2012 Entertainment Year in Review

I haven’t blogged much this year, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to share my Top picks for 2012. Instead of sharing a few posts, I’ve combined all into one action-packed review post <images coming>. Share your thoughts!

Top Movie: The Hunger Games

hungergames-1I’ll probably receive some criticism for this one, but I’d read the trilogy in anticipation of the movie,  at the

beginning of the year, and since the story was so fresh in my mind, I was excited for this one to come out. Thankfully, compared to the book, this one did not disappoint. Of course there were some parts that were taken out that I believe should have been left in, but overall it was exciting, well acted/written and visually appealing. A must see if you haven’t already (but read the books first).

Runners up: Comedies come close to taking the top title this year with 21 Jump Street and Ted. If you haven’t seen these, prepare to be in pain from laughing as they are ridiculously hilarious.

Top Book: The Glass Castle

The Glass CastleLike I note every year, my top books aren’t necessarily books that came out this year. As I wrote in my review, I didn’t have any expectations when I started reading this one, but it eventually pulled me in and became a book I didn’t want to put down. Jeannette Walls has a great writing style and I’m excited to read more from her in the future.

Runners up: This hasn’t been a great year for picking good books, and the bulk of my favourites happened at the start of the year. My #2 book was The Hunger Games Trilogy and ROOM.

Top Album: The Killers – Battleborn

Killers- BattlebornThis album felt like it was a long-time coming – four years in fact, since Day & Age was released. From the moment I started listening to it, I couldn’t stop. As a group, these guys are consistent and put out music they know their fans will love. It’s a solid album that I’ll probably be listening to years down the road.

Runners up: This was a tough year as the two runners up – Metric – Synthetica and Dragonette – Bodyparts – could have easily taken the #1 spot.

Save your time and avoid 30 Minutes or Less

30 Minutes or Less

You’d think these three starring in a movie made by the same folks who brought us Zombieland would mean you’re getting a funny movie, right? Wrong.

30 Minutes or Less stars Jesse Eisenberg as Nick, a pizza delivery guy with little to no ambitions in life. Parallel to his story, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson‘s characters (Dwayne and Travis) who have to pay off a hit man to kill Dwayne’s father – this is where Nick comes into play. Dwayne and Travis lure Nick to a car impound lot and get eventually strap him with a bomb vest. Nick, with the reluctant help of Aziz Ansari‘s character, Chet, has to rob a bank and get Dwayne and Travis the money or else he’d be blown up.

There’s a lot I could complain about but I’ll just stick to the actors who, to me, mailed it in. McBride, while normally funny and sometimes hilarious, relies way too much on very base humor and to be honest the jokes get borderline if not overtly racist at times. His best friend, played by Swardson was probably the highlight of the movie, but only due to lack of options. Eisenberg’s stock had been rising with me with Zombieland and The Social Network, but it plummets back to Earth with his non-emotional dialogue and seeming lack of effort. Finally, Ansari, who I normally find really funny at times, was flat and there was no way I could see him and Eisenberg as friends in real life.

Like I said in the title, save yourself the time and avoid 30 Minutes or Less. I give it a 1/5.

The Given Day offers a glimpse into America’s past

the given dayI’ve said it in my reviews of Boston-based movies like The Fighter or The Town, but there’s something about stories set in that city that draw me in – that’s what happened with The Given Day by Dennis Lehane.

When I saw this one the first thing that caught my eye was the time period – post-World War One America (mostly Boston). I thought I’d give it a try because I haven’t read too many books from that era and I’ve enjoyed Lehane’s writing (Mystic River is one of my favourite books).

The novel follows the two storylines. The first is that of Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer. He’s caught in a battle to follow his father, Captain Thomas Coughlin’s wishes and rise through the ranks with his guidance and sway on the force, or be his own man and join the less popular, but more righteous fight to unionize the force (BPD strike, 1919)

The second storyline follows Luther Lawrence, an African American man who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. After getting a chance to start a new life with his pregnant girlfriend in Tulsa, Oklahoma he gets caught up in the wrong crowd. Eventually Luther has to escape, by himself, to Boston where he finds work with the NAACP and Danny’s father, Thomas and on a mission to turn his life around.

In Danny’s story, I enjoyed the insight into how the Police operated as individual departments, and how officers were treated. In 1919, officers were expected to provide protection without question while going underpaid, living in dilapidated rooming houses and working with very little time off, among other issues. The powers that be justified it by saying they were public servants and should just accept it. It’s so astonishing to see how far as a society we’ve come. Unions now hold all the power in cases like the Police force, and the public servants are far better off than many private citizens.

Luther was a character I kept rooting for. No matter how much he wanted to succeed, some innate negative force just kept pulling him back. As soon as he thought he’d escaped his problems in Tulsa and was doing the right thing in Boston, Eddie McKenna, a dirty cop and friend of the Coughlin family decided to dig into Luther’s past. Over time, Luther became stronger, and through his relationship with Danny he developed the strength necessary to overcome – though it wasn’t by taking the high ground, necessarily.

My favourite part however, was a side story featuring baseball great, Babe Ruth. Throughout the book, we’re given a fictional glimpse into what his life may have been like during his time with the Red Sox. At the beginning, however, he comes upon Luther playing a ball game with some African American players. Ruth, along with other major leaguers having broken down in Ohio on their train ride to Boston, play a pickup game that leaves the two men with sour tastes in their mouths, and Ruth with lasting memories of Luther.

The Given Day is a lot to take in, in terms of storylines, but it’s such an appealing read. Lehane’s writing is full of imagery and the words jump off the page and take you back in time. At 733 pages, it’s a bit of a time consuming read, but I enjoyed every second of it. The Given Day gets a 4/5.

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