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The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2012

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Here it is: the year-end blog I've been busting my ass watching movies the last few days to be able to write, the list of the best movies (in my opinion, of course) of the year. Seriously, in the last 72 hours I've watched like 12 movies... that doesn't sound like a lot, but, you know, I also slept. And drank. I won't really be writing about them, just a few words here and there maybe, and a link to a previous post if I covered them during the year already. Anyway, I admit, I haven't seen everything that came out this year, so the list might be missing a few things here and there, but whatever. At the end of the post I'll be revealing my favorite movie of the year, something I've been tracking since 2008 (here's the recap: 08: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, 09: 500 Days of Summer, 10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 11: Warrior). Quick aside, all this wouldn't be possible without the Flickster app on Facebook, on which I rate movies all year l…

Looking Back at 2012

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New Year's Eve might not be until tomorrow, but tomorrow I'm doing my big "Best Movies of 2012" post because I still have a few movies to burn through tonight. So tonight, instead of that blog you get a brief look back at my roller coaster 2012, and a look ahead at what I'd like out of 2013.

2012 started with me and my family still dealing with the death of my grandfather, which, you know, sucked. January wasn't all bad, though, as it also saw the celebration of two of my favorite people getting married, with me performing the ceremony. And then there was my birthday, which, you know, is always an awesome party.  But the beginning of the year saw me still unemployed and broke, a trend that sadly continued throughout the year. There was some more good in the beginning of the year, though, as my grandmother and I moved to a better apartment in a better area, an apartment above family who could help take care of her and ease the burden off me a bit, which is ver…

Leverage: The Final Con

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The other day I posted a little look back at Merlin, a show I enjoyed that just aired it's final episode. The day after that final episode aired, another show I love, Leverage, aired its final episode as well. Both shows started in 2008 and in a connection that isn't immediately clear, both shows are based on a classic British legend. Merlin's is obvious, but what about Leverage?


Leverage is the story of Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator who gathers a team of the people he used to investigate: Sophie, a grifter; Eliot, a former soldier, now a hired hitter; Hardison, a super hacker; and Parker, a thief. He brings them together to start helping the little guys of the world get back at the rich and powerful who have unscrupulously screwed them out of money or property or whatever else. Sound familiar?

It's a modern day Robin Hood. They're Robin and his merry man for the current age, fighting against the rich using cons and computers instead of swords and arrow…

Merlin: The End of a Story of Camelot

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Here's something that everyone might not know about me: the Arthurian legend is one of my favorite things in the world. Seriously. The Once and Future King by T.H. White is my all-time favorite book. I devour pretty much anything related to King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table that I can find. In fact, one of the biggest regrets I have in life is that the semester after I had to leave college the first time, my favorite professor, Br. Edward Wesley, taught an honors seminar on Arthurian literature, and that was the only time in all the myriad occasions I was in St. Francis College that that course was offered. I even tried to bribe the man to do it again at one point, but I got nowhere. So, knowing all that, you can imagine I must have been fairly excited when the BBC premiered a new show based on Arthurian legend in 2008, a show simply titled Merlin.


Right off the bat, Merlin played fast and loose with some of Arthurian legend, and I have to be honest, a good p…

Goodreads Book Review - This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It

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This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When I reviewed Wong's first book to which this is a sequel, John Dies at the End, I gave it three stars. I'm giving this one three stars as well, although I don't think it was as good. One of the negative things I said when I reviewed the first one is that I felt that it needed to make more sense and be more coherent to be a better story. This book made me eat those words a bit; it is definitely more coherent than the first one... and that is, in fact, detrimental to the story. I found myself wishing it was a little bit more of a crazy mess than it was and was a bit disappointed. Still, I absolutely love the main characters David, John, Amy, and Molly (yes, she's a dog, but I'll be damned if I leave her out!) and would love to read another story about them and the insanity they got sucked into. But maybe less spiders, because, lord, parts of this absolutely killed me …

The Top Ten Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

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If y'all haven't noticed, 2013 is right around the corner. That is, unless a bunch of people who have been dead for centuries are wrong and the world isn't going to end in eight days. I'm operating under the assumption that we'll still be here to ring in the new year and all the new movies that come with it. Since I was off today, I thought this would be the perfect day to put together the list of the ten movies I most want to see next year. To that end, I went on IMDB (with a late assist from ComingSoon.net when IMDB failed me) and made a list of all the movies coming out next year that I wanted to see so I could whittle it down to ten.

Sounded like a simple idea until it became obvious there are forty-fucking-seven movies coming out next year that I want to see.

Yes, I know. I watch a lot of movies. Deal with it. I have.

Clearly I had to find a way to narrow the field a bit. So I decided the best question to ask myself was, "Which of these movies do I absolu…

Goodreads Book Review: The Lucky One

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The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


A lot of people don't know this about me because I don't get much chance to show people this side of me, but I'm a total romantic. The last love story I read, Bet Me, had me awwing and even tearing up in a few places. So you can't say I just don't like love stories when I say that this might be one of the worst books I've ever read. The writing is ridiculously simple, filled with way too much exposition than is tolerable, breaking one of the #1 rules of writing, "Show, don't tell." Not only does all the exposition break that rule, it telegraphs just about everything that is going to happen in the entire novel way too early one; there was seriously not one piece of the plot I couldn't see coming a mile away. And the ending is a total cop-out. It was unbelievably bad and abrupt, with a ridiculously undeserved denouement. I will say, however, that the characters were fairly well developed and…

Goodreads Book Review: The Book Thief

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


There's no denying that this is one hell of a beautifully-written book. There's a lyrical, poetic quality to the prose that makes it a real joy to read at times, and the story itself is incredibly moving; there were one or two times towards the end where I could feel my eyes moisten. The characters, even the background ones, are all very well developed and engrossing, too.  All that said, though, did I necessarily enjoy the book? In a word, no. While the language itself was written beautifully, I didn't like the way the book was put together almost like excerpts of different stories at times. The episodic nature of it put me off. Also, as much as I like the conceit of having Death be the narrator, I didn't enjoy many of his asides and I didn't like the way events in the book weren't just foreshadowed but where flat-out spoiled dozens... sometimes even hundreds... of pages ahead of time. At least one or two su…

A Stormtrooper's Christmas Soundtrack

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Here at Stormtrooper, I have a bit of a tradition of doing Christmas-themed posts in December (last year there was a post about what I watch to get into the Christmas spirit [plus Gremlins and Santa Clause, which for some reason I forgot all about] and another reviewing the Batman Christmas special that came out last year). Okay, so last year was only the first year I did it and it was only two posts, that's why I said it's a bit of a tradition and not a full-fledged Charlie Brown Christmas kind of tradition, cut me some slack here.



For the first (and potentially only, I'm not sure yet) Christmas post this year, I've decided to turn my attention to music and list some of my favorite holiday tracks. Fair warning: don't expect Bing Crosby or any of his ilk on here; I have nothing against the classics, they're classics for a reason, but as my thirty-second Christmas on this earth approaches, I'm just tired of them. So this list of twenty-five songs instead feat…

Back in the Workforce

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It's been an interminably long while since I could say this, but I've got a job. And even if it's only an oddly-scheduled temp job, it's still a job,  it pays pretty well, and it's a relief; let's be honest, at this point in my life, any relief, even a temporary one, is much needed, and much appreciated. I figured I should try to explain just what the job is, because it is an odd little situation.

Apparently Morgan Stanley has decided to switch their employees' Blackberry carrier from whatever company was providing it to Verizon. To oversee the transfer, they got a company called Cobite (I think), and they gather all the employee information... names, e-mails, phone numbers, etc... and give it to the Verizon team to use when setting up the phones. The Verizon team, I guess, figured they didn't want to devote a ton of their full-time employees to that task, so they got the staffing agency Adecco to find temps for them, and that's how I got involved, …

Goodreads Book Review: Ready Player One

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this book. There is no doubt about that. What is up for debate, though, is whether I loved it because it was well-written, or whether I loved it because I'm a pop culture expert who loves just about everything about the 80's and I'm a gamer who has in the past spent plenty of hours wandering Azeroth and so the book spoke to me because of that regardless of how well-written it might have been. Seriously, I got just about every pop culture reference made in the book... and that's saying something, since there are easily a few thousand. For the most part, the book is really good, and it pulled me along page after page; however, when our hero, Parzival, logs out of the OASIS to deal with things in the real world, the book kind of drags. On the one hand, that isn't a big deal, because it happens pretty rarely. On the other hand, considering one of the main messages of the book is that the real world is the o…

Silver Linings Playbook

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I'm going to start this off saying something woefully insensitive, but bear with me before you get all offended or whatever (although given the type of people I'm friends with, I doubt any offense will be taken. Ever. About anything.), I'm going somewhere with it.

Insanity is funny. Mental health issues are funny. Everybody loves to laugh at the nutjob character in the movie, going back to Rain Man, and hell, probably even farther back than that. But here's the flip side to that coin: while mental health issues might be funny, seeing people conquer those issues is heart-warming. But to take that one step beyond, seeing people find happiness without conquering those issues but instead learning to live with them? Well, that's even more touching.

And that makes Silver Linings Playbook a pretty much perfect movie.


Here's a really brief synopsis of the movie: Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, comes home after a brief court-mandated stay in a mental hospital because he …

The Thankful Stormtrooper, 2012 Edition

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Welcome to my annual tradition of the blog version of that tradition some people have of saying what they're thankful for before they start eating. I did this for the first time last year and I'm doing it again this year; I don't know if twice is enough to count as a tradition, but, whatever, it's my blog, shut up.

Just to get this one out of the way, much like last year, I'm still incredibly thankful for John Jameson's wonderful creation.

I'm thankful for finally being able to say it seems like I have a job again (I say "seems like" because this is my life, after all, and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it inevitably does, and it's always the most ridiculous shoe imaginable). Sure, it's only a temporary job, but it's something while I wait for something better, so I'll take it.

I'm thankful for the summer I had. As I mentioned above, the inevitable other shoe did eventually drop and it didn't en…

Goodreads Book Review: The Magicians

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I think the best way to describe this book is that it is chock full of unrealized potential. It sets itself up as a much more adult Harry Potter with a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and even a little bit of Lord of the Rings mixed in, which, on paper, sounds like a recipe for a whole lot of awesome. The problem is, it ends up being too much for one book. Our main character, Quentin, gets accepted into a college for magicians when the book begins, and he's there for five years... and all five years are covered and done with in the first two-thirds of the book. There are a lot of good bits at the school, and it was a situation that deserved more than the rush job it gets. Likewise, the quest Quentin and his friends en up going on afterwards, a quest that easily could have been a book all it's own, is only given about twenty percent of the story, with a whole other ten percent left over for a rather lengthy ending. The reason …

Saga: The Best Comic You Really Should Be Reading

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About a year and a half ago, I enrolled in a class on how to write comic books. I stopped going after one session because the class sucked and the "teacher," an actual comic book writer, seemed just horrible, but as prep for the class I had to come up with three ideas for my own comic. One of the ideas I came up with was for a superhero adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I would have changed the character names to heroic derivatives and given them powers to much, like turning Mercutio into the superspeed hero Mercury, or Benvolio into the electric-powered Volt, etc..., and would have had the Montague side be heroes and the Capulet side be villains. I mention all of this to prelude the fact that there is a comic out there right now telling it's own Romeo and Juliet story way better than I ever could.


Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, tells the tale of Alana and Marko, two lovers who are literally star-crossed; their home planets, the Coalition of L…

Goodreads Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I found that this book featuring a story within a story starts out very, very slow, but with some dedication and perseverance, it picks up and more than makes up for the slow beginning. It's basically the story of a boy who falls in love with a book with a mysterious backstory, and as he tries to unravel that backstory, his own life gets sucked into the life of the book's even more mysterious author. This is a read that requires a lot of attention and focus because of all the names and places and convoluted relationships involved, but again, it's worth it. The author shows a mastery of plot and, even more, a mastery of language. Seriously, some of the metaphors and other uses of language, even something as basic as a description of the weather or a simple turn of phrase are put together beautifully. And there's a bonus to be enjoyed by anyone who truly loves books: there are quite a few descriptions of j…

A Good Book Should Smell

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"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a-a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and-and-and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a - it, uh, it has no-no texture, no-no context. It’s-it’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then-then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly." - Rupert Giles



I've always been a big reader, and right now, even though I'm in the midst of my Recommended Reading Challenge which is slowing down, that hasn't changed. What has changed lately is that, instead of physical copies of the books people are recommending, I've been reading e-books on my computer.  In fact, 14 out of the 18 books I've read since I started the challenge have been e-books, but I want to make something perfectly clear about this right now:

I hate e-books.

I'm only reading them because I'm broke and don't feel like s…

Liberal Arts

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I've been a fan of How I Met Your Mother for years now. It's a show that has added a great many things to my pop culture lexicon, like all of Barney Stinson's wonderful catchphrases, and an appreciation of just how talented a cast the show has. Possibly the greatest thing to come out of that cast is Josh Radnor... not because he's a great actor, mind you; he's decent, but he's easily the weakest part of the cast. No, what's so great about that show bringing Josh Radnor to prominence is that it has let him get noticed as a filmmaker, both as a writer and director. His first effort, Happythankyoumoreplease, was pretty awesome. Why I never blogged about it, I have no idea. Maybe I'll revisit it for that purpose one day. But for now, I'm here to talk about his second effort...


Liberal Arts is pretty damn awesome. I more or less fell in love with it in the first twenty-five minutes. It's basically the story of a thirty-five-year-old college admissions…

Goodreads Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this in the span of one day. That was partly because it was pretty short, and partly because it pulled me along, with its unusual narrative structure and the mystery of what exactly was going on in the framing sequence. However, while I enjoyed those bits and was interested in the fairly bizarre romance that was unfolding, I can't say I see exactly where all the praise  and hubbub for the book comes from. It was good, not great, and in terms of deep meanings or revelations or whatever, the most I got from it was, "love makes people insane," which, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I really didn't need a book to tell me. I've learned that one multiple times in my life already.



View all my reviews

It's been a long time since I read an entire book in a day, but this eighteenth book in the challenge pulled me along just enough to make that happen. Perhaps not the wisest thing to do, though,…

Goodreads Book Review: Prey

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Prey by Michael Crichton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I've always loved Michael Crichton. He was the first "adult" author I ever read when I picked up Jurassic Park for the first time back in the fifth or sixth grade, and I went on a Crichton tear after that, devouring The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun, the Lost World, and Travels within months. Prey is the first book of his I've read in a very long time, and it still has the fun characters (although most of the ones introduced here are redshirts) and gripping narrative I've always remembered his writing to have. The problem with this book is that it very often abandons the narrative, sometimes in the middle of a conversation between two characters, to go on tangents that last for multiple paragraphs to explain the science behind what is going on. I realize that is an unfortunate necessity when dealing with a topic like sentient, evolving, nanotechnology, but it still distracted from the …

Goodreads Book Review: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

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Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is another instance where I wish I could assign half-stars in this rating system, because this was a 2-and-a-half star book if I ever read one. It isn't bad. It isn't good. It just isn't much of anything. Because of the very limited first person point of view, there's no way to really connect with any of the characters except the main character, Andy, but even he is given only fairly shallow and vacillating characterization, so I had a hard time connecting with or even caring about him either. That said, even without emotional resonance, the book is entertaining enough, with a fun take on the whole flesh-eating aspect of being a zombie. I can't really think of much more to say in terms of a review, because like I said, for me this book was, at best, just... there. The one other thing I'd complain about is the author's overdependence on repeating a certain phrase... but if you never r…

Goodreads Book Review: Bet Me

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Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


God help me, I did not want to like this book. I am about as far from being a "chick-lit rom-com" reader as you can get, so I really didn't want to like this book... and for the first quarter of it, that was going swimmingly. I hated the characters, the way they thought, the way they interacted with each other, pretty much everything. But then the characters started to become likable, and the way they interacted with each other became fun. I started rooting for the main characters as I started to identify with certain things they thought and felt. I started laughing out loud at certain parts, and cursing at others. By the time I was halfway through the book, I had a hard time putting it down, reading literally the last 65% of the book in about 24 hours. So yeah, it turned me around from wanting to hate it to loving it, and now I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a little comedy and romance in their reading.



Vi…

An Early Review of Cloud Atlas

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Cloud Atlas is many things. It's creative. It's beautifully shot and really gorgeous to look at. It's well-acted. From a director's standpoint, it's well-crafted. It's well-edited. It's almost guaranteed to win an Academy Award for Best Make-Up if there's any justice in the world (seriously, if this movie doesn't win that award, you'll find me on the roof screaming, "Can we have a civilization?!?". And it's damn sure ambitious. But the real question is, "is it any good?"

The short answer is, "I have no idea."

Yeah, you're going to need the long answer here. Cloud Atlas is really six separate but connected stories. The narrative flashes back and forth between stories as the connections between them, both thematic and literal, are slowly revealed. For the most part, the same group of actors appears in each story, some of them so disguised by make-up that I didn't recognize them until the montage during the…

Goodreads Book Review: Haunted

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Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wish this site allowed half-stars, because three stars feels like too few but four stars feels like not enough; I gave Invisible Monsters four stars, and this wasn't as good as that in my opinion, so I'm going with three here. The first thought I had when thinking about how to review this book is that I hope Chuck Palahniuk has weekly therapy sessions to talk about what goes on in his head, because my man has one scary-ass mindscape. This is one disturbing, bleak book in and of itself, and some of the short stories found within take words like "discomforting" and "gross" and "twisted" and "perverted" and takes them to whole new levels. Some of those short stories I really enjoyed, some I didn't; which is odd considering he doesn't change styles or voices when writing them to sort of set the narrators of them apart, so you'd expect them all to be as good, but some fell flat to…

The Cruel Hand of Jabba

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In my blog yesterday about the wedding trip, I made mention of my heterosexual life mate, Jabba, who has traditionally been the co-star of most of my greatest adventures. But it isn't all candy, rainbows, and whiskey with us... no, there's another side o our relationship. As Jabba himself put it yesterday, "despite being one of your best friends I will always find a way to mushroom stamp the things that you love." Where oh where do we begin with that?

First of all, I'm not going to explain what a mushroom stamp is. If you don't know, you can find out for yourself at Urban Dictionary.

Now, let's dive into a few examples.  First, there's Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man's first girlfriend. I've always been a fan of their love story, so much so that watching it play out in The Amazing Spider-Man this summer was a crystallizing moment for something in my life. She's the co-star of one of my favorite comic book stories, Spider-Man: Blue, a story I love so …