Another year gone, another year about to begin (thanks to a certain Mayan prophecy that did not come to fruition). As 2012 comes to an end and only two days away, this Fresno Pop Culture Examiner thought it would be interesting to look back at all of the articles and reviews I had written this year and do a brief recap on some of them.
There were plenty of big news stories that happened this year–Barack Obama’s reelection, Hurricane Sandy, etc–but while I didn’t cover most of those stories, there were some that I did feel fit into my chosen subject of popular culture and captured this examiner’s interest. The first of these, naturally for someone of my particular interest, were the nominees and winners of this year’s Academy Awards, which saw The Artist win for Best Picture of the Years. This examiner looks forward to learning whoever gets honored at this year’s awards.
This year’s Super Bowl was also, obviously, highly anticipated, and this examiner’s personal favorite part of game day is getting to see some of the earliest TV spots for many of the year’s hottest upcoming movies, which I provided a summary of early this year.
There was one rather curious incident I recall when Kim Kardashian threatened to sue someone who dumped a flour bomb at her head. As far as I know, nothing ever came of this story.
Comic-Con 2012 was also full of big announcements this year, of which this examiner pointed out his favorites.
One story that was of particular concern for me and many other people was the lengthy dispute between DirecTV and Viacom, which resulted in all Viacom channels being removed from DirecTV’s programming lineup for a full ten days. Once an agreement was finally reached, I very happily reported on it.
This year’s Olympic Games were awesome to behold, most especially Michael Phelps’ final Olympic race, which saw him cements his legacy as the greatest Olympian of all time with an unprecedented total number of 18 gold and 22 overall medals. By the end of this year’s games, the United States team left London with 104 medals in total, 46 of which were gold.
One story that many of us football fans would sooner like to forget about was the hiring of replacement referees during the 2012 strike, which led to a series of controversial calls, all culminating the infamously controversial final ruling of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks game on September 24, 2012. I reported on the NFL’s official press statement defending the decision made by the replacement refs, much to the disappointment of many fans. Thankfully, an agreement was finally made between the regular refs and the league soon after this incident.
In local news, The Big Fresno Fair returned for yet another year of great fun and great entertainment, with me listing off this year’s concert series.
In other sports news, the San Francisco Giants won this year’s World Series when, at the bottom of the 10th, the final score was 4-3 in the Giants favor, ending with a final strikeout of Lions’ Miguel Cabrera. Sadly, reception of this victory were underplayed the following morning because of the horrific aftermath left on the west coast by Hurricane Sandy.
One of the biggest shocks that I received this year was the announcement that George Lucas had signed away his company, Lucasfilm, Ltd., the the Walt Disney Company and that soon we would be seeing the production of a brand new Star Wars trilogy. Since this news broke we have been bombarded with endless discussion, fan speculation and rumors about the buyout and where the franchise will go in the future, particularly over who will be hired to direct the upcoming Episode VII. Even now, nearly all rumors have been shot down and we are still very eagerly awaiting confirmation of Disney’s plans, but what is clear is that Star Wars fans, including myself, can expect some very exciting, and surprising, things to come in the near future.
On a very light note, Buckingham Palace also confirmed late this year that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is expecting her first child with her husband, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. The news was met with instant excitement all over the world and I, as well as countless others, continue to wish the happy couple all the best in the future.
As usual for this examiner, there were several exciting trailers for hot upcoming films released this year that were worth reporting about, such as the trailers for The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness and Man of Steel.
But, as is the case every year, this examiner also finds himself reporting on the tragic passing on some of our biggest celebrities. Some of those we have lost this year include Dick Clark, Donna Summer, Andy Griffith, Sage Stallone, Sherman Hemsley, Neil Armstrong, Michael Clarke Duncan and Larry Hagman. There were also numerous other deaths that this examiner ended up not reporting on, perhaps most famously the late Whitney Houston, but he would like to take this opportunity to once again send his condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of all those we have lost this year…they all will be dearly missed and lovingly remembered.
As anyone who has read my work knows, one of my favorite things to write are movie reviews, and this years gave me plenty of great, and some not so great, films to voice my mind about. My first film review of the year was Red Tails, and while I and the audience I saw it with enjoyed it, I could understand the backlash that arose upon its release.
Then came Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the first superhero film of the year (a particular favorite genre of mine), which even though I did appreciate the more bad ass approach to the character and saw it as something little boys might like, I still had to agree that it was about as dumb as superhero films can get.
To celeb rate this year’s 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, I also reviewed the released of Titanic 3-D. I was pleased at how well the film has held up fifteen years later and despite my usual complaints that the 3-D did not do nearly enough, I still rated it highly and encouraged people to go see it again.
The next superhero film to come out, The Avengers, was one of my most hotly anticipated superhero films ever and one of the most unbridled fun experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater. It was admittedly not a terribly deep film, but is this case that was fine with me and, clearly, did not bother any other moviegoers either as the numerous records the film has broken will attest. The film even made a brief return to theaters for the Labor Day weekend, just before it made it’s successful Blu-ray and DVD release.
Sadly, the next big film I reviewed, Battleship, was hands down the worst film I’ve seen all year, and the only one I gave a one star rating. Even from a toy movie perspective there just wasn’t anything wholly inspired in this thing and nearly everything about it rubbed me the wrong way.
One of the most perplexing experiences I’ve had at the movies this year was with Men in Black 3. I did not think it was a bad film, fully acknowledging it as an improvement over Men in Black II, but at the same time is seemed to be the least funny entry in the trilogy.
Prometheus, the apparent prequel to the alien franchise and Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction, was a film I might have over graded in hindsight, but it was still well-made, had terrific production design, and one particularly graphic scene that succeeded in disturbing me more than it may have anybody else.
Next was The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of one of my favorite superheroes of all time. I was of two minds on this film because it went against several of my preconceived notions of what the Spider-Man character should be and it took me two viewings before I could come to what I felt was a fair opinion. While I do still disagree with a few of the creative decisions, I have since learned to accept the film for what it is and it does get better over subsequent viewings. I look forward to the sequels.
And then came perhaps the most anticipated film of the summer, The Dark Knight Rises. As the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, I thought that the film was epic and provided an great conclusion to the best superhero film trilogy ever made, yet at the same time I personally enjoy the previous two installments more, but that is all just personal taste.
There was one more comic book film that came out this year, Dredd 3D, which was a splatterfest of entertainment that was oddly beautiful in its unabashed gore, I was surprised at how high I rated it once coupled with the 3D.
Just in time for the Halloween season came Frankenweenie, an animated remake of Tim Burton’s first live action short film of the same name which, appropriately, took Burton back to his roots and ended up being one of his best films in years, even if I did admit that it did think the story suffered from some logic problems.
Wreck-it-Ralph was a delightful love letter to fans of classic video games with its numerous cameos by classic characters, but also provided a heartwarming story that families could invest themselves in, I highly recommend it as something kids and parents can see together.
There was also the highly successful release of the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, which was a welcome addition to the franchise that both celebrates the 50th anniversary of the franchise and satisfyingly sets the character on a familiar path for the future.
The last theatrical film this examiner reviewed this year was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I could not be more excited to see this come out and, despite controversy over some excessive padding to turn into another trilogy and the higher frame rate, which unlike most critics I chose to put minimal focus on in my review, I loved the film and highly recommended it, even despite personally liking the earlier trilogy better, but again that’s just personal opinion.
Of coarse, there was one film that this examiner was not able to review because it ended not being released this year at all. G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the sequel to the 2009 film G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra, both films based on the popular Hasbro toy line, was pushed back to a 2013 release date for what was initially reported to be a last minute conversion to 3-D. Both fans and industry insiders were gobsmacked by the decision to pull the film so close to it’s original release for the summer of this year and felt that the 3-D conversion was not a good enough excuse to make such a bizarre marketing decision. Our doubts turned out to be justified when it was revealed a week later that in addition to the 3-D conversion, the real reasons for the film’s delayed release were also due to the studio’s discomfort with having to compete with The Amazing Spider-Man and to shoot new scenes featuring Channing Tatum’s character Duke, after poor audience feedback regarding his death early in the film. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is currently scheduled for release on March 29, 2013.
In addition to all of my theatrical film reviews, I also gave my opinion of three direct-to-DVD releases from the DC Universe Animated Original Movie franchise. Justice League: Doom was not the best film in the line and I can see fans of the original comic book arc it was based on being disappointed in it, but it was still well put together, provided a lot of action, and was great to see regardless of its faults given that it was the last film written by the late Dwayne McDuffie. Superman vs. The Elite was a film I was not expecting a whole lot out of, mainly because of the awkward animation style, but I was impressed by the brutality of the action, the level of adult content, and the strong (if heavy-handed) moral debate. Most exciting of all was the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, the first of a two-part animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel. The film proved to be a very faithful interpretation of the first two chapters of the story that got this examiner even more excited to see the second part, which by the way is due for release in late January 2013.
I also provided reviews for the pilot episodes of two new animated show for Nickelodeon. The Legend of Korra, the sequel to one of this examiner’s favorite shows of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender, had an excellent premiere that led to a fantastic full season of 12 episodes with several more seasons to come later. I love the show as I do it’s predecessor…if only Nickelodeon would announce when the DVDs are coming out. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the third animated series to bear the name, offered a very different look to the iconic franchise while going back to the humor of the original cartoon series, plus a touch of the sophistication of other incarnations. I enjoy the show as a old school TMNT fan, though just a little bit more focus on the more mature side of the Turtle’s universe might have been nice.
Oh, in speaking of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I also wrote reviews of all three parts of Dark Horse Graphic novel series The Promise, written to fill in the gap between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. The books, I felt, were all well-written pieces of children’s entertainment that would appeal to fans of the series and I highly recommended them. All three books are currently available and will be collected in a single volume next year.
Lastly, in what was truly a first for me, this examiner review the Good Company Player’s presentation of Beehive at Roger Rocka’s Dnner Theater. The show was a lot of fun and nostalgic for anyone who grew up in the 1960s, just don’t expect anything resembling a plot. It was a great way to spend an afternoon’s worth of entertainment, and the food wasn’t bad either. Those interested in seeing the Good Company Players in action might also like to read about their planned theater season for 2013.
Wow, talk about a big year for this Fresno Pop Culture Examiner. Frankly, I am impressed that I found this much to write about over the course of 2012. But at the same time, I am excited to see what else will inspire my column in 2013. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds. I look forward to continuing to writing more articles and reviews for next year, and I hope many of you will choose to read them.
Until then…Happy New Year!