The Best 15 Things of ’15 – Part 3

Like all good trilogies it takes a strong ending to bring the whole thing together.

Here is the third and final installation of our year in review recapping the 15 best things from 2015 covering the top 5!

5. The Walking Dead Season 6 

The first half of season 6 may have felt a little uneven at times but it also featured some of the better moments in the franchise that reminded me just how much I love the series.

I’ll leave the Glenn story out of this (I still believe that the okie doke they pulled on us was a cheap trick and could be a bad trend to start) and say that some of the character moments like the Morgan only episode brought a sense of humanity back to a show that has quickly turned its viewers into monsters by getting us to cheer for the “good guys” to kill eliminate any and all threats be they walker or living.

What the first half of season 6 did so well was remind us that survivors are humans and if they’re not careful they will all lose the thing that makes them humans. Nothing drove that point home better than the Wolves.

As a tribe the Wolves held up a lens to the survivors at Alexandria showing them just how easy it would be to become animals once you lose all respect for life.

That is what made this half season so solid, seeing the return of humanity.

Throw in the appearance of Negan (who makes the Governor look like a volunteer worker at a pet adoption agency) and you’ve got a show poised to put the cast through an All Out War (stolen from the comic issues with Negan) that will change everything and leave it all completely different.

 

As a side note, if you’ve never read the comic series that spawned the Walking Dead then I’d highly recommend it. It is dark and gritty but it has some weight and depth you don’t normally get from a comic book.

 

4. Creed

It’s time for a confession: I never got into the Rocky franchise. I know to many that sounds as anti-American as not loving apple pie or your grandma, but it’s true.

There was something about the character of Rocky and his dim witted persona that I couldn’t connect to but there was something pulling me to check out this tale of Apollo Creed’s son.

When I took my family to see the movie I was hit with a jab right in the feels.

Creed accomplishes something rare into today’s movie landscape. It is a movie with heart, a true underdog story. It nods at the franchise that makes this universe possible without ever feeling coated in cheese.

Michael B. Jordan’s character of Adonis is inspiring.

There’s a small scene that gets to the heart of why this movie is so great. *MINOR SPOILER DIALOGUE ONLY*

Sly Stalone reprises the role that made him famous (Rocky Balboa) but there’s no attempt for him to get into the ring. He also delivers a performance that should have plenty of award buzz surrounding it.

There’s a moment where Rocky and Donny are standing together in front of a mirror and Rocky gives him a speech explaining how he’s looking at his toughest enemy right there in the mirror. It’s a powerful speech and reminds me of the Scriptures where Paul talks about how the things he doesn’t want to do, he does and the things he wants to do, he doesn’t. All because the mind is at war with itself.

I hope to one day dive deeper into a “Film and Theology” post about Creed but needless to say, a fan or not of all things Rocky, I think everyone should give this film a go.

 

 

3. Halo 5: Guardians

The last of the video game entries is the one closest to my heart.

I’ve been a fan of the Halo franchise and universe for over a decade. It was the game that pulled me away from being a Sony only fanboy to a die-hard XBOX gamer.

Halo has been more than a game for me as it was the series that connected me to a group of gamers who were in the same life stage as I was – fathers and husbands.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been gaming with this group and the majority of it has revolved around Halo. The Nerd Pastor’s newest contributor, Rob Kotaska being one of them.

I put Halo 5 at the #3 spot for more than just nostalgia. It is nearly the perfect shooting game. The single player campaign is a bit dense narratively speaking but we don’t play Halo for that.

We play for the multiplayer. And the multiplayer is a slice of fried gold.

Halo 5 has great weapon balancing (an issue that has plagued games like Destiny), deep modes (from the one shot SWAT to the classic Big Team Battle as well as classic objective modes like Capture the Flag) and it even introduced something new with the REQ system and the all new Warzone mode which is a more casual game while still keeping competitive elements.

Halo 5 is my default game. When I have only an hour to play, I hop on for a couple matches with my “invisible friends” as my wife calls them and smile the whole time.

Instead of a trailer here, I’m going to put a highlight reel I created of just a few of my favorite plays so far because I don’t get to share them often. So pretend to think this is awesome, please!

 

 

2. Daredevil

Much like Creed, Daredevil is another series I never had a strong attraction to. Most of what I knew of the Man Without Fear came from his appearances in my favorite comic series: the Punisher.

However, the Marvel cinematic universe has earned the right by me to at least sample most of their new movies and shows whether I’m familiar with them or not.

With Netflix’s Daredevil I was shocked at the depth of both Matt Murdock and the overall narrative of the first season.

For those unfamiliar with him, the title hero is blind from a tragic accident as a child. He is trained to use his heightened sense to fight crime. That’s a huge oversimplification, but it is a solid starting point.

Along the way we watch Murdock wrestle with daddy issues, whether or not killing can be justified and his Catholic faith.

Daredevil may be one of the few shows on television where a man of faith (the priest he befriends) in a positive way and someone who can still provide spiritual guidance to someone else.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s role as Kingpin is as equally rich in development. It isn’t often that a show gives the back story to the villain especially one that helps you empathize with them.

On top of the phenomenal spiritual overtones and character rich stories are some of the highest quality fight scenes ever delivered to the small screen.

I would highly recommend the show especially since season 2 will feature the Punisher as played by everyone’s favorite Walking Dead psycho cop, Shane (Jon Bernthal).

 

 

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Shocking, right?

Probably not, but how could I put anything else in the top spot?

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since childhood. We share the same birth year.

I remember as a child taking my parent’s footstool and laying it flat so I could pretend to be in the Millennium Falcon shooting down TIE fighters with Han and Luke every time the movie came on television.

I grew up on the original trilogy and I remember being nearly uncontrollable with giddiness back in ’99 waiting for the Phantom Menace (the title should have been a clear warning).

As the prequels released I kept hoping the next one would be better and they did get incrementally better but they still were…well…not very good.

I try to keep things positive on the Nerd Pastor blog but it is really hard to do that with the 3 movies that released starting in ’99. They reduced one of the true great villains in movie history to a whiny brat who was immaculately conceived.

…and it had Jar Jar Binks.

It was because of these movies that Lord of the Rings (both Tolkien’s novels and Peter Jackson’s adaptations) took over the mantle for my favorite franchise.

The original trilogy had become less enjoyable because of they way Vader had been neutered.

However, when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars and I found out that Lucas was turning over the reigns I suppose you could say I had a new hope. *groans*

When J.J.Abrams was attached to the project I allowed myself to dream and hope again. This was the same guy who got me to care about Star Trek. He had a clear pedigree of being able to treat beloved franchises with care while pushing them forward.

From the first trailer, I knew this would be different.

It is and I couldn’t be happier.

In short (because I hope to blog at length about it after the new year) what makes the Force Awakens so spectacular is how it marries what made the original trilogy great and the new trilogy tolerable.

First of all, Star Wars is a fantasy franchise in that it cares more about the emotional story that it tells and less about the sci-fi elements.

It was the emotion of the original trilogy that drew so many of us in. No one will truly be able to experience again the big reveal when Vader told Luke about his parentage.

We cared about Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, the droids and even Vader which is why so many love Star Wars.

That and lightsabers, of course.

Admittedly, the original trilogy can be difficult for a new viewer as it was filmed in the 70’s/early 80’s using a style that certainly feels dated.

The prequels missed a lot of the emotional beets that the original films and cast had but it had some gorgeous visuals. Watching Jedi/Sith fight, especially the three way battle in the Phantom  Menace, was a thing of beauty. The space battles in the franchise were also Varsity level compared to the Freshman stuff from my childhood.

The Force Awakens matches all the emotional pull of the original trilogy while telling that story with the same kind of modern technology that created jaw-dropping scenes like what we see in the prequels. Even that is done with a wink and a nod to the original trilogy as Abrams employed a technique that makes the modern film and effects look like the same universe that we first visited in ’77.

I’ve watched it twice now and can’t wait to see it again while on break from work.

It’s rich with lessons to learn and a universe to explore.

That’s why Star Wars the Force Awakens is easily the top thing of 2015.

 

There you have it! All 15 of the best things of 2015!

Be sure to let us know what you think we missed, what you loved, and what things from this list you’re going to give a go!

Until 2016!

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