Martin’s Best Stuff of 2013 Part 1

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Another website falls by the wayside. Another website updates regularly for a while, then those things become more sporadic, then they vanish altogether. This is 98% of the Internet, but NOT Nerdy Little Secret! We may have been away for a little while but we are coming back! 2014 promises to introduce some new content that we really hope you like and maybe even some other more familiar content. However to prove just how NOT DEAD we are, I’m here to tell you about my favorite stuff from 2013. Nothing is in any particular order, just a voyage through what made the happy synapses in my brain fire off the most this year. Science!

I was born in 1979 and so I was a child that straddled many different cultural happenings, technological advancements, and a lot of drab, boring crap from the 90’s. I witnessed vinyl and audio cassette fall by the wayside as the CD became the go-to music format (my first ever CD purchase? The soundtrack to the Mortal Kombat movie) and I would later watch as my VHS collection started to look like ass once DVD became the new visual/audio medium of choice. My first-hand popular culture experiences of the 80’s were largely being advertised at via cartoons and renting Tron over and over and again. Perhaps because I didn’t really enjoy the 90’s so much (okay, some grunge was pretty cool and the late 90’s was home to some of the best heavy metal ever recorded), I have found myself going back to that previous decade over and over again for entertainment, excitement and inspiration. Thankfully I was not the only one and this leads me to my first pick:

manborg

Though technically made and screened prior to 2013 it just received its real DVD release early this year so I’m counting it dammit! Manborg tells the story of the titular main character awaking with little of his own memories and into a world he does not recognize. Humanity lost the Hell Wars and fell to the might of Count Draculon and his undead army and they are now ruled over with an iron fist. Manborg must discover his abilities and team up with a ragtag group of rebels to stop the forces of Count Draculon in its tracks.
Manborg was produced by members of the Astron-6 genre indie collective, a wacky bunch of Canadians responsible for numerous short films and also the Troma release Father’s Day. In my interview with director Steven Kostanski he talked about his love for straight-to-video sci-fi from the 80’s and the early 90’s made by the likes of Charles Band, Albert Pyun and Steve Wang. What makes Manborg such a success was despite the fact it was made for negative dollars, there is so much enthusiasm on every level for the project. Manborg is a loving homage to genre film and it’s hilarious to boot, all the more gratifying is that the humor is earned honestly rather than just making fun of its own low-budget trappings. I can’t recommend this movie enough and its the one I’ve watched the most times this year. ” target=”_blank”>The DVD is packed with awesome extras and is also available to watch on Dark Sky Films’ Hulu Plus channel. To continue with the 80’s inspiration, I had to bring up my album of the year:

outrun

Up until a couple of years ago Kavinsky was probably mainly only known by European Electronica aficionados until one of his songs, “Nightcall”, was used for the opening title sequence to Ryan Gosling starrer Drive. Kavinsky is a side-project for French house artist Vincent Belorgey and brings together everything he loved from the 80’s growing up. After making a couple of EPs, OutRun was born from some of those existing songs and new material to create a concept album of sorts. OutRun loosely tells the story of the Dead Cruiser, a ghostly manifestation of a young man killed in a terrible auto accident with his haunted Testarossa. The music is inspired by 80’s synth, video game music, and just about anything else Belorgey loved about that decade. You can almost feel the brightly colored neon light bathing you in its artificial glow as you listen to the synth-drenched, electronic awesomeness. To add to the fun, two videos have been released featuring Belorgey as the Dead Cruiser, classic red Testarossa and all. I want his jacket too! Outstanding tracks include Protovision, Odd Look, Nightcall and First Blood which would totally be my entrance music if I was a pro wrestler.

Everybody and their cat has talked about the truly big games that came out this year and there are far more talented people out there who have already talked about Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us. I loved both games and have both left me thinking about them long after I had finished them as they jostled in my mind for best game of 2013. But with the huge amount of attention they are getting I am instead going to bring up a game that in my opinion got the short end of the stick from critics and consumers alike and that game is Capcom’s wonderful:

rememberme

From when I first set eyes on this game I was immediately intrigued. Nestled somewhere between Mirror’s Edge, the Batman Arkham combat system, and stories from the likes of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling this game blew me away. In it you play as Nilin, a woman who has the rare skill to be able to use futuristic technology to enter peoples’ minds and steal, remove, or even remix their thoughts. Ironically Nilin awakes with no memory and as she pieces together who she is it becomes more and more clear how much danger she is in.
What I saw early on in videos and interviews was the level of craft going into this game. As many others have said thanks to “realistic” depictions of war in games like the Call of Duty series or games based in worlds that have experienced severe cataclysm, this past generation has had a lot of games that are grey, brown and black and not much else.

Yet new French developer Dontnod Entertainment have created “Neo Paris” and it is wonderful and varied to behold from the slums to the hugely opulent buildings that sit high above, this is clearly a game that was designed to immerse you in a world you might actually be interested in looking at rather than running through at full speed. Character designs are creative and interesting and the central character of Nilin is truly special, not hyper-sexualized like many female video game characters she has the lythe and athletic body that she would need to be able to do what she does in the game. As the game’s story unfolds she proves to be expressive and relatable in no small part due to Kezia Burrows’ strong voice performance. Nilin is brown of skin and how refreshing it is to see a character with some color get a chance to lead a game instead of the usual Lara Croft clones!

Special mention must also go to the score, another true testament to just how much care and work went into the production of this game. Olivier Deriviere worked with the Philharmonia Orchestra to create a moody orchestral score which then goes through digital phases and even digital stuttering, communicating to the listener the game’s story of man’s grappling with his own technological advances. It’s a stunning work that would not have been out of place in a major motion picture. There are legit grievances some have had with the game such as the repetitive combat and lack of true interaction with the beautiful world created for the game. While I do acknowledge those as issues, I was so wrapped up in the story, stunningly creative visuals and the incredible level of polish and passion that went into the creation of Remember Me that I could overlook these flaws.

h

Manhunter is one of my most favorite films of all time, The Silence of the Lambs is a legit classic that stands as one of the most disturbing and upsetting mainstream movies of all time. The movie called Hannibal was written by David Mamet and directed by Ridley Scott and inexplicably was absolutely dreadful. Red Dragon was not so hot thanks to Brett Ratner’s extreme douchy mediocrity and also having to live in the shadow of Michael Mann’s vastly superior adaptation. Anyway, Bryan Fuller is here to make us love Thomas Harris’ creations again with Hannibal, one of the best new TV shows in YEARS. NBC allowed Fuller and his team to take the show in dark, sinister directions with impressive amounts of violence and pessimism for a network show.

Essentially a very much expanded version of the events prior to those in the first Lecter book Red Dragon, Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham with aplomb. Will Graham’s unique ability to empathise with killers is given new depths, also deepening the torture he feels being in the mind of sick people every day. Mads Mikkelsen is also tremendous as the titular antagonist, a genius cannibal psychopath who is manipulating just about everybody and it’s fucking glorious. Lawrence Fishburn is Jack Crawford! Plus scumbag reporter Freddie Lounds has a gender change and is played with slimey greatness by Lara Jean Chorostecki. Gillian Anderson turns up as Hannibal’s own therapist and it’s the most sexily ambiguous performance of her career. This show is SO FUCKED UP and I love it. There is nothing else like it on TV and I’m praying NBC doesn’t ruin it.

MORE STUFF LATER IN THE WEEK!