Opinion - Nate's Year in Review

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So how was 2015 for you? Our Transatlantic correspondent, Nate McKenzie gives us a round up of how he saw the year in films, books and TV...

I could refer to entertainment in 2015 as The Year of Meh. Most of what I read and watched was very underwhelming. By comparison, that which was quality stands out in stark contrast against the rest of the drab. I have few favourites; but what I did enjoy, I enjoyed immensely.

Best Films

Max

Mad Max: Fury Road - If you drink a case of Red Bull and jump off a cliff you'll barely come close to the rush that is Mad Max: Fury Road. I look forward to the day when badass female leads saving guys from certain doom is considered a trope but until that day, Imperator Furiosa is a bastion for feminism and empowerment. This movie fires on all cylinders. (Sorry)

Ex Machina

Ex Machina - I was entranced by Ex Machina from the start. The musical score was haunting and energizing at the same time. Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Issac were simply outstanding. Writer and director Alex Garland is a talent that deserves to be mentioned alongside J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson.

Straight outta compton

Straight Outta Compton - This is my film of the year. There were plenty of amazing movies but this one is a real story, that many people were already familiar with, and yet it kept me riveted the entire time. My affinity for 90's gangsta' rap notwithstanding, Straight Outta Compton was (and I never use this term) a revelation. It wasn't just about some young guys trying to survive and get rich and famous, it was about what they meant to the other young black folks in the United States at that time who were just trying to survive. The scene during the L.A. riots in which the two gang members, one a Blood and one a Crip, were walking down the street with their red and blue bandana tied together in a symbol of unity is emblazoned in my memories of the film. Purely powerful, inspiring, and yet smart and cautionary, Straight Outta Compton is the product of what passionate filmmakers can accomplish when they actually give a damn.

The martian

The Martian - It's rare that a movie stays true to its source when adapted from a book. The Martian is one of the few exceptions. That is one of the best parts of the film because the book is so damn good as it is; there was no need to change anything. Some of the parts were left out (understandable time constraints) but nothing was added that didn't belong. Matt Damon was fantastic but the supporting cast was the meat to Damon's potatoes (I have a disorder). And Donald Glover was the perfect bit levity as Rich Purnell. The ambiance of a Ridley Scott movie was felt in every scene and captured with the skill that he has proven time and time again to have mastered. This film is canon from here on as far as I am concerned.

Goosebumps

Goosebumps - Another children's movie, Inside Out, got all the acclaim from parents and many critics, and deservedly so. But I grew up reading the Goosebumps series and this movie really captured everything great about the books. Jack Black was over the top but that was the point. The young actors were actually enjoyable, too. Goosebumps the movie brought to life the essence of the books.

The Worst: Tie

Jupiter Ascending - How do you screw up having Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in a production by The Wachowskis? Exhibit A: Jupiter Ascending. Someone should be jailed for how bad this movie is.

Fantastic Four - My nine year old son liked this movie. But he also liked the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie so maybe you shouldn't be taking his advice on movies, hm? This wasn't even a good-ol' college try; it was the result of a week long drinking binge before a last minute No-Doz and Mt. Dew fueled all-nighter in an attempt to finish a finals project. This was like if you turned in a vomit covered, soaking wet diorama to your professor. They wouldn't even grade it, they'd just recommend a good Alcoholics Anonymous chapter for you to attend.

Best Books

(NOTE: these books were not released in 2015. I just simply didn't get to them until this past year.)

Martian

The Martian - You're on an island as you become ensconced in the story. When you laugh out-loud (as you do often) the sound echoes empty. You become personally invested in Mark Wotney's survival, reading faster and faster to usher along his escape from solitude before time runs out. But you secretly love when he fucks up because he makes it so damn funny.

The girl with all the gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts - Has all the romanticism of an Anne Rice vampire novel, with the evisceration of The Strain Trilogy, and the emotional depth of The Passage. This book deserves to see more light - even if the heroine can't join you.

Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse - Not usually one for rehashing stories that have already been done, I would fully support a film (or television) version of this book. Too many books recently rely too heavily on being overly technical (Wired, Nexus, for example) but Robopocalypse is the perfect mix of technical savvy and technically sound storytelling

Sand

Sand - Hugh Howey astonished me with Wool and the rest of The Silo Series and made me an avid fan. Still, I was hesitant going into Sand. I shouldn't have been. Howey creates a new futuristic story completely different from the world of Wool but retains that wondrous aura; tying together ingenuity, high-seas pirate adventure, and an original mythos.

The Worst:

The Circle - It's bad. Just... really terrible.

Best Television



Mr. Robot
- This is one of the best shows ever made and if more people don't start talking about it (like Steve and I have been) I'm going to set a city on fire. Thankfully, it was picked up for a second season.

Halt and catch fire

Halt and Catch Fire, season 2- The first season hooked me. The second season had me mainlining episodes like a junky in a flop-house. Completely engaging and character driven (a staple of AMC shows) H&CFs2 is brilliantly written and turns in new directions so quick you'll feel like you're racing down a curvy country road in Joe's Porsche. Forget Ross and Rachel, Jim and Pam, or Kate and Jack (or Sawyer) - Cameron and Joe are the new are-they-or-aren't-they tv power couple. (That pun was unintentional. But I'm keeping it because I like it.)

Silicon valley

Silicon Valley, season 2 - Hilarious, witty, and full of schadenfreude. Season 2 may not have the amount of big laughs as the first season, but it has plenty to go along with the consistent chuckles. Add that to an actually suspenseful finale and I'm impatiently awaiting the third set of episodes.

Unbreakable kimmy schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - I could watch 30 minutes of Ellie Kemper's facial expressions with no context. She's that animated and funny. And beautiful. But the addition of Tituss Burgess' under-the-breath one-liners and Jane Krakowski's socially clueless neuroses make it an ensemble comedy of which there is little hope to escape. (That pun was intended and I'm not even sorry)

The Worst:


Scream Queens - Seriously, are you people even watching the same show that I watched? It's horrible. I love campy movies and tv but this is only one tiny step above daytime soap operas.

Looking Ahead...

The X-Files (January 2016) - The best part about getting six new episodes of The X-Files is that they didn't recast the roles of Mulder and Scully with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Sixteen year old me is so hyped for this that I'll probably have an acne breakout in mid-January.

City of Mirrors, (May 24, 2016) - The release date of the final book in The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin has been pushed back multiple times, much to the chagrin of followers of the novels. Justin Cronin has actually gotten a lot of complaints from fans online as he posted pictures of vacation with his family. Because, you know, people are assholes. The hype among fans is unavoidable after The Passage and The Twelve were adamantly lauded. I am impatiently awaiting the third book so I can find out the fates of Amy, Zero, and the lot.

As far as films that I am anticipating - there are far too many. But one that stands out is Independence Day: Resurgence. I never needed a sequel to ID4, nor was I excited initially about the idea when announced. I am still not completely sold (even after the trailer that everyone is freaking out over) but I do love that man Jeff Goldblum, as well as any End of the World movie, so I'm willing to be open-minded.

Inversely, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows looks as terrible as the first reboot effort. The trailer should come with and FDA warning - CAUTION: May cause extreme irritation of the nostalgia glands as well as sever bouts of nausea. Avoid at all costs.

So, of course, I'm sure I'll be taking my child to see it. Damn you Michael Bay. Bebop and Rocksteady better be freaking awesome.