Lets face it, 2016 was a shitty year. However, here and Project Derailed we feel we have all heard enough about all the bad so we thought we would all share with you our favorite things to come out of 2016!
Fiona’s 2016 Favorites
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
After nearly 10 years, fans of Gilmore Girls were treated to a four-part revival of the series. The series started shortly after the death of Richard (Edward Herrmann passed in late 2014), and showed Rory, Lorelai, Emily, and the rest of the Stars Hallow crew sixteen years after the series began. This is particularly poignant because Rory is the same age as Lorelai was when the series started.
Netflix and those involved in the show really hit the mark with this revival. They created pop-up Luke’s Diner clones at coffee shops around the United States to advertise and create hype for the revival, and it certainly helped to create excitement and bring fans back to Stars Hallow. Without spoiling anything, I will say I really enjoy where the series took the characters, and some of the biggest issues fans had with the series were resolved, at least in my eyes. It kept with the theme that life often prevents you from having the future that you envisioned for yourself, and you have to choose what will make you happy.
I have been excited for Moana since it was announced, and I was pleased with the result. The movie kept the Disneyness while still telling a relatively unique story. Pocahontas, Brave, and Mulan told similar stories, but none were quite like Moana. It truly shows a new era of Disney films, specifically within the princess genre: one where the girls are more independent and adventurous and less interested in relationships. In fact, throughout the film, I don’t even recall relationships being mentioned. Moana feels the burden of caring for her people, even though she is so young. It also blurs the lines between good and evil. Rather than having clear villains in the film, with few exceptions, evilness and harm is circumstantial. Disney is clearly evolving.
Gwenpool began as a parody. Originally, she was Gwen Stacey in a variant cover dressed as Deadpool. However, her popularity with fans catapulted her into her own title. Gwen Poole is a Marvel comics fan trapped in her own series. She breaks the fourth wall like Deadpool, but she is distinctly different in personality. She is larger than life even to the characters because she knows the story is about her, and she’s going to live it up while she can. Within the first few issues, she became one of my favorite Marvel titles. Recently, comics (especially Marvel) have been excelling at creating female superheroes that quickly become fan favorites, and I hope this trend continues.
Bustle recently released an article calling 2016 one of the best years in the genre of true crime, and I have to agree. Although it came out in late 2015, I began to watch Making a Murderer in January of 2016, and though I found it to be not entirely accurate, it has certainly helped to bring true crime to the forefront. Later, Netflix released a documentary about the Amanda Knox case, which I found to be much better quality. Of course, this trend began in 2014 with the popular podcast Serial, and the case has continued to develop this year, with courts granting Adnan Syed a retrial. Additionally, this year was the 20th anniversary of the unsolved murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the 21st anniversary of the OJ Simpson trial, sparking public interest and television specials based on both cases.
But it isn’t just television that has helped to cultivate and retain public interest in the genre. Rob Dyke has continued to release episodes of Anatomy of Murder, Twisted Tens, and Serial Killer Files on his YouTube channel this year. Additionally, Cayleigh Elise, Rob’s friend and frequent collaborator, has seen a sharp increase in her own subscriptions this year, and she continues to release quality content in her series Nameless and Dark Matters.
Nick’s 2016 Favorites
Deadpool was a movie that many thought we would ever get to see. It was know for a long time that Ryan Reynolds, who portrayed a horrid abomination of a version of Deadpool in the equally horrid X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, was leading the charge to do justice by the “Merc with a Mouth” on the big screen. After nearly 10 years, the film finally crawled its way out of all nine levels of Fox’s Development Hell and got the green light after studio test footage “leaked” in the wake of San Deigo Comic-Con. The fan reaction exploded on the internet, proving to the curmudgeons at Fox that this was, in fact, a film we all wanted.
Deadpool was finally delivered to our ear and eye holes and it proved to be a smash hit. Coming at a time where so many super hero films (both good and bad) are coming out every year, Deadpool became the perfect outlet to make fun of it all. Bringing an original and fresh take to the genre complete with dick jokes and all the blood and gore you can stomach. You know, for kids.
Critical Role and Talks Machina
Okay, full disclosure, Critical Role started in 2015 not 2016, but to be fair I didn’t discover it until late that year and 2016 has been the first full year of me being utterly obsessed with it. I quickly fell in love with the cast and become inseparably engrossed in the epic narrative they were weaving with Matt Mercer at the helm. Not only that, but I also got introduced to the amazing online community of critters. My love for this show and the community around it is what motivates me to not only spend 4 to 5 hours a week watching other people play Dungeons and Dragons, but more hours doodling the exploits of Vox Machina for our recaps.
And even if Critical Role didn’t technically start in 2016, but Talks Machina certainly did. One of the major appeals of Critical Role is the cast, and Talks Machina expands on that idea. The after show, hosted by Brian Wayne Foster, is a fantastic medium to sit and listen to the cast talk about their characters, adventures, and lives outside of the narrative of Vox Machina and Dungeons & Dragons. Its always a blast to see the cast respond to questions from the fans and the show manages to truly capture the feel of when the cast used to chill after the game on stream. I certainly look forward to what more the show has to offer.
In March 2016, Wizards of the Coast released an adventure inspired by the classic AD&D adventure Ravenloft. The adventure, written by the talented Chris Perkins, takes adventures into the mysterious and bleak realm of Barovia, a mystical mist-covered land lorded over by the vampire, Count Strahd von Zarovich. The adventure won Gold ENnie Award for Best Adventure and Gold for Best Art/Cover as well as the Silver ENnie for Product of the Year at Gen Con 2016.
I picked up this adventure and began running it several months ago and it quickly became one of my all time favorite pre-written adventures. It is written largely as a sandbox adventure, presenting the land of Barovia, its three towns, the immense Castle Ravenloft, and many other locations of interest all riddled with plot hooks and narrative events to sprinkle in front of your PCs to taste. We have been playing for ten sessions now and my players seem to be enjoying setting as much as I am. Strahd himself has finally presented himself to the party at the end of the last session, so we shall see how this goes.
Additionally, the (recently concluded) first season of Dice, Camera, Action! is an adapted version of the Curse of Strahd adventure DMed by Chris Perkins himself. The official D&D Twitch Stream stars internet personalities Holly Conrad, Anna Prosser Robinson, ProJared (Jared Knabenbauer), and NateWantsToBattle (Nathan Sharp) as the trudge through strange land of Barovia.
Tanner’s 2016 Favorites
This one might be an effort in redundancy since it could potentially end up on any of our lists, but man do I love this game. I did not think I would find another competitive multiplayer game I would enjoy after Team Fortress 2 went down the shitter, but man was I wrong. It is that right blend of competitive, challenging, zany, and all around good humored that keeps you wanting to come back for more.
The Purge: Election Year
Seeing as how I will be doing a best and worst in movies and video games for 2016, I decided it would probably be best to keep a lot of my gushing to a minimum. I also want to make a distinction that just because a movie is my favorite of the year, doesn’t mean it is going to be the best of the year. Personal enjoyment and quality are not not mutually exclusive. With that being said, I wanted to give a special nod to The Purge: Election Year. While movies like Zootopia and Moana may stick with me more, The Purge: Election Year is one of the best action movies I have ever seen and I am putting it in the same category as Die Hard to give you a point of reference. The Purge series is aging like a fine wine and gets better with each sequel as it explores more of the world and challenges issues of race relations as well as classism which you wouldn’t expect from a movie where Frank Grillo is Grilloing over everyone’s faces. This was by far my favorite watch of 2016.
Dead of Winter: The Long Night
Now for something completely different. Another one of my favorites of 2016 is actually a board game. Dead of Winter is a wonderful board game made by Plaid Hat Games that puts you in an ice cold bunker during the zombie apocalypse. It offers a slew of fascinating characters and allows you to truly role play a day to day zombie life instead of just having a one off romp through the city that games like Zombicide enjoy. Dead of Winter has been out for a while, but the people at Plaid Hat Games has made a stand alone expansion to go along with it called Dead of Winter: The Long Night. It expands upon the universe amazingly and offers you up to date boards, new characters, new situations, and a definitive answer to the zombie apocalypse which we haven’t truly seen since the classic Resident Evil days. It is an amazing game and one that I recommend everyone pick up as soon as possible.
Tom’s 2016 Favorites
Fantasy Movie Deals
Two important announcements for movie deals came out towards the end of this year. The first was the announcement that the film rights to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe had been acquired by DMG Entertainment, a Chinese movie company that has previously been involved as a production partner in Looper and Iron Man 3. The second announcement was that Lin-Manuel Miranda had signed on as a producer for some sort of adaptation of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. The details of both deals are still somewhat sketchy. DMG has said it intends to produce The Way of Kings first, but Sanderson said on Reddit that he thought it was likely Mistborn would actually end up being first (both books are in the same universe, but involve different characters on entirely different planets).
Both of these are pretty exciting news for fantasy fans. Sanderson and Rothfuss are writing some of the best fantasy coming out right now, and there is a lot of potential in both of these franchises. What’s also refreshing is that both of these franchises bring something VERY different to the table than anything else out there right now.
For those unfamiliar, Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere is a fantasy universe in which many (mostly) unrelated stories are set. The closest analogy to it would probably be something like the MCU, a universe with a lot of stories going on separately, but with many opportunities for crossovers. Currently, the crossovers in Sanderson’s stories are limited to secretive characters who are mostly offscreen, although there are frequent hints of larger happenings in the universe.
Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles is much more tightly focused. It is the story of Kvothe, and is told from his perspective. Most of the story comes straight from Kvothe as he dictates the tale of his life to another character, known as Chronicler. These books are very tightly constructed, and achieve an epic feel while maintaining an intensely personal scope. Rothfuss loves poetry and music, which comes across wonderfully in his writing style.
The point is, these books are very different sorts of fantasy stories than Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Both of them push in interesting artistic directions and focus on fresh sorts of characters (Sanderson in particular strives for diversity in his characters and worlds). Fantasy fans should be excited that these stories have a chance to enter the mainstream in a big way.
Movies I Liked, Even Though They Were Kind of Frustrating
It’s rare that I truly hate a movie, but it’s also rare for me to really like a movie. I will generally admit that I don’t really “get” movies as an artistic medium, and my usual response leaving a theater is somewhere between slightly confused and just underwhelmed.
Two movies this year, however, really hit me differently. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One both combined scenes I LOVED with decisions that made me very annoyed and frustrated.
Neither movie was bad. In fact, I liked both of them better than most other movies I’ve seen in the past few years. But both of them felt like they could have crossed a line from good to great if they had just taken a little more care and made some better decisions.
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I loved the atmosphere, I loved the characters, and I loved the overall imagination behind it all. Watching Newt take a muggle into his magic suitcase was one of my favorite scenes of the year. I also really enjoyed the story around the Obscurial. But the way the story ended (magic fixes it all) felt very lazy to me, and was only there to retcon a completely unnecessary orgy of destruction that seemed ripped out of an Avengers movie (citywide orgies of destruction are fine and expected for superhero movies, but it felt really out of place in a Harry Potter movie).
Rogue One‘s problems were different, but the overall impression was similar. I loved the battle scenes in Rogue One, both the space battles and the ground battles (the Battle of Scarif felt real in a way I’ve never felt in a Star Wars movie before). The cinematography was beautiful and powerful, even for a guy like me who isn’t usually moved much by visuals. The characters felt underdeveloped though, and it felt like we got dropped into an ensemble movie halfway through without them ever taking the time they needed to develop all these characters and their relationships. The music was also boring and uninspired, which is just a monumental tragedy for a Star Wars film.
For both movies, I have other complaints, too many to go into here, so I’ll stick to my main point: I really felt a sense of loss over what each movie could have been compared to what I saw. I hope both of these series can fix their problems while keeping the stuff that worked so well.