Woodbury. Rick formulates a rescue plan, and heavily armed and equipped, sets out to Woodbury taking Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne, and Oscar (Vincent Ward).

In Woodbury, Milton (Dallas Roberts) conducts a bizarre experiment, with Andrea’s (Laurie Holden) assistance, on a dying old man (Peter Kulas). Seeking to determine if he retains his human memory after re-animating as a walker, the experiment fails. Before the re-animated walker could bite him an already cynical Andrea kills the creature.

lunchMeanwhile, Glenn, duct-taped to a chair, still refuses to divulge any information to Merle, who then releases a walker on him. In an exciting scene, Glenn fights for his life as he cleverly alternates between evading the creature, striking it and smashing apart his chair to break free; eventually he gains the upper hand and kills it with pieces of the smashed chair. The Governor decides next to interrogate Maggie himself. With the sinister air of a viper, he calmly orders her to remove her shirt and bra, hinting at rape. Unable to break the sobbing young woman, he leaves her but later reunites Maggie and the bloodied Glenn. After threatening Glenn in her presence, Maggie in her loved one’s presence. Maggie breaks down and reveals the survivors’ numbers and whereabouts.

Outside of Woodbury, Rick and the three others leave their car a few miles from the town and stealthily approach; but are spotted by walkers. Initially fighting them off, more walkers arrive in distractionimpossible numbers, so they seek shelter in a nearby cabin. Locking the door, they discover the cabin’s sole inhabitant, a hermit (Alex Van) who initially holds a gun to Rick. Although they disarm him, he panics and runs to escape; Michonne kills him to prevent him from opening the door. To distract the walkers, his body is thrown to them, which they devour in a grotesque feeding frenzy. Rick and the rescue party escape the cabin and later approach Woodbury after dark, hiding just outside its heavy fortifications.

The Governor meanwhile is stunned from Maggie’s revelation that such a small group – ten – was able to clear out a prison by themselves, a task thought to be impossible. Together with Glenn’s performance with the walker, he is impressed by them as a tough group. The Governor orders Merle and another of his thugs, Caesar (Jose Pablo Cantillo), to scout out the prison.

Except for a few token touchy-feely moments involving the newborn baby and Carol’s return, “When The Dead Come Knocking” is exciting and fast-paced. We are opening our eyes to Glenn, no longer the baseball-capped, delivery-boy-next-door type. He is emerging as a serious hombre with testicular fortitude, surviving a savage beating without ratting out his friends and later killing a walker while initially strapped to a chair. The episode suffered a few reality black holes, though. Jumping into a rescue mission without a complete and thorough re-con is a serious (and possibly fatal) mistake, especially up against a hard-nosed cat such as the Governor. Additionally, Michonne’s reluctance to reveal even her name also struck me as odd, considering she went through hell and high water to get to the prison, meet them, and deliver the baby supplies. And how exactly did that hermit survive in the middle of walker territory?

But ultimately that’s nitpicking, as The Walking Dead is leading to a deadly confrontation. Perhaps Michonne can clue the rescue team in to something we have already witnessed, because despite the grisly acts regularly committed by walkers in The Walking Dead, “When The Dead Come Knocking” ultimately focuses on the dark side of human behavior, something Rick and the survivors will soon experience for themselves.

Continue reading