Mala’s Best of 2016 Pop Culture Round-Up

It’s amazing how much of 2016 is a blur. I barely remember the beginning of it — what I watched, what I read. I’ve done a lot of “Wait, that happened THIS year?” as I look back on what media made an impact on me.

Winona Ryder made a jaw-dropping comeback in Netflix’s Stranger Things, and I was blown away by Millie Bobbie Brown as Eleven, but the show overall didn’t rank as one of my year-end faves. I binge-watched the first season of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but bailed on season two. I also gave up on Jane the Virgin season three — and I dumped several of last year’s faves: Quantico, UnREAL and The 100!

Perhaps the most blasphemous development of all: I totally forgot The X-Files came back this year! The revival was so underwhelming and half-assed, with Gillian Anderson the only bright spot, that all my years of fannish nostalgia couldn’t save it.

Here’s a look back at my 2016!

Favorite Books
Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop
A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Hold Me by Courtney Milan
The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha
The Young Blood by Erin Satie

Favorite Shows
The Get Down (Netflix)
Daredevil (Netflix)
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Luke Cage (Netflix)
Queen Sugar (OWN)
Pitch (FOX)
Good Behavior (TNT)

Favorite Movies
Captain America: Civil War
Deadpool
Rogue One
Zootopia

Favorite Guilty Pleasures
The Exorcist (FOX)
Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party (VH1)
Peanut butter Clif bars

MVA (Most Valuable Author): Molly O’Keefe. I honestly couldn’t pick my favorite O’Keefe book of the year. She had so much great stuff come out, and I glommed it ALL. And she even got a cover shout-out in Suicide Squad!

Best TV Comeback: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The introduction of Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider revitalized the show after a meh third season.

Tom Hiddleston as Bond? Paging Dr. No!

tumblr_mzz5pmLV5C1sgxceqo5_250I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the campaign for “the Internet’s Boyfriend” Tom Hiddleston as the new James Bond. For an actor, there’s no doubt that the opportunity to play Bond is next level. It’s a long-running, wildly successful, franchise. You go from stolid period dramas to a blockbuster paycheck. Everybody knows your name. (That was even the gist of the Chris Cornell theme song of Daniel Craig’s entrée into the series, Casino Royale). But, as a viewer, and as someone who is known to have a bit of a crush on Tom Hiddleston, I just cannot get my head around this idea.

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Mala’s Best of 2015 Pop Culture Round-Up

Recapping a year in pop culture is HARD — especially since real-life circumstances resulted in me consuming a heck of a lot more media than usual! I found myself reading a ton, avoiding the movie theaters — and dropping TV shows if they made me unhappy or failed to hold my interest.

This is the year I broke up with Arrow, Nashville, Once Upon a Time, The Americans, The Blacklist and Broadchurch. I flirted with a Days of our Lives reunion, but it didn’t last. I bid a tearful goodbye to Hart of Dixie and Justified. I tried Daredevil, The Fall, and Master of None but couldn’t sustain relationships. Haven and Defiance soured for me, and for the network, too, since they were both canceled.

But it wasn’t all disappointments and downers! Here is my look back at what worked, what I loved the most, and what got me through 2015. I’ve even linked to extra squee!

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Charming Rogue: Why Channing Tatum as Gambit Misses the Mark

I started reading The Uncanny X-Men in the 1990s, swiftly graduating from yoinking my brother’s weekly comic book haul to filling up my own boxes. My first major “X-Men event” was the Extinction Agenda storyline in 1990 and then I followed that into the blue team’s X-Men title and, of course, the 1992 animated series.

GambitsoloWhy am I kicking off with my X-credentials? Well, you know, Fake Geek Girl, etc. Let’s just get that bullshit out of the way. I know my X-titles. I know Gambit. I stole his first real appearance (UXM #266) out of my brother’s box and haven’t given it back. I had at least four Gambit posters on my bedroom wall. I kept his trading card. I had t-shirts. Hell, Gambit and Rogue were one of my LiveJournal icons. Ask me to name my top X-Men and it’s pretty easy: Gambit, Wolverine, Rogue and Jubilee.

So, you can probably understand why I haven’t been a huge fan of the movies — shakier than the ever-changing comic X-canon, poorly written, miscast blockbusters that do no favors to characters I grew up loving. Fox’s X-Men film franchise has been more miss than hit, and the decision to cast Channing Tatum in a Gambit spin-off only furthers the death spiral of a lackluster series. Flash, bang and star power are not the X-Men and — ironically — Gambit’s story, more than anything, is one about how a weakness for pretty faces can spell your doom.

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Lootera Will Steal Your Heart

Lootera-PosterVikramaditya Motwane’s period drama Lootera (“Thief”) is appropriately titled, as it steals slowly into your consciousness and deftly exploits your vulnerabilities before leaving you alone with nothing but your thoughts. This is not a loud film; it features no dance numbers, no bombastic “Bollywood moments,” but it still delivers the beautifully melodramatic payload that makes Hindi films such a joy to watch.

Lootera is the story of Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha), a pampered Bengali landowner’s daughter, and Varun (Ranveer Singh), the mysterious archaeologist who comes to dig on her father’s property. Pakhi is instantly entranced, but as Varun is wooed by her charming, single-minded campaign to win his heart, he’s waging a dangerous war of his own. He’s no archaeologist. He’s a con artist, part of an expert ring of thieves, only there to worm his way into her and her father’s good graces so that he can simultaneously worm his way into their coffers.

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Voyage of the Damned: Why STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Can’t Win

J.J. Abrams’ second installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise delivers classic geekery at warp speed, ratcheting up the action sequences, the rapid-fire dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments and the poignant emotionalism at the root of Spock and Kirk’s famous friendship. It’s a film that any fan of the TV shows and prior films will enjoy, rife as it is with in-jokes and shout-outs and a gorgeous flip of a truly memorable sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. However, it’s another sort of flip that holds Star Trek Into Darkness in limbo: the controversial casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s central villain.

Consider this lovely image your spoiler space.

Consider this lovely image your spoiler space.

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2012: Year in Pop Culture Review

It’s the last day of December. You know what this means: obligatory year-end navel-gazing! This being me, I’m doing it with books, movies, TV shows and other pop culture happenings!

Best Personal Pop Culture Thing: getting published in both fiction and nonfiction.
Worst Personal Pop Culture Thing: the closure of Soap Opera Weekly.
Biggest 2012 Crush: Ryan Gosling, Jeremy Renner.
Favorite Duchess: Kate Middleton.
Favorite Non-Duchess: Emma Stone.

gentlemanundoneBest Reads: Riveted, by Meljean Brook; The Killing Moon, by N.K. Jemisin; His Very Own Girl, by Carrie Lofty.
Favorite New Author: Cecilia Grant, Ruthie Knox, Juliana Gray.
Favorite Male Character: Micajah Hawke from Karina Cooper’s St. Croix Chronicles, Winter Makepeace from Elizabeth Hoyt’s Thief of Shadows.
Favorite Female Character: Minerva Highwood from Tessa Dare’s A Week to be Wicked.

kahaaniFavorite Movie: The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall.
Best Movie: Kahaani.
Worst Movie: Snow White and the Huntsman.
Surprisingly Delightful Movie That The Critics Were Wrong About: Mirror, Mirror.
Most Hyped Movie That I Didn’t See: Jab Tak Hain Jaan.
Favorite Male Performance: Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike, Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
Favorite Female Performance: Vidya Balan in Kahaani, Sridevi in English Vinglish.

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