Home > News (Personal), Personal > Personal: January 2010 in review

Personal: January 2010 in review

I’m trying out something new for 2010, looking back on each month. The idea is to make it a monthly feature, but we’ll see if I stick with it across the year or if I can even make it interesting enough to be worth reading:

Life

Money is becoming a bit of an issue lately thanks to my unemployment, so I really need to do something about that.

My extended family also had its second cancer death within a year, which isn’t great. In both cases they started with a misdiagnosis that wasted valuable treatment time, although there’s no telling if it would actually have made a difference because it seemed pretty aggressive both times. Still, it’s not exactly a shining endorsement of the NHS.

I’ve been very neglectful lately when it comes to reading, having not read a book for a couple of months now. It always seems to be the first thing to give way whenever my time is pressed or I’m in the middle of something. Obviously being quite active on the internet means I read a lot words, but that’s not really a substitute for the fantastic fictional worlds available from reading good books.

Gaming

I kicked things off in January by finishing off the remaining (and annoying) predator and combat challenges in Batman: Arkham Asylum, before going through the game again on hard and earning the platinum trophy (which are awarded for earning all other trophies a PS3 game). It was the first time I’ve ever bothered getting a platinum, primarily because I enjoyed the game so much that I wanted to extend my time with the game and used the trophies as reasons for doing so. Going from the challenges (some of which are incredibly difficult) to hard difficulty was actually a step down in terms of challenge, so if anything my time playing through on hard was easier than it had been on normal. It really is a great game and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel, provided Rocksteady are given time to actually make a sequel and not a quick cash-in.

I actually then went on to immediately earn another platinum in Assassin’s Creed II. I explained my thoughts on the game in the game of the year post so I won’t repeat myself, save to say that it’s a good example of what a sequel should be and really shows what can happen when a developer takes valid criticism on board. As with Batman, I’m a little concerned about the apparently quick release for the next game (which may or may not be Assassin’s Creed III), because it seems unlikely that it could be as huge an improvement over the sequel as the sequel was over the original.

I then moved on to WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010.  I actually haven’t played a THQ wrestling game since the original Smackdown vs. RAW (and haven’t watched wrestling for even longer), so it’s kind of telling that the series hasn’t really moved on that much in five years. It controls largely the same (though moving the grapples to the right stick is a good development) and you play it much the same, because the development cycle is just too tight to make any real improvements beyond removing some old modes and adding new ones, some of which work well and others which are just gimmicks. It isn’t helped by the way the series has no real competition, so wrestling fans buy it each year simply because there isn’t any alternative, which further reduces the incentive to actually improve. They also took out some significant elements from the create-a-wrestler mode that have been in the games at least since the second one back in 2000, which was a little disappointing. I’ve not put that much time into it yet, only completing the created superstar Road to Wrestlemania storyline, but my opinion at the moment is that it’s just okay and mostly doing the same things it always has, and I get the impression that if I didn’t play another one for another five years I still wouldn’t be missing much.

I also started and completed WET (which I posted about here), continued Prototype (which I’ll post about when I’m done) and played through the Operation Anchorage DLC in Fallout 3 (which I’ll probably post about either today or tomorrow).

TV

The highlight of the month was probably watching the entire first (and only) season of Defying Gravity. It really was a great show, full of interesting characters further fleshed out by flashbacks of all the years they spent training together, and a premise – one crew spending six years travelling the solar system visiting many planets along the way – that would have been interesting even before the revelation of the Space Odyssey-style secret objective. I’m a big fan of these near-future space missions and really enjoyed Defying Gravity, which made it all the more disappointing to discover it had been cancelled before it even reached the UK.

Thanks to being given the DVD set for Christmas, I watched season two of The Simpsons. I know it’s fashionable these days to say the show has lost its way but there really is something in the older episodes that seems to be lacking from the newer ones. There are lots of moments where the family interact that feels really genuine and sweet, and I don’t recall feeling that from more recent seasons, not least because a lot of the scenarios are so much wackier.

Season two of Dollhouse returned in January to resume its march to the end of the series and you can follow my thoughts about each episode on the blog. While there are moments of greatness in the series it really did struggle at times, and when it’s gone I don’t expect there will be Firefly levels of sadness because it s cancellation is mostly its own doing.

The BBC also finally started showing the fourth season of Heroes. Like Dollhouse it has done a lot to earn its relatively poor ratings, but it has the advantage of a strong first season that they’ve never been able to duplicate. After watching the first six episodes of the new season it isn’t doing too badly, but there hasn’t been any proper threat established yet and each hero is kind of doing their own thing, with the antics of Samuel (who looks set to be the season’s villain) being the only thing loosely connecting them. Claire having a quirky college roommate or attending a sorority aren’t really made retroactively more interesting by revealing that there was actually more going on behind the scenes that link it to the main plot, it just feels like filler, so I’ll guess we’ll see where it goes.

That’s about it for TV. Being Human and 24 both started their new seasons but I don’t have much to say about either yet, and I’m enjoying the second season of Burn Notice. Lost starts up again this week and has an awful lot of answers to deliver, and it’s going to be interesting seeing just how many of their unanswered questions they ultimately ignore.

Film

After getting a bunch of DVDs for Christmas I found myself watching a film every day, and even after those films had been watched I continued making an effort to watch one film every day, and while that isn’t really much of a challenge it’s not something I’ve managed before. So in January I watched 31 films, listed below:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • *Battle For the Planet of the Apes
  • *Beneath the Planet of the Apes
  • Big Fish
  • Blade Runner
  • Braveheart
  • Brazil
  • *Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • *Citizen Kane
  • *Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • *Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • *Enchanted
  • *Escape From the Planet of the Apes
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Garden State
  • Ghost World
  • House of Flying Daggers
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • *Planet of the Apes
  • Rambo
  • *Rambo III
  • *Rambo: First Blood
  • *Rambo: First Blood – Part II
  • *Sita Sings the Blues
  • Spirited Away
  • *Tales of Despereaux
  • Team America: World Police
  • Tron
  • *Waterloo

There are some genuine classics in there, chief among them Citizen Kane. With all the accolades attached to it and many people who would call it the greatest film of all time I went into it sceptical that it could ever live up to that amount of hype, but it actually did. The exploration of Kane’s life, his mistakes and failed ambitions, really was captivating. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Spirited Away are also all fantastic films.

I think there’s a fairly varied selection in there, from macho action films to thoughtful science fiction to classic drama to masterful anime. It actually ended up being about 50% split between films I’d never seen before (marked with a *) and films I had. There were times when ‘having’ to watch a film did feel like a chore, simply because having to allocate 2-3 hours per day to watching a film isn’t an insubstantial commitment, so it’s not something I’m going to stick with going forward. Assuming I make a similar entry next month, we’ll see how many films I ended up watching when not sticking to a regular schedule.

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  1. mackid1993
    February 2, 2010 at 00:49

    Great article Benny!! I hope things look up for you soon. 🙂

    • February 2, 2010 at 04:24

      Thanks Mac. It was quite strange seeing your comment here instead of the forum and it took me a moment to make sense of it.

      • mackid1993
        February 3, 2010 at 01:20

        I figured I’d check out your blog.

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