Sep 272014
 
HFS

“…if not now, then when?”, asked Emma Watson, in a speech she gave at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City last Saturday. Surely, the quote is one that many of us have heard in our lives, one that is meant to foster courage in the face of fear and uncertainty, to prompt a feeling of personal responsibility when presented with an imposing task. Watson, the UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, introduced the quote near the end of her speech, when she admitted that she had been quite nervous prior to her speech.

And why shouldn’t she be nervous? As a graduate of an International Relations program, the prospect of giving a speech at the UN is simultaneously exciting and incredibly intimidating one. But, in such a situation, my nervousness would stem only from the pressure I placed on myself, whereas Watson was likely nervous for additional, more serious reasons. She was introducing a UN campaign called HeForShe - “A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality,” and if you have already read Mystie’s and/or Cassi’s posts on TLo42, or, really, if you have been following the news at all for the past few weeks, then you know that it is a frightening time for women. Hackers recently stole and released personal, nude photos of several prominent female celebrities; Anita Sarkeesian was forced from her home after receiving death threats for, well, doing nothing wrong at all (I refuse to craft a sentence that even begins to describe a “rationale” for these threats); several of Sarkeesian’s supporters have been similarly targeted. And, of course, this does not even include the sexual abuse and discrimination women continue to experience on a daily basis. Plain and simple, women are, at the very least, not afforded the same opportunities as men anywhere in the world. At worst, they are explicitly denied basic human rights. Sadly, as Watson noted in her speech, “No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality.” Indeed, Watson’s deeds did not go unpunished. She, too, was threatened with a leak of personal nude photos (and, no, the fact that the stunt may have been fake does not diminish the meaning of the underlying threat).

This reality is why another quote Emma Watson used in her speech is so important to me: “Statesman Edmund Burke said all that is need for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.” All I have to do to allow the denial of human rights to women to continue is to do nothing. Combined with her questions of “If not me, then who?” and “If not now, then when?”, the quote has provided an incredibly strong motivator for myself and men around the world to take this opportunity to speak out, stand up, and offer our support in the fight to secure an equal future for men and women alike.

There can no longer be any question as to who this issue affects or involves, either. Watson extended what she called a formal invitation to men to participate in the conversation, explaining that “men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.” And while I’m not personally inclined to complain about the male sex lacking in equality in the face of recent events, I’d be flat-out lying if I said that I hadn’t taken notice of the cultural norms affecting men, as well: we are supposed to be strong – even aggressive – and keep our emotions in check, to mention only a small subset of the cultural pressures men face. And as Watson so rightfully said, this has an immediate consequence of shaping the norms that affect women.

In the past, I struggled with identifying the best way to get involved and show my support for women’s rights, other than to continually try to participate in conversations that make me consider the topic on a regular basis; thanks to my wife and the wonderful friends we have that make up TLo42, these conversations usually crop up often enough to meet that requirement. But I recently realized that the current climate in gaming and the world in general, as caustic as it may be, demands only the simplest action as a first step – and I’ll leave it to Slate writer Phil Plait to put it in words (emphasis mine):

This isn’t about [loathsome knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights Advocates and their ilk]. It’s about women, and men supporting them. It’s about all of us. And doing this isn’t white-knighting, it isn’t mansplaining, and it isn’t weak, or unmanly. It is, quite simply, doing what’s right and standing up for others.

I have no claim to solutions for these problems; I cannot hope to know how to stop the hatred and violence and oppression and othering of women on the Internet and in the world.

But I know how to stand up for my friends. I know how to write, and how to make myself heard. And I can hope that other men will do this as well, because while I don’t know the whole solution, I know a part of it, a significant part of it, is just showing that we are listening, that we care, and we want to help.

And that’s why I stand with Emma Watson.

I, too, intend to do what’s right. I, too, am going to stand up for others. I, too, stand with Emma Watson. And Anita Sarkeesian. And women everywhere. And I stand with the 148, 137 other men who have already visited heforshe.org (at the time of my commitment) and resolved to support them. That’s one of the most beautiful things about HeForShe: it’s so simple. So, my fellow men and boys, make yourself heard, be counted as a HeForShe, as I have:

HeForShe

 

The fight will go on, probably, sadly, for years to come. But this is where we make our initial stand. Click the picture above to head over to heforshe.org. Because, if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Sep 262014
 

When news first broke of the massive amounts of celebrity nude photos leaked, a friend made an interesting point to me:

If this had happened even just a few years ago, all that would have happened is everyone would have brushed it off. Some would have snached up tabloids in line at the grocery store and really no one would have thought twice about it. Now we’re discussing violation of privacy and women’s rights.

What’s changed?

Recently, video games had a really, really tough week. Anita Sarkeesian – creator of the blog Feminist Frequency and a video series called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, released a video discussing the use of of woman–and violence against women–as backgrounds or plot drivers in video games. For this she was was abused online, threatened and forced out of her home by said threats. Along the same lines, many video game developers, writers and various people in the industry were and are facing similar treatment.

But why are we talking about this now?

Haven’t video games have always been like this? Isn’t this what makes media what it is? Why should we change something that has worked for years?

The short answer, of course, is because I think we can do better than that.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Sarkeesian and others were right or wrong in their arguments, whether sexsism in video games or media exists, whether this abuse is a real issue, is being overblown, or worse – threats against these women are being faked. (update, in this case I don’t mean threats like releasing nude photos are faked, because apparently in that case they were, but people expletive twitter attacks were faked or photoshopped.)

Yet the positive side to all this and what’s important and what’s different from those few years ago is that we’re talking about this. People are standing up and saying we can do better than this.

Not only do I feel this is important for the progression of woman in the field of video games or the media, but for the actual mediums as well. It’s easy to make the argument that we get video games that uses classic tropes that are just fine using classic video game tropes. But by thinking outside the box and challenging the status quo, maybe we can get a better video game.

But change is difficult, and to make this change, we’re going to have to go through a lot more push back and a lot more trolls. In an article regarding this topic, in an opinion article by polygon, writer Chris Plante points out:

“One side [of this argument] has folded its arms, slumped its shoulders while pouting like an obstinate child that has learned they are getting a little brother or sister but wants to remain the singular focus of their parents’ affection.”

There will probably always be the argument that this isn’t really an issue. That without these women tropes in video games the storylines wouldn’t be the same (who will the hero save if not the damsel in distress?). That women should just deal with it, because that’s life.

But why not do better? We can say forget that and make a better story line. We can find a better way to promote our case than through the the promise of naked women.

All of this will be better if nothing else because it challenges us to not be lazy. To think outside the box instead of falling back on these tropes because they’ve been done before, because they’re easy.

Whether or not you agree with Anita, Emma Watson or others trying to change things and their opinions, you should be supporting the idea of trying to raise the bar.

In the case of Sarkeesian, it should be important to note that her video isn’t asking much of video games. She’s not saying video games shouldn’t touch these themes or they should stay away from them. She simply asks them to just take a step back and try to look at things a little more critically.

“Now–to be clear–I’m certainly not saying stories seriously examining the issues surrounding domestic or sexual violence are off limits for interactive media. However, if game makers do attempt to address these themes, they need to approach the topic with the subtly, gravity and respect that the subject deserves.”

So join us, let’s give this subject the respect it deserves.

Let’s raise the bar.

Let’s change the conversation.

Sep 222014
 

I was checking all my social media during my lunch today, ’cause that is what you do in 2014 and I came across this in my News Feed.

why would we even be surprised anymore?

why would we even be surprised anymore?

And I got mad. Not just irritated, or slightly perturbed, but enraged. Just yesterday I was sharing the beginning of this story: Emma Watson speaks out at the UN that feminism isn’t a dirty word and it’s for everyone. She has started a campaign entitled “HeForShe” encouraging men to take part of the fight. [It’s getting pretty heavy holding it up by ourselves over here.] I was impressed and proud that Emma had taken and put a very public face on an issue that we have been fighting over here in the Nerd World for way way too long.

And guess what happened. She got the same treatment (albeit fairly mild compared to some) that anyone speaking up against misogyny in gaming has gotten. They couldn’t attack her argument because their logic sounds a little like “Women shouldn’t talk. Just let us covet and hate women as much as we damn well please. Oh, and give us sex when we are nice to you/want it.” So, they attack her personally. For Emma Watson this first threat is to expose her (literally) in a way that makes anyone feel vulnerable. For Anita Sarkeesian (www.feministfrequency.com) it was exposing her in the way of ruining her anonymity on the web by threatening her home and the people she cares about.

And I’m fucking tired of it. I’m taking a stand. The League of 42 is taking a stand. This is no longer an issue that we can sit on the sidelines and let other people fight for us. This is getting to be a “You are with us or against us” issue because sitting around letting anyone attack Emma or Anita is letting them attack us. Letting them beat down the people who are fighting this fight for us.

According to “The Science of Happiness”, it takes 5 positive things to erase 1 negative one in your dealings with people. So, Anita, Emma, here’s hoping that the 5 of us standing with you silences 1 of the trolls you are fighting.

Jun 192014
 

Welcome to the second installment of June’s JUST GO SEE IT: Review and Rethink Edition! Up for another look this week is How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the animated adventure that featured…you guessed it: dragons! I’ll try to avoid any spoilers again, though to be fair, the trailers for this movie are quite spoiler-y on their own!

While the first How to Train Your Dragon focused on the emerging peace between the people of Berk and the dragons they had seen as mortal enemies for so long, the second movie begins with a scene that quickly illustrates just how integrated into Berk’s existence the creatures have become since Hiccup and Toothless befriended each other. In the scene, several of the characters from the first movie are taking part in a competitive game where they ride their dragons around the island, collect live sheep, and throw them into baskets for points. The island is conspicuously empty in the first few frames of the movie, but as the characters begin to score points, we see that the only reason for this is that all of the Berks (Berk-ites? Berkies?) are gathered in the grandstands around the goal area, cheering on their favorite dragon-Berk team – it’s clearly a popular community event.

CastBuncha cool kids.

Other scenes showed the dragons taking part in daily life in more constructive ways that don’t depend on their ability to fly. One such scene features a big, fat, lazy dragon, who we find plopped down, slumbering in the middle of the blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith walks into the area, and playfully shouts at the dragon for falling asleep and “allowing the forge to go out.” Sleepily, the dragon sits up and hawks a massive fireball into the forge, and, in true hilarious family movie fashion, he nearly ignites the whole shop in the process! I liked both the blacksmith and sheep-game scenes because they represent a cleverly imaginative way of thinking about how dragons could possibly be integrated into human life. Not that I’m necessarily expecting that to happen anytime soon.

It’s hard to point out other *particular* aspects of the movie that were fantastic, because the entire thing is just incredibly heartwarming and fun. There were a few particular plot points that I was not a fan of, but that wasn’t due to poor writing. I freely admit that I am just hard to please when it comes to character and story development at times. Other than those brief points, though, HTTYD2 is quite fantastic. The animation is beautiful as it was in the first, and the characters are ridiculously lovable. Toothless continues to somehow remind Mystie and I of our cat (we’re not the only ones, though – a friend recently told me he thinks the same regarding Toothless and his cat!), and the baby dragons are so freakin’ cute. A soundtrack that includes Jonsi of Sigur Ros can’t hurt, either!

PosterMeow.

Therefore, overall, I’d say there is no need for a rethink here. JUST GO SEE IT! And take your kids, friends, and family with you – this one is definitely great for everyone, at any age.

Jun 132014
 

Hello readers! It’s been six days since I gave you your movie viewing assignments for June, and I’m ready to follow up with the first ever “Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT Review and Rethink Edition!” Mystie and I just got home from seeing Edge of Tomorrow, which, as you’ll remember from my earlier post, is an alien-battling sci-fi action movie co-starring Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise that is based on a Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill. I’ll do my best to keep any spoilers out of this article, and I’d ask any commenters to do be conscientious and advertise any of their own with full-on caps lock and asterisks so that each of our readers can form their own opinion! (NOTE: Linked images may take you to other pages containing spoilers.) EoTPoster First up: I loved this movie. As I previously mentioned, I was a bit apprehensive about the possibility that Tom Cruise could ruin a film that I felt had great potential, but from where I was sitting, Mr. Mission Impossible did okay. It did feel like Cruise had a much larger number of speaking scenes as compared to Oblivion, however, and the writers of Edge of Tomorrow didn’t do us any favors by making his character, William Cage, all that likable – at least not immediately. I did my best to chalk that up to the character’s development, though, and tried not to concentrate too much on Cruise himself. After a short time, I came around. 

CruiseEoT“What do you mean you ‘came around?’”

However, I had no problem immediately loving Emily Blunt’s character, Rita Vrataski. What. A. Badass. Holy hell. In a war with missiles soaring all over the battlefield and machine guns shooting off thousands of rounds per minute, what is our fearless heroine’s weapon of a choice? A freakin’ giant sword, that’s what. It’s eerily reminiscent of Cloud’s sword, though I don’t think the prop artists meant it to be a slap-you-in-your-face reference or anything like that. We meet Rita early on, when Tom Cruise, befuddled and thrown to the ground in the middle of an attack by the alien army, looks up and sees her taking out several baddies.

BluntEoTOh yeah, also: her nickname is the “Angel of Verdun.” Epic.

Luckily, neither Cruise’s nor Blunt’s characters get too trope-y in the film, which allows the viewer to enjoy the spectacular scenes playing on screen. As I have seen some mention, the “Live/Die/Repeat” plot device calls to mind the one used in Groundhog Day, but it is hard to fault the writers for employing such a fantastically interesting tool here, particularly when considering how they twist it to fit the mold of Edge of Tomorrow. Visually, too, the movie is great, although I don’t necessarily mean that in the sense that the imagery specifically was great. Several of the shots of the desolated environment are incredible, sure, but what I found especially extraordinary was the artistic development of both the aliens and the mechanical suits used to fight them. I thought that the aliens in particular were fantastic; they were creative without becoming overcomplicated, and are deeply deadly and fearsome.

I’ll close this article out by introducing the “Rethink” part of “Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT Review and Rethink Edition,” where I will decide whether I was right to being excited about a particular film on the month’s original list. In Edge of Tomorrow‘s case, I think it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a whole lot to rethink, given that I started off with “I loved this movie.”

JUST GO SEE IT!

Jun 022014
 
Edge of Tomorrow

Welcome to Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT for June 2014! This is the first post of what will become a monthly column where I, your eponymous host, discuss a handful of movies in the sci-fi, fantasy, or otherwise nerdy genres that I am excited to see. These lists are not meant to be exhaustive – on the contrary, we want you to leave comments about movies you are interested to see as well! We may also exclude some (*coughtransformerscough*), because, after all, this is Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT!

Anyhow, without further ado, here are my JUST-GO-SEE-ITs for this month! They are sorted chronologically, from the nearest releases to the furthest. Trailers are included so you don’t even have to leave the page!

Edge of Tomorrow - June 6

If you’ve been a reader since the inception of TLo42, then you know that I had nothing but great things to say about Oblivion, a simultaneously post-apocalyptic and futuristic sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise. If you haven’t been a reader since that post, then you might not already know that I absolutely loved that movie, despite the fact that Tom Cruise is often an overly intense actor that often camps up an otherwise good movie.

Such is the situation I’m hoping for with Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise repeatedly fights aliens (or, at least, advanced machines) in a battle that seems to be reoccurring. The film co-stars the fantastic Emily Blunt, who looks to be both Tom Cruise’s trainer and love interest. The trailer, which I beg you to watch, all at once reminds me of elements of Inception and Elysium, and, weirdly, both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day, though I doubt that Edge of Tomorrow will be as dramatic or hilarious as those films (respectively, of course). The basic concepts that you see in the trailer are mind-blowing, and even though I consider myself clever, I’m not completely sure I know which world we’re seeing is real. Or is that even the right question to ask? I don’t know, but I know I want to see it.

The Signal - June 13

This is one I have been excited about since I first heard about it on Reddit and looked up the trailer, which starts with Laurence Fishburne, and almost immediately features the incredible question, “Are you from Earth?” Fantastic visuals follow, evoking both fear and intrigue. There is some amazing cinematography at the end, and the music is perfect.

One of the most striking parts of the trailer, though, is that one critic, Joey Paur of Geek Tyrant, calls The Signal “a mind-bending experience.” That is a fantastic–in the literal sense of the word–description if I’ve ever heard one, and if I hadn’t already been sold, I would have been at that point. This movie looks incredibly interesting, and is easily the one I am most excited about on this month’s list.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – June 13

Rounding out this month’s list is the follow-up to How to Train Your Dragon, an incredibly wonderful and entertaining animated film released in 2010. If you haven’t already seen the first one, I’d suggest you do so ASAP in order to establish the back story for the second one. Here’s a hint: there are dragons involved.

As with many of DreamWorks’ films, the first How to Train Your Dragon was a heartwarmer, and the second looks to follow up on that, emphasizing Hiccup’s family. New dragons are introduced, too, however, and even Toothless gets a few new characteristics. I’ve been waiting for this follow-up the minute the credits started rolling after the first movie; How to Train Your Dragon is a great franchise that can really bring out the kid in anyone. And I mean, come on. Dragons!

That’s all for this month – you have your assignments! But as I said, we’d love to hear from you about what you’re excited for this month, so leave us a comment or tweet at us @theleagueof42 if you’ve got some suggestions of your own! In the meantime, don’t forget the popcorn!

Mar 172014
 

When you’re an adult and a nerd, sometimes you find your nerdiness leaking out into things adults care about – like house design. So if you have a house, and in some cases maybe an incredible amount of wealth lying around, consider these epic home upgrades:

1. A Lego Basement and Bar. When you need to enjoy a good beer and build some shit!

 

2. An Arcade Basement. Because, obviously.

 

3. A Star Wars Themed theatre, when you’re feeling like chilling with Boba Fett and C-3PO

Modern Media Room by Beverly Hills

Home Media Design & InstallationModern Home Theatre

 

4. Or if the Final Frontier is more your style, try this on for size.

 

5. If you happen to have a cave that came with your home (it really helps regulate the electricity
bill) consider a bat cave.

 

6. If epic lighting is more your style, try this on for size

 

7. If you are super-adult and enjoy wine, but want to keep your nerd cred – try making it Indiana
Jones themed. It’s better than Disneyland.

 

8. If you’re concerned that there are no options about where to sleep yet, maybe a Jedi Starfighter
is your style.

 

9. And if a big problem when gaming is that there isn’t enough TV space, well…

Industrial Media Room by Calgary Home Media Design &

InstallationK&W Audio

 

10. Bonus: If you’re not an eccentric millionaire and these options seem a little out of your price range, just try a circuit board table.

circuittable-sg

 Posted by at 8:56 pm
Feb 182014
 

The Lego Movie

 

Everything is awesome: when you see The Lego Movie.

[DON'T WORRY - NO SPOILERS]

I was surprised when I first heard about the Lego Movie. My initial reaction was: “Wait, how it has taken this long for a movie like this to come out?” Not only has this been a beloved toy for decades, the pure merchandising opportunity alone made me think this is something that would have existed long ago – or at least in 2 or 3 different forms by now.

But here we are, and it is a move doing just as well as anyone probably suspected. Actually better, considering it grossed $69.1 million on its first weekend.

The question then becomes how. On the surface this movie has all the components of a pretty good children’s movie that adults will enjoy too:

1.       For the kids it has funny Legos running around in cool and awesome action sequences

2.       For the adults it has a killer cast and crew of people. Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman…just to name a few.

3.       For the kids it has a great message in believing in yourself to do something great

4.       For adults it has plenty of nostalgia appreciative humor (Old Lego sets, Star Wars references).

5.       For kids it has fun, catchy songs.

6.       …For adults it has fun, catchy songs.

It has a plot that on the surface seems pretty cookie cutter. The hero of this tale is Emmet played by Chris Pratt. He is an ordinary construction worker who lives a pretty average life. Until he meets the girl “Wyldstyle” (Elizabeth Banks), discovers something called the “Piece of Resistance” and finds out that he is in fact – “The Special” – the most interesting, most awesome, coolest guy in the whole universe. He then has to figure out how to use the Piece of Resistance to stop the villain, Lord Business (Will Ferrel) who is trying to destroy their universe.

So on the one hand you have your pretty standard ordinary guy becomes extraordinary to save the world and get the girl. On the other hand you have a tale of believing in the power that you can do something great.

Pair that with a killer soundtrack, cool animation sequences and more nerdy inside jokes that you can count.

Again – all of this has the opportunity to make a pretty good movie. Yet the movie does exactly what Emmet himself set out to do – they somehow made pretty decent extraordinary. I think they successfully pulled this off because of the idea of imagination. If you strip away the plot and the animation and the music, at the core of all this you have exactly what the toy they’re portraying is about: The story of imagination. When you make your story about a core value that everyone can relate to, you have the power to strike a chord in everyone’s hearts. Kids feel inspired to create; adults feel the power of not forgetting their child-like selves, yearning for creativity.

As Willy Wonka said: If you want to view paradise / Simply look around and view it / Anything you want to, do it/ Want to change the world? / There’s nothing / To it

Of course, the nerdy references don’t hurt either. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.

If you’ve already seen the movie, make sure to check out the blooper reel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29DwAc-8_oQ

———————

Feb 122014
 

694px-Star_Wars_Logo.svg

With the Star Wars franchise changing ownership, and rumors of a massive overhaul of the EU underway, the time has come to reflect on new ways the owners of the Star Wars universe can reach out to its fans-both old and new.

As the setting is in a universe with tens of thousands of planets, a population of trillions, and a clean slate on post-Endor history, Star Wars developers hold the key to a writers wet dream. In the near future, these developers will need to decide what platforms would be best to reach fans and keep the setting both prolific and profitable.

While I would argue that video games, comics, and books make for ideal platforms, the main platform I propose they consider would include the creation of a live-action Star Wars TV series. TV series are great platforms for the creation of canonical storyline and presenting them to the masses in an entertaining and (hopefully) intellectual manner (like with Star Trek series, Star Wars Clone Wars). Technology is finally at a stage to give good, cheap lightsaber scenes (like with that youtube kid jumping around in his garage), and great ship battles (such as with Battlestar Galactica, DS9, and Stargate).

A Star Wars live-action TV series could give fans what its movies cannot–a story much smaller in scope than the move story lines but one that still offers us Star Wars flavor. Like Star Trek, they could produce series in different sections (quadrants, for you trekkies) of the galaxy, with overlapping or separate timelines. Despite the Star Wars universe being a Kardashev III civilization, even a regional or planetary based show could be made to feel important to its audience. The added benefit to this would be expanding on the cast of canonical characters that could then be used in later movies. These small budget series could pave the way to large budget films the the audience will (again, hopefully) know and love the characters, like with Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity.

I certainly hope this argument is something that the powers-that-be come across and consider. I love the Star Wars universe, and I would love for my children to say the same. They need only take the setting and combine it with the best loved of sci-fi our various generations–Firefly’s dialogue, Star Trek’s intellect and diplomacy, Battlestar’s dramatic twists and finales’, and naturally, the lightsaber.

At a cross roads, Star Wars is. Choose wisely, they must.

Jan 012014
 

Best Original Movie

Gravity
This year was a great year for the promotion of gender equality in Hollywood. Gravity had a very entertaining ride. The story wasn’t too original or inventive but the technical aspects of the film and the special effects really put it over the top. One of the few movies that I felt was NECESSARY to see in 3d. More on gender inequality in my review of Hunger Games- Catching Fire.
— Andrew

Oblivion
I feel a little dirty labeling a Tom Cruise movie as the best of 2013, but strangely enough his cliche intensity was perfect for this role, and luckily never over the top. More importantly, though, Oblivion was visually very beautiful – it resonated with the part of me that loves the polished futuristic look paired with a sparsely populated post-apocalyptic Earth. The story was perhaps just decent, but the score, an original created by M83′s Anthony Gonzalez, was fantastic and solidified the film’s spot at the top of my list.
— Joe

Best Sequel

Hunger Games – Catching Fire
I can’t say enough about this movie. Catching Fire is simply a compelling movie and Jennifer Lawrence seems to effortlessly portray a character haunted by PTSD who unintentionally becomes the face of a revolution in a post-civil war America in the future. Now, there’s another narrative that this movie is helping to destroy, and that is the notion in Hollywood that a woman can’t lead a film franchise. The amount of gender inequality in American cinema is staggering. The Huffington Post recently posted an article explaining just how bad it is – 14% of the 50 highest grossing films starred female leads, while men dominated with 64%. Hollywood is also very good at making bad excuses that externalize the blame for their crap quality. “People don’t want to see it” is a common one I’ve heard. I think a lot of it is self-fulfilling, so shitty scripts get written when the people writing them insert their own biases which makes people not want to see it. It’s not that a woman is in the leading role, it’s just a shitty movie. Catching Fire, and Gravity to a lesser extent, are helping shatter that myth.
— Andrew

The World’s End
The last movie of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End, is my 2013 pick of best movie continuation. Sure it’s no Hobbit, Star Trek or Hunger Games. But the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movies hold a special place in my heart and their amazing job of genre blending and humor made the third in this trilogy a much anticipated movie for me, as well as for a lot of people I suspect.

I loved this movie. Of the three, my favorite probably will always be Shaun of the Dead. That being said, that doesn’t mean this movie was any the lesser. A movie about a washed up guy trying to relive his glory days and then having to fight with alien robots definitely make this movie a perfect fit with the others.
—Cassi

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
If you enjoyed the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, then you will certainly enjoy its sequel.
Star Trek into Darkness
With an all-star cast, Star Trek into Darkness delivers the next great installment in the re-envisioned Star Trek universe.
Thor: the Dark World
The second installment of the Thor movies is easily one of the best movies released in 2013. Despite the lack of Kenneth Branagh as director, this movie was pulled off with the same finesse as I’d expect of the Shakespearean actor. The Dark Elves were, perhaps, one of my favorite villainous groups of all time.
— Matt

The Hunger Games – Catching Fire
There was no shortage of great sequels at the box office in 2013, but Catching Fire takes the top prize for me. Though there were various discrepancies from the book (and those always stick out to me), the movie was captivating and the imagery was breathtaking. Like the rest of the internet, I have an enormous woman crush on Jennifer Lawrence (especially because of what she stands for) and I think that she has given young women everywhere the role model they needed, both as Katniss and as Jennifer. Katniss is a real hero, one who does what she has to even though every fiber of her being is against it and she is having a very real and very intense personal struggle. We owe a lot of this to the wonderful storytelling of Suzanne Collins, but Francis Lawrence gave it life in a spectacular fashion. To me, this sequel outshines The Hunger Games.
—Mystie

Best Soundtrack

The World’s End
Oh, there are so many movie soundtracks I love. So…so many. But the 2013 winner for me was the soundtrack to accompany the final and glorious completion to the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy-The Worlds End. Not only does it have a great sound, but it pairs the movie so well.

This movie is a tale about a washed up man who tries to relive his glory days with his friends (who have all moved on with their lives) to try to do the Golden Mile – an epic pub crawl in their home town – then aliens get thrown into the mix (as they do).

The great thing about this soundtrack is it pairs the theme of in-the-glory-days-past Gary King (played by Simon Pegg) with late ’80s and early ’90s Britpop. Whether this is your sound or not, the pairing is flawless.
— Cassi

Oblivion

Anthony Gonzalez’s score for Oblivion provided the final push the movie needed to make it to the top of my list for 2013. The music fit the plot and setting perfectly, with ethereal and fantastic (in the literal sense of the word) aspects that would cause the listener to imagine a world much like the one seen in Oblivion had the film’s creators not already presented it to us. Of course, it helps that I am already a fan of M83. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to see the film’s title track performed live this summer. Susanne Sundfor’s vocals are nearly as big as the movie itself, which is a significant factor of why the song worked so well.
— Joe