Wow, is the year over already? Doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was shoveling snow and preparing for Katsucon, and now it’s already Christmas and I can close the curtains on 2010. A lot happened this year, a lot was released, and there was no way for me to experience it all. But there were always the gems that stuck out, and now, in no particular order, I present my 10 memories of 2010.
Inception: The word “mind****” doesn’t begin to describe this one. Christopher Nolan’s journey into the subconscious explored the nature of ideas, control, infiltration, and a lot of other cerebral themes, acted out by a top-notch corps of actors completely at home with their roles. Stunning, provocative, and thoroughly enjoyable- easily the best film I saw this year…and probably a few years previous as well.
The Karate Kid: Save your criticisms and comparisons- Karate Kid 2010 lives up to the theme, flavor and story of the original, just bigger, flashier and more escapist. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan prove to be every bit as much the surrogate family as Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita. This isn’t a remake, its a re-envisioning, and a worthy homage to a coming of age classic. Set your doubts aside and give this one a watch, you will not be disappointed.
Toy Story 3 and Tangled: I can not, nor will I, choose between these two movies. Both are Disney fare (one Pixar, one not, both produced by Pixar head and Ghibli fanboy John Lasseter), both have compelling characters, excellent dialogue, entertaining story, beautiful animation and plenty of re-watching potential. Both have appeal far beyond their “target” audience, and redefine what a “childrens” movie can do. And both show just how much one can accomplish with digital graphics and good writing. If only all Disney movies were this good- Dreamworks take note, the bar has been raised.
Cataclysm: World of Warcraft’s third expansion shows how this is not just a game, it’s a way of life. Ratcheted up difficulty, new races, new class combinations, and a world completely altered by the eruption of the dragon Deathwing, Cataclysm takes the old world and throws it violently into the future, dragging its players along with it. New travelers will find the game tough but fair, old hats were remember the days of “Vanilla” and explorers will see their beloved planet forever changed. But be warned, this is no cakewalk- you need to fight if you want to survive.
Anime Boston: Joining the ranks of older, “more established” conventions, Anime Boston proved in 2010 that there’s more to con life than just meme shouting and questionable cosplay. A strong variety of panels, diverse activities, a devoted pool of guests and (some 17000+) attendees, and the largest Artist Alley of any con on the East Coast, set against one of the nicest cities to visit in the country, Anime Boston is the perfect entryway for newcomers, and a shining light in the often scary landscape of fan conventions. Not bad at all for a con that isn’t even a decade old yet.
Angry Birds: Whoever thought the idea of launching birds at pigs would be so addictive, or challenging. As many other portable gaming devices showcase advanced graphics and ports of older, “classic” games, Rovio’s 2D lesson in physics and warfare silently became the most played, and most addictive, handheld game this year. Problem solving, random explosions, aerial bombardment and a whole lot of trial and error led to this sleeper hit being the top rated and downloaded app on the Apple Network. Need more evidence? When this game hit the Android Network in mid-October, it crashed the download servers and many uses spent the better part of a day trying to grab it (I was one of them). Who would have thought something so simple would be so powerful in the end.
Durarara: A pleasant slice of life anime centered around the experiences of three high school freshmen (two guys, one girl) living alone in the big city of Tokyo. Throw in serial “Slashers,” romance, escalating gang tensions, a Celtic shinigami searching for her missing head, a pair of insufferable otaku, a seemingly bored villain who does things for kicks and a guy who throws vending machines at people when he’s angry, and you have what might be the best anime released in Japan in years. A series of related events told through multiple sets of eyes, DRRR manages to be a simple pleasure set in complicated times.
Shikabane-Hime: Death, regrets, loyalty, devotion, Buddhism, monsters and buxom girls- Corpse Princess blends all of this into one slow building but extremely satisfying experience that explores the idea of death and how certain people either cope with it, or run from it. Very few shows look at the often complicated Buddhist view of death, defilement and corruption with as much attention or exposition as this one, and very few are as graphic. It’s a rare find to stumble across a complete package, and this one is complete in every sense of the word.
Doctor Who: After 2 years absence, the BBC hit series returned with a vengeance (and a new Doctor) on Easter weekend, and never looked back. Bigger, fancier, better was the mantra behind this stylish vision of a 900 year old time-traveling “Doctor” and his female companion, as they battled vampires, weeping angels, and aliens, ran alongside roman legions and Vincent Van Gogh, and saved the universe (again) from calamity and destruction. Any doubts about this season were dispelled, as newcomer Matt Smith capably played the title character, and was upstaged at times by both costar Karen Gillam as spunky companion Amelia Pond and perennial fan favorite Alex Kingston as the mysterious River Song. Not a flawless entry into the 47 year old Doctor Who story, but damn close.
Honorable Mentions: It would be a shame to end this list without at least pointing out these other gems.
Unstoppable: A disaster movie that wasn’t itself a disaster, mostly due to excellent camera work and the skills of its leads, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Fable 3: Not quite what Peter Molyneaux promised, but the closest his vision has ever come to perfection.
Resonance of Fate: A solid JRPG for the 360, right when we needed one. Being a bit steampunk didn’t hurt either.
Anime USA: Like Anime Boston, just smaller and more centrally located.
Shutter Island: Less mind-blowing than Inception, but still a fantastic psychological thriller, set in an insane asylum on an island far from land.
Kick Ass: Bloody, violent and profane don’t even begin to describe this excellent film adaptation of the Millar/Romita graphic novel about a kid who wants to be a superhero.
Dragon Quest IX: The latest installment in the long running JRPG series arrived on the DS over the summer. All the experience of an MMORPG without lag and monthly fees.
AMV Hell 5: Long awaited, but thankfully not stale. The latest installment in the AMV spoofing series delivered less laughs than previous outings, but was still entertaining.
Supernatural: The 5th season of the CW monster-hunting drama ended with the apocalypse, but not before the world went to hell first. Pure cheese, but tasty.