Best Of 2013

 

 GRAVITY securing-yard

Best Sci-Fi TV Show

Doctor Who has been going on for fifty years and it’s still an entertaining and imaginative romp. The show was at its creative peak this season thanks to wonderful scripts, a spunky new Companion (Jenna Coleman) and Matt Smith’s perfect portrayal of our favorite time-traveling alien. All this was topped off with its fiftieth anniversary special that united the Doctor with past incarnations to save his world.

dr who

Best Horror TV Show:

The Walking Dead is the best genre show on TV right now and for good reason. Gory, suspenseful and gripping, The Walking Dead reached creative heights with the introduction of the evil Governor (David Morrissey), who was a greater force for our heroes to grapple with than the flesh-eating zombies. The show has become a must-see event with each new episode.

Best Fantasy Show

thronesGame of Thrones, man can the Starks ever catch a break? The wedding event was a surprising game changer and the body count both infuriated many and created new fans of this adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga. Its rich production values, dense plotlines and acting make it one of the best shows on TV.

Best Documentary/Reality Show

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited, throughout the year BBCAmerica aired at the end of the month three-hour long specials that examined each incarnation of the Doctor starting from William Hartnell’s era up to the present. Then once that was done, we were treated to episodes from each era. This was a great way for old and new fans to see each version of Doctor Who.

Best Cancelled TV Show

Touch was cancelled after its second season, touchwhich was too bad. After its over reliance on touchy, feel-good stories in its first season, Touch switched gears and introduced an evil corporation that wanted to kidnap Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) to harness his near-precognitive ability. Meanwhile, he was stalked by a religious fanatic. With these developements, Touch added a much-needed narrative and purpose as Jake’s father (Keifer Sutherland) struggled to understand his son and protect him.

Best Animated Show

Beware The Batman, the computer-animated show looked at the early years of the Dark Knight’s crime-fighting career. The stories and the animation were great, as was the use of lesser-known villains like Firefly and Anarky. We cannot wait to see new episodes next month!

batman

Best TV Character

The Doctor (Matt Smith) in Doctor Who was very memorable this year thanks in large part to Smith’s performance. Showing an unexpected maturity while retaining his zest for life, the Doctor was someone who was a joy to watch as he outwitted his foes. Sadly, while Smith was at his peak, he decided to leave the show. But his last couple of outings were a tour de force and brought a tear to the eyes in his final moments as he reflected on how while things will always change, it’s important to remember your past.

Most Missed TV Character

rick and hershelHershel Greene (Scott Wilson) in The Walking Dead was a gentle and wise patriarch and the voice of reason for the show’s characters, especially Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). As the show’s moral compass, Hershel’s shocking death at the hands of the Governor was outrageous and we can only wonder how Rick and the others will carry on without him now.

Best TV Villain

The Governor (David Morrissey) in governorThe Walking Dead was one of the most malicious, manipulative and sadistic characters ever to grace a TV show. His character elevated the show as he and his machinations were one of the best reasons to tune in each week. His well-deserved death after the destruction he created was welcomed, but we can’t help wondering how the show’s creators will follow up this character. 

Most Improved TV show

Supernatural and many other genre shows greatly improved this year. But the long-running show about two brothers facing down the supernatural found new life in its latest episodes. Gone was the turgid storyline about the Leviathan with a renewed emphasis on Castiel (Misha Collins) and the troublesome angels that are just as bad as the demons in the show.

Best Series Finale

fringe season 5Fringe, the show came to a very satisfying conclusion very early in 2013. The storyline wrapped up the future invasion of the Observers and we got to see the parallel world for one last time. More importantly, we were allowed to say goodbye to the quirky characters that defined Fringe. The final episode’s last image of the white tulip drawing that Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) held was pure perfection. Thanks guys for five great years of stimulating weirdness. We’ll leave out some licorice for Walt if he ever leaves the distant future and drops by to visit.

Biggest Disappointment

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, Joss Whedon, the  mastermind behind Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is the show’s executive producer. For Pete’s sake he directed The Avengers! How could this show be so bland with generic and annoying characters? Instead of elite, badass super spies this show is riddled with so-called cute and perky morons that should be tossed from that S.H.I.E.L.D. plane at the first chance!

Best Sci-Fi Film

Gravity, it was a hard choice graitybetween this and Pacific Rim. An argument can be made that Gravity isn’t really a sci-fi film, but there are a few elements that imply that it is such as a still functioning space shuttle program (perhaps it’s an alternate reality?) and the nature of the space disaster. Nonetheless, Gravity was an electrifying and immersive viewing experience thanks to its perfect depiction of living in space and direction by Alfonso Cuarón’s expert hands.

Best Horror Film

The Conjuring set out what it wanted to do, which was to provide good, old-fashioned scares thanks to James Wan’s direction. What is even more frightening to ponder at night when you’re all alone is that this was supposedly based on actual events.  

Best Fantasy Film

smaugThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson continues his journey into Middle Earth with this lush and exciting adventure. The entire affair was elevated to new heights with the revelation of the dragon Smaug. His presence was so captivating that it made some forget about Gollum!

Best Animated Film

Monsters University, none of 2013’s animated movies were really exceptional, but this was the best one released. A surprisingly good and effective prequel that accomplished its goal of examining its main characters and helping audiences understand where they came from. It was also very funny.

Best Superhero Film

Man Of Steel, after the perceived misfire of Superman Returns years ago, it seemed that making an exciting Superman movie was impossible. Well, folks it was done with Man Of Steel. It had its flaws (another round at the editing station could’ve helped) and was controversial, but it’s clear that it got people talking about Superman again. Those fight scenes over Metropolis and Smallville were really epic, too.

MAN OF STEEL

Best Superhero on Film

Superman in Man Of Steel, thanks to Henry Cavill’s performance the Man of Tomorrow became relevant again in this bold and exciting film. While Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, Cavill’s interpretation takes him to the new century.

Best Film Character

GRAVITYDr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in Gravity. She was the emotional core of the movie and audiences empathized with her as she found her inner resolve to fight on and survive in a hostile environment. Audiences couldn’t help but root for her during her struggles with herself and her plight.

Best Film Villain

Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Star Trek kahn2Into Darkness. One of the highlights from the latest Star Trek film was Kirk’s greatest nemesis. Putting aside the complaints about using the genetic superman in the rebooted Trek, it can’t be denied that Cumberbatch gave a chilling performance.

Best Surprise In Film

World War Z, it should’ve been DOA like After Earth given its many production problems. It went into massive reshoots, which delayed its release. All this spelled a crappy film, yet this zombie apocalypse film was actually well done.

Best Use of 3D & IMAX In a Film

Gravity is the kind of film tailor made for 3D and IMAX with its space visuals that looked so realistic. The entire thing looked like it was actually filmed up in the I.S.S. It’s hard to see how typical home theater can do this film any justice when it’s released on Blu-ray and other outlets.

Best Trailer For an Upcoming Film

Godzilla, beat out a crowded crop of many excellent trailers (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Transcendence, Interstellar) but this one hit all the right notes with its ominous mood. From the beginning with the Navy SEALs preparing to take on a force of nature to the mayhem shown in quick cuts, Godzilla is now a must-see for 2014.

Best App

Plants Vs. Zombies 2, the sequel to the hit app is one of the best free apps around. Addictive with great content and game play, Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is worth downloading to your devices.

Best Online Social Network Game

AAMarvel: Avengers Alliance, is a very addictive, turn-based game based on the Marvel superheroes. It’s very buggy and the player vs. player feature is annoying as hell, but it’s a lot of fun to play. The game rocked fans with the introductions of obtainable lockbox characters and group bosses that had to be fought by you and your allies online.

Best Video Game

Bioshock: Infinite, the sequel to the superb Bioshock video game took the story in a new and fresh direction, in a year with many great games like The Last Of Us, this one stood out thanks to its storyline and game features.

Best Hallmark Ornament

It wasn’t the best year for genre ornaments with the slim pickings offered by Hallmark. Still, the Star Trek ornament based on the classic episode “Arena” is our pick for best Hallmark ornament. Whether it was the sight of Kirk cowering in terror from the might of the Gorn or hearing the alien hiss, this ornament is a very kitschy thing to hang on a tree.

Biggest News Item

Forget the government shutdown and batsupe symbolthe Obamacare debacle! The news that truly shook fandom came in the summer when it was announced that the Man Of Steel sequel would pit Superman against the Caped Crusader himself, Batman! DC and Warner Brothers have clearly thrown the gauntlet at Marvel and its cinematic universe. Each new update, ranging from Ben Affleck being cast as Batman to the confirmation that Wonder Women will appear has sent fandom into tizzies.

*Be sure to check out our Facebook page for our lists of the top 10 films and TV shows of 2013.

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Top 10 Doctor Who Specials

 doctor day

The modern era of Doctor Who has seen many specials that aren’t part of the regular season or series of episodes, but are just as entertaining. Many of them cover important developments about the Doctor, notably his regenerations. Often, these specials air during Christmas or in between long stretches of seasons. Some of the specials aren’t even aired on TV but are found online as mini webisodes and reveal many interesting aspects of the Doctor. These are the best specials to date.

10. “Voyage Of The Damned” The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) finds himself in an imperiled space-going luxury liner named after the Titanic. Can the Doctor and assorted crewmembers and passengers keep the ship from suffering the same fate as its namesake? Well, he isn’t called the Doctor for nothing!

snowmen9. “The Snowmen” The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) mourning the loss of his Companions lives in self-exile in Victorian London. While he is drawn to an eerie mystery involving sentient snowmen, he encounters a perplexing woman, future Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who he keeps running into during his time travels. Coleman shined in her introduction as the spunky Clara.

8. “The End Of Time, Parts One and Two” David Tennant’s swan song as the Doctor was probably a bit overblown and too long. Still, it was memorable for returning the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master (John Simm), who was a pawn in a plot to reignite the Time War. While the Doctor’s demise dragged on, it was nice seeing him bid subtle farewells to his Companions throughout time.

7. “The Waters Of Mars” One thing Doctor Who excels at is putting out genuinely creepy tales. This one, which won the Hugo award, isn’t an exception as the Tenth Doctor aids the first human colonists on Mars infected with an intelligent virus. What was more unsettling was the tragic result of the Doctor trying to change history.

6. “The Christmas Invasion” In his first full outing xmas invasionas the Doctor, David Tennant grabbed the role and ran with it. As he and his Companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) struggles to deal with his regeneration, the world comes under an alien invasion on Christmas. While the Doctor is busy getting used to his new body, Rose and her associates must deal with the alien threat on their own.

5. Various Webisodes. These minutes-long stories were often some of the best Doctor Who stories. Whether it was about Paul McGann returning time crashas the Eighth Doctor (“The Night Of The Doctor”) or the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in a weird time quirk (“Time Crash”)  or Rose’s confused and frightened reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration (“Doctor Who: Children In Need”) these nuggets added to the rich lore of Doctor Who.

4. “The Next Doctor” Before his iconic role as the sadistic Governor in The Walking Dead David Morrissey next doctorexcelled in this special as an alleged future Doctor incarnation. The Tenth Doctor meets him in London in the 1850s and the two team up to stop a Cybermen plot. Morrissey’s exuberant performance as the amnesiac Doctor a.k.a. Jackson Lake left many fans wishing he would be cast as a Doctor sometime in the future. He captured the essence of being a Doctor and his character’s tragic back story was unforgettable.

3. “The Time Of The Doctor” In the most recent special, Matt Smith’s gave a truly heartfelt performance as the Doctor for the last time. The time 3story about the Doctor sacrificing his natural lifespan to stay on a planet and defend a town called Christmas was a bit rushed and should’ve been longer, but the finale just tugs at the heartstrings. Unlike Tennant’s Doctor, this version faces his impending natural death and regeneration with maturity and wisdom. He reminds us that change is part of life and that it’s good as long as you remember your past. A Doctor’s farewell couldn’t be more poignant.

2. “A Christmas Carol” The best Doctor Who special about Christmas is this adaptation of A Christmas Carol. To save his Companions’ live, the Doctor must change the cruel and bitter ways of a Scrooge-like figure (Michael Gambon). The Doctor makes brilliant use of time travel to subtly reform the lost soul throughout his life in this loving tribute to Dickens’ classic. Actually, the story enhanced the classic with a tragic love story that is uplifting at the same time. The special also featured some of the most out-of-the-world imagery, specifically that of a flying great white shark (!) that is eventually used to pull a carriage through snowy skies.

1. “The Day Of The Doctor” This is the all-time best special and not just because it celebrated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It had an epic all docsstory as the two Doctors (Tennant and Smith) that won over legions of fans in modern times united to solve a mystery regarding the ominous Time War. Many puzzles were solved as we learned about that war and the mysterious War Doctor (John Hurt), who was just outstanding. What’s more, there were many nods and references to the show’s long and rich history that culminated in the Eleventh (or rather the Thirteenth) Doctor meeting the Curator (Tom Baker, the Fourth and most revered Classic Doctor). For the most part, the special delivered for this special occasion and set a very high standard for such events.

José Soto

Khristmas Klingon Style

klingon khristmasOne of the stranger gift requests I received for this Christmas is the new Star Trek book A Very Klingon Khristmas by Paul Ruditis. It’s obviously a parody about the holiday season done Klingon style. Sure, there are many absurd Klingon parodies floating around pop culture out there, but this is one of the more better made ones. BTW, the honor for the most bizarre, yet hysterical spoof is the Klingon video parody of Psy’s famous dance song “Gangnam Style”.

Getting back to A Very Klingon Khristmas, the book looks at the holiday from a Klingon point of view. The holiday being celebrated tongue-in-cheek style is the birth of the mighty Klingon warrior Kahless. In the Klingon holiday, Santa Claus has retractable claws and leaves tribbles in the stockings of the naughty kids, and so on. But, what really sells the book are the Norman Rockwell-like paintings (by Patrick Faricy) that capture the festive, family mood of Christmas with a Klingon spin.

klingon carolers

It’s a cute and fun book for Star Trek fans that isn’t too pricy, (less than $20) though the hardcover is only 32 pages long. That’s something to consider if you’re doing some last minute shopping and need to get something for a Star Trek fan. Look at it this way, A Very Klingon Khristmas will last longer in a fan’s memories than another Star Trek calendar.

So this can be the start of a new kind gift idea. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do other Christmas-themed Star Trek books. Personally, I’d like to read a A Ferengi Christmas Carol. 😀

Annette DeForrester

2014 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

scout trooper 2This holiday season’s Hallmark ornaments for sci-fi and other genre fans has been a bit lacking. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautifully crafted, but there isn’t a lot to choose from. Next year, on the other hand, promises a treasure trove not just for Star Wars ornaments, but for other popular films and TV shows.

Star Wars

The Star Wars ornaments made by Hallmark are increasingly popular, which is evident from the variety of available ornaments. The 2014 Hallmark Star Wars ornaments are sure to be sought after by many Star Wars fans. They include:

  • The sandcrawler terrain vehicle used by the nomadic Jawas in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
  • The alien Cantina band from the same film, and the ornament will feature sound. Hopefully it will have the famous, space jazzy music heard in the background when Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi entered the Cantina.

CANTINA

  •  An Imperial scout trooper as seen in Return Of The Jedi. Sorry, no speeder bike. Maybe in 2015, unless the new Star Wars film hogs up everything.
  • Darth Vader from the final moments of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, when he is fitted with his infamous armor for the first time. If all goes well, we won’t hear him screaming “NOOOO!”. Then again that should be good for a laugh around the Christmas tree.
  • A LEGO version of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter.
  • Another Peekbuster ornament with the motion detector that was used last year for Darth Vader. This time Yoda will do the honors and unlike Darth Vader, Yoda looks more suited for the Peekbuster job. That’s because his green skin goes better with the red Santa clothes.

Star Trek

There will be only three Star Trek-based ornaments released by Hallmark in 2014.  They are the U.S.S. Vengeance PA.INT.34205S_H7.Cship featured in Star Trek Into Darkness, Sulu wearing the original series uniform and a diorama featuring Spock mind-melding with a Horta as seen in the classic Star Trek episode “The Devil In The Dark”. Hopefully by the time the 50th anniversary of Star Trek comes around in 2016, Hallmark will beef up their offerings.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superheroes

Unlike this year, there are plenty of inspired Hallmark ornaments planned for 2014. Superhero ornaments will include Spider-Man, the Hulk, Superman in his modern suit shown in The New 52 comic books and the Adam West version of Batman ornament that was delayed previously. Also worth mentioning is that the Batmobile shown in Tim Burton’s Batman will be available.

superman hulk ornament

As interesting as the superhero ornaments are, the 2014 Hallmark sci-fi and fantasy ornaments will really whet genre fans’ appetites. I can already see some of these hanging from the tree next year. Announced so far are:

alien ape

  • The voracious alien xenomorph from the classic film Alien. Sure, it’s probably too ghastly to hang on a Christmas tree, but it sure is lovingly rendered as seen from photos. It will look great on a shelf or desk.
  • Cornelius from the original Planet Of The Apes film. No word yet if ornaments based on the modern Planet Of The Apes movies will be made.
  • Last year’s ornament of the DeLorean car from Back To The Future was very popular. It was Starloggers’ pick for ornament of the year. For 2014, Hallmark will release another version of that famous car, but it will be the flying DeLorean seen in Back To The Future, Part II.
  • Godzilla! No images are available at the time of this article, but it should be awesome. Hallmark gets extra points if the Godzilla ornament has his famous roar.
  • Harry Potter has become a mainstay with Hallmark ornaments and the 2014 ornament will be of him and Professor McGonagall.
  • An ornament based on The Hunger Games films.
  • The great white shark from Jaws! I’m already humming the Jaws theme.
  • Sloth, the deformed, but lovably goofy Fratelli brother from The Goonies.
  • Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves from The Hobbit.

 frankenstein

  • Like the Alien and Jaws ornaments, this one about the Frankenstein monster from the classic Universal Studios films may not go with a Christmas tree. But it looks fantastic, too!
  • Another Hallmark sci-fi ornament coming out in 2014 will be of Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Transformers. The one shown in photos looks to be based on the toy and not the Transformers films.

Waldermann Rivera

Superman’s Appeal After 75 Years

byrne supermanThis year we celebrated many important milestones like anniversaries for well-loved works like Iron Man, The Wizard Of Oz, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Avengers and recently Doctor Who. But before the year ends, there is one very important anniversary that should be acknowledged because the introduction of this character heralded the rise of superheroes in popular culture. That person is Superman of course, who first graced the pages of Action Comics #1 75 years ago. As everyone knows, he’s one of the most recognizable fictional characters ever created and his popularity is only rivaled by Batman and Spider-Man when it comes to superheroes.

People may wonder why is Superman still popular after 75 years? There are other superheroes out there with flashier costumes and more intriguing backgrounds. He didn’t become a superhero because someone close to him was a crime victim. He is considered to be a big boy scout with upstanding morals and is actually one of the most overpowered superhumans around. On paper a character like that would be considered boring, and honestly, many of his stories were dull. But that was usually the fault of the writers or editors who didn’t know how to handle this iconic superhero. Despite these limitations Superman continues to capture the imaginations of many fans young and old. So what is it about him that makes him popular? Is it because he is the first of the modern-day mythological beings? Or is it something more?

It could be that Superman represents the American Success Story. Think about it, he is the ultimate immigrant action comics 1who arrived in our shores (via rocket ship instead of a boat or plane) and he excelled. Thanks to the powers he gained from being on Earth, Superman was able to make his life better and to contribute to society. Consider this, if he remained on Krypton, he would not have the powers of flight, super strength and so on. While he may have made some impact on Kryptonian society just for being the son of Jor-El, a noted scientist, it’s unlikely he would’ve stood out like he does here on Earth. Even in his secret identity as Clark Kent, he was able to rise to the top of his field as a journalist. He is the embodiment of the American experience, which is subtly appealing to many readers.

More than that, Superman is the prototype and  standard bearer not just for superheroes but for all of us. Thanks to his upbringing by kind and ethical parents, Clark Kent is imbued with a strong moral fiber. What helps is that his humble personality makes him relatable. This may be uncool with some people, especially those that like dark and conflicted heroes, but this is what makes him so attractive to many others. Parents can rest easy letting their children read about his exploits and not worry about gratuitous violence or dark plots. For someone who may be tired of reading about morally compromised so-called heroes, Superman can be a breath of fresh air. His adventures can be just enjoyed for what they are: rousing, fun-filled romps where he has to use his wits and skills to win the day. What helped Superman in those situations wasn’t his super strength but his moral fiber and knowing right from wrong.

super diesOne of his best modern adventures are the famous “Death Of Superman”, “Funeral For A Friend” and “Return Of Superman” storylines from the early ’90s, which started in Superman: The Man Of Steel #18 and concluded with Superman Vol. 2 #82. Superman faced his greatest physical threat in the form of the monstrous alien Doomsday and he was killed by the hulking creature. The shocking storyline, no exaggeration, gripped the nation and made headlines. Superman was supposed to be invulnerable, how could he die? How could DC Comics do this to their iconic hero? Readers, collectors, and the curious swamped comic book shops to get their hands on the pivotal Superman Vol .2 #75 (where he died) and its surrounding storylines. The Superman creative team at that time expertly produced this exciting saga and kept readers intrigued with clues to his resurrection. Along the way, these issues provided a nice boom to the comic book industry. Unfortunately, the market crashed  a few short years later thanks to speculators, poor stories and gimmick covers all comic book publishers, but that’s another story. All in all, this event proved that Superman still held appeal to comic book fans and mainstream society when he is given compellingly written and beautifully drawn stories.

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To this day, the Man of Tomorrow is still appealing. It can be seen from his successful crossover into other media like toys, video games, TV shows and of course movies. This was reaffirmed most recently by the smashing success of this summer’s film Man Of Steel, which rebooted and reinvigorated the Superman movie franchise. Now headlines are being generated for each new development on the upcoming sequel which looks to be a springboard for a Justice League film. Still, as successful as Man Of Steel was, the film had many detractors who decried the changes made to the character and his situation. But looking back on his long history, Superman has always been a dynamic, changing  character. Today’s version is very different from 1930s version.

People often think of John Byrne’s run in the Superman comics  in the ’80s when it comes to reboots. But the jim lee supermanMetropolis Marvel’s history shows that he has constantly been changed even during his early years. At first, Superman couldn’t fly, Lex Luthor and Kryptonite didn’t come along until much later and Superman used phone booths to change into his costume–a quaint notion with today’s fans! Even the way he looked back in the ’30s was different than the iconic look he’s had until The New 52 reboot came along and did away with his red trunks. All this proves is that the character’s enduring success is because of his ability to adapt to the times while at the same time, his character’s core remains the same. Detractors often wind up accepting these changes once they realize that the essence of the character is still there. That is why Superman will continuing winning over new fans and be a part of our culture for more than another 75 years.

Lewis T. Grove & José Soto

*NOTE: The above art was done by the following iconic artists: John Byrne, Joe Shuster, Dan Jurgens and Jim Lee.