The 15 Best Things of ’15 – Part 1

The end of the year always brings a new hope for what is next and gives us reason to pause and reflect on the year that was. At the Nerd Pastor, we want to look back at the year we had in 2015. From movies to television to games, I want to share my favorite 15 things from ’15.

We’re going to look at five things per day over the next three days so I hope you enjoy and find something you haven’t discovered yet!

A couple of disclaimers up front though to help keep the “But you forgot my favorite thing so your list is wrong and dumb. And ugly.” guy away.

  1. There are several movies and shows I didn’t get to watch or finish watching so while shows like Netflix’s Jessica Jones are beloved by many, I’m only one episode in and can’t really add it to the list. Same goes for “Mr. Robot”, “Fargo”, “The Martian”, etc. So please, just take the list for what it is – one man trying to encourage people who haven’t experience these 15 things to give them a go.
  2. There’s only one book on the list. It wasn’t the only book I read but it was the only one from 2015. It’s for that reason books like “Ready Player One”, and “Religion and the Sciences of Origins” aren’t on the list. Sorry, Thomas A Kempis, your “Imitation of Christ” may have been one of my favorite books this year but you missed the cut by 500 years or so. Sorry. So close.
  3. Remember: Most of what is on the list are things you can engage and entertain that will draw you closer to Christ. At the Nerd Pastor, I believe whole heartedly that God can use the lessons we learn and the stories we hear, read, and see to bring us to a deeper knowledge of him. Pop culture is not a replacement for our relationship with Christ but a way to engage it through a Christian worldview that helps us see God in all things and learn from them.

With that, let’s get onto the 15 Best Things of ’15!

15. The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith.

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The follow up to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” doesn’t quite pack the punch the first book did, but then, there are few books that do. Smith’s book on Lincoln is a book that has become one of my all-time favorite pieces of fiction…that isn’t entirely fiction.

You have to read it to get it.

“The Last American Vampire” carries on the story of Henry Sturgiss who continues the battle across the ages against slavery. It’s a story that reminds us that even those considered evil can be used to accomplish God’s plan of setting captives free.

Smith perfectly blends factual events with fiction to the point that you may find yourself on Google trying to separate the two out.

The tale of Henry and some familiar cast members from his previous book creates a strong story worth the time investment.

14. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

In my opinion Tina Fey can do no wrong and Kimmy Schmidt is just another reason why I feel that way.

Ellie Kemper (Erin from The Office) plays the title character who was kidnapped by a doomsday prophet played by John Hamm in his funniest role as he shines a light on how blindly people can fall for the lies of a charismatic man. After 15 years she and three others are finally freed. She then heads to New York as a lovable and naive woman looking to make it on her own.

Ellie’s charm and a strong supporting cast (seriously, Hamm is worth the time investment alone) perform Tina’s well written script and the show shines in this Netflix exclusive

It also has the best theme song of any current show as it pokes fun at the culture’s love of auto-tuning news stories.

13. Mortal Kombat X

I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid playing an Atari 2600 almost 30 years ago.

Let me pause for a second as that hurt to type…ok, soldiering on…

I used to hide my love of gaming as I got into my late 20’s. I used to be somewhat embarrassed of it. Now, I know I keep gaming in it’s proper place and I don’t play 40 hours a week so I realize I have nothing to be ashamed of. Especially as I got to know many other Christians and especially pastor friends who also picked up the controller to unwind.

Some great friendships have formed through gaming and I’ve had many opportunities to help disciple some of those friends through rough times.

So lay off. *wink*

The first video game to appear on the list is the tenth in the main franchise of the Mortal Kombat universe.

Once the subject of investigations and at the heart of anti-violence in gaming campaigns the Mortal Kombat franchise has moved into the role of just being a solid fighting game. Sure it still has a lot of the gore but the game is rated M for Mature.

Granted, I realize I am in the minority when it comes to my love of fighters but this game on many levels transcended the genre. These games are a test of one-on-one skill. Predicting your opponent, reading and reacting. I love and look forward to the EVO competitions held each year where the best of the best in fighting games go against each other with some serious cash prizes on the line and compete in games like Mortal Kombat X.

So if it helps, think of it as a bloody game of chess.

MKX also is the first time that I got to properly play my all-time favorite movie monster – the Predator in a game.

Warning – (awesome) animated gore in the trailer below.

 

 

12. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Jon Stewart retired and Stephen Colbert has moved into a different kind of late night role. Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore are both finding their footing in replacing them both and while they are both doing admirable jobs and have some great moments they are trying to fill large shoes of men with equally large charisma.

Thankfully, we still have John Oliver who after filling in for Stewart for an entire summer while he was off directing his first movie was offered a job with HBO.

What Oliver has done since then is create a show that isn’t concerned with quantity so much as quality.

Airing only once a week it has allowed Oliver and company the chance to produce some of the most complete takedowns we’ve ever seen on television.

This is perhaps my favorite as he goes after televangelists.

Yes, they’re still a thing.

 

11. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Admittedly, the first viewing of this film felt a little flat to me. I’m not sure if it was superhero fatigue or something else but I was left wanting more.

On a second viewing with the family after Christmas I realized there are a lot of quality moments in this film.

The standout performance and the glue to the film is James Spader as Ultron, a sentient robot that is determined to rescue humanity by destroying it.

His character is filled with quips and snide remarks all while bringing in some deep theological questions especially as they pertain to the question of autonomy and free will.

The supporting story and characters are all charming and we get some depth to mainstays like Hawkeye that flesh that character out making him more likable.

This first trailer is perhaps my favorite Marvel trailer as it borrows from fellow House of Mouse franchise, Pinocchio to create a haunting moment as you hear “there are no strings to hold me down” and then hear Ultron utter “There are no strings on me.”

 

That’s part 1 covering Things #15-#11. Check back tomorrow to see #10-#6 and be on the look out as we’re looking to grow the Nerd Pastor by expanding our social media presence!

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