Archive for January, 2018

The Best Movies I saw in 2017

Posted in movies with tags , , on January 5, 2018 by Paxton

Movie Report

I did my favorite books, now it’s time for movies.

Normally I’d list out ten movies; 5 movies released in 2017 and 5 movies from any year that I saw for the first time in 2017. However, this time, I’m just going to list out all my favorite movies from last year. I may get to ten, I may not. I literally don’t know.  But I watched all of these movies for the first time in 2017.  In no particular order.

Baby Driver (2017) – This took me by surprise.  I like Edgar Wright, just not as much as everyone else seems to.  I really liked Shaun of the Dead. I liked Hot Fuzz.  I was disappointed by Scott Pilgrim.  But the premise of this movie and the cast got me on board and while I planned to see it in the theater I missed it and watched it when it hit Redbox.  And I’ve since bought the Blu-Ray, watched it two more times and I bought the soundtrack.  I *LOVE* this movie.  I would say it’s my favorite Edgar Wright movie.  The cast, the performances, the music and how it informs what’s happening on screen, the action sequences.  This movie is SO GOOD.  As good as anything else on this list and it would seriously contend if I were to pick a #1 movie.  I almost wish the young star, Anson Elgort, would have gotten the role of “young Han Solo” as I was more impressed by him here than Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar! (and I really liked Alden in that movie).

Logan (2017) – They did it. They made the definitive Wolverine movie. And he had to die in it. I simultaneously hate and love that this is the last Hugh Jackman Wolverine movie.  I love pretty much everything about it.  My only regret was that instead of the “young Wolverine clone” at the end, I would have liked to see Liev Shreiber’s Victor return.  But that’s a nitpick that I don’t actually hold against the movie at all.  This was a great movie and a powerful love letter to the character that Hugh has been playing on and off for the last 17 years.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Finally, we get a good Spider-Man movie in the modern age of super hero movies.  They *nailed* Peter Parker/Spider-Man with Tom Holland.  He’s great.  I love that they skipped the origin and all the Uncle Ben stuff and they kept it funny.  And Michael Keaton was the best Spider-Man villain since Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock.  And I like that he has the potential to return rather than joining the long parade of disposable, one movie villains that Marvel has been doing.  I loved Pete’s friend Ned.  I really like the Stark-ified Spidey suit.  This was a fun, exciting movie and I can’t wait to see Holland return in Infinity War.

Wonder Woman (2017) – I can’t believe that we got a Wonder Woman movie that is this good.  Especially considering the lackluster output of EVERY SINGLE OTHER WB/DC MOVIE.  90% of this movie is GREAT.  I have a few issues with the giant CGI slugfest at the end.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that we get a fully realized George Perez Ares God of War on screen.  And I love the reveal of whom Ares was, but the movie seemed to lose some of its weight in the computer generated spectacle at the end.  That being said, this was a great super hero movie, Gal Gadot was awesome and bad ass as Diana and I eagerly await a sequel and the return of Wonder Woman in the Justice League movie (which I still haven’t seen).

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.

George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.

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