I’m the Hero of the Story, Don’t Need to be Saved

On the way to work today, by the side of the highway there was a girl in a dress with her four ways on. It being 4:30 in the morning, it was not until I was significantly past that several things entered my mind. One, being that I could have stopped and offered to help. This enters my mind every time I see a car with their caution lights on by the side of the road, but even more so when it is a perceived “damsel in distress”. But in today’s day and age with cell phones, smart phones, and AAA, I feel like the majority of roadside situations are easily self-solved and don’t require the assistance of a stranger. Real life is not like For Love of the Game where strangers connect at the side of the road with the handsome car-savvy guy saving the girl from catastrophic engine failure, and the girl exclaiming “My Hero!” while driving off into the sunset with the man who could pass off for the twin of Han Solo.

My brain then went off on its usual tangential thinking spree, as I begun to ask myself who really are our heroes today? Usually they’re larger than life people such as singers, politicians, movie stars or professional athletes. Sure, there are our “everyday heroes” like firefighters, paramedics, soldiers and police officers, but there’s always that somebody we aspire to be or be like on a grander scale. It’s nice to say that our local heroes are the people we look up to the most, but when asked if you would rather be a suburban paramedic or President of the United States, I think I know what most people would choose.

Speaking of Presidents, how many people remember Bill Clinton saying that he “tried marijuana once, but did not inhale” or George W. Bush saying that he hasn’t done cocaine “in the past 15 years”? It’s laughable how much controversy and criticism these comments stirred up when our everyday heroes, like public servants, or a relative, have most likely screwed up in a similar capacity at least once in their life. Even our fictional superheroes are imperfect individuals. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is an alcoholic old man who doesn’t realize his potential to help humanity until it’s almost too late. Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a reclusive, angry, borderline bipolaric that struggles with more internal than external conflict. We idolize these people and accept them with their obvious flaws, yet we can’t hold the same standards for our higher level heroes. It’s okay for your parents to sit down and talk with you about their experience with illegal substances, and why you should avoid them, but it isn’t okay for entertainers, athletes, or politicians in the public eye to have been “caught” doing the same thing. It’s no wonder neither Clinton or Bush alluded to specifics when discussing their past; if they would have admitted to actually having human personal history they would have been tarred and feathered by the public.

But then again, I think that we need to distinguish between heroes and role models. A hero is like Hercules, a practically larger than life individual that does fantastic deeds to fame and glory. You’re wowed by their accomplishments because it’s something that you cannot do, but the truth is that they simply are not people who our lives should be patterned after. We shouldn’t try and be them because we are totally different individuals, and it isn’t worth trying to be something other than ourselves.

And that is where a role model comes into play. A role model isn’t someone whose occupation or lifestyle we covet, but rather a person we know on an intimate basis that makes the very best of the specific scenario that they are placed in. Granted, a role model is still a completely different individual than us, but we aren’t glorifying their specific personal traits that help them excel on their distinguished level. Instead we magnify and learn from their traits that are universal to humanity, such as perseverance, compassion, and courage.

To conclude, I’d like to offer up my own exemplification of a role model and what it should look like to be one. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it can be logically concluded that Jesus of Nazareth had some pretty significant teachings about humanity. In John chapter 15, he is quoted as saying “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This can be taken one of two ways, the first and usually foremost being to literally forfeit their life for the sake of their friends. Although I’m not disputing this, my interpretation has always been “to set aside one’s life for one’s friends.” To lay aside their life and their problems and obligations because a friend is in need. You want a role model? Just look for the friend that is always voluntarily there for you and you’ve found it. And in reality I think that is something vastly more tangible than what any hero could ever give us.

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DC Doesn’t Create Despicable Crap

Well, the title of my post is at least mostly true. No film studio is ever perfect, but for the most part DC comics are well represented with solid movies. The DC Film universe is somewhat less cluttered with films, and has a little bit more longevity to it than those of Marvel. Read into this however you like, it could be that DC is simply less greedy than Marvel, or that the DC universe isn’t as relatable on the big screen as the Marvel characters. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to leave out the original four Superman and Batman movies. What makes super hero movies real is the quality of the effects to supplement the story. And, as beloved as those movies may be to some people, if you go back and watch them today without a sentimental connection, the effects and production value seem quite silly. To enlarge the DC film universe a little more, however, I am including those DC graphic novel imprints that were made into movies. Now, to begin, we’ll pick up with DC’s movies post-1997, after two of their arguably worst movies ever, Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel and George Clooney’s nipple-suited Batman and Robin.

Such a horrid movie.

Road To Perdition (2002) – If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and find a stream or copy of it somewhere when you have some free time. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Stanley Tucci, this film is a fantastic 1930s gangster period piece that follows a former mob enforcer in his revenge path against a mobster who killed his family. Hanks and Newman give especially great acting performances, and cinematographer Conrad Hall won a posthumous Academy Award for the movie’s cinematography.  7/10

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – I almost equate this movie to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I want so badly to like it a lot. And it starts out really well, and stars Sean Connery, so about a third of the way through I’m really excited about where it’s all going. And then, things just start getting weird when they start taking the whole fantasy part of the League a little too far. Then characters start acting without motivation, and general lunacy and chaos descends upon the plot. What could have been a really cool action movie with some interesting characters forming the League, turns out into a disappointing strange mess. 4/10

Catwoman (2004) – This is actually a really really really really really bad movie. I won’t waste my time explaining why, because the one time I watched it I shut it off about twenty minutes in. At least Halle Berry is attractive, which saves this from a goose egg. 0.5/10

Constantine (2005) – Honestly, I don’t mind this movie a whole lot. It’s one of Keanu Reeves (John Constantine) better roles, as he seems pretty fit to play Messianic roles rather well. The movie is filled with religious symbolism and has a rather complicated plot filled with inconsistencies and holes, but at the very least this movie makes you think, especially if you have religious beliefs. It’s fun to watch and talk about once, but that’s about it. 5.5/10

A History of Violence (2005) – Just like Road to Perdition, this is an oft forgotten DC graphic novel movie adaptation that is one to not miss. Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) stars as a small town local restaurant owner who in defense of his employees kills to robbers who hold up the place. As his fame grows, a big city mobster (Ed Harris) comes to town stalking him and his family, claiming that Mortensen’s character is actually a gangster with big city ties from years ago. He then has to face the accusations while dealing with the growing tension and newfound popularity at home, and his questionable past. Maria Bello and William Hurt also co-star in an Academy Award nominated screenplay in which everything is so well done that it all seems real, where you can relate to the characters and their trials. Because so few people have seen it, I can’t really say a whole lot more without ruining the plot, so take my advice and find a venue to watch it if possible. 8.5/10

Batman Begins (2005) – This is where DC starts getting their ball rolling. With bringing in Christopher Nolan to direct, Batman has been changed forever thanks to this realistic, gritty reboot of the popular caped crusader. Nolan’s cast is spot on, with Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Katie Holmes (love interest Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Lt. James Gordon), and Liam Neeson (villain Ra’s al Ghul) starring. This movie spawned the idea of series rebooting, as Nolan did this film so well after the 1997 disaster of Batman and Robin. Right up there with 2008’s Iron Man, this is one of the, if not the best superhero origin stories ever put onto the big screen. Chances are that you have seen this movie and most of its sequels, so you know how good it is. The only criticism I can think of is that I would have liked to see more of a romantic subplot and attachment built up between Bale and Holmes’ characters, which is the only place this movie really falls short at. 8.5/10

The Dark Knight (2008) – The best superhero movie franchise just keeps getting better with this installment. With Katie Holmes being replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the only possible acting weakness has been removed. Bringing in Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two Face, Ledger steals the show with his character, leaving what are great performances by the rest of the cast, in the dust with the audience begging for more of the Joker at each go-around. A seamless plot chronicling Batman’s psychological battle with the Joker, this movie is astoundingly good. If you haven’t seen it, please come up from whatever rock you live underneath and steal a DVD player and a copy of this movie if you have to. Words really do not do this film justice, but I’ll attempt to use numbers to demonstrate how good it is. 10/10

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend, Tom Hardy is brought on to play the enormous villain Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as the police officer John Blake, and Anne Hathaway is cast as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Bale) has hung up his cape and cowl, and retired from his role as Batman. He lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in his manor, holed up to live a secluded life. It isn’t until the international terrorist Bane (Hardy) comes to Gotham City that Wayne is forced to take up his mantle once more and face a foe who at least equals his physical prowess. Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt, Caine, Morgan Freeman (Wayne Enterprises tech expert Lucius Fox), and Marion Cotillard form an ensemble cast to bring about the conclusion of the series. Unfortunately, this movie is the most marred with plot holes and inconsistencies, and leaves a few questions at the end. However, the entire political atmosphere created by director Christopher Nolan paints a fascinating scene in which most of the plot holes end up being forgivable. Overall, a fantastic movie, yet one that could not live up to its predecessor and is about on par with the first series installment. 8.5/10

the dark knight rises

V for Vendetta (2005)- Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Next to The Dark Knight series and Watchmen, this is DC’s best movie. An action/political drama, this film has the best entire cast of any movie save The Dark Knight or Man of Steel. Hugo Weaving stars as the titular masked character, the outcast vigilante known simply as V. In near futuristic Great Britain, following the collapse of most ordered governments due to disease and war, England has been strengthened but also taken over by the government who now runs things in a Nazi-esque dictatorial style. Weaving plays the outlaw who attempts to restore freedom to the people and reveal the true nature of the forming of the dictatorship by exposing its horrific origins and past. Natalie Portman co-stars, feeding off Weaving’s fantastic performance and putting on a good show of her own as Evey Hammond, a British Television Network employee with her own torrid past that is used in conjunction with Weaving to bring about change in the fascist state. Stephen Rea almost steals the show with an amazing acting job as the Inspector tasked with hunting down V, as he wavers on the line of doing his job and doing what he knows to be morally right. John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Rupert Graves, and Tim Pigott-Smith are also featured, finishing out what is a great working cast. A great detective and political story, this is a must-see for anyone with any sort of natural intelligence. 9/10

Superman Returns (2006) – Personally, I really disliked this movie. I love Kevin Spacey, but not a bald Kevin Spacey. I like Superman as a hero, but not when this movie picks up from after the second Superman movie which was released 30 years prior and nobody from my generation is going to remember. I also just don’t like anyone else in the cast, apart from Kevin Spacey. It’s a boring, vanilla cast with a boring, vanilla story, that when it put me to sleep, it was the best thing to happen to me all movie long. I did stay awake enough to see that the plot was pretty dumb with Spacey’s Lex Luthor attempting to create a continent out of kryptonite and become a real estate mogul. That’s such a cool movie premise (sarcasm). 4/10

Stardust (2007) – I confess, I didn’t see this movie, nor did I have any plans to at all when it was released. Reading its synopsis now, ehhhh………. I like Matthew Vaughn (X-Men First Class, Kick-Ass) who directs, but a romance-fantasy film just wasn’t appealing when I was 16. If it’s on Netflix, I’ll give it a chance. The late great Roger Ebert gave it a 2.5/4 and called it “fun”, so I’ll say……6.5/10

Watchmen (2008) – This epic I have to watch every year to remind myself of how good most of it is. Taking place in an alternate-reality 1985, the movie starts with the masked vigilante The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) being killed by an unknown foe. The so-called Watchmen superhero group made up of various masked vigilantes has recently been outlawed by third term President Nixon as the United States and USSR are on the brink of nuclear holocaust. The film follows the main character Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley in an amazing acting job), a psychopathic vigilante who tries to find out what is happening to masked heroes and why The Comedian was killed. The movie follows typical Zack Snyder non-linear storytelling style which works out perfectly in this film. Not for those with weak stomachs, this movie has very well done stylized action and can be rather gory. Although not a Hollywood A-List cast, every single cast member from Matthew Goode to Malin Akerman delivers big in their roles and creates a fascinating and very well done adaptation of the famous graphic novel on realistic heroes. It’s an entertaining and thought provoking tale that although a few rather awkward sex scenes and some blue penis on display, makes for a fantastic film. 8.5/10

The Spirit (2008) – Another movie I must admit that I haven’t seen, it’s apparently a good thing that I’ve skipped over it. It’s said that the cinematography is akin to Sin City and pretty gorgeous, but everything else in the movie aside from Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes being in it is awful. I’ll buy that. One point each for hot actresses, and one for cinematography like Sin City. 3/10

The Losers (2010) – The last DC film that I have not seen, but I rather want to. It barely made more than its $25 million budget, but still starts Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Chris Evans (Captain America). Described as an A-Team of sorts, it is said to be full of action movie clichés and is big, loud, noisy, dumb fun. Which, I can live with on occasion. 5/10

Jonah Hex (2010) – Jonah Hex was billed to be an awesome western shoot em’ up with Megan Fox being a babe on the side, and the ultimate dude flick. In reality, it turned out to be the ultimate idiot movie that actually was painful to watch. Thankfully, including the credits, it was only 81 minutes long. I was ready to be put out of my misery far before then however. 0.5/10

RED (2010) – I didn’t enjoy this movie. That being said, I didn’t hate it. I also don’t care to synopsize it because I was primarily bored by everything that happened in it. Normally, I like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman movies. Something just doesn’t gel in this one for me though. It’s like throwing firecrackers down groundhog holes. It’s exploding, loud, and occasionally funny. But after nothing really happens for about ten minutes, I move on with my life. 5.5/10

Green Lantern (2011) – Green Lantern is not as bad as some people bill it. That being said, it’s also simply just not a good movie. There’s wayyyyyyyyy too much CGI, the villain is idiotic, and the cast is pretty bad. I think that Ryan Reynolds could conceivably be Hal Jordan, and he could do a fine job as the protagonist, but he’s just weighted down by poor writing and too much unrealistic razzle-dazzle. The hope for this movie coming in would be that it could potentially be a Justice League origin movie, which instead turned super-messy with special effects and lost all semblances of reality. My advice for the series is to create a sequel more grounded in reality that’s grittier and more realistic, and keep both Reynolds and Blake Lively on the cast, while forgetting pretty much everything else that happened in the first film. 4/10

Man of Steel (2013) – This is the Superman reboot and story that everyone has been waiting for. With Zack Snyder at the helm directing, this fantastic cast of Henry Cavill (Immortals, now playing Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), and Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) puts together the darkest, yet most realistic take on Superman yet. With Snyder’s nonlinear directing style, this movie shows Clark Kent/Kal-El coming to Earth and having trouble dealing with his non-human powers on a very human level. With General Zod arriving on Earth in search of Kal, it’s up to Clark to become who he was sent and born to be to stop the aliens from punishing humanity for hiding Kal from Zod. Very well done acting, directing, and action wise, the script could be a little better with some actual attempts at humor (it’s a movie that might take itself too seriously), and the large-scale destruction we see in Metropolis is a little bit too much to believe. Not a perfect movie by all means, but a very good one and a great reboot for the series. 8/10

Red 2 (2013) – What reason would I have to pay money or even time to go see this? ????/10

Part of the reason for DC’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have created several movies based on graphic novels instead of a series of comics. There’s less to draw on for a graphic novel, and more of a linear story to be told than the masses of comics and alternate universes and characters that are in play when we venture into comic book territory. Although the film branch of DC is without a doubt without its faults, it seems that the movies they create are designed to do more than just make money. They retain good actors and directors for successful franchises (see Snyder and Nolan), and focus on the cast, the story, and the realistic nature of how it gets conveyed to the audience. The future of DC film is unknown though, as the only established movie they have concretely on tap is a Man of Steel sequel that will introduce Batman into the Superman universe, which will likely be the prelude to a future Justice League movie. Rumor has it that Christian Bale and the rest of The Dark Knight series cast will not stay on for their roles, which would be a true shame not just for the audience but for the bean counters at DC. Honestly, I do not care how they explain it, but Christian Bale needs to play Batman and the rest of the universe needs to translate over with Man of Steel. There simply is no replacement for Christopher Nolan’s series. If DC were Marvel, there would already be a Batman reboot in place so they could make even more cash out of all the movies to follow. Let us hope that DC continues to stay the course and invoke (mostly) well done movies instead of following the Marvel path to greed.

dclogo

Marvel Studios Knows How to Produce Straight Up Garbage (and a few good movies too)

Nowadays, movies based on comic books are all the rage. They make ridiculous sums of money, spawn multiple sequels, and are fun to watch not just from a nerd’s perspective. As far as blockbusters go, for about 30 years comic book movies were limited to the two main and well known heroes; Superman and Batman. DC Comics ruled the box office (if not necessarily the critics) through Superman and its two sequels, and then Batman and the three that followed it (even the atrocious Batman and Robin made nearly twice its budget). It wasn’t until Marvel Studios released Blade, to moderate success, that it was realized that mainstream superheroes weren’t the only ones that could cash in big at the box office.

This week, I will be going through the films that Marvel has released, whereas next week, I’ll journey through those that DC has made. In the week to follow that, I’ll compare the merits of the two and through comparing and contrasting, proclaim which company creates the best films out of their comics.

marvel

Before I dive into things, I will first say that I am not by any means a comic book nerd. To me, it’s like Magic the Gathering. I have the wherewithal to understand and communicate intelligently about the material; I just simply do not care enough to submerge myself into that sect of culture. What I do know about the source material of the films comes directly from Wikipedia and Wikipedia alone, as I have never once opened a comic book in my life. Comic books do have some great ideas for movies that translate over very well, but at the same time they also have some terrible ideas that are designed simply for selling more comic books (see DC’s infinite amount of alternate universes). I will judge a comic book superhero film on how it takes the good ideas from the source material, and translates it into a movie. With that being said, let us delve into Marvel and the films that they have created, and their merits as comics displayed on the big screen.

Blade (1998): The first film that Marvel developed, this movie spawned the realization that lesser known heroes could make bank for studios, seeing as it made triple its budget. All you need to know now is that it’s been free to watch on Netflix Instant Streaming for years now, and that Wesley Snipes went to jail for tax evasion. That should probably tell you something. 5/10

Blade II (2002): I saw this, and thought DEL TORRRRRRO (Guillermo Del Toro directs) and imagined it had possibilities. But this was pre-Pan’s Labyrinth, he hadn’t hit his rhythm yet. And it’s still Wesley Snipes. And more mindless entertainment, hunting vampires like the Black Panther he is. Whatever.4.5/10

Blade Trinity (2004): Even more mindless, less engaging, less rhythm, and more ridiculous fight scenes than the predecessors. In other words, I’ve never watched it all the way through, but from what I saw… 3/10

X-Men (2000): To be honest, X-Men was a rather aggressive and progressive choice for Marvel to make into film right out of the gate. Its reception at the box office demonstrated not only the power of nerds to make loads of cash from a comic book, but the readiness of the American public to accept these types of movies. X-Men especially, with its liberal ideas of universal acceptance and tolerance for all humans, was a neat allegory to choose off the bat. It helped that the cast was headlined by quality actors such as Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, and Hugh Jackman. The first movie, although not fantastic, is a solid film, amplified by director Bryan Singer’s enthusiasm to direct a movie based on tolerance. For its time, this is not a bad movie. 6.5/10

X2 (2003): One of the few sequels ever that is actually better than its predecessor, X2 adds Brian Cox to the cast to play the main villain, Colonel William Stryker. We still follow Wolverine (Jackman), but not as much as in the first movie, as in this one he has a personal connection with Stryker and a score to settle, even though he doesn’t exactly know why.  Stryker is driven by personal tragedy to attempt to destroy all mutants, and uses the imprisoned Magneto (McKellan) captured from the previous film to find more information on Professor X’s school.  Cox’s performance makes this movie that much better, and the fact that the enemies of the previous movie (Magneto and Xavier) are forced to work together to defeat the government goons, increases the chemistry of the film, as there are multiple betrayals throughout, creating interesting plot twists. With smarter action, better acting, and less of Rogue (Anna Paquin), this movie ends emotionally as it actually attaches you to the characters and plot. 8.3/10

X3 Last Stand (2006): Meh. This movie is simply okay, at its best. Introducing a kaboodle of new mutants, the main promise of this movie is that it is simply the end, to be fought in one giant battle of bad mutants vs. good mutants and the humans the good guys are trying to protect. The Wolverine and Jean/Phoenix relationship gets weird and the audience actually doesn’t care about it, plus Professor X takes one for the team like a boss, yet somehow manages to survive in the post-credits scene. There’s the politics of a “cure” for mutantcy (yes, I’m creating this word), and California landmarks littered about in the final fight.  It’s a convoluted mess and an unfortunate ending for the original “trilogy” that was given fresh life in the second act. 5.5/10

X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009): Yikes. I really dislike this movie. Stupid action, bad actors (when will.i.am is your second best actor in the movie, you know there’s problems), bad plot, and a destruction of the source material for the character of Deadpool, this movie is ludicrous, loud, and downright bad. As hard as Hugh Jackman tries, he can’t save this movie from itself. I also really hate Liev Schreiber as an actor because he’s ugly and annoying, and to make it worse the character of Sabertooth is portrayed downright stupidly. Danny Huston totally butchers the character of Stryker, portrayed so well in X2 by Brian Cox. This movie wasn’t worth the four dollars I paid for its DVD. 3/10

X-Men First Class (2011): This is how you do a reboot. Or, as the upcoming X-Men Days of Future Past demonstrates, perhaps not quite as much a reboot as we would like to think. This movie combines quality acting, directing, action, and 1960s politics all into one movie, which is based on the premise of showing how the mutants first came together to form Professor Xavier’s school. With James McAvoy (Professor Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) forming the frontline starring cast, First Class is the best X-Men movie yet. 9/10

firstclass

Spider-Man (2002): The thing I love about spider-man is that he’s an underdog. He’s just a nerdy loser kid, who wants nothing more than to be something other than just a wallflower. And yet, when he obtains his superpowers, he’s still outgunned by the baddies, and doesn’t have the confidence of other superheroes as he is still simply a kid who has to keep his identity secret. That’s why this movie works so well. It’s awkward, and you can relate to Peter Parker (Tobey MaGuire) as he blows every single chance he has to express himself to the girl of his dreams, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). This movie is an example of one that takes more liberties from the source material, yet does it very well. He’s awkward with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), because he had a hand in his Uncle Ben’s (Cliff Robertson) death and only he knows it, he’s awkward with his best friend (James Franco), because his father (Willem Dafoe) is actually the villain, and he’s awkward with his crush, because he simply isn’t used to being noticed by girls or even talking with them, not to mention his superhero secret. He really is only at his confident home when behind the eyes of the mask, and we spend the movie rooting for him to figure out how to blend both. He doesn’t get it right, but he manages to dispatch the Green Goblin (Dafoe) and keep those that he loves safe. Good action, good directing, pretty good acting. 7.2/10

Spider-Man 2 (2004) : Another of the few sequels that is better than the first installment, Spider-Man 2 delivers with Peter Parker trying to balance being a superhero, going to college, working a job, living by himself, and attempting to have a social life. In case you’ve never done any of the former, take out being a superhero and there’s still a very, very difficult task on hand. And so far, it seems that being a superhero is first and foremost on his to-do list, as he is failing his class at school, getting fired from his job, and can’t make a simple appointment to see MJ’s Broadway performance, as she’s made it big. To make matters worse, she’s had enough with Peter’s wishy-washy diddling around and has a steady boyfriend-turned-fiancée, who happens to be the son of Parker’s boss at The Daily Bugle (JK Simmons). It isn’t until the villain of the film, Dr. Otto Octavious (or Doc Ock, played wonderfully by Alfred Molina) combines most of the problems in Peter’s life into a mano y mano Boss Battle that he gets his life straightened out. Not everything is perfect though, and the movie ends with Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborne (Franco) discovering his father’s secret Green Goblin workshop. Simmons continues his 100% perfect portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson, the editor of The Daily Bugle where Peter is an occasional photographer. Great action, soundtrack, directing, conflict, and improved acting upon the first. 8.5/10

Spider-Man 3 (2007): Let’s put it this way. I liked this movie when I was 16. Now, I don’t like it so much. Too many villains that include, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Venom (Topher Grace),  the space parasite, and at one point, James Franco’s Chrome Goblin. The plot is too messy and silly, and filled with too many distractions that you have to question about halfway through what is happening in the movie, and how on earth it’s all going to end. The bright spots in this movie are Bryce Dallas Howard’s Gwen Stacy (ridiculously good looking as a blonde), the black spidey-suit and evil confidence Spider-Man (not Parker, his confidence is just stupid) inherits from it, and the final superhero tag-team of Franco’s Goblin and Parker’s Spider-Man. For some reason, it seemed that director Sam Raimi wanted to make MaGuire’s character too over-the-top in many scenes, and he decided to confuse the audience with the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane (who is basically an afterthought in this heap).  The movie ends just about as muddled as it began, with several characters dead, and the relationship between Parker and MJ splintered. This film is an example of how to really screw up the source material’s inspiration. I’m not really sure where Marvel wanted to go after this movie, but I can’t say any source of direction throughout was clear. A reboot though, x years after, just seems a little ridiculous. 5/10

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): I wanted to love this movie so much. I liked the cast. I liked the fact they were trying to stay true to the source material. I loved the director (Marc Webb) and his only other movie at that point (500 Days of Summer). I didn’t exactly like the villain they picked (Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, or the Lizard), but Ifans, I hoped, was stellar enough to pull through despite that. And then, I watched the movie. I was disappointed, but it wasn’t a terrible movie. Better than Spider-Man 3, and about on par with the first Spider-Man, I’ll buy this movie when it’s $5. I did not like the fact that they killed off Captain Stacy (the only other person to know that Peter Parker was Spider-Man), or the fact that it doesn’t seem like Parker (Andrew Garfield) really cared about keeping his identity secret, which was what I felt made the conflicts in the first movie so good. What if Captain Stacy (father of main love interest Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone), hadn’t died, and forbade his daughter from seeing Parker based on the dangers that Spider-Man is bound to bring? Wouldn’t that create much more interesting conflict for the second film, and for the remainder of the rest of the current one? That aside, I didn’t like the Lizard as a villain, nor did I like how muddled the transformation of Peter Parker into Spider-Man was. Not a bad movie, but one that should have been better, and wasn’t necessary as a reboot in the first place. 6.8/10

Elektra (2005): All I got out of this movie was “Wow, Jennifer Garner is hot.” I also just don’t respect female superheroes. 1/10

all the good things about this movie are in this picture

all the good things about this movie are in this picture

Fantastic Four (2005): It has Chris Evans and Jessica Alba in it as eye candy. This was the movie you took your high school girlfriend to, to make out in, because the theater was guaranteed to be empty and there were attractive actors for both parties involved. 3/10

Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007): I actually really liked Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom in this movie! Beyond that, it’s basically the same thing as the first one. It’s a special effect movie, and that’s about it. Another unnecessary Marvel sequel. 3/10

The Punisher (2004): A giant steaming pile of dog turds of a movie. I was 12 when I first saw the trailer for it, and I knew it was going to be utter junk as a pre-teen.1/10

Punisher War Zone (2008): There’s a legitimate this reason this movie made less than a third of its $35 million budget. I shouldn’t be reviewing it because I didn’t see it, but on that pathetic fact alone…..0/10

Ghost Rider (2007): Why anyone who didn’t have a crush (man or regular) on Nic Cage would go see this movie, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because their IQ is in the double digits. If your answer is “Eva Mendes”, well, fair enough. You shouldn’t have to pay for that though, because they should pay you to see this debacle. 2/10

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (2012): I read somewhere that a critic said this movie made its predecessor seem like The Dark Knight. Yikes. 0/10 (any attractive actresses would have earned this an extra half point, but nope)

The Incredible Hulk (2008): I really liked this movie. Although I missed out on it in theaters even when told that it fit into the Iron Man universe, when I finally caught it I fell in love. Edward Norton is the PERFECT (sorry Mark Ruffalo) Dr. Bruce Banner. He actually appears to be a legitimate scientist, is a pretty passive person, and in that Ed Norton manner is just a soft spoken easily liked guy who just wants to be normal. It helps that he’s in love with one of the most gorgeous women to walk the planet in Dr. Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) who has secretly been hoping for his return from exile one day. Complete the cast with Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Samuel Sterns and William Hurt as General Ross, and this movie has a solid, talented group to portray its characters. The action is on point, the story keeps you compelled, and it’s cool to see how, at this point in time, it fit into the Iron Man universe. My only (impossible) hope is that Marvel learns to reuse villains not named Loki, because Roth is a very good actor. 8.5/10

Iron Man (2008): There isn’t much to say about this movie, because if you’ve watched it, you know how good it really is. Just a great film overall, when I was 17 I went to see it in theaters on three separate occasions, and loved it each time. Robert Downey Jr. plays a fantastic Tony Stark, and the action, acting, soundtrack and plot are very well done. Terrence Howard is a perfect Lt. Colonel James Rhodes, and Gwenyth Paltrow seems practically born to play Pepper Potts. And with The Dude (Jeff Bridges playing Obidiah Stane) as the antagonist, Jon Favreau assembles a great team and puts together one of the best superhero movies of all time. Watching it again recently, the only bone I have to pick is the fact that some of the survivals that Stark pulls off in the desert are completely unrealistic and ridiculous for a movie that prides itself in being grounded in a large semblance of reality. This is the best movie Marvel has put together outside of its ensemble cast in The Avengers. 9/10

Iron Man 2 (2010): I was so excited for the sequel, and the trailers had me pumped up. AC/DC was doing the soundtrack, Sam Rockwell was in it, and they were moving forward with teasers for The Avengers team assembling. And then, I saw the movie. I liked it, but walked away feeling a little bit let down. There were some awesome moments, don’t get me wrong, but the whole movie it felt like Iron Man wasn’t in danger. Plus, because of Marvel and their cheapskate games, they replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Colonel Rhodes. I love Don Cheadle to death, but he’s simply not Terrence Howard who played the role so much better in the first one. Cheadle is more of a dramatic actor, unlike Howard who is more of a badass, which suits the role much better as Rhodes/War Machine. In addition, they made Sam Rockwell’s character a little too smarmy for me, which although I have come to like what they have done, I would rather him be someone that could actually go toe to toe with Stark in everything he does. Mickey Rourke’s character as the main villain was simply okay, I thought he should have been more of a wrecking ball that can truly dismantle Iron Man than a scientist who creates a bunch of useless drones. However, having Scarlett Johansson in a skintight suit for part of the movie is never a bad thing. It’s a fun movie, but not a great one. 7.5/10

Iron Man 3 (2013): Dear Lord, they should’ve kept Jon Favreau on to direct, as he did the first two. This movie is simply an absolute mess. Although I like the Lethal Weapon series and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Shane Black really does not fit in here as director well. When a movie is released in the spring or summer, unless it portrays a time period of over six months, I want the setting to be in warm weather. Don’t show me snow and Christmas when the movie comes out in May, that simply takes away from the realism to me. Not just that, but the movie is riddled with plot holes and ruins several great opportunities at expansion in the Marvel universe. The character of the Mandarin is utterly ruined, the actual villain is about as silly as a Fantastic Four movie, and they single handedly destroy War Machine and Iron Patriot in one fell swoop. Here is an instance where a movie takes good source material and bludgeons it to death. In the comics, Iron Patriot is a suit of armor based on the technology of Captain America’s shield and designed by Norman Osborne (helllllooo, bridge to Spider-Man series). In the movie, it’s simply War Machine redecorated and renamed based on a test group survey. Well done, movie writers. I could list the continuing faults of this movie for another thousand or so words, but instead I will simply give it a 4/10.

Thor (2011): It is fun to watch, and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is ridiculously ripped and makes ladies swoon, but the acting and some of the finer points is where this movie takes its hits. Thor’s human love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has an utterly unconvincing relationship with the title character, and it seems like Portman’s acting ability isn’t very solid when she can’t be buoyed by better actors around here. She was great in V for Vendetta, which had an All-Star cast, but pathetic in Star Wars where she mostly played opposite Hayden Christensen, who acts about as well as a child. Also, in keeping with the comics and mythology, the Asgardians were all Aryan, which they were not in the film. I understand you need some type of diversity, or at least you think you do, but this change simply was unnecessary. Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s adopted brother/main antagonist, is the main highlight of this movie, and his acting and character are both very well done. Definitely the weakest movie of the Avengers Phase One movies though. 6.8/10

Captain America The First Avenger (2011): Some people didn’t like this movie because they say it’s boring and nothing really happens. I say, shut up, it’s a great story with a great cast about a kid with great moral standing becoming what he deserves and being able to be a positive influence on those around him. What I love about Captain America is that his signature accessory is his shield. Unlike most other superheroes, he’s a defense first, don’t throw the first punch kind of guy. When brought to Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), he is asked what makes him special, why he is the one to bring down Schmidt’s HYDRA/Nazi sect. To which Steve Rogers (Captain America, played by Chris Evans) replies, “Nothing, I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” It’s this humbleness and “why can’t we all just be friends” attitude that makes him such a likeable character. With the support of Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Stan, and Stanley Tucci, this is another underrated cast that comes through in spades. The film also presents a good WW2 vibe, and although can’t really be classified as a war movie, demonstrates a different side of war movies, such as the volunteering and politics involved in bond sales at home. The score sets the tone rather well to boot, and has a good 1940s feel to it. Joe Johnston solidly directs, with a solid, if not predictable plot, this is the perfect movie to be a set up for The Avengers and is one of Marvel’s best yet. 8.5/10

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): And finally, the film with all the acclaimed heroes in it. You’ve all seen it. You know how good it is. From Thor duking it out with Iron Man in the woods, to Captain America directing police and superhero traffic in the streets of NYC, to the Hulk thrashing Loki around like a rag doll, there’s a reason this movie is so popular and made so much money. The A-List superheroes gel well together (at least, eventually), in a well written, well directed epic put together by director Joss Whedon. My only issues with it are the overuse of CGI as the villainous army of Chitari, and the fact that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) still seems rather lame. His only BA moment was shooting down a jet fighter with an RPG off the deck of his ship, and it would’ve been even cooler if he knocked it out of midair from downtown. They need to unleash the Jules Winnfield version of Samuel L into Nick Fury, and make him an actually interesting character. My final problem is the absence of Edward Norton thanks to the cheapness of Marvel Studios. Although Mark Ruffalo puts in a great performance as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, he simply is not Edward Norton who absolutely nailed the role in The Incredible Hulk. You could make more money with Norton in the role simply because as an A-Lister, he could spawn more standalone sequels and would be well worth the extra pay. That way you could reuse Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, and the rest of the cast from the original. As it stands though, thanks to Kevin Feige, the producer over at Marvel Studios, we’ll never see that come to fruition. The “others” in the cast, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov/The Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye round out the star-studded cast, even if the “Non Tier – 1” heroes don’t put in as good performances. Thanks to The Avengers, Iron Man 3 made a stupid amount of money despite how terrible and ruinous it was. Hopefully, the standards of quality set forth by Whedon  carry over to The Avengers 2 which is currently in pre-production. 9.5/10

Marvel Studios have put together some fantastic films, there can be no doubt. But, they’ve also put forward some truly dreadful ones. This, added to their standard of being cheap, may be their downfall. An Iron Man series with Terrence Howard and an Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton would have reaped major rewards for the company, who merely refused to enter into negotiations when quality actors asked for more money. One of the biggest things with Marvel, and one of their downfalls, is their contracts. They contract actors and actresses for “X” amount of films. And, when contracted, if the movies do great box-office wise, the actors will feel inclined to ask for a raise, in which the studio in all their contractual powers has every right to deny them their penance. This will cause actors to be upset with the company, and perhaps not renew their contracts when the time comes, either creating voids in roles or having to replace actors, which completely alters the movies. Instead of actors wanting to come back and asking to return to such a healthy project and work environment, they are turned down and away from working with them. For Marvel’s sake, I only hope that they pay the actors their due. Or else, without the right crew to work the right movies, Marvel has shown through a lot of the awful bombs they’ve forced through theaters, that they’re perfectly capable of ruining a franchise with one single film.

And it’s not just the actors, but the directors as well.  Think about all the great franchises you know. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. The Dark Knight Trilogy. Back to the Future. Indiana Jones. The Hangover. Heck, Tranformers, even. They all share one common thread, that being that throughout the series the director stays constant. Sure, there are some franchises such as James Bond and Harry Potter that have different directors, but there are also some pretty bad and varying films all around those series. Bringing in a different director creates a whole different feel and atmosphere for each movie. For instance, you could tell that Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were directed by someone different that Iron Man 3. And Marvel, being the cheapskates they are, have only had once had director consistency in movies that were produced solely by them (they don’t solely own the rights to X-Men or Spider-Man). The reason they switched it up was probably because Shane Black was cheaper and did what the production studio wanted, rather than Jon Favreau who probably had actual ideas of his own (like making a cohesive and sensical movie). What they cared about is who can fast-track the next sequel and bring in as much cash as humanly possible. That recipe doesn’t make for quality films, it simply makes for big business.

This year, Marvel has two more works coming out, in The Wolverine and Thor: The Dark World. I predict that the former will be awful, while the latter is more of an unknown, and could go either way. Regardless, in typical Marvel fashion, I expect both films to rake in a stupid amount of cash that they probably do not deserve.  Next week, we will see how DC handles matters in their filmsphere, and if they know how to manage and create movies better than Marvel Studios.

Playing Pool and Wild Darts, Video Games

Yes, I stole the title of this post from the lyrics of a Lana Del Rey song. No, I don’t care, it seems to fit perfectly.

Everything in this category archive will be primarily written by myself, with the others sprinkling in their bits of knowledge where they see fit. These posts are going to not just encompass video games, but any type of game that’s not a “sport” and we feel like covering. Maybe we will discuss how Monopoly Jr. skewed our perception of reality, or how the fishing system of Oregon Trail 5 is the most flawed thing on the face of the planet.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’re going to skip over console gaming either. As a longtime Xbox owner, I will definitely be highlighting whatever news and major releases are made available over the summer months, although I don’t expect to personally get around to a brand new release review until Grand Theft Auto 5 in the early fall. I plan on buying the Xbox One at some point as well, putting me in what seems to be the minority for the next generation of gaming consoles, but I have my reasoning (Halo).

But not to fret PlayStation fans, our resident expert Thurston Howell will be covering any Sony exclusives and news, along with his argument on why he will eventually be buying the PS4 as well.

I will say a few things on games that I will not be covering at all. Any $60 sports game roster update I am without a doubt personally skipping over, although one of my co-writers may choose to waste their time in such endeavours. Also, if the main characters of the game look like they could star in a hentai film, there isn’t a chance I am about it. Sorry Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Fable, and Tekken lovers, but those games are simply not up my alley, and mostly not on Xbox, so do not be expecting any reviews or news about things that I just don’t care about.

Other than that though, I will without a doubt be reviewing some major fall releases, such as Batman Arkham Origins, the aforementioned GTA V, and Assassin’s Creed IV. Shortly after those releases will be when the brand new consoles will drop, and I will be taking a look at each one and its merits based on what it actually is at that time, instead of mere speculation. Until then, I plan on from time to time throwing in a Saturday Afternoon Flashback, which is bringing up an older game that I used to play, and giving it a little bit of a rehash playthrough and review in comparison to how I recalled it as a kid. Mostly anything is fair game in this feature, from DOS Shell games, to the Commodore 64, all the way up to Playstation 2 and Parcheesi. Just keep checking back, and I am sure that once we get the ball rolling I will definitely be posting whenever I have the chance.