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!
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
The Get Down (Netflix)
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Luke Cage (Netflix)
Queen Sugar (OWN)
Good Behavior (TNT)
Captain America: Civil War
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.
I’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.
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!
With 110 percent more self-awareness, silliness and skin, Magic Mike XXL casts the spell that 2012’s Magic Mike couldn’t quite muster. It’s going to be a common observation: This is exactly what people wanted from the moody, artsy, and often-times slow first film. There’s a scene early on in which Channing Tatum’s affable Mike shows up in a stiff suit and is immediately tossed into a pool by a naked Joe Manganiello. “Okay, we get it, this is a movie about a bunch of male exotic dancers,” the movie is saying to viewers. “We’re diving right in!” Stripped of pretension and clothes, the cast gets to have a blast, and so does everyone watching. I don’t think our screening audience at New York’s Loews Village 7 theater stopped laughing and cheering once. The script is as hilarious as the actors are naked.
But it’s not all abs and tight butts. Magic Mike XXL focuses less on plot and more on character. In a nutshell (or a snug thong), the guys band together to head to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach for their last hurrah. As you do. Cue the whacky road-trip high-jinks of a The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert combined with the scrappy underdog story of a Pitch Perfect. Like before, Tatum’s Mike is the heart, with an adorkable likability — and those great moves — but costars Manganiello (Richie), Matt Bomer (Ken), Kevin Nash (Tarzan) and Adam Rodriguez (Tito) all get their own beats — with alternatingly hysterical, poignant and erotic results. Yes, I said erotic. For a movie without any onscreen sex or kissing, Magic Mike XXL is gloriously filthy. Before the screening, someone on Twitter suggested taking dollar bills to wave in the air. Not a bad idea! You can use the bills as a fan when things get too hot! (And that’s basically every five minutes.)
Hawkeye/Natasha. Bruce Banner/Natasha. And here I am about to sally forth with my own ‘ship manifesto: Bucky/Natasha. I know what it looks like: We’re gleefully, even shamelessly, pairing Black Widow up with everything in pants because she’s the only female member of the movieverse Avengers. Let me get three things out of the way. 1.) Despite the off-color comments some castmembers have made, it’s safe to say the Avenger most likely to bed-hop is international playboy Tony Stark. Remember the stripper-pole-sex-plane? Oh, the exploits JARVIS must have seen. 2.) My chosen partner isn’t even an Avenger. So there. 3.) Natasha Romanoff is a total badass and a strong character in her own right and she doesn’t need a love interest to be validated. Continue reading
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.
Why 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.
Vikramaditya 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.