Movies

Dynamite Review Best of 2020

This was a unique year. Books were plentiful, movies were not, and I dedicated myself to one game. So in some ways it was easy to make my lists this year. In other ways it wasn’t.

Movies

I have ten movies to list but the ones at the end weren’t necessarily movies I loved, but they were movies I enjoyed.

  1. Hamilton on Disney+ – I have re-watched this movie so many times. Years ago when everyone was into the soundtrack I could never get into it. The visual made all the difference. I love it.
  2. The Old Guard on Netflix– The first time I watched The Old Guard I thought it was a good generic action movie. With each re-watch, and there have been a few, I love it more. It’s almost everything I’ve ever asked for in an action movie. I hope they’re able to make a sequel.
  3. Bill and Ted Face the Music – This was the movie I needed in 2020. It was so hopeful and fun. When it came out I streamed it with friends and when we finished I felt so happy. It wasn’t amazing, but it was definitely something I needed.
  4. Jingle Jangle on Netflix – This was such an amazing Christmas musical. The songs were great, the story was heartwarming, and oh my god those costumes.
  5. Enola Holmes on Netflix – This was a fun watch. Enola was an entertaining character and I enjoyed seeing her make her way in the world.
  6. Birds of Prey – The one bright spot in the DCEU. Seriously, the only DC movie I like after Wonder Woman 1984 retroactively ruined any goodwill I had for Wonder Woman.
  7. Happiest Season on Hulu – Another Christmas movie but one that I connected with on several levels. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true so I’m leaving it.
  8. A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting on Netflix – This was another Netflix movie that I hope ends up birthing a new franchise. It was one of those rare movies that my kids and I both enjoyed.
  9. Sonic the Hedgehog – How did this end up being such a better movie than Detective Pikachu?
  10. The Babysitter: Killer Queen on Netflix – I had no idea this was a sequel and despite my extreme dislike of horror movies I plan on watching the first one. It was so ridiculous and over the top that I found it difficult to ever be too scared to continue.

Books

I tried to read all the books in 2020 that I was interested in. I failed. Epically. If I was to wait until I’d read them all this list wouldn’t come out until the middle of next year. Still, I read a LOT and there were several that I loved. I’m going to include one book that didn’t come out this year that I read for the first time because I enjoyed it that much.

  1. Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews– Is there every going to be a list without an Ilona Andrews book? I hope not.
  2. The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan– My historical romance reading this year was off the charts and this was my favorite.
  3. The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler– I laughed so much while reading this book and the sequel was just as good.
  4. How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole – The first book in the new Alyssa Cole series and it was easily just as good as the Reluctant Royals series.
  5. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk– Wow I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did but it is one that stuck with me even after I finished reading.
  6. Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams– This series is one of my best finds of 2020. It’s so much fun and I love the premise.
  7. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix – After being disappointed by the last Garth Nix book I read I was so excited after I read this one. It reminded me why I consider him to be one of my favorite authors.
  8. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare– This is the older book I’m including on my list. This entire series was excellent, but this book in particular was highly entertaining. It was a sexy romantic comedy.
  9. The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde – Ughhh this book was so good. Even better after the recent events in the US.
  10. Snapped by Alexa Martin – I’m not a fan of football, but this series has been one I’ve enjoyed reading. I thought Martin did a good job in Snapped handling a very difficult issue.

TV Shows

Like with books I had a lot of TV Shows I re-watched. It was the year of finding comfort wherever I could. I’ve tried to keep this list to just 2020 seasons, but in cases where there were older seasons I often re-watched the entire series.

  1. Brooklyn 99 on NBC – Easily one of my all-time favorite TV shows, it’s a miracle I didn’t re-watch this more than once last year.
  2. Bridgerton on Netflix – Please, please, please Netflix make this entire series!!
  3. Julie and the Phantoms on Netflix – The music was great and completely overshadowed the teenage angst for me.
  4. The Good Place – I legitimately forgot this ended this year. I loved the ending. I thought there was no way it could live up to the rest of the show and it did.
  5. The Babysitter’s Club on Netflix – This was apparently the year of babysitters, I believe this is the third one to end up in this post. I loved the book series and I was so happy to see how they modernized it.
  6. The Mandalorian on Disney+ – This season was so much better than the first and I enjoyed the first. There were several great episodes and they better get Mando back with baby Yoda.
  7. The Umbrella Academy on Netflix – Five, Aidan Gallagher, is such an amazing actor. I can easily see him as an old man. The story this season was better than last season and I’m glad the family seems to have gotten back together. After that cliffhanger ending I’m eagerly waiting for the next season.
  8. Sex Education on Netflix – Last year was just too long of a year. Shows came out that I enjoyed that I forgot came out. This was one of them. Every time I watch Sex Education I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it.
  9. Doctor Who on BBC America – I’m enjoying the new Doctor and companions so much, though, honestly I barely remember this season.
  10. Guys Grocery Games on Hulu – This was one of my biggest comfort watches of 2020. This beat out The Great British Baking Show to be my favorite cooking show of the year. It’s fun and yummy.

Video Games

Did games that weren’t Animal Crossing come out in 2020? I couldn’t scrape together ten games that I played and liked this year. I play most games on the PC through steam, but included links to Amazon versions. So here is my abbreviated list.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons by Nintendo – I played hundreds of hours of Animal Crossing in 2020. I’d play an ungodly amount, take a break, then come back and play an ungodly amount again. I’m currently taking a break, but I’ll be back, there’s no question.
  2. Hades by Supergiant Games – Holy shit this game was so unexpectedly amazing. The voice cast was phenomenal. The art style was beautiful. The game play was fun. I knew nothing about Hades until all my friends started playing it and I am so freaking glad I went out on a limb and bought it.
  3. Stardew Valley by ConcernedApe– Technically this game didn’t come out in 2020, however it had a pretty big update so I’m including it. The update got be back into the game and it’s currently replaced Animal Crossing in my obsessive playing.
  4. No Man’s Sky by Hello Games– Another game that didn’t technically come out in 2020, but it had several updates. It’s crazy to think back to when this game first released and compare it to now. They’ve added so much. It’s one of those games that I love to go back to again and again.
  5. My Time at Portia by Pathea – Yeah, yeah, I know it didn’t come out in 2020 either. I filled my time before Animal Crossing came out playing it though.
  6. The Sims 4 by EA Games – The Sims 4 had two Expansion Packs that came out this year. I wasn’t a fan of Eco Lifestyle and haven’t played Snowy Escape yet. However, I needed another game for the list and it’s one I played a fair amount of earlier in the year.
  7. Two Point Hospital by Two Point Studios – I mean, there was DLC released this year so…I’m including it.
  8. Civilization VI by Firaxis – Just deal with it.

Best Adventure Movies

I have, what I’m finding to be, a very strict definition of adventure movies. It follows the Wikipedia definition pretty closely, but apparently, that is not the definition other people seem to use; at least people that write lists and post them on the internet.

Wikipedia’s definition of an adventure movie:

Adventure films are a genre of film whose plots feature elements of travel. They typically involve protagonists who must leave their home or place of comfort and go to faraway lands to fulfill a goal. Settings play an important role in Adventure films, sometimes as big as the characters themselves.

Main plot elements include quests for lost continents and exotic setting; struggles and situations that confront the main characters, the creation of empires, characters embarking on treasure and heroic journeys, travels, explorations, quests and searches for the unknown usually also having to overcome an adversary. Adventure films are often set in a period background and may include adapted stories of historical or fictional adventure heroes within the historical context. Kings, battles, rebellion, or piracy are commonly seen. Adventure films may also be combined with other movie genres such as action, animation, comedy, drama, fantasy, science fiction, family, horror, or war.

The ending of the definition is where my opinion diverges, slightly. Adventure movies can, of course, be combined with other genres, but too often on these lists, adventure is the subgenre and has very little to do with the main parts of the movie. When I’m looking for an adventure movie, I want that to be the focus. Things get a bit sticky with films like Star Wars. It’s clearly sci-fi, but it’s also fantasy and adventure. It’s one of those rare movies that straddle genres very well.

Superhero movies will not be on my list. At least none I’ve seen as of September 2020. In my opinion, superhero movies have become their own separate genre. They have elements of action, sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure. The focus, though, is the superhero and all the superhero stuff. This is not what I’m looking for when it comes to an adventure movie.

Most action movies will not be on my list. If the purpose of the movie is to see people get beat up and shit blown up, for me, that’s action, not adventure. John Wick and The Raid are action. Sure, I could see how someone could argue they’re adventure, but, again, that’s not what I’m looking for in an adventure film.

*This definition is completely subjective and as the list grows longer will probably end up making no sense at all.

I think part of the reason I enjoy adventure movies is that unlike action, they often include female characters in more than a token role. Evie in The Mummy is a driving force in the story. Buttercup tries to save her true love and speaks up against the man in control of her in The Princess Bride. It’s Joan’s adventure that we go on in Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile. Princess Leia, Abigail Chase, Elizabeth Swann, Yvaine, and Lamia have large parts in each of their movies. They each may not be the lead of their films, but their actions matter to the story.

Now that’s cleared up, here are the adventure movies I enjoy the most, listed alphabetically. More will be added as I remember them or watch them.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is about a man who is taken from Earth and forced to make his way through the galaxy with people he thought he knew. His initial goal is just to survive in his new environment, but it turns into a quest to find the answer to the ultimate question. It has a sci-fi setting and is a comedy, but the main purpose of the movie is Arthur’s adventure.

The Indiana Jones movies are my definition of adventure film. Indiana is an adventurer seeking treasures that belong in museums. Raiders of the Last Ark is easily the best. Temple of Doom still freaks me out a bit. Last Crusade has Sean Connery and is a bit of a rehash of Raiders, but I still prefer it to Temple of Doom. I actually don’t hate Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but I didn’t include a picture because the gallery looked weird on WordPress when I uploaded it.

Jumanji and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle both have kids completely out of their comfort zones fighting to survive and beat a game.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, Return to King Solomon’s Mines, and Curse of the Judas Chalice are movies that were made for TV but they are very much in the vein of the Indiana Jones films. Noah is a professional student who finds himself chosen to work for the Library. He has to seek out mythical artifacts to protect them and the world. There is also a Librarians TV show that I love even more than the movies.

The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are once again very similar to the Indiana Jones movies. However, this time the female character has agency and an integral part to the story. Evie makes these movies, she has a larger role than O’Connell. She’s amazing. Also, everyone in this movie is gorgeous.

National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets have a team of people searching all over the country for treasure. They are being chased by bad guys and there’s a little bit of romance. It doesn’t have a historical setting, but it does have historical elements.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the best of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (Full disclosure I haven’t watched the last one or two). It has swashbuckling pirates, sword fights, and treasure.

The Princess Bride has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, true love, and miracles. You can’t get more adventure than that, now can you?

Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile are two adventure movies that follow Joan Wilder, a super successful romance writer, and Jack Colton a man who just wants to buy a boat. They travel through treacherous terrain while being chased by a corrupt military figure, in order to save her sister. The sequel isn’t as good, but I enjoy it none the less.

Stardust has a lot of fantasy elements and I debated including it on my list. It’s one of my favorite movies, but is it more adventure than fantasy? I decided to go with yes. It has pirates. It has a young man on a heroic journey to find treasure for his love. The fantasy setting plays a roll, but the adventure story is what really drives the movie. It hits all the marks I love most about adventure films, but I could just be clouded by my love.

Star Wars just might be the most epic adventure story of all time. These seven movies are a saga that has yet to be surpassed. I know there are a lot of people that hate the prequels, but they came out when I was just young enough to attach some nostalgia. So apart from Clone Wars I enjoy them all. I also included Rogue One because it is the only new movie in the series that I have loved. It is one of my favorite movies, not only in the series, but period.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life have action elements, but Lara’s quest for ancient artifacts trumps that, in my opinion. Plus, I love being able to include female led adventure films. That being said, I wouldn’t call these favorites. I enjoy them and watch them when I’m not feeling strongly about anything, but there are many ways in which they could be better. I have not yet watched the newest, if I like it I’ll definitely add it.

Tomorrowland is another one of my favorite movies. This time, though, I’m pretty sure there’s no question of it’s adventure film status. Yes there are sci-fi elements, but the movie takes part mostly in the real world. You have a young woman searching for Tomorrowland, then trying to save the world. She’s taken out of her comfort zone on a quest for an artifact.

Dynamite Review Best of 2017

Movies

1.      Thor: Ragnarok – I don’t get to watch new movies much as they come out, but I was so lucky to get to see this in theaters. It was AWESOME! I’ve already pre-ordered the steelbook from Best Buy, I got the theatrical poster off of Disney Movie Rewards and it’s framed and in my kids bathroom, and I can’t wait to watch it again and again.

2.     John Wick 2 – Great action movie and addition to the series. Awesome world, I’m interested in the Stars series that’s potentially coming out.

3.     Kingsman: The Golden Circle – In your face, over the top action.

4.     Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – While not as good as the previous one I loved so many things about this movie. The colors, the characters, the relationships. I’m so glad that this is part of the Marvel Universe.

5.     Spider-Man: Homecoming – I really enjoyed this movie but what’s potentially more important, my daughter loves this movie.

6.     Moana – This is more an honorable mention since it came out in 2016 not 2017. Love the music and the story, reminds me of the Disney I grew up with.

Books

1.      White Hot by Ilona Andrews – The long awaited sequel to Burn for Me, so good.

2.     Wildfire by Ilona Andrews – Love this series so much, want more. Wasn’t too happy with the ending, but still love.

3.     Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan – Beautiful art, interesting story, need some answers though. The only comic I pre-order.

4.     The Rosetta Man by Claire McCague – Picked this up randomly and I ended up loving it. So happy when that happens.

5.     Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs – Not my favorite Patricia Briggs book, too many Doctor Who references, lots of other little things, but still a Patricia Briggs book so it’s going on the list!

6.     Heartstrikers Series by Rachel Aaron – This series didn’t come out last year, though they did have a book release that I haven’t read yet, but I had to put it on the list because I enjoyed it so much.

7.     The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts – This is the kind of Nora Roberts series that I love. It didn’t come out in 2017, but after being wary of starting it because of her more recent books I got to it late.

TV Shows

1.      The Crown – I resisted watching this because I heard so much praise, but I’m glad I finally did. I destroyed the second season that recently aired and I honestly think it might be better than the first. Amazing show.

2.     Sense 8 – I love this idea so much and the second season wasn’t as slow as the first. The ending killed me and then when they canceled it, ugh, I never do TV show petitions but I signed them all. I canceled Netflix for the first time in years. I was furious. I’m hoping that the movie will be able to wrap things up but I seriously don’t see how that’s possible. I’ll probably never keep Netflix running continuously because of how they did this show.

3.     The Good Place – I had no desire to watch this last year, it just didn’t seem that funny to me. I ended up having the end of season one spoiled for me and that changed everything. I was able to binge the first season on Netflix and I’ve watched every episode of the second as it’s aired. So freaking funny.

4.     The Orville – Wow, I had no expectations for this show. I had hopes, but because of Seth MacFarlane I didn’t have many. I was certainly surprised and this has ended up being one of my favorite shows of the year. It’s like getting new episodes of Star Trek, only instead of the Enterprise team we’ve got the D tier crew. The jokes don’t always land and they’re reusing a lot of Star Trek plots, but I don’t care. I’m so glad that this has been picked up for a second season and I’m hoping that they continue to find their footing.

5.     Future Man – Loved this, it was so crude and hilarious and just came out of nowhere. Time travel, video games, the 80s, James Cameron’s AI, a terrible future, so many things that add up to funny. So glad we’re getting a second season.

6.     Legion – This is not my usual type of show. It’s wild and out there and very trippy. The only reason I watched it was because I needed something to keep me up during late night feedings and I ended up staying up just to finish episodes. Half the time I’m not sure what’s going on, but I honestly didn’t care. They gave just enough answers not to drive me crazy, but still left me needing to know more.

7.     Black-ish – I just discovered Black-ish this year and thank goodness Hulu has all of the episodes. Most episodes are nice, funny episodes, but the episodes that aren’t, the episodes where they “teach” you something are so good. This year there was one about postpartum depression that really resonated with me.

8.     Life in Pieces – I laugh in every single episode of this show. Love it.

9.     The Librarians – The third season was probably the weakest so far and I’m not overly thrilled with all that’s going on in the fourth season but I seriously can’t think of anything that would have me stop watching this.

 

Games

1.      Splatoon 2 (Switch) This was hands down my favorite game of the year. In an alternate universe I went pro, built a brand, and lived the life of the rich and famous.

2.     Stardew Valley (Switch) After putting in 160 hours on the PC version you’d think I’d be done with this game, but nope. As soon as it came out on the Switch I bought it and started all over again. Aided by the amazing guide my husband bought me for Christmas 2016 I’ve been chipping away at all the in game achievements.

3.     Lego City Undercover (Switch) I beat this once, then got halfway through beating it again before Splatoon 2 came out. I still plan on going back and working on unlocking everything, though, it’s not a priority because I certainly got my money out of this.

4.     Delicious Emily Home Sweet Home (PC) Really liked the story in this one, young married couple with a little kid get their dream house and fix it up. If I was crazy and didn’t mind construction around toddlers I could totally do this too.

5.     Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) I’m stretching things a bit including this to my list. I got it for Christmas after trying it out at Red Box and finding it interesting enough to try more. I didn’t start playing it until December 31st and at this point I’m only a couple hours in, however, I love the idea a lot. I love that she’s a real looking woman and she’s kicking ass. So far they haven’t put her in super revealing clothes which is nice too. The world is interesting, however, I wish I didn’t have to use a bow and arrow. If I ever beat it, or put a significant amount of time in I’ll write a review.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Director:

Jim Jarmusch

Starring:

Tilda Swinton

Tom Hiddleston

Mia Wasikowaska

Plot:

A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.

Review:

The movie makes you realize how amazing the makeup was for Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer. She looks completely different.

Anyway, back on topic. I was in the perfect mood to receive this movie. Depressed. It’s slow moving with tons of music and historical references. There isn’t much of a story, it’s more like a glimpse into the lives of Adam and Eve. The vampires Adam and Eve.

There’s no action, mild violence, language, and boobies. Tilda Swinton boobs.

It was entertaining, but not my normal type of movie. I think the mood I was in really helped me enjoy this better. Adam, Tom Hiddleston, was depressed and his wife came to help him out of it. Naturally her sister came and ruined everything, but they just continued on with their lives and moved on.

The movie appealed to how I was feeling but I’m not sure if I would recommend it.

3/5

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Director:

David Gelb

Starring:

Jiro Ono

Masuhiro Yamamoto

Plot:

A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, his business in the Ginza Tokio Subway station, and his relationship with his son and eventual heir, Yoshikazu.

Review:

I’m not a fan of eating sushi but I can still appreciate how beautiful it looks and the skill it takes to create. This was incredibly interesting and not just because of all the shots of Tokyo.

Jiro is eighty-five years old and he has spent seventy-five of those years working toward the pursuit of sushi perfection. His oldest son is fifty years old and still works for him, while his youngest has gone out on his own to open his own restaurant. This was explained that the eldest inherits the restaurant while his brother would have to go out and make his own. The brother opened up in the most expensive place on the planet but has to lower his prices because he’s not Jiro. I mean he’s only got two Michelin stars while Jiro has three. lol

I get the feeling that Jiro missed out on a lot with his sons growing up and wasn’t a very good parent. The question is, should the pursuit of perfection in your job be more important than everything else?

If I was alone in the world, no family, no friends, I might pursue writing one hundred percent. I might. I love writing and creating, but I also love doing lots of other things. I don’t think I could just work on one thing for the rest of my life.

This movie really made me think. I thought the music was great and I loved seeing Tokyo again. It was cool to point out and say we’ve been there or I remember that.

5/5