On January 1st, 2016, Mr. Tom Kelly posted a column (with minimal input from yours truly) listing some of the things that we as geeks were most looking forward to in the 365 days that were to come. As a sort of year in review, we thought it would be interesting to look back at that list with additional commentary on if our anticipations were rewarded and our expectations met, succeeded or in many cases, completely let down.
To keep the length of this column from getting completely unruly, I won’t quote the original word for word, but encourage you to check it out.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Jimmy: the entire Gabbing Geek crew was pretty wary heading into this one. This time last year I said that this had definite train-wreck possibilities. And I wasn’t wrong. The critic score over at Rotten Tomatoes is at a lowly 28%. I didn’t think it was that bad, and I’m more in line with the audience score of 64%. Someone at Warner Bros/DC needs to step in and tell Zack Snyder that dark simply doesn’t work for Superman. And based on the light-hearted approach that we have seen so far from the Justice League trailer, maybe that message is getting through. Of course, recent reports are now saying that Superman and Batman will “battle” for leadership of the League. Ugh, are we going down that path again? Maybe they haven’t learned anything after all.
Tom: Yeah, this one was as bad as everyone said. Not the worst I saw all year, but close to it. I put it on in the background recently while I was writing articles and it didn’t hold up very well at all. There’s enough interesting shot composition to any Zach Snyder movie to hold my interest and just seeing characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman standing together for the first time helped, but the movie was lackluster at best. Maybe YouTube commentator Nerdwriter said it best when he said the problem is that Snyder’s movies are made of moments (cool visuals) instead of scenes (character interaction and such that sew an actual story together).
Jimmy: Was there more fun had at the theatre this year than watching Deadpool? Thanks to one of the greatest ad campaigns in movie history, this R-Rated movie that could, smashed box offices records opening north of $130 million. Easily the biggest opening of any X-Men related movie. Not to mention the biggest February, winter, President’s Day and straight up any R-rated film opening of all time. But enough about numbers, while they get a lot of attention from people other than Tom Kelly, Deadpool was quite simply a riot. Ryan Reynolds was simply born to play the Merc with a Mouth. There seems to be some drama currently unfolding with regards to the sequel as director Tim Miller has already left the project. Whatever happens, we’ll always have one of the greatest opening credit sequences of all time to revisit.
Tom: Man, this was an absolute blast from beginning to end. From the opening credits to the Ferris Bueller-esque post-credits scene, this was a Deadpool story, with Ryan Reynolds giving it everything he had.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Jimmy: There was little doubt that Rogue One was going to make a boatload of money. Especially once the first trailers started appearing and it became well known that a certain Dark Lord of the Sith would be making an appearance. But was it any good? Did it live up to the hype? In an unusual occurrence that could be a sign of the apocalypse, the Gabbing Geek crew for the most part actually agreed on the quality. It was good, but not great, and the third act was fantastic. Whatever your thoughts, I think Disney has continued to show that the franchise is in very good hands. There will be good and bad like any franchise, but this was not a Lucas prequel.
Tom: I thought the first half was a bit dull, but it picked up quite a bit when it turned into a space-based Dirty Dozen. The Jyn character could have been stronger, but it was a lot of fun, which is all anyone asks of a Star Wars film.
Captain America: Civil War
Jimmy: Watson recently said in one of our staff meetings (yes, he still attends those, I’m not sure why) that he didn’t think Civil War held up for him. I haven’t watched it again, so I can’t speak to that just yet, but I know back in May I left the theatres pretty happy. Luckily not a direct adaptation of the comic book storyline, but with the same general premise. The villain of the piece was weak, like many Marvel movies, and the heroes even acknowledged in the film that they were holding back in their slugfests, but fans weren’t complaining. While you could poke fun at the number of characters available in the “war” at the airport, you have to admit it was a lot of fun. And did they nail the latest incarnation of Spider-Man? Yes, yes they did.
Tom: It’s not Winter Soldier, but I feel a lot better knowing the Russos are taking over The Avengers films. These guys get these characters and have a great way of creating kinetic and creative action scenes. This film also has the best performance by Robert Downey Jr. since the first Iron Man since I don’t think these movies have actually challenged his acting ability since then by expanding the Tony Stark character. Yeah, the plot isn’t that different from Batsoup, but look how much better it turns out when the filmmakers take the time to establish character and motivation, and actually let the actors interact in a manner that seems like real people interacting.
Jimmy: My expectations were met by X-Men: Apocalypse. Unfortunately, those expectations were that it would suck. I really disliked this film and ranted a bit on it a few times over the summer when there used to be a Gabbing Geek blabcast. I found it disappointing on many levels, but in the end, Apocalypse just didn’t work. The character design was just horrible and it seemed to snowball from there. And how many times can Magneto flip flop between good and bad? After the stellar First Class and the exceptional Days of Future Past, this was a major let down.
Tom: There was no way this movie was going to live up to Days of Future Past, one of the high points of the series. Plus, I’ve long felt Apocalypse is a dull villain. Still, this movie worked for me more than it didn’t. I know I liked it more than Jimmy, but I don’t have much of a desire to see it again either.
Jimmy: While the buzz around Doctor Strange had been building (in no small part due to the popularity of Benedict Cumberbatch), I was still concerned about it appealing to a wider audience. Many, including casual Marvel/super hero fans were not familiar with the Sorcerer Supreme. I also felt the trailers had too much of a “been there, done that” vibe as the visuals were very reminiscent of Inception. But those fears would be irrational as Doctor Strange opened to the tune of $85 million (which is actually only the 10th best Marvel opening weekend, more of a sign of the strength of the franchise than a weakness of this film). Cumberbatch knocks it out of the park as Strange and the film is simply a lot of fun and opens up many new avenues for the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.
Tom: My brother takes my dad to see most of the Marvel Movies when they come out. He wasn’t sure what to make of this one, and said it lived up to its title of being “strange”. But I think he ultimately liked it. MCU has the origin story formula down by now, and while the formula doesn’t shatter here, it’s one that largely works for me. Besides, Strange beats the Big Bad Dormammu in a rather creative and intelligent way that seemed outside the usual Marvel movie solution of blowing up the bad guy but good.
Star Trek Beyond
Jimmy: While the trailers gave me a Star Trek: Nemesis vibe (that’s not a good thing), luckily the film delivered way above those expectations. I’m a big Trek fan and have enjoyed the films in the Kelvin Timeline. While Beyond doesn’t quite measure up to Star Trek or Into Darkness it still succeeds and was one of the better films released this year in a sea of disappointing super hero movies and unwanted sequels. Speaking of unwanted sequels…
Tom: I thought Beyond was a better movie than Into Darkness because it wasn’t trying to remake the best Trek movie ever made, and for once since the reboot it asked the Big Questions Trek is famous for. Considering the action starts around Kirk’s birthday, and in a sense is about Kirk realizing he needs to grow up or else he’ll be the bad guy who, in a sense, didn’t. Most of the crew got stuff to do that fit their characters, another of the strengths of older Trek films, and there was a goodbye to Leonard Nimoy (and the rest of the original cast) tucked inside. Besides, of the four movies I saw this year with Idris Elba in them, this was the only one to show his face.
Independence Day Resurgence
Jimmy: Actually, I can’t speak about #IDR because surprisingly I still haven’t seen it, despite being a big fan of the first film. I think that is telling in and of itself.
Tom: We didn’t need this sequel. This sequel happened anyway. A largely forgettable film. Nothing truly bad, just forgettable. There were much worse things to come out this year. The only thing I’ll say in its favor is director Roland Emerich directs action scenes with a steady cam instead of a shaky one, so the viewer can always tell what’s going on. There hasn’t been as much of that lately.
Jimmy: I know I am in the minority around the Gabbing Geek offices with this one, but I hated Ghostbusters. I broke down many reasons why already. And before you get all “why do you hate women Jimmy?”, that had nothing to do with it.
Tom: On the other hand, I liked this movie a lot. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. In a lackluster summer, this was one of the better movies I saw. Granted, your appreciation may depend on how much you enjoy the comedy stylings of Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig bickering back and forth, plus the weirdness Kate McKinnon brings to the table, but I found this one a lot of fun.
Jimmy: The geek community has given Warner Bros/DC a hard time over the quality of Batsoup and Suicide Squad, but you know what, they still both made boatloads of money, so WB/DC are laughing all the way to the bank. You would think this is not a good formula for continued success. To their credit they have shook up the ranks a bit, getting DC guru Geoff Johns more involved in the movies. Time will tell how this affects the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League. As for Suicide Squad, it is in a similar boat as Batsoup. Ok but not great. Not as bad as Rotten Tomatoes 26% would have you believe. I haven’t watched the Extended Cut yet, but one of these days I’d love to see the original cuts of troubled productions like this, Fantastic Four and Rogue One.
Tom: The thing that struck me most about Suicide Squad is it smacked heavily of studio interference. I really think they were trying to make this the DCU version of Guardians of the Galaxy and rushed this to theaters rather than take their time and do it right. Maybe films with longer lead times will show improvement. We’ll just have to wait and see. This one had promise, but a lot of that promise was lost in the mess.
Jimmy: In a sea of sequels and unoriginality, Finding Dory manages to stay afloat. Not as fun as Nemo, suffering somewhat from sequelitis and a healthy dose of “how many times can this happen to maintain the plot?” but still a great film for the whole family.
Tom: It’s fun, though I would argue Disney’s best CGI film this year was Zootopia. Heck, Moana was better than this. Is mighty Pixar slipping? Well, they gave the lead role to what works best as a supporting character, so you be the judge.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Jimmy: To varying degrees I enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies, but I didn’t have much desire for this prequel. But Ms. Impossible was very interested and she humors me and goes to all the superhero/sci-fi films that I want to see and she has no interest in, so I went with her. And I was pleasantly surprised. The story and acting were good, but the visuals and the very good use of 3D was where they really got me. I don’t know that we necessarily need another 5 sequels or whatever they are making, but I did enjoy this one.
Tom: I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one. Set in the Harry Potter universe with, from my own general knowledge, only a handful of references to Harry Potter’s time, this was a charming tale about a goofy zoologist bumbling around New York City in the 1920s. Yes, the animals he had were of a more magical nature, but the movie was fun and sweet.
Jimmy: Boy, was this a let down. Adding nothing to the franchise, this paint by numbers return to Bourne for Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass has none of the smarts, charm or intrigue of any of the previous Damon films. You can read more on my disappointment in my original review. Needless to say I haven’t rushed out to buy this one on Blu-Ray for my collection.
Tom: It was pretty to look at. That’s the best I can say. Game players like myself may get a minor kick out of how much the movie captured the look of World of Warcraft, but it sure didn’t catch the tone with a deathly serious movie that manages to miss the more lighthearted game that doesn’t always take itself that seriously.
Jimmy: As I write this I am getting ready to rewatch The Abominable Bride in anticipation of season four of Sherlock which should be released tomorrow(!) if this post gets published on time. Ryan loved it, which is never a good sign for me and I was quite confused and disappointed by it. Maybe a fresh rewatch will give me a new perspective. Either way, I’m still looking forward to season four and having recently rewatched season three, I was reminded just how good this show is.
Tom: This was OK, but Sherlock giving that “Yay, women!” speech at the end seemed very out of character. Though why the story was set in the 1890s was rather clever.
Jimmy: It was nice to see agents Mulder and Scully back in action. We had that “recent” movie (2008) to keep them in our minds somewhat, but having them back on the small screen was a nice treat. The six episode event was a mixed bag. Some X-Files-like mythology episodes wrapped around a handful of one off monster of the week style shows. The highlight for me was not surprisingly “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster”, written and directed by Darin Morgan who did many of my favorite episodes from the original run. But the ending? Ugh. And you thought people were pissed about the cliffhanger finale of Walking Dead season 6? At least we knew there was going to be a season 7.
Tom: One great episode, and then a finale that, well, made me mad. I knew there was a good reason that the conspiracy episodes of the original run always left me cold…
Tom: I’m not sure any of us saw it this time, and it’s since been canceled. Bummer. This was a much more fun show than that dire Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Tom: Season one had a lot of problems, but season two has really improved. First, they dumped some of the less interesting characters like Hawkman and bad guy Vandal Savage. Then they brought in interesting new characters like a 1940s version of Vixen and Commander Steel. And then there was the Justice Society and a general, “Hey, let’s just have fun with this!” Legends may be the most improved show of the Arrowverse right now.
Jimmy: With season one of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Netflix and Marvel really set the bar high for themselves. Unfortunately, they seem to have been missing expectations ever since. Season two of Daredevil was a huge let down (Ryan liked it, so that tells me I am correct) and Luke Cage was painfully slow. I get that they were going for a different vibe than the other shows. But there’s slow and interesting and there’s slow and “dear God how many episodes are left?”
Tom: I really liked where they were going with Luke Cage in terms of style. The music was great. The 1970s black action movie style without the exploitation was great. Luke was a fine lead. But like Jimmy said, it did run long. But so have all the Marvel Netflix shows to date. They really need less episodes of these things.
Jimmy: Ryan disagrees with me here, but I think Tom is on board when I say that season two of Daredevil, particularly the second half with all The Hand silliness was a huge let down. I won’t rehash my review, and will just leave this with the thought that I’m now pretty worried about Iron Fist. At least The Defenders has already taken a smart step and reduced the number of episodes from 13 to 8 which should help as all the shows have had to stretch to fill the common 13 Netflix season number.
Tom: I’m not a Punisher fan, but that character really worked here. Then they shuffled him into the background in the second half of the season to focus on The Hand. The best part of season one for both this show and Jessica Jones was the focus on the villain, making the character as three-dimensional as possible, something the movies haven’t pulled off yet with any bad guy that isn’t Loki. Faceless, nameless mobs of ninjas don’t allow for that, and Elektra was poorly used. Whenever Frank Castle came back, the show improved. I never would have thought I’d prefer the Punisher to Elektra, but here we are…
Jimmy: It is definitely toned down from the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillion (RIP) comic that it is based on, but it is still airing on AMC so they can push some boundaries. While there are no f-bombs and little in the way of sex, AMC has never shied away from violence. (See the Walking Dead season seven premiere.) More prequel than adaptation the series does a great job of looking, tasting and feeling like the Preacher comic, while taking things in a completely different direction. And that’s cool. If I wanted the comics rehashed note for note, I’d just read them again. A surprising gem. Dominic Cooper is great as Jessie Custer, but the real stand out is Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy. Very much looking forward to season two next year.
Game of Thrones
Tom: The producers had a big task ahead of them here: surpass whatever George R.R. Martin had previously written aside from a few preview chapters here and there and some general stuff on the Iron Islands. And they surpassed expectations now that they are working without the safety net of the source material. We got some big secrets revealed, the tragic end of Hodor, and a host of other things that show a plot moving forward. The new episodes can’t get here fast enough.
City of Blades
Tom: Though we never got around to reviewing it either for the site or the podcast/blabcast, City of Stairs was a great book with a unique setting, asking the question of how a god becomes a god. Set in a world where one kingdom was once ruled by actual gods until a subservient kingdom managed to kill most of said gods, the book offered thrills and deep philosophical questions. The first sequel, City of Blades, asked what happens to the Afterlife if the god running it is dead. The main focus shifted from the first novel’s protagonist to a supporting character, and while said character was a strong lead, I preferred the first book’s hero, here reduced to a few quick appearances. Besides, the Afterlife in question was run by a war god who liked killing everything. That can cause enough problems.
Tom: Ryan and Jenny loved this book. Watson didn’t. I was somewhere in the middle. Much of what I liked about the Red Rising series was the many different philosophical, political, and moral views the different characters had. It prevented the different characters, for the most part, of being either all good or evil. But there were sections in this last book that seemed like Pierce Brown just doing stuff to pad out the page count, and I found myself not enjoying it as much as the previous two.
Jimmy: I don’t read a lot of novels. I’m usually too busy reading way too many Spider-Man comics. But when the Gabbing Geek crew make a recommendation I do try to check them out. (I’ll finish City of Stairs one of these days Tom, I promise.) The Rook was one such book that came with high praise from my comrades at Gabbing Geek, and it didn’t disappoint. The sequel however…let’s put it this way…Jenny stopped reading and I know Watson is struggling with it and may not finish it either. I didn’t think it was so bad, but nowhere near the level of The Rook. And if you’ve read the first book you know that it would be very difficult to continue on with the story and structure that made that book so much fun. Smartly, Daniel O’Malley does not. But, shifting the focus and story away from the main antagonist of the first book, has been off putting to many.
Tom: The Rook was a fun, pleasant surprise, the debut of an interesting universe with an interesting narrator discovering a world she already knew about but didn’t. It makes sense if you read the book. Stiletto makes the mistake of dividing the focus between three characters: the original narrator, and two new ones. One of the new ones, a young woman from the Grafters, the old adversaries of the Chequey trying to become allies, would have sufficed. Not a bad book, but a bit of a let-down.
Winds of Winter
Tom: Hey, it may come out sooner or later. I wouldn’t hold my breath. I wouldn’t say we were really expecting it all that much last year and I think I said as much.
Jimmy: I was the reason that this game got included in the article for this year. And…I will have to put it on the list for next year as well, as that is when I’ll actually (probably) get around to playing it. The previous Uncharted games were great, so I look forward to this if I ever find the time. I see you unopened on my shelf as well Fallout 4…
Well, we’re still here. Stick around. We’ve got tons of old TV shows to review, and hopefully there will be more contributions from everybody in the days and months to come.