For the inaugural post of the new Unresolved blog, I figured that I might as well talk about the last year or so. It’s been a crazy year for myself and the podcast - especially since this was my first full year as a full-time podcaster. I put out dozens of episodes of Unresolved, started a second podcast (Hoax) and released 10 episodes under that banner, and have begun planning more stories/shows for 2019 and beyond.
But now, without any further adieu, I’ll focus on what you’re probably here for: my favorite shows, movies, podcasts, and more of 2018.
Top 5 Movies
5.) Sorry To Bother You - One of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen, but in a good way. First-time screenwriter/director Boots Riley (frontman of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club) crafted an incredibly unique take on capitalism and the American dream. Without spoiling it, you really need to watch it to figure out what it’s all about.
4.) Upgrade - A rather-cheesy but totally immersive sci-fi actioner. I actually saw this movie on a random weekday, and was totally surprised by how great it was. I enjoy off-kilter science fiction movies that take a unique premise and run with it, and - for my money - this was a better “Venom” movie than the actual thing.
3.) The Apostle - When I heard that Gareth Evans was making a movie for Netflix, I was intrigued. Dude crafted some of the most insane action movies of all-time (The Raid 1 & 2), and when I learned that this was going to star Dan Stevens and center around a 19th century cult… well, needless to say, it had my full attention. While the end result is a bit off-balance, it’s a really well-done film with a unique, horrifying premise.
2.) BlacKkKlansman - Spike Lee seems to be a really hit-or-miss director, with some of his hits being absolutely incredible pieces of filmmaking. I haven’t really been amazed by him since “Inside Man,” but he wowed me with BlacKkKlansman - a movie based on the true story of a black cop infiltrating the KKK. Sometimes truth is more bizarre than fiction, and this film not only does a great job of telling the story, but ends on perhaps the most poignant point possible.
1.) Avengers: Infinity War - I know, I know… how can one of the most mainstream, most “Hollywood” movies be my top film for the year? Well, honestly, because I thought it was a ton of fun. This movie gathered all of Marvel’s heroes for a battle against the Mad Titan Thanos, and induced goosebumps from me on more than one occasion. As a huge nerd, this movie was wish fulfillment.
Honorable Mentions: Vice, Solo (A Star Wars Story), A Star Is Born, Annihilation, and Mission Impossible: Fallout.
Top 5 TV Shows
5.) Lovesick - One of the weirdest obsessions I have is with Lovesick: a quaint English show about a love-troubled group of young adults. It’s a warm, lighthearted show about a group of 20-somethings that struggle to find love, based off of one young man’s journey to reconnect with his exes after a venereal diagnosis. It’s surreal at times, but incredibly smart and funny.
4.) The Haunting Of Hill House - I came into this show with close to no expectations, and it blew them away to a ridiculous degree. This show is a family drama first and foremost, based off of their own interpersonal traumas and the haunting inspired by a childhood home. Wonderfully acted, and one of the most well-directed shows I’ve ever seen.
3.) Better Call Saul - This show marks the character progression of Saul Goodman - the slimy, scheming schmuck best known as “Saul Goodman” on Breaking Bad, as he works his way from a down-on-his-luck lawyer working in a closet to the most well-known CRIMINAL LAWYER in New Mexico . In my opinion, BCS has completely surpassed the benchmark of incredible acting, directing, and writing set forth by its meth-empire predecessor, and its most recent season was no exception. Just go ahead and give this show all the Emmy’s, please.
2.) The Expanse - Based on the James S.A. Corey book series of the same name, this show is one of my favorites. While it is noticeably cheesy at times, the show does a wonderful job of scoping the stories from the novels while also charting unique routes of its own. The show wrapped up season 3 in 2018, and it marked perhaps the most cohesive, well-oiled season yet. With the show now revived on Amazon, I cannot wait to see what awaits the crew of the Rocinante… and encourage anyone out-of-the-loop to check it out ASAP.
1.) The Last Kingdom - This show, which I once considered a rival of “Vikings” (the History Channel show), is now one of the best shows on TV. Words cannot express how much I adore the knuckle-headed Uhtred (son of Uhtred), the equally-stubborn King Alfred, and the merry band of characters that surround them. Based on Bernard Cornwall’s book series of the same name, this series is one of the most underrated television shows of the last decade, IMO. Destiny is all.
Honorable Mentions: Atlanta, Daredevil, Wild Wild Country, Dirty Money, and the Alienist.
Top 5 Albums
5.) “You’re Not Alone” by Andrew W.K. - While I’m admittedly not the biggest Andrew W.K. fan, I learned a lot about the guy this year, and his music began to strike a peculiar note with me. I finally started to “get” it, and now I can’t look away from his infectious, positive philosophy. “You’re Not Alone” is his first real studio album in more than a decade, and is a great return-to-form for the king of partying.
4.) “The Free Life” by Turbowolf - I first saw these guys playing at a hard rock festival a few years back, and I was drawn to their swagger-filled, trippy sound (which sounds like a cross between Queen and The Darkness). “The Free Life” is the band’s most cohesive work yet, and… it’s a ton of fun.
3.) “Extinction(s)” by Unearth - Metalcore legends Unearth have been writing heavy, headbang-inducing anthems for roughly two decades now, and they stay at it with this year’s “Extinction(s).” The band has streamlined their sound somewhat, doing away with gaudy guitar solos, instead focusing on writing the meanest, snarliest songs they can. From the opening notes to the ending symphony (yes, the album ends on an orchestral segment), Unearth shows the metal and hardcore communities that they’ve still got it.
2.) “Holy Hell” by Architects - This is the audio version of grief. Architects lost founding member and lead songwriter Tom Searle to cancer in 2016, and this album is their first full-length since. The album is marinated in Tom’s musical ideas, but the lyrics revolve around how a band - which includes Tom’s brother, Dan, on drums - can recover from such a traumatic loss. This album cuts deep.
1.) “Dark Skies” by Fit For A King - Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge fan of FFAK… until now. I saw them live a couple of years ago and thought they put on a great show, but their music didn’t really click until I hear this album’s lead single, “Tower of Pain.” Now… I get it. Vocalist Ryan Kirby has one of the most impressive voices in all of metal or hardcore, and this album is chock-full of heavy-ass breakdowns, rich melodies, hard-hitting lyrics, and screams that can outlive the universe.
Honorable Mentions: “Revival” by Light The Torch, “Catharsis” by Machine Head, “The Silence” by Feed The Rhino, “Disease” by Beartooth, and “Abandon of the Self” by Eryn Non Dae.
Top 5 Podcasts
5.) Lords Of Death - This podcast came out of nowhere, and took me completely by surprise. It details the unsolved murder of an elderly couple from Ohio in the late 1980’s, and quickly heads down a dark and treacherous road as the host investigates a possible gang of killers who called themselves - you guessed it - the “Lords of Death.” An incredibly gripping new podcast, which features one of the most jaw-dropping moments of any podcast.
4.) Serial - The great grand-daddy of all true crime podcasts, Serial went back to its roots… somewhat. Instead of focusing on a single story, Serial decided to record and report on a Cleveland courthouse for over a year. The end result is infuriating to listen to, but impeccably produced, serving as a great record of the current criminal justice system.
3.) Bear Brook - This is another true crime serial, produced by New Hampshire Public Radio. This podcast investigates the source of four bodies that were found in barrels in rural New Hampshire, taking the story all over the country in an attempt to find the identities of these poor victims.
2.) Swindled - 2018 was the year that I began to take an interest in white collar crime, and I owe that entirely to this podcast. Swindled focuses on a new story each episode, detailing how a conman, swindler, or crook tried to take advantage of others. The host incorporates useful audio to help tell each story, and Swindled has quickly become one of my can’t-miss podcasts.
1.) In The Dark - The first season of In The Dark detailed the investigation of Jacob Wetterling, but season two turned to Winona, Mississippi - focusing on Curtis Flowers, a black man convicted of multiple murders more than 20 years ago. This season is one of the most impressive pieces of journalism I’ve ever listened to, and has led to a case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. If you haven’t listened to In The Dark yet… fix that NOW.
Honorable Mentions: The Fall Line, Point Blank: A True Crime Podcast, Slow Burn, Unravel, Behind the Bastards, Buried, Thinking Sideways (RIP), Gone Cold, Hokey Religion, Casefile, Criminology, Southern Fried True Crime, True Crime Story Time, Generation Why, All Crime No Cattle, The Nowhere Dispatch, The Asian Madness Podcast, The Trail Went Cold, Mens Rea, Already Gone/Don’t Talk To Strangers, Buried, The Vanished, Crime In Sports/Small Town Murder, and Darknet Diaries.