Bandrew's Top 5 Films of 2015

This was another great year for film. Lucky for me, and you, there was a tremendous amount of great Science Fiction. Before we get into it I want to include the disclaimer that this is based on the films that I have seen. I know that there are some amazing films out there that I simply did not have time to catch. With that being said, let's go ahead and look at my Top 5 films of 2015.

5. Chappie

This is the latest film from Neill Blomkamp, and it was amazing. It seems that a lot of critics were not fans of it, but I found almost all aspects of this film to be excellent. There is some very strong social commentary about being forced to adopt traits to survive depending on your socioeconomic surroundings. On top of this important message, I found the acting to be superb. Die Antwoord did a great job in this film (although I wasn't surprised because their roles in Umshimi Wam were flawless) and the VFX department did amazing work with Chappie. The only thing that left me wanting more was Hugh Jackman's character. I felt like his story line was a bit rushed, but over all, this film has a really great story with an important message, and it is an all around a fun movie to watch.

4. Jurassic World

Come on. Of course this film is going to make it on my list. This is another film that I have heard people say some bad things about. I think that those negative nellys just missed the point. If you watch this film and realize that the entire film is a self satire, and that it is just making fun of itself and the executives that green lit this project, then you will walk away with a newfound appreciation and love for this film. On top of the fact that the writers were able to get away with this premise, Chris Pratt nails it. That dude is way too charming. But seriously, if you did not enjoy this movie the first time, re-watch it now and realize that they're just talking shit about the film that they're making. It's so meta that it's like a Dan Harmon script. 

3. The Martian

What an ambitious film. If you read the book, you know that it was a tremendous undertaking to try and adapt this source material. Somehow they did it...oh yeah...they did it by getting Ridley FREAKING Scott (although some people would say his stock has lost value following prometheus, I would tell them to shut their stupid cake holes and enjoy the hell out of this movie). I'm going to go ahead and say it, Matt Damon is not the star of this film. The star of this film is Mars, and it is awesome. The shots of Mars (yes I know it's not really mars) are some of the most gorgeous pieces of film that I have ever seen. I legitimately thought that I was there for a second while I was watching this in the theater. All around this film is great, but I would recommend reading the book first. 

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I finally am able to understand what it was like to be alive and attending the premiers of the original trilogy. I experienced the feeling of walking out of the theater with your jaw on the floor, and wanting to turn right around and see it again, and again and again. But I digress. Yes. I know that a lot of the tropes are borrowed from previous Star Wars episodes, but that's not what's important in this film. What's important is first off, the characters, and secondly, restoring our faith that Star Wars films can be good. And guess what, they nailed both of those important factors. The new characters in this film are just amazing and I cannot wait to see how they grow over the next few films. There is also some really interesting points that we can speculate about which is great because we can talk about it for the next two years while we wait. Regarding the second factor, I don't think many people can walk out of that film and say "yeah...Star Wars is still dead to me", and if they do, then we know that they are secretly a heartless Robot. If you have not seen this film yet. GET ON IT AND GO WATCH IT!

1. Ex Machina

I love robots. I love beautiful scenery. I love amazing acting. I love stories so good that they can be told with only 3 actors. This film meets all those criteria. Not only did I enjoy this film so much that it made my top spot of this year; I enjoyed this film so much that it is easily one of my favorite films of all time. The premise is that a guy is brought to a CEO's secluded home to help conduct the Turing test on an AI. But there is so much more than that, and I do not want to spoil anything for you. Suffice it to say, craziness ensues. If my poor summary of this film didn't get you excited, let me use the cast to sell you on this film...it has Oscar Isaac & Dohnall Gleeson. Two characters from the new Star Wars film! So these two guys made my top list twice! I just want to tell you that if you have not watched this film, then you need to go buy it, or rent it, or borrow it right now. Once you see it, let me know what you thought of it because I'm pretty sure you're going to love it.


What do you think the top 5 movies of 2015 were? Let us know in the comments down below! And here's to another year of AWESOME films!

What's In Your Bag: Santa Fe Comic Con Edition

I just got back from Covering Santa Fe Comic Con, and I figured I would do a video of "What's in Your Bag?". I will link each item and let you know how it functioned in the convention setting.

  • Timbuk2 TSA Messenger Bag - This bag has yet to let me down once. Highly recommend it.
  • Zojirushi Water Bottle - Another item that has yet to let me down. It is a bit expensive but it will keep you hydrated and not ruin your computer/camera gear. 
  • Field Notes - Even if you are not going to a con, you need to have one of these in your pocket. You never know when you need to take notes, or write a to-do list, or have a brilliant Idea. I always have one in my back pocket.
  • Fisher Space Pen - This is my favorite pen and it always goes with me. Super small and reliable. And this is a custom version to commemorate hitting 100 subs on my youtube channel.
  • Google Acer Chromebook - I am a big fan of this laptop, and I use it more than my Macbook Pro, however, you do not need to take a computer to a convention unless you know you're going to be doing writing throughout the day. This was unnecessary. 
  • Neewer Lav Mic - These things cost about $7, and you get three of them for that cost. HOWEVER, this mic shorted out and yielded almost all my footage from the convention useless. If you are going to get these, be careful, and make sure to check the recordings and make sure they are working before recording anything important.
  • Zoom H1 - I love Zoom's recorders and this is no exception. I got so much use out of this thing. I set it on autogain, tossed it on the table at panels and hit record. It worked like a charm and it's small and portable. One of the most useful things I brought with me.
  • Emergency Battery - Lucky for me, I did not have to use this. But, I always keep it in my bag with an extra iPhone cable. 
  • Go Pro Hero 3 - This is another one of those devices that you just can't go wrong with. I love this thing and I filmed almost all my footage with this thing, however, the lav mic caused all of it to be useless. Not the GoPro's fault though. I do with there was a way to monitor microphone levels though.
  • Samsung NX1000 - This camera worked alright. In lowlight, it struggled, and I started to get some noise when I was in low ISO's, so I'm not sure if this is a great option for conventions. I didn't use the kit lens either. I did take a lot of photos, but many of them didn't turn out well. I blame my amateur photography skills for that, and not the camera.
  • Samsung NX 16mm LensThis is a great lens, but just not for my needs. This is a lens designed for beautiful landscapes, and I'm sure it can kick butt at those. I will have to test that out and get back to you. 
  • Samsung NX 45mm Lens - This lens is the sex. That's what the kids are saying, right? Well I love this lens. It is beautiful, provides great DOF, and a big aperture and just all around great! I took the majority of my photos with this lens, and some of them look spectacular. When there was enough light, the photos turned out great. I have included an image taken with this camera, above. 

Do You Even Comic: The Alcoholic

Pick up a glass and cheers or maybe don't as we discuss this month's Do You Even Comic: The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames. The 2008 Vertigo (sister company to DC) book chronicles the drunken misadventures of Jonathan A.

Jonathan A. is a drunken, coked-up, sexually curious and hopelessly romatic, he is only a coincidentally a warped mirror reflection of the aurthur Jonathan Ames.

The Story

 The intoxicating story we follow is one of hearbreak and relationships, it's about how far a person can fall and deal with tradegy. Starting on August 2001 Jonathan gets drunken with a friend every weekend and we see how he reacts to the events of 9/11 and his delusion of granduer as a writer. Yet continue to endure and find something to keep us going. I found the book to not be HA-HA funny but more a inside laugh funny as you can't help but laugh at the bizzare things that happen to Jonathan A. 

Why this book?

But I think what has me sitting down and writing about this book is the universal message it has for everyone as a person who finds struggles navigating careers, relationships and battling our personal demons. Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel capture struggle in a way that hasn't left me.  This was the next slice of life book I read after Essex County. It is books like these that can open your eyes to more amazing stories that aren't superheroes or fantasy.

I am also embarrassed to admit that I had no idea Jonathan Ames was the writer behind the book Extra Man and Bored to Death both of which have been adapted to the screen.

If this sounded like a book for you then get it here:

Book: The Alcoholic

The Shrieker Podcast 001: Phil Lewis

Phil Lewis talks to us about New Mexicon (RPG convention, October 23-25 at Hotel Parq, Albuquerque) and Wrath of the Autarch (his new kingdom-building game). 

The Hotel Parq was originally built as a hospital in 1928 and might be haunted, making it a perfect venue for this late October convention. The convention is the only one in New Mexico focusing on RPGs, specifically indie and small press games, and has been organized by Mark Diaz-Truman, Phil Lewis, Nicholas Hopkins, and Nathan Paoletta. There will be a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse, Fate, and Dungeon Crawl Classic games as well as some games being run or even play tested by their creators. The con is based on the Games on Demand structure, though it may be using a card priority system this year. Legend of the 5 Rings designer John Wick will be in attendance this year and Saturday may have vendors such as Magpie Games.

Wrath of the Autarch is a very procedural, GM-less, asymmetrical, kingdom building game with troop-based play derived from Fate Core. In the game players use diplomacy, war, exploration, and development to promote their stronghold, hopefully defeating their rival kingdom ruled by the tyrannical Autarch. It was inspired by RPGs such as D&D Birthright, Ars Magica, Contenders, Song of Ice and Fire, and Civilization video games. It was written by Phil Lewis, edited by Amanda Valentine, and illustrated by Nathan Paoletta, Doug Kovacs, Eric Quigley, Alyssa Maynard, and Johnny Gray. It is on Kickstarter till October 22nd (UPDATE: THE GAME HAS FUNDED) and will be released as a PDF and a hardcover book.

Phil has written a bonus mission for his game called Don't Fear the Shrieker

The Martian

Ladies and Gentleman. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh mai gawd! If you have been hiding under a rock and don't know what The Martian is, let me tell you. It is a movie (and a book) about an astronaut that gets left behind on mars, who has to survive until he can find a way to get rescued. Unlucky for Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), this planet is dangerous, and one wrong step can kill him.

Matt Damon really shines in this film. He perfectly embodies the Mark Watney we know and love from the book. He is a funny, sarcastic, and scared Botanist that is put in a horrible situation. However, at no point does the deadpan of Watney take you out of the story; you realize that his constant joking is his way of fighting off the crippling realization that "i'll probably die here". The remainder of the large cast did an amazing job as well, but my personal favorite was Donald Glover's portrayal of Rich Purnell. 

When I wasn't laughing at Watney, I forgot that I was even in a movie theater. That is because the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. There have been plenty of films set on Mars but none have made you feel like you're there; until now. 

The real story of this film is not on Mars, it's on Earth. We see the entire world forget about it's wars, and hatred for one another. We see Humans all across this planet converge and work together on a single problem (in this case, save Mark Watney's ass). It shows what we could accomplish as a species if we all had a common goal. I think that's what we should take away from this film. 

Overall, this film was a great achievement that I would recommend to anyone. It's also a very refreshing take on sci-fi where there aren't anti-matter Rays, dark matter drives, or alpha centaurians invading. There is still the subtextual social commentary for those pretentious viewers like me. 

Now go watch The Martian, and/or Buy the Book: Buy it on Amazon

The Net

Today is Friday, and that means Friday Night Action Movie Book Club. I want to talk about 1995 classic THE NET. I know that the majority of you are probably thinking that this film will suck, but you're wrong. This movie is great.

Before we discuss it at the pretentious level, allow me to sell you based solely on one persons involvement. The producer/director of The Net is Irwin Winkler. This guy also produced Rocky, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, Good Fellas, The Mechanic, Wolf of Wallstreet...Basically, this guy knows what he's doing. Now that I've sold you on the film, let's do this.

The Net tells the story of "a computer programmer who stumbles upon a conspiracy, putting her life and the lives of those around her in great danger" (imdb.com). Surprisingly, I think that this movie holds up rather well 20 years after it's release. That's because this isn't a story about what the internet was capable of in 1995, it focusses on much larger ideas. So let's go ahead and break it down into three overarching Ideas that I believe the film really focusses on. 

First. The Net plays off the fear that we will slowly lose our privacy as our information is transferred to a digital space. Sure, this film downplays the complexities of hacking and accessing peoples encrypted files. But the technical aspect of hacking is not what the film is trying to bring to light. It's showing that people don't think that there is any problem with the digitization of sensitive information. Society is lured into a false sense of security by a companies promise, when all it takes to gain access to your information is a single person or group exploiting a single flaw in security. 

Second. Around this time in the 90's, Americans trust of the government was at the lowest point since 1958 (people-press.org). This led to an increased interest in conspiracy theories. The overarching story of this film is that of a conspiracy theory regarding infiltration and manipulation of the government by a large corporation. Over the last 5 years, the trust of the US government has reached points very similar to those during 1995. This could be another reason that I think this film holds up...we still don't trust our government and we feel like there are corporate puppets pulling their strings.

Lastly, I think that the majority of this film is an analogy for Alzheimers. This may seem like a stretch, but let me explain. At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Sandra Bullock's mother who has Alzheimers. When we see Sandra's first visit, her mother does not recognize who Sandy B is. Later in the film, Sandra Bullock is put in a very similar situation where she is completely disconnected from the world around her. She is unable to tell if what is happening is real, or if she has had a mental break. The comparison between what Sandra Bullock is going through and what her mother is going through with Alzheimers is uncanny, and it illustrates the frustration that someone with Alzheimers might feel...trapped in a situation that is out of your control, constantly being told you're someone else, unable to understand what is happening...it must be truly horrifying.

I know what you're thinking; you've over analyzed the movie. Well maybe you're right, and to remove that judgement from your mind, here's a gem for you: when you're watching this film, wait for the ADR scream around 1:48:00. You're welcome. I do recommend watching this movie if you haven't seen it yet. Just remember to have fun while watching it and also remember that it was made 20 years ago.

Buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1PzWsg8

Nerdist Presents: The Hive

Greetings Earthlings. FNAMBC time. Today I'm telling you about the hive. I saw this move in theaters on Monday, September 14th at 7:30. The only showing of this film in cinemas. I decided to go because I love nerdist and want to support them, and I also have been a fan of Steve Aoki (Executive Producer). I also really enjoy these special events that have been happening more and more. They are like live DVD extras, which is tight.

The one liner for this film is "A young man suffering from amnesia must dig deep into the far reaches of his mind to remember who he is and save the love of his life before a virus that has infected him takes over" (imdb.com). And that is a perfect, top level description of the film. Quint from Aint it Cool News described this as "Evil Dead Meets Memento" and that too is a really good top level description, or one line selling point of this film.

I think that when you watch this film, definitely pay attention to the clear parallel that can be drawn between the film, and societies crippling addiction to social networking and social media. It successfully explores the idea that everything we experience and do is uploaded to this "hive mind", also known as facebook or instagram. The issue is that unplugging from any of these mediums makes you an outlier from society. Someone who is considered a freak. 

I highly recommend this film, however, in order to see it, you will have to wait until it is released on demand. This release data has not yet been announced, but when it is, I am absolutely pre ordering this movie! I hope that all of you will buy or rent this movie because Nerdist has provided so much awesome free entertainment that the least we can do is support their first release! Well done Nerdist. Well fracking done.