Remember 2012

My 2012 had a rather defining moment. It was the point when we decided to come to America for eight months. Our options were to stay in Canterbury, move to Sussex or come to America. We chose the latter and it should be no surprise that this decision sits at the top of this list but here is my full top 5 of things I enjoyed in 2012.
 
5. British American Football
 
There were problems with the finals weekend in 2011, but no such issues this year, as we took over Don Valley stadium and streamed live online. The crowds in the stands may have been small compared to the size of the stadium but it was a great (but wet) event with over 6000 people watching from home via GridironTV. 

It rounded off what was a pretty special season. The London Blitz retained the title but had stiff competition all year from their cross town rivals London Warriors who topped them twice in the regular season. I am proud to be involved with the league and hope that the future remains bright and we can continue to build on our following.
 
4. Brugges
 
In early July Beth and I took the Eurostar to Brugges for a fantastic long weekend. It is a wonderful medieval city and even though it may be constantly overrun by tourists is more than a little magical. We stayed in a fantastic hotel right on the canal and would happily go back again.
 
3. Leaving BBQ weekend
 
 
Before coming over to America we invited all of our friends to Canterbury for karting and a BBQ. The karting was a great start to the day with a close race between Craig, Ceri and I. Craig led for a good portion of the race before I eventually managed to sneak past. The two of us pulled away and I was able to take victory. In the evening more friends arrived and we ate good food until late. It was a nice send off.
 
2. Denver Broncos
 
My love of the Broncos strengthened this season as I was given the chance to go to their eight regular season home games in 2012. I saw them lose just once on home soil and had a great time at each game. It helped that in the off season they signed one of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game in Peyton Manning and that they lost just three times on their way to number one seed in the AFC for the upcoming playoffs.
 
1. Coming to America
I have been given a great opportunity. While Beth studies I have been able to find out what life in America is like. This is something that was not possible on previous two week visits. I am still enjoying my stay and while there are things that I miss about the UK there are almost equal numbers of things I like about Colorado. I have also been able to expand the number of states that I have visited with a trip to Wisconsin to see Beth’s Aunt, Uncle and Grandma. This trip also took us into Chicago for a trip up the Willis Tower, the Chicago Aquarium and of course pizza (which was amazing). We are sure to have a lot of fun in our remaining four months and look forward to all that time may bring.
 
It has been a great year and here is to an even better 2013 as we continue to enjoy America and then return to England looking for new jobs and a place to call our home.
 

As usual my other lists will be coming soon with film later this week and games next week… sport will turn up at some point too.

Film of the Year

Maybe we are just getting that little bit older but 2010’s films did not particularly hold my attention. There were a few breakout films but the industry seems to be spending far too much time shovelling average products with spangly (and poor) 3d that the actual films themselves are being affected. As such I saw fewer films this year than for about 8 years. Below though are my wife and mines favourites from the year.

Beth:
10. Iron Man 2
9. Shrek Forever After
8. Eat Pray Love
7. The Lovely Bones
6. Knight and Day
5. Harry Potter
4. Death at a Funeral
3. Scott Pilgrim vs the World
2. Inception
1. Toy Story 3

Jonathan (a.k.a me)
5. Scott Pilgrim
4. The Lovely Bones
3. Toy Story 3
2. Kick Ass

And the winner…
1. Inception
Christopher Nolan does it again with this wonderful mindbending masterpiece. Nolan’s world makes the story convincing and the acting is superb. This decades Matrix? Hopefully so without the silly sequels.


from sheknows.com

My wife picked Toy Story 3 and I can see why, it was the end of a journey that started when we were 9 and it was a fitting end to the series that kept the style of the previous films. Worth it just for nostalgia and to feel like a kid again.

My intention had been to do a top 10 as my wife did but after coming to seven (Shrek and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo just missed out on the top 5) I fell into films which while ok were nothing particularly special. Iron Man 2 for example held so much promise and potential but other than great opening and closing 20 minutes was fairly dire. So heres hoping that 2011 offers more promise, from the outset it doesn’t look like it will, Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern hold little interest for me. Pirates is living on well past its sell by date, only Tintin has me interested at this point. We’ll see something might surprise me, 2012 though looks more promising immediately though with the next Batman installment and the possible appearance of the hobbit. Hold on in there folks, its gonna be a wait but it’ll be worth it.

Games of 2010

2010 was a good year for video games. So good that I haven’t had a chance to play them all. Fallout New Vegas and Red Dead Redemption were both games that I was looking forward to but I have yet to get to them. Their times will come but they miss out on this best of list.

5. Super Meat Boy – Xbox Live
Super Meat Boy is a good little downloadable game where you play as the titular Meat Boy trying to save your girlfriend Bandage Girl from the evil Dr Fetus. This is platform gaming at its best, but also at its most difficult. The best thing is when you spend twenty minutes trying to complete a level and finally do, the sense of achievement is great and the replay showing all your little meat boys trying to get to the end with just the one meat boy making it.

4. Alan Wake – Xbox 360
Alan Wake is a good game where you are attacked by the darkness, the game world is based on Washington state and includes some wonderful forest scenes. The game itself is pretty spooky as well and the controls and physics work wonderfully to help build the suspense.

3. Split/Second – Xbox 360
This game does what burnout did all those years ago when it first arrived. Its another racing game where anything goes. This game though employs strong rubber banding in its racing which makes it more difficult to dominate but also makes it more fun with a group of friends at different levels. The crunch to Split/Second is its power plays, build up your power bar and you can make things explode around/fall on other racers hence the name of the game. This game lives on its split screen multiplayer, when you narrowly avoid a girder thrust in your direction by your friend only for them to be taken out by it, that is what games are about. That it is made by Disney made me laugh but this game is the best of the racing bunch from 2010.

2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Wii
This game improves on everything the first game did, the controls are tighter, the graphics are even better, the music is still fantastic and Nintendo continues to prove that they are the masters of level design. The game is absolutely wonderful and an enjoyable experience throughout. Other improvements include a less annoying hub world where you can quickly get between levels or play around on a planetoid shaped on your face. Mario Galaxy the first narrowly missed out on my best game of the decade last year to the first Mass Effect game, annoyingly for Galaxy 2 it misses out to…

1. Mass Effect 2 – Xbox 360
Yup you guessed it. Mass Effect 2 came out early in the year but it blew me away. The story continues wonderfully from the first game and the characters and their back stories are fun to discover. The graphics have gotten better and then game has become slightly less of a hardcore RPG and has moved towards the mainstream. This is largely for the better as the controls are now much improved on consoles (the original was a pig). I need my fix of Mass Effect 3 but for that I must wait another 11 months…

I did play a lot of games this year but these five shone out above the others. F1 2010 was my most anticipated game of the year but then, I am like that. Unfortunately it let the side down in places with some sloppy coding but it set the stage for 2011 and it will hopefully make this list next year. Also good were Professor Layton and Super Scribblenauts both for Nintendo DS but they just missed out.

Film of the decade

The votes are in. Four of the nine shortlisted films failed to garner a single vote, these were:

  • Juno
  • Atonement
  • Wall-E
  • In Brugges

The Dark Knight and The Bourne Trilogy were next receiving just 9.5% of the vote each. This leaves the top 3 films of the ‘noughties’ as voted for by you.

We have a tie for second place:

Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar each received 24% of the votes to get an equal second place in the standings. Pirates received a lot of late votes. The Pirates film in question was Curse of the Black Pearl which would almost certainly not have been as popular or received as many votes had it not contained Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. With the often flat Orlando Bloom and the pouty Keira Knightley Johnny stole the show and made this franchise what it was. Meanwhile Avatar coming out at the end of the decade showed the true power of modern 3d techniques by using the technology constantly but subtly to create a masterpiece. Certainly the story could not have been better but there wasn’t a moment during the two and a half hour running time where the viewer got bored. Also at no time in the running did something obviously designed to get an audience response take place ie nothing came flying at the screen to show off. Both of these films are very enjoyable and deserve their places here.

And the winner is…

The Lord of the Rings was one heck of an ambitious project for Peter Jackson to take on as his first big budget movie. When he largely filled the cast with a bunch of small time actors there were doubts about how good the trilogy would be. These doubts turned out to be daft when the films came out though and the story and dynamic shone through the screen. The three films grossed almost $3 billion worldwide at box office which needless to say is more than any other trilogy. These are films which will not easily become dated and will be enjoyed for years to come. They are the jonners.me.uk and talote.com films of the decade voted for by you lot and they truly deserve their title.

It wouldn’t be my analysis without a chart…

the proportions of votes received for each film are displayed in the chart.

Thank you folks. This blog will hopefully be seeing more action this year and I hope that you visit again soon.

Best of the decade – Films

This last decade saw us grow up, when it started I was 12, this means my memories of the previous decade are slim, the ‘noughties’ then will be the decade that film took over my life. The last ten years saw Cathy and I doing degrees in the subject, neither of us are now working with anything to do with the industry but we both still have a love for the medium. Certainly the overblown special effects that have come in this decade have often come at the expense of plot but that is not to say that there have not been some great films. Film is an entertainment medium and the fact that 8 of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time came out in this decade shows that audiences have been entertained. Our lists are not ordered by preference but chronologically. My wife could not pick 10 and so has 11 instead and the nominees for film of the decade will be voted for by you from that shortlist.

Jonathan’s list:
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03)
Bourne Trilogy (2002-07)
The Incredibles (2004)
Downfall (2004)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Juno (2007)
Atonement (2007)
In Bruges (2008)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Wall-E (2008)

Cathy’s list:
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03)
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-07)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Atonement (2007)
The Dark Knight (2008)
In Bruges (2008)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Avatar (2009)

Beth’s list:
Lord of the Rings (2001-03)
Spiderman (2002)
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
Napolean Dynamite (2004)
Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Lady in the water (2006)
Juno (2007)
Mamma Mia (2008)
Wall-e (2008)
Avatar (2009)

So now we come to the films which received more than a vote from us:
Lord of the Rings (2001-03)
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-07)
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
Juno (2007)
Atonement (2007)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Wall-e (2008)
In Bruges (2008)
Avatar (2009)

Which one of these 9 is the film of the decade though?

You decide, comment either on facebook, twitter or this blog by Friday 15 January, votes will then be tallied and the winner announced on Saturday 16 January!

Votes not for one of these 9 films will be ignored

Sporting achievements of the decade

So to the list of sporting achievements of the decade. Again by Trefor Little and again in no particular order here are the athletes who shone in their chosen fields.

  • Tiger Woods (USA – 12 Majors, 56 Other PGA Event wins)
  • Roger Federer (Switzerland – 15 Grand Slams)
  • Ricky Ponting (Australia – 9,458 Test Runs (including 32 centuries) at an average of 58.4)
  • Michael Schumacher (5 world titles in the noughties)
  • Joe Calzaghe (19 Defences of the World Super Middleweight Title – All won)

Jonathan:
If I were to pick I would obviously go for Michael Schumacher. Ross Brawn has probably been the brains behind that success and also led Brawn to both titles last year but chubby genisuses do not tend to get sporting awards.

Top 5 games of 2009

2009 has not been the best of years for video games in my opinion. Modern Warfare 2 seems largely to blame for this in that it gave developers an excuse to postpone and tighten their news games. Therefore the first three months of 2010 are going to be pretty manic. That being said though, there have been plenty of very good games this year and now that I have an Xbox 360 I have experienced my first taste of HD gaming… and it is good.

Top 5 games of 2009:
5. Metroid Prime Trilogy – Wii
4. Batmand Arkham Asylum – Xbox 360
3. Fifa 10 – Xbox 360
2. Professor Layton and Pandoras Box – DS

Game of the Year:
Colin Mcrae: Dirt 2 – Xbox 360

As usual there were also games which should have been better. Scribblenauts is the best example of this. After strong E3 hype the final product did little but let me down with terrible controls really putting me off from what is still a really strong idea. The other big let down this year was F1 2009 for wii, certainly my expectations were not high for this product. But it did nothing to even remotely impress me with its controls or damage model. Sure it looked good and faithfully had all the tracks but it was not good enough…

Heres to 2010’s games.

Sporting achievements 2009

I asked my resident king of sports knowledge (I say king meaning he knows more than me) Trefor Little (aka my dad) to write down the top 5 sporting achievements of 2009. In no particular order then:

  • England winning the ashes
  • Andy Murray reaching Number 2 in the world rankings
  • Jenson Button winning the world championship
  • Usain Bolt breaking the 100m and 200m world records again
  • Manny Pacquiao becoming the first man to win seven different titles at seven different weights

Come back on the 4th for his list of the top 5 achievements of the decade. What do you think?

Top 5 things I did in 2009

5. Kept my job – While lots of other people were made redundant by the credit crunch I have thus far kept my job… I also started earning a little on the side with my web design and hosting becoming partially self employed

4. Built a computer – Before December I had never built a computer, now I have and the sense of accomplishment is strong (nerd)

3. Center Parcs – Having not been since I was a lot younger I was worried it would be a little rubbish. It was not and I had a great time.

2. Going to the British Grand Prix – Certainly it was not the best race I have ever seen but it was still a brilliant atmosphere and I look forward to going again.

1. Discovering Karting – I ended up going Karting four times this year, the previous total for the rest of my life was once. Gosh if my parents had noticed sooner I could have been Lewis Hamilton.

While its a little daft to place Karting at number one I will admit that it has not been the most exciting of years… None of these things compare to getting married, we didn’t go to America or on any other big holidays and mainly just stayed around Canterbury. Heres to a more exciting 2010

Best of the Decade – Games

This has been a decade when gaming technology has come on leaps and bounds. While the 1990’s were the decade of the third dimension the 2000’s have been about innovative control and high definition. That being said, a lot of the best games I have played came out towards the beginning of the decade. This list is largely comprising the games into which I have sunk and will continue to sink a large amount of my time due to their excellence in either single or multiplayer.

Top Ten games of the 2000’s:
10. Burnout 2 – Gamecube – 2003
The original burnout was a hard game especially in multiplayer as the amount of traffic and the lack of boosts made it tricky to finish a race before running out of time (especially when playing with your feet). Burnout 2 addressed this and made it more casual friendly by making it near impossible to fail the checkpoints while incorporating tracks that work brilliantly and are more varied. The multiplayer is mainly what gets this game here, I have spent days playing this game in multiplayer. While the single player mode gets a little dull in an hour or so with a lot of repetition there is much to be done with a friend round. The strong crash junctions provide something for casual gamers (like my wife) to enjoy the game and this is the only game to which I can add that a blind friend of mine managed to beat me… nuff said.

9. Advance Wars – DS – 2005
Turn based strategy you can take with you. This is my favourite war sim. I still enjoy this series of games from its official start on the game boy advance to the latest Days of Ruin reboot. It is addictive and has made many train journeys seem to take no time at all. If they keep making these I will keep buying. The premise being its a little like rock paper scissors with certain units effective against one thing but useless against something else (helicopters vs AA guns anyone). The level design is varied and the story throws up super weapons to make life harder. The perfect travel companion.

8. Timesplitters 2 – Gamecube – 2002
Of all the games with which I have spent time, this is the one that has sucked the most of it. Timesplitters 2 is bar none the best first person shooter I have ever played with its bizarre story mode, humour, many many challenges and create your own level mode. The multiplayer is also very strong with four players running around blowing merry hell out of eachother. College lunchbreaks would not be the same without timesplitters and I will be still playing at the end of the next decade.

7. Dirt 2 – XBox 360 – 2009
While not perfect this game has a lot of variety in its racing, beautiful graphics, spot on controls and a good damage system. It is therefore the best racing game I have played. It is unfortunate that I had to say racing there as the rallying side is a little underwhelming. Lots of fun to be had here though with a rush coming from knowing you are so close to losing everything around the next bend as you fly towards a wall. Exhilarating and good fun at 2am the day after Thanksgiving…

6. Professor Layton – DS – 2008
Professor Layton was a little slow in finding its way to the UK (it came out in the US in 2007) but it did very well for itself last christmas selling out across the country. The mix between brainteasers and a strong story was what caused it to sell so well. With more games Layton coming there will be much more for the public to sink their teeth into. Whats more its a game my wife finishes before I do and anything that encourages her to play games is fine by me.

5. Boom Blox – Wii – 2008
Another game my wife finishes before I do is Boom Blox which is from Steven Spielberg apparently. To my recollection there has been no better party game. I have never had anyone say that they have not enjoyed this game. Its unique style, perfect use of the wii remote (this really could not be on another console) and physics engine that never gets it wrong place this game in here.

4. GTA San Andreas – PS2 – 2004
It might be odd that this is the version of Grand Theft Auto that finds its way into this list after GTA 4 stole the headlines last year but GTA 4 just isn’t fun for me. The PS2 games had a slightly arcadey feel to them especially in their driving mechanic and this is unfortunately missing in the newer game. The story is fun and the game world is more varied than the cityscape of games past. The variety of things you can do in this open world are limited largely by your imagination. The fun to be had in driving a sports car to the top of the games mountain and flying it off the ramp to be found there at high speed is not to be underestimated. This is also the game where the controls were tightest and the missions the least frustrating.

3. Half Life 2 + The Orange Box – PC – 2007
Half Life 2 would probably have been my number one but for a big frustration… Ant Lions, my word do those things make me annoyed, those buggers are also the reason I am not a big fan of HL2: episode 1 which I am sure I will come back to and finish at some point. The story of Half Life 2 is one of the best with a dystopian world where the citizens are oppressed by the combine. Gordon Freeman ends up in the middle of this and has to first stay alive before eventually trying to free humankind. The orange box represents the best value in video game history with Half Life 2 and its two episode packs plus portal (which is by itself one of the best games ever made taking a simple concept and making it addictive) and team fortress 2 (a crazy multiplayer game)… if only it weren’t for the ruddy ant lions…

2. Mario Galaxy – Wii – 2007
I grew up with sega systems therefore I preferred Sonic, I still do not like Nintendo’s flagship series in 2d form. I keep trying but I also keep failing. In 3d though Mario is more interesting while Sonic is a bit crap with endless gimicks ruining what Sonic should be while Nintendo have struck gold with mario keeping to what made it work. This game is the best platformer ever with graphics that while cartoony are also impressive, a control system that is almost perfect and a physics engine that works superbly to make platforming fun again. Sure the story is the same we have played a thousand times and the game can be a bit easy but these things do not cloud such mastery by Nintendo.

1. Mass Effect – PC – 2008
Having now played the start of the Xbox version this game would not be number 1 if it had been played on that platform. The controls are iffy at best while the PC version flowed beautifully. I fully enjoyed my 12 hour experience with this game. The story worked well, I felt emotionally attached to the characters and this is the first RPG since Final Fantasy 8 I have truly enjoyed. This is also the best sci-fi game on the market. The story sees you as one of the unliked human race struggling to make your name in the galaxy. As things start to go awry you go investigating with your team levelling up as you go. The game is set across an epic scale and for those 12 hours I was hooked. I am very much looking forward to the continuation of this series next year, the problem is I need to complete the xbox version of the game first…
The pc game is my game of the decade because it hooked me into its world, showed me that not all rpg games are rubbish and that there is hope for space travel in games.

Here are the games that nearly made the cut:
Race Driver 3, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Fallout 3, Fifa 10, Star wars battlefront, Madden 09, Grid, Wii Sports, Pikmin, F1 ’06

Come back tomorrow for my review of the year.

Images from microsoft.com, niceskybox.files.wordpress.com, ign and the guardian