Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

Return to J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of a new five part prequel series to Harry Potter.

In Fantastic Beasts, we are transported back to 1926 New York, during the height of the Jazz Age, where Rowling lifts the veil on the American Wizarding World for the first time.  It is here we meet British magizoologist, Newt Scamander, who is traveling the world cataloging magical creatures and keeping a literal zoo within his magically enchanted suitcase.  When Newt's suitcase is opened and some of his magical creatures escape, Newt must return them before getting arrested by MACUSA (the American equivalent to the Ministry of Magic), with the aid of an ex-auror named Tina, her sister Queenie, and a No-Maj (aka American Muggle) named Jacob.

Fantastic Beasts sees the return of many of the behind the scenes talent from the Harry Potter movies.  David Yates, the director of the last four Potter movies, has directed this one as well, while David Heyman, the producer of all eight Potter movies, is onboard here too, alongside Rowling and Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplays for seven of the Potter movies but is merely a producer this time.  Of course the biggest draw of this movie is that it is the first screenplay ever written by J.K. Rowling herself.  While there was a fictional Hogwarts textbook that Rowling wrote about fifteen years ago that bears the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this movie is not so much an adaptation as it is the story that tells of how the author of that textbook, Newt Scamander, wrote it.

In all honesty, how much you enjoy Fantastic Beasts really all stems back to how much you love Rowling's Wizarding World.  If you are not already a fan of Rowling's work, this movie will not change your mind.  On top of that, this movie would not make a great entry point for someone who has never read a Harry Potter book or seen any of the movies.  If you don't know your Muggles from your Nifflers, you might be a little lost, with that all said, as a diehard fan of the books and movies from the Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts is a more than satisfactory return to Rowling's imagination.

Like with all of Rowling's writings, there are deeper themes running underneath the whole story that help to give the story weight.  No theme is more prominent than that of tolerance and understanding, however the real draw of Rowling's writing is the colorful characters she creates.  Fantastic Beasts is no different, with these characters being brought to life by the great actors playing them.  Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander with an awkward sensibility that often finds him more attune to creatures than other people, but throughout the course of the movie you really get a sense for Newt's heart and come to love him for who he is.  Then there are sisters Tina and Queenie Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol.  Tina is very straight to business while Queenie is a little more open and flirty, especially with Jacob, the No-Maj that tags along for the ride.  Actor Dan Fogler steals practically every scene he is in as Jacob, acting as the main source of comic relief for almost all of the movie, and Jacob's potential romance with Queenie is easily one of my favorite aspects of the whole story.  Then there are the titular fantastic beasts themselves, who all are characters in their own ways, in particular the platypus-like Niffler who garners many laughs.

Once the credits roll, you realize you've gone on a great adventure.  To compare the modest adventure in this movie to the grand ones in the Harry Potter stories is almost a little foolish.  Like the Star Wars prequels, we ultimately know where this story ends, but it is how we get there that is what makes Fantastic Beasts worthwhile.  Fantastic Beasts is definitely a different experience from the Harry Potter books and movies, but it also has all of the heart, humor, and thrills of those other stories to be a fantastic addition all on its own (pun definitely intended).

I give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a 9 out of 10!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Movie Review: "Doctor Strange"

Marvel continues its hit streak with Doctor Strange, the most peculiar movie to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Guardians of the Galaxy.  As far as superheroes go, Doctor Strange is easily one of the more obscure.  While many diehard comic book fans know who Doctor Strange is, the average person doesn't and that was clearly going to be the biggest hurdle for this movie to overcome.  As a fanboy who never really read much Doctor Strange, I went into this movie without any preconceived notions of what to expect and was more than satisfied.  I believe others who know nothing about Doctor Strange will be as well.

The titular Doctor Strange is a world famous neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange.  He is arrogant and exceptionally good at what he does, however when he injures his hands in a car wreck, he can no longer do his job.  Strange starts searching the world for a cure, eventually meeting the Ancient One, a sorcerer who trains him in the mystic arts.  Throughout the course of Strange's training, he discovers a new purpose for his life and realizes that there are larger things at play in the universe than just himself, placing him upon a path to safeguard Earth from supernatural threats.

The greatest thing about Doctor Strange is how mindblowingly original it is.  The action in this movie is not merely two super powered dudes slugging it out, it's not even two wizards casting spells at one another, this is sorcerers warping the realities of time and space with magic.  Streets fold in on themselves, portals to other dimensions are opened, and time is manipulated routinely throughout the movie.  Then there is arguably the coolest fight sequence of the year when Doctor Strange's astral form does ghost battle with a bad guy's astral form.

Director Scott Derrickson and his screenwriting partners, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, deserve huge kudos for being able to think outside the box.  Doctor Strange goes beyond most of the action movie norms to craft action that occasionally has shades of other movies, but cranks it all up to eleven.  Of course the biggest kudos should go to Marvel Studios' president and Doctor Strange producer, Kevin Feige.  Doctor Strange has long been a passion project for Feige.  He saw something in the comic book adventures that many others throughout the years didn't and his determination pays off for the audience.

When you really get right down to it, Doctor Strange is another base hit for Marvel Studios, if not completely a home run due to the usual trappings of superhero origin stories and being part of an interconnected universe of movies.  If Sherlock didn't already make Benedict Cumberbatch a mega star, his work as Doctor Strange will.  In a great many ways, Cumberbatch almost brings more cheek than Tony Stark, with a little more likability to boot.  Then there is Rachel McAdams who is likable as the obligatory love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer.  While McAdams essentially plays a role we've seen her do many times over in other movies, she helps further ground Strange's humanity.  Rounding out the cast are the likes of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Madds Mikkelsen as the bad guy, Kaecilius.  All play their parts well and further ground the absurdity through their acting.

All in all, Doctor Strange is a fun time at the movies.  The movie takes itself seriously enough to make it seem like the stakes matter, and yet it has the good, winking sense of humor of the first two Iron Man movies and Ant-Man to keep the movie feeling light.  When you really get right down to it, that is what people have come to expect from Marvel Studios and they continue to deliver on that promise with each subsequent movie, and Doctor Strange is no exception.

I give Doctor Strange a 9 out of 10!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Movie Review: "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back features Tom Cruise once more in the role from Lee Child's bestselling book series.  A former MP turned vigilante drifter, Reacher is once again drawn into a game of political intrigue when his successor in Washington, Major Turner (played with kick butt awesomeness by Cobie Smulders), is falsely accused of treason.  Like the first Jack Reacher movie, there are twists, fist fights, and shootouts galore, however unlike the first movie, Never Go Back has a much tauter story.  There are less plot holes in Never Go Back than there were in the first Jack Reacher movie, and that is what makes this one the better of the two.  While director Edward Zwick does a good job directing the action, the movie doesn't necessarily do anything new in the action/thriller genre, but it does what one expects of a movie like this exceedingly better than pretty much any other action movie in recent memory.

I give Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a 9 out of 10!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie Review: "Sully"

Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort, Sully, is a movie worthy of the accolades it has received.  Detailing the true story of the Miracle on the Hudson and the NTSB investigation that followed for pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (played with extreme likability by Tom Hanks), Sully is another strong movie in a string of recent hits for Mr. Eastwood.  While it would be very easy to wonder how a 90-minute drama could be created detailing an event that occurred in about two minutes of real time, screenwriter Todd Komarnicki tells the story non-linearly to keep a sense of momentum.  One way that Komarnicki and Eastwood help keep the story fresh is they revisit the crash at multiple intervals and detail it from a different perspective -- similar to Akira Kursoawa's classic, Rashomon.  By doing this in parallel with the NTSB investigation, Sully maintains a sense of white knuckle suspense for the entirety of the movie.  That is the true brilliance of this movie.  While we already know how the story ends, Clint Eastwood manages to keep our stomach tied up in knots because of his smart directorial choices, using minimal music and not overplaying the actual crash but showing it as it harrowingly happened in real life.

I give Sully a 9 out of 10!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Movie Review: "Suicide Squad"

It was a bit of a surprise when DC and Warner Bros. announced a Suicide Squad movie a few years back.  While the team made up of super villains forced into doing good by the US government has long been a fan favorite, it was an odd choice for the third movie in the shared DC universe of movies following Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  I still personally feel that way after seeing Suicide Squad.  While the movie is leagues better than most critics want you to believe it is, it's also not as good as most fans were wanting it to be either.  Instead, Suicide Squad is a flawed, yet occasionally fun comic book movie that will appease some, but not all.

The movie opens with a series of vignettes setting up the primary members of the Suicide Squad:  Will Smith's Deadshot, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flagg, Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Killer Croc, and Jay Hernandez's Diablo.  They are all brought together by a morally dubious US agent by the name of Amanda Waller (played exceptionally by Viola Davis), to go into the fictional metropolis of Midway City to stop a supernatural threat that threatens the entire world.  Once the Suicide Squad sets down in Midway City, the movie really starts to take off with wall-to-wall action, but the first forty-five minutes of set up really keeps the movie ever from gaining much momentum upfront.  On top of that, as a DC Comics fanboy, I found many of the portrayals of the characters lacking.

While it is fun to see the Joker's girlfriend, Harley Quinn, on the bigscreen for the first time, I don't think writer/director David Ayer handled her well.  Personally, I feel Margot Robbie was well cast, but she lacked the right material to make Harley the Harley from the comic books.  The way Harley is written in this movie is a little too flirtatious for my liking, missing that naive quality that makes her so irresistibly entertaining in the comics.  Then there is the bigger issue of the portrayal of Harley's puddin', Mr. J himself, the Joker.

Actor Jared Leto and Ayer seemed to want to turn the Joker more into a gangsta rather than a gangster, and I'm not really sure I like that angle, with the metal teeth just annoying me as a fanboy.  Of course I could live with the appearance of the character if he acted like the comic book Joker for most of the movie, but the way the character is portrayed, he rarely does.  He often comes across serious in most of his scenes, which is in stark contrast to every other Joker portrayal ever.  Honestly, Jared Leto was always going to have a tough row to hoe with him being the first actor to follow Heath Ledger in the role, and unfortunately, while they tried to differentiate Leto's Joker from Heath's Joker, in the end, they might have tried too much.  Now while I took issue with some of the characterizations in this movie, there were some that were spot on.

Viola Davis is absolutely perfect as Amanda Waller, getting the authoritative swagger of the character down pat.  Then there's Will Smith as Deadshot, who is essentially being Will Smith as a hitman for hire, but his Deadshot works in areas where some of the other characters don't by injecting appropriate doses of humor and empathy into the role.  And I can't go on without mentioning Karen Fukuhara as Katana, the sword-wielding ninja that comes in to protect Waller's liaison, Rick Flagg, from being turned on by the squad.  Katana is not handled with as much attention as I wish she would have been, but Fukuhara makes the most of her limited screentime and really nails the silent, but deadly demeanor of the character.  As well, while Ben Affleck is literally only in about two to three minutes of the whole movie, he continues to make a good impression as Batman.  Sprinkle on top some action that is fun to watch unfold, and you have a Summer blockbuster that is more entertaining than it's not.

All in all, Suicide Squad is a movie that is enjoyable enough to warrant seeing if you're a fanboy, but you'll still probably come away with a few quibbles of your own.  I am still baffled as to why DC isn't choosing to be like Marvel and be more faithful to the comic books with most of their characters, but Suicide Squad does manage to get right more than it gets wrong.  As far as the three movies currently in the DC Extended Universe, I'd have to say Suicide Squad is the weakest of the three, weaker than both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, which I still personally feel is the best of the flawed bunch.

I give Suicide Squad a 6 out of 10!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Movie Review: "Jason Bourne"

After a nine year wait, Jason Bourne has returned to movie screens in what is perhaps the best Bourne movie of them all.  Jason Bourne picks up nearly a decade after The Bourne Ultimatum, with Matt Damon's Bourne currently living in Greece as a street fighter, off of the CIA's radar.  Of course it wouldn't be a Bourne movie if Bourne wasn't drawn back into the crosshairs of the CIA, only this time it's personal, when a major revelation about Bourne's past comes to light that propels Bourne on his quest for revenge.  To say too much would rob this movie of the franchise's trademark twists and turns, which are all executed well by director Paul Greengrass.

Once more, Damon does far more with the role than what is required.  With only about two dozen lines of dialogue in the whole two hour movie, Damon has to make us feel for Bourne through his actions and facial expressions, which with a character as stoic as Bourne, is no small feat.  I can't help but think that had The Bourne Identity director, Doug Liman, cast a lesser actor as Bourne, the franchise would have never made it this far.  Joining Damon once more is Julia Stiles, as former CIA analyst turned whistleblower, Nicky Parsons, as well as newcomers to the franchise, Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.  Vikander portrays a morally questionable CIA cyber agent on the trail of Bourne, while Jones acts as the head of the CIA.  I have often said that I think every movie would be better with just a little bit of Tommy Lee Jones, and that is true here as well.  However, what makes Jason Bourne possibly the best Bourne movie, is the emotional motivation that drives him in this one.

The first three Bourne movies were all pretty much about Bourne learning who he was by exposing what the CIA did to him, and once he did that, that was it.  We didn't get to see what those revelations really meant for Bourne, which is what Jason Bourne does.   When we first see Bourne again, he is a man adrift.  He has no purpose in life and is struggling with the knowledge that he was a killer.  Then Nicky comes back into his life, and with her she brings an emotional bombshell that sends Bourne into action once more.  It is that emotional bombshell that makes Jason Bourne such a strong movie.  It creates a basic human reason for the carnage beyond Bourne simply wanting to know who he was.  Of course, while the Bourne movies have always been known for their smart storytelling, they're still action movies first and foremost, and Jason Bourne more than satisfies on that mark.

From a tense motorcycle chase during a riot in Greece, all the way to a car chase on the Las Vegas strip, Jason Bourne is an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride.  While I think the final fight between Bourne and the bad guy is a little lackluster compared to some of the great fight scenes in previous Bourne movies, the end result of the fight is emotionally cathartic.

All in all, Jason Bourne is a movie that you must see if you are a fan of the Bourne movies.  While I am not sure how well the movie will play if this is the first Bourne movie you've ever seen, Jason Bourne is such a well-crafted spy thriller, that I think just about anyone interested in this type of movie will feel rewarded.

I give Jason Bourne a 9 out of 10!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How DC Won Comic-Con 2016

It has been a rough year for DC Comics at the movies.  While Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice (or as most fanboys refer to it, BvS) made $872.7 million worldwide, that was at least three hundred million less than what Warner Bros. was initially predicting, and most importantly, wanting.  Couple the negative critical response with a very mixed fan response, and DC has really found themselves in a PR pickle over the last few months since BvS came out.  Most notably because BvS, while itself being a sequel to Man of Steel, was meant to be the launchpad for DC's own cinematic universe, akin to what Marvel has done with The Avengers.

First, let me clarify, I actually liked BvS (for my full review, here's the link), but it wasn't perfect and was not the way I ideally wanted to see these characters represented, and clearly most other fans agreed with me.  At the time of BvS's release, Warner Bros. was already well into post-production on Suicide Squad, the villain mash-up movie that is releasing on August 5th, and was already filming a solo Wonder Woman movie to be released in June 2017.  Add on top of that the fact that Justice League, DC's answer to The Avengers, was already set to start rolling cameras just a couple of weeks after BvS came out, and there were just too many balls rolling for Warner Bros. to pull the plug.  They had to do damage control.

In the wake of the so-so reception of BvS, Warner Bros. tapped Jon Berg, the executive vp at Warners, to work with Geoff Johns, CCO of DC Comics, to oversee DC Films moving forward.  Before that, DC Films was mostly being run by Man of SteelBvS, and Justice League director, Zack Snyder, along with his wife and producing partner, Deborah Snyder, and The Dark Knight trilogy producer, Charles Roven.  Now, Berg and Johns are essentially playing the role that Kevin Feige plays at Marvel Studios, overseeing all of the DC movies in production.  Then came the news a month or so ago that WB made Ben Affleck an Executive Producer on any movie that features Batman, further wresting total control away from Snyder.  Add on top of that the unconfirmed word of last minute rewrites to Justice League to inject more lightness into the movie, as well as confirmed last minute reshoots to Suicide Squad that may or may not have been to do the same thing, and it's safe to say that everyone knows Warner Bros. were trying to reposition their chess pieces to fix the situation internally.

With all that said, being a moviemaker myself, I know that most of this was already in motion before BvS came out, so to necessarily say that Suicide SquadWonder Woman, and Justice League were retooled after BvS, is not all that realistic.  The movies that they are probably changed a little bit, but there's only so much you can do when two of the movies were already shot when everything hit the fan.  So really I think DC and Warners knew they had to just wait it out till they had enough stuff to show fans to try and win back their trust, which made Comic-Con 2016 perhaps the most crucial piece on their chessboard.

Comic-Con is the largest comic book convention in the world, held every single July in San Diego, with pretty much every major geeky thing that is coming out over the next year having panels to promote their work.  While some have debated whether or not a movie's presence at Comic-Con really impacts it's box office, it has been shown to be ground zero for positive buzz in the past, with the first Iron Man being the perfect case and point.

Robert Downey, Jr. was still seen as an iffy choice for Tony Stark, but when Marvel showed off footage from the movie at Comic-Con 2007, it started a parade of excitement in the fan community.  That exact same thing is what DC and Warner Bros. knew they needed after the months of negative press they'd had in regards to their DC movies.  It's bad enough that the casual moviegoing audience didn't respond as kindly to BvS as they had to The Dark Knight trilogy or The Avengers movies, but for a good portion of fans to have turned their back on the movie, that was the sign that the ship had to be righted.   Thankfully, I can effectively say that DC and Warner Bros. have won Comic-Con 2016.

While it is too early to say if Warners has righted the ship, they came out swinging at their panel on Saturday.  First, they finally made official the worst kept secret in Hollywood, that Ben Affleck was going to direct a Batman movie that he is co-writing with Geoff Johns.  Then, DC kicked things into high gear by showing trailers for both Wonder Woman and Justice League.  Both trailers emphasized lighter tones than Man of Steel and BvS had, with a fair few jokes sprinkled through.  And after that, DC capped things off with a new sizzle reel for Suicide Squad that makes the movie look even more fun than it already did.  All in all, DC and Warner Bros. did what they had to do and the fans responded accordingly, thanks in large part because Warners broke Comic-Con tradition.

Usually, most of the special trailers shown at Comic-Con are not released online and are only ever seen by those in the crowd.  Thankfully, after years of bootleg trailers, it seems the studios are learning their lessons and Warners released all of these trailers online immediately after they premiered at Comic-Con.  This made it easier for Warner Bros. to say, "We value the fans."  That's how I saw them, and I'm glad I did, because personally, I was super impressed by everything I saw.

I loved seeing more of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and really dig the World War I setting for her first solo movie.  From the looks of things, director Patty Jenkins has made one of the most visually stimulating superhero movies ever made, with Wonder Woman's home of Themyscira looking particularly amazing.  As well, I think Chris Pine looks charmingly fantastic as Col. Steve Trevor, the first man Wonder Woman ever meets, and her love interest to boot.

As far as Justice League goes, I loved the nice bits of humor in the trailer, seeing Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne going around to recruit the likes of Aquaman and the Flash.  The tone and feel of the trailer is very much the tone and feel I think most fans wanted from BvS, which is a tone that takes itself seriously, while still being fun and colorful.  It's a tough balance, but if Snyder has managed to apply that tone to the entire movie, we may be in for something special.

Then finally, the sizzle reel from Suicide Squad only furthered my interest in the movie, which has slowly been growing since last year's Comic-Con.  I'm still not a fan of Jared Leto's look as The Joker, mainly because I don't like the tattoos or the grill on his teeth, but there is no denying how entertaining the movie looks.

While it's always possible that DC and Warners used the few moments of levity in each movie to try and sell these movies as being different than BvS, I genuinely believe that the folks in charge have finally listened.  Fans don't like what they have been doing, and it seems that they are actively trying to fix things and change the conversation.

All in all, even though we have to wait till 2017 to see if Wonder Woman and Justice League deliver on their promise, Suicide Squad hits theaters in just two weeks.  If that movie succeeds with fans, as well as with critics and casual moviegoers, then BvS will start to become a distant memory, thanks in large part to an awesome Comic-Con.  While some might argue that Marvel Studios still won Comic-Con with a new trailer for Doctor Strange, some new Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  and Spider-Man: Homecoming info (confirming Kurt Russell as Star-Lord's Dad, Ego the Living Planet, and Michael Keaton as the villainous Vulture in Spider-Man), as well as the announcement of Academy award winner Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, I believe DC won Comic-Con hands down.  Simply put, this is the first time Wonder Woman has ever had a movie of her own, and this is the first Justice League movie ever made.  Both of these comic books predate anything at Marvel, save for Captain America.  The time has finally come for these DC properties to shine, and fans have had their excitement renewed for these movies.  Well done, DC.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Movie Review: "Star Trek Beyond"

The crew of the USS Enterprise are back to celebrate Star Trek's 50th Anniversary with a new movie in the alternate timeline started with 2009's Star Trek.  Cutting to the chase, Star Trek Beyond is a very fun movie entirely worthy of the Star Trek name.  While Beyond is not quite as strong as it's two predecessors (a controversial opinion, seeing as how Into Darkness is hated by most serious Trekkers), I did like Beyond an awful lot, and felt it was a perfect continuation of the story J.J. Abrams started back in 2009.

At the start of Star Trek Beyond, the Enterprise crew is midway through their five year mission, and such a long stretch in space has worn down the crew, in particular Captain Kirk, played yet again by the exceptional Chris Pine.  Of course this movie doesn't wallow in soul searching for two whole hours.  These characters search their souls as they embark on a propulsive adventure in uncharted space,  getting separated on an unknown planet by an alien warlord named Krall, with the crew of the Enterprise having to find each other and reunite in order to stop the threat that Krall poses to the Federation.

This time about, because J.J. Abrams had to direct a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he serves merely as a producer, and Fast & Furious director, Justin Lin, takes over as director.  As well, the screenwriting duo of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are no longer writing the franchise, with the same going for producer and Into Darkness screenwriter, Damon Lindelof.  The new writing team of Simon Pegg (who once again portrays Scotty) and Doug Jung, prove that they know these characters inside and out.  In a great many ways, the Enterprise crew is more faithful and lively here in terms of dialogue and characterization than they've been in any of the alternate timeline movies thus far, with Karl Urban's Bones getting the vast majority of the movie's best lines.  Plus, Pegg and Jung deserve huge props for creating the new character Jaylah, a resourceful, tough as nails alien portrayed by a butt-kicking Sofia Boutella.  Add on top of that Lin's action movie pedigree (especially in a scene where a swarm of bee-like spaceships bore into the Enterprise to tear it apart), and you get a very solid Summer blockbuster that is fun and action packed, but seems to be missing the special ingredient that made this movie's two predecessors so special to me.

Honestly, I can't quite put my finger on why I feel this is the weakest of the three Trek movies in the alternate timeline.  The energy is there, the cast continues to surpass the cast of the original series in my opinion, and there are plenty of fun moments to be had.  So why do I feel this way?  For me, I think it's two reasons.  One, I think Idris Elba's bad guy, Krall, never gets enough explanation to how his strange powers work and how he amassed this large army to make him as strong of a villain as he could have been.  And two, the movie simply lacks as many awesome, fist pumping, spine tingling moments as the two directed by Abrams.  Part of this goes back to a slight disappointment I have in Michael Giacchino's musical score.  I love Giacchino, and his themes for Star Trek are some of my favorites he's ever written, so for me to not feel like he utilized his themes as well as he had on the two previous movies, makes me sad.  Of course, this is really me being a nitpicky fanboy, because as far as this movie being just a fun standalone adventure movie, there hasn't been any other blockbuster this Summer quite as strong as this one.

Star Trek Beyond simply made me smile for the vast majority of its two hour runtime.  When watching this movie, you get to spend two hours with characters you love, all getting along and working together towards a common goal.  This is a rare feat in most of these team movies nowadays, as is evidenced by Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman.  For some odd reason, most moviemakers think we want to see our heroes arguing and fighting one another, but Beyond makes a strong case for unity above all else.   None of the conflict in Star Trek Beyond comes from the relationships between the characters, and that is just a refreshing change of pace in this day-and-age where so many people the world over can't seem to ever agree on anything.  While this is an action adventure movie, the future of Star Trek feels even more like a utopia than it usually does in this one, and I for one would love to live in the world of Star Trek.  Honestly, I believe that's the true hallmark of great sci-fi or fantasy.  Is it a world so fantastic I'd want to live in it?  In this case, the answer is a resounding yes, especially as long as Kirk and the Enterprise crew are around to save the day.

I give Star Trek Beyond an 8 out of 10!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why do we need a "NEW" Iron Man?

There is a new disturbing trend in comic books that I want to rant about, and that trend is new characters taking over the mantle for an established superhero.  Just this week it was announced that at the end of Marvel's new event, "Civil War II," Tony Stark will step down from being Iron Man and will be replaced by a new character named Riri Williams, a female college student.  Of course, this is not the first instance of something like this happening in the past few years worth of comics.  While the comic companies always frame it as if it's something we should all be excited about, the reverse happens because they're messing with the foundation of what made their companies to begin with.

When a new character takes over the mantle of Iron Man, they are no longer Iron Man in my opinion.  Iron Man is Tony Stark.  Captain America is Steve Rogers.  Batman is Bruce Wayne.  Spider-Man is Peter Parker.  Etc. and so forth.  You can have as many characters take up the mantles as you want, but there is only one Thor, and it's the traditional Thor from Norse mythology, not the Jane Foster Thor that was introduced a couple of years ago.  The minute you introduce a woman as Iron Man, she's no longer Iron Man.  Not least of which because she isn't a man, she's a woman!  Call her Iron Woman for crying out loud!  It's stupid to call her Iron Man, cause that's not what she is.

I have nothing wrong with Tony Stark going away for a while and a new hero taking his place, and I have nothing wrong with the fact that it's an African American woman wanting to honor the legacy of Iron Man, but she's not Iron Man.  Iron Man will always be Tony Stark, the two are interlinked, and no matter how many times you try to have people take over for a pre-existing character like this, fans get upset for that very reason.  Now if Marvel were to call her Iron Woman, that would be new and unique, and I'd be fine with it, but the silliness of calling her the new Iron Man is just too much.  All of these things that Marvel has been doing with their characters for the past few years really goes back to the big issue...  Create new superheroes, stop taking pre-existing characters and trying to graft onto them.  That is not what longtime fans want.

When I read a Spider-Man comic book, I want to be reading about Peter Parker.  Sure, Ultimate Spider-Man's Miles Morales is okay, but he's not Peter and he never will be.  What makes Spider-Man is not his powers, it's who he is under the suit, and for me, that should always be Peter Parker.  I hated the nearly two year long storyline where Doc Ock took over Peter Parker's body, cause it wasn't Spider-Man, and while I understand Miles Morales is now part of the canon, I just don't care about him as a character the way I do about Peter Parker.  Miles has only been around half a decade, tell him to call me when he's been around for fifty-four years like Peter has.  Of course, it's not just Marvel who has been doing this, DC is real bad to do this as well.

In the past two years, I stopped reading Batman comic books for one reason, because writer Scott Snyder finally wrote a story I didn't like.  He "killed" Bruce Wayne off, made Commissioner Gordon the new Batman by having him wear a robot suit, and then brought Bruce back, saying he wasn't dead, he just had amnesia (to say nothing of the Joker being immortal or being multiple people over the years).  This was just a storyline that negated why I've always loved the character of Batman.  Sure, there have been others to don the cowl over the years, ranging from Azrael to Dick Grayson, but in each of those instances, I wasn't quite as upset.  While I do believe Bruce Wayne is the one true Batman, seeing a sidekick step up and take over the identity isn't as bad as some random person, like what's happening with Iron Man, or what happened with Miles Morales.

Personally, I don't mind the idea of Bucky Barnes as Captain America.  Will he ever replace Steve Rogers?  No, but he's a natural fit.  The same with The Falcon.  I also never had a problem with Wally West taking over as The Flash after Barry Allen died (who himself followed Jay Garrick).  In these instances, you're taking a superhero partner or sidekick and giving them the mantle.  That's actually a neat concept and is fun, so long as one day the true Batman, Cap, or Flash, come back (which they all did).  The bigger issue is when a new character is introduced, or an old character who had no super powers or superhero training (i.e. Jane Foster and Commissioner Gordon), take over the mantle just because the writers want to shake things up.  To me, that's just silly.

I am not sure Bob Kane or Bill Finger would have ever liked seeing Commissioner Gordon as Batman.  Maybe they would have, but at the end of the day, that's not the character they created.  They created Bruce Wayne as Batman.  While Stan Lee has come out in recent years in support of all the changes Marvel has made to his characters, fans haven't been as agreeable, and I hate being the typical fanboy here, but I'm just fed up with the current state of comic books.  When I pick up a comic book, I want to read the characters I've always known and loved in new adventures.  I don't want to read the adventures of someone else as Iron Man or Thor, I just want to see Tony Stark and Thor in the costumes, kicking butt and taking names.  Sure, the argument is always...  "Well, you can just go back and reread old comics," but that's missing the point.  The point is wanting to see the further adventures of Tony Stark's Iron Man.  We know what's already happened, therefore we're more interested in seeing what the next adventure will look like.  Maybe I'm just a sentimentalist, but I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Movie Review: "The BFG"

Director Steven Spielberg has created yet another masterpiece, with this one being a gentle adaptation of Roald Dahl's kid lit book, The BFG.  The BFG is nothing short of brilliant, with imagination on display at every turn.

The movie follows the titular Big Friendly Giant (or BFG as he comes to be known), as he befriends a human girl named Sophie and whisks her away to giant country, where the BFG is the runt of a litter of larger, more violent giants.  Throughout the course of the movie you really get to know Sophie and the BFG, with the two of them forging a friendship due to their shared circumstances.  Both are lonely souls who others think less of, and in the eyes of each other, they discover what it means to be a better human "bean," as the BFG would put it.

Newcomer Ruby Barnhill plays Sophie with wide-eyed wonder and sass, immediately making Sophie an adorable heroine you want to root for.   Then there is recent Oscar winner, and current Spielberg muse, Mark Rylance, stealing each scene he's in as the BFG.  Rylance has this uncanny ability to convey deep wells of emotion with nothing other than his eyes.  He truly is a marvel to watch onscreen, and when you go from his work in Bridge of Spies to his work as the BFG, you see a completely different actor.  The BFG is a warm and gentle soul lacking in bravery, who only wants to help deliver the dreams he catches up in dream country to sleeping people.  Perhaps the greatest marvel of this movie though, is the fact that the special effects manage to make us believe that Ruby Barnhill is interacting with a twenty-four foot tall Mark Rylance.

Through the use of CGI and motion capture work, the special effects crew manage to capture every element of Mark Rylance's performance and make it writ large.  I have seen many movies that try to show us giants interacting with humans, but there is often an odd feeling to the difference in scale.  I never had that feeling with The BFG.  I truly believed that Sophie and the BFG were there together in every scene, and that allows the magic spell of this movie to be cast.

When you get right down to it, The BFG is not an in your face adventure movie, it's a rather simple bedtime story.  There's not a lot of violence, nor are there any real scares (except for when the BFG is bullied by his fellow giants), and the crudest thing the movie has within it is the greatest farting scene I've ever seen in a movie.  The BFG is easily Spielberg's most child appropriate movie he's ever made.  It is sweet, funny, and will have your imagination in overdrive the entire time.  Couple the gorgeous images from longtime Spielberg cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, with the beautiful musical score by John Williams, and the great script by the late E.T. scribe, Melissa Mathison,  and you've got another Spielberg classic.  Will it be remembered as fondly as E.T. or Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Probably not, but it could very well be on the same plain as Spielberg movies like Hook and War Horse, which is not bad company to share.

I give The BFG a 9 out of 10!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Review: "The Legend of Tarzan"

More and more lately I am discovering a disconnect between myself and the vast majority of movie critics.  I have loved a lot of movies this year that they've hated, and that trend continues here with The Legend of Tarzan.  As far as live-action interpretations of Tarzan go, this and Greystoke are the two champs, with The Legend of Tarzan edging out Greystoke by a teeny bit.

The Legend of Tarzan is unique in that it's not an origin story.  While the origins of Tarzan are explored in a few flashback scenes (reminding me a lot of Batman Begins), the movie is really about John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke (aka Tarzan's real name and title).  Tarzan has been living in England with Jane for the past few years and has left the jungle behind him, but when he is asked to help expose a slavery ring in the Congo, he is drawn back to Africa.

Harry Potter director, David Yates, manages to breathe new life into Tarzan thanks to the modern technological wizardry that CGI enables.  The vast majority of this movie was all shot on sets in England, with pretty much all of the animals and African environments created by a computer.  This sells the reality of the story, much in the same way that The Jungle Book did a few months back.  Of course what really makes this movie resonant is not the craft on display, but the story between Tarzan and Jane.

Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie portray Tarzan and Jane in this movie, and they actually make you care about these two characters.  Skarsgard plays Tarzan as a stoic gentleman trying not to be the animal he was raised to be, while Robbie portrays the feistiest Jane you've ever seen.  Then there's the charisma and humor of Samuel L. Jackson as real-life historical figure, Dr. George Washington Williams, who joins Tarzan on his quest to save the Congo.  Couple that with Christoph Waltz being Christoph Waltz as the bad guy, Leon Rom, and you've got a fun, emotionally resonant pulp adventure that Tarzan author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, would most likely be proud of.

When it gets right down to it, don't listen to the critics on this one.  Your enjoyment of The Legend of Tarzan all relies on how much you enjoy the idea of Tarzan in general.  If you think Tarzan is hokey, then this movie probably isn't for you, but there is nothing wrong with the movie itself.  The script is good, the movie is well directed, the cinematography and musical score are beautiful, and there are many well choreographed action sequences.  The bottom line is, if you have an affinity for the character, The Legend of Tarzan is the Tarzan movie you've been looking for.

I give The Legend of Tarzan an 8 out of 10!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Movie Review: "Independence Day: Resurgence"

It has been 20 years since the first Independence Day hit theaters, and now we have a sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.  Pretty much every major character is back (sans Will Smith), with Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman reprising their iconic roles from the first movie.  In story time, it too has been 20 years, with humanity having united to repurpose the alien technology left behind to improve our own weapons in preparation.  In preparation for what, you might ask?  The aliens inevitable return, of course.

All in all, Independence Day: Resurgence is a fun movie, but it pales in comparison to its predecessor, which has taken on a massive level of iconography for children of the Nineties.  While there are tons of explosions and one-liners, there seems to be something missing.  That something is the indescribable x-factor that movies like this often have that transforms them into cultural touchstones.  Now none of this is to say that Resurgence is a bad movie or a poor sequel, the filmmakers simply failed to catch lightning in a bottle again.  That is a very hard thing to do, and it only makes you more appreciate the movie franchises that have been able to do it multiple times.  Now with all that out of the way, here is where Resurgence really shines, with the new cast of young characters.

Liam Hemsworth leads a talented cast of 20-somethings -- including Maika Monroe and Jesse Usher, as Bill Pullman's daughter and Will Smith's stepson --  that steal the show.  These new characters are a mixture of orphans and children of the heroes from the first Independence Day who have the kind of resolve reminiscent of young men and women from the Greatest Generation.  It is in the scenes with these new characters that I actually found myself most engaged with the movie, which I did not think would happen going in.  However, this does not mean that the returning cast of Goldblum, Pullman, and the rest don't have good standout moments (with welcome returns from Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner as well), but the filmmakers do a nice job of creating new heroes for a potential sequel.  Another area in which the movie succeeds is in the area of visual effects.

The first Independence Day had amazing visual effects, but the two decades since have really unshackled the filmmakers to let their imaginations run wild.  Things that would have been too expensive to do 20 years ago, can now be done.  While that could have easily been a negative, it actually works as a positive because director Roland Emmerich shows enough restraint to never make the visual effects look like visual effects.  As well, the better visual effects allow the filmmakers to show us more of the aliens this time about.  In the original movie, the aliens were only ever seen in fleeting glimpses or from the waist up.  In this one, there are multiple full body shots of the aliens, which helps to sell the reality of them better.

At the end of the day, if you were a fan of Independence Day, you will probably enjoy this more cartoonish sequel, but I use the word cartoonish in the best possible way.  The first movie had a more realistic tone, whereas this movie reminds me a lot of Japanese animated TV shows I watched growing up in the Nineties and early Aughts.  There seems to be an understanding this go around that it's all fake and meant to just be fun, and while that drains the movie of some of its intensity, it does cause you to childishly grin for most of the runtime.

I give Independence Day: Resurgence a 7 out of 10!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Movie Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows"

As a fan of the heroes in a half-shell, I guess I'm just gonna have to accept that this is about as good as this iteration of the Ninja Turtles will get.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is better than its 2014 reboot, but only by a teeny bit.

Out of the Shadows finds the turtles trying to stop the evil Shredder from bringing an alien from another dimension to Earth in order to take over.  Along the way, the turtles make a new ally in Casey Jones (played likably by Stephen Amell), go toe-to-toe with two new mutant minions of Shredder (the fan favorite characters Bebop and Rocksteady), and may have run across a mutagen that could potentially turn them into humans.

There is a lot going on here and it's actually a miracle that the movie makes sense for most of its runtime.  While there are a few plot holes here and there, there are none quite as gaping as the multiple ones that the first movie had.  On top of that, there are some genuinely thrilling action sequences in the movie, with the standout one involving the turtles in their tricked out garbage truck trying to stop Shredder from escaping the 18-wheeler that is transporting him to a different prison.

When it's all said and done, once the original Ninja Turtles theme song plays over the end credits, you realize you actually had fun with Out of the Shadows.  While neither of the two movies in this particular iteration match up to the first two Ninja Turtles movies from the Nineties, Out of the Shadows will entertain.

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows a 7 out of 10!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Movie Review: "X-Men: Apocalypse"

The X-Men are back in the sixth movie in the X-Men franchise and the fourth to be directed by Bryan Singer.  While this is the end of the second X-Men trilogy, it also feels like a new beginning.  The main thing to understand with X-Men: Apocalypse is that you shouldn't listen to most of the critics lambasting it for its vast number of characters and storylines.  Even though there is a lot that goes on in X-Men: Apocalypse, it's all emotionally engaging and most importantly, fun.

X-Men: Apocalypse takes place ten years after the events of Days of Future Past in 1983.  The world's very first mutant from Ancient Egypt, a being named Apocalypse who thinks himself a god, awakens from suspended animation and sees how the world has become without his leadership.  Apocalypse sets out to destroy almost the entire Earth to start humanity over anew, with only those pesky X-Men standing in his way.  In a nutshell, that's the entire movie, but what gives X-Men: Apocalypse its emotional resonance is the fact that it is the sixth X-Men movie.

This is a direct sequel in the way that The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars.  The moviemakers don't waste time reminding us who these characters are or what they're doing, they simply assume we've watched every other X-Men movie.  While there might be a few passive fans of the franchise who do not like this approach, as a fan who has seen all of the X-Men movies multiple times, I was on cloud nine practically the entire runtime.  On top of that, this one and Days of Future Past feel like the moviemakers are finally embracing the more comic bookish nature of the X-Men.  There are a lot more fantastical images in this one that look and feel as if they were taken straight from the pages of the comic books, and as a comic book fan, that's just icing on an already delicious cake.

Overall, I absolutely loved X-Men: Apocalypse and it's my personal favorite superhero movie of 2016 so far.  I know those are fighting words, but all of my favorite X-Men are represented in this movie and shine brighter than these movies have ever let them shine.  From the teenage reintroductions to Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler, it's like Bryan Singer was reading my mind Professor X style to deliver the X-Men movie I've wanted for years.

I give X-Men: Apocalypse a 9 out of 10!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Movie Review: "Captain America: Civil War"

Captain America: Civil War would not have been possible if it weren't for the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe.  If this was attempted without all the other Avengers movies and Iron Man movies, this movie would not be as good, and it is proof that the Marvel model of making movies works when done with enough forethought.

In Civil War, Iron Man and Captain America find themselves at odds over a new bit of legislation that would have the Avengers answering to the United Nations.  Cap thinks the Avengers should remain free to make their own choices, while Iron Man believes they need oversight, thus the battle commences.  While there are a great many twists and turns that happen, I don't want to spoil that for anyone, because all anyone wants to really know is if this movie is worth their money, and that is a resounding yes.

Look, by this point if you haven't jumped on the Marvel Studios train, this movie wont be the thing that gets you onboard, but if you have been a fan of every Marvel movie thus far, then this is going to be an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish.  This is top notch blockbuster moviemaking and it needs to be experienced on the big screen.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo really get these characters, which is why it's great that they're also directing the next two Avengers movies.  Of course the greatest aspect of Civil War is that while it features a lot of Avengers and can at times feel like another Avengers movie, it still never forgets that Captain America is the main character of this movie.  While I still personally would have loved to have seen another Cap solo movie instead, like The Winter Soldier, Civil War is a great substitute.

I give Captain America: Civil War a 9 out of 10!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Movie Review: "The Jungle Book"

Disney has been on a hot-streak adapting their old animated movies into live action, and like last year's Cinderella, The Jungle Book is yet another home run.  While The Jungle Book is not a full live action remake of the 1967 animation, it does borrow many of that movies' better elements (such as "The Bare Necessities") while being it's own thing as well.  The Jungle Book is a rip-roaring adventure, suitable for the whole family, that also has a lot of heart while commenting on man's relationship to nature and what it means to come of age.

Newcomer Neel Sethi is the real backbone of the movie as Mowgli, having the tall order of selling all of the special effects to the audience so that we believe this is all actually happening in the jungles of India.  For ninety-nine percent of the movie, Sethi was the only real thing onset, with the entire movie having been filmed on Los Angeles sound stages!  This is what is most impressive about this movie, is that this movie never used any real animals, nor did it ever film a single frame in India itself.  The sound stages that the movie filmed on were filled with green screens and puppets for Sethi to interact with, which both were later replaced by computer generated jungles and animals.  When watching this movie, you realize you are literally watching the future of movies, where anything the imagination can dream up can be done through this kind of photorealistic special effects work.  However, none of these computer generated animals would have worked had it not been for the litany of Hollywood stars that lent their voices to these iconic characters.

Bill Murray steals the show as Baloo, while Ben Kingsley is just perfect as Bagheera, then there's Scarlett Johansson creeping things up as Kaa, Christopher Walken adding some new dimension to King Louie, and Lupita Nyong'o being absolutely lovable and heartbreaking as Mowgli's wolf mother, Raksha.  Of course, my personal favorite performance was Idris Elba's frightening work as Shere Khan.  All in all though, this is just one of those movies where everything comes together to make a very satisfying whole, all thanks to director Jon Favreau.  Favreau has long been one of the more underrated directors in Hollywood, having done movies like Elf and Iron Man, and while the success of some of his movies could be attributed to the actors leading them, The Jungle Book is Favreau's movie through and through.  Honestly, I don't know if there are many directors who could pull off a movie like this that required so much imagination, and personally, I think that's a feat worthy of Oscar recognition.

I give The Jungle Book a 10 out of 10!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Movie Review: "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

I'm gonna get straight to the point here, because all you really wanna know is if Batman v Superman is a movie worthy of its titular characters, and in my opinion, it totally is.  While some might be thrown off by the notion of Batman and Superman fighting one another the first time they're actually in a movie together, director Zack Snyder and writers David Goyer and Chris Terrio, make it believable.

The whole notion of this series of DC Comics movies is that these are what-ifs.  What if these superheroes actually existed in our real world?  In this movie, Superman has to deal with the political ramifications of his actions in a way that is not too dissimilar than the political debates we find in our day-to-day.  Superman can't win for losing and Batman's distrust of him only exacerbates the problem.  Of course what makes this movie such a joy is not the depth of the material, but it's seeing these classic characters -- Batman, Superman, and yes, Wonder Woman -- fighting alongside one another for the very first time in live action.

If you were like me and did not like Man of Steel as much as you wanted to, this movie might rectify a lot of the issues you had with that movie.  With that said, this movie certainly wont please everyone.  I can already tell you Batman v Superman is going to go down as one of those love it or hate it movies with very little in-betweeners.  The movie often has a slower pace than most will be expecting, and it also doesn't like to always spell everything out for the audience.  Every now and then a scene transpires and it's not till after its completion do you even know what the scene was.  There are a fair few dream sequences in this movie, almost all of them belonging to Bruce Wayne's nightmares and are setting up future sequels.  Sure, the movie could have done with a little less teasing of the upcoming Justice League movie and been a tighter affair because of it, but the movie that exists is a good one that I found myself invested in, both emotionally and cerebrally.

The action sequences are top notch and exciting, and the drama, in particular the finale, is executed very powerfully.  While I know there will be other fan boys complaining about Batman or Superman doing this or that that they never did in the comic books, both of these characters go on a journey in this movie, and if you hang with it, you'll see the two of them evolve into their traditional comic book counterparts by the time the credits roll.  And rest assured, Ben Affleck is really, really good as Batman, while Henry Cavill continues to prove his chops as Superman.  As for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, she certainly holds her own alongside the other two and left me wanting more.  All in all, I just wish the Justice League was already out so I can see what happens next!  Yeah, I liked this one that much.

I give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice an 8 out of 10!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Batman v Superman: Who's King of the Movies?

There have been many theatrically released Batman and Superman movies, with Batman having nine so far and Superman having seven (excluding the two movie serials for both), that is more movies than any other superhero.  While folks like Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Spider-Man, are coming close to matching those totals, simply put, Batman and Superman are the two oldest superheroes ever and that will always give them a special place in the pantheon of superhero movies.  Batman and Superman were the first two superheroes to find mainstream success on movie screens, paving the way for the past decade and a half of Marvel dominance in theaters.  Finally, with this week's release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the two heavyweights are going to be sharing the big screen for the very first time and vie for the Marvel crown, so I thought it would be fun to review and rank all of the Batman and Superman movies that have ever been theatrically released (because there have been a ton of straight to video animated movies for both) and see which hero comes out on top.  This list is purely subjective and I am sure a lot of you wont agree with me, so take to the comments section after reading the list to share your own favorites.  With all that said, on with the list!


16.  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Okay, if you've never seen this one, do yourself a favor and don't.  It's not that this movie's heart isn't in the right place with Superman spearheading a worldwide endeavor for nuclear disarmament, it's that the movie just isn't good, as a matter of fact it's almost incomprehensible.  There are a ton of plot holes in this movie and for this to be the final hoorah for Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, and Gene Hackman, it's a crying shame.  Superman deserves better than this, with this movie playing more as a quick cash grab for the producers than anything else.  It's a shame honestly, because Christopher Reeve still gives it his all, but his all can't make the story better.
Rating:  2 out of 10

15.  Superman III
Superman III is ever so slightly better than Superman IV, but only by a few charming and enjoyable moments.  The biggest issue I've always had with this movie is not the fact that someone thought it would be a good idea for Richard Pryor to be an unwitting bad guy, no it's the fact that the moviemakers sidelined Margot Kidder's Lois Lane for the whole movie in favor of Annette O'Toole's Lana Lang.  Here's the thing, the whole story line of Clark returning to Smallville and reconnecting with Lana at a high school reunion is sweet and brings many of the best moments of the movie alive, but after two whole movies investing in the Lois and Clark relationship, it's just annoying.  At least this movie has a pretty good fight scene in it between Good Superman and Bad Superman after the two sides of Superman are literally split apart.  Ultimately, Superman III is watchable, which is something I can't say for Superman IV, but it's not a whole lot of fun either.
Rating:  5 out of 10

14.  Batman Returns
Alright, the quality of the movies are improving ever so little, but at least they are improving.  With Batman Returns, director Tim Burton was sort of given free reign by Warner Bros. after the success of 1989's Batman, and it really shows here.  This is flat out the weirdest, darkest movie to have ever been sponsored by Happy Meal toys, and I wouldn't have a huge problem with that if the movie didn't try to fool you into thinking it's a Batman movie.  Here's how Batman Returns goes, we spend three-fourths of the movie with a really creepy Penguin (Danny DeVito), a deranged Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), and a Christopher Walken playing some character created just for this movie, and occasionally we see Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne or Batman to remind the audience that, "Hey, this is a Batman movie and we've gotta have him in here somewhere."  Sure, there are some really fun moments in here, notably the opening action sequence and the final scene at the abandoned zoo, but I agree with what Jett on Batman-on-Film has always said about this one, and I paraphrase, "This is a Batman movie in name only."
Rating:  6 out of 10

13.  Superman and the Mole-Men
Finally, this is where the Batman/Superman movies start to actually be good.  Compared to all of the other movies on this list, Superman and the Mole-Men is rather lackluster in terms of scope and scale, but it wins points for essentially being the unofficial pilot for The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves.  This was the first time Reeves donned the Superman tights and he really knocks the character out of the park.  Sure, the plot of the movie is standard Fifties' B-movie fare, with misunderstood mole-men from underground surfacing and causing a panic that only Superman can resolve, but the movie is just fun.  Even to this day, the movie plays well because it's just a simple sci-fi movie that happens to star Superman.
Rating:  7 out of 10

12.  Batman & Robin
Yes, I don't think this was the weakest link in the Burton/Schumacher series of Batman movies from the late Eighties and Nineties, but while it's ranked higher than Batman Returns, that's not me saying this is the greatest Batman movie ever made, it's just a surprisingly fun one that if you get off your pretentious high horse, you can enjoy it for what it is.  Batman & Robin is essentially a throwback to the campiness of the Sixties' Batman TV show, and when you view it that way, all of the puns from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy are actually quite funny.  Plus, the movie actually has some really meaty material buried underneath with the sick Alfred subplot and the tension between George Clooney's Bruce and Chris O'Donnell's Dick really making the movie a surprisingly emotional experience if you can not look at everything through hate.  Sure, Alicia Silverstone was not my preferred Batgirl, but I'm still a huge fan of O'Donnell's Robin, and hey, Clooney wasn't awful as Batman, he just wasn't Christian Bale.  In short, fans wanted what they eventually got with Batman Begins with this movie, and now that they have had multiple dark Batman movies, maybe it's time to stop ragging so much on this movie and just enjoy it.
Rating:  7 out of 10

11.  The Dark Knight Rises
Some might be wondering how I could possibly put one of the movies from The Dark Knight trilogy this low, but you've gotta face it, The Dark Knight Rises isn't as good as the first two movies in the series.  Now with all that said, that does not mean Rises is a bad movie without awesome moments, it's just a movie that fails to match its predecessors, and a large part of this was director Christopher Nolan being so dead set on this being a definitive ending to his Batman.  Throughout the whole movie, Christian Bale's Batman is a shell of his former self, never kicking as much butt as he did in the previous two movies, and more often than not, getting his butt handed to him by the likes of Bane.  When Catwoman, and even random cops like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, kick more butt than Batman, you know the moviemakers have gone a little too far with this out-of-shape Batman idea.  Still, the first time Batman reappears in nearly a decade is one of the finer moments of the whole trilogy, and the ending is emotionally stirring, even if I'll never forgive Nolan for that stupid Robin reveal at the end of the movie.  All-in-all, The Dark Knight Rises is an imperfect epic, but one that is well worth watching.
Rating:  8 out of 10

10.  Man of Steel
This was a movie that I initially did not like upon seeing it, and as a matter of fact it took me multiple viewings to finally warm up to what director Zack Snyder accomplished with the movie.  Here's the thing, like The Dark Knight Rises, I think Man of Steel is an imperfect epic, a movie with many great elements that come together to make a movie that is stirring and action packed but lacking in something indefinable.  Ultimately, I still think this movie took itself a tad too seriously for a Superman tale, even still, Henry Cavill does the Man of Steel justice.  There is just an innate likability to Cavill that makes you want to root for him, on top of all that, this is the first Superman movie to actually interpret a post-Infinite Crisis Superman (when Superman was rebooted in the comics in the mid-80s to be more current), so this is the only Superman movie to this point to do a Modern Age Superman story as opposed to a Golden or Silver Age story like all the other Superman movies.  Now three years removed from the movie, I still believe Man of Steel could have been better and embraced more of a warmer feel to reflect a character who is all about hope, but the movie that does exist is a pretty good one if you can put aside your expectations and accept it for what it was.
Rating:  8 out of 10

9.  Batman: The Movie
Oh Adam West and Burt Ward, how I love your Batman and Robin.  Here's the thing, Batman: The Movie is essentially a feature length episode of the TV show in terms of production values and whatnot, but it's a really fun movie that rivals any of the better episodes of the series.  Not only that, this movie unites four of Batman's greatest villains in one movie for the first, and still, only time in movie history.  With Batman and Robin combatting the likes of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and the Riddler, all at once, the stakes feel rather urgent for the Dynamic Duo.  The funny thing about the Sixties TV show in general, is that a lot of modern day fans make fun of it and see it as an awful representation of the character, but at the time, this was the same Batman that was frequenting the pages of the comic books.  Also, this Batman actually does as much detective work, if not more, than just about most other Batmen there have ever been on the big or small screen, so how can anyone say that this is a bad interpretation of the character?  The show, and this movie, were intentionally campy, and that allows you to laugh alongside with the adventure instead of at it.  The moment when Batman tries to get rid of the bomb and nuns are one way and a baby in a stroller are in another, is comedic gold.  "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."
Rating:  9 out of 10

8.  Superman II
Here's what I've always loved about Superman II -- it's the fact that this is the one with all of the action.  From the opening sequence on the Eiffel Tower, to the arrival of General Zod on Earth, all the way to the climactic battles in Metropolis and the Fortress of Solitude, this movie had the best fight sequences of any Superman movie till Man of Steel.  While a lot of the special effects are heavily dated now, that does not lessen the awesomeness on display here.  Add on to everything a moving story about Superman giving up his powers to be with Lois, as well as a phenomenal performance from Terrence Stamp as the villainous Zod, and you have a sequel worthy of its original.  Plus, there is no better moment in the Chris Reeve movies than the ending of this one with the ace line, "Funny, I've never seen garbage eat garbage before," just before Clark sends the bully sliding down the diner's counter and into the pinball machine.
Rating:  9 out of 10

7.  Superman Returns
This is easily one of the more divisive movies on this entire list, but I've always been a fan of Superman Returns.  Always meant as a loose sequel to Superman II with Christopher Reeve, the movie has received a lot of unnecessary flack over the years for that reason.  It was intentional that this movie was very similar to the first two Christopher Reeve movies, because it follows up on the storyline of Lois and Clark's one night in the Fortress of Solitude and their resulting son that Clark never knew about.  For that reason alone, this is one of the more unique Superman stories that have ever been told, but on top of that it's also a story about Superman returning to an Earth, after spending five years in space, and discovering that humans didn't really miss him all that much.  The world kept on spinning without Superman and everything was okay, so he has to rediscover his place once more in a very poignant and emotional way.  On top of all that, Kevin Spacey was genius casting as Lex Luthor and Brandon Routh is still only second behind Christopher Reeve on my list of favorite Supermen.  So what if the movie was not what fans wanted?  So what if Superman never got in a superpowered fist fight?  Who cares?  We got that with Man of Steel, it's time to value Superman Returns for what it is, a superhero drama that has spurts of action, but is more interested in examining the characters and what is going on inside of them more than anything else.  Plus, the sequence where Superman catches the falling plane is still one of the finer sequences ever made for a superhero movie.
Rating:  9 out of 10

6.  The Dark Knight 
There will be a great many people that think I've gone off my rocker not giving The Dark Knight my number one spot, but while The Dark Knight is a great movie, there are other Batman movies that I personally like more.  Look, Heath Ledger as the Joker was iconic, that final monologue from Gordon is still spine tinglingly awesome, and the epic nature of this movie has never quite been matched by any other superhero movie ever made, but it's just such a dark movie it's tough to rewatch.  Simply put, that is why it is number six on this list.  There is very little about The Dark Knight that is really fun.  The sense of fun that Batman Begins had was overtaken by even more seriousness and less comic bookishness (if that's even a word).  This is not me knocking The Dark Knight as a movie, because as a movie it is a tense parable that reflects the state of our real world, but it is not an easy movie to rewatch and it's a movie that over time I have discovered plot holes that never were explained (the most glaring is how Gordon fooled everyone into thinking he was dead only to surprisingly return to apprehend the Joker).  In summation, The Dark Knight is an imperfect masterpiece, and yes, I think there can be such a thing.  What director Christopher Nolan pulled off with this movie was special and will always be special, with this movie having changed the superhero movie landscape forever.
Rating:  9 out of 10

5.  Batman
The first Tim Burton Batman movie is still one of the most faithful incarnations of the character captured on the big screen.  This movie just looks like the comic books, and that is why Batman has always seemed a head above most of the rest in the superhero movie genre.  To this day, it almost seems strange seeing Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Batman, and yet when you watch the movie, it feels just right.  Keaton plays both Bruce and Batman as slightly unhinged due to his emotional scars.  This is the most psychologically unstable superhero performance I think there's ever been, and in a way, you gotta think a man who dresses up like a bat is almost as certifiably crazy as the criminals he fights.  In a great many ways, I think that was the whole idea that Tim Burton tried to tackle with his two Batman movies and I think Batman does a better job with that idea than Batman Returns, mainly because it's just a much more fun movie to watch.  Sure, Jack Nicholson as the Joker is basically Jack Nicholson with a case of the giggles, but he does it with so much relish and oomph that you've gotta love that Joker (if you've seen the movie as much as I have, you'll get that reference).  Plus, the romance between Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale and Bruce Wayne is perhaps the best romantic subplot in any of the live action Batman movies (hint, I said live action).
Rating:  10 out of 10

4.  Batman Forever
Alright, the people that thought I was off my rocker for putting The Dark Knight at six, are seriously beginning to question my tastes now, and I am perfectly fine with that, because Batman Forever brings a smile to my face each time I watch it.  This movie is just fun, I mean, do I really have to justify myself?  Jim Carrey as the Riddler is just a blast to watch, and I have been a huge fan of Chris O'Donnell's Robin ever since I saw this movie as a kid.  On top of all that, Batman is heroic and noble for a change, while still being a dark character on the inside, plagued by the tragedy that made him.  It's a tough balancing act of how tortured you should make superheroes versus how light they should be, and I think director Joel Schumacher and actor Val Kilmer found a nice balance with Bruce Wayne in this movie.  Not to mention, Batman Forever has Nicole Kidman as the criminal psychologist in love with both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not knowing they're one and the same.  I've long wanted to see Kidman's Dr. Chase Meridian in the comic books, but considering how a lot of fanboy's think of this movie, that will probably never happen.  But I can dream, can't I?
Rating:  10 out of 10

3.  Superman: The Movie
From the opening title sequence with John Williams' heroic fanfare blaring, to the emotional finale where Superman turns back time itself to bring Lois back to life, this is the Golden Age Superman at his Americana finest.  Director Richard Donner once said that Superman is about as American as apple pie, and I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, which is why I love the moral and patriotic honesty of Christopher Reeve as Superman.  There is a nobility to Reeve that no other actor playing a superhero has ever managed to bring to their role, and it's a nobility that I think rested within Reeve himself, as is evidenced by his immense real-life bravery following his accident to not give in to his situation and make the best of it.  I've always admired Christopher Reeve and while there will be many more actors to play Superman, and a few who will even be amazing at it, there will never be another quite like him.  Reeve is the sole reason Superman: The Movie works as well as it does, and it's why it's a genuine movie classic (of course Ned Beatty's hilarious turn as Lex Luthor's henchman, Otis, definitely helps on that score too).
Rating:  10 out of 10

2.  Batman Begins
Batman Begins very nearly secured the number one spot, but number two is not a mere consolation prize, it just speaks volumes about how many great Batman and Superman movies there have been, and there's only one that I like more than Batman Begins (I wont even deign to say better because that's an apples and oranges argument).  Batman Begins is the Batman movie that Batman fans always wanted, simply put.  Till this point, fans had never had the definitive origin story of Batman done in a movie, and that is what Batman Begins is.  It's a movie that examines the how and why Bruce Wayne becomes Batman in intricate, thorough detail, while at the same time honoring its comic book roots with the most comic bookish feel of any movie in The Dark Knight trilogy, lending itself to the finest action sequences in the whole trilogy as well.  Christian Bale was the picture perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman, and I can't say enough about Gary Oldman as the future Commissioner Gordon and Michael Caine as Alfred.  Director Christopher Nolan just got everything right with this movie, and more importantly, he made this movie fun and heroic.  There is a nobility to Christian Bale's Batman in Begins that doesn't feel quite as self-interested as his character got in the later sequels when he wallowed in self pity.  Hey,  I love The Dark Knight trilogy as it is, but I still think, had the sequels followed more closely to the tone and style of Batman Begins, the trilogy as a whole would have been even greater than it already is.  There, I said it.  Scrutinize me if you want, but that's just how I feel.

1.  Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was originally meant just to be a straight-to-video release, a feature length film in the same universe as Batman: The Animated Series from the early Nineties, however after seeing it's promise during production, Warner Bros. decided to release it theatrically and here we are.  Mask of the Phantasm is one of the lesser known Batman movies by most in the general public, and there are many that would scoff at it because it's an animated movie, but if you can put aside any animation prejudices you may have, you'll discover the most heartfelt and original Batman movie that's ever been made.  This movie tears you up on the inside, it tells the tragic love story between Bruce Wayne and Andrea Beaumont, a woman of wealth who, like Bruce, suffered the loss of her family to criminals.  It is Bruce and Andrea's romance that gives this movie its heart, and ultimately seals it's number one ranking.  This is the most I've ever cared about Batman in a movie, the most I wanted to see him succeed, and not in just stopping the bad guy, but in getting back the woman he loves, even though he's Batman, we know that can't happen.  On top of that, this movie features one of the greatest Batman villains ever in the Phantasm, a grim reaperish vigilante who kills criminals out of hatred and revenge, and whose identity will genuinely shock you (I wont spoil it if you haven't seen it).  As well, Mark Hamill voices the Joker once again in this movie and is as brilliant as he ever has been in the role.  Then there is the heartstopping sequence where Batman, having been framed for the murders committed by the Phantasm, is chased by the police to a construction site in one of the best realized action sequences in any Batman movie, period.  Still, at the end of the day it is the heart of this movie that makes it my favorite Batman movie ever made, and it's why it tops this list.


So overall, while Batman claimed the top two spots, Superman ranked pretty high having four movies in the top 10, while Batman had six.  Can I really say who truly is the king of the movies?   I don't think I can.  Both heroes have had good movies and not so good movies, so it's really just a personal preference thing when it gets right down to it.  Sure, I do like more Batman movies than Superman movies, but that is because there have been more Batman movies made.  Honestly, I'd call it a draw, but if this were like a boxing match and after fifteen rounds both fighters were still standing, Batman would win on points, purely because he's had more hits.  Still, I think Superman would win nine times out of ten in an actual fight.