My Highlights Of 2016

As the year comes to a close various top ten and  best of  lists will be published. Many of these lists can be fun to read. This is not really a true top ten list, plus it contains eleven items.  It is an brief overview of some entertainment highlights that come to mind from 2016.

Unfortunately 2016 was a year full of far too much bad news, negativity, hate and division. At times during 2016 the world seemed like a very dark place. At the end of the year it’s good to reflect on some of the entertainment that brought some light into my life in 2016.

Phil Collins’ Reemergence

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Phil Collins’ slow and steady reemergence from retirement. Not one event, but a series of live appearances, interviews and the release of his autobiography Not Dead Yet. All of this is leading up to some large scale concerts in 2017. At 65 years of age Phil Collins may look a little rough around the edges. But he is still one of my favorite musical artists. The man’s music has brought a lot of light to my life over the years.

Xiphea – Once Upon A Time

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Xiphea are a fantastic symphonic metal band out of Germany. They call their brand of music Fairytale Metal. With song titles like Beauty And The King, Masquerade, Cinderella and Power Of The Dwarfs one can understand the label. Do not let the song titles fool you, this is a serious and heavy band.  Once Upon A Time is Xiphea’s third release.  So far they have released one EP and two full length albums.  The future looks bright for this band.   I plan on writing more about them in a future blog.

The Genesis Show

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The Genesis Show are an absolutely amazing and talented Phil Collins era Genesis tribute band that, for now, focuses on Genesis live circa 1976-1977. Tribute bands can be hit or miss, either really good or downright silly. The Genesis Show are a serious band that are passionate about playing the music of Genesis. I had the great pleasure of seeing them live this year. As a huge Genesis fan since 1981 I was extremely impressed by The Genesis Show. The musicianship on display was incredible. I highly recommend seeing them live.

Kansas – The Prelude Implicit

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I count Kansas among my top 20 favorite bands. Their newest release, The Prelude Implicit, is a strong argument for classic bands continuing to record new music. I would definitely place The Prelude Implicit on my top ten favorite Kansas albums list. The band’s new singer Ronnie Platt has some incredibly big shoes to fill. He does so quite well. I look forward to more new music by this great band.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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A very, very good Star Wars film that falls short of being great by playing it too safe in the second half of the movie.  But I will say that the movie contains one of my absolute favorite scenes from any Star Wars movie. I just hope that the success of this film will allow for more ambitious Star Wars movies in the future.

Arrow: Season Five

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A fantastic rebound from the disappointment of season four. It would seem that in the off season the creative team revisited the things that made the show great in the past. Half way through season five and  I would say that Arrow is back on track.  Stephen Amell, in the title role, continues to play this character with such conviction.

Metallica…Hardwired To Self-Destruct

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It’s been eight years since Death Magnetic, but overall it was worth the wait. The double disc release showcases a collection of fast and heavy songs by a rejuvenated band. Unfortunately all of the songs are not equal. I would say that if the band had trimmed the fat and lost two songs they would have had a killer single disc.

Captain America: Civil War

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A movie that contained not only great action, but also great drama. Civil War and the prior Captain America movie The Winter Soldier have really brought superhero movies to a new level. There is a lot going on in this movie, but the performances of Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. provide a solid foundation and help keep the movie grounded.

Doctor Strange

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Doctor Strange is Marvel’s latest superhero movie.  It stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.   Benedict Cumberbatch joins the ranks of actors  like Hugh Jackman, Christopher Reeve, Harrison Ford and Patrick Stewart. What do they have in common?  It seems that they were born to bring to life certain iconic characters. Wolverine, Superman, Indiana Jones, Professor Xavier and in Cumberbatch’s case Doctor Stephen Strange. A great movie with a fantastic performance by Cumberbatch.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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I know it had it critics, but I loved this movie. Henry Cavill is super as Superman. Ben Affleck really nails the true essence of Bruce Wayne/Batman. His portrayal of Bruce Wayne is my favorite of any actor to date. I love Diane Lane as Martha Kent. Gal Gadot’s fantastic performance as Wonder Woman may be my biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year. The only real downside for me was Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor.  His was a different take on the character that did not really work for me.

Epica – The Holographic Principal

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I feel that Epica, a symphonic metal band out of the Netherlands, are the best band in their genre. The Holographic Principal is their seventh studio album and it is phenomenal. Epica continues to grow and evolve with each new album. Their unique and dense mix of thrash metal, opera, progressive rock, classical music, death metal and soundtrack scores continues to delight this metal fan a great deal.

Troy T.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., A Reevaluation

I am currently in the process of rewatching the first season of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. With the third season winding down and the impending release of Captain America: Civil War, it felt like a good time to reevaluate the series. Six episodes in, so far, and I am enjoying the first season much more than when it first aired.

I must say that my expections of what I thought the show was going to be really lead to an initial letdown. Overall Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a character driven show that happens to be set in the Marvel universe.  I was expecting a fast paced show full of action and super powered heroes and villians.  At times there is a great deal of action and the appearance of super powered characters, but these are not always the main elements. The main thrust of the show is the characters, the slow reveal of their back stories and how they work together as a team.

It’s quite interesting rewatching the character development of the team from the begining knowing where they will wind up in seasons 2 and 3. In some way each member of the team has been through hell.  Each has grown, for better or worse, into drastically different versions of themselves throughout the show’s run.

There is some debate about one of the major plot twists in season one. Some feel that it was written in later, in reaction to the storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But there seem to be subtle hints that perhaps the twist was planned all along.  If the twist was intended from the begining than major kudos to the writers.

To date Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a very enjoyable show that has improved greatly with each new season. It is a nice piece of the ever growing Marvel cinematic universe.  It is also on a short list of my  must watch television shows.  Here’s to hoping that the series will continue to improve and have a long run.

Heroes Walk Amoung Us

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What a great time to be a fan of superheroes! In any year having both Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Captain America: Civil Wars would be more than enough. But 2016 also has  X-Men: Apocalypse as well as Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles: Out Of The Shadows and Dr. Strange.

As a lifelong fan of comic books the last several years have been phenomenal and the future is looking even more so. Tonight I am going to see Batman v Superman. While I am watching the movie CBS will be airing Supergirl which will be featuring a crossover with The CW’s Flash!!! How cool is that!

At some point this superhero craze will slow down. With DC Comics heroes finally emerging the craze should continue a bit longer. In the meantime I will continue to watch and enjoy all of the great superhero movies and television shows with a huge grin on my face.