Monday, October 29, 2012

Best of 2012 - Songs

This list is always my favorite because more than anything, songs are what preserve my memories of each moment and, therefore, of each year. Despite my lack of Christmas, I beat my song count from last year with a total of 888 songs. And that's just 2012 songs. All songs included, I increased my collection by 1,600 songs, taking me to nearly 7,800 songs. Obviously, I'm a bit of a music enthusiast, and 2012 was a great year to be one.

New music from Memoryhouse and Beach House, Moon Taxi and Walk the Moon, The Big Pink and Turning Violet Violet. New CDs 'Pacifica' and 'Synthetica', 'Push and Shove' and 'Sand and Snow', 'First Fruits' and 'The 2nd Law'. New songs "Amanaemonesia" and "Amenamy", , "Looking Hot" and "Cold Conscience", "Nightfall" and "Morning Star Rise". Commendable representation from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, France, all of which are seen here. I took all 888 of my songs and deleted them one by one, giving each a fair chance at this group of my 51 champions. Click on the title of any song for a listen.

It's easy for one song to become lost in a group of this size... please know that each and every one of them is extraordinary in its own right, and they are all close to my heart and continually on my mind. Keep in mind that I own the entire album for everyone of these songs and I can confirm that these artists are spectacular through and through.

20. Eject, Eject, Eject! / Breaking and Entering - Tonight Alive
"There was a time when the sky held the answers for the things I couldn't find, but what happens when you're blind?"
An intro/first song combination, Tonight Alive's album opener makes you question if you're ready for what's to come. This sort of music making made Australian rock band Tonight Alive one of my best finds of the year and this song combination will never cease to empower me with every listen.

19. Joy - Ellie Goulding
"I've got joy to take my side."
The first time I heard Joy was during Ellie Goulding's iTunes Festival performance and it's one of those songs I latched onto immediately. It feels huge and ends much too quickly.
18. Ungirthed - Purity Ring
"The culminated piles of bones that ... call these men up to their thrones."
Canadian group Purity Ring is out of this world - almost literally. I think this is the sort of thing we'll be listening to in our space clothes on Mars and the like decades down the road. That quirky deep bass/high-pitched note juxtaposition is crazy awesome and the chorus just might be my favorite of the year. This is the sort of weird I like.

17. Kinds of Light - Memoryhouse
"The more I look, the more you fade."
My favorite song from my favorite 2012 addition, Kinds of Light accompanied me in many a late night drive. The ebb and flow is enchanting and that big moment near the middle of the song ("I can see you...") is drop-dead gorgeous.

16. Tonight I'm Getting Over You - Carly Rae Jepsen
"Put a flame to every single word you said."
I don't base my organization of this list on anything but the way each song makes me feel and I assure you: my feels don't lie. I've been a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen for a few years now and her rising fame doesn't change that because I'm not a picky hipster like some people. You can't deny it...this is a dang infectious song.

15. Tape Recorder - Hammock
As the only entry from my #1 album of this year, Tape Recorder epitomizes all that Hammock is. It takes patience to enjoy the near-2-hour album and even this six-minute song can test your attention span, but if you can take time to sink into this prolonged beauty, you experience something without equal.

14. The 2nd Law : Unsustainable/Isolated System - Muse
"A species set on endless growth is unsustainable."

I may be cheating by counting part 1 and 2 of The 2nd Law as one song because of how stellar they each are on their own, but I don't care. I'm sad that I have to miss out on my sister choreographing a dance to it as Dance Company Co-President at Woods Cross High. At least I'll know that I had some part in bringing this dubstep/orchestral hybrid into the lives of her viewers.

13. Motion Sickness - Hot Chip
 "Everything locks to my grave."
Is that my foot tapping against my will? Why yes, it is. This song does that to you. I lost track of how many consecutive repeats of this tune I allowed during my last solo dance party. It was a lot of 'em. Do you dare listen? You should.

12. More Than a Memory - Carly Rae Jepsen
"That night I almost said I love you and you almost said it back."
Yep...Carly Rae Jepsen yet again! I can't come up with a good reason for its place here other than it has a fantastic vibe. Isn't that what makes any song great?

11. Rue's Farewell - James Newton Howard
I think it's great a song from the soundtrack of my favorite 2012 movie made it this far. I'm not particularly fond of the character Rue, nor was I devastated by her death in the book, but this composition and the way they fit it into the film with the rebellion and what not created a strong moment for me.

10. The Afterman - Coheed and Cambria
 "She gave her heart to a falling star."
I usually commend Coheed and Cambria for their catchy rock songs, but they brought something new to the table this year. This song alone convinced me to buy the album of the same title. We're getting to the point in this list where words don't do these songs justice. You'll just have to sacrifice some time and listen.

9. My Blood - Ellie Goulding
 "I'm thrown in the gunfire of empty bullets."
Ellie Goulding has more songs in this list than any other artist and this here's the best of them. There are songs that are powerful and songs that are beautiful, then there are songs like this one that take it all to another level: Epic. To top it all off, it was premiered worldwide in Berlin, which just may be my new home two months from now.

8. Goes Without Saying - Anchor and Braille
 "So much left to say, but I've got nothing."
Goes Without Saying is a little simpler than the surrounding songs from the list, but that doesn't mean it can't have as powerful an effect. This song, for lack of a better description, makes me feel content with my life.

7. Sing Out Your Love - Churchill
"But the silence gets louder and louder now and I got no way to turn it down."
(Note: This video is NOT the song, but instead another great one from the same band because I couldn't find it.)
Churchill is like a ninja. I found their EP, my #1 of this year, on offer for free in a chance encounter and it then took my life by storm for a few weeks. Sing Out Your Love is the most mellow from the set and at $5, it's a group of songs you should just go ahead and buy right now. The male/female vocal duet shouldn't be missed.

6. Comeback Kid - Sleigh Bells
"You've gone away, but you'll come back some day."
Comeback Kid is out of place at this point in my list, that's for sure, but I love the heck out of it. If I weren't such a softy, it would be #1.

5. Love Is Love - Stereo Alchemy
"The firmest faith is found in fewest words."
Christopher Tin, who recently won video game music it's first Grammy, joined with an old DJ friend to create a new project Stereo Alchemy this year. This unique blend of classical and electronic influences takes one classic poem for each song and builds a mood around the words. This song, based on Sir Edward Dyer's 16th century "A Modest Love", Love is Love is a song I'd consider sacred in nature. It's stunning, to say the least.

4. Blood Anger - Kyte
"Talk is cheap."
I've got a cool story with this song. I found this video with it on YouTube and asked Kyte fans via Facebook if it was the official music video. Instead of hearing from a fellow fan like I expected, I was personally thanked by the musicians of Kyte themselves for introducing them to this fan-edited video in front of their entire fanbase. Too cool. The emotions in this song cannot be described.

3. Think Of Me When They Sound - Circa Survive
"How long will you wait for me?"
The "They" in the title refers to church bells, which makes this song fittingly symbolic in my own life at this time. Circa Survive's Anthony Green, probably my current favorite male singer, helped this song touch me at first listen and this arrangement of sounds will continue to do so always.

2. Close - Sun Airway
"I tried to get close to you..."
It was a toss-up between my #2 and #1 song because they're so different that it's almost not worth comparing them. Still, this is how it's turned out. Close makes 2012 the third year in a row with Sun Airway making an appearance in this list. This song has so many great sounds I could try to describe, so many moments that elicit strong feelings within me. It's a dynamic four minutes, to be sure. Don't miss out.

1. Hymn for Her - Anchor and Braille
"I'm not looking for someone I can live with; I'm just looking for someone that I can't live without."
This song is perfect at this time in my life. I'll be honest in saying that - and be warned, I'm getting a bit mushy here - there is nothing I want more at this point in my life than to love someone. I always dreamed of having someone try and wait two years for me, to test someone in that regard. But no, I won't have the chance to see if I'm worth waiting two years for and thankfully, I'm okay with it. This song has helped me reach that point. Just because I don't have someone to love at present doesn't mean I can't devote my present thoughts to her. I'm blessed to have encountered this song and see it claim this position as the best of the best of my 2012.

Well there it is. Hundreds of hours listening, watching, playing, dozen deciding and six more writing. My Best of 2012 is at an end and although my remaining hours are now fewer than the songs in this list, I'm glad I spent some of this time bringing it all to you. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Best of 2012 - Albums

My family and I always get more albums than anything else (this year about 55 total) so I like to have a bigger list in this section based on my lucky number, 17. CDs will always be important to me. I see them as stories, with the songs as chapters. You can't understand the story if you don't understand each song. This is why I avoid singles and iTunes in general, I don't want to be anything but fully engaged in what an artist has to offer with each release. Muse, the Silversun Pickups, and the Killers were a few of the more disappointing projects, but most albums were big winners. These ones told the best stories.

17. Remembering You - Poema
I didn't like Remembering You at first; it felt a little too Taylor Swifty and that's not a bad thing, but it's completely different from their first songs. In time, it grew on me and I realized that Poema knew what they were doing when putting together this, their first full-length release. This is excellent road trip music. It's mellow, catchy, and everything else I could have expected from this talented duo.

16. Strength to Survive - SOJA
As my first reggae purchase aside from Matisyahu, Strength To Survive brought me everything I imagined the genre would. Inspiration messages concerning social issues lie in every song and listening to SOJA will always make me feel great.

15. Kiss - Carly Rae Jepsen
Yeah, yeah... quit your eye-rolling. I've been a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen for a few years now and if there's one thing I want the world to know about her, it's that she took 3rd place in Canadian Idol (American Idol's partner). She wasn't handpicked by some greedy corporate big cheese; she's fought for and deserves the success she's found and I respect her for it. Kiss, her second album, is thoroughly infectious and I have no shame in admitting I love it.

14. Violent Waves - Circa Survive
This album bears a striking resemblance to my #1 from last year, in title, album artwork, and musical mood. It's a shame I had to miss their SLC visit this year, because Circa Survive's perception of music is refreshing and this beauty of CD is more a cohesive piece of art than most stuff out there.

13. Young and Foolish - Until June
Until June is one of my most-played bands of all-time, and Young and Foolish added more than enough catchy ballads to keep it that way. I've always thought Until June is the perfect name for the group because they have some of the best summer music I've ever known. Songs like "Summer Lover" help this album continue the trend.

12. Synthetica - Metric
My first Canadian buddies Metric returned with an exciting new sound this summer in the form of Synthetica. This music is perfect for blasting in the car thanks to its simple beats and catchy choruses. While many of my other favorite older bands came short, Metric came through with a major pleaser this year.

11. Clarity - Zedd
It seems appropriate that Germany finds its way into this list, and that's in the form of German mixmaster Zedd. Zedd treats electronic music much differently than other DJs I'm familiar with. I think most others tend to depend on heavy beats and masses of different sounds to build the power in their music, but Zedd treats it more delicately, frequently dipping into slower, more mellow bits. The result is an album that feels more like a journey than simply a compilation of good dancing songs.

10. What Are You So Scared Of? - Tonight Alive
As Australia's first entry in this list, What Are You So Scared Of? kinda sneaked it's way into this list. I didn't realize how much I loved it until comparing it with all of these other CDs. I like to call Tonight Alive a slightly better version of Paramore and, in my opinion, they come across as more honest in their music. You can certainly bang your head to these tunes, but there are many other emotions residing in them.

9. The Quiet Life - Anchor & Braille
You know Anberlin? Well Anchor and Braille is Anberlin's frontman's (Stephen Christian) softer side project. Focused more on beauty than liveliness, The Quiet Life feels a lot like its album cover looks. Simple, at a glance, but impressively detailed upon further examination, as well as clean and majestic. I can't wait till I have a winter where I can listen to this because that's where I think it belongs.

8. Pacifica - The Presets
Australian electronic duo The Presets is a new addition to my library this year, and Pacifica is one of the more addicting CDs of the year. I think I listened to it four times in a row one day. Bringing a variety of moods and styles together, Pacifica demonstrates a unique take on what artificial sounds are capable of.

7. Fallen Empires - Snow Patrol
With it's US release in January, Fallen Empires brought Snow Patrol back to the forefront in my mind after a few disappointing years from the old favorite. I feel like this album was intended for me. It has a song called New York and another called Berlin; I found this album one week after traveling to New York for the first time and two weeks after being called to the Germany, Berlin mission. The composition here makes this album a true marvel.

6 - My Head Is An Animal - Of Monsters And Men
Last year, I considered my top three albums my A-team. This year, it's all of the top six, which were all incredibly difficult to order. The first is from Icelandic (Iceland!!!) band Of Monsters And Men. Now if you know me well, you know I love anything Icelandic, especially their music. Led by a male/female vocal duo, debut release My Head Is An Animal makes you feel amazing through and through. This style of music is one that everyone can love.

5. The Slideshow Effect - Memoryhouse
I consider Memoryhouse my greatest find of the year and their first full CD The Slideshow Effect is astounding. The group pulls off a superb mellow vibe that's one of a kind. It'll make you sway, smile, and hold that special someone close.

4. Halcyon - Ellie Goulding
I caught Ellie Goulding's performance at the iTunes festival where she performed much of Halcyon before it was released and after the first song, I knew it would be amazing. Ellie Goulding stands far above other pop artists in my mind and treats her music more respectably than most of those on this side of the Atlantic. Halcyon delivers every pop vibe you could want.

3. Love To Be Lost - Kyte
When I decided to pick up all of Kyte's old music for my birthday this year, they skyrocketed into my group of favorite bands. Their new CD Love To Be Lost makes them a serious contender for the top of that group and it certainly helps that their name is one tiny mark away from my own. Kyte epitomizes the type of band I would want to create if I decided to do so. They're nothing like anyone else and hope they can build their fanbase with this album.

2. Soft Fall - Sun Airway
Sun Airway is my winter band and in these upcoming months, I'll be wishing they could be with me. Their alternative/electronic/orchestral hybrid of a style is hard to describe. Built on drums, a keyboard, and strings, Soft Fall feels a little bit like just that: a soft fall. If you need some outstanding music to keep you company when it's cold outside, please buy this album.

1. Departure Songs - Hammock

As my last effort to enjoy 2012, I carefully selected six albums to accompany me in my last weeks before departing. Five of those arrived on October 16th, and another, for seemingly no reason, showed up one day later on the 17th. It's strange how it worked out...the very last album I received came on my lucky number with a title like "Departure Songs" ends up as the best one I've found all year. Hammock, an instrumental rock group, uses a 2-disc, 19-song album with impressive composition with awesome titles like "(Tonight) We Burn Like Stars That Never Die" and "We Could Die Chasing This Feeling" to create something that's nothing short of a masterpiece.

I urge you to support CDs. Don't buy just 'that one on the radio' or 'the most popular one on iTunes'. I can assure you that if you like a bit of it, you'll like it all. Don't cut yourself short. One benefit of getting this list done in October is that Christmas is still waiting. Please go search for some fantastic CDs and stick them at the top of your wish list.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Best of 2012 - Video Games

When I say I aspire to be a novelist, people assume that means I'm an avid reader. Admittedly, I'm not. In fact, I only read one book this year. My inspiration for writing is mostly based on my experience with video games. Society berates video games as mindless wastes of time and that will always frustrate me. The best of video games are constructed by artists, the people who sketch the first ideas of the animations, the people who write what is said in the game, the people who compose the music who accompany it all, and, more recently, the people who play the main characters. That's right, real actors. As a slight diversion, let's take a look at some.

Yvonne Strahovski in Mass Effect 2

Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2

Kristen Bell in Assassin's Creed

Ilkka Villi in Alan Wake

Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls

Pretty cool, right? And that's just a few. Liam Neeson, Emma Stone, and Patrick Stewart are just a few of the others who can count themselves as video game voice actors. As a gamer, I find this promising.

Now back to the topic at hand, the best games of 2012. I've had a lot of time for them all with this long break of mine and will never regret the hundreds of hours I spend with them. Let's do it.

10. Wreckateer
Angry Birds + physical exercise? Blasphemy! Or is it? In Wreckateer, you use the Xbox Kinect and your own body to fire all sorts of fun flying things in an effort to decimate enemy castles. It's simple, but man...firing giant slingshots sure is satisfying.

9. Happy Wars
Happy Wars is a blast and XBOX gamers are eating it up because, well, it's free! Forcing a bunch of hardcore gamers to battle each other as cutesy midget warriors is so much more fun than it sounds.

8. Dear Esther
Dear Esther was released as a stand-alone game this year and I quickly snatched it up. Dear Esther is more like an interactive movie than a game really. It's about the same length too. For about two hours, you venture between beautiful vistas and enchanting scenes as a narrator gradually details a complex, obscure story. The imagery is powerful and the experience is one that anyone should enjoy.

7. Alan Wake: American Nightmare
When considering all-time favorite games, Alan Wake always comes to mind. In this year's spin-off, the story's taken a bit further. The atmosphere is exciting and the writing (with the main character being a professional writer) is great. The metaphor of light vs. shadow is treated well in this emotion-filled journey.

6. Rock Band Blitz
The story of Harmonix in short form is as follows: tapping music games, Guitar Hero 1 + 2, Rock Band 1-3, Dance Central 1-3, and now this, a return to the tapping music game. This game is easy to explain, it's everything Tap Tap Revolution wants to be. Hours and hours of fun here.

5. The Walking Dead
In the shadow of the incredibly popular Walking Dead TV series based on the comic of the same name, a superb video game arose. Unfortunately this is the only game on the list I haven't finished and that's because the game, much like the TV show, is released in episodes with the last of five coming in December when I'm the MTC. With comic book-like visuals and the most heart-wrenching story I've encountered in a game, The Walking Dead is one of the things I'll be missing most.

4. Diablo III
The sequel to Diablo 2, released 12 years prior, Diablo 3 had a lot of hype that it didn't live up to, at least for most. For me, it was excellent and playing through it with my dad reminded me of old times. This game series is the reason I became interested in fantasy novels, which kick-started my imagination and desire to be a novelist. Diablo 3 isn't just a good game, it's honestly an important factor in who I am today.

3. Borderlands 2
Co-operative games are often my favorites and Borderlands 2 is designed to be played with friends. With its countless pop culture referrences (Lion King, Star Wars, double rainbow, to name a few), this game made me laugh too many times to mention. This sequel improved on the original in every way any fan could want.

2. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
If you've ever wanted your favorite author to be the lead writer for a video game, well...this is probably your only chance. Lucky for me, that's exactly how things turned out. R.A. Salvatore's talent helps bring the world his books are based in to gamers with his rich writing and superior dialogue. Much like Dante's Inferno and the Sherlock Holmes games, Kingdoms of Amalur is bringing literature to gaming in a skillful way. This game is so well-crafted and complex that it took me over 100 hours to complete. Outstanding.

1. Mass Effect 3

Just like any good trilogy ender, Mass Effect 3 was epic. With a team of characters to rival the Fellowship of the Ring and a universe of alien societies complex enough to do battle with the Star Wars universe, this trilogy just might be the very best I've ever seen. With the home planets of the universe, including Earth, assaulted by an unspeakably force, you must eradicate the bitterness between races in order to save them all. It honestly made me sad to see it end. Although the ending left much to be desired because of how large and intriguing the Mass Effect world is, it had to end and it ended extremely well.

I'll miss being a couch potato with all these virtual adventures. With the new Wii coming out in November and the new Playstation and XBOX soon to follow, the gaming industry is going to be a separate world when I return. You best be interested in it because it's going places.

Best of 2012 - EPs

I'll explain once again for those who don't know - EP means 'extended play', meaning a single with additional songs. My usual EP list may seem pointless, considering I have another list of the best CDs from the year. EPs commonly represent a new band's very first shot at winning our hearts or a famous musician's endeavor to share a little something they've some up with, but they simply cannot compete with CDs twice as long. Silversun Pickups, Coldplay, and many of the other bands that have become my favorites started with EPs and still more release EPs along the way and so I want to give these small packages of musical excellence a place of their own. This year, I picked from a total of 17.

10. Apparitions - Labyrinth Ear
Labyrinth Ear's electronic vibe takes some getting used to. It isn't particularly catchy or beautiful, but I find it's quirk enthralling and I couldn't give you any artist to relate them to. Their sound is eccentric and I hope to see more.

9. Awkward - San Cisco
Australia kicked butt in my life this year... The Jezabels, The Presets, Tonight Alive, and indie band San Cisco. If you're looking for something catchy, don't skip these guys. This is feel-good music right here.

8. Deep Space - Eisley
From one of my favorite 2011 albums to a entirely different feel in their 2012 EP, Eisley variety in sound is respectable, to say the least. Unfortunately, it leads to a little inconsistency for me. Though not nearly as great as last year's album, Deep Space provides touching, yet simple melodies in each of its songs.

7. Dead Letters - Stromkern
Electronic rap at its finest, Stromkern is a project I've kept an eye on for some time, but never invested in. The new EP gave me a great reason to enter an area of music I'm new to, but it immediately fit right into my collection with Dead Letter's first song, "Intuit", becoming one of my most played songs of the year. If you're feeling adventurous, you should definitely investigate.

6. Continued Silence - Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons' "It's Time" was my most played song of the year, too bad it isn't technically a 2012 song, like some of the rest of their newly popular songs. Continued Silence's collection, as the band's overdue claim to fame, needs a place here. I may not be as much of a fan as you Dragons hipsters out there and the following album disappointed me, but I sure did get a lot of enjoyment out of this batch.

5. Aurorae - Amethystium
Straight from Norway, Amethystium is from the genre of music I consider my favorite: new era. For lack of a better description, new era is a brilliant hybrid of electronic sounds and classical orchestration and Amethystium displays this extremely well. Unlike many of the artists fond here, Amethystium has a wide collection of music already and I fully intend to explore it more upon my return.
4. Elenowen - Elenowen
Elenowen reminds me of The Civil Wars, but a little softer with a little less guitar and more piano and strings. As followers of my blog may have read before, I'm a sucker for male/female vocal duets and this pair is especially excellent.
 3. New Light - Moving Mountains
Here they are again, the creators of my #1 2011 album with an acoustic EP of some of their best tunes. Moving Mountains already has a unique sound, but I was surprised how unique they remain in acoustic mode. At the same time, the mood is both reminiscent of my time with their old music and surprisingly fresh even though the songs aren't. Spectacular.
2. The Ludlow Thieves - The Ludlow Thieves 

Ever been on It's a place where low-name or overly generous artists can put up their music for free to get their fame ball rolling; it's one of my favorite things ever and, believe it or not, I got all four of these top EPs for free on the site. The Ludlow Thieves is something I wouldn't have considered buying and may have even avoided initially, but oh how it's grown on me. Their style of folk has a strange beauty about it that's best kept away from explanation. You simply must try it out.

 1. The Change - Churchill

Churchill! Each year has its spotlight new bands, and Churchill is one of them this time around. Another male/female duet champion, this band's talent in composition is to be envied. Each one of it's five excellent stand-alone songs makes The Change a comprehensive look at what the group can pull off. Something a little jazzy here, a little lovey-dovey there; some heavy stuff and some downright gorgeous stuff...Churchill has made one of the greatest marks on my 2012.

EPs are easy to overlook, but they're a valuable part of any artist's growth and experimentation. Please, if you find any of this music remotely interesting, do some YouTube searching. At no more than $5 a piece, these are all smart purchases.

Best of 2012 - Movies

Cash was flowing into movie theaters this year, that's for certain. Even I spent more time in theaters than ever before. We all know there were some big hits this year, but did they live up to the hype? I think they did.

10. Men in Black 3
When I first heard about this delayed sequel, I wasn't interested at all. I didn't enjoy the first two much, but Men in Black 3 went in a much different direction with a lot of focus on causation, the underestimated effect of what we do today on what happens tomorrow. Griffin, one of my very favorite new movie characters, has the ability to perceive all possible realities at once and continually hopes the one our world follows is not as disastrous as some of the others. These concepts combine for some fantastic story telling.

9. The Woman in Black
Because of my experience with horror video games, horror movies have never really been able to genuinely scare me; it's so much more terrifying to be a contender rather than a witness. When it comes to jump-scares, the Woman in Black is the most successful horror movie I've seen and I found its creepy premise thrilling. Scariest movie of its type I've seen so far, kudos to it.

8. John Carter
At first glance, John Carter seems like a decent sci-fi film, but then you consider that the movie was made on the 100th birthday of the book it's based on. The man who built this world is Edgar Rice Bulloughs, who, if you didn't know, also created Tarzan. To see his stunning imagination portrayed on the silver screen in a time so distant from his own is like nothing we've seen before in the film industry. Much respect and admiration to Burroughs.

7. Bourne Legacy
If you asked me for me three favorite actors, I'd pick Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, and Rachel Weisz, and that's before they joined together as my movie dream team for Bourne Legacy. As you can imagine, I was pumped to see what this, the best cast I could hope for, could pull off. Although I think it would have been a better movie if it didn't try so hard to be connected to Bourne's completely separate story, this crew of actors had me smiling the whole way through.

6. The Dark Knight Rises
I think Batman's latest installment will claim spot #1 for many movie-goers this year, but anyway you slice it, it's still about a man dressed like a bat. That said, The Dark Knight Rises, felt surprisingly epic and while Christopher Nolan's Inception is much more my style, he really did an extraordinary job with this character throughout the trilogy and provided a stellar example of how super hero movies should play out. Can't wait to see what Nolan has in store.

5. Chronicle
Chronicle's premise had the potential to be one of my all-time favorites. Shot entirely in realistic-camera style (much like Cloverfield), it delivers some outstanding moments. Unfortunately, the story wasn't quite to my taste and all of the unrealistic high-school boy antics dimmed the overall experience. Still, this movie is exactly the sort of thing I want to see more of: original.

4. Prometheus
Speaking of big, epic movies, Prometheus takes the cake for me this year. The vast majority of story ideas take comfort in being set in the real world. As many of my favorite stories do, Prometheus dares to venture beyond what is familiar, to challenge what is commonplace, and to create a reality in which humanity is only a small piece of the universe. It's too bad the movie, because of the extremity of what it tries to express, feels like it was cut short. I surely look forward to any sequels that may be in store.

3. The Avengers
Like I've said before, a story about a team or a group beats one with a main character any day. I liking being able to pick a favorite, considering the web of relations, and seeing the power of unity in these stories. The Avengers involves one of the greatest teams we've ever seen (and can you guess who's my favorite?) so of course I love it. In my mind, comic-based movies really struggle to be serious and, dare I say it, touching, but The Avengers was a big success.

2. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Think apocalypse and movies like 2012, War of the Worlds, and just about any super hero flick likely comes to mind. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World makes it seem real. After one final failed attempt at destroying an incoming meteor, the world resigns to the fact that there are 21 days left to live. The movie does an amazing job at depicting how I think people would actually choose to spend that time. NFL players continue playing games, even though random people walk freely on the field. People hire assassins to kill them so they don't have to face the notoriety of suicide. And of course, crazy parties are found on every corner. The directions the movie's story takes create an inspiring, eye-opening look on what life means to us all.

1. The Hunger Games
Before this year, the most I'd ever seen a single movie in theaters was twice. I saw The Hunger Games four times and, to be honest, I'd never thought it would happen that way. I wasn't crazy about the book and I wasn't one of the fanatics there at the premiere. I was, however, still very excited for the movie because its structure is very similar to a story I might construct myself. I will always have a special attachment to this tale because of its resonance with my own imagination. The desperate battle for superiority, the organization and portrayal of the fighters and their districts, the arguable ties to video gaming and virtual reality... it's a perfect concoction to me. Sad to say, I found this book far better than its sequels so I can't say I care much for the following movies. At least I know The Hunger Games will always be dear to me.

Winter break is usually my movie-watching crackdown time, but I'm fortunate enough to have had time to get to all the big ones earlier this year. Sure, the list may not be comprehensive of 2012, but I'm happy with my 2012 movie experience.