Top 5 Friday:  Non Videogame Experiences Of 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you my top 5 games for 2014 but every once in a while I like to take step away from the constant barrage of video game related stuff that I do and engage in other types of entertainment.  Whether it’s a book, movie, TV show, or album, I enjoy all sorts of things, so here are my top 5 non-gaming entertainment experiences from 2014.

  1. Outliers

I know that Outliers is not a new book, and I know that the Malcolm Gladwell pop-sociology style of non-fiction isn’t one that is typically thought of terribly highly.  Outliers fits perfectly into that TED style of thinking that encourages big ideas with little action.  I get all of that, and yet, I dare you to pick up Outliers and not be engaged by it’s content.  I don’t read as much as I should, and I certainly don’t read much non-fiction, but this book truly hooked me from start to finish.  Part self-help, part sociology text book, it’s a fascinating glimpse into some of the underlying reasons why the world is how it is.

  1. Interstellar

Interstellar is not a perfect film.  It might even be said that Christopher Nolan has been taking steps back in both this film and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of character development.  Still, Interstellar is the most stunning portrayal of space travel I’ve seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey (a film I personally have an odd, love / hate relationship with).  Thirty or forty years from now, when the next Carl Sagan or Neil Degrasse Tyson is hosting another remake of Cosmos, they’ll tell you that it was Interstellar that made them want to be an astronomer.  The flat characters cannot take away from the spectacle of the film, it’s stunning soundtrack, and it’s amazing portrayal of the theory of relativity.  While Nolan’s films aren’t perfect they are so ambitious and so smart that it’s impossible not have immense respect for what they accomplish.

  1. Gone Girl

For a very long time I considered Fight Club to by my favorite movie of all time, so I make a point to try and see every new David Fincher Film.  The story of Gone Girl, while mundane on the surface, seemed filled with all kinds of nooks and crannies of mystery.  In addition, David Fincher almost exclusively works dark so I figured I wasn’t getting film that played out like a rom-com.

It’s hard to say much about Gone Girl without giving away the part where they reveal that Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are actually the same person and that Gwyneth Paltrow’s head is in a box somewhere.  Suffice it to say, a lot happens in this movie and it’s all very, very icky.  Watch this movie and then go take a shower to wash off the yuck.

  1. Whiplash

Simply put, Whiplash is the best film I’ve seen this year, it might be the best film I’ve seen in a lot longer than that.  If you’re not aware of Whiplash, it’s a film about a young jazz drummer, his mentor, and their abusive relationship.  Not exactly a riveting premise to most, I’m sure, but the cinematography, the music, and the lights out performances make it an unexpectedly intense rollercoaster.  The film’s final scene is the perfect crescendo to it’s build up, and one of the most satisfying endings I’ve seen in quite some time.

  1. True Detective

    Alright, alright, alright.

I’ve extolled the virtues of True Detective before, and this will most likely be the final time I’ll do that (at least with season 1).  Where films like Whiplash and Gone Girl had emotional intensity and a dark, mysterious plot, True Detective has both.  It also has the best performance I’ve seen on a TV show since Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White.  Matthew McConaughey is so good on True Detective that I could watch the show on repeat for the rest of my life just to hear his diatribes.

It’s really hard for me to find a single bad thing to say about True Detective.  The acting is superb, the story is intricately woven together in a way that feels far more authentic than any of the traditional case-of-the-week type of fare that you typically get on network television.  The cinematography is fantastic, especially this 6 minute tracking shot.  If you haven’t watched True Detective you’re missing something really special.  I can only hope that season two is able to meet the incredibly high standards of the first.

Some Runner’s Up.

In a year when games felt lackluster, it was an embarrassment of riches in other ways, which made it very difficult to come up with a list of just five things that I truly loved this year.  That said, here are some others that didn’t quite make the cut but I felt were worth a mention.

Hannibal, Season 2:  If you like drama, violence, and mystery then Hannibal needs to be on your watch list.  Mads Mikkelson’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter is almost better than Anthony Hopkins’.

Coherence:  A hard sci-fi film that does so much with very little.  If you can get over seeing Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer all grown up and graying then check this movie out.

The Leftovers:  Dark, brooding, and really melancholy, some find The Leftovers tough to watch.  I sympathize with that perspective, and the show definitely drags for the first couple of episodes.  If you can stick with it though, The Leftovers goes in some really interesting directions.



Miscellaneous Monday: What’s Your DESTIN(Y)ation?

Today I thought I’d change things up a bit.  We here at the Chi-Scroller have lots of thoughts about all things gaming, and beyond.  Our interests go far beyond just our never ending PC vs. console debate.  So starting today (and possibly) each week, we’ll be sharing whatever random tidbits are on our minds.  So, here are some things I’ve been dying to mention on the blog that haven’t made in yet.

Diablo III is a really good game.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game that was so iffy at launch grow into such a beautiful flower.  With the removal of the auction house, the addition of rifts, bounties, and paragon levels, and now with the new seasons mode, it’s definitely a game worth checking out again.

As much as I claim to love Dark Souls, I have to admit that I’m just a tad disappointed after watching the gameplay trailer for Bloodborne.  I mean, ok, it looks awesome.  But it also looks and sounds an awful lot like a Dark Souls game.  That’s fine I suppose, but isn’t it time that From Software branched out just a little bit?  Don’t get me wrong here, I’m still going to play it (if I get a PS4 or it comes to PC), but I just really hope that it’s bigger step in a new direction than DSII was to DSI.

I was having a conversation with my wife the other day wherein I mentioned that I felt like movies were becoming very boring and that TV shows were becoming a far better form of entertainment.  There are so many great shows on, or getting ready to debut, that I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  We’re both big sci-fi / fantasy fans, so stuff like The Strain, The Leftovers, and Doctor Who are all right up our alley.  Plus there is Gotham and Constantine to look forward to, not to mention Grimm and Sleepy Hollow.  If that stuff isn’t up your alley, True Detective is incredible, Elementary is a hoot, and Netflix keeps the hits pumping with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.  With all this fantastic TV, I really don’t miss movies at all.

We are officially eight days away from the release of Destiny, the game that seems destined (OH YEAH!!!) to be the talk of 2014.  I won’t be picking up the game on day one, but I am extremely interested to watch the zeitgeist.  I’ve been paying attention to details of that game only from afar, so there’s still a lot I don’t understand about how the game actually plays.  I’ve heard that it’s kind of Borderlands meets World of Warcraft meets Halo.  We’ll have to see though, but with Watch Dogs, another of 2014’s supposed big hitters feeling not so much like a home run, I’m really curious to see if Destiny fulfills it’s…wait for it…destiny.

It’s only September but I can’t help but be starting to feel hyped to cover this year’s game of the year race.  Last year our blog was very new when all of that happened, so we didn’t say too much about it.  This year though, I fully plan on weighing in myself, as I’m sure Chris does as well.  So far my frontrunner for game of the year though…Threes.  Ok, probably not, but still.  That game is fantastic.