Thursday, December 20, 2018

Studicus Selects 2018

Once, long ago, I posted on the internet as Studicus, an in-joke nickname related to a skit from high school. When I first started blogging, I called my year-end entries "Studicus Selects." The tradition has continued since 2005...although I skipped 2006 for some unknown reason.

You'll find past entries here (scroll down for the 2018 picks):

Studicus Selects 2017
Studicus Selects 2016
Studicus Selects 2015
Studicus Selects 2014
Studicus Selects 2013
Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

By far, my favorite photo of the year
Leopard geckos can be remarkably cuddly
Biggest Family Addition, Leopard Gecko Category. In May, we welcomed Lenny into our lives. His formal title is Lord Leonard Attenborough Adams, Viscount of Quail Run. He's a leopard gecko we've adopted--super sweet and a lot of fun to have around.

Unlike our turtle, Willy, Lenny is more or less nocturnal. He's most active between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. and stays hidden away in a little hut during the day.

I can't help thinking he's judging me
Adorable sleeping turtle is adorable
Best NBA Head Fake, Turtle Category. Willy will climb anything. He loves to climb. You let him out of his tank, and he'll run around the house to see what he can climb into. He'll try to climb the walls, furniture, his food bin, the stairs--you name it.

We've had our Christmas presents wrapped and under the tree for a couple weeks, and Willy's been curious about them. The other day, he wanted to climb them, but I stood in his way. He looked up at me, slightly disappointed and mildly perturbed. Then he head-faked like he was turning around and MADE A RUN for the presents! I intercepted him just in time.

Is it in you?
Best NBA Pitchman, Fake NBA Player Category.  I bought NBA 2K19, which was kind of a mistake. Don't get me wrong, I love the game. It's just that I love it a little too much. The MyPlayer feature is back and as much of a grind as ever. Still, as a rookie for the Sacramento Kings, things are going pretty well. I won Rookie of the Year, led the team to an NBA title despite a serious challenge from the overpowered Golden State Warriors, and also promoted Gatorade.

Anne looks like she just caught the big one!
Unexpected Christmas Purchase, Replacement TV Category. My parents needed a new TV. My brother and I thought it would be the perfect Christmas gift for them (it was). However, while I became obsessed with looking for TV deals, I accidentally found one for myself at Target when they marked down a 49" TCL and took off an additional 15%. Welcome to 4K!

Photo courtesy Samsung
Unfortunate Failure, Phone Upgrade Category. Anne and I liked our Samsung Galaxy J7s, but their cameras were terrible. We decided we wanted to upgrade, so I bought a Huawei Mate SE on Amazon. The phone was amazing--super thin, fast, good battery life.

It had one drawback: it did not have dual-band Wi-Fi. I thought I could live with this limitation, but the phone repeatedly failed to connect to the Wi-Fi at work. I sent it back--the Huawei phone was no more. But this story has a happy ending...

Best Eventual Decision, Phone Upgrade Category. Anne decided to upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S9+, and it's a great phone. Good battery life, nice camera--flagship stuff. She ended up with the purple model. After I sent back my Huawei, I decided to upgrade to a Galaxy S9+ as well. Mine is blue and it's a great phone.

I should've started there in the first place!

Much-Needed Upgrade, Home Computer and Printer Category. The old PC was chugging along and I really couldn't do much to upgrade it. I'd maxed out the RAM (and that was 4GB!)  and couldn't do much in terms of upgrading the processor.

So I decided to get a new computer--although it's not exactly new. I found it on eBay; it has a Core i5 processor, fourth generation, with 16GB of RAM. This is so much better for editing podcasts and doing some light video editing!

Bonus: I bought it from the Blind Center of Nevada, which sells refurbished electronics to raise money for its various programs!

Embed from Getty Images

Most Unexpectedly Not Terrible Season, NFL Category. Some idiots predicted the Colts would be one of the worst teams in the NFL. I'll admit my expectations weren't high given the roster revamp, but predicting the team would only win two games was ludicrous. I thought, with Andrew Luck healthy, the team would hover around .500 and maybe finish at 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7 if things went exceedingly well. After a rough 1-5 start, they caught fire down the stretch and ended up in the playoff hunt.

Darius Leonard should've made the Pro Bowl.

Embed from Getty Images

Best Early or Late Christmas Present, Depending on How You Look at It, Football Coaching Category. Stay away, Josh McDaniels. We don't want you here.

The Patriots offensive coordinator flaked out on the Colts after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl (poor Patriots). This meant the Colts ended up hiring Frank Reich, who's terrific. His only weakness is a penchant for going for it on fourth down a little too often, but I'll take some aggressive play-calling over a former Patriots coach with a punchable face any day.

They had no idea their football team wouldn't be completely terrible
Best Game Day Experience, NFL Preseason Category. My dad, my brother, my nephew, and I got to see the Colts in person this year for a preseason game. I haven't been to Lucas Oil Stadium for several years, and it was the first time my dad and nephew had ever been there. Luke really enjoyed the game, and as a bonus, the Colts walked away with a win!

Three Amigos!
Best Day at the Ballpark, Reds Still Stink Category. Even though the Reds aren't good, it's always a great time at Great American Ball Park. I went with my dad and my brother.

Unfortunately, the game followed the usual script--the Reds got way down early and couldn't come back (even worse: it was against the St. Louis Cardinals).
On the plus side, I found a stylish bucket hat.
Best Weekly Timesuck, Podcast Category. In February, I decided to get into podcasting. I've really enjoyed it--sort of takes me back to the days when I did radio in college. I talk about movies, sports, and whatever else comes to mind. "Special Correspondent" Anne Adams also drops in frequently for movie reviews and analysis.

I've produced more than 50 episodes this year and am nearing the one-year anniversary of the show. Oh, you can find The Matt Adams Podcast on iTunes and Shout Engine.

Image courtesy AMC
Best Value, Movie Subscription Category. Anne and I go to the movies quite a bit. I'd looked into MoviePass before, but the service has its problems. Thankfully, AMC started its own movie subscription program called the AMC Stubs A-List. It's $20 a month for up to three movies a week.

The service definitely paid for itself from June through August--and then AMC made some money off me from September through November, when new releases slowed down. We'll get our revenge in December, when Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee, Welcome to Marwen, and Holmes and Watson hit theaters.

We did use it to see a few movies recently, including Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and Creed II.

Most Overwhelming Movie Experience, MCU Category. Avengers: Infinity War was almost too much to process in one viewing. Anne and I saw it a couple times in its first week of release just to get a handle on it. That movie had everything: humor, heart, action, tragedy, and stakes (it didn't, however, have Hawkeye).

And they punched you in the gut from the start. The Asgardians who'd survived Thor: Ragnorak couldn't escape from Thanos--not even Loki, the god of mischief himself. And then--the Snap.

Yes, I realize Spider-Man has a new movie coming out in July. I know Black Panther is getting a sequel because you have to make a sequel to a movie that makes $1.3 billion at the global box office. I know Bucky and Falcon are getting a show on Disney's streaming service.

That does not detract from the power and spectacle of it all--or from Spidey's desperate pleas to Tony Stark as he's swept away.

This is a cover mock-up because I like to do these sorts of things
Writing Year in Review. Honestly, I started off strong this year and didn't finish strong. I decided I wanted to make a book series about a turtle detective based on Willy and got about 75% finished. Then I put it aside to complete another project I'd abandoned called 16-Bit Heroes. 

I did finish 16-Bit Heroes, which is a love letter to the Sega Genesis and kind of Tron-esque in basic premise (people get sucked into a video game). The first draft was absurdly large at 114,000 and I cut it down to 95,000 words. I still need to get this out to some beta readers (if you're interested, let me know).

Movie Year in Review. As usual, Anne and I went to see plenty of movies in 2018. Here are some capsule reviews (you may encounter some SPOILERS):

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Technically, this was a 2017 release we saw in January. So much fun! The Rock was hilarious, as were Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. The villain was forgettable, but the movie worked so well that I didn't even care.

The Post. This one opened in limited release for the 2017 awards season but saw its nationwide release in January. Given the era in which we live--one in which people in power constantly lie about everything and will cover up anything--this was a timely movie reminding us why journalism is so important.

Deadpool 2. I think I enjoyed the first Deadpool more, but you'll definitely get some real laughs out of this one. Too little screentime for Vanessa was a real shock and a buzzkill; I did like the X-Force and how the movie subverted your expectations on its formation and competence.

Solo: A Star Wars Story. Poor Solo. Disney decided to release this one a couple weeks after unleashing Avengers: Infinity War upon the world, and Solo suffered for it. The thing is, it's a rollicking adventure set in the Star Wars universe that's way more fun that it should be. It's not perfect--the "origin" of Han's last name is so freaking stupid--but the friendship between Han and Chewie and their interactions with Beckett and Lando make it worth it. Plus, Darth Maul!

Really feel like Disney should've saved this one until December to give it more space between it and The Last Jedi. I miss having a December Star Wars release.

A Quiet Place. The hidden gem of the year in a genre I don't typically like, people kept talking about A Quiet Place and Anne and I finally went to see it. Wow, Jim from The Office. I didn't know you had it in you. It's a tense movie that's incredibly well done. You care a lot about the characters and want them to get out alive (not always the case in these types of movies). And when the dad makes his fateful decision at the end, it's heartbreaking. Highly recommended.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Not as good as Jurassic World, this sequel still brings plenty of dino action. We get a little (and I mean a little) Dr. Ian Malcolm in this one, which is always nice. The leads are solid, the dinos pretty good (Blue especially), but the bad guys are a little one-note (still feels great when they get eaten, though). The movie messes with Jurassic Park history a bit by introducing John Hammond's "secret" business partner and redefining how we view InGen's genetic engineering program. Still an entertaining watch.

Ant-Man and the Wasp. Though the Ant-Man movies have made money, I still feel like they're kind of Marvel's best-kept secret. What's nice is that these movies have lower stakes--no real world-altering, we're-all-gonna-die stuff here. The stories are smaller (so is the hero!) and I feel like they really nail down the relationships with a great cast. The movies have a lot of heart and humor--and they're accessible to people who aren't highly invested in the MCU.

Ocean's 8. All good fun as Danny Ocean's sister puts together a ragtag team to steal some stuff. It's pure heist movie hijinks with a charming cast and a tense finale. They threw in a couple little nods to Ocean's 11...but I'm not truly convinced Danny Ocean is really dead. I don't know if we'll ever find out, not that it really matters.

Mission Impossible: Fallout. What a great run from Tom Cruise! His last three M:I movies are incredible, and this one is no exception. Ethan Hunt and company have to stop another grand scheme from another evil cabal with seemingly unlimited resources. Hunt gets kicked around, punched, and clobbered as usual. He's resourceful enough to save the day--even though he gets the snot knocked out of him. Nice villainous turn by Henry Cavill, too...yes, he of the sinister mustache (it's an easy joke).

Disney's Christopher Robin. A sweet movie starring one of Anne's favorites (Ewan McGregor), I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Some people can't deal with the "realistic" versions of Pooh and company, but I found them charming. I kind of wish Hayley Atwell had a little more to do, but the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood are cute enough. The movie's only drawback is some predictability, but you'd expect that from a family movie.

Operation Finale. It's okay. I felt like this movie should've been more of a potboiler, a real edge-of-your-seat type of movie, and I didn't feel that way. It's still an interesting story about the hunt for a Nazi who escaped to Argentina and the Mossad team tasked with hunting him down. It didn't feel as visceral as something like Munich. Still worth a watch, though.

The House with a Clock in the Walls. I'm not usually a fan of these types of movies, but this had kind of a Harry Potter meets The Sandlot vibe to it. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett clearly had a lot of fun with this one, and it does have a spooky vibe at times. I dug the setting and the house--it's a perfectly acceptable way to spend a couple hours.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Anne and I podcasted hard about this one, the latest release in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Overall, I liked it, though I didn't love the way the movie treated some of its characters (mostly Queenie). I would've liked to see some more creatures like the first Fantastic Beasts, but clearly that's not the direction the franchise is heading. Jude Law's great as a young Dumbledore and Johnny Depp is fine as the antagonist. The movie also contains a major revelation about the Dumbledore family that shocked a lot of fans.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. Entertaining and funny, I like how the movie explored the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope. The scene with all the Disney princesses is worth the price of admission alone! I don't think this one will be as fondly remembered as its predecessor because many of its references are extremely "now" and probably won't age well even within the next decade. It's still a fun watch, though, with a lot of heart and some great characters.

Creed II. I didn't know I needed a reboot of Rocky IV, which this is in some ways. I loved seeing Dolph Lundgren back on the big screen, and his fallen idol version of Ivan Drago is incredible. He makes the most sensible and heartfelt decision of the movie at the end. Stallone is great in a role he's played for so long, and Michael B. Jordan returns as the titular character. This time, he rises, falls, and rises again. I just wished he would've taken Rocky's advice earlier in the movie! Oh, and Tessa Thompson is spectacular.