Movies of the Year: 2018 Edition

In 2018 I saw more movies in theaters that in any other year in my life. And even so, there are a ton of big movies that I missed. I originally postponed making this thread so that I would have the chance to watch more 2018 movies and have a more complete sense of the year. But then life ended up being busy and I didn't actually get the chance to catch up on my backlog. At this point we are so far into 2019 that I am just going to post my 2018 list now before it becomes even less timely.

I saw a total of 42 movies last year that released in 2018 (in the US at least). I ranked them all on Leterboxd and wrote something up for almost all of them too, so if there is a 2018 movie you liked that is not on this list, feel free to check out the complete list to see my thoughts on the movie: https://letterboxd.com/darthorange/list/2018-movies/

10. The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

A movie that does nothing new or even particularly surprising, but is executed very well. The film following the titular Sydney Hall at three distinct points in his life, and just sort of meanders around while teasing some mystery. The three plots all ramp up simultaneously and build to three endings that answer pretty much every question raised. Despite the slow start, the narrative gimmick holds up and kept me engaged throughout. I usually don't read reviews until after watching a movie and I was surprised to see just how much this one was hated by critics. I enjoyed it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Also, Kyle Chandler does an absolutely spot on Columbo impersonation, if they ever end up rebooting that series they need to get him for that role. Trailer can be found here.

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9. Operation Finale

Some absolutely incredible performances by Oscar Issac and Ben Kingsley. Like, best of performances of the year incredible. The first half of the film a heist movie that doesn't quite embrace those elements as much as I would have liked but the second half is an incredibly slow character piece between Issac and Kingsley that lesser actors would have struggled to make as engaging as those two do. Trailer can be found here.

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8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

I am a sucker for anthologies and westerns, and The Coen's did a fantastic job with the six stories in this collection. There was not a single short I did not enjoy, and each is well acted and has the Coen's trademark dark comedy. The stories are all told from the perspective of white people so I understand why the depiction of the Native Americans is horrible, but it is disappointing that they didn't bother trying to subvert that at all, instead just settling for a portrayal that wouldn't be out of place in a John Wayne movie. Trailer can be found here.

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7. Blindspotting

It is clearly evident that the stars/writers have a background in theater and spoken word and I really love the way they incorporated that into this film. It is an incredibly entertaining and hilarious movie that manages to hit on important topics including race, gentrification, and more but it does so with zero subtlety. Given the state of the world now days, and the mindset many people have, maybe this film's level of bluntness is needed for a large section of the population. For me though, I kept expecting Keenen Wayans to appear throughout the film and shout "message!" Trailer can be found here.

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6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

We finally got ourselves a Latinx superhero and they knocked it out of the park with this one. Like, superhero movies are traditionally hyped to hell and back but this one is the real deal. It has a ton of heart and a diverse cast that works because it stays focused on Miles even as they throw out multiple other heroes and villains. The visuals and art style are absolutely gorgeous. Even if you are feeling superheroed out, this one is still worth a watch. Trailer can be found here.

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5. Searching

A movie told entirely though computer and phone screens should not work this well. I don't think I have been this invested in a story in a long time. As a kid I used to love watching Scooby-Doo and trying to guess who the monster was. Watching this movie gave me that same feeling as I was trying to figure out the truth and look for clues along with Cho's character. It was an incredibly fun experience that will undoubtedly be less fun upon repeat views but I'm ok with that. John Cho delivers his best performance yet and smart use of the camera and score prevent the gimmick from feeling stale. Trailer can be found here.

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4. A Star is Born

It is totally Oscar-baity and predictable and brazenly emotionally manipulative but I still absolutely loved it because the execution is so well done. Gaga and Cooper both hold their own and it never feels like one outshines the other. The concert scenes and musical performances are all absolutely fantastic. Trailer can be found here.

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3. A Thousand Junkies

A movie about three drug addicts trying to buy drugs in Los Angeles. It is filmed as a comedy and never strays from that tone while still being incredibly tragic. The characters are hilarious, their friendship feels genuine and I was completely engrossed in their quest. It tackles serious subject matter but balances it with a great script that brings laughs without ever making light of the situation or having any over the top goofiness. Trailer can be found here.

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2. Bad Times at the El Royale

The movie is a lot slower than I expected, with things happening at casual pace until suddenly everything gets turned to 11 for a second, then it slows way back down. Movie goes from 0-100-0 a handful of times, and it kept me in a constant state of tension and suspense as I wondered when things were going to ratchet back up. The performances by everyone were great and the film was shot beautifully. Easily the most stylish movie of the year. And that soundtrack? Fire. This movie is clear proof that Cabin in the Woods was not a fluke and I can't wait to see what Drew Goddard comes out with next. Trailer can be found here.

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1. Annihilation

Horror is always going to be super subjective but damn if this isn't one of the most horrifying horror movies I have ever seen. Lovecraftian movies never get this kind of budget so to see them go all in with the visuals was a real treat. They manage to create a world that is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying. The score gave me a haunting sense of dread I have not felt since I saw Under the Skin. Trailer can be found here.

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Best TV Shows of 2018

I have found that as the years go on I enjoy watching TV way more than I do playing videogames. I do think that a large part of it is the initial investment needed to figure out a new game. Tutorials can go on for way too long and if a story is boring and the gameplay is anything less than spectacular then I just feel like I am wasting my time. TV on the other hand has such a low barrier to entry (just watch the screen) that I am left vastly preferring to just tune into a show after work than bother with a game that might take a half hour or more for me to get into the grove of.

Anyway, point is, if you are not like me and still very much enjoy playing games as your primary hobby, you may have missed some of these shows. These were my favorite shows of 2018, with a link to a trailer for the show if you still aren't quite convinced and would like to see more.

10. The Haunting of Hill House

A beautifully shot series that does a fantastic job of juggling seven protagonists across ten episodes. Dedicating a single episode to each of the kids for the first half was some genius storytelling that gets you really invested in each family member. There are some absolutely beautifully haunting visuals that make me wish they had leaned into the horror a bit more and done more down right spooky stuff. The focus of the story begins and ends with the family and that is what keeps it engaging throughout though so it is hard to complain. Episode 6 is literally just the director flexing his skills and it is incredible. Trailer here.

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9. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Chilling Adventures is at its best when it is embracing the wacky satanic witch stuff. The characters and lore that they have set up are all wildly entertaining and I would have loved to have seen more mundane witch school stuff. It really really strange in that it goes dark but always has a bubbly tone that keeps it feeling light goofy. This show is also what got me to try out Riverdale (thanks to a few minor shoutouts given within the show) which gives it some bonus points in my book. Trailer here.

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8. American Vandal

I was positive there was no way they would be able to make this stupid premise work twice and yet they somehow did it. A brilliant commentary on the criminal justice system and society in general all delivered in a hilarious mockumentary format. A story about poop has no right to be this smart and thought provoking. Trailer here.

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7. Riverdale

Is this the most amazing show ever? Is this the stupidest show of all time? The answer is yes. I binged through this show after really enjoying Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and have to say I was not expecting what I got. Riverdale makes a show about a teenage witch look grounded. As far as episodes that released in 2018, they wrapped up a serial killer mystery that had already gone far off the deep end but season 3? We are deep in the Mariana Trench now and I have no idea where the hell this is going to end up. I will say that this occult monster shit they are fucking with in season 3 is totally my aesthetic. Even Scooby Doo never got this stupid. Trailer here.

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6. Castle Rock

An intriguing and at times incredibly creepy and disturbing mystery that kept me guessing throughout. Every time it seemed like a question was getting answered two more would take its place until by the end I was left scratching my head wondering what the hell I just spent 10 hours watching. It has got that Stephen King flavor but still feels original. Trailer here.

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5. Devilman Crybaby

A brief 10 episode anime about a kid who gets possessed by a demon and fights other people who get possessed by demons. It goes from 0-100 real quick. I appreciated the show's lean approach to storytelling and not wasting any time to get to the ending. Those last few episodes got me shook. Also shout out to the incredible dub, always nice to have the option to not have to read subtitles if I don't have to. Trailer here.

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4. American Horror Story: Apocalypse

Fuck Infinity War, this was the real crossover of the year. The long awaited crossover season totally delivered. Yes, the whole point of this series is supposed to be that everything is self contained but damn if it wasn't fun to revisit old characters. This season might actually have the least "horror" of them all but it was no less entertaining. They leaned into the camp hard and it completely paid off. Trailer here.

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3. Big Mouth

Proof that you can do juvenile "adult" humor without being completely shitty and offensive (eat your heart out South Park and Family Guy). Big Mouth has a ton of heart as it tackles the awkwardness of puberty. The Shame Wizard was a fantastic addition to the cast and a big shout out to them for the Planned Parenthood episode. Trailer here.

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2. Preacher

At times I feel like the only one watching this. The lack of budget was painfully obvious at times but the fantastic performances by Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, and the rest of the supporting cast is able to carry it through the periods with no action. For anyone who has not seen it, it is basically a show about a superhero with the power to control people with his voice who, along with his girlfriend and his vampire sidekick, are trying to find God and maybe kick his ass for abandoning heaven. Also the Devil and Hitler come out. Y'all should be watching Preacher. Trailer here.

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1. On My Block

One part coming of age drama, one part Menace II Society, one part romance, and one part Goonies. On My Block is a refreshing TV show about a group of kids growing up in LA. I have to give them huge kudos for not feeling the need to put a token white kid in the friend group and letting it actually be minority led. The soundtrack is straight fire and the show had me laughing at multiple points each episode. And I love how the characters are all low key super smart but they never make a big deal out of it or bother spending time showing them in school or studying. Like, yes, it is in fact possible for minorities to be smart and do well in school even though they don't spend all their time studying (I was one of those!). It also has a lot of subtle touches that I loved like how the characters would constantly gravitate towards each other and break off by race or by gender whenever there was inner conflict. It is never verbalized but it is a cool subtle commentary on how humans tend to gravitate towards others like them when going through a difficult situation. This show is far and away my favorite of the year, everything else on this list didn't even come close. Trailer here.

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The Least "meh" Games of 2018

I really did not play very many games this year. Like, I guess I technically played 18 games that released in 2018, but most of those I spent an hour or less with. Old games I spent a significant amount of time with this year were Forza Horizon, Cuphead, and Fortnite. The first two were a result of me buying an Xbox One X, primarily as a 4K Blu-ray player, and figuring I should play something on it too. Horizon is just as fun as it was when I played it on 360 and looks absolutely stunning on the X. Cuphead is also beautiful and just as hard as everyone said it was. Fortnite is a ton of fun to play if you are playing with others you know. Being able to do cross play and play with my brother (who is on Switch) while I play on the Xbox is still a miracle I never thought I would live to see.

But anyway, 2018 games. The ones I played were pretty meh. I didn't have the time to really dig and see what the indie scene was offering and Steam, Itchio and even the console stores have continued to be bloated with even more mediocre shit making the job of sifting that much harder and more time consuming. The AAA industry felt like they didn't really make any big innovations with their studios and as a result I was just left feeling sorta meh about the whole thing. If you are interested, here are links to my previous game of the year blog posts: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

But anyway, amongst the games that I did play, these five were my favorite:

5. God of War

Based on the reaction of most people on this game, it seems like people were ready for a big refresh on this game. I honestly would have been happy with just more God of War, but new can be nice too. And it was indeed nice here. Revisiting Kratos and getting a real shift in character development that felt earned was no small feat. I had my issues with this game, but it was still a solid revival of a dormant franchise and they set up some big things for the future of the series. The heart is there, just expand on it and bring more spectacle next time and I'll be happy.

What sorcery allows that little bag of ashes to not get ripped apart throughout this adventure?
What sorcery allows that little bag of ashes to not get ripped apart throughout this adventure?

4. Detroit: Become Human

I want to make sure that I preface this by saying that the story in this game is bad. Like, offensively terrible. David Cage is either stupid, an asshole, or a stupid asshole for writing the story in this game. Everyone and everything from Malcolm X to the motherfuking Holocaust are shown profound disrespect and misunderstanding in this game about fucking robots and that gain sentience. With that said, I played through this game with my brother in a "pass the controller" fashion with him controlling Kara, me controlling Markus, and us switching off on who controls Connor. There is still nothing else quite like this on the market and this engine and game design really does deserve a better script than what David Cage can muster. As it stands, it was still really fun to play through and riff on with someone else by my side.

Me, contemplating my enjoyment of this game.
Me, contemplating my enjoyment of this game.

3. Forza Horizon 4

What the hell happened to all the good arcade racers? Like, I was complaining last gen that we weren't getting enough of these kinds of games and somehow we have even fewer now. Horizon 4 is not quite a full on arcade racers (as defined by being able to pull the e-break at a moments notice and drift) but it also isn't a full on sim either. Horizon 4 lies somewhere in-between, and provides some uniquely solid controls that are forgiving without being completely self playing. The drift zones in particular were my favorite to go through. The map has a glut of content with various types of races throughout the well made map and there are enough speed traps, ramps, and drift zones that even driving around the open world can be a lot of fun. The game does have an issue with money being doled out at a snail pace alongside loot boxes that usually give you shit you don't want, but I liked enough of the vehicles on offer that I was able to make peace early on that I would only get to drive the exotics that I won in wheel spins. I also spent a large amount of time in the editor, fine tuning both the interior and exterior of my car. The "Forzathon Live" events that happen every hour on the hour provided a great place to show off my car while doing all sorts of goofy cooperative challenges.

Each of these decals are DarthOrange originals and they took an embarrassingly long time to put together.
Each of these decals are DarthOrange originals and they took an embarrassingly long time to put together.

2. Into the Breach

Robots fighting monsters will never not be cool. Into the Breach perfectly captures this awesomeness in a short, turn based rougelike with runs that never overstay their welcome. There is a large supply of robots to pick from and each provides a unique way to approach the map and enemies. I mentioned it in my review, but the big thing that hooked me about this game where other rougelikes lose me is that you never feel powerless at the start of the game, and there is an ample amount of player choice when starting your run thanks to choosing which mechs you want to take with you.

This is pretty much Pacific Rim: The Game.
This is pretty much Pacific Rim: The Game.

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Smash Bros has always been great, but something about Ultimate feels extra special. The characters all just feel right. Hits have a greater sense of impact and the zoom-ins when delivering a KO hit are beautiful. With a roster this large, if you can't find one character you enjoy playing as the you aren't looking hard enough. Sure, a representative from the Wonderful 101 or ARMS would have been greatly appreciated, but I can't complain when looking at the rooster on display. The standard fights are fantastic and online has been really great for me as well outside of a handful of laggy matches near launch. Being able to play 2v2 with a local partner is great as is seeing the strategies and synergies others come up with. There is something incredibly satisfying about grabbing an opponent and just holding them while your partner delivers the finishing blow. The World of Light mode and Spirit Board are all fun little diversions in between standard matches against human beings and they have enough content to last quite a long time. This game really does feel like the culmination of the this franchise and I have no clue where the hell they are going to go from here. But for right now? I'm enjoying the hell out of this moment.

Little Mac is objectively the most fun character to play as and if you disagree then you are wrong.
Little Mac is objectively the most fun character to play as and if you disagree then you are wrong.
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Movies of the Year: 2017 Edition

With the Oscar's coming next week I figured I would write up what the real best movies of 2017 were. At the end of each write up I included a trailer for the movie if I have failed to convinced you that it is worth watching. Most of the trailers are fairly spoiler free, with the exception of one but I do provide a warning for it. Most of these movies are available to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

10. I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore

A Coen Brothers style film about inept characters trying to get revenge in a world that doesn't give the first shit about them. Elijah Wood seems to be channeling Kip from Napoleon Dynamite as the charming protagonists fumble their way through wacky situations of their own making. Trailer can be found here.

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9. Free Fire

This movie is basically just one big gun fight among snarky characters spouting off one liners. It is a simple premise and there isn't much in the way of a larger plot. And that is ok. Sometimes it is fun to just watch some mindless shenanigans. The actors are all clearly having fun with it which goes a long way towards making this shallow film a fun ride. Trailer can be found here.

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8. Good Time

It didn't hit me until after I finished watching it, but Good Time is actually a brilliant film about white privilege. Robert Pattinson does a fantastic job at portraying a self-centered piece of shit with absolutely no consideration for anyone but himself. At no point was I rooting for the protagonist but I remained engaged anyway as he continuously makes things worse and yet somehow weaseled himself out of those situations. Trailer can be found here.

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7. Get Out

With his very first movie Jordan Peele has established himself as an incredibly talented director to look out for. Get Out is an incredibly unique horror movie that is unlike anything else currently out there. Peele is able to perfectly capture that unique brand of awkward uncomfortableness that only comes when you are surrounded by bougie white people. Trailer can be found here.

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6. Power Rangers

I'm not ashamed to say that I love big Hollywood action blockbusters. When I found out there was going to be a Power Rangers movie there was no question as to whether or not I would check it out. But it is not the spectical nor the action that put this movie on my list. Rather, it is the fantastic interactions between the team members. The Power Rangers have always been about the friendship between a group of teenagers with attitude and this movie leans into the whole "Breakfast Club with superpowers" for about 80 percent of the movie. Once they get the suits it becomes the Hollywood blockbuster that everyone was expecting, but that lead up to that moment is what puts it above the standard superhero movie. Trailer can be found here.

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5. Mayhem

Mark my words, Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are going to make it big. If there is any justice in the world, they will both become household names before too long. Both actors are incredibly charismatic and bring a real energy to the screen. Mayhem is about a virus causes people to lose their inhibitions. This virus gets released in a law firm, and what follows is a action comedy that as our protagonists try to reach the CEO of the firm. It is like the director saw the church scene in Kingsman and said "yeah, I can make a movie about that." It is a simple premise that is able to remain interesting for the duration of the films runtime. Trailer can be found here.

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4. Okja

A movie about genetically modified super pigs has no right to be this good. Bong Joon-ho recruited an incredible cast for this movie with some standout performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Yeun, and Ahn Seo-Hyun. The film has a variety of locations which, when combined with the cast, make the world feel very well realized. The animators who did the CGI on Okja herself also deserve a lot of credit. They actually made me care about a cartoon pig. I am pretty sure this movie has turned more people vegan than PETA ever has. By the time the credits were rolling this movie had made me feel all of the feelings. Trailer can be found here.

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3. The Babysitter

One of the funniest movies I have seen in years. It is a tightly packed comedy that is pretty much Chekov's Gun: The Movie. There is no wasted time as every scene ends up serving some purpose, whether that be setting up a plot point or one of the movies many gags. This movie completely cemented Samara Weaving as someone to keep an eye out for. Anyone who is a fan of horror comedies should go check this out. Trailer can be found here.Note: This trailer does spoil quite a bit. If you are sensitive about that sort of thing, there is your warning. It is available on Netflix.

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2. Gerald's Game

I don't think I have ever seen a movie about a person trapped by themselves paced this well. The movie quickly moves from beat to beat without ever feeling rushed. The Stephen King book from which this is adapted is filled with inner monologues and the film is able to get around that by having the character hallucinate and thus have other characters to play off of. It totally works and is carried by Carla Gugino's performance. It also features the single most horrifying moment I have ever seen in a movie ever. Trailer can be found here.

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1. It Comes At Night

I came into this movie completely blind and was expecting a standard monster horror movie. What I got instead was a character piece that delves deep into the theme of paranoia. Yes, it is set in a house in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it is set in the post-appocolypse where there is a deadly virus. And yes, there is some kind of monstrosity that lives in the woods. But that all exists as a way to heighten the sense of paranoia among the characters. Make no mistake, this is a movie about the characters and their lack of trust of one another. The film maker uses some subtle and not so subtle techniques to give the viewer that same sense of paranoia as the characters. It is incredibly well done and kept me engaged throughout. The movie also raises a million and a half questions and answers almost none of them which is sure to frustrate some people. I actually loved this aspect too, as it gave me much more to reflect and speculate on long after the movie was over. Trailer can be found here.

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TV Shows of the Year: 2017 Edition

I have been meaning to write this up for a while but haven't found the time. Better late then never right? 2017 was a pretty solid year for TV. I haven't been doing these lists as often as I have for GOTY stuff but I do have posts from 2014, 2015, and 2016 if you are interested in getting a sense for my taste and how it has changed.

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Before I dive into my 10 favorite shows of the year I do want to take a moment and say that Marvel's The Defenders on Netflix was one of the most disappointing pieces of entertainment I have ever watched. I had been eagerly anticipating this show since it was first announced way back before they even began filming Daredevil. Then the trailer came out and it was fantastic. At that point I was no longer even considering this show could be anything less then amazing. Then it came out and I saw it. Talk about being less than the sum of your parts. I cannot adequately express how disappointed I was as I sat through what ended up being an eight hour long wet fart. The Hand was not interesting in Daredevil, they were not interesting in Iron Fist, and they were not interesting here. Seriously, what the fuck happened? They had such an amazing cast of actors and they ended up producing such a mediocre and forgettable piece of bleh.

Anyway, now that I got that off my chest, below you will find my top 10 shows of the year. A link has been added at the end of each write up that leads to a YouTube trailer for the show in the event you haven't seen it before and want to find out a bit more about it.

10. American Horror Story: Cult

At this point I am committed to seeing this series through to the end. Season 7 was focused heavily on the 2016 election along with a look into a cult of economically anxious conservatives. This season was incredibly hit or miss and filled with highs and lows. The episode focused on recruiting cult members or the one that was basically American Horror Story: Saw were all pretty great, well paced episodes and some of the best this series has ever seen. That said, the season had some episodes that were a lot more uneven like the Zodiac killer one or the the one focused on Charles Manson. The show introduces and dumps plot threads at a rapid pace which is both a blessing and a curse depending on what the current focus is. It is nothing new to the series and anyone who has seen any other seasons knows what they are getting into at this point. The lack of supernatural elements was a tad disappointing but it is redeemed by having one of the strongest conclusions to a season yet. Trailer can be found here.

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9. The Path

Aaron Paul is one of those people who seems like he should have blown up and made it huge but didn't. He was great in Breaking Bad and did a solid job in Need For Speed and The Path but no one seems to give a shit. Anyway, the second season of The Path was a solid continuation from season one as we journey deeper into the corruption of their fictional church. Every character in this show is a piece of shit in the most entertaining way. I want them all to fail and I enjoy seeing them each continue to dig themselves deeper into a hole as they use religion to justify their shitty actions. The super natural elements seem really superfluous at this point as I am honestly much more interested in the criminal acts going on. Presumably they are setting up some kind of crazy shit though and I am excited to see where they take the series next. Trailer can be found here.

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8. Sense8

The title matching up with its spot on my list is purely a coincidence, I promise. I loved loved loved the first season and I still think it is some of the best TV to ever have been put out anywhere. Season 2 is not as strong but is still pretty good. I was unfortunately not able to find the time to watch season 2 until after the shows cancellation had been announced. Needless to say that put a real shitty veil over this show as I watched it and I am positive it impacted my enjoyment. The main characters are as lovable as ever although I didn't care for some of the new sensates they added. The overall plot also got less interesting the more they focused on the larger global conspiracy. It is boring and uninteresting and a mistake to spend so much time on it. That said, the eight main characters and their sidekicks all continue to be fantastic and their interactions are the reason I continued watching despite the nonsensical main plot. Trailer can be found here.

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7. Dragon Ball Super

The Future Trunks saga was amazing and they were able to keep that momentum going with the Universe Survival arc. The tournament of power has done a great job of making me care about characters other than just Goku and Vegeta. They even managed to make Master Roshi a legitimate badass again. I actually really like how self contained the episodes have been, with fights rarely spilling over across multiple episodes. I appreciated knowing that even when a particular match wasn't to my liking that there would be a new match the following week (except for that month they spent focused on Goku/Kale/Caulifa, not sure what the hell they were thinking spending so much time on that). They have introduced a whole slew of amazing characters that we will surely continue to see in fighting games for years to come. 2017 and I am still in love with this show and eagerly anticipating the next episode like I was when I was ten years old. Trailer can be found here.

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6. American Vandal

Biggest surprise of the year by far. I did not see this one coming at all. A mockumentry about a high school student who is a accused of spray painting dicks on cars. It is an absurd premise that is hilarious as hell thanks to some great writing and some great actors. The story ends up having a lot of heart as well and I grew attached to everyone as the "directors" played detective and take the audience for a ride. By the end of it the show ends up being a pretty thought provoking piece on labeling theory. Trailer can be found here.

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5. Stranger Things

Even though I felt like it was a step down from the first season it is still an incredible show that has some great characters and interactions. I loved the new characters added and Max is a great addition to the main crew although it did irk me how almost every character on the show treated her like shit. There wasn't as much suspense and mystery as there was in the first season, instead replacing it with a countdown to doomsday. The show had some really incredible pacing right up until the episode focused on Eleven. It is a great episode that is dropped in at the most terrible moment and completely kills all the momentum the show had going for it. Anyway, the character moments continue to be the best parts and Steve's interactions with the kids were the highlights of the season. Trailer can be found here.

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4. Agents of SHIELD

That entire back half of season 4 was an incredible ride. I love reading "What-if" comics and creating an entire arc around one while still making it work with the overarching season plot was impressive. Gabriel Luna continued to steal ever scene he was in with his portrayal of Ghost Rider. John Hannah's performance was another highlight as the shitty character you can't help but love. Iain De Caestecker and Mallory Jansen were the MVP's of the season however, showing off an incredible range of performance. The first half of season 5 was also pretty good opting to set itself in space and doing all the shenanigans that that entails. The space scenes all look really incredible which is surprising considering the budget got cut this season. I have said it before but even after seeing the trailer for Infinity War, I am still way more interested in what happens to Coulson and his friends than I am in whatever the Avengers get into. Trailer can be found here.

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3. The Punisher

Jon Bernthal has done an absolutely incredible job bringing the Punisher to life and making this crazed murder a sympathetic man. This is the tightest show Netflix has ever released and at no point did I feel it was dragging. It is brutal, violent and yet still manages to have a lot of heart thanks to Frank's relationship with the supporting cast. He is a character that loves people and being around them and yet continuously pushes them away and murders those who he deems bad. The ties to other Netflix shows are incredibly minimal which is for the best since it allowed this show to avoid getting that Defenders stink on it. This is the best incarnation of Frank Castle in any form of entertainment and I can't wait to see where they take the character next. Trailer can be found here.

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2. Runaways

I have no background with the source material but that did not stop me from completely falling in love with this misfit team of kids trying to uncover an evil conspiracy that their parents are involved in. Both the kids and the parents do a great job of interacting between and among themselves. It often times feels like two completely different shows, with one plot following the parents and the other following the kids. I found them both enjoyable though and thus loved it from beginning to end. The bulk of the parent sections were focused on character infidelities and human sacrifices. The kid sections on the other hand were one part teen drama, one part "Scooby-Doo with superheroes" which I loved (Scooby-Doo was favorite show as a kid). The effects on Old Lace are great and I appreciate them actually using a practical puppet for her. They actually managed to make a dinosaur a main character and have her not look distractingly goofy on screen. That is no small task. Trailer can be found here.

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1. My Hero Academia

As you can probably tell from all the Marvel on this list, I really love me some superhero goodness. That said, the first season of My Hero Academia was just ok in my opinion. It didn't really grab me and I didn't really give a shit what was going on. I had no expectations for season 2 and it ended up completely flooring me. From beginning to end it had some of the best pacing I have ever seen in any TV show. Major plot points resolve in single 20-something minute episodes all while servicing a larger plot. But more than just the pacing, it is the incredibly likable characters that kept me tuning in every Saturday morning (made me feel like a kid again). The voice acting in the Funimation dub (yeah I saw the dub) and the animation were also top notch and matched the quality of every other aspect of this show. For those of you who don't know, both seasons open with the protagonist saying "This is the story of how I became the greatest hero of all time." It is an impressive thing for a show to straight up tell you "the protagonist is going to win in the end" and yet still manage to make you want to root for him. 2017 had some fucked up shit happening so I very much appreciated this hopeful, optimistic show. Trailer can be found here.

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DarthOrange's Top 10 Games of 2017

This has been quite an amazing year for games. I have been pretty down on games these last few years but this year I was completely sucked back in. Video games were pretty damn great in 2017, the best year since 2013 in my opinion. I played 41 games this year that actually released in 2017, and that does not include the numerous other games I played this year that were released in previous years. If you would like to see the full list of games I played this year and my thoughts on them you can find that here. You can also find my previous GOTY blog posts at the following links: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

I work and go to graduate school full time and so free time is a real luxury for me. Because of this, I have come to really appreciate shorter games as well as games that don't require a large time investment to learn how to play. Those games that I could easily finish in one sitting or come back to after a month and easily pick up where I left off were the ones I ended up valuing the most. My top five games were incredibly difficult to rank because they were so different in what they excelled at. It should be noted that I feel those top five games are all on the same level in terms of quality.

Anyway, here are my top ten games of 2017.

Note: At the end of my brief write up for each game I state which system I played the game on and provide a link to the games trailer so that you can easily get more info if you would like it.

10. Golf Story

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I got it on a whim because I was hearing good things. I've never liked golf (neither in video game form nor in real life) but this game was pretty great. The actual act of playing golf itself is serviceable (not my cup of tea) but it is inoffensive enough to keep me going. What puts this game on my list are the phenomenal story and characters that completely carry this game. The writing is hilarious and the characters are all fleshed out and have a surprising amount of depth for such a goofy game.

I played through this game on the Nintendo Switch. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

9. Universal Paperclips

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A clicker about making paperclips. It is a simple premise that gets really really dumb in the best possible way. You are never doing the same thing for too long and the game was able to hold my attention through to the end due to how absurd the tasks kept getting. I first checked out this game at work when I had some down time and I ended up spending an unreasonable amount of that workday making paperclips. I then left work and used what I learned to play through the game in a more efficient manner at home. Introducing it to other coworkers and getting them hooked on it was also good fun.

I played through this game on both Chome and Safari. The game does not have a trailer but it is completely free to play and can be played here: http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/.

8. Midnight Scenes: The Highway

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This point and click adventure is the video game equivalent of a horror short story. It sets up its premise, makes you feel tense and scared as it tells its story, and then it is over. Short, sweet and to the point. It does what it sets out to do perfectly and there isn't really anything bad to say about it. It takes less than half an hour to download and play through so it isn't too much of an investment to check out.

I played through this game on Mac. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube. The game can be download for free on the following site: https://pixelshuh.itch.io/midnight-scenes-the-highway.

7. Old Man's Journey

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A dialogue and text free point and click puzzle game that tells an engaging story using only its beautiful art and music. The puzzles are all simple and the game itself only takes about 90 minutes to beat so it is over before it overstays its welcome. It is a complete experience that I was able to have in about the same amount of time I could have spent watching a movie which I very much appreciated.

I played through this game on Mac. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

6. A Normal Lost Phone

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A game about snooping through a phone you find. The narrative is a great coming of age story and the puzzles and detective work required to unlock the different parts of the phone are all fun. The game takes some interesting directions with its gameplay as it goes on and turns the player into a real piece of shit for the steps you are required to take in order to find out more information about this individual. But in a game about invading someones privacy and snooping through their shit I am glad the game goes all the way and really has you do some messed up stuff. This direction gives A Normal Lost Phone an added layer to reflect on besides the content of the story when you finish the game.

I played through this game on Mac. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

5. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

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I bought this game because it was made by Ninja Theory and came in expecting a character action game with awesome combat. What I got instead was a puzzle/adventure game with about a dozen or so combat scenarios (which are obviously top notch). Not at all what I was expecting but the game has such an engaging story that I did not mind it. It is a narrative driven psychological horror game that takes you through Norse mythology and does some incredible things with binaural audio to create an experience unlike anything else out there. I also need to give Ninja Theory huge kudos for including a documentary featurette that goes over the making of the game. It is super well done and a great way to help you process the experience after finishing the game.

I played through this game on the PlayStation 4. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

4. What Remains of Edith Finch

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More of a story than a game, but damn if it isn't a really great story. Exploring the Finch house and messing around with the different interactive sections was a lot of fun and I found myself completely captivated by the narrative and its presentation. The game is a series of short stories told from the perspective of a different narrator and there is not a single one I did not enjoy. Everything from the way that the narration pops up on screen to the lightly interactive sections make this feel like a pop up book for grown-ups. Like many of the other games on this list, it also ends before it overstays its welcome.

I played through this game on the PlayStation 4. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

3. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

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This is a game that has no business existing, let alone being as amazing as it is. The Rabbid characters are all super charming and mesh surprising well with the Mushroom Kingdom. It feels like a Nintendo game and despite a lot of absurdity nothing sticks out or seems like it doesn't belong. The game has a real Borderlands vibe (complete with its own Claptrap stand in) and the turn based gameplay provides variety when tackling missions. The characters are all unique and the challenge levels provide a solid level of difficulty beyond what is found in the story mode. Top to bottom, everything about this game just works and feels right.

I played through this game on the Nintendo Switch. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

2. The Sexy Brutale

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As the name suggests, The Sexy Brutale is indeed a brutal tale that is quite sexy. An amazing premise (Clue meets Groundhog Day) and a catchy title were enough to get me to buy this game, but the incredible aesthetic and soundtrack solidified it's place on this list. It is easily the best soundtrack of the year that I found myself listening to time and time again. Every track, from One Look to Carousel Macabre, evoke a feeling and set a tone. This soundtrack, combined with the the art style and story, made me get completely lost and immersed in the world. I normally ignore the bits of lore collected in games that you need to read but this game was so damn interesting I read every last note and enjoyed every minute of it. This is an incredibly unique and beautiful game.

I played through this game on the PlayStation 4. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

1. ARMS

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The simplicity of the gameplay made me completely fall in love with this fighting game. It is a game with two punch buttons, a jump button, an evade mode, and a block button. I have been able to come back to ARMS again and again without having to worry about memorizing combo inputs. Those simple controls ensured that I never lost because I fumbled the execution and did a regular kick instead of the spinning bird kick I meant to. The party mode offered enough variety to keep me coming back again and again, even if only for short bursts, and the free DLC updates that came throughout the year were all amazing. The new characters all feel right at home with the original cast as do the new ARMS. The events that were added post-launch also gave me reason to come back and experiment with new ARMS combinations. This game oozes style and the character and stage designs are all top notch. The soundtrack is also great with a leitmotif that is catchy as hell. All this was enough for ARMS to just barely squeak out ahead of the other incredible games I played this year.

I played through this game on the Nintendo Switch. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

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2016 was a fantastic year for TV

I posted one of these in 2015 and 2014 and while I did actually write something up for 2016 I never got around to posting it. 2016 was a really really strong year for TV shows. As someone who loves monster, demon, and horror themed stuff 2016 had plenty of that to offer. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but maybe I pick shitty pictures so I decided to add a YouTube link to a trailer for each of these shows at the end of my ramblings.

10) Crazyhead

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This show is a comedy version Outcast (you'll see my thoughts on that show further up this list). It is a goofy lighthearted comedy about two demon hunting ladies. I really don't know what else to say about it. It is really brief at only six episodes so there isn't really any reason for those of you with a Netflix account not to at least check it out. Trailer link.

9) Daredevil

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Season 2 really did feel like two separate and distinct shows. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself but the difference in quality between the Punisher and Elektra plots is just so big it really makes the show feel incredibly uneven. The Daredevil/Punisher stuff was top tier TV, while the Elektra/ninja stuff was just incredibly poorly explained. The scenes between Bernthal and D'Onofrio really highlight how those two are just in a completely different league from the rest of the actors on the show. Anyway, the Punisher stuff is great enough to put it on this list, but ninja bullshit holds it down at the number nine spot. Trailer link.

8) The Walking Dead

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The Walking Dead has had its ups and downs for a while now but this stretch of episodes since the crew got to Alexandria has just been nonstop fantastic. This year's batch of episodes has been no different. Outside of a very very very bullshit cliffhanger the show has consistently delivered fantastic episodes this year. It was great seeing Rick's group be the king shits for a while but putting them back in the underdog position with Negan's introduction has breathed some new life into the show. Trailer link.

7) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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This show has gone from side dish to the main course. Agents of SHIELD is currently the best thing coming out of the MCU. I care more about what happens to Fitz or Daisy than I do about Captain America and his terrorist friends. This show never drags its feet and quickly moves through story lines that other shows would stretch to an entire season. The addition of Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) to this season has been fantastic and he surprisingly fit right in with the rest of the cast. Would it be too much to ask for six seasons and a movie? Trailer link.

6) American Horror Story: Roanoke

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American Horror Story had a really good first season and an absolutely incredible second season, and then the show sort of stumbled and hasn't really found its footing until now. This finally feels like the successor to seasons 1 and 2. The show has so many twists and turns that it is impossible to go into any details without spoiling it but sufficient to say that it goes some pretty interesting places. Shoutout to Cuba Gooding Jr., he was a fantastic addition to the cast this year and I hope he comes back for future seasons. I strongly encourage anyone who was turned off from the show after Freakshow or Coven to give this season a shot. They throw so much shit at the wall and surprisingly, all of it really felt like it stuck (except for the hillbilly plot, that shit was a drag). Trailer link.

5) Outcast

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A lot of people have gone sour on The Walking Dead but I still love it. When I heard that another Kirkman property was getting a show I knew I had to check it out. Instead of post-apocalypse zombies here we have demons and exorcisms. The pilot is hands down the greatest single episode of television I saw this year. A perfectly paced self contained episode that immediately sells you on the concept of the show. The season never again matches the highs of that first episode but it is still really damn good. It is like a more serious version of Crazyhead. Trailer link.

4) Haters Back Off!

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"Comedies" about shitty people being miserable have always been hard for me to get into. It is the reason stuff like Louie and Bojack Horseman never really clicked with me. Haters does a good job of being a comedy first and foremost, with the main character being completely oblivious to how shitty she is. The best comparison I can come up with is Napoleon Dynamite without any of the awkwardness. The show goes for comedy 95% of the time so that when it turns serious it really has an impact and hits you in the feels, making you reflect on the season as a whole. Trailer link.

3) Stranger Things

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It is like an amalgamation of Twin Peaks, Silent Hill, and the Goonies. A show in which pretty much every scene is drawing inspiration from something else but it is all executed so perfectly that I can't complain. Whether you understand the references or not is irrelevant to the actual enjoyment of the story which unfolds at a nice pace with its tight 8 episodes. A great professor of mine once said "if you were really smart you would figure out how to say what you want to with smaller words that anyone can understand." This show feels like the embodiment of that. It is an appropriate for all ages horror mystery thriller that doesn't feel dumbed down for kids or like it is filled with dialogue and themes that are only there to be understood by adults. I have seen some complaints about the high school stuff but I loved all that too. Then again, I am also the person that enjoyed all the high school drama in Twin Peaks too, so your enjoyment may vary. Trailer link.

2) Freakish

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The best way I can think to describe this show is Dawn of the Dead meets Degrassi. It is a high school drama with zombies, with a group of kids being stuck in a school after a chemical plant explosion creates zombies. What really made the show entertaining for me was the acting. It is a cheesy goofy plot played earnestly by everyone with the exception of Chad Coleman who plays the lone adult. Coleman clearly realizes it is schlock and hams it up but everyone else plays things pretty straight which makes it much more entertaining. It is a stupid plot with characters that make stupid decisions and the show is filled with more than a few plot holes but the characters all being dumb high school kids really allows that stuff to slide more than it does with any other show. The brief 20-something minute run time of each episode combined with the 10 episode overall season make the show come and go before it outstays its welcome and left me eagerly wanting another season. Trailer link.

1) 11.22.63

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This show gets a spot on my list if for nothing else then because it actually finishes the story it sets out to tell. They very easily could have made this show multiple seasons long if they wanted to but instead they decide to tell their story, conclude it, and put a nice bow on it. That is pretty damn great, especially when the source material is so open to the possibility of stretching itself out indefinitely. Time travel alternate history stuff is always interesting, and the set designs and actors are all top notch. With the recent election the thought of alternate histories and what ifs is as interesting as ever. That said, while 11.22.63 starts off with the premise of trying to stop the assassination of JFK, it quickly transforms into a love story which could have easily ruined the show but Sarah Gadon is so damn charming as Sadie that it is impossible to get mad. The limited series format is really kind to Stephen King's material and I hope we get to see more adaptations from showrunner Bridget Carpenter. Trailer link.

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Movies of the Year 2016

Hey everyone! So clearly we are pretty far away from the end of 2016 now but I never got the chance to post a blog for my favorite movies last year. Normally what I would do is create a simple post on another forum and then expand on it for a blog post here. I love doing these for archival purposes because it is great to come back to these years later and get a snapshot of what I was thinking in any particular year. Anyway, I was busy at the end of last year so I never got the chance to do this, and since my post already existed on NeoGAF I was ok with keeping my thoughts archived there. Only now those forums imploded after it became clear what kind of person the owner is. Anyway, I am now reposting my unedited thoughts on my favorite movies of 2016 here. It is fun to look back on this as even now, only a few months later, I do not completely agree with this list anymore. I felt (and still feel) strongly about my top five but after that I was just sort of filling space.

1. The Witch

I normally hate movies set in this time period. I have never been a fan of the colonial america aesthetic. That said, this movie is so damn good none of that bothered me. Anya Taylor-Joy performance as Thomasin stands out as my favorite of the year.

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2. Miles Ahead

I swear I am like one of a dozen people who actually saw this. Don Cheadle does a fantastic job as Miles Davis and the fictional plot he made up to go through some events of Miles' life is definitely an neat approach that makes the film a lot more interesting and fast paced than your standard biopic. Ewen McGregor is also great as is the soundtrack (duh). Cheadle really is one of the most multitalented people in Hollywood.

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3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

This movie is (almost) everything the first movie should have been. The cast was spot on, the dialogue was great, and the action was top notch. But those fucking turtles have got to be the most hideous and horrifying things put to film since Mars Needs Moms. It is a damn shame because they nailed the personality of the Turtles, they are just revolting to look at.

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4. Green Room

One of the best thrillers I have seen a long time. Imogen Poots is always amazing in everything and Sir Patrick Stewart does a great job as the leader of the Nazi punks.

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5. Zootopia

I went to see this opening weekend because the trailers and such made it look like a neat movie and Disney has been on a real hot streak lately. That said, the plot of this movie being as real and heavy as it was really took me off guard in the best way possible. We really are in a new golden age of Disney animated films.

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6. The Angry Birds Movie

This movie should not be as entertaining as it is. Outside of Walt Disney Animation Studios I have never really been a fan of cartoon movies. That said something about the protagonists in this movie came across as really charming to me and I enjoyed seeing them go through the film being pissed off at the stupidity of everyone else. The movie came too late to catch the mobile game craze but it still does a good job of standing on its own a fun film in its own right.

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7. Deadpool

They really knocked it out of the park with this movie. The limited budget they had was obvious in spots but they did great with what they had. It is amazing how good X-Men movies are when they Singer isn't involved. First Class, Wolverine and now this are great examples of how great (and different) superhero movies can be.

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8. Captain America: Civil War

RDJ steals the show and this movie really does put a nice cap on the second Iron Man trilogy (Iron Man 3, Age of Ultron, Civil War). His character has gone through so much shit and it is really great being able to see how he has evolved and changed. That said, the Marvel movies really do all have such a sameness to them that they are starting to blur together. I really hope they start to shake things up soon because simply seeing these characters on the big screen is no longer enough in and of itself.

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9. Doctor Strange

This movie has some really nice visuals. In a vacuum the movie is really really good but it gives me a feeling of deja vu like other Marvel movies have been recently.

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10. The Jungle Book

Like Doctor Strange, this movie also has some really impressive visuals. The plot itself is eh but it is still worth seeing through once.

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GOTY 2016* (*Not all games actually released in 2016)

I have been really busy this year. Between working full time and going to graduate school I have had very little free time, and of that little bit of free time I allocate a tiny piece of it to videogames. I have officially reached the point where I have more money than I do free time and as a result my backlog has become ridiculous. After the one-two shitacular punch of Street Fighter 5 and Lego Avengers, and with Battlefront having just come out a few months earlier, I realized that I was just throwing money away on some really shit games. At that point I figured I would stop buying shit at launch and just wait for price drops, because I don't have much time to play games anyway. As a result I have been picking up a lot of games on sale at a fraction of what they cost at launch, but I don't actually have the time to play them so they just end up sitting on my hard drive or collecting dust on my shelf, mocking me. Among other games, I have Bloodborne, Until Dawn, Metro 2033 and Last Light, Dragon Ball Fusions, Enter the Gungeon, Firewatch, The Last of Us Left Behind, and Borderlands Pre-Sequel all purchased but never booted up.

If I had more time, this game probably would have made my list. This and the first game are totally worth checking out.
If I had more time, this game probably would have made my list. This and the first game are totally worth checking out.

Now normally I make a list of the top 10 or so games I played that released in a given year. That said, I just have not played enough good 2016 releases to be able to make that kind of list. Street Fighter 5 was a disappointing barebones mess of Battlefront proportions at launch and the disgusting DLC push ensures that I will never recommend it to anyone as is. Lego Avengers was more Lego goodness but the game was a fucking glitchy mess, more so than previous iterations. It would crash every two hours or so and I just don't have the time or desire to put with that kind of bullshit. I got finished with the semester early in December so I thought I would push through Pac-Man CE 2, Doom, Pokemon Sun and Rocketbirds 2 to be able to put together some kind of 2016 list, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Pac-Man CE 2 is kinda shit and just makes me want to play more CE DX. Doom is a mediocre game that I slogged through for about 4 hours waiting for the fun to start but it never did. Pokemon Sun takes fucking forever to get started and the Pokemon Bank not being available yet just made me decide to put the whole game off until it is available. Rocketbirds 2 is a legitimately fantastic work of art that you all should play but I just don't want to force myself to burn through it in order to make it appear on some arbitrary list. Hell, given my mentality I shouldn't even be making one of these lists this year. That said, even though I am no longer anywhere near as active on these forums as I once was, I have still been making GOTY lists and posting them on this site for half a decade now so I might as well keep going. Previous years can be found below.

So anyway, I did still very munch enjoy the time I spent with these five games this year.

5. Resident Evil 6

As a way of trying to celebrate 20 years of Resident Evil, Capcom decided to rerelease the three best Resident Evil games again this year (4, 5, and 6). And of course I bought them all. Oddly enough Capcom decided to release RE6 first though and so I was reminded of why I loved this game so much. The gameplay is fun as hell. It plays like a slightly slower version of Vanquish with multiplayer and zombies/monsters. It is still as easy as ever to lose hours playing Mercenaries, the arcade score attack mode. The story is goofy and over the top but it takes itself seriously enough that you still care about the characters. It is that same balance that Saints Row 2, Fast Five and Furious 6 all have. A very delicate balance that when tipped to far gives you complete eye rolling stupidity like Saints Row 3 and Furious 7. I also of course played some of RE5 and RE4 and can say with confidence that RE6 is the best game in the franchise. 4 years later and this game still remains one of the best action games around. It is a damn shame what they have done to RE7.

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4. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

I bought this game on sale after having been slightly interested for a while now. Holy shit is this game fantastic. It is everything I wanted from an Uncharted game. It reminds me of Golden Abyss, which remains my favorite game in the franchise. The focus on treasure hunting and solving puzzles is great and the combat feels just as good if not better than the Uncharted games. The set pieces aren't as good as what Naughty Dog puts out but those scripted events might as well be quick time events or cutscenes for all the player agency you have during them. The open map is what really makes this game shine. It allows you to explore each area and feel like you are discovering stuff at your own pace, even if the game funnels you along and gives you little reason to ever return to an area once you leave it. I really hope the newest Tomb Raider builds on the fantastic foundation they have laid here and doesn't attempt to make itself closer to Uncharted. They have already created the better game, they just need to double down on their strengths.

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3. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition

This is a game that needs no introduction on this site, and is actually one that I had already beaten before on PS3. It was on sale though and I had never played the DLC so it seemed like the perfect excuse to play through this masterpiece again. This game is still so damn good. When the hell do we ever get an open world game that has customization, a great story and great gameplay? The hand to hand combat is the best version of the Arkham/Assassins Creed style and the gun play and driving are all a notch or two above what GTA V offers. While I thought the halloween DLC was stupid, the cop DLC was a lot more entertaining. Not sure what the hell Square was thinking not fast tracking an actual sequel to this game. It is a damn shame that developer United Front Games ended up getting shut down this year. At least we will always have this one awesome game.

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2. Broforce

I remember when I first heard about this game it seemed like the most obnoxious thing ever. A stupid pixel game with a stupid gimmick. If I hadn't gotten it for free with PS+ I wouldn't have given it a second glance. It is just so much damn fun. The most fun I had playing coop this year. The "America, Fuck Yeah!" ultra patriotic dude-bro stupidity of the aesthetic is great because it completely leans into it. The characters all being action heroes is a fantastic bonus. Where else can you have the Terminator and Machete team up? Or Agent J from Men in Black and Conan the Barbarian? Or Ash from the Evil Dead and The Boondocks Saints? The aesthetic alone really elevates this already solid game into a higher tier. I am always a sucker for a good licensed game. The other thing that makes this fantastic is the quick levels and quick respawns. It is like Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami in side scroller shooter form, with you dying constantly as you learn the level until you eventually speed through the level in a minute or two. Biggest surprise of the year for me by far.

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1. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

The first game just came out a year ago and yet this quickly turned out sequel has managed to offer enough to easily take the number one spot on my list. It takes everything from the first game and just adds more. More mentors, more transformations, more clothes, more attacks, a bigger overworld and more missions. The first game laid an amazing foundation but it was undeniably flawed. Every major complaint was addressed with this sequel and this game has really become what the first game should have been originally. The game allows you to import your save from the first game and I have to admit that seeing the human I made in Xenoverse 1 interact with my new Namekian in the story mode gave me way more joy than it should have. There is also a ton of race specific dialogue throughout the game that really helps personalize the story. All that said, what makes this game really have more lasting power than the first game is that the combat has been completely revamped and the game itself is actually fun to play now. The first game heavily favored people who would hang back and spam energy blasts. This new entry has really balanced out all play styles and gives you a lot more options for how to approach situations. My backlog is fucking ridiculous at this point, and yet every time I have tried to get into another game this past month I can't help feeling that I am wasting time with some other miserable shit game when I could be playing Xenoverse 2. If that doesn't say GOTY then I don't know what does.

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2015 had some pretty good games

It wasn't a particularly great year for games, but it was good. Last year was such a shit show for games though that the bar was basically placed on the floor and anyone could simply walk over it.

Awesome games that didn't release this year that I still want to give a shout out to:

inFamous: First Light

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I really did not like Second Son. It might actually be the single most disappointing game I have ever played. That said, First Light managed to be a really great game by simply cutting out a lot of bullshit and making a more focused product. Traversal is more fun here than in Second Son thanks to the little speed rings that have been added to the map. The little tweaks they have made to how Fetch plays compared to Delson make a world of difference. The combat arena was also a spectacular addition to the game. In hindsight it seems so obvious that a horde mode is the perfect post game content for a game like this. I still enjoy playing a round of this every now and again. This combat mode also highlights just how clunky Delson feels. Playing as him in the combat arenas is so much worse than it is with Fetch. After coming close to losing all hope in Sucker Punch this game showed me they still know how to make a good game.

The Evil Within

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The only reason I picked this up during the Halloween sale was because I remembered @n7 talking up what a great game this was and so I figured it was worth giving it a shot. I am totally glad I did. Outside of a terrible first chapter, the game is a ton of fun and feels like the true sequel to Resident Evil 4. It is a purposely clunky action game with a horror skin on top, just like RE4. Anyone who is deterred because they don't like scary games should still pick it up. While the game does have a handful of spooky moments, it is not that bad. There was only one jump scare that I can remember, and at least half of the game takes place outdoors during the day. The story is also interesting and did not pan out the way I was expecting at all. It is a really fun game and anyone who was a fan of Resident Evil 4 should absolutely check this game out.

And here are my top 5 games that actually released in 2015:

5. Splatoon

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The multiplayer is clearly the focus of this game but I would like to take a moment and point out that the campaign is surprisingly great and the characters are super charming. The platforming feels good and the puzzles are also solid if not a tad too easy. The bosses are also really really neat. I hope we get a more fleshed out single player mode in the inevitable sequel to this game. The outline for a great campaign is totally here, it just needs to be fleshed out more. The multiplayer is also pretty great and feels very different from anything else currently out there. The miiverse community is absolutely spectacular and it is easy to lose and hour looking through all the posts and drawings people have made. All that said, I would have loved if they had added the option for local split-screen online or really any other local multiplayer modes besides the shitty balloon game. I was really bummed that I couldn't play with anyone locally. The game would be fine with just the pro controller. You would be at a slight disadvantage with no map and no super jump capabilities but it still would have been doable.

4. Dragon Ball Xenoverse

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There are three types of people in this world. People who love Dragon Ball Z, people who have never seen Dragon Ball Z, and people who have no fucking soul. If you belong in the first group of people and haven't checked out Xenoverse yet you absolutely need to go play it. The game is full of fan service and the character creator and original story are fantastic. It does pretty much everything you would want from a game like this, allowing you to pick your race, costume, attacks and masters. It is a bit disappointing that they make your character a mute in the story mode though, especially since you get to pick your voice at the start and your character will actually say the names of the attacks. The gameplay itself also isn't perfect and the random loot drops on certain things fucking sucks but it is all forgivable because fuck, they let you create your own character in a Dragon Ball Z game that isn't garbage (looking at you Ultimate Tenkaichi). And if for some reason you haven't seen Dragon Ball Z before, go watch it.

3. Super Mario Maker

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Building levels is surprisingly simple and fun to do. As someone who loves stuff like LittleBigPlanet and Disney Infinity I can safely say that the creation tools here are 1,000x better than anything in those games. It isn't the most fair comparison because the tools here are much more limited but I believe that is why it works so well. Those other games try to be jacks of all trades and end up being the masters of none. Super Mario Maker is fantastic at making platforming levels and nothing else. The tools are incredibly simple to use and it doesn't take more than an afternoon to make something solid. I haven't had as much time to devote to building stuff as I would like to, but I did have a ton of fun building this level with multiple paths and a way of passing the level in 15 seconds if you know where to look. I have also been having a lot of fun simply grabbing the remote and doing a 100 Mario challenge every now and again. The community levels can be hit or miss but it is worth sifting through to see some of the greatness people have made.

2. Transformers Devastation

I got this on sale not expecting much and was very much surprised by just how much I ended up loving it. It is ranked this high based solely on its amazing gameplay. I don't like Transformers, never watched it as a kid nor did I ever play with the toys. The story in this game made no sense to me and the campaign took me less than 5 hours on my first playthrough, with subsequent playthroughs taking even less time. That said, the multiple playable characters, difficulties, and wide variety of weapons made me play through the campaign close to a dozen times. The real campaign doesn't even start until after you beat the campaign on hard, unlocking a fourth difficulty that changes the enemies you encounter and ramps up the difficulty a few notches. There is then another difficulty waiting after that in addition to collectables hidden in the world and 50 additional combat missions that for the most part are fantastic. Here is some gameplay for you all to enjoy from the second highest difficulty:

It is clear that the game was not complete, however. There is a loot mechanic, weapon upgrading system, character leveling and additional bells and whistles to add to your character but the campaign is so ridiculously short that it is unnecessary to deal with on lower difficulties and tedious to navigate on higher difficulties. There is also very little enemy variety and even less location variety. You go through the same three areas throughout the game, and even in such a short campaign you revisit the same areas over and over again. The combat is fucking ace though, and even with all of its flaws it is still really really really fun to fight robots as you pull off all sorts of crazy combos. I was really close to naming this my game of the year, but there are just too many flaws to overlook. If this game had been given the budget and development time of something like The Wonderful 101 it would have been a real thing of beauty.

1. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

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I had never played either of the games in this collection. I have only beat Borderlands 2 so far which was pretty awesome to go through. I played through the game twice. Once alone playing as the commando and once again in co-op as the sniper with my brother playing the gunzerker. The classes have a different feel and the open areas give a lot of options for how to proceed. The humor is great and I appreciated them fleshing out the characters from the first game. I love me a good sniper rifle in a game and the ones in this game are really damn satisfying. I also have to commend them for adding local split screen multiplayer. It is always nice to see at least a few developers still care about this. Younger me with way more free time would have absolutely loved how much replayability there is here. Hell, current me still wants to replay it a few more times with the other classes. Even without having played The Pre-Sequel, I feel good about leaving this at number one based on Borderlands 2 alone.

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