Thursday, December 29, 2016

Geeky Nerfherder 5th Anniversary & My 2016 Favourites

It's been 5 years since I first posted on this blog on this day back in 2011. 'The Geeky Nerfherder' continues to grow through social media too like Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter. So if you’re not already following, here are the links to my profiles on each of these sites:

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As always big thanks to everyone that drops by the blog and follows me through the various social networks. I hope that you continue to enjoy my posts of cool art and pop culture geekery.

And so, it's that time of year once again, where everybody lists all their favourites of the past year.

Movies:

I always enjoy watching a film on the big screen! Watched a few more movies at the local IMAX cinema this year, which I've really enjoyed, and gave the new 4DX cinema experience a go, which I'd say closely resembles being on a rollercoaster, depending on which film you see (I went to see 'Doctor Strange') as the motion controlled seats match the action on screen, along with added effects too! Went to the Royal Albert Hall in London to see 'Jurassic Park' with a live orchestra, which was amazing, and even got to see 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in a castle! So, here's a few of my favourite movies this year.

'The Little Prince', initially dropped from US cinemas by it's distributor but saved and picked up by Netflix, is superb. A retelling of the classic story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 'The Little Prince' features a mix of animation styles and an all star cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdam, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro and more and is directed by Mark Osbourne (Kung Fu Panda).



Another gorgeous animated feature from Laika, the studio that brought you 'Coraline', 'ParaNorman' and 'The Box Trolls', and it's their best one yet! 'Kubo And The Two Strings', is the story of Kubo, who has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen, and is accompanied by Monkey and Beetle on his quest to find his father's armour, subdue the Sisters, and defeat Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits.



A 'spiritual successor' to 'Cloverfield', '10 Cloverfield Lane' is a about a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, after a car crash, wakes up in an underground bunker with two men (John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr) who insist that an event has left the surface of Earth uninhabitable. A tense thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, with a very good soundtrack score from Bear McCreary, I enjoyed it.



Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of the original TV series, 'Star Trek Beyond' hit cinemas this year. I really enjoyed this, I'd say it's the best of the new Trek films so far. Lots of action, humour and topped off with a good soundtrack score from Michael Giacchino.



None for ages, but another year and another 'Star Wars' movie. This time it's a prequel and charts the events in the lead up to the very first 'Star Wars' movie, as described in its opening crawl, where the rebels win their first major battle against the Empire and acquire the plans to the Death Star. 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story', bridges the almost 40 years between the films seemlessly in my opinion. We're introduced to a new set of characters, as well as reintroduced to a handful of established ones too. Once again went to a midnight showing - mostly in an effort to beat any potential spoilers - and at the local IMAX cinema too. Really enjoyed both times, may go and see it again. A big step into a larger world, it was great to see more of the Star Wars universe and characters away from the saga storyline. And as a big Star Wars fan, I'm definitely looking forward to more 'A Star Wars Story' films if this one is anything to go by, and of course the next episode in the main series next year too.



Other movies I've enjoyed this year are 'Deadpool', 'The Jungle Book', 'The Legend Of Tarzan', 'The Magnificent Seven', 'Doctor Strange' and 'Arrival'.

Comics:
Not a fan of superhero comics, the favourite titles on my Pull List this year have mostly been from the Sci-Fi / Fantasy genres and a lot have come from Image Comics, with the top three for me this year . . .

'Monstress', from Image Comics, by Marjorie Liu (w), Sana Takeda (a).
The continuing story of Maika, as she travels with Kippa and Ren in search of answers to her past, as well as trying to keep the monster inside her under control and evading being hunted down and killed. With gorgeous art on every page and a story that keeps you turning those pages, this is my favourite current title.

'The Wicked + The Divine', from Image Comics, by Kieron Gillen (w), Jamie McKelvie (a), Matt Wilson (c).
Where gods, every ninety years, are reincarnated as the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But after two years, they die. A bit slow to catch up on this title, but so glad I did, as it's now a permanent fixture in my Pull List.

'Seven To Eternity', by Image Comics, by Rick Remender (w), Jerome Opena (a), Matt Hollingsworth (c).
Set in the fantasy world of Zhal, The God of Whispers rules spreading mistrust and fear. Adam Osidis, a dying knight from a disgraced house, must choose between joining a hopeless band of magic users in their desperate bid to free their world of the evil God, or accepting his promise to give Adam everything his heart desires. Only a few issues into the series, but the story and gorgeous art has pulled me in.

Honourable mentions to series that I've really enjoyed and have been on my pull list this year go to 'Saga', 'Descender', 'Paper Girls', 'Roche Limit', 'The Autumnlands', 'From Under Mountains', 'Usagi Yojimbo', 'Star Wars: Darth Vader'.

Art / Illustration:
This year I've been showcasing some of my favourite artists in my 'The Art Of . . .' series on the blog. Working through the alphabet, currently at the letter D, each weekend I post a selection of art from two artists, one on a Saturday and another on a Sunday, featuring work by poster artists, artists in the fields of contemporary art, conceptual art, sequential comic art and illustration, book cover artists and vintage artists, established artists and new up and coming artists. It's been a lot of fun researching the artists I've shown so far, and there's lots more to come!

I've also been featuring a random piece of art every day in my #ArtOfTheDay series on the blog too, which is also posted across the social networks. It could be anything from the realms of pop culture to fantasy art, book or comic covers, contemporary or concept art. Something a bit different every day.

For a glimpse of some of the gorgeous artwork on show from the supremely talented artists around the world, as well as this blog, of course, I'd also recommend following Beautiful.Bizarre, ImagineFX MagazineJuxtapoz Magazine, Supersonic ArtWideWalls and Muddy Colors are all worth checking out and highlight all that is good in the world of art.

Books:
I've read through quite a few books, comic trade paperbacks and audiobooks this year, smashing my GoodReads 2016 Reading Challenge target as well!

I've also caught up with a few books that I'd heard great things about but had not quite got round to picking up, such as 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline, the first two books in the 'Tarzan' series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 'Stories Of Your Life And Others' by Ted Chiang, '1984' by George Orwell, the first two books in the 'Stormlight Archives' by Brandon Sanderson, and the first few 'Valérian and Laureline' comics by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.  I've enjoyed every single one of them.

The new books I've enjoyed this year are, in no particular order, the 'Star Wars novels; 'Blood Line' by Claudia Gray, 'Aftermath: Life Debt' by Chuck Wendig, 'Ahsoka' by EK Johnston, 'Catalyst' by James Luceno and the 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' movie novelization by Alexander Freed, the second book in 'The Empress Game' trilogy by Rhonda Mason; 'Cloak Of  War', 'Arabella Of Mars' by David D Levine, 'Rebel Of The Sands' by Alwyn Hamilton, the next book in Brandon Sanderson's 'Mistborn' series; 'The Bands Of Mourning' and the sixth book in 'The Witcher' series; 'The Tower Of The Swallow' by Andrzej Sapkowski.

I've also been reading through the space opera short story anthology series 'Beyond The Stars' as well as quite a few of the original fiction short stories at Tor.com.

But my favourite for this year is 'All The Birds In The Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders. I really enjoyed this mix of fantasy and science fiction. A weird blend of genres but still satisfying as we follow the two main characters, Patricia Delfine (a witch) and Laurence Armstead (a scientist/engineer) beginning their friendship from school before meeting up again, off and on, later in life.

The blurb: 'a deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love and the apocalypse' sums it it perfectly. Well worth reading.

And if you enjoyed the book, check out the short story 'Clover', which could be classed as a companion story, although you don't need to have read the novel to enjoy this short story, but it helps. The short involves Berkeley, the cat Patricia finds at the beginning of 'All The Birds In The Sky', who is given to a couple as a gift.

Gaming:
Finally upgraded from PS3 to a PS4 at the beginning of the year, and so able to enjoy the very best of gaming. My favourite gaming genres are RPG and action adventure games. Cutting edge visuals are all well and good, and they are very good from what I've seen on the PS4, but it's the compelling characters and storytelling that I enjoy the most when I'm playing. Which means that there are only two games that come out on top for me this year . . .

'Uncharted 4: A Thief's End', by Naughty Dog.
I love this series! I picked up the 'Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection' as part of the bundle when I got my PS4, so was able to play through the trilogy again before playing this new installment.

With the trilogy still fresh in my memory, the fourth installment in the series is simply the best yet for me! We learn more of the origins of Nathan Drake, going even further back than the flashbacks in 'Uncharted 3', and a plot that involves reuniting with Nathan's brother, Sam, and the search for pirate treasure.

I loved this game, and have played through a few times now. I've even got to meet the three main stars - Nolan North (who plays Nathan Drake), Troy Baker (Sam Drake) and Emily Rose (Elena Fisher), at a Comic Con in London this year, with them signing my copy of the Art Of Uncharted 4 artbook! Very happy about that indeed!

'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt', by CD Projekt Red.
Yes, I know this was released in 2015, but they did release the DLC expansions as well as the Game Of The Year edition this year too, so technically counts ;)

For me, this is one of the best RPG gaming experiences I've had. I really love the books/audiobooks and so was awesome to see the characters and world come to life on the screen. The story, set after the books, was a delight to playthrough, and even when the main Wild Hunt storyline was completed, there's still a ton of side quests as well as the two DLC expansions - 'Hearts Of Stone' and 'Blood And Wine' (both big enough to be stand alone games themselves) - to get through as well.

The world of the Witcher 3 is large and expansive, and it's very easy to get side tracked with all the side quests and just wandering through the gorgeous countryside, but my only quibble is with some of the voicing of the characters, Dandelion in particular. His voice just didn't seem to quite fit the character and the game for me, I preferred the voice of the character from the audiobooks, read by the excellent Peter Kenny. Aside from that though, 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt' is an excellent game!

Soundtracks:
As well as enjoying the game, my favourite soundtrack from 2016 has been 'Uncharted 4: A Thief's End', composed by Henry Jackman. This wonderful soundtrack enhances an already excellent game! It's uplifting and adrenaline inducing when it has to be during the action sequences as well as more slower paced during the more emotional moments. It's also my favourite soundtrack from the video game series, sounding a lot more cinematic than the previous games. When played all on it's own outside of the game, it's still an emotionally charged soundtrack score, and one that I've repeat played many times. A great way to finish the Nathan Drake Uncharted series!

Other movie, TV and video game soundtracks scores I've enjoyed this year;
'10 Cloverfield Lane' composed by Bear McCreary,
'The Division' composed by Ola Strandh,
'The Little Prince' composed by Hans Zimmer & Richard Harvey,
'The Jungle Book' composed by John Debney,
'Star Trek Beyond' composed by Michael Giacchino,
'Kubo And The Two Strings' composed by Dario Marianelli,
'Stranger Things' composed by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein,
'Planet Earth II' composed by Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea & Jasha Klebe,
'Westworld' composed by Ramin Djawadi,
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' composed by Michael Giacchino,
'The Last Guardian' composed by Takeshi Furukawa.

So there you have it, a list of some of my favourites from 2016. Thanks again to everyone who drops by the blog, and follows me on social media, making 'The Geeky Nerfherder' a lot of fun to curate! Here's to 2017 and more of the same!

And to finish, here's a video I've put together of the various Geek Cons I've been to this year, including 'Star Wars Celebration' and 'Destination: Star Trek', meeting actors from some of my favourite movies, TV show and games plus artists and creators of my favourite comics too.