My 2015 year in review.

I am going to limit myself to things I’ve read/watched/played/listened to this year. These might be released this year or years ago, the point that matters is that I read/watched/played/listened to this year. I’ve picked up many things this year but the only ones I’ve actively kept track of is my audiobooks from audible. I’ve listened to at least 30 books this year, the last one is Harry Potter and the Half Blooded Prince which would have made 31 for the year. I still have about a day and a half to listen to it, so it’s technically possible but unlikely. Anyways, here is the list:

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
  2. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
  3. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan
  5. Broken Angels by Richard K Morgan
  6. Woken Furies by Richard K Morgan
  7. The Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
  8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
  11. Halting State by Charles Stross
  12. Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  13. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  14. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  15. The Witcher: Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
  16. The Witcher: Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski
  17. The Witcher: Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski
  18. Old Man’s War: End of All Things by John Scalzi
  19. World Gone By by Dennis Lehane
  20. Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  21. Rogues Anthology
  22. KingKiller Chronicles: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  23. KingKiller Chronicles: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  24. Thirteen by Richard K Morgan
  25. Firestarter by Stephen King
  26. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
  27. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
  28. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
  29. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
  30. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Out of all those audiobooks, my favorite author of this year is Richard K Morgan. The Takeshi Kovacs series is my favorite series of the year, and my favorite audiobook of the year is Thirteen, all written by Richard K Morgan. Morgan also wrote a couple graphic novels I’ve enjoyed, Black Widow: Homecoming and Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her. Morgan also wrote the story for Crysis 2, a game I will finally be able to play because of the better internet connection I finally have (unlimited bandwidth, a big change from a cap of 25 gigabytes.) I’m going to play it within the next few months.

A close runner-up to favorite audiobook this year is the “re-Marsters’d” version of the Dresden Files: Ghost Story. To me, James Marster’s is Harry Dresden and he is the voice of Dresden Files. The original recording/narration by John Grover was okay and was even pretty good with providing a wide variety voices but in comparison to Marsters overall narration Grover’s version of Ghost Story was disappointing. The Dresden Files is my absolute favorite series and with Marster’s version it “completes” the rest of the series, and provides a singular voice for the entire series. I can’t wait to listen to Marsters narrate the upcoming Dresden Files: Peace Talks.

Another couple of very close runner ups were Neverwhere and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, both very good audiobooks.

Honorable mentions go towards KingKiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski, and The Hunger Games. The Harry Potter series I’m currently listening to is pretty good as well.

I’m pretty happy with my resolution I made at beginning of the year that I would read (more like listen to) at least 2 books a month and kept to it all year-long. I plan to keep to it next year as well.

My game of the year, is The Witcher 3. It’s probably the best game I’ve played in the last couple years, and unseating Red Dead Redemption as my favorite game ever. I’ve finally downloaded the big 14 gigabyte update and downloaded Heart of Stone DLC. I can’t wait to finally get to play through it and try out the Yennefer romance, which is much more closely aligned to the Geralt in the books. After reading through the series up to Baptism of Fire, I have a very good grasp of the series and a much better appreciation for the great video game adaptation by CD Projekt Red. The Witcher series by CD Projekt has been consistently good and The Witcher 3 is the new standard to measure other RPG’s. CD Projekt is now the new premier Developer of RPG’s and surpassed Bioware very easily in terms of RPG, Story, and Characters.

Runner up is Fallout 4, a good game but it is definitely a second place to the Witcher 3. I’ve played just as many hours in Fallout 4 and enjoyed it very much but the Witcher 3 has a much better story, characters, dialogue, and a romance element. However, Fallout 4 is extremely replayable and still very enjoyable even on a second play through. I’m currently deep into my second playthrough and leaning towards siding with Institute.

My favorite movie of the year is going to be a blu ray release because I enjoy watching movies at home and it’s my prefered way to watch movies now.

My movie of the year, it’s easily Mad Max: Fury Road. I enjoyed it greatly and enjoy rewatching it.

A close runner-up is John Wick, and it was very close. I loved the graphic novel noir western-esque aesthetic it had. The gunplay and grappling was extremely well done and the story was good. It also had Ian McShane in great role that gave off a huge Al Swearengen vibe.

Honorable mentions go to Horns (a good adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel), The Hunger Games Catching Fire/Mockingjay part 1, Bladerunner Final cut, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

As for Graphic Novels, the Fables series is easily my choice for my favorite of the year. I’m up to Wolves, which is #8 in the series.

A very close runner is, Batman: The Killing Joke. I finally got around to reading it and found out that it is deservedly get the praise it routinely gets. Black Widow: Homecoming and Black Widow: The Things They Say About It was also pretty good.

My christmas was pretty nice and I was able to pick up a couple of things I’ve wanted or looked forward too. I picked up a couple of games: Sunless Sea, Final Fantasy XIII, Game of Thrones – A Telltale series, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. I also picked up a couple graphic novels Fables volume 9: Sons of Empire, Fables volume 10: The Good Prince, Fables volume 11: War and Pieces. I also ordered Mission: Impossible – 5 Movie Collection and pre-ordered Sicario.

I also decided to begin the process of upgrading my computer, which will happen over the next few months. I’m planning to upgrade to an i7 4790, water-cooled by a NZXT x41, ASUS Z97-A ATX motherboard, and a Fractal Design R5 case. I may also pick up a Fractal Integra M 750W ATX Modular power supply. I already ordered the case and payed 170$ for it. It’s a great case and this review sold me on it.

And that is it, my 2015 year is pretty materialistic because I prefer to keep my experiences personal, I will almost never post anything personal. I can say, however, it was a pretty good year and have no regrets.

Hope you had a great year and merry christmas.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition.

So nearly 1 month after I ordered the Bluray, with a many emails sent to track the package and requesting a lost shipment trace, the Bluray for  The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies finally got in on Wednesday and I finally got around to ripping to my computer and then watching it today.

Gotta say, despite all the nasty reviews and people claiming how bad it was, it was pretty fucking good. Easily the best of all 3. Now, whether it should have been 3 movies or 2 movies or even 1 movie is a different question.

Rant here inc…

I really don’t get the need for so many studios to break a book into 2 movies, and in this case 3, or make prequels/sequels based on a trilogy (HELLO HUNGER GAMES.) It happened with lolTwilight (never watched, never read), Harry Potter (watched and soon to be read within 2 months), and the Hunger Games (haven’t watching the Mockingjay part 2 yet, read the trilogy) and the breaking up of the last book seemed more like a cash grab than a decision to stay faithful or true to the spirit of the books. I’m sure its going to happen more with other series’ as well.  In an adaptation of a series/book/game/comic things are going to be lost in the translation to a movie or have things added to either fill out or add detail to and sometimes even both lost and added to. I’d much rather have something that is well-developed and cared for more than perfectly adapted. I look at the show version of A Song of Ice and Fire, known as Game of Thrones to many, as a good example of this. I’d add the Hunger Games too, it’s faithful to the books despite changing or adding things or omitting things and I felt it’s a fairly good adaptation of the books. Adding more sequels or prequels to the Hunger Games though is a straight up cash grab, no matter how good or bad they will be because you fucking know there are Lionsgate executives that want a franchise to attach themselves to like a tick to an unsuspecting host.

My Rant continues…

Also, books/games/comics/series don’t necessarily have to be exactly as the book states either for me considered a good adaptation. I’m speaking specifically here about Idris Elba being considered as being James Bond or Roland Deschain. The color of the skin of both characters matters very little to their characters. I know some people are up in arms about the dynamic between Roland and Susannah but in the end it’s a very small part of the books and matters even less as the books go on. It also a non issue for James Bond, as it is more expectation than anything else. James Bond does not have to be white. Casting a black dude for the role of a white dude is nowhere fucking near the same level as casting a white person as a person of color. Crying that is like it and it being a double standard is a losing argument because things are not equal and to use that argument of being unequal means you have no real notion of equality. Equality is not taking away from some others to add to others to balance things, it’s about having a fair go at life without your gender/culture/lifestyle choice negatively affecting your overall life experience. Meaning the color of your skin, your religion, your culture, your heritage, your choice of gender, your sexual preference does not limit what you can and can’t do in life. With that said, your expectation of the character should not automatically rule out anyone in that role.

Rant continues…

I’ve read some pretty fucking closet racist shit from people on reddit/twitter/facebook, basically anything online that has comments enabled, about this and the most typical response is the going overboard with casting ridiculous choices as whatever roles in whatever adaptation. It’s totally not worth arguing over because you are invariably arguing against a person unaware of their own bigotry/racism. You know it by most sentences beginning with  “I’m not a racist but.” The “but” part makes it totally okay for most people to spout the most bullshit possible.

Rant continues…

For most people racism is such a taboo subject and immediately makes people uncomfortable, awkward, and defensive. People also do not realize their own bias’ or personal racism no matter how subtle or inoffensive it is. It is there and everyone is to one degree or another because no one is perfect and there is no absolute truth or morality because culture differs so greatly, what is acceptable to others is not acceptable and repugnant even to others. I guess that makes me a sort of cultural relativist. It does not mean that I am opposed to things changing for the “better” or to stand and do nothing while people are discriminated or attacked based on gender/sexuality/culture or skin color though. In fact, it’s the opposite, I support the right for anyone to try to change things for the better but that has to come from within the group or culture not something forced upon them, that would a form of imperialism no matter the reason or “just” the cause is.

Ranting is about to end…

Back onto the original rant, there is a need for every studio to have some sort of money-making machine/franchise that nearly anything and everything is being considered to be made into a movie. And in that need is a desperate want to milk out every single option to make a movie. The Hobbit did not need to be made into a trilogy but there was just too much money to be had to do it. The Hunger Games do not need sequels or prequels, but there is too much money to be made to not do them.

HA, ranting continues but more on topic this time …

The Hobbit trilogy is okay, all the movies had a lot of thought and development put into them and are fine movies. However, it is a bad adaptation but decent movies. A good example to compare it to is the The Shining, a great movie but a pretty bad adaptation of the books (in Stephen King’s opinion on the of the worst of his works and that is saying a lot.) The Hobbit movies are entertaining and enjoyable, and a couple of them are pretty good (in my opinion 1 and 3.) However, as an adaptation it is pretty underwhelming. It probably would have been truly great as a single movie but it definitely made a lot more money as an okay trilogy Nothing in particular in terms of the story or characters or setting or dialogue made it particularly bad as an adaptation though, it just felt unnecessary to expand into a trilogy. As is the case, this is merely my opinion, your mileage may vary.

If you are curious about what I consider a “good adaptation” here a couple of movies I consider good adaptations:

  • Man on Fire
  • V for Vendetta
  • From Hell
  • Watchmen
  • The Godfather
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Mist
  • Sin City
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Horns

I’m gonna reserve judgement or opinion on the Harry Potter series until I finish up the series, which will probably be in late January.

RANT FINALLY ENDS…

Back on topic, I thoroughly enjoyed the fuck out of Battle of the Five Armies and consider easily my favorite of the 3. Over the next few days I will be watching the excellent special features, Peter Jackson really delivers on these extended editions, and I buy the blurays/dvds for them especially. The featurettes are longer and more detailed than the movies, both of them are around 4 hours and 50+minutes long, and I’m never disappointed watching them.

My absolute favorite part of the movie is the Dwarven arming marching up to the lonely mountain and the charge of the rams into the lines of Mirkwood Elves. Epic fantasy battles just press all the right buttons for me, I love watching the charge of the Rohirrim in Return of the King, and this battle is why I like the movie so much. The only weird part for me was the ending, the transition to the older Bilbo and the opening of the Fellowship of the Ring. It makes the “you haven’t aged a day” statement out-of-place because Bilbo in the hobbit was a lot younger looking. It’s more of nitpick really and doesn’t ruin anything for me, it just made it weird.

I prefer to watch movies on bluray at home now instead of theatres, I don’t know if that makes me anti-social or not, because I can sit and watch comfortably at my own leisure. It also has to do with me living in a near remote northern BC village with a shit local theatre that I’d have to drive 1 hour to see and the 1 hour to drive back from. Although, even if I did live in a city with multiple theatres, I’d still probably prefer to watch at home because of the hassle of traveling, picking available seats, and very expensive bags of popcorn and drinks.

So in summary, I like to rant a lot, you can freely disagree with me as to the content of my rants as well with no judgement from me, and The Battle of the Five Armies extended edition was worth waiting for. And over the weekend I will be watching the excellent special features. I will post on those after I watch them.

World of Warcraft – Rare Mounts.

So the last week I’ve been off and on doing mount runs on my various alts from Icecrown Citadel and Firelands. Over the last 2 days I seemed to have hit a lucky streak as I got Invincible’s reins and Pureblood Fire hawk. Both mounts are about a 1.5% chance drop from heroic only.  So in the last week I got these 2 mounts and Thori’dal, The Stars’ Fury, very lucky indeed.

invinciblesreins1

purebloodfirehawk

Harry Potter 1 to 3 audiobooks.

So I ended up getting 3 extra credits this month and I used them to pick up: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I ended up doing based on Stephen King’s interviews or articles King wrote on the Harry Potter series.

So far I’ve liked it and I found it interesting because I like to notice details or story lines that are cut to make a movie adaptations. So I was already interested going in. The quidditch parts quickly became less interesting, it seemed like more of a sideshow to the story and took a bit away from enjoyment of the pace and story development.

I definitely enjoyed the style of writing and the characters. The stories in all 3 were decent, which is all I care about in a book, and I enjoyed the flow and pace of the stories. The narration by Jim Dale was okay, not a stand out and not a disappointment, and Dale did a variety voices that had distinctness and was consistent throughout.

Of the 3 so far, I enjoyed The Prisoner of Azkaban the most, although I’ve read that series picks up in book 4 and then really gets better as it goes on. I’m looking forward to that. It’s similar to the Dresden Files, as the Dresden Files really picks up at book 3 and in that way I really want to listen to the Harry Potter series quickly. So with that said, I am going postpone picking up the 2 Witcher novels I had originally planned on getting (The Last Wish, and Sword of Destiny) to pick up: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

My enjoyment of the series so far is largely based on it being a pretty decent story. While 3 books is a good introduction to a writer, I have not yet formed a solid opinion so far on J.K. Rowling but I’m finding that I’m enjoying her style so far. I am not so sure that I’ll pick up her other works, beyond the rest of the Harry Potter series, like I have with other authors.

A note on Stephen King, despite how much stock or emphasis I place on his opinions or recommendations on books, I keep my own counsel still. King found the Hunger Games trilogy uninteresting while I liked it as well as finding it interesting and compelling despite the Young Adult Trope of a teenage romantic triangle. However, King did recommend World Gone By by Dennis Lehane which I thought was pretty good and liked it so much I picked up another book by Lehane that features the same character called Live by Night.

I also happened to pick up the complete Harry Potter series on Blu ray from amazon.ca for 49.99$. It seemed like a good deal and I did enjoy the movies.

Thori’dal, The Stars’ Fury

So after a couple of months (about 3) of doing Sunwell, I finally got the Legendary Bow Thori’dal, The Stars’ Fury. It’s pretty nice to see it again, I had it drop before but passed it to another hunter thinking I’d rarely play my hunter (around 4 years ago, according to my guild achievement list, it was September 4th 2011 during the Cataclysm expansion.) This is definitely a satisfying moment, as I’ve been farming a lot of older raids for mounts or doing legendary runs (so far I’ve done Shadowmourne and Fangs of the Father) and I have Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest and Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings to do. It’s given me something to do while waiting for Legion or something to do while not doing Battlegrounds.

Here’s a couple of screenshots.

Lostraukolegendarybow3Lostraukolegendarybow2    Lostraukolegendarybow4 Lostraukolegendarybow Lostraukolegendarybow6Lostraukolegendarybow5Lostraukolegendarybow1

Firestarter by Stephen King.

I just finished the audiobook, which was narrated very well by Dennis Boutsikaris, and like most King books I found it compelling and enjoyable. In particular, I liked King’s writing of the supposed expectations of privacy and civil rights that get denied to people over matters of “security” or keeping secrets. Every instance of this happening in the book is almost met with the saying “this is America, you can’t do this.” It’s one of the reasons I like the book so much, aside from being a sucker for a good story, is that aspect of human rights and privacy being trampled by the government and the outrage of people who have it done to them while the victims who have their rights/privacy either taken away or abused, their response is always one of consent despite loathing themselves for doing it and go along with it. It’s just an interesting thought that this was written and published in 1980, and we still have the unspoken consent to have our privacy and rights either bent or outright taken from us over security or a need to keep secrets now, 35 years later. Definite food for thought there.

This is also one of the rare stories with a female protagonist and a very well done as First Nations (or Native American, if you live the in the states) character who is the antagonist. I’m not one to bash an author who makes a minority a villain and roast them for not making it a hero or misunderstood villain, instead I found John Rainbird a great character who was written well. King’s deserves a lot of credit for that, Rainbird is complex character with great moments with Charlie that are very sweet, which makes his betrayal of Charlie epic and piercing. Most people nowadays would bash or send hateful online comments to writers/directors who dared to make a female or minority anything other than a fucking paragon of virtue that could be a role model for all future humans who should also have monuments built to honor them like the Gods of old for our descendants look upon and despair for they could never hope to live up to such expectations. Sorry, went on a rant there. Anyways, yeah a female protagonist with an interesting non white character who is also great and complex villain.

I’m also a sucker for story with nearly any female protagonist that gets some kind of power that separates and isolates them from the rest of the world, cough Buffy The Vampire Slayer cough, or a female character in a super hero setting like Black Widow and Jessica Jones, or a scifi like Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. So yeah on that level, I definitely enjoyed Firestarter.

I enjoy King’s works a lot and I find it difficult not to pick up all his works because I enjoy his style of writing and storytelling. I have a total of 12 of King’s works already: The Dark Tower 1-7, The Wind Through the Keyhole (which is technically Dark Tower 4.5), Salem’s Lot, The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis, and Firestarter. Add to that another couple in my list for future pick up. For the curious, the others I’m looking to pick up are: Mr. Mercedes, Finder’s Keepers, End of Watch, Carrie, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, Blackhouse, Under the Dome, and 11-22-63. There are also Dark Tower related books and short stories that could easily add 4-6 more books to that list. A list of books like that, 12 I own already with plans on at least 6 more for sure pick ups, means I enjoy his work a lot and will consider King’s opinions very heavily on other works. King’s praise of the Harry Potter books is one of the bigger reasons as I am planning to buy 3 extra audible credits  (which is roughly about 45$ CAD) this month just to start the series with the first 3 books in the series this month and using my 2 credits next month to get books 4 and 5 then finishing  the series in February. I could also just use my credits I get this month to pick up books 4 and 5 and then finish up in January. It would mean skipping out on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books (Sword of Destiny’ and the Last Wish), Richard K Morgan’s Market Forces, and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, these are the books I was planning on picking up for December and January.

Drifting off topic there with my audible plans but that expresses how much I enjoy Stephen King books and how much I value his opinion on other author’s works.