Gene’s favorite movies of 2012

Although I saw slightly fewer movies in 2012 than I had in previous years, I was predisposed to liking those I went to the theater to screen. Here are my top genre films of the past year, with honorable mentions (I couldn’t get up to a top 10 list).

6. Skyfall. James Bond made a triumphant return, melding modern grit and parkour with many small homages to 50 years of films. Skyfall also served as a “soft reboot,” restoring a status quo familiar to fans of the superspy. I haven’t yet seen female-led actioners Haywire or Underworld [4]: Awakening.

5. Looper. I was initially wary of this time-travel tale, but the world-building and seasoned actors won me over. To be fair, I didn’t see Men In Black III, which used a similar plot device for comedic effect, or the remake of mind-bender Total Recall. Dredd and Iron Sky were other speculative fiction flicks I missed.

4. ParaNorman. This heartfelt gothic Halloween story ended up being my favorite animated picture of the year, edging out Studio Ghibli’s Borrowers adaptation The Secret World of Arrietty, the funny The Pirates! A Band of Misfits, Disney’s beautiful Brave, and the syncretic Rise of the Guardians. I haven’t seen Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie, and Wreck-It Ralph, but I’m sure I’ll catch them eventually thanks to nieces and nephews.

3. John Carter. Several mainstream media critics have put this planetary romance on their “worst of 2012” lists, but I enjoyed the film, which combined the precursor to much space opera with modern visual effects and pacing. It was also less pretentious than Avatar or Prometheus. Speaking of retro sensibilities, I haven’t yet seen likely Oscar contenders Argo, Lincoln, or Django Unchained.

2. The Avengers. After years of buildup, Joss Whedon’s superhero teamup flick turned out to be perfect popcorn escapism. I preferred it to the dour Dark Knight Rises, which was well-done but less fun. I preferred the gonzo first Ghost Rider to its wan sequel Spirit of Vengeance. The Amazing Spider-Man was a decent comic book reboot, but the strong cast wasn’t enough to overcome the feelings of déjà vu.

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson’s fantasy prequel has garnered much criticism for stretching out J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender novel, but it was still satisfying to return to Middle Earth. The first part of another trilogy may not equal Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, but it was better than Snow White and the Huntsman or Mirror, Mirror. I’ve heard mixed reviews for the mythic Wrath of the Titans.

Boston-area moviegoers
At the movies in Boston

In 2013, I’m most looking forward to continued revival Star Trek: Into Darkness, kaiju vs. giant robots in Pacific Rim, a new Superman in Man of Steel, and The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug.

I don’t yet know whether fantasy flicks Jack the Giant Slayer or Oz: the Great and Powerful, the postapocalyptic After Earth or Elysium, or the superheroic sequels Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, or Thor 2 will be worth the hype. So much to see, so little time!

Looking back at 2012 and ahead to 2013

I hope that you and your family had a very happy holiday season, and I wish everyone a healthy, peaceful, prosperous, and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2013
Happy New Year!

2012 was a difficult year for many people, with a lingering economic recession, armed conflicts abroad, and political polarization and uncertainty in the U.S., as well as devastating weather and mass murders. Janice and I each have an uncle who is very ill, and no fewer than three of our friends in their 40s are fighting cancer. Let us hope that 2013 is better!

My job as an editor at a journalism company near Boston is OK. I’m still splitting my time between managing a Web site and editing technology-related content for custom online publishing. Janice has gotten settled in after Oracle bought her start-up employer last spring.

As you may recall, I got a new Honda Fit hatchback late in 2011, and this past spring, Janice and I moved from Needham, Mass., where we had lived for about eight years, on relatively short notice. We ended up moving to Waltham, Mass., about 15 miles northwest of Boston. It took us a while to find our bearings and get unpacked — our new apartment is a bit smaller — but our commutes are still mercifully short. There are lots of good restaurants in a variety of cuisines nearby.

While Janice and I didn’t get to go on any big trips this past year, we did get down to metropolitan New York for informal reunions of some of my friends from high school and college. It was great to reconnect with former roommate Frank D.!

In August, Janice’s and my families met for the first time since our wedding (back in 1995). We also attended several craft fairs, seasonal festivals, and comic book/genre entertainment conventions.

In addition, we spent a weekend at a nice bed and breakfast in Bennington, Vermont. I hope to catch up with friends in the Washington D.C. area in the coming year. Byron V.O., Ben P.S., and other friends also plan to visit New England.

We spent Thanksgiving with Janice’s family in Upstate New York and Christmas with mine in Virginia. It was nice to see my nieces and nephews, even if the drives were long. Janice plans to visit her extended family down in Pennsylvania in the coming month.

While I’ll no doubt be busy with work and the usual games in the coming weeks, I hope to post roundups of the past year in genre entertainment and things to look forward to. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to discuss!

Super MegaFest 2012 con report

On Saturday, 17 November 2012, I met former co-worker and fellow fan Ken G. at the Sheraton Framingham for the tenth annual Super MegaFest. We had a good time at the genre entertainment convention, which had an even stronger lineup of celebrity guests than usual.

I thought the show‘s organizers did a decent job of handling crowd control, since attendance has grown and space is limited. On the other hand, I did have to wait in several long lines, and I heard some complaints about guests having to wait for rides at the airport.

In addition, the pop culture portions have squeezed the space available to vendors and comic book artists. I’ve noted previously that support for tabletop role-playing games has all but vanished from such multimedia events, and DVD and toy sellers aren’t far behind. I have to admit, though, the assorted actors and artists were a strong draw for me this year.

I had met Kevin Sorbo, the lead of Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Andromeda, and Kull the Conqueror at a previous con, but Ken and I got to join his joking conversations with other fans and Bruce Boxleitner, who sat at the next table.

I’ve watched Boxleitner in Tron (including Tron Legacy and Tron Uprising), Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Bring ‘Em Back Alive, and Babylon 5. During his panel discussion, Boxleitner gave us insights into Tron and B5, balancing his bitterness toward meddling network TV executives with kudos for his fellow actors and fondness for history. I agree with his statement that there should be more heroic, idealistic space opera on television, continuing in the tradition of John Carter, Star Trek, and Stargate SG1.

I was happy to meet Adrian Paul, star of Highlander: the Series, one of the best modern fantasy TV shows of the 1990s (or indeed any time, in my opinion) and one of the strongest parts of that swashbuckling franchise. He has aged nearly as gracefully as his immortal Scotsman. I told Paul that his former castmate Roger Daltrey was in town performing with The Who. I was surprised that relatively few people sought Paul’s autograph, but he was a last-minute addition to the roster.

Dean Cain, best known as Clark Kent/Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman, was smiling and pleasant to everyone, just as any Superman fan could hope. A bunch of models ran over to get their photos with the beefy actor, who had one of the longer autograph lines at the MegaFest.

Like Boxleitner, Cain was complimentary of his fellow actors during his panel. He talked about being a single father, his own love of history, and how he and Sorbo had both auditioned for the role of Superman. Cain also talked about his and Christopher Reeve’s cameos on Smallville and wished Henry Cavill good luck with the upcoming Man of Steel.

Speaking of TV superheroes, I found John Wesley Shipp from The Flash to be very friendly. It’s hard to believe that close to 20 years have passed since that wave of live-action superheroes on TV, which arguably paved the way for more recent cinematic blockbusters such as The Avengers.

The guest of honor was Stan “the Man” Lee, co-creator of Marvel icons such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. After waiting in long lines, Ken timed my photo op with him at 6 seconds, but it was nice to exchange words with one of the most recognizable comic book creators.

At the Boston Super MegaFest 2012
Greetings, true believers! Excelsior!

I was out of cash after getting various autographs, so I didn’t buy anything else at this year’s con. (Not to mention, I’ve had a busy year, from the Boston Comic Con and Steampunk City to the Rhode Island Comic Con.) There were lots of other actors, models, and fans in costume to see and talk to. See also Ken’s review of this event.

Coming soon: More belated game updates and Skyfall review. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Watch City Festival 2012

On Saturday, 12 May 2012, Janice and I met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. at the Waltham Common for the third annual Watch City Festival. Before exploring the steampunk fair, we walked to Carl’s for a filling steak sub lunch. (I’ve also recently eaten with co-workers at nearby Baan Thai and Bombay Mahal.)

Customized vintage vehicle
At the Watch City Festival 2012

We enjoyed perusing the tents and shops of the farmer’s market and assorted vendors, watching some performances, and seeing fellow steampunk fans in costume. We also went to the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation and associated galleries and workshops.

Janice and I went to last year’s International Steampunk City, and we were glad to see strong attendance, including many young people. We didn’t get to any of the panel discussions, but I did get to chat with some authors and artists in a variety of media.

The weather was warm and pleasant, so even though I’ve been fighting a cold and allergies, it was good to be outside after another week of rain. I admire the energy of steampunk enthusiasts, who are more open to creative experimentation than fans of other subgenres. Janice and I later walked up Waltham’s Moody Street, where we stopped by some bookstores and got ice cream at Lizzie’s.

Catching up from Christmas

A Star Trek holiday
Happy holidays!

I hope that all your holidays were happy and that you have a healthy and Happy New Year! Janice and I drove in my new car to her family in Upstate New York for Christmas. The capacious Honda Fit served us well, even if it got its first ding (in the windshield). Fortunately, the weather was mild and traffic was relatively light, even if children and skiers were disappointed by the lack of a white Christmas.

Among other things, I received more reference books on Arthurian lore, some cool Star Wars and gamer garb, food baskets, and a toaster oven. As usual, we also ate very well, caught up on Disney/Pixar movies, and played with my nephews’ superhero action figures and Lego sets. My thoughts are with ill relatives and friends.

Unlike several of my friends, I was busy with work in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so I was unable to post to this blog. However, I don’t foresee any shortage of genre entertainment, food and travel, or politics to talk about in 2012!

In between work and the holidays, Janice and I ate at our usual haunts: Wild Willy’s Burgers, Acropolis, Subway, Chipotle, and the Ninety Nine (I’ll have to work it all off). I met fellow role-players Beruk A., Brian W., and James B. for lunch in Central Square, Cambridge, as well as fellow blogger Thomas K.Y. with his brother Tony and girlfriend Kai-Yin at Elephant Walk in Waltham, Massachusetts. I’ll look more at recent movies, comic books, and games in upcoming posts.

For New Year’s Eve, Janice and I walked to the First Night events in Needham, Mass. We enjoyed listening to the West Newton Ceili Band, Melodius Funk, and comedian John Colliton. In addition, we saw the newly renovated town hall, melting ice sculpture, and the colorful Quinobequin Quilters show.

This morning, Janice and I watched the annual Rose Parade, and we’ll be taking down our decorations as the holidays wind down. I hope that the global economy improves, people strive to peacefully overcome their differences, and to find time for all my friends and interests!