2015年4月26日 星期日

"The Better Angels of Our Nature" by Steven Pinker (2011)

"Yet while this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, that species has also found ways to bring its numbers down, and allow a greater and greater proportion of humanity to live in peace and die of natural causes.  For all the tribulations of our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

Steven Pinker is a psychologist at Harvard University.  He has written many other books, and like many other authors in Penguin's catalog, he has been hailed as one of this century's most influential thinkers.

"The Better Angels of Our Nature" describes the decline of violence in the modern world, and explores possible reasons behind this decline.  The book is divided into ten parts.  The first part describes the brutality of former civilizations, the second through seventh parts describe trends that led former societies away from violence, the eighth part describes elements of human psychology linked to violence, the ninth part describes elements of human psychology linked to the process of pacification, and the tenth part features some of the author's conclusions on decline of violence in human cultures.

The author begins this book on solid footing, but the closing chapters descend into a morass of psychological theory, half-understood genetics, and musings on evolutionary theory that fail to place human behavior in a larger evolutionary context.  Worse still, this book concludes with several theories that tend to confuse correlation and causation.  By the end we are left with a book that largely states the obvious, and which will prove less than enlightening to those acquainted with major trends in Western civilization.

I will agree that we live in a world that is much less violent than that of our ancestors, but I didn't need to wade through the 800+ pages of this book to find that out.

2015年4月23日 星期四

A Review of Every Marvel and DC Movie from 1951 to the Present (Revised as of April 2015)

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 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 gave 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 was super excited about this movie, but walked away from it 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 love 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, 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?

70. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)***1/2

I can't say it's flawless, but I did like it much better than the first Avengers.  It's less talky than the first film, and the battle between Hulk and the Hulkbuster is truly awesome.  Quicksilver seemed a bit underused, and I would have liked to see more of the Vision, but it's still a great movie.

On the Way

I'm leaving Sony's Spider-man films off this list.  With the recent deal between Sony and Marvel Studios, the future of this franchise seems very uncertain.  Marvel's take on Spider-man will probably appear in Captain America: Civil War, plans for a solo film are definitely in the works, but it's too early to say when the next Spider-man film will hit theaters.

71. Ant-Man (2015)

This movie has been "in development" for something like forever.  Paul Rudd is featured as Ant-Man, and Michael Douglas plays his mentor.  This movie concludes Phase Two of Marvel's cinematic universe.

72. Fantastic Four (2015)

Josh Trank directs a cast of relative unknowns in this newest interpretation of Marvel's first family.  This film will be more scientific in tone, and instead of traveling into outer space Reed Richards and co. travel into another dimension.  The trailer looks pretty good.

73. Deadpool (2015)

Everyone's favorite wisecracking mutant mercenary gets his own movie.  Deadpool (as played by Ryan Reynolds) appeared in X-men Origins: Wolverine, but this will be a soft reboot of the character.  Reynolds was born to play Deadpool, and this R-rated take on the character looks good so far.

74. 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.

75. 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, and will hopefully also feature Cable.

76. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America and Iron Man face off over the superhuman registration act.  Marvel has already stated that the Black Panther will appear in this film, and there will certainly be a host of other superheroes on hand. Rumor has it that Marvel's version of Spider-man will also make an appearance.

77. Suicide Squad (2016)

Hell yes Suicide Squad.  As with Deadpool, this could be a great film if they don't water it down too much.  Will Smith will star as Deadshot, Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn, and Jared Leto plays the Joker.  David Ayer is set to direct, and I'm thinking this one will be pretty good.

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 Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Stephen Strange.

79. Gambit (2016)

Channing Tatum will star as Gambit.  This one is straight out of left field, and there are few details available.

80. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

Who would have thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy would be such a success?  And who would have thought that a sequel would be on the way so soon?  Most of the original cast and crew will probably return for this film.

81. 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.

82. Fantastic Four 2 (2017)

No idea.  Details on the upcoming reboot are hard enough to come by, and this movie is a complete mystery.

83. Justice League Part 1 (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 Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman.  The Flash and Green Lantern also seem likely.

84. Wonder Woman (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.

85. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

We'll probably see Surtur in this one.  I'm thinking this could be the movie that really sets Thor apart.  The first Thor film wasn't very good, the second one was much better, and this one might just be great.

86. The Black Panther (2017)

Chadwick Boseman will play the Black Panther.  I think it's safe to say that elements of his backstory will appear in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Nothing else is known about this movie at this time.

87. The Flash (2018)

Ezra Miller will play the Flash.  No other details available.

88. The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (2018)

It was bound to happen.  Thanos will be the villain, and his quest for the infinity gems (stones) will probably cause Earth's mightiest heroes a great deal of misery.

89. Captain Marvel (2018)

A female-centered superhero film, even if it's a year after the proposed female-centric films by both Sony and Warner Bros.

90. Aquaman (2018)

Jason Momoa will play Aquaman.  No other details available.

91. Inhumans (2018)

It's kind of hard to imagine the Inhumans in the absence of the Fantastic Four, but I'm sure Marvel will figure out a way to make it work.

92.  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.

93. The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (2019)

I would hazard a guess that this is going to turn up the volume on EVERYTHING.

94. 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.

95. Cyborg (2020)

Ray Fisher has already been cast as Cyborg.  I imagine he'll turn up much earlier in the Batman v. Superman film.

96. Green Lantern (2020)

A reboot of the character.  No other details available.

2015年4月22日 星期三

Countdown to Avengers: Age of Ultron: 7 Hours, 17 Minutes, and 20 Seconds

Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out (in Taiwan) TODAY, and in my opinion this is the most awesomest thing that has happened in quite a while.  I've been dying to see this movie since they first announced it, and now that the day has finally arrived I barely know what to do with myself.

I've already bought tickets for tonight's 10 pm showing.  I'm taking my whole family along, and I'm sure that the four of us will be very, very tired tomorrow.  10 pm was the earliest showing we could attend, but you can be sure I'd have seen it this afternoon if I could have thought of a way out of work.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is fifth movie in phase two of Marvel's cinematic universe, and features Earth's mightiest heroes facing off against Ultron, their robot nemesis.  The sixth and last film in phase two, Ant-Man, will be out this July.  After that it's Captain America: Civil War in May 2016.

Needless to say I'm excited about all of these movies, though I can understand a certain measure of superhero fatigue on the part of others.  There really have been a lot of superhero movies, and there will be more and more in the next few years.  The two other movies mentioned above will coexist with the Fantastic Four reboot, Deadpool, and X-men: Age of Apocalypse.  Then there is the much anticipated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, whose first trailer just appeared a few days ago.  Even if there is a LONG wait between Ant-Man and Deadpool, it's still enough to make your head spin.

Here's hoping that the second Avengers was worth the long wait.  However good it is, I doubt that it will be anywhere near bad.  It might not be as good as the first Avengers, but then again it's not 2012 anymore, and movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-men: Days of Future Past are tough acts to follow.

Now if it was only a little LATER.  As of now I've got 6 hours, 58 minutes, and however many seconds....

2015年4月21日 星期二

Marvel, DC, and Live-Action TV


Many of these shows are available on Youtube, and those that aren't probably aren't worth watching.

Marvel's first entry into the live-action genre was Spider-man's appearance on The Electric Company, way back in 1974.  After this Spider-man got his own TV show, The Amazing Spider-Man, which lasted until 1979.  Near the end of The Amazing Spider-Man's run The Incredible Hulk TV show appeared, which was undoubtedly Marvel's most successful show up until that point.  A few other shows followed - none of any real consequence - up until the Spike network aired the Blade TV series in 2006.

By comparison, DC has had a much more successful run of TV shows.  The first DC character to appear in his own show was (of course) Superman, way back in 1952.  The 1960s Batman television show is one of the most recognizable TV shows of all time, and later shows such as Wonder Woman in the 1970s, the original Flash in the 1990s, Lois & Clark in the 1990s, and the well known Smallville in the 2000s were all quite popular.

Recent or Ongoing Shows

Most of the shows listed below tie into Marvel's cinematic universe, while the DC shows seem to occupy a world all their own.

I. Marvel

 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Agent Coulson and crew attempt to deal with super-powered threats using an array of sophisticated weaponry.  B and C-list characters such as the Absorbing Man appear in this show, and recent plot elements have hinted at the Inhumans.

Agent Carter

The plucky Agent Carter and her companions do battle with H.Y.D.R.A.  This series is set in the 1950s, and ties into the backstory established in Captain America: The First Avenger.  I've heard rumors that this show will be canceled.


A Marvel property in name only, with only an Icon imprint title to boast of.  Detectives track down rogue superheroes.  The guy from District 9 stars, along with a bunch of people you've never heard of.


After losing his sight in an accident, Matt Murdock develops heightened senses that allow him to "see" things that others don't.  After beginning a career as a vigilante, he faces off against the Kingpin, the crime boss of Hell's Kitchen. 



I've only seen a few episodes of this show, but as anyone can tell you the Green Arrow is basically Batman with a bow and arrow.  This show was very "cutting edge" for a while, but in the wake of shows like Daredevil it seems behind the times.


A show about Batman before he was Batman.  I've seen previews for this show, but nothing about either the previews or later reviews has made me want to see Gotham.  What's the point of a show about Batman that's missing Batman?

The Flash

After an accident involving a particle accelerator, Barry Allen develops the ability to move at superhuman speed.  I've seen every episode of this show so far, and I'd have to say that the episodes have varied in quality quite a bit.


I loved the movie based on this character, but I have yet to see the TV show.  It's been getting terrible reviews, and I just can't be bothered with it.  A guy who talks to the dead does battle with the forces of evil.


Never seen this one either.  Zombies?  At best, only tangentially related to the world of DC comics.

The Best of the Best, or the Best of the Rest

I. Marvel

As far as current Marvel shows go, Daredevil is the hands-down winner.  This show works on so many levels that it's ridiculous.  The performances exceed anything seen in any superhero show ever, and the writing is top notch.  Aside from his disappointing face mask and an ending that felt somewhat rushed, this show is nearly flawless.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Peggy Carter, by contrast, offer boring characters caught in formulaic situations.  Neither of these shows have actors that could really carry their own shows, and I think that if they didn't have "Marvel" above their names they would have never happened in the first place.

I haven't seen enough of Powers to judge it as harshly, though what I've seen was underwhelming.


The Flash is definitely the best of DC's shows right now, with Arrow a distant second.  Tom Cavanagh, the guy who plays the Reverse-Flash, really makes the show, and even though the "CW-ness" of the show is a mark against it, the romantic subplots can be ignored once the action gets going.

As for the rest of DC's TV universe, I'd like to reiterate the fact that Daredevil is an excellent show that can be watched more than once, and there are more episodes of The Flash on the way!


Marvel has a whole series of Netflix shows planned, the next being A.K.A. Jessica Jones, which features an ex-superhero investigating current superheroes accused of wrongdoing.  Hey, isn't that the premise behind the Powers TV show?  Maybe, but I'm sure it'll be better on Netflix.

After that we'll see shows featuring both Luke Cage and Iron Fist, leading up to another show featuring the Defenders.  There has been talk of these Defenders making a cinematic appearance in Avengers: Infinity War Part 2, and that's something that has me excited.

DC is now filming the Supergirl TV show, which does not interest me in the least.  There is also an Arrow spin-off featuring the Atom in the works, as well as shows featuring Lucifer, Preacher, and the Teen Titans.  I'd probably give the Teen Titans show a try, but the rest will probably pass me by.

2015年4月11日 星期六

"The Complete Cosmicomics" by Italo Calvino (2009)

"So it was indispensable to clear up the misunderstanding as quickly as possible.  And to clear it up, I could hope for only one thing; that, after that occasion, I had been seen other times, when I gave another image of myself, the one that was - I had no doubts on this score - the true image of me that should be remembered.  In the course of the last two hundred million years, there had been no lack of opportunities, and for me just one, very clear, would be enough, to avoid confusion."

Have you ever gone to what you thought would be a really great party, only to be stuck in a corner with the most boring person there?  Reading "The Complete Cosmicomics" was a lot like that for me.  I've read several of Calvino's books before this one, and began "Cosmicomics" thinking that it would be more of the same - only to discover that even the greatest author can be a complete bore.

"The Complete Cosmicomics" is a series of short stories that Calvino worked on up until his death in 1985.  All of these stories take their cues from scientific concepts such as genetic determinism, the Big Bang, and so forth, and very few of them feature actual plots or characters the reader might identify with.

The first set of stories in this collection are not bad as short stories go, but they are a far cry from other works by the same author.  As the stories progress they become increasingly pretentious, to the point where I began wondering how anyone could have ever found them entertaining.  There is a great amount of intellectual vanity in these tales of evolution and macroscopic distances, both on the author's part and, I assume, on the part of those who take pride in "appreciating" them.  

It's just like at that party when the boring guy corners you and starts talking about Sartre or Kierkegaard or someone like that.  Maybe they don't even know what they're talking about, but the boorish nature of their ongoing monologue serves to mask their misunderstanding of the subject.  After a few minutes you're only listening for the sake of politeness, and not listening so attentively at that.

I had exactly the same feeling when reading "Cosmicomics."  However verbose his ramblings on the themes of time travel and cosmology, there are several embarrassing misunderstandings present in his stories, as when he attempts to discuss evolution in the absence of mutation, or biological determinism in the absence of an older order of natural law.  It's not a case of overlooking the paradoxes that form the "whimsical" nature of his stories, since the presence of these misunderstandings undermines any consistency the stories might have had.

Calvino wrote some great stories in his day, but I wouldn't say his "Cosmicomics" are to be counted among them.

2015年4月2日 星期四

"Liberal Fascism" by Johan Goldberg (2008)

"Yet selective quotations and sweeping generalizations..."

I should probably start by saying that I'm not a person who enjoys talking about politics.  When people start in with all their "right-wing" and "left-wing" and "liberals" and "conservatives" my thoughts tend to journey elsewhere, to a magical world of wonder where people (and cute, talking animals) don't pepper their speech with quite so many "isms."

So by my own admission I'm not quite prepared to discuss "Liberal Fascism" without sounding completely ignorant, completely apathetic, or both.  I've never found politics that interesting, and I have never seen the point of political parties.  I tend to agree with George Washington, who intimated that political parties were harmful to any democracy.

In other words: "A (insert political affiliation here) is anyone who disagrees with me, or anyone I don't like, and a (insert opposing political affiliation here) is anyone who agrees with me, or anyone I like."  This pretty much sums up what I get out of most political discussions.

So in this book, "Liberal Fascism," author Jonah Goldberg claims that fascism originated with liberals in several countries, and is in no way the creation of right-leaning conservatives.  OK, I'll buy that...  I guess.  He goes on to trace the origins of fascism, and also the progress of fascist ideas in American political history.  He pinpoints the Wilson administration in particular, though of course he finds evidence of fascist policies in the democratic administrations that followed it.

The author is a right-wing, conservative type of guy, and he's tired of being labeled a fascist by no-good liberals who don't know their own political history.  I think that such frustration is understandable, but his arguments are a bit thin, and a bit too easily proven.  In the end that's the problem with fascism: it's so ill-defined that once you see it in one place, you start seeing in everywhere.

Which, in a way, points out another weakness in his argument.  If Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, and Clinton were such rampant fascists, ready to trample the Constitution for the sake of "progress," what were the so-called conservatives doing during their administrations?  Were they all so steadfast in their defense of individual freedoms?  Were they all so forthright?  

I have trouble believing that the abuses of individual rights perpetrated from the 20s onward were the responsibility of liberals alone, and I think that any attempt to find something as badly defined as "fascism" in previous Republican administrations might be equally successful.  I think, in other words, that it might be more to the point to say that fascism is a human phenomenon, irrespective of political affiliation.

But hey, what do I know?  I barely know my reactionaries from my socialists.  I (mistakenly) thought that Hitler was just a self-obsessed, exploitative racist, and not someone who failed to understand fascism as Mussolini practiced it.  I suppose I find it more instructive to trace the "mistakes of history" back to qualities that exist within every individual and every group, and not back to one particular political group that I don't like.

This, to me, is the most disappointing thing about "Liberal Fascism," in that it fails to draw a more meaningful lesson from the Holocaust.  Instead of realizing that yes, such a thing can happen anywhere, among any sorts of people, the author chooses to paint the liberals with that brush, whatever a liberal might happen to be. 

"Liberal Fascism" might be a new kind of name-calling, but it's still just name-calling, and as such it fails to enlighten its intended audience.  Like many ongoing political discussions, its premise revolves around familiar "Us vs. Them" type arguments, which are, incidentally, one of the signs by which fascism is often known.