Tuesday, January 4, 2011

200th Post! - 2010’s Best Stuff (or “Talking Shit About Toy Story 3”)

2010 – in the words of a crazy redhead – was a pretty good year (at least she wears pants while she masturbates on piano benches now...).
We got plenty of solid movies – Iron Man 2 (which everybody seems to retroactively dislike now because people are stupid), The Expendables, Inception, Toy Story 3 and many others – and a metric ton of unbelievably awesome toys – a new Jabba, a new AT-AT, incredible new Joes and a slew of cool Masters of the Universe Classics, not to mention the first-ever Superman toy in the likeness of Christopher Reeves.
TV was not quite as successful, but we still had a lot of solid stuff.
As for wrestling, well – the less said, the better.
This is only the third year I have produced one of these lists and there isn’t a whole lot of consistency. I didn’t bother with “Best Video Game” this time since the only new game I bought was the new Smackdown and I don’t want to proclaim it the winner by default. I did that last year and ended up looking like a jackass because it took me a couple of months to fully grasp how fundamentally flawed the game was. This year’s edition seems much better – that old compulsion to play it any time I can is back – but I’m not willing to make any grand, sweeping statements about it.

Before I get any further, thanks for reading. I’m a little astonished at the traffic levels I’ve been getting lately, and things just keep going up. I know full well most of it is people Googling pictures or whatever, but I figure at least a small percentage is folks sticking around to read a post or two. I even got my first snarky comment of disagreement the other day and I will cherish it like I do my 80’s Admiral Ackbar figure. I just wish the guy (or gal) had left a name rather than being “Anonymous”. Don’t be scurred, y’all. Nothing would thrill me more than to have some back-and-forth conversation over whether or not the newest Doctor Who monster should have nipples. And I promise to respond to any comment left on this blog.
So anyway, here’s the best stuff that happened in 2010.

Best Movie – Inception
Inception was an awesome mix of science fiction, action and drama. It succeeded on absolutely every level with me. From the acting to the effects to the thought-provoking story to yet another fantastic Zimmer score; everything seemed pitch perfect. Everybody in the movie was very good or great, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt truly stood out. I hope he’s not too fancy after this performance to return and give us more of his cackling, maniacal Cobra Commander in the GI Joe sequel.
I don’t generally do this, but I feel I should mention the very, very close runner-up.
Toy Story 3 was Lil’ Troublemaker’s first movie in the theater, and I feel just as good about that as I do about A New Hope being my first. This movie was so wonderful I did not feel competent to write a review of it. It gave us everything we ever wanted for our favorite group of old, well-loved toys and then some. The final (yeah, right) chapter of Pixar’s premiere franchise was so close to perfect that I had a full write-up ready to call it my favorite movie of the year. I didn’t because of the climax. You know what I’m talking about – the bit at the end where it looks like everybody is going to be incinerated. It’s too much. I’m certainly not the guy to try and tell people how to make their movies, but the scene doesn’t bother me any less with repeated viewings or the passage of time. It makes me want to watch the movie less. Lil’ Troublemaker won’t watch it. The couple of times we’ve sat down to watch Toy Story 3 again he’s made me turn it off or left the room about halfway through. I just can’t ignore that kind of flaw.
As a matter of fact, based on overall reaction from my family How To Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me were much more successful than Toy Story 3. I’m not trying to say that it was a bad movie. It was nearly perfect. I just don’t need things to get that heavy in a cartoon, and the two people in the world who mean the most to me agree.
Best Ongoing Comic Book –
Batman & Robin
I heart Grant Morrison. More specifically, I love Grant Morrison for the direction he has taken Batman – and hopefully comics in general – over the past few years. The stories are still just as gritty and visceral as you could want, but have a fun factor that we haven’t seen in a long, long time. One of my first questions to the lucky lady who would one day be Mrs. Troublemaker was about fun comics. On one particular trip to the shop early on, I told her I was looking for superhero stories that were fun and action-packed. I was sick of all the angst that had dominated the worlds of superheroes for over a decade. Morrison’s Batman & Robin would have done the trick. His writing combined with a very high standard of revolving artists made this the must-read title of 2010.
To simplify: Morrison wrote Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin so well that I didn’t even want Bruce Wayne to return. That is some crazy shit. Granted, it’s all worked out just fine with Dick & Damian still working Gotham while Bruce travels the world (for now); but the fact that the dynamic between the duo was so strong that I was willing to give up Bruce Wayne is astounding.
Best Story Arc in A Comic Book –
Detective Comics #854 - #860 - Elegy
(I really wanted that picture to be better and it just isn't - I need a bigger scanner)
If there’s one thing that I’m going to drone on and on about as much as I do Grant Morrison, it’s going to be this story. As a matter of fact, if Rucka and Williams III had been on Detective from January to December; well that’s likely the title that would have won best ongoing. Elegy is one of those story arcs that will make you fall in love with comics all over again. Not only is Rucka’s writing fascinating and deep, J.H. Williams III is one of the very best sequential artists I have ever seen. He produces beautiful, complex layouts that still manage to tell a story and are never confusing. And everything is very much comic-booky. It never feels like Williams is trying to “take the medium to the next level” or anything. This may well be my favorite story of the decade.
Best Single Issue Comic Book –
The Walking Dead # 71
Poor ol’ Rick. I’m not going to go into it, but I have very personal reasons for identifying with a lot of what the main character of Robert Kirkman’s fantastic comic is going through right now. It’s nothing serious, just a vague similarity to certain situations. Kirkman has had this amazing talent for making the last page of almost every single issue of The Walking Dead make you cringe or even groan aloud. Issue #71 built toward that ending so well, but still managed to shock the hell out of me when it happened. And made me take a good look at how I really feel about this put-upon fictional character.
Best TV Series – Fringe
How the crap does this show just keep getting better? After an amazing, mythology-heavy second season, Fringe came back in season three to blow our minds with shows that alternated between two warring parallel universes. And this happened on network television. Fringe is brilliant science fiction combined with procedural crime drama, and it never gets so caught up in either element that you could lump the show in a category. The writing is clever, funny and easy to digest as long as you pay attention. The cast is phenomenal and we got to spend a lot more time with Lance Reddick this year – albeit as an alternate version of his character – and were fortunate enough to see the return of Kirk Acevedo.
I’m going to single out Anna Torv for her performance on Fringe. I don’t know what it is about her portrayal of Olivia Dunham, but it is one of the most effective I have seen on television. I cannot stand to see that character upset. Two of the most powerful moments I have seen on TV in recent memory were her suffering in the closed cell at the end of the second season and her breakdown just before the mid-season finale in the current season. Well done, Ms. Torv and well done whoever cast you.
Best New TV Series – Bored to Death
This show is what Curb Your Enthusiasm would be if anything important ever happened. We were lucky enough to get two seasons during 2010 and they were both tremendous. If you don’t know, Bored to Death is about a writer – played by that always loveable (unless you’re Mrs. Troublemaker) Jason Schwartzman - with one moderately successful novel under his belt. He is terrified of producing a sophomore work, so in order to gain life experience (and put off the task) he just up and decides to become a private detective. The awesome part is that he’s actually fairly good at it, though luck does play a large part in that.
Schwartzman is accompanied by Zack Galifianakis and Ted Danson playing the writer’s two best friends, a comic book creator and publisher.
The first season is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now. Run out and buy it. Unless, of course, you don’t like Jason Schwartzman.
Best “Reality” TV Series – Tosh.0
It takes something really special to stand out amongst the billion or so shows that comment on funny internet videos. The ambiguous Daniel Tosh manages to knock it out of the park on a consistent basis, even when showing videos that have already been featured on other shows like The Soup or Attack of the Show. If you’re not following Tosh on Twitter and Facebook, you’re really missing out.
Best Wrestler – The Miz
I’ve liked good ol’ Mike Mizanin ever since he was the rube on MTV’s The Real World. Yeah, I was absolutely addicted to that show for the first three or four seasons. Naturally, one of the things I liked about Mike was his unrepentant love of wrestling. Granted, at the time a much larger portion of the country would admit to such a thing; but the fact that the guy had a replica title and had already worked out promos and a ring persona called “The Miz” spoke highly to me. And now he is the WWE Champion. Just holding a title wouldn’t be enough for me to proclaim somebody “Wrestler of the Year” though. The Miz has had consistently great promos, solid matches and has been involved in interesting storylines the whole year through. 2010 has truly been the year of The Miz and I hope he can stay off the injured list long enough to cement his legacy in the WWE for years to come.
Biggest “Holy Shit!” Moment in Wrestling – The Miz cashes in MITB (and wins!)
This one was very easy. Not because it was so surprising (it was) or because it was such a HUGE feel-good moment for me (it was that, also), but because so few things happened this year that I gave a shit about. WWE has been offering some of the most bland, predictable storylines I have ever seen for much longer than just the last year. TNA is so laughably inept that I’ve removed it from my DVR schedule until further notice. My interest in professional wrestling has waned to the point that I wasn’t even sure I was going to attend WrestleMania right here in Atlanta next year. That’s bad. Very bad. So bad that I just wrote an entire article about it that you might have read back around the time I started writing this list!
So anyway, on November 22nd Randy Orton started RAW as the WWE Champ. He had to defend his title against Wade Barrett and in the process of succeeding got his ass kicked by Barrett’s NEXUS teammates and Barrett himself. After the match was over, The Miz ran out to the ring, utilized his right to challenge for the title, had a quick match with Orton and won the WWE Championship. It was fantastic and about as excited as I have been about a title change since CM Punk beat Jeff Hardy for the same title.
Of course, the next week The Miz barely managed to retain his new title in a TLC match against a fucking septuagenarian announcer. Fuck I hate that company. They’re still a billion times better than TNA, though.
Best Album –
Hellbilly Deluxe 2 – Rob Zombie
Even if there had been a whole bunch of good albums this year (there weren’t), Zombie’s newest release would have won. It’s a big, fun album that is a departure for Zombie while still being very recognizable. Hellbilly 2 was mostly ignored by radio and TV, but that’s becoming more and more the norm as the internet becomes the way to promote and distribute music.

Best DVD/Blu-Ray –
Doctor Who – The Complete Fifth Series
If I was entirely honest I would give this one to the Toy Story Ultimate Toy Box set. It has more special features than anything else, ever. It even has DVD versions for Lil’ Troublemaker to keep in his room and the superfluous Digital Downloads that everything has now. It is nearly the perfect collection of movies. Except for one horrible, glaring failure: the packaging. This ten disc set comes in a cardboard box designed to look like Andy’s toy box. I would have preferred plastic, but whatever. The problem is inside. The ten discs are stuck into ten slots cut into a motherfucking block of foam. It is absolutely fucking ridiculous. I don’t even have the words to express to Disney how disappointed I am in this weaksauce method of storage. You get better, safer packaging from those shitty sets of 183 horror movies that come in a tin from Best Buy for eight dollars. I’d like to personally feed a ball of tiger shit to whoever made the call on this Toy Story set.
So. The award for best Blu-Ray goes to Doctor Who. This opinion is colored a bit by the fact that Matt Smith is one of the very best Doctors ever, but there is substance to the set as well. BBC tends to jam-pack their home releases with just about every piece of media related to whatever franchise or season is being released. The fifth season of the Doctor Who revival is no exception. Packed full of interviews and extras, it is a prime example of how to do TV on DVD/Blu-Ray. Another thing that swayed my opinion that probably shouldn’t have is the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen these episodes in Hi Definition. BBC America has some sort of absurd deal with Direct TV; so Comcast cannot carry their HD channel. Boo.
Best New Cartoon –
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Tight storytelling, the perfect cast of characters, consistently great animation and voice acting that is on par with major Hollywood productions make this the big animated hit of 2010. I’ve never been a big fan of The Avengers, but this show has converted me. All of the characters are distinctive and have their own motivations and personalities (unlike Bendis’ current comic) and the need for them to work together is clear and ever-present.
I’ve been particularly impressed by The Wasp. She is the real center of the team and her interactions with each character go a long way toward establishing the dynamic of the show. Her relationship with Ant-Man is particularly fascinating, as the show’s creators have managed to retain the intensity and difficulty of the comic book stories without it becoming too adult for younger viewers. Kids will understand that the two irritate each other, but adults will see just how deep their troubles are.
This is a great show that never gets too dumb for the adults or too dark for the kids. It’s a must-buy when it gets a home release, the only problem being that Disney isn’t known for putting out full seasons of anything. Hopefully Marvel will have more say in that one.
Best Show to Watch With Kids –
Phineas & Ferb
I had to make a whole new category this year. In part due to just how many excellent cartoons there are right now, but also because; while the line between children’s cartoons and adult cartoons is very blurry, there is a definite line. Some shows go back and forth across that line from episode to episode. Clone Wars and Brave & The Bold regularly present content that I’m not comfortable exposing our three-year-old to, but even afternoon fare like Misadventures of Flapjack and Chowder have moments that I consider questionable.
Disney XD’s Phineas & Ferb, on the other hand, has mastered both the cleverness and sophistication of more adult-oriented cartoons while maintaining a benign innocence that Spongebob can’t even lay claim to. I never have to worry about the content of the show, but I also don’t have to worry that it’s going to make my boy stupid. If you don’t understand that comment, just go watch Nick, Jr. for a few hours and get back to me.
Phineas & Ferb’s humor and themes can best be compared to Pixar fare, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay to anything. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, you should check this show out. If you do, you might be tempted to watch the one with Ben Stiller, The Beak. Don’t. It is the lone bad episode, and that’s a huge accomplishment for a show with 111 episodes in the can.

Best Toy Line –
Star Wars
Hasbro just keeps making this line better. Innovations in the 3 ¾” figure scale rarely seem to come from anybody else, and 2010 has been a big year for those. From new methods of articulation to amazing uses of soft goods (five – yes, five! – figures from Hasbro this year had soft goods so nice that I not only couldn’t complain but had to admire them) to working kid-friendly action features into collector-friendly toys, the Star Wars line has stood far above any other line in terms of quality.
I so badly wanted to give this one to Character Options’ Doctor Who line, but I just couldn’t’ do it. Their stuff looks amazing, but they basically make well-articulated little statues. I just don’t see a lot of kids sitting on the floor, staging massive battles between their armies of Daleks and curiously-dressed gentlemen from outer space. Though I do seriously hope that is happening somewhere in the UK as we speak.
Best Online Store – Amazon.com
(I put a link there because I thought you might need help finding such an obscure site)
You just can’t beat Amazon anymore. All you have to do is order $25 worth of stuff and shipping is free! Here’s the method I’ve worked out:
I have my Wish List full of movies and other stuff I want. Every payday I’ll go and see what the prices are. You see, Amazon is constantly changing the prices on their products, particularly DVDs. So a Doctor Who box set that was $42.99 a month ago might be $14.99 right now. I’ll order however much I see fit at the time and use the Super Saver shipping. This shipping claims to take between five and nine days, but I’ve never had anything take even five. It’s a wonderful system.
And now I’m even ordering toys from Amazon. If you manage to catch things within the first few weeks they are listed, you will get the best price. For example, I preordered the first series of Green Lantern Classics by Mattel a couple of months ago. They were listed at $14.99 apiece, the standard MSRP. Since I ordered more than $25 worth, they’ll ship for free – so I’m getting them for the same price I would from the store but avoiding the annoyance of having to track them down. Now, though, some of those figures are listed at premium prices on Amazon; up to $21.99, but mine are locked in at $14.99. I don’t know exactly how that works, but if you keep an eye on the site you’ll do well.
I’m still getting plenty of stuff from former champ BigBadToyStore.com, but Amazon is the best overall.
Best Website – ComicsAlliance.com
By which I mean the website that provides me the most entertainment. I’m too dumb to fully appreciate io9, so Comics Alliance is my go-to for frequently updated content. Offering eight or more updates Monday through Friday with occasional “non-workday” reports, CA is much more than just a link-fest. It is the best source of comic book-related news, insight and humor I have found online and has led me to countless things I might not have found or checked out on my own. The site’s praise of Batwoman is the reason I started picking up Detective Comics. A link from CA to ComicTwart is how I found one of my new favorite artists, Francesco Francavilla.
All that and the site works great on my phone – awesome!
Best Thing on the Internet – Axe Cop
Axe Cop is a web comic that is written by a 5-year-old and illustrated by his 29-year-old brother. It is honestly one of the best things that happened in media in 2010. Check out the website here and then go buy the first trade paperback collection from Dark Horse.
Best Live Event –
Slayer & Megadeth w/ Anthrax
We got our faces rocked the fuck off at this show. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a night out this much. All the bands were outstanding, with Anthrax ruling the night in my opinion. Another bonus was running into my old Metal Mentor, the MFer, and hanging out with him and his lady. This was a great night and one I doubt will be topped any time soon.
I do have to give an honorable mention to the Platinum Championship Wrestling shows at The Masquerade, though. Damn good indie wrestling. If you are a lapsed fan or just enjoy a raucous night out you should definitely come to the next show.
Best Song –
Nightmare” – Avenged Sevenfold
I suck at keeping up with current music. I like the bands I like and rarely bother to check out anything new because nine times out of ten the band is going to have some really kickass song on the radio but then a bunch of pussy songs on the album. It just isn’t worth the trouble.
At this point, though, I have heard enough Avenged Sevenfold to know I probably need to start buying albums. “Nightmare” is the song that made me take notice enough to dig further. The first time I heard it I thought Slayer and Metallica had made a baby. I guess the band has been around too long to consider them new, but they’re new to me. And this song is fucking awesome.

Best Individual Toy – AT-AT by Hasbro
I think most people would agree that this is the must-have toy of the year. Even people who may not be regular collectors of the current Star Wars line were talking about this one, and with good reason. Here’s my review, complete with video!
Best “News Format” TV Show – Attack of the Show
AOTS had a bit of a shaky year, what with the departure of co-host Olivia Munn and the resulting flurry of stand-ins of varying quality. Ranging from terrible to adorable to great, the constant rotation of co-hosts threw off the show for most of the latter half of the year. Despite all that, AOTS is a must-watch show in the Troublemaker household. The introduction of Dude Manrod and Time 2 Sports were probably the high points of the year. You also have to consider the December announcement of the new co-host to be a huge win. After filling in many times and proving her mettle in an absolutely ridiculous musical sketch about the Cuban missile crisis, Candace Bailey was hired to officially replace Olivia Munn as of January 11, 2011. Since the announcement, Bailey has been on a “Vision Quest” to prepare her for the responsibilities of co-hosting, including such activities as shooting a bunch of guns and training under a dominatrix.
Hottest Chick of 2010 (Aside from Mrs. Troublemaker, of course)–
Sarah Jean Underwood
I’m not usually big on the Playboy model type. Big, fake boobies don’t do anything for me (although a quick search online assures me Ms. Underwood’s sweater puppets are legit – I dunno…) and bleach-blond hair has never been my thing. But the diminutive Ms. Underwood is one well put-together lady. I stated the other day that I couldn’t imagine anybody not finding her attractive, and I meant it. There are not a whole lot of women on this planet I would make that statement about, either. I understand very well just how subjective taste is.
Aside from being possibly the peak of (enhanced – though online resources claim she’s all-natural) human female physical perfection, the occasional Attack of the Show co-host is also just enough in the know about dork stuff to be cool. I think we can all agree that she’s not a legit nerd girl along the lines of Felicia Day or Morgan Webb, but she also doesn’t try to act like she is. While very much a cue card reader, Underwood has had enough legit off-script moments on AOTS to show that she’s a real person and isn’t just there for the paycheck or the nerd-cred.
The fact that anybody would ever show up on a television show just to generate a positive image among nerd-kind (and they do) shows how different this world is from the one I grew up in.
You should know, the moment she snagged this award was at the AOTS Star Wars bikini car wash. Not only did she avoid the obvious Slave Leia costume by wearing the skintight, white spandex bodysuit Natalie Portman wore in Episode II; she also looked so good doing it that you barely even noticed the perfectly hot chicks there that were in the Slave Leia get-up. Yeah, I know – one of her handlers probably determined her wardrobe, or at the very least made the suggestion; but she’s the one who pulled it off. I’m sure you’d never, ever want to look at anything like this; but here’s the gallery from the car wash if you’re interested. And here's some video you certainly won't care about:

Best T-Shirt – Purple Batman shirt
Seriously. Walmart had this purple shirt with the Batman logo on it:
It’s like they made it just for me.
Best Action Figure –
Blade: Trinity – Abigail Whistler by Hot Toys
This was probably the hardest damn category on the list. I struggled so much with this one that I honestly thought about doing a whole separate “Best of 2010” list just for toys. It didn’t seem fair to put Trap-Jaw, Pre Vizsla and Dusty up against Whistler’s daughter. But then I nutted up and decided that an action figure is an action figure - no matter the size – and that Hot Toys earned the win with this one.
I think that toy collectors might know better than anybody else on the planet the true meaning of the term “gateway drug”. Not literally concerning illicit pharmaceuticals, but as far as one thing leading into others. Any one portion of a toy collection started with a single toy. No matter what, every Star Wars collection started with a Han Solo or an X-Wing. Every Masters of the Universe shelf began with a Skeletor or – in my case – Scareglow. That first figure that you decide to purchase from a particular company or license could well be the start of a whole new collection. I know exactly which figure started almost every collection I have owned:
Scareglow started the Masters of the Universe Classics shelf
Chris Jericho in his purple, barbed wire tights was the first of a massive wrestling figure collection that I no longer own
Jedi Luke Skywalker kicked off my Sideshow Star Wars collecting habit
Super articulated Spider-Man started my Marvel Legends collection years ago
The first David Tennant figure – brought to me from London by my parents – started my Doctor Who collection
One single figure from a line or company that is so excellent or unique or symbolic of a passion is all it takes to trigger a years-long dedication to new toys.
Abigail Whistler is one of those gateway drugs.
I had never purchased a product from Hot Toys before this one. I had always thought they were just too expensive, and that’s coming from somebody who was up until recently spending around a hundred bucks a pop on Sideshow’s Star Wars figures. Hot Toys’ offerings range from $130 to $175 on average, and that’s just crazy as hell. Or at least, it seemed that way until I finally got my hands on one of their incredible pieces.
There’s no way to explain why I ordered this figure without sounding kind of creepy, but I just had to have a figure of two-time Phantom Troublemaker’s Hottest Chick of the Year award winner Jessica Biel as seen in Blade: Trinity. It isn’t naked on my desk or anything; and if it makes you feel any better I’ve got a Wesley Snipes one, too. As a matter of fact, if they make Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King I’ll be getting that one as well. Hell, I’d buy Parker Posey and Triple H with his little dog to complete the set. I really, really like that movie.
I’ve gone on way too long, but this tremendous work of toy art deserves it. If you want more, go read my review. And know that Hot Toys has earned my dollars for their upcoming Milla Jovovich as Alice and Sucker Punch figures. And Batman and Joker from the 1989 movie. And I still want one of their Iron Man figures.
See? Gateway.
Best Restaurant – Pappadeaux
Coming in for a last-second win on December 19th is one of the Atlanta greats, Pappadeaux. The place offers all kinds of Cajun cuisine and does it all well. We went there for Pappy Troublemaker’s birthday and everything was outstanding, including the service. I wish I had taken a picture of our waitress, because she looked just like Ivory. Hell, for all I know she was Ivory.
We got an appetizer platter with fried alligator, calamari and crawfish etouffee and it was all awesome. I had a cup of seafood gumbo with half a fried shrimp po’ boy and I can’t imagine eating an entire po’ boy after seeing that thing.
Pappadeaux has great food, great service and a cool environment for not outrageous prices. Check it out if you haven’t.
Best Dragon*Con Costume –
The Kid From UP
Thus proving that I am not some kind of boobie-obsessed creep. 
I mean, you can’t even argue that.He even had a little house!


Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

2 comments:

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  2. Definitely agree with you on best movie, best toy, and best show to watch with a kid. We just re-watched Inception and it holds up great. The AT-AT is a no brainer. And Phineas & Ferb are our go-to cartoon with out little one.

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