2016年8月4日 星期四

A Review of Every DC Movie from 1951 to the Present (Revised as of August 4, 2016)

I have omitted Stamp Day for Superman, which was produced by the US Government, and cannot be classified as a feature film.  There are also a few "DC imprint films" (Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Stardust, The Losers, Gen 13, RED, and RED 2 that are not here for various reasons.

And there are also the "novelty" superhero films such as "Indian Superman."  These movies are/were exercises in copyright infringement, and never saw theatrical release outside of their countries of origin.  Many of these films are good for a few laughs, and can be seen in part or in their entirety on YouTube.

Excellent!  Had to see it twice!
Good movie with a few flaws.
Not bad, but not great.
I’d watch it once if I was bored enough.
[no stars]
Just terrible.
So bad it’s kind of good.
1950s, 1960s, 1970s

1. Superman and the Mole Men (1951) *

You can watch this whole movie on YouTube.  It is, by some accounts at least, the first feature film featuring a DC or Marvel superhero.

2. Batman (1966) @

You can also watch this one on YouTube.  I've read that at the time this came out, the two stars of the show were banging just about anything in a skirt.  Good times!

3. Superman (1978) ****

This film is classic, and is STILL one of the best superhero films ever made!  The scene where Lois "dies" really freaked me out when I was a kid.


4. Superman 2 (1980) ****

This one might be even better than the first Superman.  Terrence Stamp was fantastic as General Zod, the plot was well thought out, and many scenes in this movie are iconic.  See it if you haven't already.

5. Swamp Thing (1982) **

Wes Craven directed this before he rose to fame with A Nightmare on Elm Street.   As a child it was one of my favorite films, though I can't say I like it quite as much now.  Adrienne Barbeau was HOT.

6. Superman 3 (1983) **

Not quite as good as the first two Superman films.  Also quite jokey, but Richard Pryor was in it, so what could you expect?  Gotta love the "bad Superman" sequence.

7. Supergirl (1984) @

Supergirl, one of several kryptonians who survived the destruction of Krypton by fleeing to "inner space," does battle with an evil sorceress.  The actress that plays Supergirl is hot, but this movie makes almost no sense from beginning to end.

8. Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987) **

A lot of people like to go on about how terrible this one is, but it's not really trying to be a good film in the first place.  Christopher Reeve takes his last run at being Superman, and the whole thing is predictably silly.  Would have been cooler if "Nuclear Man" had been Firestorm.

9. Batman (1989) **

Tim Burton's 1989 movie phenomenon.  This is the movie that revived the genre after years of stagnation.  Pretty slow compared to more recent films, but a lot more like Bob Kane's original Batman comics.  In some ways, Michael Keaton is still my favorite Batman.  Fun Trivia: for the three weeks Jack Nicholson spent filming his scenes as the Joker he earned $6 million, in addition to a percentage of the box office gross, which amounted to something between $60 and $90 million!

10. The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) **

A surprisingly watchable movie.  More humorous than the first one, and Swamp Thing looks less rubbery.  It's too bad they never made a third one, because the run Alan Moore did on the comic book would have produced some really trippy movies.  Fun Trivia #1: Heather Locklear is in this.  Fun Trivia #2: The actress that played Faora in Superman II is Dr. Arcane's mistress.


11. Batman Returns (1992) *

This didn't seem so much a movie as an excuse for a toy line.  By 1992 I was already sick of Tim Burton and his quirkiness, and this movie did nothing to change my opinion of him.  Yeah, Michelle Pfeiffer was a damn sexy Catwoman, but that fact alone did not save this film.

12. Batman Forever (1995) *

This is where Joel Schumacher stepped into the Batman franchise, and the results are unsuprising.  It's a shiny, pretty movie star world that proves unbearably dull.  It would have been bad enough, but Jim Carrey's overacting makes it so much worse.  Fun Trivia #1: Bruce Wayne breaks a henchman's neck after Two-Face disrupts the circus.  Fun Trivia #2: During a subsequent discussion, Wayne mentions to Dick Grayson/Robin that "The circus must be halfway to Metropolis by now."  Fun Trivia #3: Jon Favreau, who would go on to direct both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, is in this movie for about a second.

13. Batman and Robin (1997)

Gluttons for punishment would have seen this in the theater.  I was probably next door, watching a better film.  Seeing the apocalyptic performance Arnold Schwarzenegger gives as Mr. Freeze, one marvels that Batman Begins ever got made at all.

14. Steel (1997)

Shaq plays John Henry Irons, an ex-soldier who develops a suit of armor and then sets out to rid the inner city of high tech weaponry.  Some terrifically bad puns in this movie.  It was aimed at kids, and the plot makes little sense.


15. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) *
No wonder Alan Moore wants nothing to do with Hollywood.  Movies such as this one prove his point.  This movie lacks the sense of irony that made the comic book so good, and one wonders what the hell Sean Connery was thinking.

16. Catwoman (2004) @

Halle Berry plays Catwoman, Sharon Stone plays the villain, and Benjamin Bratt plays the most clueless detective in the world.  The DC comic book character in name only.  That scene where the cats bring Halle Berry back to life is hilarious.  So bad it's good!

17. Constantine (2005) ***

This oft-overlooked movie is worth your time.  It might not be classic, but it's a solidly put together film with an interesting protagonist.  The guy that plays the devil near the end is great.

18. Batman Begins (2005) ****

Hell yes.  This was a movie Batman as we always wanted to see him.  Not the neurotic guy with all the gadgets, but the kind of guy who could kick your ass.  The scarecrow is awesome here.

19. V for Vendetta (2005) ***

Great film, made by the Wachowskis of Matrix fame.  Hugo Weaving is fantastic, and even if they dumbed down the source material it's still worth your time.

20. Superman Returns (2006) **

Not as bad as some people make it out to be.  Yeah, Superman does come off as a stalker, and I don't know why they had to do so many of his flying scenes in CGI, but the part where Kevin Spacy and co. deliver a beatdown is excellent.

21. The Dark Knight (2008) ****

Still hands-down the best superhero movie ever made.  And yes, I liked The Avengers.  The plot is complex, the performances are amazing, and the direction is first-rate.  How could Nolan have ever topped this one?

22. The Spirit (2008)

Fuck this movie is bad.  I saw Sin City so many times I had the lines memorized, and with The Spirit I was hoping for something similarly classic.  Unfortunately, Frank Miller isn't quite as good in the absence of Robert Rodriguez.

23. Watchmen (2009) ***

Two problems with this movie: the actors are too pretty, and way too much kung fu fighting.  Aside from these two problems, it is faithful to the comic book and works on many levels. Snyder might have bungled Sucker Punch, but this movie gave me hope for Man of Steel


24. Jonah Hex (2010) *

Josh Brolin stars as an ex-confederate soldier who can talk to dead people.  John Malkovich is the villain.  It was almost a good movie, but the soundtrack ruins the better moments and it gets pretty corny near the end.

25. Green Lantern (2011)

The movie had everything going for it.  I'm not even a big fan of Green Lantern, but when I heard about the director and the cast I got really excited.  Unfortunately the road to Green Lantern is paved with good intentions.

26. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) **

This movie just bored me.  It's over three hours long, and Bane is unintentionally hilarious at times.  Anne Hathaway makes a great Catwoman, but that's all I can say in favor of this film.

27. Man of Steel (2013) **

Half of a great movie, and half of a Michael Bay movie.  It starts out well, even though some of the details surrounding Krypton don't bear thinking about.  Henry Cavill is a great Superman, but Zack Snyder was trying too hard to please too large an audience.

28. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ***1/2

I don't care what the critics say - this is a great f*&king movie.  I was unimpressed by Man of Steel - but this?  This is the one I've been waiting for.  Probably a bit slow - or even too dark - for some, but I loved it.  The extra 1/2 star is for the Ultimate Edition, which improves upon the theatrical cut.  This is DC done well.

29. Suicide Squad (2016)**

I was disappointed by this one.  There is WAY too much backstory, and many of the characters are underdeveloped.  Harley Quinn seems entirely too sane to have earned her reputation, and as a character Deadshot is unconvincing.  Joel Kinnaman does a valiant job of keeping the whole thing together, Viola Davis and Jared Leto give memorable (if brief) performances, but there's just not enough to hang a whole movie on.

On the Way 

30. Justice League (2017)

Having set up the general premise in Batman v. Superman, Warner Bros. will introduce this superhero team to the big screen.  Confirmed members are Batman, Superman (?), Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman.  Word around the campfire is that Steppenwolf will be the villain.

31. Wonder Woman (2017)

To me the idea of this movie is a no-brainer - a female superhero(ine) with a great backstory.  Patty Jenkins is directing, and Gal Gadot will reprise her role from Batman v. Superman.  The trailer looks great and I'm looking forward to it.

32. The Flash (2018)

Ezra Miller will play the Flash.  He's already appeared briefly in both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad (and also the Justice League footage).  I can't wait.

33. Aquaman (2018)

Jason Momoa will play Aquaman.  James Wan is directing.  He has stated that it will be more "fun" than Batman v. Superman.

34.  Shazam (2019?)

The Rock (OK, Dwayne Johnson) has already been cast as Black Adam.  Word is that this film will exist outside the main DC cinematic continuity.

35. Justice League Part 2 (2019)

So not only are we getting the second Avengers film, but we're also getting a second Justice League film in the same year.  It boggles the mind.

36. Cyborg (2020)

Ray Fisher has already been cast as Cyborg.  He appears in Batman v. Superman for a moment.  A scientist creates him with the aid of a mother box.

37. Green Lantern Corps (2020)

Some conceptual art for this film appeared at the SDCC.  As for the rest, your guess is as good as mine!

2016年6月21日 星期二

See You in September

I'm fixin' to go on vacation soon, so you have a good summer now, ya hear?

If y'all got the time, feel free to tell me about whatever books or movies or comics y'all passin' the time with.


"Crisis Economics" by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm (2010)

"Many politicians and policy makers seem blithely unaware of how little leverage the United States has with the countries financing our twin fiscal and current account deficits.  They tell China it can't buy up American companies, and they threaten to take protectionist measures if China doesn't revalue its currency.  That's very quaint - and foolish.  In effect, China is underwriting U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, never mind the bailout of the financial system and any costs associated with reforming health care.  Biting the hand that feeds us may play well with voters at home, but with China it has its limits.

"Is China's path to global hegemony free of obstacles?  No.  Only 36 percent of China's gross domestic product comes from consumption.  In the United States that figure is upwards of 70 percent.  While U.S. domestic consumption is too high, China's remains far too low.  For now, its continued survival and growth depend heavily on cheap exports to the United States, which are in turn financed by the sale of debt to China.  This perverse symbiosis ('They give us poisoned products, we give them worthless paper' explains Paul Krugman) poses a threat to China's long-term interests."

Nouriel Roubini is an economist born in Turkey to a family of Iranian Jews.  He teaches at New York University and has his own consultancy firm.  Co-author Stephen Mihm "writes on economic and historical topics for The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other publications."  He's also a professor of history at the University of Georgia.

Their book, Crisis Economics, advocates the study of economics and the implementation of economic policy from a boom-and-bust point of view, meaning that economic crises are viewed as the norm within any economy, and that a government's role is not to overcome any and all such crises (an impossible feat), but rather to prepare for them, and deal with them in the most effective manner where and when they occur.

This book is divided into ten chapters, with "Conclusion" and "Outlook" sections at the end.  The financial crisis of 2009 is discussed in detail, as is the Great Depression and how it affected later decades.  Speculative bubbles throughout history are explored, as are cycles of recession, recovery, and subsequent recession.  Economic theories are put forth, as are strategies for alleviating future breakdowns in the financial system.

It's a long, detailed book that will alienate most people.  I, however, thought it was extremely informative, and I read parts of it twice.  If you're wondering what's really going on with regard to global finance, this book is a good place to start.

This said, Crisis Economics is definitely not easy reading.  Those put off by its level of difficulty would do well to start with a couple of movies: The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short.  After understanding the concepts thrown around in those two movies, you'll be a lot closer to understanding a book like Crisis Economics.  If you walked away from those two films entertained but still mystified, you'll probably be avoiding this book anyway.

2016年6月16日 星期四

Everything Wrong With ComicBookMovie.com

I used to love ComicBookMovie.com.  It was interesting, it was informative, and they usually had the breaking news on the upcoming superhero films before anyone else.

But before I continue, maybe you should visit the site for yourself.  Click on the link above, read through some of the articles, and arrive at your own conclusions.  

Don't worry.  I'll go have a coffee and come back.  We'll continue after you're done there.

All caught up?  Good.  Now on to the hundred reasons why that site kind of sucks now.  I'll be going through their site as I do it, so don't be surprised if some of my comments correspond more closely to news items from the day(s) when I was writing this.

1. Many of the Articles Have Nothing to do with Comic Book Movies

An article about Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulder in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?  Yes, I realize that Smulder was in the Avengers, but Jack Reacher is still not a comic book movie.

Funko POP! vinyls based on Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.  Also not comic book movie-related.

First TV spots for Ghostbusters reboot.  Not comic book movie-related in any way, shape, or form.

Transformers: The Last Knight.  Also not a comic book movie.  Yes, there was a comic book at one time, but this movie franchise is based on a toy line, not a comic book.

New trailer for Disney's Pete's Dragon.  How does this have anything to do with anything that anyone wanting to read about comic book movies would like?

Also several reports about video games.  None of them having anything to do with movies that are based on comic book characters.

2. Many of the Articles are Insubstantial

The "rumor-based" articles on this site are a separate category altogether.  Aside from these, many of the articles are based on quotes from people we could have gotten elsewhere.

In "20th Century Fox Registers Two Possible Titles for the Wolverine Movie" we learn that a report, from "a very dubious source," claims that the next Wolverine movie will be titled "Weapon X."  Then we learn that the @XmenFilms Twitter account has registered both "Wolverine: Weapon X" and "Weapon X" as possible titles for the upcoming movie.

So what has anyone learned from this article?  Nothing.  Only that Fox is possibly going to use these titles for the upcoming Wolverine movie, not that Fox will actually use them.  Fox might even go on to register other names for all ComicBookMovie knows.  Was this information worth wasting anyone's time with?  I think not. 

3. Many of the Articles are Predicated upon Rumors or Hearsay

These are by far the most irritating articles on this site, even worse than the "click bait" articles discussed below.

To be fair to ComicBookMovie, they will usually preface such articles with the tag "RUMOR," but this does nothing to remedy the fact that these articles are still a waste of space.  In "RUMOR: Massive ALIEN: COVENANT SPOILER Relating to Katherine Waterston's Character" merely reiterates what someone at another website heard about a movie that just started filming.  Even willfully forgetting about the fact that Alien: Covenant isn't a comic book movie, one wonders how this is news in any way, shape or form. 

4. Many of the Articles are "Click Bait"

Anything written by Josh Wilding is a prime example.  Instead of writing a single, readable article he'll think of a list that is only tangentially connected to the world of comic book movies.  Say, for example, a list of comic book sex scenes that will never make it to film, or 10 reasons that the Robin character appeals to pedophiles.  Then, instead of posting the items in this list together as one entry, he'll divide the list into separate entries that the reader has to click through.

Why do he and many other online authors do this?  To up the traffic on their page.  By dividing his article by 10, Wilding and "authors" like him multiply the number of clicks on each entry.  Thankfully people are starting to see through this tactic, but its continued existence on ComicBookMovie is annoying to say the least.

Also counted as "click bait" are articles with deceptive titles, and articles featuring photo shoots of actresses who've appeared in comic book movies.  Hey, I like looking at pictures of Jessica Alba as much as the next guy, but I don't need to visit a site about comic book movies for that. 

By the way, if you clicked the link above you just proved my point.  Why not just look here instead?

5. Many of the Articles are Biased 

This was particularly evident after the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Now I'm not saying that movie was perfect, but many of the titles of the articles used to describe it displayed a definite bias against the DC properties.  Phrases such as "damage control" and "disappointment" were often used in articles that supplied NO evidence of either "damage control" or "disappointment" whatsoever.

I think that what was going on in this instance was simply a website's reaction to its readers.  ComicBookMovie knew that much of its readership expected, or even wanted, that movie to fail, and many of the articles on their site (and others like it) became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that colored the public's perception of that film.  The zeal with which many comic book fans attempt to arrive at a consensus regarding certain films is unsettling, and more unsettling still is the role that sites like ComicBookMovie play in that consensus-forming process.  The way in which many of their writers select topics, title articles, and even questions of style cause many to wonder at their supposed "objectivity."

6. Can It be Fixed?

Yes, it can, but this site's editorial staff - if it even has an editorial staff - needs to pay more attention to content.  Getting rid of Josh Wilding would be a huge step in the right direction, and would reduce the recurrence of formalized lapses by at least half.

What this site really needs to do is to think about who their audience is, and how to expand this audience without watering down their content too much.  A certain appeal to the masses is to be expected, but as matters stand this site is alienating many people. 

I for one, hope they figure it out.  There was a time I really enjoyed this site, and I think that with more effort they can get back to doing what they (formerly) did best.

2016年6月14日 星期二

"The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende (1982)

"'And this,' she would say, 'Is your uncle Juan.  I loved him very much.  He once farted and that became his death sentence: a great disgrace.  It was during a picnic lunch.  All my cousins and I were out together on the most fragrant spring afternoon, with our muslin dresses and our hats full of flowers and ribbons, and the boys were wearing their Sunday best.  Juan took off his white jacket - why, I can see him now!  He rolled up his sleeves and swung gracefully from the branch of a tree, hoping that with his trapeze artist's skill he could win the admiration of Constanza Andrade, the Harvest Queen, with whom, from the moment he laid eyes on her, he had been desperately in love.  Juan did two impeccable push-ups and one complete somersault, but on his next flip over he let go a loud burst of wind.  Don't laugh, Clara!  It was terrible.  There was an embarrassed silence and the Harvest Queen began to laugh uncontrollably.  Juan put on his jacket and grew very pale.  He walked slowly away from the group and we never saw him again.  They even looked for him in the Foreign Legion.  They asked for him in all the consulates, but he was never heard of again.  I think he must have become a missionary and gone to minister to the lepers on Easter Island, which is as far away as a man can go to forget and be forgotten because it's not on the normal routes of navigation and isn't even shown on Dutch maps.  From that day on, he was referred to as Juan of the Fart.'"

Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer born in Peru.  In 1989 she moved to the United States, where she has received both numerous awards and widespread recognition.  The House of the Spirits is probably her best-known novel, and it was adapted into a film starring Jeremy Irons in 1993.  The version I read was translated from the original Spanish by Magda Bodin.

The novel follows the trials and tribulations of the Trueba family, of which the fiery Esteban Trueba is the undisputed head.  Esteban comes from poverty, but later builds a fortune from a combination of his family's estate and assorted business interests.  Early on in the novel he marries Clara, a woman gifted with paranormal powers, whose contact with spirits gives both their house and the novel itself its name.

It's a brilliant book full of wonderful ideas.  In tone it reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's (much earlier) 100 Years of Solitude, but it's still very much its own entity.  Allende uses her characters' eccentricities to paint a rich portrait of Chile's political upheavals, and after reaching the book's conclusion I was only sorry that it wasn't longer.  The book's final chapters are a harrowing account of torture and heartbreak, but Allende somehow manages to end the whole thing on a high note.  It's a masterful work of fiction, and I highly recommend it.

2016年6月6日 星期一

"Tales from Shakespeare" by Charles and Mary Lamb (1807)

"The two chief families in Verona were the rich Capulets and the Montagues.  There had been an old quarrel between these families, which was grown to such a height, and so deadly was the enmity between them, that it extended to the remotest kindred, to the followers and retainers of both sides, insomuch that a servant of the house of Montague could not meet a servant of the house of Capulet."

Charles and Mary Lamb are remembered for their Tales from Shakespeare, though they also adapted several other stories for young readers.  They were institutionalized on and off throughout their lives, and Mary Lamb stabbed their mother to death during one of her many breakdowns.

Tales from Shakespeare includes adaptations of all the Bard's most famous plays, and also a few of the less famous ones like Timon of Athens and Cymbeline.  On the whole it makes for fairly repetitive reading, given the cases of mistaken identity, women disguising themselves as men, siblings separated in infancy, and surprise marriages that proliferate in Shakespeare's plays.  The most famous of his plays still entertain, but the lesser-known entries suffer from a reduction to plot points.  In these lesser-known entries it is Shakespeare's poetry that made them famous, and in the absence of this poetry they become tiresome and predictable.

This book is an easy read, but it's a far cry from the real Shakespeare.  Kids wanting to learn about his plays would do better to seek out movie adaptations, and adults would find Shakespeare's original works to be more profitable reading.