Random Pop Culture Top 10 List
20 Things We're Looking forward to in 2012
Chris, Jordan, Rachel
Random Pop Culture Top 10 List is a (fairly self-explanatory) biweekly list in which the Review to be named gang take stock of the realm of pop culture, and come up with their Top Ten in a specific category.

2012 is upon us! We've all officially survived the first week of the New Year, as we hopefully will the next 51 as well, to the dismay of some very disappointed Mayans. Because we've got better things to look forward to then the end of the world: 2012 is shaping up to be another spot-on year in the pop culture universe. We were so excited we couldn't even contain our anticipation to the typical 10 items for our bi-weekly Saturday feature, so instead we present to you, dearest readers, our list of the RTBN staff's 20 Pop Culture Items We're Looking Forward to in 2012!

20. A Year in Comics

In the end, there were just too many to choose from, so here are a few notables in short form:

-Swamp Thing meets Animal Man: Swamp Thing and Animal Man are arguably two of the best titles to come out of the DC Relaunch, telling riveting horror stories as focused on character development as they are on delivering the creep factor. And while both characters have been facing a common enemy, 2012 looks to be the year when their paths will finally cross in a crossover to die for.

-Rick Remender on Secret Avengers. Remender seems hell bent on taking over the espionage side of the Marvel Universe and given his outstanding work on Uncanny X-Force and Venom, we couldn't be happier to see him take over Secret Avengers with art by Gabriel Hardman this January.

-Brian Michael Bendis' Final Avengers Stories: Bendis has announced that 2012 will be his last year on the Avengers Franchise. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that his work with the characters has profoundly increased their stature in the eyes of the wider fanbase. 2012 promises to see the conclusion to many of Bendis' ongoing threads as well as the long awaited Ultron War.
-A Fantastic Milestone: Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four work can best be described by one word: Epic. And the storyline he began three years ago, will conclude this March. And while that won't be the end of his work on the title, the culmination of this story is sure to be one of the best moments in comics in 2012.

-Casnova: Avarita: Only two issues remain in the latest volume of Matt Fraction's beyond cool sci-fi spy magnum opus, and we are beyond excited to find out how Casanova Quinn works his way out of the horrifying mission his father has set him on.

19. Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros has turned in some of our favorite music of all time with such timeless classics as "Hoppipolla" and "Staralfur," (which is included on the pretty much flawless Agaetis Byrjun). They are a band that constantly makes us want to laugh, cry, remember the good times and look to the future, all within the span of just one of their expansive, orchestral compositions. Whatever their new album sounds like, it is sure to keep us thinking, and listening, for a good long while.\t

18. The Olympics

London Olympics

Funny things with the Olympics"”we sort of have to look forward to them. They completely hijack television, replacing our favorite shows either with broadcasts of sports that no one we've ever known actually plays, or with reruns. But to be less cynical, the Olympics really can be rather amazing: the pageantry, the fanfare, the strange realization that, no matter how far humanity has advanced since the first games way back when, national glory still rests on the shoulders of some well-muscled individuals who really are the absolute best at what they do, even if what they do is throw heavy things around a field or run really fast from nothing in particular.

We're looking forward to London because"¦well, it's sort of bound to be ridiculous. Everyone remembers China four years ago, the amazing displays of ceremony, the massive productions that took everyone's breath away. We're eagerly anticipating London's attempt to top the last games in the face of the fact that"¦well, the UK cares if their performers die, don't they? So they're going to do things that China would never have dreamed of doing, like let the performers eat and rest, which is really going to make the show suffer. But hey, Princess Kate's wardrobe is bound to be flawless, right? Not to mention, a whole clusterfuck is bound to open up when millions and millions of tourists descend on good ol' London-town, with its spotty public transportation and iconic system of monuments and palaces that will probably be enough to fill even the most jaded among us with stirrings of awe.

17. The Master

The Master

When Paul Thomas Anderson decides to make a movie, he doesn't mess around. His previous track record (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood) is flawless, so there is pretty much no chance we won't be checking in on The Master. It may have been in development hell for the last few years (conspiracy? mayhaps) and the title is still technically not confirmed (the only posters released call it Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project) but the story of a charismatic intellectual (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who forms a religion called The Cause (which is NOT Scientology. Except that it is) that actually begins to take off looks like a perfect project from the always ambitious Anderson. There is no solid release date yet, but that doesn't bug us: whenever it does come out, we'll be there.

16. Magnetic Fields

Magnetic Fields

In the last 15 years, The Magnetic Fields have been nothing less than appointment listening for indie rock fans, churning out one invigorating musical experiment after another. From the epic, genre spanning 69 Love Songs to their synth-free trilogy, the alphabetized I, and the exercise in juxtaposition that was Distortion and Realism. 2012 promises to deliver their newest sonic wonderland, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, which will let frontman Stephin Merritt loose on all the technology that has developed during his "no-synth" decade and deliver 15 pop songs all under three minutes. Merritt seems to have freed himself from his self-imposed restrictions (as much as he is capable of anyway), and if he works as well free of limitations as he does imposing them on himself, we are in for an album that will probably spend most of the next year coursing through our ears.

15. Luck

From David Milch (the man behind Deadwood), television genius, and Michael Mann, former TV director turned film auteur, comes the story of a racetrack (owned by Dustin Hoffman. That's right. This is a television show starring Dustin Hoffman. Go ahead. Squeal with joy. We'll wait) and all of the people connected with it, be they criminals, gamblers, racers or patrons. The plot promises to bring us this community as a microcosm for America as a country, and is all but guaranteed to bring us the poetic dialogue Milch is famous for, along with the glossy sheen Mann tends to bring with him. This is the type of show television fans get up in arms about, and from every look we've had at it, they are absolutely right in their convictions.

14. Django Unchained

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino has spent the last decade crafting a series of genre homages and retreads (revenge flick Kill Bill, B-movie pastiche Grindhouse, WWII alternate-history/introspective cinematic thesis Inglourious Basterds), so its no surprise that he is behind Django Unchained, a spaghetti western following an escaped slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio, playing against type). If the plot, the auteur behind it, or the cast aren't enough to get you excited, Tarantino's take on the genre made popular by Sergio Leone should get you in the seats. And if not, that'll just leave us more room on opening day.

13. The New 52 Hits The One Year Mark

RTBN devoted a lot of time to covering the launch of DC's New 52 relaunch providing reviews, speculation, and analysis. We stand by our assessment that this was the biggest and boldest publishing decision of 2011 and had a whole lot of fun trying to figure out what it meant for the american comic book industry as a whole. We've already seen the sales begin to dip back toward more recognizable levels, and we've seen creative shake ups on over a dozen of the New 52 titles. Additionally, DC has been hinting at a line wide event coming sometime in the near future, with a mysterious hooded woman who appeared in Flashpoint having a cameo in all the #1 issues that launched in September, and a growing number of crossovers between titles. As we approach the one year mark will DC launch a huge summer event to compete with Marvel? Will they still maintain command of the top ten sellers list? Will some New 52 titles be cancelled? What new ongoing series, like the frequently mentioned Justice Society by James Robinson and Nicola Scott will the Publisher release? The One Year mark promises a whole slew of answers to the questions we've been asking since the Fall.

12. Leonard Cohen

Personal betrayal and bankruptcy may have motivated Cohen's recent flurry of productivity, but his own tragedies have done nothing to dull the potency and beauty of his music. Cohen is one of the greatest poets of the last 50 years (both in his published volumes and on his albums, which often play out like an hour of Cohen putting his best work to melodies), and his first album since 2004's Dear Heather is an event worth salivating over. If his acceptance speech when he received the prestigious Prince Asturias Award for Literature in Spain last year wasn't introspective, enlightening, and moving enough to make you wonder what he's been working on, the songs from the album he has slowly debuted over the last year should be. Cohen is nothing short of a genius, a master of multiple mediums coming back to the one he is best known for, and if for no other reason than that, Old Ideas is an album worth getting worked up about.

11. Grant Morrison's Multiversityand Batman: Leviathan

While there is no guarantee that these series will actually be published in 2012, there have been rumors they will finally seen the light of day, and we can always hope. Multiversity is Morrison's long promised follow up to Final Crisis in which he and a group of his favorite artists will explore the DC Multiverse, with each issue focusing on a different Earth written in drawn in a style specific to that Earth. Batman: Leviathanwill bring Morrison's epic run on Batman full circle wrapping up one of the greatest modern runs on the character and rendered in the infectious style of Chris Burnham. Cross your fingers folks, because I know I'm not alone when we say we want to see these projects sooner rather than later.

10. Image Fires a Shot Across the Bow

For all his bluster and bravado, Robert Kirkman's campaign to draw big name writers and artists to produce original creator owned books at Image has met with middling results for years. However it appears that 2012 just might be the year that Image steps back into the spotlight and throws down with the big boys. In addition to an already strong line that includes Invincible, The Walking Dead, Morning Glories, The Artifacts, Hack/Slash, and Haunt, the first quarter of 2012 will see the launch of a bevy of intriguing books created by some A-List talent. Fatale, a horror infused noir from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips launched in January. March brings the first issue of The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Patarra, detailing the secret history of the project for which the Atom Bomb was merely a front! In the Spring, Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch deliver America's Got Powers. However the real get for the publisher is the March launching Saga, a scifi/fantasy epic featuring art by Fiona Staple and superstar writer Brian K Vaughn's return to comics. DC was the Publisher to watch in 2011, this year I'd keep an eye on Image.

9. Mumford & Sons

If you have a heart and a pair of working ears, you probably know and love Mumford and Sons. Their 2010 debut Sigh No More, with its strong folk instrumentation, superbly crafted and haunting and heartbreaking and exhilarating all at once lyrics created a pitch-perfect balance between raucous joy and debilitating despair that really made us believe in music again. They've been premiering new songs pretty regularly since early 2011, including the above track, "Lover's Eyes," which they played in public for one of the first times at a pre-Grammy party when they first started to really explode. The deliberation and long recording process make us believe that Mumford and Sons won't suffer from the typical sophomore slump, and we can't wait to get a real listen to whatever the band comes out with next.

8. Avengers

A cinematic event literally years (and FRANCHISES) in the making, Avengers would be worth getting excited about if only for its historic place as a cross-over bringing a variety of cinematic franchises together for one epic event. Yet its significance alone is not enough to justify its inclusion on this list. It also boasts an all-star cast (including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Scarlet Johannson and Mark Ruffalo, among others) and a writer-director who by himself is enough to make us squeal in joyful, geeky anticipation: Joss Whedon. The auteur behind enough excellent geekery to keep us salivating, debating, and reveling for years, bringing his grimness, geeky wit, and brilliant scope to a franchise dependent on its scale has us so excited, we might just stay awake, shaking quietly until the premiere. If it's anything less than hilarious, action packed, mythic and resonant, it will STILL be one of the cinematic events of 2012

7. Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

We have a bit of a bias when it comes to Wes Anderson. It's hard not to get behind the lovably quirky auteur behind Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Especially when he finally visits the "˜60s, the decade that has inspired all of his previous work, for a story about two young lovers who run away together, prompting a town-wide search party. Anderson alone is enough of a draw, but with a cast including Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban, this is definitely a movie to be excited about.

6. Veep

For fans of British television, Armando Ianucci is known for his vast successes, with brilliant and hysterical television shows like Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge and The Thick of It under his belt. On this side of the pond, Ianucci has already delivered perhaps the most potent and hysterical political satire put to film since Dr. Strangelove with his blisteringly funny In the Loop. Suffice to say that when it comes to political satire, few are better at it. So our pulse quickens at the very idea of Ianucci's new HBO series Veep, which stars the legendary (don't doubt it) Julia Louis Dreyfus as a senator who becomes vice president in hopes of proving every warning she's heard about the job wrong...only to find out all of the put downs about the position are dead on. If it comes to a vote, consider us on board.

5. The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin is one of the best writers alive and working in any medium. With Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60 behind him (not to mention his phenomenal work in film, including A Few Good Men and The Social Network), it's impossible that we wouldn't be excited to have him back on television. And that he will be on HBO, where his creative vision won't be restrained like it has been in the past (see: the aforementioned Studio 60), and back in the realm of politics makes us even more excited. The Newsroom follows Jeff Daniels as a Keith Olbermann type anchor on a cable news show backed by a staff including Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, and Sam Waterston (we're slightly sad that the Sorkin regulars like Bradley Whitford aren't in the roster, but hopefully we'll get some guest spots to fill that void"¦). The show promises to give all of the above plenty of chances for walk-and-talks in which they profess their passionate political opinions and toss out witty barbs, all before their father figure of a boss (our money is on Waterston) reminds them all of their deeply felt ethics and we can all go home happier and slightly more enlightened. Mocking tone aside, though... that's kind of exactly what we look for from our television.

4. Avengers vs. X-Men

All of Marvel's big Summer events have been leading to this: a showdown between their two most popular franchises that will span the Spring and Summer in a 12 part bi-monthly megaseries. Details of what will spark the conflict are scarce, but we know it will involve a return of the Phoenix Force as it searches the earth for a new host, presumably Hope, the teenaged Mutant Messiah. Marvel Architects Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and Jonathan Hickman will trade off scripting duties, while Adam Kubert, John Romita Jr., and Olvier Coipel will each pencil four issues of the event. This mind melting ensemble of talent, coupled with Marvel's most popular characters facing off in a conflict that promises to have major ramifications for the universe going forward ensures that this will be the comic event of the year if not the decade!

3. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

The death of Clarence Clemmons was one of the nadirs of 2011 for fans of music, talent, and frankly, just good people doing good work. Yet like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band shall not be deterred by their great loss. The titans of American rock and roll look to be taking 2012 by storm, announcing both an international tour and a brand new album within the year. Calling Springsteen an elder statesman and a musical legend is, quite frankly, an insult to the man who has spent the last decade proving he still retains a workmanlike commitment to entertainment and the masterful musical skill he displayed in his prime. With late career successes like The Rising, his heartrending track from The Wrestler and his performance in The People Speak (an artistic recreation of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States), there is no question that Springsteen is in a creative resurgence worth celebrating. He is, quite simply, The Boss, and 2012 promises to see him taking charge once again

2. Returning Favorites on the small screen

Last year was a great year in television, and 2012 promises to keep that trend going pretty solidly, particularly in terms of some of our most beloved shows returning.

First things first: after more than a year of eager anticipation, Mad Men will return in March, and we'll finally learn what the future holds for Don, his horse-faced secretary/fiancé, Sad Sally, Roger and his secret baby-mamma Joan, and the rest of the cast of characters that makes us love Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. We're also particularly looing forward to the second season of Game of Thrones, as war breaks out all over the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, alliances fall and reform, dragons are born, and multiple kings step forward for the Iron Throne. Was the first season, an amazing and unprecedented feat in sustained, serialized fantasy so ornate and engrossing that we've never really seen anything like it, just a fluke, or will the second season (premiering in April) avoid the sophomore slump? The last gem in the returning TV crown is 30 Rock, premiering Thursday, which is bound to be at least interesting, considering rock of the show Alec Baldwin has promised it's his last season. We just can't wait for our much overdue reunions with these old friends.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

There is nothing more exciting in 2012 than the prospect of the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman saga. When any little detail is leaked about The Dark Knight Rises, we're there first with a magnifying glass and all sorts of geeky opinions on what everything might mean. None of it may be accurate, but hey, that's part of the fun. So far, what we know for sure is that the film picks up eight years after The Dark Knight, with said crusader returning to Gotham to explore the emergence of entirely new threats (in the form of at least Tom Hardy's Bane and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman) to his city's well being. The cast includes returners Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, as well as the previously mentioned villains and newcomers Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon Levitt, all of who are sure to be excellent. The last two movies were great, and while it will be difficult to top them, we're excited to see all of these people try.

Honorable Mentions

The Hunger Games

Finally, a new young adult franchise with substance!

The xx

We'll just start weeping now, because this album is bound to be heartbreaking.


Anjelica Huston on TV? Yes, please.

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