2012年11月28日 星期三

"Mid-Flinx" by Alan Dean Foster

"Now an evil rich man was out to kidnap the minidrag for his personal zoo, and Flinx and Pip were on the run again."

WARNING SIGN #1: The title, which sounds like something a junior high school kid thought up.

WARNING SIGN #2: The cover, which features some of the worst art ever, apparently rendered by the same junior high school kid(s).

WARNING SIGN #3: The fact that the cover announces Alan Dean Foster as a "New York Times Bestselling Author," even though I've never heard of him.

WARNING SIGN #4: The plot synopsis on the back cover, which sounds like something I would have dreamed up and recorded in some notebook back in elementary school (by junior high it would have seemed silly).

WARNING SIGN #5: The author's bibliography, on the inside of the book, listing 38 books I've never heard of.

And where these warning signs lead, well... you can guess.  Let's just say it is short, and that is a point in its favor.  I shall not be reading any of the innumerable sequels.  No sirs and madams, I shall not.

2012年11月27日 星期二

"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

"I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I'd fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice.  Oh where is the girl I love?  I thought, and looked everywhere, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below.  And before me was the great raw bulge and hulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam.  There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded - at least that's what I thought then."

The bible of the Beat Generation, "On the Road" first saw print in 1957.  It is not surprising that people get confused about what decade this book is from, since most of the novel takes place between 1947 and 1949, and it didn't reach the height of its popularity until the 1960s.

By the 1960s, there were young people all over America ready to embrace this book as their own, and for this reason "On the Road" has had a lasting effect on American culture.  It wasn't just the Beat Generation that drew inspiration from this novel.  The hippies were also influenced by "On the Road."  It expressed a yearning for freedom common to all people, so its multigenerational appeal is easy to understand.

It doesn't have much of a plot, however.  Just two (or more) guys driving around.  I suppose you could say it details the relationship between the narrator, Sal Paradise, and his friend Dean Moriarity, but the book is really just about the road, and driving, and new destinations.  There is a purity to it that's surprising.

And if you asked me - point blank - if this is a good book I would have to say that yes, it is.  If the test of any book is how entertaining it is, and also how lasting its influence upon those who have read it, this book is one of the great novels of American literature.  It's right up there with "Catcher in the Rye."

But this isn't to say that everyone will like it.  Female readers will probably find certain attitudes toward women offensive.  Members of minority groups might also question some of the racial stereotypes.  Those of us who grew up lower or middle class might also have trouble sympathizing with Paradise's prep school circle.  None of the characters in this book are innocent pilgrims, and there are certainly other sides to their unabridged desire for travel.

This book reminded me of the month I spent living in my car, travelling around the Western US.  I didn't have any GI Bill, just some money I had saved up working in a clothing store.  I ate out of cans, I slept in my car, or in a tent beside the road, and I saw a lot of things that I carry with me to this day.  It was a good experience, but there were bad parts to it: things like running out of money, and finding a dead guy in California.  "On the Road" reminded me very much of this month in my life, though I couldn't help but feel that Kerouac had glossed over many facets this lifestyle.  At times, it almost felt like reading a work of propaganda.

It's a good book, and of enduring historical interest.  I found the Dean Moriarity character hard to like, but then again we've all known someone like Dean, somewhere on the road.

2012年11月23日 星期五

"Cities of the Plain" by Cormac McCarthy

"Cities of the Plain" was first published in 1998.  It is the last book in McCarthy's Border Trilogy.

I cannot really put into words how much I liked this book, and how much more I liked it than its predecessor, "The Crossing."  Compared to "The Crossing," which is a bleak novel about existential cowboys, "Cities of the Plain" is much more concise, much less philosophical, and much more human.  This might seem a strange thing to say of a novel that is essentially about predestination, but compared to "The Crossing," this novel is a vast improvement.

The plot of the book centers around John Grady, a New Mexico ranch hand in love with an epileptic Mexican prostitute.  Billy Parham from "The Crossing" is also present, as his best friend and voice of reason.  The novel resembles Romeo and Juliet in many respects, though McCarthy takes the story to places that even Shakespeare could never have anticipated.

It's a great book.  One of the best I've read in a long time.  And no, this one didn't remind me of Faulkner.

2012年11月19日 星期一

"The Crossing" by Cormac McCarthy

"I am here because of a certain man.  I came to retrace his steps.  Perhaps to see if there were not some alternate course.  What was here to be found was not a thing.  Things separate from their stories have no meaning.  They are only shapes.  Of a certain size and color.  A certain weight.  When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name.  The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place.  And that is what was to be found here.  The corrido.  The tale.  And like all corridos it ultimately told one story only, for there is only one to tell."

"The Crossing" is the second book in McCarthy's Border Trilogy, following "All the Pretty Horses" and coming before "Cities of the Plain."  It was first published in 1994.

I read McCarthy's "The Road" several years ago, and didn't understand what all the fuss was about.  It was a decent book, but far from brilliant.  I think the craze for that book stemmed primarily from its readability.  It could be disposed of in an afternoon, and didn't require much effort from the reader.

"The Crossing," on the other hand, is a densely written book, containing stories within stories.  Much of this novel is also in Spanish, and those (like me) unfamiliar with Spanish will probably find many scenes in this book difficult to understand.  Even so, the inclusion of Spanish in the narrative makes a lot of sense, and adds a dimension to the story that other, similar books lack.

The novel begins in the 1930s, on a ranch near the border between New Mexico and old Mexico.  The protagonist, Billy Parham, catches a wolf, and then decides to take the wolf back to Mexico.  Billy spends the next several years there, embarking on a journey that seeks to define the boundaries between life and death, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance.

It is a weighty book, and at times McCarthy's novel invites uncomfortable comparisons to Faulkner.  It tries very hard to say things about human beings and the world they live in, but there is a sense of having been here before, in other books, by other people.  I'm not saying that "The Crossing" is bad, or that it wasn't masterfully written, just that it reminds me of other books that I liked better.  Faulkner's "The Bear" was the first book that came to mind, though later chapters also reminded me of Patrick White's "Voss."

This said, I really enjoyed "The Crossing," and I consider it far superior to "The Road."  I'm now reading the sequel, "Cities of the Plain," and I'll be writing about it here next time.

2012年11月13日 星期二

Post Grunge

I grew up in Seattle.  I graduated from Ballard High School in 1993, right as grunge was on its way out of fashion.  It was a good time to live in the Emerald City, and I have many fond memories of that chapter in my life.

Not that I miss high school all that much.  But there were good times to be had in other places.  Aside from holding my breath through the average school day, there were lots of all-ages shows back then, and even for a high-school kid like myself there was always something to do after school.

Like a lot of kids my age, I came to grunge from metal.  I was listening to Rush in elementary school.  I was listening to Zeppelin in middle school.  I was listening to Iron Maiden and Metallica by the time I was 16.  Most of the grunge bands were fairly close to metal, they were local, and they managed to alienate our parents.  These were all marks in their favor.

It was 1991 when I first saw Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on MTV.  All of my classmates saw the same video.  From Nirvana it was only a step to Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam, and from such humble beginnings the music of Seattle somehow conquered the world.  Suddenly grunge was everywhere, and when people were talking about grunge they were also talking about Seattle - about places I haunted every day.

Of the four bands mentioned above, Alice in Chains was probably the band I took to most readily.  At that time they were touring with Van Halen, and Van Halen (the Roth incarnation, anyway) was one of my favorite bands.  I can remember listening to "Facelift" over, and over, and over, and over again.  I couldn't get enough of Layne Staley's voice and Jerry Cantrell's guitar.

Back then, when the Seattle Scene was in full flower, Nirvana would have been my second favorite.  I thought "Nevermind" was OK, but it wasn't until "In Utero" that I really got into that band.  Pearl Jam was lost on me.  I also failed to understand Soundgarden, though they emerged as my favorite in later years.

There were a host of other bands, of course, many of which few remember.  Gruntruck was another favorite, as was a (very) local band by the name of Engine Kid.  A lot of my friends were into Mudhoney and the Supersuckers, but I found those bands tolerable at best.  There was also Queensryche, which in some ways preceded Nirvana, but no one seems to think much about Queensryche anymore.

It was a good time to be into music.  I can remember seeing Alice in Chains at the Seattle Arena - one of my first concerts ever.  I can remember seeing Gruntruck.  I can remember seeing Tad.  I saw countless other bands, but Alice in Chains was the only band within grunge's "big four" that I had the chance to see.  Whatever kind of music you were into back then, there was always a show to be found.

Yet no sooner had the Seattle Scene found an audience than many of these bands began to self-destruct.  Alice in Chains stalled after "Dirt," though they did release other albums.  Kurt Cobain's suicide pretty much signified the beginning of the end, only three years after "Nevermind" broke records.  Pearl Jam continued on for some time, but their changes in musical direction estranged many fans.  Soundgarden disbanded after the "Down on the Upside" tour, though they reunited in 2009.

Not that any of this bothered me much at the time.  College beckoned, and my listening tastes changed.  Nirvana gave way to Radiohead, and Alice in Chains gave way to Shudder to Think.  I went through a Miles Davis phase.  I went through a progressive rock phase.  I went through a glam phase, with David Bowie on the turntable almost every day.  Occasionally I would pull out my copies of "Badmotorfinger" or "Facelift," and remember what had been.  Grunge quickly disappeared, but it was hard to care at the time.

But I still feel thankful for that time, and that music.  It was a good time to be a teenager, and it was a good time to live in Seattle.  I can remember seeing Kim Thayil in the audience at that Alice in Chains concert, and my brother serving Layne Staley burgers at the Dick's on Queen Anne.  Many of those guys were MTV superstars, but they acted as if no one had bothered to tell them.  By the end of the 90s many of them were just regular guys again, MTV having left them far, far behind.

It's a funny thing when that kind of attention comes to your hometown.  The world is turned upside down, and things that seemed boring before somehow seem important.  Then, all at once, the moment passes, and the place you grew up in is just as it was - no better, and no worse.  So it was with grunge.  It was everything, and nothing, and we always knew that it was going to end too soon.

2012年11月8日 星期四

"Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall was first published in 2009.  it is a novel detailing the rise of Thomas Cromwell within the Tudor court.  As the front cover proudly proclaims, it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.

I have to wonder how a book so full of anachronisms can win the Man Booker Prize.  I also have to wonder how a book so terribly, terribly boring can win any prize at all.  Maybe the judges didn't bother to read the thing all the way through.  Maybe they left the judging to the media, and those hyping this book.

Because it really is a difficult undertaking, reading this book.  Most of the characters are completely uninteresting, and most of the conversations to be found in Wolf Hall concern themselves with matters of little importance.  Thomas Cromwell is an interesting character, but the way in which he consistently outmanuevers his opposition destroys any kind of dramatic tension that might have been acheived.

To make matters worse, the ending is anticlimactic, and one wonders why anyone would bother to read the sequel.  Wolf Hall was enough of a chore for me.  I can't imagine wading through the sequel.

But perhaps there is an audience for this book.  There must be.  I am thinking of people who enjoy really tedious, drawn-out British dramas wherein nothing ever happens.  For such people, wandering through this Earth with crushed souls, I heartily recommend Wolf Hall.

2012年11月4日 星期日

A Review of Every Marvel and DC Superhero Movie from 1951 to the Present

The Men in Black films have been left off this list, even though the characters are now the property of Marvel Comics.  The original comic books were not published by Marvel, and this is the reason I left them off this list.  I have also 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.

Dr. Strange (1978) and Fantastic Four (1994) are not here either.  The former is a TV pilot, and never saw theatrical release, and the latter was only made to retain the rights to the characters.

And there are also the "novelty" superhero films, such as 3 Dev Adam, "Indian Superman," and "Italian Spider-Man."  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.


5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Howard the Duck (1986) @

I must confess that the shot of Leah Thompson in her panties gave me one of my first hard-ons, way back when I was 11 years old.  This movie is so awful that it demands your attention.

10. 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.

11. 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!

12. 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.

13. The Punisher (1989) **

This is the Dolph Lundgren version.  It is on a lot of "worst of" lists, but I think that in many ways it is closer in spirit to the original Punisher comics.  Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but not that bad either.


14. Captain America (1990)

This movie almost arrived in theaters, until the studio responsible realized how awful it was.  It makes little sense, it's surprisingly boring in parts, and the Red Skull bears an unfortunate resemblance to Skeletor from 1987's Masters of the Universe.

15. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. Blade (1998) ***

Now HERE is a good movie.  Not only was Wesley Snipes super cool, but the script was good and the direction was competent.  Kris Kristofferson also made a great sidekick.  My only complaint about this one is that the vampires just seem to "splash" out of existence.  It's kind of unsatisfying.


21. X-men (2000) *

I have never been a big fan of the X-men, either the films or the comic books.  This movie seemed very melodramatic to me, and I think without Hugh Jackman's performance as Wolverine this movie would have been a complete disaster.  As it is, it's forgettable.  Fun Trivia: Joss Whedon, of Avengers fame, helped write the screenplay for this movie.

22. Blade 2 (2002) ****

This movie is classic.  Blade 1 was already pretty good, but Blade 2 turned up the volume on everything.  It's super violent, super cool, and it is the reason someone needs to unearth Wesley Snipes for Blade 4.

23. Spider-Man (2002) **

I was as psyched as anyone else when I heard this movie was coming out.  With Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire involved, it seemed like a sure thing.  Then the Green Goblin almost ruined the movie for me.  Nothing against Willem Defoe, but that suit was ridiculous.

24. Daredevil (2003)

This has to be one of the worst superhero movies ever.  Ben Affleck didn't have the build to play The Man Without Fear, and the plot to this movie was a mess.  Bullseye was somewhat interesting, but this movie could have done without Elektra.

25. X2: X-men United (2003) **

I thought this was slightly better than the first film, but still not that great.  Had Brian Singer stayed on for X-men 3 and really built towards the Dark Phoenix saga, this would have been a better movie in retrospect.  Like the first, a bit corny.

26. Hulk (2003) ***

I can't see this as the unqualified disaster that it is often made out to be.  This is definitely one of the more intellectual superhero movies, and I liked the battle between The Hulk and the Absorbing Man at the end.  Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse.

27. 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.

28. The Punisher (2004) *

After Dolph Lundgren, it was Thomas Jane's turn to play Frank Castle.  This movie was better than Lundgren's, but it doesn't have the darkness that made the comic book so interesting.  Jane would have gone on to play Castle again in Punisher 2, but grew frustrated with the process involved.  Can't say that I blame him.

29. Spider-Man 2 (2004) ****

This is one of the great ones.  This movie hits the ground running, and the whole thing flows seamlessly from beginning to end.  Alfred Molina was a revelation as Dr. Octopus, and this movie is everything the first one wasn't.

30. 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!

31. Blade: Trinity (2004) *

What a disappointment this one was.  Blade 2 was excellent, but this third installment was just stupid.  Why would Jessica Biel start listening to her MP3 as the vampires are attacking?  Wouldn't she want to hear what was going on?  Fun Trivia: Wesley Snipes was THIS close to playing the Black Panther in a movie adaptation of the Marvel character the same year, but the studio felt he was too recognizable as Blade.  A Black Panther film is still in active development at Marvel Studios, and the character is rumored to appear in the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

32. 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.

33. Elektra (2005) *

Not a terrible movie, but not that good either.  Jennifer Garner stars as Elektra, and she would have looked just like the comic book character if she had only dyed her hair black.  A watered-down version of everyone's favorite female ninja assassin.

34. 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.

35. Fantastic Four (2005) ***

Any movie featuring Jessica Alba in a skin-tight costume is going to have my attention.  The Thing looks kind of rubbery, but Tim Story did a good job with the material.  The battle at the end reminds you of the better FF comics.

36. Man-Thing (2005)

Low budget horror movie in which environmentalists square off against an evil petroleum company.  Man-thing doesn't appear until the movie's halfway over.  This film was shot in Australia, and many of the actors' accents are less than convincing.  A real chore to sit through.

37. 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.

38. X-men: The Last Stand (2006)

Unspeakably bad.  This movie makes you feel sorry for Hugh Jackman.  Not only did this film almost destroy the franchise, but it also butchers one of the classic runs in the comic book.  Fun Trivia: this film was based on a comic book story written by Joss Whedon, with elements of The Dark Phoenix Saga added on.

39. 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.

40. Ghost Rider (2007)

Ghost Rider STILL deserves a better movie.  Nicholas Cage is annoying throughout, and I have the feeling they were trying too hard to make this movie kid-friendly.  Peter Fonda couldn't have been less threatening as Mephisto.

41. Spider-Man 3 (2007) **

If they had just cut Venom out of this movie it would have been a good film.  As it is, Venom contributes almost nothing to the plot, and one gets the feeling that he was added as an afterthought.  Not terrible, but not that good either.

42. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) **

There are people who hate this movie, but I don't have any problem with it.  Galactus could have looked a lot cooler, and the movie stumbles near the end, but again there is Jessica Alba.

43. Iron Man (2008) ****

After Batman Begins, this is the other movie that reinvigorated the genre.  Where Batman Begins was dark, this one was funny.  Where Batman is driven, Tony Stark is brilliantly conflicted.  It is everything that Nolan's movie wasn't, and that's why it works.

44. The Incredible Hulk (2008) ****

This movie was sidelined by the overwhelming success of Iron Man, but I loved it.  I loved Edward Norton's take on the character, I loved the script he wrote for the film, and I loved the Greco-Roman take on The Hulk.  My only complaint is that he let The Abomination live at the end.  I found this hard to believe.

45. 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?

46. Punisher: War Zone (2008) *

A more violent take on Frank Castle.  It's a solid film, but maybe a little too depressing for its own good.  I consider it an improvement on the first.

47. 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 a director in the absence of Robert Rodriguez.

48. 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 gives me hope for Man of Steel

49. X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

This movie is standard popcorn fare, much along the lines of Ghost Rider. Hugh Jackman goes through the motions, an attempt to bring Deadpool and Gambit into the mix is handled badly, and by the end you're thankful that it's not as dreadful as X3.


50. Iron Man 2 (2010) ***

I liked this almost as much as the first one.  Downey Jr. is given even better one-liners in this film, and Mickey Rourke characteristically chews the scenery.  Sam Rockwell is also great as Justin Hammer, and my only complaint is that Don Cheadle isn't given enough to do.

51. Kick-Ass (2010) **

I have friends who love this movie.  I don't.  I think the first half is good, but after Big Daddy dies it just gets silly - especially the jet pack.  A nice warm up for The Amazing Spider-Man, however.

52. 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.

53. Thor (2011) *

Considering how hard it must have been to adapt Thor to the big screen, I would consider this movie a success.  Still, compared to other movies Marvel Studios has made, I think this is the weakest one.  I've never been a big fan of Kenneth Branagh.

54. X-men: First Class (2011) **

Michael Fassbender makes this movie.  Forgive the pun, but he is positively magnetic as Magneto.  I thought the end was weak, but it's still miles ahead of the first three films.

55. 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.

56. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***

I would rank this fifth among the Marvel movies, behind The Avengers, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor: The Dark World.  It might seem a bit slow for some people, but the mixture of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark really worked for me.

57. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Can't bring myself to either rent or download this film.  I can't.  I just can't.

58. The Avengers (2012) ****

There are entire websites devoted to how awesome this movie is.  It's a good film, but not one of the best.  Considering how difficult it is to put characters as diverse as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor into the same movie universe, this one is an unqualified triumph.  I'm only sorry the Oscorp Tower didn't make an appearance.

59. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) ***

This is a good movie, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have some terrific chemistry, and it's a solid effort.  The Lizard is a bit too Hulk-like for my taste, but this is a vast improvement over Spider-Man 3.

60. 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.

61. Iron Man 3 (2013) *

I'm was super excited about this movie, but walked away from the movie disappointed.  It starts out well, but neither of the villains are very compelling, and the stunt work is too over the top.  My biggest complaint is the ending, which gives us a Tony Stark who no longer has any reason to be Iron Man.

62. 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.

63. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) **

It's not a great movie, but it's not bad.  There are some funny scenes in this one, but it could have been a lot better.

64. The Wolverine (2013) **

I had high hopes for this one, but it wasn't all that good.  It's certainly much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine and all the other X-Men films, but that's not saying all that much. 

65. Thor: The Dark World (2013) ***

This was a great movie.  I didn't like the first Thor, but this one was a vast improvement.  Reminded me a lot of the Walt Simonson run on the comic book.  Hoping to see Beta Ray Bill in Thor 3!

66. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) **1/2

Steve Rogers struggles with the modern world and his role in S.H.I.E.L.D.  After encountering the Winter Soldier, he has even more reasons to doubt the nobility of certain causes.  A very topical movie, with some great action sequences.  Didn't like it as much as Thor: The Dark World, but it was well done.

67. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) **1/2

Too much CGI, but some great performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  I liked this movie more than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," though the action sequences in Cap were better.  This film has more dramatic tension, better ensemble performances, and more heart.  Looking forward to the third film!

68. X-men: Days of Future Past (2014) ***1/2

A surprisingly good movie.  As mutantkind faces extinction, Wolverine journeys into the past to change the future.  Excellent performances throughout, and one of the most emotionally resonant superhero films to come along in quite a while.

69. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) **

A good movie, though it features too many characters for its own good.  Humor holds the film together, and makes some of the less plausible plot elements seem more plausible.  As with many other recent films from Marvel Studios, seems less inspired than calculated.  Maybe the second one will be better?

On the Way

70. Ant-Man (2015)

This movie has been "in development" for something like forever.  Paul Rudd is featured as Ant-Man, and Michael Douglas is on board as his mentor.  There are a few shots of this movie in the "Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe" TV special.

71. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Vision join the roster, with Ultron and Baron von Strucker as the villains.  Should be a good movie.  I'm only stating the obvious when I say that this movie will make truckloads of money.

72. Fantastic Four Reboot (2015)

Fox wants to retain their right to the characters, and this is their attempt to do so.  According to Simon Kinberg, screenwriter for X-men: Days of Future Past, the Fantastic Four will NOT exist in the same cinematic universe as the X-men.  I'm not that excited about this film, but maybe they'll surprise me.

72. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Superman, Ben Affleck is Batman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, some guy I've never heard of is Cyborg, and Jason Momoa will appear as Aquaman.  Warner Bros. has constructed some very ambitious plans around this film.  We'll see if it works out.

73. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

More of a sequel to X-men: First Class, this film will focus on the origin of the mutants.  Apocalypse was always one of my favorite X-men villains.  This film will take place in 1983.

74. Captain America 3 (2016)

The directors, writers, and presumably cast members will return for the third Captain America, which will (probably) be released on the same day as Batman v. Superman.  This will likely be Chris Evans' last appearance as Captain America, and I'm betting they follow the Death of Captain America story arc from the comics.

75. Amazing Spider-Man 3 (2016)

Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb are both signed on for three Amazing Spider-Man films, so this might be their last entry into the series.  No plot details available at this time.

76. Shazam (2016)

Recently announced by Warner Bros., probably contingent upon the success of Batman v. Superman.  I'm thinking this will be a more kid friendly film?  Hopefully they don't make Billy Batson all dark and broody.

77. Sandman (2016) 

Also recently announced, and probably also contingent upon the success of Batman v. Superman.  This movie should have been made a long time ago.

78. Doctor Strange (2016)

All I can say is... finally!  I've been waiting for this movie for so long.  Scott Derrickson is directing, and the actor playing Doctor Strange has yet to be announced.

79. Third Wolverine Film (2017)

Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold should be returning.  Hopefully they can improve upon The Wolverine, which wasn't the stylistic triumph I hoped it would be.

80. Justice League (2017)

Having set up the general premise in Batman v. Superman, Warner Bros. will finally introduce this superhero team to the big screen.  Confirmed members are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman.  The Flash and Green Lantern also seem likely.

81. Wonder Woman (2017)

Warner Bros. will finally release this film in 2017.  Likely contingent upon the success of Batman v. Superman.  To me the idea of this movie is a no-brainer - a female superhero(ine) with a great back story.  Hopefully Warner Bros. finds the right director for this one.

82. Flash and Green Lantern (2017)

Green Lantern has always been a lame superhero, but pairing him with the Flash might make both of them more interesting.  Likely contingent upon the success of Batman v. Superman.  A guy with a green ring that can make anything?  Paired with another guy who can (probably) run at the speed of light?  Whatever villain they fight better be BAD ASS.

83. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

Marvel Studios announced this film at the San Diego Comic-Con, before the first installment was released in many countries.  I'm assuming it will be the last film in Marvel's "Phase 3" before the third Avengers movie.

84. Amazing Spider-Man 4 (2018)

No details yet.  2018 is still four years away!

85. Man of Steel 2 (2018)

No details yet, but will probably follow the events of Batman v. Superman and the Justice League film.

86. Spider-Man Spinoff Films (?)

Sony has been toying with the idea of Venom and Sinister Six films for a while now.  I think Venom might go over big if they don't water him down too much.  The Sinister Six seems more of a gamble.

87. Third Avengers Film (2018?)

It's bound to happen.  There is every indication that Thanos will be the villain.