Best Movies: The Way,Way Back, Mud, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time, Pacific Rum, This is the End
Best TV Shows: Breaking Bad, Arrow, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bob’s Burgers, Hannibal, Parks & Recreation, Luther
Best Books (non-fiction): My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles by Peter Biskind, Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids by Daniel Loxton, Donald R. Prothero and Michael Shermer
Best Songs: Get Lucky (Daft Punk feat. Pharell), Roar (Katy Perry), The Stars Are Out Tonight (David Bowie), Recess (Eli “Paperboy” Reed), Mirrors (Justin Timberlake), I Love It (Icona Pop)
Best Albums: Frozen OST, The Next Day (David Bowie), New (Paul McCartney), Random Access Memories (Daft Punk)
Best Comic Books / Graphic Novels: Something Terrible (Dean Trippe), Afterlife With Archie (Roberto Aguirre-Sacase and Francesco Francavilla), The Fox (Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel), Batman (Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo), Hawkeye (Matt Fraction & David Aja), Battling Boy (Paul Pope), Batman ’66 (Jeff Parker and various), Resident Alien (Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse)
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: The long overdue releases of The Wild Life, The Spirit (with Sam Jones) and Plain Clothes, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete DVD Collection,
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: Arrested Development, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013? Arrested Development, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, The World’s End, the Dexter finale, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray from Scream! Factory, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Let’s Call Saul on AMC, Armada by Ernest Cline, Cautiously optimistic for the slew of comic book movies (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past), the new Nick Hornby novel and the first look of Ben Affleck as Batman.
Stefan Blitz is the founder and editor-in-chief of Forces of Geek
Best Movies: Sound City, Leviathan, This is The End, The Conjuring, The World’s End
Best TV Shows: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Luther, The Vampire Diaries, Top of the Lake
Best Books (fiction): The Black Country by Alex Grecian, The Baddest Ass by Anthony Neil Smith, Silent City by Alex Segura
Best Video Game: FIFA 2014
Best Songs: Songs That She Sang in the Shower by Jason Isbell, Rust Belt Fields by Slaid Cleaves, The Mother We Share by Chvrches, It’s All Right It’s OK by Primal Scream, Harper Lee by Little Green Cars, Cameron by Jillette Johnson.
Best Albums: It’s Your Choice by Brendan Benson, Southeastern by Jason Isbell, Health by the Heavy Blinkers, 12 Stories by Brandy Clark, Trouble Will Find Me by the National, AM by the Arctic Monkeys, You Were Right by Brendan Benson, the deluxe, five-disc version of Van Morrison’s Moondance.
Best Comic Books / Graphic Novels: GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS by Ryan Browne, BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope, DAREDEVIL by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, NOWHERE MEN by Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde, EAST OF WEST by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, CAPTAIN AMERICA by Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr., WINTER SOLDIER by Jason Latour and Nic Klein, THOR by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: Nashville (Criterion), Mad Men Season 6, The World’s End, Tokyo Story (Criterion), Breaking Bad (The Complete Series)
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: The release of our hardcover anthology, BAD KARMA VOLUME ONE.
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013? Man of Steel
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014? Writing more comics and finishing a novel.
B. Clay Moore is a comic book writer and creator of “Hawaiian Dick”
- Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón’s exquisite and gripping stranded-in-space tale is pure cinematic bliss of epic proportions. From its first astonishing moments through its stirring finale, every moment demonstrates the confidence and supreme technical precision of one of cinema’s most exciting new masters. The camera work and visual effects are breathtaking, and Sandra Bullock, on screen for every moment of the movie, is riveting.
- Upstream Color – Fans of the time-looping head-scratcher Primer from 2004 will be relieved to learn writer/star/director Shane Carruth’s long-gestating follow-up is equally captivating and just as wonderfully obtuse. The film defies conventional categorization and encapsulation—and the more I describe its elements the more I risk diminishing its spell for uninitiated viewers. Nevertheless, in a nutshell, Upstream Color is a uniquely cinematic fever dream about two lonesome lovers who may or may not already be connected and who slowly come to understand why they share each other’s memories. With minimal dialogue, the film mesmerizes with its undulating sound design, haunting visual imagery and elliptical editing. This movie, along with Primer, confirms Carruth is the real deal: he’s a visionary and intelligent filmmaker with fastidious technical prowess and assured command of the medium. He’s already being compared to Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick, and serious film geeks don’t invoke those names lightly.
- The Wolf of Wall Street – A classic Martin Scorsese cautionary tale of hubris and avarice, told in the brisk style of the relentless coked-up frenzy sequence from GoodFellas. It’s a three-hour jolt of cinematic adrenalin that rarely lags, and Leonardo DiCaprio, paired with the director for their fifth collaboration, has never been so electrifying onscreen.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – After the sluggish first chapter An Unexpected Journey last Christmas, part two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation trilogy is a reminder of why I fell in love with his Middle Earth movies to begin with. The pace is quicker, the scale is grander, the emotional stakes are higher, and the dozen or so likable main characters each get a moment to shine. And then there’s Smaug, the most magnificent cinematic creation they’ve yet conjured, voiced with stentorian thunder by Benedict Cumberbatch and animated to fiery life by Weta Workshop’s army of special effects wizards.
- Iron Man 3 – Shane Black rocks, case closed. Fans griped the humor was too flippant and there was not enough Iron Man action…which makes no sense to me because Tony Stark has always been a wiseass and he most definitelyis Iron Man. Quibble if you must that the screenplay makes a pivotal and irreversible joke out of a major villain, but Robert Downey, Jr. has never been better, and that tense Air Force One rescue sequence—a mini-masterpiece of practical aerial stunts, razor-sharp choreography and digital effects magic—is some of the best stuff of the trilogy, if not the entire Marvel canon.
- Room 237 – Delving into the phantom zone of fan theory, this crudely made but compelling curio is an indispensable companion piece to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, examining the so-called “hidden meanings” fans have detected deep within the fabric of Kubrick’s film, ostensibly woven through the many layers of the film’s rich symbolism. The most tantalizing theories focus on the significance of specific changes Kubrick made to the novel, new elements the filmmaker inserted that reportedly enraged author Stephen King. Not all of it makes sense, and some of the theories are really out there, but it all speaks to the indelibility of Kubrick’s film, and to the primal appeal of the overarching themes evident throughout his body of work. This is feature-length evidence that a truly great film can withstand and even reward viewers’ unintended interpretations and uninvited projections.
- Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 recycles some of the same elements—futuristic segregated slums; martial law; lone hero suffers terrible accident and undergoes a physical transformation—and folds them into a larger story of haves and have-nots set in the year 2154. It’s a slick sci-fi movie with astonishing visual effects, “big ideas” and real emotional stakes. Though the action sequences are somewhat conventional, their intensity offers a much-appreciated full dose of “hard-R” bloody violence in a season of PG-13 dilution. Keep your eyes on Sharlto Copley, who you will probably recognize as Wikus from District 9; here he portrays Kruger, the wiliest and most colorful cinematic badass since Darth Maul.
- Pacific Rim – The formulaic “Maverick” stuff is tedious and clumsily acted, but the gargantuan Kaiju/Jaeger smack downs are what epic popcorn cinema is all about. Beyond the starchy war movie tropes, the movie is a delirious dreamscape that allows filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and his crew an opportunity to play in the digital sandbox and indulge their wildest childhood nightmares and fantasies. There’s a priceless gag with a belching Kaiju whose phosphorescent blue projectile vomit melts away the façade of a towering glass skyscraper. It’s a throwaway bit that deserves to live in cinematic infamy, and the moviemakers could easily make a sequel focused solely on the bizarre subplot concerning the black market underworld of harvested Kaiju body parts. Maybe I went a little gaga over this movie in theaters, but you must appreciate what it was like to have seen it on a giant 3D screen. Sadly, the humongous scale and walloping impact of the visual effects sequences will be forever reduced on home video, confined to the size of your monitor…and thus the story’s clunkier aspects will become more glaringly obvious.
- The Lone Ranger is big, boisterous, grand-scale escapism writ large, an opulent production of gargantuan proportions with gorgeous sets, full-scale locomotives and miles of real train tracks, wild stunts and clever sight gags, and with enough cinematic electricity to jump-start a half-dozen potential sequels nobody will ever bother to make. Sure, they spent pretty lavishly on this one, and the movie never quite knows when to quit (director Gore Verbinski’s signature Pirates of the Caribbean style) but every buck is up there on the screen. They rarely make ’em like this anymore…and thanks to its failure to connect with audiences, they probably won’t ever try again. Perhaps there was a sense of Pirates fatigue amongst the general public, but mostly there was the unmitigated ferocity of critics, who tasted blood in the water with news of the film’s projected $200 million budget, raised a stink over the politically dubious casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American, and who were poised with sharpened teeth and daggers to eviscerate the movie upon its arrival. That’s too bad, because The Lone Ranger clearly has no grander aspirations than merely to entertain, and it does that in spades.
- Mama – I’m reflexively cautious when approaching a PG-13-rated horror movie because I know there won’t be any gore and thus it won’t satisfy the corn-syrupy bloodlust of splatter geeks, but for any spooky movie to stir a genuine and surprising fright in me nowadays is a major accomplishment. The atmosphere of chilly dread sustained throughout Mama is evidence that a movie doesn’t necessarily require blood and guts and canned shock tactics to scare the pants off people.
Best TV Shows:
It’s not quite the same old Arrested Development, and some episodes are stronger than many, but the resurrected-by-Netflix series is a cause for fans to celebrate. Filmed piecemeal by necessity, there are precious few moments when more than two characters interact with other members of the Bluth family, thus the group dynamic that was such a force majeure in the earlier seasons is inherently eliminated in Season 4. Still, the characters are kooky as ever, and the creators have fun embracing the restraints of cast scheduling with non-linear running gags woven throughout all 15 episodes. It’s like they never missed a beat. Bring on Season 5, and maybe even that long-gestating movie.
Best Books (non-fiction):
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a peek inside the mind of the Mexican-born filmmaker, a beautifully illustrated hardbound notebook of doodles and inspirations encompassing his movie career from before Chronos right up through this year’s Pacific Rim.The book also includes several testimonials from such contemporaries as James Cameron and Alfonso Cuarón, and offers a glimpse of several as-yet-unrealized del Toro projects fans have been clamoring for.
Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score for Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel is a stupendous highlight in a film shockingly short on stupendousness.
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release:
Finally…for its 30th anniversary…The Right Stuff in high-definition! Despite the lack of new bonus features, and the particularly harsh sting that Disc 2 (the rerun of the extras) isn’t even a Blu-ray, the superb audio quality and immaculate video presentation of the film could punch a hole in the sky.
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: Learning Empire Strikes Back co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan is back on the job in a galaxy far, far away to whip into shape the screenplay for Star Wars: Episode VII. Also, predicting correctly that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would eventually be recruited to helm Bond 24.
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013? A Good Day to Die Hard (or: “Die Hard with a S#!t Stain”); Oz the Great and Powerful (“Oz the Bored and Feckless”); Jack the Giant Slayer (“Jack the Zzzzzzzzz”); The Wolverine (Wake me when something fucking happens); and the Evil Dead remake (completely joyless; what were you screw-heads thinking?).
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: The good: The Hobbit: There and Back Again is shaping up to be a sweeping finale worthy of Tolkien. The bad: Witnessing how much of a PG-13 suck the new RoboCop reboot will surely turn out to be, if only so that I along with hoards of soured fans can say we told you so.
Steve Segal writes the column “Geek Spasm” for Forces of Geek
I haven’t read or seen or heard nearly enough of the year’s offerings, as usual, for this list to be definitive — not only in some impossible “empirical” sense, either, but just based on my own tastes and desires.
Best Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Much Ado about Nothing; honorable mentions: American Hustle, Frozen, a nice start to Marvel “Phase Two”
Best TV Shows: Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad, The Daily Show with (and, surprisingly, without) Jon Stewart, Parks and Recreation, Sleepy Hollow; honorable mention: Kerry Washington on SNL, Game of Thrones‘ “The Rains of Castemere”
Best Books: Hmm… The only prose fiction I read this past year actually published in 2013 was Alan Brennert’s Palisades Park; I liked it but I shouldn’t just let it walk away with this category by default.
Best Songs: “Royals” (Lorde), “Run to You” (Pentatonix), “Say Something” (A Great Big World w/ Christina Aguilera); honorable mention: “Ring of Fire” (Home Free on The Sing-Off), “Sigh No More” (Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon in Much Ado about Nothing)
Best Albums: The Blessed Unrest (Sara Bareilles), Days Are Gone (Haim), Pure Heroine (Lorde); honorable mention: Biographies (The Bobs), The Next Day (David Bowie); Love Has Come for You (Steve Martin & Edie Brickell); The Electric Lady (Janelle Monae)
Best Comic Books / Graphic Novels: The Adventures of Superhero Girl (Faith Erin Hicks), Hellboy in Hell (Mike Mignola), March Book One (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell); honorable mention: Superman Family Adventures (Art Baltazar & Franco), Bandette (Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover)
Things that you were most excited about in 2013?: seeing The Bobs live in concert for the first time in too long — at a very intimate local venue, to boot, and with a friend’s group as the opening act
Things that disappointed you most in 2013?: Man of Steel, tech problems and health issues severely cramping my style, “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!!!” 2.0, the first half of How I Met Your Mother‘s final season except for the Mother herself, Pacific Rim, Agents of SHIELD
Things that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: the return of Community under Dan Harmon, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, newScary Godmother from Jill Thompson, new Kane and Mudman from Paul Grist, getting a tablet, catching up on lots of comics in print and digitally
Brian Saner Lamken is a lapsed comic journalist and sometime contributor to Forces of Geek
Best Movies: Her, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Way,Way Back, Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Much Ado About Nothing
Best TV Shows: House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Misfits
Best Songs: Royals (Lourde), Mirrors (Justin Timberlake)
Best Albums: Pure Heroine by Lorde, Inside Llewyn Davis OST
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: The Silver Linings Playbook, The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: The birth of my second niece
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013?: Girls Season 2
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: Sherlock, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones
Caitlyn Thompson is a regular contributor to Forces of Geek
Best Books Fiction: Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, The Heaven’s Rise by Christopher Rice, Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, No Way Out by Alan Jacobson, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Joyland by Stephen King, The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Homeland by Cory Doctorow
Best Books Nonfiction: Spillover by David Quammen, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamon, Gulp by Mary Roach, Gold Rush in the Jungle by Dan Drolette
Best Graphic Novel: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Best TV Shows: Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black
Most Disappointing Book of 2013: The Abominable by Dan Simmons.
Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2014: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, Clariel by Garth Nix.
Alex C. Telander writes “The Book Report” for Forces of Geek
Best Movies: Inside Llewyn Davis, Gravity, Thor: The Dark World, The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Mr. Nobody (not *released* in 2013, but I was able to catch a screening of this film and I HIGHLY recommend it), American Hustle
Best TV Shows: Orange Is The New Black, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sherlock
Best Songs: “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” by Oscar Isaac (from the Inside Llewyn Davis OST), “Five Hundred Miles” by Justin Timberlake/Carey Mulligan (from the Inside Llewyn Davis OST), “Pompeii” by Bastille, “Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly (mainly because it makes me think of Dave Chappelle…)
Best Albums: Inside Llewyn Davis OST, Bastille – Bad Blood, Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Extended Edition – The behind the scenes footage is as long as the movie! And Aidan Turner! It’s the best! I don’t caaaare!
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: Seeing Tom Hanks play Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks…he doesn’t look like Disney, but it’s one American treasure playing *another* American treasure; the release of the Art of Thor: The Dark World book…because “art of” books are the best thing ever.
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013?: Anchorman 2. SO let down; Her…I didn’t hate the film…I just thought it was meh. It looked so good from the trailers I saw, but it lacked the ability to make me excited about film, technology, or love. Total whomp whomp.
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! The Hobbit: There And Back Again, Sherlock Season 3, Maleficent
Allison Krumwiede is an artist and loves River Phoenix more than you ever will
Best Movies: Upstream Color, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Best TV Shows: Breaking Bad, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Doctor Who, Scandal, The Wrong Mans, WWE NXT
Best Books (non-fiction): The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero; The Squared Circle by David Shoemaker
Best Songs: “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, “The Next Day” by David Bowie; “Mercy” by TV On The Radio, “Be Free, A Way” by the Flaming Lips; “A New Life” by Jim James; “First Blood” by Kavinsky; “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West
Best Albums: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk; OutRun by Kavinsky; The Terror by the Flaming Lips; The Next Day by David Bowie; Bankrupt! by Phoenix; Regions of Light and Sound of God by Jim James
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: Man of Steel, WWE 2K14, Random Access Memories
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013?: Man of Steel
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: Surprise me.
Frankie Thirteen is a former columnist and longtime contributor to Forces of Geek. Under his secret identity of Andre Bennett, he’s a radio DJ, an award winning filmmaker and shares the name of Malcolm Jamal Warner’s character on “Community”
Best Movies: Gravity, Pacific Rim
Best TV Shows: Doki Doki PreCure (anime series)
Best Book (fiction): Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura
Best Book (non-fiction): Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Baruma.
Best Comic Book: Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, et al.
Best Graphic Novel: Uncanny Adventures (anthology from 8th Wonder Press).
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013?: Publishing my third novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? — with 35 pictures included.
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013?: Star Trek Into Darkness and the Japanese secrecy bill passed in November.
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Tales To Admonish #2
Andrez Bergen wrote the column “Flash in Japan” for Forces of Geek
Best Movies: The World’s End and This is the End -tie.
Best TV Shows: The Goldbergs
Best Books (fiction): The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Best Books (non-fiction): I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Best Video Game: Batman: Arkham Origins
Best Songs: Pompeii by Bastille
Best Albums: Three Chords and a Half Truth by Face to Face
Best Comic Books / Graphic Novels: Batgirl by Gail Simone and Ed Benes
Best Blu-ray/DVD Release: Promised Land, Argo, The Master – I couldn’t decide!
Thing that you were most excited about in 2013? Tie for the releases of Bioshock Infinite and Killer Instinct
Thing that disappointed you most in 2013?: Heroes of Cosplay television series, The death of Damian Wayne, The Wolverine, On the Road
Thing that you’re most looking forward to in 2014?: The new season of Game of Thrones
The Taffeta Darling is a renowned cosplayer, video host and nerd personality