Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2013

Let the top 10-a-palooza commence! Over the next couple weeks, Paul and I will be looking back at our favorite things of 2013. First up, films; next week, TV series; and finally, comics. As always, these lists are imperfect and incomplete, reflecting only on what we’ve seen and love at the moment. Or as Paul writes:

I intentionally refer to the films on this list as favorites, not best. I rank films based on how much I enjoyed them, for whatever ephemeral or esoteric reasons unique to me, not on some system of objective filmmaking truths. These are the ten films I liked the most. YMMV.

Regarding omissions, neither of us have been able to see Inside Llewyn Davis, which makes me want to die, but oh well. I also haven’t seen The Great Beauty, Cutie and the Boxer, or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, among others. Meanwhile, Paul hasn’t gotten around to Her, The Act of Killing, Stories We Tell, Short Term 12, or Blue Jasmine, to name a few.

Here we go!

– AJ

PAUL: 10. WARM BODIES (dir. Jonathan Levine)

warmbodies

The zombie genre is by this point a bloated undead thing feasting on its own rotting flesh. But director Jonathan Levine (50/50) makes this adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel fresh, fun, and full of life. Yes it’s a (very) thinly veiled Romeo and Juliet pastiche, but the two leads, neo-nerdhunk Nicholas Hoult and Australian beauty Teresa Palmer, are both engaging and committed. Hoult in particular gets praise for being monstrous and vulnerable, and for selling the cheesy-but-hilarious voiceover with nothing more than his eyes. Also, Rob Corddry as a zombie lamenting, “Bitches, man,” is the best comedic line delivery of the year.

AJ: 10. GIMME THE LOOT (dir. Adam Leon)

gimmetheloot

You walk out of Gimme the Loot immediately wanting to know what first-time writer-director Adam Leon is going to do next. His voice is sharp and fresh, chronicling a day in the life of two teenaged petty criminals in a way that feels authentic but never gritty. His Bronx streets are unvarnished, rife with economic and class divisions, but there’s so much damn heart. Newcomers Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson give performances devoid of pomp or flash; they simply find the souls of these two aimless kids. They’re one of the most affecting screen duos in recent memory, in one of the biggest surprises of the year.

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Four-Color Flashback: ‘Preacher: Vol. 9 – Alamo’

Welcome to the final week in our discussion of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher. For more, read weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Paul: It ends here.

Nine volumes. 66 issues. Five one-shot specials. A four-issue tie-in miniseries. And a tanker truck full of blood and guts. Our pissed-off preacher, gun-toting girl Friday, and blood-drinking BFF all converge, where else? Texas. The Alamo, to be precise. And things get both big and small, epic and very, very personal.

Oh, and one poorly written report gets taken out behind the woodshed and shot the fuck up.

So AJ, mi compadre, what did you think of the grand finale?

AJ: Where to begin? Perhaps it’s best to start with my one sizable complaint before moving on to everything that worked so, so well here. Last week, we talked about the watering-down of Herr Starr, of how even though he’s the series’ ostensible antagonist, his misadventures have often been treated as comic relief. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but I completely failed to realize that taking revenge on Jesse had supplanted bringing about Armageddon as his goal in life. So when he announced his plans to the Elite Council, I was just as confused as they were (luckily, I didn’t get murdered right after). I feel like a discussion of Starr as the series’ Big Bad could take up its own post, so I’ll just say that though I loved the vast majority of what we ended up getting, I can’t imagine what an epic ending Armageddon could have provided.

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Listen to Episode 101, “What Does God Need with a Starship?”

Gobbledygeek episode 101, “What Does God Need with a Starship?,” is available for listening or download right here.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus opened earlier this month and has generated some nerd controversy with its Alien overtones, questionable character motivations, and general ambiguity. Paul and AJ discuss everything they liked about the film (it’s gorgeous!), everything they didn’t (“Yes…father“), and Paul contemplates as many of the film’s big questions as he can before AJ loses interest. Plus, the boys discuss the other Alien films, read an e-mail, and actually get asked a Formspring question for the first time in like a century.

Next: something to do with music. We’d like to say we’re just playing coy, but we honestly have no idea.

(Show notes for “What Does God Need with a Starship?”)

‘Prometheus’ Review: Lost in Space

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus has an early shot which undeniably quotes 2001: A Space Odyssey, a beautiful image of a planet ringed with light. There’s some more striking imagery, of an unidentified landscape. A humanoid being removes his cloak and ingests some form of liquid which quickly begins killing him. He sacrificially gives himself to the river, where he falls apart piece by piece, his body possibly giving birth to life as we know it. That’s a provocative beginning for a big-budget science fiction film, one that clearly announces its intentions to be a thoughtful exploration of the creation and destruction of life. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

After the cryptic prologue, things get off to a very good start. The crew of the good ship Prometheus–which looks like a jumbo Serenity, but maybe that’s just me–is awakened from cryogenic sleep after two years by the android David (Michael Fassbender). Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered cave paintings from around the world, all of which depict images of a figure gesturing toward the same star pattern. They’ve followed that pattern all the way out to the middle of space, hoping to find the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. There are some big ideas at play here, and in the early going, there are conversations about whether the existence of supposed humanity-creating beings (Engineers, they’re called) negates or supports the existence of God. Holloway posits that because they now know the Engineers exist, the cross Shaw wears around her neck is meaningless. Shaw, with a wink in her eye, then asks where the Engineers came from.

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Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2011

Paul and I rambled on and on about our favorites of 2011 in our second season finale, but that isn’t gonna stop us from rambling some more. This is the first in a series of top 10s that will be spread out over the next couple weeks; the rest will concern television, albums, and comic books.

But first, a word about lists. Paul has described my obsession with list-making as a “sickness,” and that’s probably close to the truth. However, even one such as I, beholden to rating and ranking everything known to man, know that these kinds of things are imperfect, to put it lightly. For one, no matter how all-inclusive you try to be, there’s always going to be a movie (or show, or comic, etc.) that you somehow missed; for example, as of this writing, neither Paul nor I have seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shame, or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, just to name a few. And more importantly, lists are always subject to how their makers feel at the moment they’re making them. Each of our top 10s represent the movies we love right now, and with the exception of our #1 choices, their order could be fluid, changing from day to day, mood to mood.

Right now, though? These are the films we adore, and which we feel exemplify 2011.

~ AJ

PAUL: 10. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (dir. Rupert Wyatt)

The summer blockbuster that was better than any of us had any right to expect. Not only a remarkably capable relaunch/reboot of a beloved but dated franchise, but also just a damned good popcorn flick in its own right. Andy Serkis brings heart and humanity (pun intended) to the “inhuman” protagonist. It’s Pinocchio and Moses and Che Guevara.

AJ: 10. GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (dir. Martin Scorsese)

It has been lazy shorthand for decades to refer to George Harrison as the “quiet Beatle,” and though that might have a kernel of truth to it, the man himself was far more complex. Publicly, he was quiet because he desperately hated fame; professionally, he was quiet during the Beatle years because John and Paul vetoed his material, and later, because he was content with tending to his family and to his garden. Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home definitively captured that 60s icon’s brilliance and enigma, and while Living in the Material World doesn’t quite do the same for this 60s icon, it comes close enough. In the first part of this two-part doc, the entire life cycle of The Beatles is rehashed yet again, though considering it’s Scorsese at the helm, it remains of interest. It’s in the second part, however, when things truly come alive. By telling of his unsung career as a film producer, enticing candid stories from a number of those closest to him, and showing private home movies, Scorsese paints a portrait of Harrison as a man perpetually struggling to reconcile his spirituality with his materialism, caught between divinity and mortality.

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Gobbledygeek Gift Guide 2011

On the new episode of Gobbledygeek, Paul and AJ told you about all the things you should buy this Christmas season, and now here’s a comprehensive guide! (Including a few items that weren’t even mentioned on the show.)

Note: Most links and prices are from Amazon.

BOOKS/COMICS

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
$14.33

Hands down one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It’s like my admittedly overdeveloped nostalgia gland were milked and distilled onto the page. This book is my geeky, pop-culture DNA printed in ink. ~ Paul

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Listen to Episode 70, “Join Us”

Gobbledygeek episode 70, “Join Us,” is available for listening or download right here.

This week, we get sad and silly. First, the boys say goodbye to Apple founder and tech visionary Steve Jobs. Then, to keep anyone from taking them too seriously, they kick off this year’s Gobbledygeek Halloween (Gobbledy’ween?) Film Festival with a ribald discussion of the Sam Raimi classic The Evil Dead. Also: AJ reviews the Wasikowska/Fassbender interpretation of Jane Eyre; Paul hints at what you can probably expect from the review of the Ethan Gilsdorf book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks he’s bound to do someday; and a slew of Formspring questions.

Next: we discuss John Carpenter’s The Thing.

(Show notes for “Join Us.”)