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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010.  Here now is the rest of the list, numbers 1-5!

5. 30 Rock: “Reaganing” (season 5, episode 5, aired on 10/21/10) — Jack boasts that he has reached a 24-hour state of perfection that he called “Reaganing,” in which he is unable to make any mistakes.  But his perfect game is challenged when he’s faced with helping Liz sort out her latest sexual hang-up.  The episode is packed with terrific moments: Kelsey Grammer helping Jenna and Kenneth scam a local bakery; Tracy’s incredible inability to deliver a single line necessary for a commercial; and the revelation of the origin of Liz’s sexual problem.  (Hint: it involves Tom Jones.)  Very funny stuff.

4. The Pacific: Part Ten (aired on 5/16/10) — I’m a big fan of the final chapters of The Return of the King that chronicle what happened after the victorious destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron.  I also love the voluminous appendices, that detail the final fates of all of the main characters.  Most stories choose to end at the moment of our heroes’ triumph, but I find something powerfully sad about exploring what happens in the days afterwards.  This might help to explain why I was so taken with the final episode of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s HBO mini-series The Pacific. This episode is set after the end of the war, and we see our characters — most notably Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie — return home and attempt, each in their own way, to rebuild their lives which were forever changed by their experiences in combat.  I found the whole hour to be devastating, particularly the moment when we see Sledge’s father standing quietly, helplessly, outside his son’s bedroom door as he listens to the wails of his son who lies within, unable to sleep because of the haunting effects of the conflict.  The series could have easily ended after Part Nine, but it’s the events of Part Ten that, to me, raise The Pacific to the level of greatness.

3. Parks and Recreation: “94 Meetings” (Season 2, episode 21, aired on 4/29/2010) — Yep, I’ve got a second episode of Parks and Recreation on my list.  Ron Effing Swanson is threatened with actually having to do some work when he discovers that April has scheduled all of the meetings that he’s put off all year-long for one single day.  The wonderfully rich ensemble of the show (which has been so beautifully fleshed out during the show’s second season, after a shaky start in the six-episode first season) gets to shine, when Ron solicits everyone’s help in … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part One!

All right!  So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).

Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD.  Just need to find the time!!)  These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!

OK, here we go:

10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble.  Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him.  Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child.  Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her.  Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged.  And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business.  It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.

9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson.  There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I posted the first part of my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!  Click that link to read numbers 15-6, now here we go with the final five (yes, I am a Battlestar Galactica fan):

5. Incognito: Bad Influences Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ sequel to their terrific series, Incognito, has only just begun but I’m already deeply hooked again on the story of former super-villain Zack Overkill.  At the end of the last series, Zack had thrown in with the S.O.S. (the agency that tries to hold the line against the super-villain crime gangs).  Now they’ve sent him back undercover into the criminal world, in an attempt to contact another S.O.S. undercover agent who has apparently gone rogue.  There’s no way this is going to end well.  Mr. Brubaker’s fusion of super-hero and crime stories is as engagingly clever as ever, and Mr. Phillips gritty, evocative art (aided by Val Staples’ gorgeous colors) makes each page a real work of art.  Phenomenal stuff.

4. Baltimore: The Plague Ships — Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden bring their vampire-hunter character, Baltimore, from the pages of their novel (Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire) into the comic-book world, and the result is a wonderfully creepy mini-series.  In France in 1916, Lord Baltimore hunts the vampire, Haigus, who destroyed his family.  But when he and the Gypsy young woman traveling with him find themselves shipwrecked, they discover a graveyard of German submarines and an even more terrible threat.  Ben Stenbeck’s illustration work and Dave Stewart’s colors work together beautifully to bring this dark, suspenseful tale to life.  It’s a compelling horror story that has really stuck with me since I finished reading the series.  I am very excited for the next Baltimore mini-series, coming this year!

3. S.H.I.E.L.D. This series took me completely by surprise.  I almost didn’t buy the first issue, but thank goodness that I did!  Jonathan Hickman’s story about the secret origins of the Marvel Universe — from Leonardo DaVinci’s encounter with a Celestial to Galileo’s fight with Galactus to the secret work that Anthony Stark and Nathaniel Richards (the parents of Tony Stark — Iron Man — and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four) did together, this series is stuffed to the gills with interweaving characters and story-lines that span centuries, and a heck of a lot of BIG ideas.  Mr. Hickman’s story is complex, inventive and unique, and the artwork by Dustin Weaver and Christina Strain is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Serenity: Float Out and The Shepherd’s Tale — Dark Horse Comics only released two short stories, this year, set in the universe of Joss Whedon’s … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010 — Part One!

I hope you all enjoyed my Top 10 Movies of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two) and my Top 10 DVDs of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two)!  Now on to my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!

Honorable Mentions: Hoo boy, did I read a lot of really fantastic comic books this past year.  In addition to the titles listed in my Top 15 list (I couldn’t even keep this list contained to a Top 10), I also really enjoyed: The Marvels Project, X-Factor, X-Factor Forever, New Avengers, Avengers Prime, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman and Robin, The Stand, Astro City, RASL, Ultimate Thor, Ultimate Mystery, Ultimate Doom, and the final issues of Ex Machina.  I’m also pleased beyond words that John Byrne’s Next Men has finally returned to life (even though I don’t think the first two issues of the relaunch have come anywhere close to the greatness of the original Next Men series).

15. Superman/Batman Annual #4OK, this isn’t a series, but an incredible single issue.  The Batman Beyond mini-series that DC published this year was great, but this one-shot annual was absolutely phenomenal.  Set some-time after the conclusion of the Bruce Timm-masterminded TV series Batman Beyond, this issue picks up story-threads left dangling by the show’s Justice League two-parter “The Call.”  An older Superman comes out of the fog of years of mind-control to attempt to pick up the ruins of his shattered life, and Batman (Terry McGinnis) must confront the man who took over Metropolis in Superman’s absence: Lex Luthor.  A great story by Paul Levitz with gorgeous art by Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson, this was a real winner.

14. Nemesis This profane and extraordinarily violent four-issue series from Mark Millar and Steve McNiven was gloriously outrageous fun.  The premise is simple: what if Batman, instead of being a hero, had used his incredible mind and enormous fortune to become the world’s most dangerous super-villain?  Fourteen-year-old me would have thought this was the greatest comic book ever created, and the older, balder version of me also thought it was a heck of a lot of fun.  (It would have been higher on this list if not for the last few pages of the final issue which, to me, didn’t make any sense.)  They’re not on this list, but I also enjoyed Mark Millar’s series Superior and Kick-Ass 2 (of which one issue has been published so far).

13. Star Trek: Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor John Byrne was the first comic book artist/writer who I ever … [continued]

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Yesterday I began listing my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010.  Here’s the rest of my list!

5. Batman: Under the Red HoodBruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series knocked me for a loop when I first saw it back in the ’90s, and I’ve been a huge fan of his many DC Universe animated projects in the years since.  The recent series of animated DVDs that he’s been masterminding have been a bit hit-or-miss, but this film (adapting a storyline from the Batman comics written by Judd Winick) is really tremendous.  The story has a GREAT hook: Batman’s life is uprooted when he discovers that the new crime-lord in Gotham City just might be his former partner, Robin.  What unfolds is a surprisingly dark, surprisingly violent tale.  Whenever Mr. Timm returns to Batman, I’m a happy camper, but this grim little film really grabbed me.  I think it’s a particularly great depiction of the Dark Knight Detective.  A superlative voice cast (including Bruce Greenwood, Neal Patrick Harris, Jensen Ackles, Jason Isaacs, and Futurama’s John Di Maggio) is just the icing on the cake.  (Click here for my original review.)

4. Family Guy: It’s a Trap! The folks at Family Guy conclude their trilogy of extended episodes parodying the three original Star Wars films with this warped version of Return of the Jedi. The animation is absolutely gorgeous (it’s shocking that I would write that about an episode of Family Guy, but believe me, it’s true.  These artists have painstakingly recreated shot after shot from Return of the Jedi. Their version of the Battle for the Second Death Star is astounding).  The jokes are very funny.  (I was particularly taken with their depiction of the speeder-bike chase sequence, but on tricycles.)  It’s Family Guy Star Wars.  What more could I ask for?  (Click here for my original review.)

3. Grindhouse (Blu-Ray) — I was very afraid that this would never see the light of day, but at last one can now own the original theatrical version of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double-feature, complete with all of the fake trailers.  I love the extended versions of the two films that were released on DVD a few years back, but I’ve been aching to be able to experience what I saw (and so loved) in theatres back in 2007.  Ignore the nay-sayers — this film is genius, and it is phenomenally entertaining viewing.  It’s not for everyone (there’s a lot of sex and violence), but damn do I think it’s a lot of fun.

2. Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure (Blu-Ray) Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite films.  I didn’t … [continued]

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The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 — Part One!

Earlier this week I posted my list of my Top 10 Movies of 2010!  (Click here for part one and here for part two.)  Here now is my list of my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010:

First, the DVDs that might have made this list had I had the time to watch them.  My to-watch DVD shelf has been getting a bit backed-up lately.  As a result, there are several DVDs and DVD sets that I am really excited about, but that I haven’t had a chance to watch.  These include: The Red Riding Trilogy, the new edition of The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Criterion Collection edition of Guillermo del Toro’s film Cronos, the Criterion Collection edition of The Thin Red Line, and Parks and Recreation Season 2 (which I watched when it aired but I’m eager to revisit!).  OK, now on to my list:

10. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Blu-Ray) — This was my favorite film of 2010, and the Blu-Ray release rocked pretty hard as well.  First of all, it’s an absolutely GORGEOUS presentation of the film.  Second, the DVD is totally awash in incredible special features.  I’m a nut for DVD special features, but this disc tested even my endurance (in the best possible way).  There’s a phenomenal, in-depth making-of documentary, but there are also a ton of deleted and extended scenes, bloopers, featurettes spotlighting the film’s music, visual effects, casting, fight-training, pre-production, and so-much more.  It’s a magnificent presentation of a magnificent film.  (Click here for my original review of the film.)

9. Clerks (Blu-Ray) — This is a great film and it looks great on Blu-Ray, but the reason it’s on this list is because this disc includes the 2004 documentary film Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party.  I’ve been reading about this documentary for years, but it’s never been released on any home-video format, until now.  It’s a funny and fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at the making of Kevin Smith’s film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  Now, you might be asking yourself, what is a documentary about Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back doing on the Blu-Ray of Clerks? Well, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, which is why this disc is in the bottom half of my top ten list, rather than the top half.

8. The Pacific (Blu-Ray) — This was a gift from my brother and his wife, and what a gift!  I consider Band of Brothers to be one of the finest television series ever created, so obviously I was eagerly anticipating Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s take on the war in the Pacific.  In many ways, … [continued]

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The Top 10 Movies of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of my Top 10 Movies from 2010.  Here now are numbers 5-1!

5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — This documentary totally took me by surprise and completely changed the way I look at Joan Rivers.  As the cameras follow Ms. Rivers for a year of her life, we see the struggles of this aging comedienne who wants, above all else, to keep working, working, working.  The film gives one ample opportunities to analyze just why Ms. Rivers is so intent on remaining in the public eye, whether that be by doing stand-up in clubs, hawking merchandise on the Home Shopping Network, or appearing on Celebrity Apprentice. But whatever one’s conclusions, positive or negative, I found it impossible not to be astounded by this woman’s endurance and stamina.  The film is well-crafted, and presents what I felt was an extraordinarily well-rounded picture of this iconic and polarizing figure.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Toy Story 3 — One of these days the folks at Pixar are going to make a bad movie (I’m afraid it might be Cars 2, but we’ll see…) but for now I can only relish in their unparalleled recent win-streak of amazing films: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and now Toy Story 3. This movie is simply deliriously entertaining.  It’s incredibly funny and also extraordinarily poignant.  While the ending certainly isn’t tragic, I nevertheless found it to be devastatingly sad.  It’s a wonderfully emotional climax to the story of Woody, Buzz and the gang, and pretty much every note is exactly perfect.  The voice cast is stupendous, and the animation is absolutely beautiful (as are the 3-D effects).  Pixar, my hat is off to you.  (Click here for my full review.)

3. Black Swan — I’ve been an admirer of Darren Aronofsky’s work for a while now, but this film made me a fan for life.  I couldn’t believe I’d ever go see a film about wrestling, let alone love a film about wrestling as much as I did Mr. Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler (click here for my review). And I DOUBLY wouldn’t have believed I’d ever go see a film about ballet dancers, let alone have been as head-over-heels in love with one as I am with Black Swan. The film is magnificent.  Natalie Portman dazzles in the lead role of Nina Sayers, the young dancer cast in the lead role of Swan Lake, who just might be losing her mind as she struggles to take her dancing to the next level.  The film is viscerally intense, with an escalating what-is-going-to-happen-NEXT mania that builds to a … [continued]

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The Top 10 Movies of 2010 — Part One!

2010 was not a great year for new movies, in my opinion.  For the first ten months of the year, I saw far fewer movies in the theatre than I had in years past.  Part of that was due to how busy my life has gotten these days, but it was also because there just weren’t that many movies that came out that really interested me!  Things started to turn for the better towards the end of the year.  A number of very interesting films were released in the end-of-the-year Oscar crunch, and as those of you who’ve been following along with my “Catching Up On 2010” series of articles know, I also made an enormous effort in December & January to track down on DVD many of the smaller films that I hadn’t been able to see in theatres earlier in the year (films like Cyrus, The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone, etc.)

So in the last two months I’ve added quite a few films to the list of “good 2010 films” that I keep in my notebook.  But what’s fascinating to me, as I looked through that list in preparation for creating this Top 10 list, is that while there did wind up being quite a few 2010 films that I found to be really GOOD, there weren’t so many that I felt were truly GREAT.  Looking back at my Top 10 Movies from 2009 list, I think that every single one of the ten films I chose is really spectacular.  I own all 10 films on DVD or blu-ray.  But as I considered all of the new movies I saw in 2010, there aren’t that many that I can see myself buying on disc.  (And since I buy a LOT of movies on disc, this is a telling statement about my feelings regarding the overall quality of the films I saw this year.)

But enough negativity.  Though it was a harder list to assemble than it was last year, assemble it I have.  The following ten films are the ones that I found to be truly superlative from 2010.  It’s an eclectic mix, but I stand by my choices.  If there are films on this list that you never saw, I strongly encourage you to check them out!

Before we begin, I like to make note of the 2010 films that I WANTED to see but didn’t.  I think I see a lot more movies than your average Joe, but despite that, there are always films that I missed for whatever reason.  This year these include: Tiny Furniture, Animal Kingdom, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Company Men, The Tempest, The Myth of the American [continued]