02 January 2015

The Top Fifteen Things in Pop Culture to Look Forward to in 2015

2015 is going to be a beefy year - we're all getting hoverboards after all. So that's why we have a whopping FIFTEEN items of Popular Culture of note to discuss here. Half of them are movies, big and small, others are TV shows returning (or starting), and we even have a video game in there. Let's get in that ass:

#15: The Return of Archer (01/08)
The lack of Danger Zone in their ad
campaign is disappointing, though.

Luckily all of our TV show pumped-upness comes in January. Last season's completely experimental Archer Vice missed more than it hit, but eventually hit its stride as it ended with a long string of contiguous episodes. Archer is at its best when full of heady irreverence coupled with obscure references to pop culture from Burt Reynolds to Bartleby the Scrivener. This has become a show that can go anywhere, with characters strong enough to not be bound by their initial premise, which is an idea I'm hoping they pursue rather than playing it safe.

#14: Pitch Perfect 2 (05/15)

Here's my ace in the hole - somehow last summer I turned into a huge Pitch Perfect fan, which completes my transition into turning into a 14-year old girl. That film was a lot of fun and full of all these subtly bizarre moments like an extended puke fight and Brittany Snow's mysteriously deep singing voice that saves them at the end for some reason. I'm down with whatever the next one is trying to do, and as long as Anna Kendrick is getting her cups on for whatever medley of old favourites and contemporary pop hits they're throwing out. In all honesty, this is going to be a nice mid-May antidote for ridiculous stupid blockbusters assaulting our senses.

#13: Minions (07/15)

I'm not even a huge Despicable Me (2010) fan, and in a normal world I would not care about this spin-off that doesn't seem to have any artistic merit at all, but I mostly really really just want there to be no English spoken in this film and have it all be Minion jibberish. That would be incredible! What a giant screw-you to an animation industry built on miscast celebrity voices! That also forces the presentation of story to be pushed in new interesting, non-verbal directions, which has been successful so far with these little yellow turds in short bits. Will it work stretched into a feature film? Probably not, but damn I want to be riding this train when it goes off the rails.

#12: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (05/01)

I have this pretty low just because I'm skeptical. I spoke at length concerning the trailer and how it's circumvented some of my hesitation, but there's still the concern that this is more fan pandering, easily digestible, mass market material rather than anything that pushes character insight or advances humanity. Maybe I'm being harsh and the film will be really cool. Ultron is suitably menacing and Marvel's stock is actually rising in the quality of their films as of late.

#11: Jurassic World (06/12)

See Ultron, Age of. This has potential to be really cool, but slightly larger potential to suck a donkey egg. I guess I'm just extremely skeptical about these long-range sequels' ability to offer something more to say about a topic or contribute some cultural significance. Instead of seeing the next Jurassic Park (1993) imitator, I'd rather have the next film that can change lives the way Jurassic Park did.

#10: Better Call Saul (02/08)

Is Breaking Bad the greatest TV Show of all time? Maybe Top Ten. But any excuse to play more in that world, especially with the much lighter Saul Goodman is fair game. Bob Odenkirk has put his time in as a character actor and it'll be something awesome to see this take off and him start to get Cranston-level respect, but I'm not sure the premise or fury is as strong as Breaking Bad. Any way you slice it this is an interesting direction and maybe we end up with the second-greatest TV Show of all time.

#9: Halo 5: Guardians (Fall)

Alright, I'm just a Halo junkie, which goes all the way back to playing it in High School with a room full of douchebags. And then I played Halo 2 in College with a LAN full of douchebags. I actually didn't even bother will multiplayer in the third and fourth installments, but I'm pretty curious about the story. That's actually really nerdy of me, but this series also has an epic feel that's missing from a lot of its imitators and spin-offs.

#8: The Return, then Finale of Parks and Recreation (01/13)

It's almost easy to forget how the previous season of Parks and Recreation ended, with a flash-forward jump in time and Leslie Knope firing Jon Hamm. There may not be a better comedy on Network TV right now, and there's certainly not one on NBC. It's the last vestige of a once impenetrable Thursday Night Line-Up (if not in ratings, then at least in quality) that will be missed dearly. Here's to the hope it goes out with a bang rather than a whimper.

#7: Furious 7 (04/03)

I have Furious 7 ranked above Jurassic Park and Avengers sequels? Of course I do. The rise of this franchise is one of the most unlikely and ridiculous in Hollywood, and for any fan, this is a true finale - finally we get to see what happens after The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) ended and a lot of Han avenging / Jason Statham tussling with The Rock and The Diesel. By all accounts this is going to be spectacular - and hopefully also a fitting send-off for our dear Paul Walker, departed from the earth.

#6: The Return of Broad City (01/14)
Anything that comes close to "Destination
Wedding" (S1;E8) would be appreciated.

I found myself really jonesing for this a few weeks ago actually, while watching some Hannibal Burress stand-up. My only regret about Broad City is that in the year since its debut it's gotten way more mainstream. It's such a bizarre niche show that I really enjoyed it when I felt like I was the only one watching it. That's a stupid complaint, but I also feel like this show hinges on being grotesque and unique rather than primed for mass consumption. It'll be sweet.

#5: The Revenant (12/25)

It's tough to think about what you'll be doing on Christmas Day, 2015, but I'll probably be seeing this. Alejandro González Iñárritu has never been hotter coming off Birdman (2014), and the mix of actors and premise (Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in a 19th-Century Fur Trapper thriller!) is palpable. There aren't a ton of images or trailers for this one yet, but with everyone involved it ought to be compelling. Hey, I made the same judgment on Interstellar last year.

#4: Tomorrowland (05/22)

Brad Bird is the man. So is everyone else involved in this. And a cool trailer that makes you go "Wha?" without totally losing your faith in God like some other trailers out there. I am all about original blockbuster filmmaking. I'm actually only concerned about the involvement of writer Damon Lindelof, who tends to purposefully obscure his projects in mysticism that confounds rather than entices. Oh Brad, be our balance, our light in the darkness. We beseech thee.

#3: The Return of The Venture Bros. (01/19?)

It's hard to be a Venture Bros. fan. What other show puts out six seasons over twelve years? You'd think we'd have stopped suckling at their teat by now, but the milk is just so damn good. Rumour has it that there's a January 19th premiere date, but other sources say Summer, and the only video they've put out merely says this year. That last one is probably as close as we're going to get to pinning something down. Any year that actually contains new episodes of this show is a good one.

#2: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Aug or Sep)

Four years ago I actually wrote that I hated The Colbert Report because it had grown repetitive, limited Colbert's comedic potential, and pandered to a brainwashed audience. I'd like to think that everyone else has caught on by now and it was really refreshing news to hear that Colbert was stepping in to fill Dave Letterman's shoes at The Late Show. I am infinitely curious to see whether or not Colbert can pull this off because it's really a slightly different direction than what The Colbert Report does. Colbert is still an incredibly funny, creative comedic genius, though, and stretching his legs with a more traditional Talk Show format is a move that I am very excited for.

#1: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (12/18)
Guaranteed to please both R2-D2 and Soccer Fans.

C'mon. It was never going to be anything else. Whether or not this is The Empire Strikes Back (1980)-level good, Return of the Jedi (1983)-level meh, or The Phantom Menace (1999)-level bad, it's a cultural event. New Star Wars, people! Star Wars is like pizza - even if it's old and cold you're still going to enjoy eating it. I can't even begin to imagine how the mix of Abrams' style with Lucas' world turns out, but whatever this thing is like I am seeing it, and so are all of you.

I'm feeling good about this list, folks. Then again, I almost always feel good about these lists and almost always disappoint myself. What's your pick for 2015?

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