Top 10 Video Games of 2013

Last year was another terrific one for gaming, as no less than three games received perfect scores from me. It was another strong year for indies as well, especially on the PC and PS Vita. There were still plenty of titles that I didn’t get to play (Assassin’s Creed IV, Saints Row IV, XCom: Enemy Within, and pretty much every Nintendo game), so this may have to be updated at some point. For now, here are my top 10 video games of 2013:

Honorable mentions: Tomb Raider, BattleBlock Theater, The Stanley Parable, Killzone: Mercenary, Muramasa Rebirth

#10 – Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy
#9 – Tearaway
Tearaway [2013, PS Vita]
#8 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons [Xbox 360]
#7 – Defiance
Defiance [Xbox 360, 2013]
#6 – Outlast
Outlast [PC]
#5 – Dragon’s Crown
Dragon's Crown [PS Vita/PS3, 2013]
#4 – Gone Home
Gone Home [PC]
#3 – Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]
#2 – Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite [Xbox 360, 2013]
#1 – The Last of Us
The Last of Us [PS3]

What was your favorite game of 2013?

Top 10 Films of 2013

Brace yourselves, folks, because the top 10 lists are going to be running wild here this week! First up is my list of favorite films from 2013. There are still quite a few I want to see from last year (i.e. Blue is the Warmest Color, American Hustle, Inside Llewyn Davis), but I couldn’t wait any longer to share this top 10.

Honorable Mentions: Fruitvale Station, Frances Ha, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, The Conjuring

#10 – Gimme the Loot
Gimme the Loot [2012]
#9 – Stoker
Stoker [2013]
#8 – The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]
#7 – Gravity
Gravity [2013]
#6 – Her
Her [2013]
#5 – Nebraska
Nebraska [2013]
#4 – The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]
#3 – The Hunt
The Hunt [2013]
#2 – Before Midnight
Before Midnight [2013]
#1 – 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave [2013]

How about you? What’s your favorite film from 2013?

Ranking the 50 Movies Project 2013: #25-1

And here are my top 25 films from the project. Every single one of these comes highly recommended!

Gone with the Wind [1939]
25) Gone with the Wind [1939]

Sullivan's Travels [1941]
24) Sullivan’s Travels [1941]

The Warriors [1979]
23) The Warriors [1979]

The Last Waltz [1978]
22) The Last Waltz [1978]

Nashville [1975]
21) Nashville [1975]

The Wages of Fear [1953]
20) The Wages of Fear [1953]

The Battle of Algiers [1966]
19) The Battle of Algiers [1966]

Rosemary's Baby [1968]
18) Rosemary’s Baby [1968]

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974]
17) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974]

His Girl Friday [1940]
16) His Girl Friday [1940]

Stagecoach [1939]
15) Stagecoach [1939]

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans [1927]
14) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans [1927]

Rififi [1955]
13) Rififi [1955]

Rebecca [1940]
12) Rebecca [1940]

Three Colors: Blue
11) Three Colors: Blue [1993]

To Be or Not to Be [1942]
10) To Be or Not to Be [1942]

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul [1974]
9) Ali: Fear Eats the Soul [1974]

The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]
8) The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]

Y tu mamá también [2002]
7) Y Tu Mamá También [2001]

Belle de Jour [1967]
6) Belle de Jour [1967]

My Neighbor Totoro [1988]
5) My Neighbor Totoro [1988]

Ikiru [1952]
4) Ikiru [1952]

Sweet Smell of Success [1957]
3) Sweet Smell of Success [1957]

Do the Right Thing [1989]
2) Do the Right Thing [1989]

The Passion of Joan of Arc [1928]
1) The Passion of Joan of Arc [1928]

That’s a wrap! Are you surprised by any of the rankings? What’s your favorite film from this list?

Ranking the 50 Movies Project 2013: #50-26

Last year’s 50 Movies Project was another rousing success! Aside from a select few, I really enjoyed every film on the list. It was difficult trying to rank these, but I’m satisfied with how this turned out. Here’s the first batch of films:

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom [1975]
50) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom [1975]

The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975]
49) The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975]

Mr. Hulot's Holiday [1953]
48) Mr. Hulot’s Holiday [1954]

Solaris [1972]
47) Solaris [1972]

Withnail & I
46) Withnail & I [1987]

Two-Lane Blacktop [1971]
45) Two-Lane Blacktop [1971]

Rebel Without a Cause [1955]
44) Rebel Without a Cause [1955]

All the President's Men [1976]
43) All the President’s Men [1976]

Three Colors: Red [1994]
42) Three Colors: Red [1994]

Amores Perros [2000]
41) Amores Perros [2000]

Grand Illusion [1937]
40) Grand Illusion [1937]

Hard Boiled [1992]
39) Hard Boiled [1992]

Three Colors: White [1994]
38) Three Colors: White [1994]

The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957]
37) The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957]

Amadeus [1984]
36) Amadeus [1984]

Life is Beautiful [1997]
35) Life is Beautiful [1997]

Moon [2009]
34) Moon [2009]

Au Revoir Les Enfants [1987]
33) Au Revoir Les Enfants [1988]

Dawn of the Dead [1978]
32) Dawn of the Dead [1978]

A Beautiful Mind [2001]
31) A Beautiful Mind [2001]

The Best Years of Our Lives [1946]
30) The Best Years of Our Lives [1946]

Barry Lyndon [1975]
29) Barry Lyndon [1975]

Carrie [1976]
28) Carrie [1976]

Midnight Cowboy [1969]
27) Midnight Cowboy [1969]

Leaving Las Vegas
26) Leaving Las Vegas [1995]

Check back in tomorrow for numbers 25-1!

The Best of 2013 in Movies, Video Games and Music — So Far

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is already halfway over. It has been a bit of a slow year for movies so far (as expected), but there have been huge breakthroughs in the gaming and music scenes. Here are my favorites so far:

MOVIES

This is the End [2013]
5) This Is the End
The funniest movie (and biggest surprise) of the year, hands down.

Stoker [2013]
4) Stoker
Business as usual for Chan-wook Park’s first English language film.

Mud [2013]
3) Mud
Jeff Nichols is 3-for-3 in my book. This is his most likable film yet.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]
2) The Place Beyond the Pines
This ambitious, sprawling epic is one film I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Before Midnight [2013]
1) Before Midnight
Could it be anything else? It’s so great to see Celine and Jesse once again, warts and all.

VIDEO GAMES

Hotline Miami [PS Vita, 2013]
5) Hotline Miami [PS Vita/PS3]
Only listing this at #5 since it is a port of a 2012 title, but this ultra-violent game is even more addictive on the Vita.

Guacamelee! [PS Vita/PS3]
4) Guacamelee! [PS Vita/PS3]
A Metroidvania Lucha Libre-themed adventure from the makers of Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack — it’s as good as it sounds.

Tomb Raider [Xbox 360]
3) Tomb Raider [Xbox 360/PS3]
I was never excited about the Tomb Raider series before, but this reboot hit all the right notes.

Bioshock Infinite [Xbox 360, 2013]
2) Bioshock Infinite [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]
I got goosebumps the first time I stepped foot on the city in the clouds, Columbia, and the experience never let up from there.

The Last of Us [PS3]
1) The Last of Us [PS3]
Has there been a more immersive atmosphere in a video game? This will serve as a gaming benchmark for years to come.

MUSIC

5) Mikal Cronin “MCII”

4) Kanye West “Yeezus”

3) Boards of Canada “Tomorrow’s Harvest”

2) Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”

1) The National “Trouble Will Find Me”

What are your favorites so far this year?

Top 10 Songs by The National

Hey folks!

banner moviesandsongs365 logo

Chris from the wonderfully diverse blog, moviesandsongs365, invited me to write a guest post about my favorite band, The National. While I rarely write about music here at The Warning Sign, it is one of my greatest passions, and I was eager to accept his proposal. I composed a list of my top 10 favorite songs by The National; it was hard to whittle down their catalog to just ten songs, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

the-national

Read the full article here: Eric’s Top 10 Songs by The National.

Eric’s Top Five Theatrical Experiences

For the last two weeks, my favorite local movie theater, the Music Box, has provided Chicago with what they have dubbed the 70mm Film Festival. As the last remaining theater in town that can play movies at 70mm (compared to the usual 35mm or digital), they brought in a wide variety of films to screen in this gorgeous format. One of these films was the biggest item on my so-called “movie bucket list” — 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was there for its very first screening (which was absolutely incredible), and it gave me the idea to compose this list of my top five theatrical experiences.

Now, one thing you will notice right away is that most of these have taken place in just the last few years. That’s because I never really went to the theater much when I was younger — it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago in 2008 that I truly fell in love with film. With so many theaters in town, all of which are easily accessible, I found myself going more and more. The fact that these are all recent does not make them any less memorable for me.

movie-theater-seats

First, a few honorable mentions:
Antichrist [November 2009]
My first visit to the Music Box. I instantly fell in love with this theater. My girlfriend and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with Antichrist — let’s just say it was an experience I will never forget, for multiple reasons.

RoboCop [July 2012]
This was noteworthy for two reasons. 1) I met up with several movie bloggers for drinks and a movie, all of whom were good people. 2) It was freakin’ RoboCop on the big screen!

Miami Connection [October 2012]
The hype machine surrounding this revived 80s action flick was out of control, so I had to see it for myself. It turns out that the movie was an absolute riot, and I can’t wait to see it again. What made the screening even better was that I got to share it with my niece and her husband — we still reference the brilliance that is Dragon Sound to this day.

And now, the top five:

Drive [2011]
5) Drive [September 2011]
There was a lot of buzz surrounding Drive, and I couldn’t wait to see it. My girlfriend and I rode our bikes to a theater in Lincoln Park on a gorgeous summer night. I had a feeling I was going to like the film, but I was surprised at how much it blew me away. I ended up ranking it as my favorite film of 2011. I left the theater feeling like a total badass — how could you not? — and the first thing I told my girlfriend was that I needed a pair of biking gloves. I felt invincible on that bike ride home.

Beasts of the Southern Wild [2011]
4) Beasts of the Southern Wild [June 2012]advanced screening with a Q&A with Benh Zeitlin, Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis afterward
I had to wait an hour in line before this screening, and to make matters worse, a huge chunk of the theater was blocked off for contest winners. The only available seating was in the first few rows, and I was tempted to just say “fuck it” and walk out before the show. But I stuck with it, and I’m so glad I did. I got sucked into the world of the Bathtub, and I quickly forgot about how close I was sitting. I loved the film, and the Q&A with the cast and director afterward made me appreciate it even more. I was especially impressed with Dwight Henry, who came across as such a genuinely humble man.

THE ROOM
3) The Room [2010-present]multiple screenings, some with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in attendance
I can thank my good friends Steve and Ali for turning me onto the madness that is The Room, and now I frequently return the favor to anyone who comes to visit. There’s nothing like showing someone The Room for the first time, especially in a jam-packed theater. I have been to two different screenings in which director/writer/”star” Tommy Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero did a Q&A — once even getting dragged on stage to shake their hands — and they are endlessly entertaining. If you haven’t experienced The Room yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Words cannot do it justice. Just make sure to bring a bunch of plastic spoons.

2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]
2) 2001: A Space Odyssey [February 2013]part of the 70mm Film Festival
This was the absolute #1 choice on my “movie bucket list”, and I am eternally grateful that I was able to experience 2001 the way it was meant to be seen (in 70mm, no less!). As much as I loved the film on DVD, seeing it on the big screen just blows it away. I got goosebumps as soon as the first notes to “Also sprach Zarathustra” began playing, and I remained glued to the screen from that point on. I get asked a lot what my favorite film is, and well, it could very well be 2001: A Space Odyssey. A flawless film.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master [August 2012]advanced surprise 70mm screening with Paul Thomas Anderson and nearly every major Chicago film critic in attendance
I stumbled upon this screening by pure chance — I just happened to sign onto Facebook at just the right time. Tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, but not before I was able to snag one. The Master had only been screened twice before this showing — both in Los Angeles — so this was a pretty big deal. I arrived later than anticipated only to find a line of people wrapped all the way down the street and around a corner. Somehow I was lucky enough to still get a good seat, but I was worried for a while.

The film was fantastic, my favorite of 2012, but the experience of being one of the first few hundred people in the entire world to see it made it feel unreal. There was so much excitement and nervousness in the room, and none of us could have predicted what was in store for us. And, to top it all off, Paul Thomas Anderson hung out in the lobby afterward to converse with anyone who wanted to talk. Events like this remind me just how much I love Chicago.

So there you have it — my top five theatrical experiences! What are your favorite theatrical experiences? Got a good story to tell?

Top 10 Video Games From 2012

For the first time in years, I did a decent job keeping up with the latest video game releases. There were still many that I missed, but this is the first time I have been able to put together a top 10 list during January. This was a great year for video games, especially when it came to narrative-driven experiences.

Honorable Mentions:
Journey
Dyad
FIFA 13
Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Mass Effect 3
10) Mass Effect 3
This is The Dark Knight Rises of the Mass Effect trilogy, especially in terms of divisiveness. I loved it despite mixed feelings about the ending.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]
9) Trials Evolution
Pretty much the perfect sequel. Expands upon the original in every way possible.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]
8) Sleeping Dogs
A strong contender for my new favorite GTA-style game. Gotta love the Hong Kong setting, too.

Mark of the Ninja [Xbox 360, 2012]
7) Mark of the Ninja
This could very well be the best stealth game I have ever played. Finishing a level without being seen always feels like a huge triumph.

Max Payne 3
6) Max Payne 3
If ever there were a game that feels like an action movie, this is it. Hell, it’s better than most of Hollywood’s recent action flicks.

Hotline Miami [PC]
5) Hotline Miami
The violence is hard to stomach, but the gameplay is so addictive that I kept coming back for more. Best soundtrack of the year as well.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
4) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’m usually not a big fan of strategy games, but XCOM locked me in and didn’t let go. Easy to learn, difficult to master, but always fun.

Spec Ops: The Line [Xbox 360]
3) Spec Ops: The Line
On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than a standard third-person military shooter. But then the story kicks in, and it’s impossible to get out of this descent into madness. Arguably the best narrative ever found in a shooter.

Borderlands 2 [Xbox 360]
2) Borderlands 2
The original Borderlands was one of the breakout hits of 2009, and the sequel delivers everything that worked so well in an even more refined experience. I can’t stop looting.

The Walking Dead: The Game [Xbox 360, 2012]
1) The Walking Dead
The most emotional experience I have ever come across in a video game. An unheralded art of storytelling in a medium that so badly needs strong narratives.

What I Missed: Far Cry 3, Lone Survivor, Torchlight II, Diablo III, Hitman: Absolution

What did I miss? Do you agree with these choices? If you have your own top 10, feel free to share in the comments!

Top 10 Films From 2012

The “best of” lists have been well underway, and it’s time for me to join in on the festivities. I wanted to wait until I saw a few of the most recent heavy-hitters, and now I feel confident enough to put together my own top 10. This has been a great year for film, and I could have easily stretched this out to a top 20, or even 25. For the sake of consistency, I am sticking with a top ten.

Honorable Mentions:
The Intouchables
Zero Dark Thirty
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Killer Joe [2011]
10) Killer Joe
“A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” Yeah, it’s as great as it sounds. I will never look at fried chicken the same way again.

Take This Waltz [2011]
9) Take This Waltz
Pretty much a “love it or hate it” film, but this one struck an emotional chord within me. I can’t get enough of Michelle Williams either.

Lincoln [2012]
8) Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis deserves every bit of praise sent his way, and he anchors a well-rounded cast in a film about one of America’s most pivotal moments.

argo-2012
7) Argo
Dare I say Ben Affleck is a much better director than actor? This is a gripping thriller that manages to maintain suspense despite the outcome being well-known.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
6) The Dark Knight Rises
I can’t think of a better conclusion to one of the best trilogies in recent times. The film flies by despite its lengthy running time, and Bane is a hell of a villain.

Indie Game: The Movie [2012]
5) Indie Game: the Movie
A documentary about indie game developers? Whaaaa-? This is actually a damn good film, one that shows a dedication to a craft where no outcome is certain.

The Imposter [2012]
4) The Imposter
The perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. My favorite documentary of the year.

Oslo, August 31st [2011]
3) Oslo, August 31st
A look at a reformed drug addict trying to fit back into society. Sounds familiar, but this film looks at addiction in a fresh new light. Joachim Trier is a director to keep an eye on.

Django Unchained [2012]
2) Django Unchained
I could watch Quentin Tarantino recreate history any time. Just as stylish as expected from the eccentric director, with an especially memorable soundtrack.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master
I’m still a bit shocked at how divisive this film has been, but no other release resonated with me this year like Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. The trio of Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver some of the best performances of the year, and the film itself will leave you thinking about it for days (or much longer).

Still need to see: Amour, Seven Psychopaths, Rust and Bone, The Impossible, Holy Motors

Any thoughts? What do you agree with? Disagree?

Introducing: The 50 Movies Project, 2013 Edition

I have been having a blast with these movie projects, so doing a third round was a no-brainer. I started keeping a tally of films I badly needed/wanted to see over the last year, and my initial rough draft included over 100 titles. I begrudgingly whittled it down to 50, tweaked it some more, and eventually came up with this, my final draft. I really tried to add some diversity to this year’s list, allowing myself no more than one film per director. Many of these are directors I am entirely unfamiliar with, so this should be a totally enlightening experience. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this year’s project. What are your favorites?

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans [1927, F.W. Murnau]
The Passion of Joan of Arc [1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer]
Grand Illusion [1937, Jean Renoir]
Gone with the Wind [1939, Victor Fleming]
Stagecoach [1939, John Ford]
His Girl Friday [1940, Howard Hawks]
Rebecca [1940, Alfred Hitchcock]
Sullivan’s Travels [1941, Preston Sturges]
To Be or Not to Be [1942, Ernst Lubitsch]
The Best Years of Our Lives [1946, William Wyler]
Ikiru [1952, Akira Kurosawa]
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday [1953, Jacques Tati]
The Wages of Fear [1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot]
Rebel Without a Cause [1955, Nicholas Ray]
Rififi [1955, Jules Dassin]
The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957, David Lean]
Sweet Smell of Success [1957, Alexander Mackendrick]
The Battle of Algiers [1966, Gillo Pontecorvo]
Belle de Jour [1967, Luis Buñuel]
Rosemary’s Baby [1968, Roman Polanski]
Midnight Cowboy [1969, John Schlesinger]
Two-Lane Blacktop [1971, Monte Hellman]
Solaris [1972, Andrey Tarkovskiy]
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul [1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder]
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974, Tobe Hooper]
Barry Lyndon [1975, Stanley Kubrick]
Nashville [1975, Robert Altman]
The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975, Jim Sharman]
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom [1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini]
All the President’s Men [1976, Alan J. Pakula]
Carrie [1976, Brian De Palma]
Dawn of the Dead [1978, George Romero]
The Last Waltz [1978, Martin Scorcese]
The Warriors [1979, Walter Hill]
Amadeus [1984, Milos Forman]
Au revoir les enfants [1987, Louis Malle]
Withnail & I [1987, Bruce Robinson]
My Neighbor Totoro [1988, Hayao Miyazaki]
Do the Right Thing [1989, Spike Lee]
Hard Boiled [1992, John Woo]
Three Colors: Blue [1993, Krzysztof Kieślowski]
Three Colors: White [1994, Krzysztof Kieślowski]
Three Colors: Red [1994, Krzysztof Kieślowski]
Leaving Las Vegas [1995, Mike Figgis]
Life is Beautiful [1997, Roberto Benigni]
Amores Perros [2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu]
A Beautiful Mind [2001, Ron Howard]
Y Tu Mamá También [2001, Alfonso Cuarón]
Moon [2009, Duncan Jones]
The Secret in Their Eyes [2009, Juan José Campanella]