Top 10 Screen Performances

The Hauer Brothers are back at it again! Our ranking posts seem endless by now, don’t you think?

I recently had an idea which, at the time, thought would be fun and easy.  I was severely mistaken. I suggested to Ian that we do a ranking of top performances; excluding favorite actors and characters as best we could, making a blog post purely subjective.  Trying to rank these outstanding performances was brutal, to be sure, but at some point enough’s enough, and this is the list I’m settling with for the time being (although I will hear your criticism later and wrestle with my constantly changing opinion later).  Ian makes a better argument for our subjectively on his blog post here, but I feel I need to emphasize that these are “favorite” performances and not “best” performances.

For example, the majority would call Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Reverent his best on screen performance–I however think his performance in Django Unchained is better.  To each his or her own.

Before we begin, I’m going to warn you ahead of time not to expect Heath Ledger’s Joker performance on this list.  I see that performance on every list, and while I agree that it is phenomenal, I’m choosing not to include it for the sake that he is given credit enough elsewhere.  We could write an entire blog post (and more) on the big and little things that make his Joker so good, but forgive me for trying to dig deep and find you some gems you may or may not have seen before (or maybe simply forgotten).

This is including the big screen and television.  I tried to find a reasonably clip attached to each actor.  Let’s begin…

10 – CHRISTOPH WALTZ as Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Film Title: Inglourious Basterds

I don’t like this movie. I just…don’t. EXCEPT for Waltz.  The first twenty minutes of the movie opens with a mesmerizing performance from the German actor, playing courteous, self-serving, cunning, and murderous Hans Landa. Relishing in a part that, for some, seems unplayable, Waltz caught the attention of Hollywood in this Tarantino flick, and has since been prospering on the big screen.  His Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor was well deserved.  I’m confident that when I eventually go back and watch this miss-match of a movie, it will whole-heartedly be for Waltz.

9 – PAUL NEWMAN as John Rooney (Road to Perdition)

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Road to Perdition is one of my favorite gangster movies, and one of the factors that make it so is Paul Newman.  He plays the crusty old Irish mob boss, growling his laments that feed the themes and aura of the story. I don’t want to sound like I’m only lost in his character, because this blog post is designed to distinguish performances. There’s something about Newman in this that feels so right.  While you can imagine a more over-the-top performance if the role had been cast with powerhouses like Pacino or De Niro, Newman’s interpretation of John Rooney’s weariness and anger is subtle, yet he finds the time and place to show his ferociousness.  It’s probably Newman’s most farsighted performances.

8 – BILLY BOB THORNTON as Lorne Malvo (Fargo, Season 1)

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First off, I can’t believe Billy Bob is being written onto my list.  Not up until this show would I ever consider him on any list.  But it would be wrong to look over his work as Lorne Malvo (also known as Mephistopheles) in the FX’s sucker-punch season of Fargo—a show we all initially assumed would be a disaster.  Thornton’s contribution to the part didn’t involve him physically altering his body or learning a tricky dialect—what impresses me about his performance is how magnetic he is throughout the entirety of the season.  The plot is engaging to be sure, and the other performances in the show are admirable, but there is something about Billy Bob that made me hold my breath for his next scene.  This entry on the list my not be as satisfying to you because Yours Truly isn’t entirely certain what makes Thornton so good in this show.  There’s a ton of great scenes in the show, but try this one out here.

7 – ANNE HATHAWAY as Fantine (Les Miserables)

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We’ve all had our eye on Hathaway for years; knew what she was capable of.  I had no doubts when I first read about her casting as Fantine—I knew she would bring her A game.  And she did.  While her screen time is less then 20 minutes, it’s arguably the most memorable performance of the musical.  Hathaway plays broken and degraded like a champ in Les Miserables, crushing her solo of “I Dreamed a Dream”—if you weren’t crying up till this point, you were for sure sobbing by the end of that number.  The part of Fantine is incredibly taxing to play on its own, but Hathaway couples that with singing with what looks, to me, hard work, and thereafter, well deserved praise.

6 – DONALD SUTHERLAND as Ronald Bartel (Backdraft)

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Time for the dark horse.  It’s not very likely you’ve seen this Ron Howard film, unless you’re planning on becoming a firefighter, or you’re an enormous William Baldwin fan…and the latter is a few and dying breed.  Sutherland plays Ronald, a pyromaniac in the vein of Hannibal Lecter.  The strength of his performance is based solely around his eyes, with the appropriate trembles of his voice for poignant moments. The role is small, piggybacking off of Robert de Niro’s scenes, but his part stands out with nervous pride.  Where most actors would turn the character into a giggling nutcase, Sutherland offers a soft-spoken creepo that brings you close to the fire’s terrifying and mysterious allure.

5 – GEOFFREY RUSH as Captain Hector Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl)

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Geoffrey Rush is a rare breed of actor who is physically able to transform into his character.  I like to imagine him as a more modern Alec Guinness or Peter Sellers.  But while I don’t want to get lost on just praising the actor and all his achievements, I want to focus on his role in the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) franchise.  Now while it’s easy to get distracted with Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, Rush delivers everything you would want to see in a classic villain, going above and beyond to portray a filthy, driven, deliciously evil cursed pirate captain. Considering only the first film, the performance is layered with small isms that make Rush’s Barbossa incredibly satisfying.  I think that’s why we all—opinions of story eliminated—cheered when he made his return at the end of Pirates 2.

4 – CHAIM TOPOL as Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof)

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I’ve been trying hard to make sure Ian and I’s list are a bit more diverse than normal, but I got a sneak peak at one of his drafts and saw Topol and—dammit, I absolutely had to include him.  His performance in the musical is the perfect example of how a movie would be less than half as good if he was removed from the film.  We know that Zero Mostel fathered the original performance of Tevye on Broadway, but I personally believe Topol dialed the character up to an eleven on the big screen.  On top of his glorious booming voice, he plays comedy and tragedy with ease, all the while talking to God in between.  I fervently believe his dialogue should be put down as some of the best narration on screen of all time—on the other hand, the good book says another day another post.  Regardless, Topol’s performance and Fiddler on the Roof are, to me, are interchangeable.  Fiddler would not be nearly so grand if not for the man who brought the pinnacle Tevye to life.

3 – DANIEL DAY-LEWIS as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Gangs of New York)

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Up to this point, I’ve been doing pretty well but separating favorite actors from favorite performances.  However, I’m going to dive into a few performances that led these actors to my favorites.  I wrestled with this one, because any of Daniel Day-Lewis’s performances since My Left Foot could arguably be on this list (excluding 2009’s “9”), I decided to go with his take of Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.  If you want to talk about electrifying performances, look no further.  Playing a mustachioed, knife-throwing, 19th Century sociopath, I can’t give enough praise for Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York.  I’m literally speechless to how great of a performance he gives.  If you want too watch one of the best scenes of all time, look no further than the rabbit scene.

2 – ROBIN WILLIAMS as Parry (The Fisher King)

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Aaaaaand another favorite, I wrestled with which performance to mention for Robin Williams.  After much deliberation, I decided it to go his Academy Award nominated performance in The Fisher King, playing the unbalanced, good-hearted, head-over-heels in love Parry.  Robin clearly found the Holy Grail and used it to his advantage for years, taking off the kid gloves and “free the little guy, let him flap in the breeze!”  Effortlessly, he goes from wild to tender within seconds, wearing his heart on his sleeve for the majority of the picture.  As much as I enjoy the movie on its own, it wouldn’t be half as good if not for Robin’s Parry.  He is unashamedly unfiltered and unearthed for the entirety of The Fisher King.

1 – JACK NICHOLSON as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (A Few Good Men)

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I feel I’ll be splitting the readership with this one.  In a rather old-fashioned courtroom drama that relies on the strength of its stars, Jack Nicholson, unsurprisingly, steals the show with his portrayal of Colonel Jessup.  There are gobs and gobs of essays on Nicholson and his art of anger (YouTuber Nerdwriter1 is a prime example here), and for good reason.  The role is perfect for Jack, where he relieves a powerful relationship between body and mind.  His angry performance in A Few Good Men is mesmerizing and could’ve been easily overacted, creating something cringeworthy or, for a lack of a better word, boring.  With his familiar anger underlaid with superiority, Nicholson is at his most restrained and militant (appropriately so) peak in A Few Good Men.  I absolutely love watching him in this movie.  Take the time to watch the courtroom scene, it’s worth five minutes of your time.

Honorable Mentions:
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs), Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight), Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men); Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier (Logan); Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom (Nightcrawler); Russell Crowe as John Nash (A Beautiful Mind); Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus (Gladiator); Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goth (Schindler’s List); Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes (Misery); Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin (Chaplin); Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Ian McKellan as Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring); Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood (House of Cards); Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, Thandie Newton as Maeve, and Ed Harris as The Man in Black (Westworld), Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty (Blade Runner), Danny Kaye as Hubert Hawkins (The Court Jester), Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook (Hook)

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Top 10 Comedy Films

No doubt the hardest list I have made with my brother, we decided to write about the movies that make us laugh. Laugh a lot.

We both write a great deal about dark, visceral, director-heavy features in our blog posts, and if you read us enough, you probably have an image in mind of us writing in a dark room by candlelight, afraid to look through the slit in our castle chambers for fear of ruining our fiendish tastes on intertextuality or some elaborate element or another. I forget myself, so I’ll leave you to guess.  While Ian and I do find considerable inspiration from the gnarly and atramentous films of the past and present, we grew up watching more light-hearted and goofball features and shorts like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies, or Laurel & Hardy (no Three Stooges; sorry, not sorry).

Ian will warn you too, but my choices for this list follow no pattern whatsoever. It was hard for me to boil down my choices to only ten.  There have been so many movies that have made me laugh my ass off when they weren’t meant to…Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969) is a good example, or Con Air (1997). Is the infamous The Room (2003) a comedy? Nay, verily.  Is it funny?  Painfully so.  For that reason, Ian and I agreed we should only list movies that were intentionally created as a comedy…so we’re not including movies that were unintentionally so, i.e., Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) or The Wicker Man (2006).

I personally had an additional hard time organizing the top ten. I’m still hesitant to share this post because I’m sure I would change the order slightly, or put one of the honorable mentions in the top ten, etc., etc.  But I’m just going to suck it up, share it, and reap whatever comes of it.

Please don’t forget to check out Ian’s blog here.  He’s significantly more articulate than me. I’m a lot more cut and dry.

Honorable Mentions:

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Road to Utopia (1945)

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Blues Brothers (1980)

The Pink Panther (2006)

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Get Smart (2008)

Father Goose (1964)

The Muppet Movie (1979)

We’re The Millers (2013)

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10. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

An undeservingly underappreciated British-American comedy. I wouldn’t call the writing as genius, but John Cleese (and co-writer/co-director Charles Crichton) deliver a painfully funny movie that has me hurting in spasmic laughter from beginning to end.  Love the entire cast in this piece, with Kevin Kline’s performance of the super-ego Otto stealing the show, I will be able to watch this movie for years and still laugh at the same jokes over and over again. And I mean, c’mon–how many movies can credit for being so funny that a movie-goer actually died laughing from watching it.

Favorite Line: “You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, f***-face, d***head, a**hole!”

Ian’s Pick: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

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9. RED (2010)

RED‘s pure hilarity is made up by the veteran cast.  I personally thought it was marketed as a big-budget action film, but it easily outshines its counterparts with its wit and style.  I imagine it is what The Expendables (2010) was meant to be; a joyful ride–yet an unexpectedly funny one!  Also, there is something incredibly satisfying to see Dame Helen Mirren let loose and be so damn funny.

Favorite Line: “You cannot trust the system! I told you when you’re in the system, they switch the flip and you’re done. Man, satellites, cell phones, chips, net, the web, the dentist…”

Ian’s Pick: The Muppet Movie (1979)

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8. The Court Jester (1955)

One of the original genre spoofs, The Court Jester is a looked over gem that sits in the shadows of 1950s comedy classics like Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), and Abbot and Costello movies.  Danny Kaye is at his tongue-twisting best, along with a solid supporting cast, witty script, and swashbuckling-goofs galore.  It severely deserves a spot on Top 10 Comedies lists’.

Favorite Line: (Easily the entire vessel with the pestle conversation)

Ian’s Pick: Mean Girls (2004)

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7. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

You probably would never have expected to see this Disney film on a comedy list–let alone a Top 10 list.  Audiences and critics have labeled The Emperor’s New Groove as a forgettable work by the animation studio–but how can I forget how many times it has made me laugh non-stop from beginning to end? I admit, it’s a goofy cartoon–but so much so that it will have you rolling on the floor in laughter, if you allow it.  If nothing else, it gave us one of the greatest villain/henchmen partnership EVER: Yzma and Kronk.

Favorite Line: “Pull the lever, Kronk!” [Kronk pulls lever and Yzma falls into pit] “Wrong lever!”

Ian’s Pick: RED (2010)

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6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Writer/Director Shane Black is no newcomer to buddy comedies.  With action-comedies like Lethal Weapon (1987) and The Nice Guys (2016), and even Iron Man 3 (2013) under his belt, he can pretty much turn anything into some unimaginable hoopla.  The two greatest strengths of KKBB: Downy and Kilmer’s remarkable pair-up, and Black’s writing–neither of which could have existed without the other for this film.  The movie is wrapped up in a bow of witty fast-talk and gunplay, topped off with ridiculous situations and far-fetched schemes that make you either groan or cover your eyes in shame.  I can’t get enough of the scene partnered with the line: “Where….is….the girl!?”

Favorite Line: “Where….is….the girl!?”

Ian’s Pick: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

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5. Blazing Saddles (1974)

Originally received mixed reviews, Blazing Saddles has branded itself a comedy classic over the years.  An enormous guilty-pleasure of a film, the low-brow humor makes up the yuks you may (or may never) pass on to your friends, or your kids.  With borderline offensive jokes and gags forty years after its release, it’s easy to find reasons to say you don’t like Blazing Saddles–but so many more reasons to watch and laugh your butt off. Love Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, and adore Madeline Kahn in this movie.  Blazing Saddles is a gleefully off-color spoof of the Western genre, and a definite watch for laugh-out-loud comedies.

Favorite Line: (There are so many!!!, but…) “…I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.”

Ian’s Pick: Groundhog Day (1993)

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4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Out of this list, Monty Python and the Holy Grail has probably the greatest legacy.  Unquestionably one of the greatest nonsense movies of all time, the silliness is none-stop from the opening credits to the abrupt end. Low brow? Absolutely. But you need a certain level of intelligence to better “get” the stupidity portrayed onscreen.

Favorite Line: (The back and forth between King Arthur and the Black Knight at the bridge)

Ian’s Pick: Way Out West (1937)/Sons of the Desert (1933)

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3. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

This odd-couple comedy is so good is sneaks up on you without you consciously realizing it. Michael Caine and Steve Martin have such astonishingly great chemistry in the movie I am honestly surprised that they never become a comedy duo for another film or two. Under the watchful eye of director and former Muppeter Frank Oz, DRS keeps a light tone while delivering a wink-and-smile feel throughout.

Favorite Line: “Ruprecht!”

Ian’s Pick: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

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2. Way Out West (1937)

A classic Laurel & Hardy film, featuring most of their famous gags while simultaneously showcasing the pair at the ultimate high-point of their long partnership. I’m piggybacking a ton of what Ian has to say for our favorite comedy duo, but there is not one scene with the two of them in Way Out West that isn’t funny. I struggled to place this or their other recognizable movie Sons of the Desert (1933) on my radar, but ultimately, I will remember this one for longer.

Favorite Line: “This is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Ian’s Pick: The Court Jester (1955)

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1. Young Frankenstein (1974)

If you paid attention, you saw I already wrote Blazing Saddles into my Top 10 list, so you more than likely figured I at least had a quantum-level appreciation for Mel Brooks’ other famous comedy, didn’t you? Well, not just admiration. In fact, I’d go as far as to calling it the funniest movie of all time (*wincing as I type that sentence). Made with clear affection for the original movie it spoofs, Young Frankenstein was made to laugh your heart out.  There’s a sentence from a review on IMDb by gbrumburgh that I absolutely agree with: “Mel Brooks’ parodies are like your favorite, worn-out couch. You know it’s not the greatest in style, taste and quality, but it just feels so damn comfortable”. The movie feels more like a team effort than merely Brooks’ next parody. With co-writer Gene Wilder at the forefront of the acting troupe, we’re led down the familiar steps of the Frankenstein story to a place dripping in comedy goo (poor choice of words).  With highlight performances from Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars–even the unrecognizable Gene Hackman comes to ham up the screen for five minutes! The movie is far from flawless…but that adds to the ridiculousness of the comedy. Having probably seen this film 20+ times, it still leaves me in stitches. Way too many one-liners to pick a number one, but I’ll concede for the sake of continuity.

Favorite Line: “Stay close to the candles. The staircase can be  treacherous.”

Ian’s Pick: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Ian and I are planning on doing more posts this coming year, so please come back and visit both our blogs in 2018. Cheers!

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Disney Animation Feature Films Ranked

The Hauer Brothers are back at it again, delivering a new ranking of good ol’ movies (or bad ol’ ones) we just can’t live without!  Today’s post is dealing with those dastardly impressionable features that have been passed down from generation to generation, and don’t seem to be going away from our DVD shelves, internet memes, and most importantly: our hearts and minds.  If you guessed Disney Animation, you’d be right.

Instead of tackling the entire conglomerate head on, Ian and I, who are loyal fans of Disney, thought it would entertaining to share our ranking of the megastudio’s illustrious animated feature film department by personal childhood wonder or narcissistic criticism.  In short, without voluptuous words or bad grammar on my part, Ian and I wanted to rank Disney Animated Features from worst to greatest–in our opinion.

The list is long, so for various reasons, Ian and I decided to skip the movies between Bambi and Cinderella, which are mainly composed of anthology-like features, Winnie-the-Pooh movies (nothing against the bear or his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood), and Fantasia 2000.  Since the world is full of enormous fans of these films, many will find this list unfair, unreal, or just plain silly.  Keep in mind, these are Ian and I’s personal ranking.  I will speak for myself on one thing: this list is very likely to change.

I have organized these 47 entries from worst to best.  They are broken up into five tiers, which explain themselves quite clearly.  Please check out Ian’s companion blog post here.  And please feel free to comment on either or and let us know thoughts–as long as they don’t pertain to some political grievance about the Song of the South.

Well…let’s begin.

TIER V – The Unspeakable: Just embarrassingly awful

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47. Dinosaur (2000)

The bottom of my barrel is a Land Before Time
rip-off and a Fantasia Rite of Spring re-imagining that lacks style,
fun, and story altogether.  While initial critical praise was
adequately given to the film’s computer animation and detailed
backgrounds, they ultimately fall short of photorealistic rendering.
It’s a movie I only saw once, and would rather ask for a poke in the
eye than an opportunity to watch over again.
Character: I didn’t favor any characters in Dinosaur, but, um, I guess Plio?
Line: No good line save for the crash of the asteroid hitting earth.
Song: N/A

46. Dumbo (1941)

Never cared for this oldie.  I probably will never
leave it on my kids’ shelf of Disney flicks.  A dull and borish use of
cutting edge animation.  I get the feeling that it was a rejected
piece from Fantasia because it was too depressing or nightmarish for
little kids.  The last ten minutes or so are the “best”, but not even
close to redeeming the first hour.
Character: Timothy Q. Mouse
Line: “Dumbo, you’re a climax.”
Song: “When I See An Elephant Fly”

 

45. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Disturbing and unsettling.  Lewis Carroll’s book should never have been adapted to begin with, but Disney imagined they could handle it.  They turned all of Carroll’s
literary “madness” into hot-tempered characters that were either plain
or upsetting.  The Cheshire Cat was fine?  I hate to say it—but I’d
honestly watch the 2010 live action remake above rewatching the
original.
Character: Cheshire Cat
Line: “I’m late!”
Song: “The Unbirthday Song”

44. Black Cauldron (1985)

Just…NO.  While some dark fantasy junkie out there might get a chuckle out of this mutation, I would personally dissuade anyone and everyone from ever watching this.  Does Disney remember having a vault?  They need to toss Cauldron in there and
throw away the key.  A loose plot that attempts to reminisce Lord of
the Rings, poor characters, weak animation, a non-intimidating villain
(the hunter in Bambi had more moxie), and a disoriented pace.  Don’t
waste your time.
Character: The Narrator
Line: Something Gurgi mumbles…
Song: N/A

43. Chicken Little (2005)

    I wish the sky was falling after I walked away from this—I may have actually cried at how bad it was.  I don’t think the filmmakers were even trying 50%.  While the movie boasts a big voice cast, there really was no need.  The film was a complete
cluck.
Character: Whoever Don Knotts plays
Line: “Who are we talking about?”
Song: I guess the cast sings “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” at some point

TIER IV – The Forgivable: Not bad movies, but never left a good impression

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42. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

    A movie that took a daring stab at a story of considerable depth, the Robinsons eventually fell flat on their freshly rendered faces.  While it opens up strong, the plot
begins to dissipate into random character encounters that fail to move
the story forward.  Even with its flaws, Meet the Robinsons attempts
to touch that old-Disney-spark-and-feel, placing it a step above the
abominables.
Character: The girl with the caffeine patches
Line: I honestly don’t remember a line from this movie except for
the T-Rex language
Song: N/A

41. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

    A very un-Disney-like Disney animation—yet somehow not in a bad way.  While it’s not one I would personally recommend, I would not stop someone from seeing it.  A family popcorn movie one can enjoy once in a blue alien.
Character: The Grand Councilwoman
Line: “Ohana means family.”
Song: N/A

40. Bolt (2008)

    A decent doggie adventure that was mostly funny due
to a cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino.  Made me think of
the direct-to-video 101 Dalmatians sequel, Patch’s London Adventure.
Character: Rhino
Line: “Get outta here you stupid cat!”
Song: N/A

39. Bambi (1941)

    Every Disney-raised kid has sat through this classic and watched in horror as Bambi’s mother dies.  I was never attached to Bambi as a kid, but I do steal a line from it constantly: “They’re twitterpated!”
Character: Prince of the Forrest
Line: “They’re twitterpated!”
Song: “Little April Showers”

38. Home on the Range (2004)

    By this point in Disney Animated Features’ releases, we realized the studio was suffering.  The movie isn’t bad, but it isn’t nearly as funny or clever as it would like you
to believe.  It’s decent, mind you, but not much more than that.
Character: The Willie Brothers
Line: “Maybe they just didn’t like your singing.”
Song: “Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo”

37. Treasure Planet (2002)

    This one needs to be remembered for more than a commercial flop, I feel.  There is a great deal of background controversy over this movie, but I honestly don’t see why.  The film is an adaptation of a true classic, and is well done, I personally
think.  Vocals are good, animation is sound, and I love Tony Jay’s
narration.  If you haven’t already, please give this one a shot.
Character: Delbert Doppler
Line: “Now you listen to me, James Hawkins. You got the makings of
greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own
course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the time comes
you get the chance to really test the cut of your sails, and show what
you’re made of… well, I hope I’m there, catching some of the light
coming off you that day.”
Song: N/A

36. Pinocchio (1940)

    To this day I despise the Pleasure Island sequence, but I won’t deny this movie as a classic.  “When You Wish Upon A Star” has become a Disney calling card, and we all undeniably get goosebumps listening to Jiminy Cricket sing to a starry night sky.
Character: Jiminy Cricket
Line: “If we play our cards right, we’d be on easy street. Or my
name isn’t Honest John.”
Song: “When You Wish Upon A Star”

TIER III –  Good: These movies have their issues, but are easily rewatchable

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35. Big Hero 6 (2014)

    An endearing comic-book story that sinks deep
under your skin, I was marveled by the subtle nuances of the animation
and character development more so than the overall plot.  I wasn’t big
on the San Fransokyo mash up or the underdeveloped villain, but other
than that, I give the movie a thumbs up.  Another very un-Disney-like
Disney animation that works surprisingly well.
Character: Baymax
Line: “School mascot by day, but by night—also school mascot.”
Song: N/A

34. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

    A simple feel-good story that resonates with all ages.  An innocent tale that any child would enjoy.  Go Team Bear!
Character: Boomer
Line: “Hey-hey-hey, just look at this bushy tail!  B-b-b-beautiful!”
Song: “Lack of Education”

33. Lady & The Tramp (1955)

    Another true classic that we all love and my family was forced to rewatch time and time again.  One of Disney’s first “real love stories”, Lady & The Tramp removes most of
the kiddie humor and focuses on telling a familiar tale with emotion and compassion.
Character: Trusty
Line: “I ain’t deaf, sonny.”
Song: “He’s a Tramp”

32. Cinderella (1950)

    Bibbidi-bobbidi-beautiful!  It had been thirteen years since Disney had made a fairy tale, and they needed another princess!  I think people excuse or forget how iconic this
movie (or at least the tale) is nowadays.  However, I personally think the 2015 live-action remake was phenomenal, and succeeded in surpassing the original by a great deal.  Still, I would introduce my kids to this one.
Character: Lucifer
Line: Something the king says?
Song: “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boop!”

31. The Aristocats (1970)

    I don’t have a lot of justification for placing this one above some of these staple classics, other than the fact that I always got a big chuckle out of it—and still do!  Love
Edgar, the Gabble Twins, Thomas O’Malley, Disney’s version of France, and even the scat music.
Character: Edgar
Line: “You’re not a lady.  You’re nothing but a sister.”
Song: “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat”

30. The Little Mermaid (1989)

    I’m expecting to get a lot of whiplash for putting Mermaid so low on the list, but…aside from the music, Sebastian, Scuttle, Chef Louis, and dinglehoppers—I never cared for
it.  Was Ursula too scary?  Was Ariel’s hair too red?  Did Triton’s angry spells remind me of my dad losing his temper?  Was I afraid I was going to lose my voice to a sea witch?  Did the reverend really have a boner?  Who knows.  If you take away the soundtrack, there
isn’t much left.
Character: Sebastian
Line: “It’s a dinglehopper!”
Song: “Under the Sea”

29. The Rescuers (1977)

    Such a sweet and charming film.  Love Bernard and Bianca, but I secretly rooted for Madame Medusa.
Character: Madame Medusa
Line: “You are too soft.” or “You force them too like you, you idiot!”
Song: N/A

28. Wreck-It-Wralph (2012)

    A comparable film with an unexpectedly big heart.  I’m not a gamer, but this was clearly a love-letter to classic arcades.  It packed so much stuff into an hour and a half of
great animation, that I have to give it a thumbs up.  Good voice cast,
too.
Character: Vanellope
Line: “Ma’am, I just gotta tell ya…you are one dynamite gal.”
Song: N/A

27. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

    Another underrated and sometimes misunderstood gem, Atlantis is a great blend of old and new. Much like Tarzan and the Emperor’s New Groove, Disney tried for a time
to move away from the traditional song-driven routine and venture into
unmapped wilderness.  Atlantis is something for the imagination, blending Jules Verne wonder with Disney adventure.  While the movie runs on countless cliches, I was caught off guard by the non-stop tongue-and-cheek wit and humor.  I’d recommend this to pretty much anyone.
Character: Preston B. Whitmore
Line: “Look, I made a bridge, and it only took me like, what, ten seconds.”
Song: N/A

26. Frozen (2013)

    This movie is already notorious for its hype and three little words that rhyme with “Let it Snow”, but I still can’t help and admit that I got a good tickle out of the blockbuster.
Beautiful Scandinavian art, talented voice cast, and some relatively
fresh songs Disney Animation has been lacking for a few years.
Character: Olaf
Line: “Big summer blowout!”
Song: (I’ll concede) “Let it Go”

25. Peter Pan (1953)

    Outside the song “What Made the Red Man Red”, I have no problems with the film.  I have always enjoyed the story of Pan, and this one has a great Hook, a hilariously animated Crocodile, and the happy ending.
Character: Hook
Line: “Here we go! Off to Neverland!”
Song: “Following the Leader”

24. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

    C’mon…do I have to explain why this is a classic?  Just sing it with me: “Heigh-Ho,
Heigh-Ho, It’s off to work we go…”
Character: Grumpy
Line: “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
Song: “Heigh-Ho”

23. The Princess & the Frog (2009)

    My expectations were pretty low going into this, but I came out quite impressed.  I’m disappointed that Disney has not been making traditional hand-drawn animated
features of late, and this one made me constantly think of the classics.  Written and directed by Disney Animation pioneers, the movie told a recognizable story in a new setting with a different sort of Disney princess.  I liked the message it was trying to tell, I
enjoyed the fresh villain, and I loved Randy Newman’s music.
Character: Ray
Line: “O-o-o, tell her Big Daddy! Tell her!” or “Travis, when a
woman says later, what she really means is: not ever” or “I was
starting to believe that wishing on stars was for babies and…crazy
people”
Song: “Almost There”

22. Tangled (2010)

    Confession: when I went to the theater for this one, and the title card popped up that read “Walt Disney 50th Animated Feature Film”, I knew I was going to like Tangled.  I was very skeptical about it at first, but after seeing it a few times, I dare to call it a new Disney classic.  While it does not match with giants like The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, it successfully brought back an old-school Disney quality and heart that had severely lacking
for over the last decade.  Good fairy tale story, gorgeous animation, some pretty good songs (a bit underwhelming for Alan Menken, though), and a musically-inclined voice cast.  Recommend to everyone!
Character: Maximus
Line: “Your dream stinks. I was talking to her.”
Song: “Mother Knows Best”

TIER II – The Silver Stars: Strong movies with quibbling flaws

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21. Brother Bear (2003)

    It’s not a narrative you haven’t heard somewhere else before, but it’s a universal story with a message that anyone can apply to their life.  Aided with a beautiful blend of
native inspired art, music, and humor, you got yourself a dark horse
winner!
Character: Rutt and Tuke
Line: “That mountain came out of nowhere!”
Song: “On My Way”

20. Oliver & Company (1988)

    I’m disappointed by how many people have forgotten about this movie.  A fresh adaptation of Oliver Twist, the movie has an entertaining story, good voice cast, and fun, upbeat songs.
Character: Georgette
Line: “Oooohh, aren’t you a clever kitty” or “Everything from the
doorknobs down is mine!” or “I broke a nail” or “If this is torture,
chain me to the wall”
Song: “Perfect Isn’t Easy”

19. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

    Love it.  Was the closest thing to action and suspense that I was allowed watch when I was a little kid.  However, we can all agree that the movie would be nothing
without Cruella.
Character: Cruella
Line: “Fifteen spotted puddles stolen, oh balderdash.”
Song: “Cruella De Vil”

18. Fantasia (1940)

    If I had to compile a list of movies that everyone had to see before they died, this would be included somewhere down the checklist.  The music and images stay with you forever,
whether it be the comic hippo ballet, the frightening night on bald mountain, or the iconic Mickey in the sorcerer’s apprentice—you remember.  A groundbreaking film that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Character: Mickey
Line: N/A
Song: N/A

17. Pocahontas (1995)

    My favorite Disney princess.  There’s a peculiar magic to Pocahontas that is absent from the other animated films of the golden age.  I like the slightly alternate narrative the
film offers, regardless of historical accuracy and all that bologna. Good voice cast, stunning colors and visuals, new musical score and songs—and extra points for recreating my own grandma’s exact personality into a wise old tree.
Character: Grandmother Willow
Line: “My bark is worse than my bite.”
Song: “Colors of the Wind”

16. Hercules (1997)

    A daring step for Disney, Hercules transports us back in time and brings Greek mythology to life in a brand new adventure, hosted by fantastic characters (including one of the best female characters of all animation-time), powerful images, and music
you can’t help but sing along to—who would’ve thought to put a gospel choir as the film’s narrators?  Also, I absolutely adore James Woods as Hades.
Character: Hades
Line: “We dance, we kiss, we shmooze, we carry on, we go home
happy, what do you say, c’mon?”
Song: “I Won’t Say I’m In Love”

15. Robin Hood (1973)

    Thinking about it makes me want to whistle Alan-a-Dale’s catchy tune.  While it’s clearly evident that the movie was made on a tighter budget, this did not make the filmmakers neglect the story, its characters, and Sherwood Forrest/Nottingham adventures!  I’ll always cherish Robin Hood as one of my childhood favorites.
Character: Prince John
Line: “The safety’s on ol’ Betsy.”
Song: “Oo De Lally”

14. Moana (2016)

    People said Frozen was Disney Animation’s return to form.  I disagree.  I think Moana proved itself to be a bigger, greater, more powerful movie than Frozen times two—maybe Disney Animation’s strongest entry of the 21st Century.  There was an energy
to it, an unexplainable love—it felt like the perfect blend of new and classic.  The visuals were breathtaking, the songs were catchy, and the story wasn’t an ordinary rehash.
Character: Maui
Line: “I’m his mother…I don’t have to tell him anything.”
Song: “You’re Welcome”

13. Zootopia (2016)

    Narrowly beating out the previous movie for this slot (and they’ll probably flip-flop in my head forever), I was incredibly impressed with Zootopia.  Without making anything
political, the filmmakers were able to address countless issues we face today in our society and how we should confront them.  It offered an uplifting message, aided by very human-like animal characters, one of the strongest Disney scripts in years, incredible voice casting, and eye-widening animated visuals.  The best “buddy-cop” movie in years.
Character: Mr. Big
Line: “They offered me something I couldn’t refuse: money!”
Song: N/A

12. Tarzan (1999)

    A brisk pace, energetically animated, lively musical with powerful songs by Phil Collins; the more I watch it, the more I think Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes for Disney Animation.  A real adventure story that never drags, which everyone will fall in love with.
Character: Terk
Line: “Gor-il-la”
Song: “Strangers Like Me”

11. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

    There is an unfair amount of selections on this list that I give out visual and artistic acclaim, because when it comes down to it, the ultimate “visual” Disney movie that has stuck with me for years is Sleeping Beauty.  The colors ebbed their way into
my imagination as a boy, I suppose.  Adding to my main praise, the movie is a fairy tale that has matured very well over the years (aided most recently by the live-action regaling, “Maleficent”).  While formulaic as it is, out of all the Disney fairy tales, if I had to choose only one, I’d probably take Sleeping Beauty.
Character: Maleficent
Line: “Now, father, you’re living in the past.  This is the 14th century!”
Song: “Once Upon a Dream”

TIER I – Top Ten: What Disney Animation should be all about

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10. The Sword in the Stone (1963)

    The 18th Disney classic is nothing short of brilliant.  Think of it as the first chapter of The Once and Future King made for kids, by adding wacky characters, talking
animals, and colorful backdrops.  Sword in the Stone is a gem to treasure forever.
Character: Archimedes
Line: “I’m the magnificent, marvelous, mad-mad Madam Mim!”
Song: “Higitus Figitus”

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9. The Jungle Book (1967)

    The last animated feature personally overseen by Walt Disney himself, I think The Jungle Book can be covered in two words: deliciously delightful!  Such a fun adventure
Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera lead us on.  With some of the best vocal talent ever cast in an animated movie, I think The Jungle Book will stand the test of time.  If you aren’t singing The Bare Necessities in your head by now, you’re wrong.
Character: Bagheera
Line: “What? A female leading my herd? Utterly preposterous!”
Song: “The Bare Necessities”

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8. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

    Another listing I’m probably going to get a lot of flack on.  This movie happens to make me laugh so hard, every time I watch it I cry in gratitude.  Yzma and Kronk are
one of the greatest pairings ever, with their voice casting being PERFECT.  The story is nothing to write home about, but it’s handled well, and was a risky step for Disney.  Once you hear about the behind-the-scenes making of the film, it’s a miracle that it made its
way to theaters.
Character: Yzma/Kronk
Line: There are way too many to choose from, so, nah verily…
Song: N/A

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7. Mulan (1998)

    Where to begin?  Mulan has a depth you’re not ready for, dealing with themes like identity, honor, duty, and heroism.  It breaks new ground as a Disney flick, while still offering breathtaking animation and sprightly characters to the big screen.  A movie that
stays with you long past the end credits.
Character: Fa Mulan
Line: “The greatest gift of honor is having you for a daughter”
Song: “I’ll Make A Man Out of You”

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6. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

    Most folks won’t understand why this movie is in my top ten—maybe they don’t even remember seeing it. It’s a true adventure story set in the land down under, and proceeded
to not just take a single step up from the first Rescuers’ movie, but leap up the entire freakin’ staircase.  A strong contender I wish audiences would reconsider to be one of Disney’s greatest.
Character: Joanna
Line: “Albatross Airlines: a fair fare from here to there!”
Song: N/A

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5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

    Here’s a thinker.  The movie tackles an incredibly sad and depressing story, one you would never expect to see in animated-musical form.  Yet somehow, Disney managed
to create a 90-minute emotional roller-coaster.  It dominated my insides, and I love it more every day.  With the appropriate dose of sincerity, seriousness, humor, peril, and depth, Hunchback will leave its mark as a risky masterpiece in Walt Disney’s animation cannon.
Character: Judge Claude Frollo
Line: “Achilles, heel”
Song: “The Bells of Notre Dame”

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4. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

    Another entry that will confuse the readership, you may or may have not watched this at some point in your childhood, and either liked it or loved it.  I find myself in the
small category of avid fanboyship for this one.  An absolutely, unbelievably satisfying film with a clever twist on Sherlock Holmes, The Great Mouse Detective is a dark horse to many, but I would not turn down watching this for a second.  Wonderful story,
great-great-great musical score, and I worship Vincent Price as Ratigan!  My brother and I will preach how criminally overlooked this movie is till the day we die.
Character: Professor Ratigan
Line: “Well, you see it was like this. I was in the toy store
getting uniforms when I heard a “aroo aroo”, “You’re not coming
through…”
Song: “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”

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    Such an awesome movie that I can’t help but get excited for to this day.  Aladdin promises to have all the things you’d like in a Disney cartoon, but speeds past them and gives you one of the greatest animated motion pictures of all time.  So much energy
and so much fun, you’ll be singing “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” for years.  Also, the best Genie of all time: Robin Williams.  The movie wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for his genius.  I probably have watched this movie no less then thirty times.
Character: Genie
Line: (How on earth can I pick only one??) The opening monologue
Song: “Friend Like Me”

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    The truest form of Gothic romanticism with a genuine love story at its core, Disney was able to craft a masterpiece of out a so-so fairy tale.  The musical score is
remarkable and truly encompasses a “…tale as old as time”.  I struggled putting this behind The Lion King.  Also: the prologue is one of the most glorious and haunting and foreboding sequences ever made in cinema, sending tingly feelings down my spine every single gosh darn time.  Another thing: after watching the 2017 remake a few days ago, my love for this movie has solidified even more.
Character: Gaston
Line: The Prologue, to be honest, but for the sake of propriety:
“It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas and
thinking…”
Song: “Be Our Guest”

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    This monumental film set an all-time high bar that no Disney film has been able to grasp since.  While I hate falling into everyone else’s line of thinking, The Lion King is undeniably brilliant.  A thematic anchor, a spectacular voice cast, iconic music; it’s set itself as the equivalent of The Godfather or Citizen Kane for animation.  While it owes everything to Hamlet—does it really matter?
Character: Scar
Line: “I’m surrounded by idiots.”
Song: “Hakuna Matata”

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Marvel Movies Ranked, Worst to Best

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This list has been in the works since early this summer.  In a collaborative effort with my brother at ianhauer.wordpress.com, we decided to rank all the Marvel movies (sans the Blade trilogy and Punisher films). There are thirty-six individual movies to blurb about in this post, so we might as well get started.  Here’s a link to Ian’s post.

36. Fantastic 4our (2015)

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Fantastic 4our is a bullet to the head for cinephiles, comic-enthusiasts, and anyone who appreciates a mediocre movie.  One of the countless problems with this movie is its lack of pinpointing where it went wrong.  The reboot was advertised as something to match the likes of Avengers or X-Men.  Now while we weren’t surprised that it didn’t meet expectations, we were taken aback at how awful of a movie it was.  A tasteless script, miscast actors, weak special effects, poor editing–and a climax you didn’t know was happening until the credits started rolling?  Thank goodness Fox pulled the plug on any hopes for this movie to become a franchise.

35. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

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The only reason you could possibly get through this mindless, bad CGI-fueled turd is because of two good actors: Idris Elba and Ciaran Hinds.  Take away those short beams of hope-filled light, you have a flick that matches the recent Nic Cage quality of Drive Angry or Left Behind.

34. Daredevil (2003)

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Bad cast, bad script, and bad chemistry–one of the most plotless movies I’ve ever seen. Ruined a superhero I looked up to since I was a kid.  Thank the Lord we now have the Netflix gem starring Charlie Cox!

33. Elektra (2005)

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The only reason it holds a spot above Daredevil is because I went into this without any medium-high expectations.  Aside from the random billowing drapes, I enjoyed Terrence Stamp…?

32. Hulk (2003)

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It seemed that Marvel’s first attempt at unleashing the green giant had potential for a good movie.  But there must’ve been some miscommunication between the director and the storyboard artist, because this movie was all over the place.  The CGI had some very weak moments.  I’m in full support of the cast (sans Nick Nolte), but why get Ang Lee involved?  Why?

31. Amazing Spider-Man 2

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I see what Marc Webb was trying to do, but…it was too much (specifically the villains), too unbalanced, and ultimately, a waste of time and talent.

30. Spiderman 3 (2007)

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While it introduced some cool concepts that had been missing from the previous installments, I can’t look past three big issues: Topher Grace as Venom, James Franco’s shaky Green Goblin, and Peter Parker’s evil hair (and dance!).

29. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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If you want to know how to ruin a groundbreaking trilogy, look no further.  While the movie has some brief redeeming qualities (or moments, better yet), it would seem it was a huge mistake to leave this third installment in the hands of Brett Ratner and not Bryan Singer.  Another example of too much in too little of time.  A major letdown.

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

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Unfortunately, the second FF movie was unsuccessful capturing my favorite Marvel superhero of all time: the Silver Surfer.  The movie is, overall, meh.  There is nothing exceptionally bad about it, because there was nothing exceptional about it to begin with.

27. Ghost Rider (2007)

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A once-in-a-blue-moon guilty pleasure, I admit.  It’s a bland retelling of the Ghost Rider origin, but I do enjoy seeing Peter Fonda as The Devil, and Sam Elliot is kickass!

26. Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Iron Man 2 was a rushed, bad-cast villain disappointment.  I guess the vast majority of Marvel buffs love it because it introduces Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha to the universe.

25. Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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I wasn’t all that excited about the reboot, but I tried to keep an open mind while watching. Too me, this film fixes the flaws that were in the original Spiderman (2002), while overlooking its own.  A good cast with an increasingly distracting storyline.  It was hard for me to stay focused.

24. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Nothing real good, ‘n nothing real bad.  It evens out, overall.

23. Spiderman 2 (2004)

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Good villain, good character development, and a deeper-diving story than the first one.

22. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong.  But I don’t care for the Bourne-like feel it was trying really hard to go for.  Also, SPOILER: I don’t like how they brought Bucky back.

21. Fantastic Four (2005)

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A classic Hollywood interpretation of comicbook superheroes!  It’s corny, has plenty of action, just a bit of romance, and a perfect cameo for Stan Lee.  It’s a popcorn movie you can enjoy without any guilty afterthought.

20. The Wolverine (2013)

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It’s a shame I have to put this one so far down on the list.  The movie suffers from a weak storyline with very little character development (or attachment), but manages to fix a decent amount of the mistakes that X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) made.  We should take a minute to applaud Hugh Jackman on the physical transformation he made for this movie, though!

19. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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It was hard not to go into Apocalypse without constantly hoping for Days of Future Past greatness, but I’m guilty of that, and paid the price.  The movie has unexpected strengths at unexpected parts, but could not jump higher on this list due to its so-so screenplay.  Thumbs up for the awesome Wolverine cameo!

18. Deadpool (2016)

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Deadpool is a game-changer.  While the story is nothing original, or the way it tells it, it offers some deliciously funny scenes, goofball action, and Ryan Reynolds’s never-ending hilarity.

17. Spiderman (2002)

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Possibly the first superhero movie I was excited to see.  Like any comicbook-frenzy kid, I was absolutely in love with Spiderman!  I was overjoyed when I finally got to see the wall-crawler on the big screen.  My nostalgia for it is probably the reason it’s this high.  Even though Tobey Maguire can’t pass as a teenager, he definitely captured Spidey’s smart-talking persona.

16. X-Men: First Class (2011)

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The soft reboot to the X-Men series I was dreading, but ultimately came around to.  First Class is a surprisingly solid movie, with a strong ensemble cast and a decent storyline set in the 1960s.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender balance the scale in a way I never would have predicted.  Also happy that Kevin Bacon didn’t suck as the mutant villain.  Could have done without January Jones, though.

15. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

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A lot of you are going to hate me for putting Thor 2 so high, but…I’m not sorry.  I liked the exploration of the worlds between Midgard and Asgard.  I like the Dark Elves (including Kurse, one of Thor’s best nemesises from the comics).  I liked the story with the Aether.  I even liked that for a few brief seconds, SPOILER, I thought Loki had cut Thor’s hand off.  It was a good second chapter to the Thor cantos.

14. Ant-Man (2015)

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Unpredictably good!  Unforeseeably funny and well-cast!  I had zero interest in Ant-Man, especially after hearing how many times it was stuck in development hell, had different directors, or couldn’t find writers.  Lucky for us, Marvel took a chancy shot, and boom!–we’re all better for it.

13. Dr. Strange (2016)

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I had mixed feelings when I saw the first previews for Strange, but I’m sure glad my doubts were kicked in the butt.  Another surprisingly funny movie from Marvel, with a stellar lead, strong supporting cast, and killer visuals!  While the plot may be nothing new, it is a superhero origin story.  It played out similarly to Iron Man (2008).  Definitely need to see it again in theaters!

12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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The follow-up to the groundbreaking ensemble film was based around an infamous comicbook villain: Ultron.  I have very few quibbles with this, save for one: James Spader.  While I think the role of Ultron was written very well, I thought Spader had too many moments to be himself, thereby ruining the persona of the villain, or distracting from the scene.  Aside from that, Avengers 2 reunited a great cast and filled the world with more action than ever before!  If you got a minute, look up the trailer!–it really hyped me up.

11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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Sure, this movie is filled with bad CGI claws, weird mutant powers, and Sabertooth jumping/leaping wherever he damn well pleases–but I love it.  Ultimately, it’s a guilty pleasure movie.  Wolverine is such an amazing Marvel character, it was a shame to see his origin story go ever so slightly down the toilet, but this movie had a great Sabertooth (played by Liev Schreiber), good musical score, and an amazing opening credits sequence.

10. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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Cap has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and he was overdue a feature film even longer.  While I was skeptical over the casting of Chris Evans (the original Human Torch in 2005’s Fantastic Four) in the lead, I have since warmed up to him.  In fact, I can no longer see anyone else helming the iconic shield.  The movie boasts a great cast and an old-fashioned WWII-thriller story that’s hard not fall in love with.  What I love most about it is the Steve Rogers character from his humble beginnings, to his ultimate (SPOILER) crash landing in the ice.

9. Iron Man 3 (2013)

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Another entry you may hate me for for placing so high.  While the trailers for Iron Man 3 were very misleading (specifically for the Mandarin), I felt the movie was very fulfilling across the board.  Tony Stark on the surface could be presented as a very flat, two-dimensional character, and yet, the Iron Man and Avengers movies have allowed him some incredible character growth.  Iron Man 3 does it best above them all!  Also, if you felt totally swindled by the twist(s), you should remember the movie was directed and co-written by Shane Black.  All in all, a strong movie that didn’t lose the audience or fall into superhero plot holes.  Check out the movie trailer!

8. Captain America: Civil War

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Think of it as Avengers 2.5.  If Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t seem full enough for you, than you need to watch this!  It was a potent mix of an original story and the Marvel Civil War comic.  It captured the tension between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in some brilliant ways, while pitting the Avengers against each other in some epic fight scenes!–while also reuniting us Ant-Man, and introducing us to the new wise-cracking Spiderman.  It’s a movie crammed full of goodies.  One of the few things I would change is the overused shaky-cam.

7. Iron Man (2008)

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The first chapter in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.  Iron Man wielded a mixed bag of nuts that were uncertain to deliver–but thankfully did!  Casting the lead with a guy who is Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. brought a new kind of superhero to life, but not without showcasing the man behind the mask first.  Aided with a sound supporting cast, a sturdy script, new special effects, Iron Man proved you could balance comicbook humor with real-life drama, all within two hours.  And when you thought it was all but over, he hit you with it: “I am Iron Man.”  Marvel has been carefully following in the footsteps of this well-done feature ever since.

6. X-Men (2000)

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The X-Men has been my favorite comic for a long, long time.  The movie is a great adaption of the deep, sometimes dark, story of mutants trying to live and learn together.  I like to think that Bryan Singer broke huge ground when making this movie.  X-Men separated itself completely from previous superhero movies (Blade, Darkman, Howard the Duck, etc.) and soared to a completely new level, setting a standard that would not be broken for a long time.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Ahh…another game-changer.  Guardians successfully takes us off Earth and transports us into a completely new universe of fun and adventure for the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).  Guardians is barrel of laughs nearly all the way through, taking itself seriously at just the right times, but stepping away to make fun of itself all the rest.  Compact with a soundtrack that will get you hooked on a feeling, the film blends fun and action in a near perfect way.  The sequel (coming May 2017) can’t get here soon enough!

4. Thor (2011)

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Kenneth Branagh successfully weaved a Shakespearian-like story with archaic language and beautiful visuals in some of the most brilliant ways possible.  Thor has been another one of my favorite superheroes for a long, long time, and I can honestly say I was not disappointed with this movie whatsoever.  Thor holds onto a strong screenplay, matched with a superb director, near-perfect cast, powerful music, and gorgeous storytelling visuals.  It is a competent movie on its own, and one of my personal favorites.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men universe was no easy feat, I’m sure.  But thank goodness he came back with this stunning achievement!  Days of Future Past is a character-driven blockbuster movie with a lot more heart than you can imagine.  Adapted from one of the greatest portions of comicbook history, this film escalated everything times two, while also finding some way to unite the original cast with the new in the most brilliant way possible.  I doubt I would change a single thing about this movie.  Please look up the theatrical trailer.

2. Avengers (2012)

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The original assembly.  Between 2008 and 2012, we were treated to a handful of movies that were prepping us for this powerhouse.  Marvel proved they could make single superhero movies successfully–but could they put them all together?  Under the careful, and sometimes carefree writer/director Joss Whedon, the answer was a most definite yes.  Avengers is one of Marvel’s greatest accomplishments.  Not just being able to lasso all the top-dollar actors into one major motion picture, but to be able to successfully meet fan expectations–and even pass them.  I’m still blown away by how good of a movie this is.

1. X2

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My personal favorite: X2: United.  It’s hard for me to explain why I love this movie so much, both in the Marvel Universe, and on its own.  I think Bryan Singer was on top of his game (much like Days of Future Past), the characters were molded, there was a great balance between comic-book adaptation and movie cinema retelling, and the stakes were at an all-time high.  It’s a rare thing to find such a superb middle chapter in a planned trilogy, and X2 is one of ’em.

What Marvel movies do you think are the best and worst?  Do you agree/disagree with my list?  Comment or like below and let us know!

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Great Movie Trailers of the 21st Century

Happy 100th Blog Post to us!!!  We’ve been kicking and screaming movie cinema for over five years (although with some huge gaps), and we’re hoping to deliver another hundred before we call it quits.  So for today, I thought I would do a little something special, for your reading/viewing pleasure.

Movie previews have been around for years and years, and while we take them for granted sometimes, we can’t help but remember that they are often the reason why we are sitting our butts in a crowded movie theater, anxiously anticipating what we came to see on the big screen.  Some times they’re built up, some times they are toned down…there is a level of artistry and editors’ care built into the tight couple of minutes that we see flashed on screen.  Theatrical and teaser trailers have come a long way in recent years, and I thought we would look at a handful of them.  While there are plenty of retro ones that we all get a chuckle and grin from, I thought we would widdle down the list to focusing on trailers advertised in the 21st Century.  Sound good?  When you think of some greats that we looked over, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

While not in ranking order, here are some of my personal favorites:

Prometheus.

Okay, so I’m starting out with a big mixed-reaction movie.  But both sides of the crowd can agree, this teaser was able to pay homage to the original Alien movie while get you excited about the prequel.  While I personally think the movie wasn’t half-bad, it was unable to live up to the hype surrender its previews.  Hopefully the sequel, Alien: Covenant will deliver everything we need next summer.

Invictus.

This is a good example of the “formula drama”.  The last few years have followed a similar outline as Clint Eastwood’s movie trailer, which is to showcase the leads, a struggle, application to do right, and the hopeful lead to the (sometimes uplifting) climax.  I remember watching this in 2009 and getting excited, hearing the energetic chanting in the background, and seeing Morgan Freeman in his dream role.

Watchmen.

This is a conflicting entry for me.  Before the movie was announced, anyone who had read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s masterpiece knew it was an unfilmmable story.  It just couldn’t be done.  Well, down the road it was inevitably made and led by Zack Snyder.  The skeptics, however, were more than likely taken aback by this visually stunning trailer.  That’s the defense I will give: visually stunning.  While Snyder weaknesses cannot be measured in a teaser, his strengths certainly show.  It is enough of a tease to show that the filmmakers approached adapting the comic as loyally as possible.  It conveys the darkness, the atmosphere, and strongly hints at a different kind of superhero movie.  I just don’t think we were ready for it.  Ever.  Certainly not by a filmmaker who wanted to recreate the comic shot-for-shot.  But regardless of all of that mumbo-jumbo, I still get excited for Watchmen when I rewatch this.

Her.

Changin’ it up in ‘ere.  So, this is a hipster movie.  You probably didn’t know anything about it–and still probably don’t have any clue where it’ll be goin’–but you’re intrigued.  It shows a couple strong actors, shows a slightly futuristic world that we can relate to, and delivers a sweet song on a ukulele.  It looks sweet, manipulative, original, romantic, dramatic, organic…just to name some of the few emotions that creep up and down your spine while watching this trailer.

Gravity.

If you’ve read reviews of movie previews before, you more than likely have come across this gem.  The trailer successfully captivates you instantly with the visual epic of space, and continues to pan (in the same shot) to the astronauts just before everything turns against them.  Most of Gravity‘s previews and promos showed very little footage of the movie, primarily concentrating on the first adrenaline-building fifteen minutes.  I’d say it was the perfect hook to get our butts in the theaters.

Les Miserables.

While there was noteworthy hype surrounding this musical, I think the thrill, excitement, and apprehension of the original Broadway musical’s fandom went relatively unnoticed.  I had just finished performing a stage play version of Les Mis when the trailer was released, and I was ecstatic.  The world looked so big, the visuals so spectacular, and the actors so dedicated–especially Anne Hathaway.  The trailer teased her harrowing portrayal of an exceptionally grave character, and her song outlined the despair, hope, and love the movie was promising to deliver come Christmas 2012.  One of my favs.

X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Ahh…this’s a good one.  The fans of the X-Men series (like myself) heard the announcement that Bryan Singer was returning to the franchise to helm the adaption of one of the best segments in the original comics, and we were enormously excited!  There were hints from the producers over the course of filming, several photo tweets from Singer, and some promotional behind the scenes jargon to keep us motivated till May 2014.  Then, at long last, it appeared.  Personally, I think the trailer captures the gravitas of transcending the old generation with the new.  It was already proving itself capable of molding the worlds together and desperately wanting the chance to deliver an epic, loyally heartfelt interpretation of the comic book.  The Sunshine, Thin Red Line, and Inception soundtrack did a swell job at knotting my heartstrings together.  This trailer made me determine that I was going to love this movie, even before I saw it half a dozen times.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It goes without saying, but millions and millions of people were waiting impatiently for this.  I thought it was a good inclusion on this list mainly for the hype surrounding the trailer itself!  The internet was exploding after the first teaser was released over a year before the movie went worldwide.  Then Spring 2015 delivered another teaser (this one a bit longer), with the most jaw-dropping, nostalgia-flooding, tear-jerking last three seconds of a movie preview can give you (I’m talking about: “Chewie…we’re home”).  For the rest of the summer, J.J. Abrams made it clear that there was going to be only one more theatrical trailer (released in the fall), and the world waited in earnest. Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed the first two teasers, I personally thought the third one was the “best-made” of the lot.  But this leaves us with big question this year and into the next: When will the trailer for Episode VIII drop?!?  Well, regardless of that intensifying question, this trailer ranked up nearly 100 million views on YouTube.

The Dark Knight.

You knew this was coming, didn’t ya?  The trailer to defeat all trailers.  Now, as much as I really wanted to include other Nolan movie trailers (i.e., Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), I thought I’d include the one almost everybody can agree on.  Aside from the hype of this movie, Hollywood was been building and grafting its action-packed movie promos around this trailer.  You’ve probably noticed it.  This particular one showcases the buildup, the menacing Joker, the higher stakes, and the realistic action that was in Batman Begins times ten!…nearly all the things that would get us excited for the return of the Dark Knight.  This trailer will stand the test of time, that much we can be sure of.  And we gotta give a hand to Christopher Nolan and whoever cuts his trailers.  They do a great job at bringing back the strong style of yesteryear…

So while I could have gone on and on with this listing, I thought it would be prudent to keep it contained.  Now that we live in a time of fan-made trailers, “honest trailers”, TV promos, posters…nothing can beat the 2+ minute big-screen preview of what’s coming to a theater near you…

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The Town (2010)

The Town is an American crime-drama, co-written and directed by Ben Affleck, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan.  Produced by Graham King, the movie stars Affleck in the lead, with Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper. (Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use)(Running Time: 125 minutes)

I’m behind on the times.  I heard nothing but great reviews about this movie ever since it came out, but have been increasingly reluctant to sit down and watch due to the mega-spread stories (or rumors)  of “the Aflac’s big screen return”.  There will be zero denying that I have not been wowed by Ben in, well, anything, and I think he is just an overrated actor.  However, I watched his other two directorial efforts, Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Argo (2012), and have concluded that while he is an overrated and overpaid actor, he shows talent for the director’s chair.  There are also some new releases on the horizon he is penned to star in that makes me hesitantly hope that he might be getting “better”.

Well, now you’re aware of my initial reservations.  So let’s talk about the movie.

Immediately after the first heist, I could tell Affleck and his production team did their research.  The Town has a compelling level of realism, but showcases little intricate moments that touch back on popular heist movies like Point Break (1991) and Heat (1995).  The scenes are tightly cut and keep your interest without losing focus on the characters, creating a alluring-enough story to keep you watching till the end.

I watched the theatrical cut, so I’m going to assume that there was a subplot or two, and additional scenes of character beef that had to be omitted to keep the original run time to just over two hours.  But even with a full hour cut out of the print, I felt there were a couple of scenes that could’ve been cut down more, or taken away completely.  The one Chris Cooper scene in prison didn’t feel that critical, aside from him and Ben talking frankly about his mother, but there seemed to be enough of that anchor throughout the rest of the movie.  As far as character motive and emotional depth is concerned, The Town passed.  But with an outstanding above grade average, but passing.  There was enough dialogue and explanation and emotional jabs so a reviewer, like myself, couldn’t say it fell through on backstory.

Acting.  Pretty good, overall.  Ben’s mute expressions weren’t distracting enough to tear out the television set from the wall, but I think it’s because he wore masks throughout the movie.  Jon Hamm was a delightful surprise, increasing his strength and presence as the story went on.  And of course, Jeremy Renner, who was electrifying enough to steal the movie every time he stepped on screen.  If he had lost 30 pounds like Christian Bale did for The Fighter the same year, he probably would’ve ended up taking home gold.

I’ll give The Town a slightly above average B-.  While the movie held its sturdy structure, there was nothing unique or new to it, comparing it with others in the genre.  Relatively strong acting overall, yes.  Relatively good directing overall, yes.  Relatively original story, meh.  In its defense, the heist genre has a limited scope for plots.  A film that has stretched and sensationalized a heist movie to the extreme is probably Inception (2010).

The film was met with largely positive reviews, like I said earlier.  The critics praised Ben’s direction and Renner’s acting chops the most, which I can get behind.   In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott commented on the opening heist, “That sequence, like most of the other action set pieces in the film, is lean, brutal and efficient, and evidence of Mr. Affleck’s skill and self-confidence as a director.”  Xan Brooks, in The Guardian, wrote that the action sequences were “sharply orchestrated” but added “it’s a bogus, bull-headed enterprise all the same; a film that leaves no cliche untrampled.”  Justin Chang wrote in Variety that the action scenes strike “an ideal balance between kineticism and clarity” aided by cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editor Dylan Tichenor.  It faired well at the September opening box office, eventually gaining over $154 million on a $37 million budget.  Renner was later nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong.  I recommend it.  If you like bank caper-like movies, you’ll more than likely enjoy this.  If you like Boston, you’ll definitely get a kick from this.  If you absolutely love Ben Affleck–well, all I can say is: God be with you.

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Jessica Jones (Season 1)

(I stole the next couple of paragraphs straight off of Wikipedia. I feel minimal shame).

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Jessica Jones, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise, and is the second in a series of shows that will lead up to a Defenders crossover miniseries. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and Tall Girls Productions, with Rosenberg serving as showrunner. S. J. Clarkson produced the first season; Liz Friedman and Raelle Tucker are among the other executive producers.

Krysten Ritter stars as Jessica Jones, a former superhero who opens her own detective agency after an end to her superhero career. Mike Colter, Rachael Taylor, Wil Traval, Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, and David Tennant also star in season one. A version of the series was originally in development by Rosenberg for ABC in 2010, which was eventually passed on. By late 2013, Rosenberg reworked the series, when it reentered development for Netflix as A.K.A. Jessica Jones and Ritter was cast as Jones in December 2014. Jessica Jones films in New York City, in areas that still look like old Hell’s Kitchen.

Good enough? Let’s dive in:

As far as content is concerned, Jones ventured a step up with bloodier violence and sex scenes.  And while Netlfix’s earlier Marvel child of 2015 kept an undeniable connection to the source material and its content, it rarely overplayed the guts and gore in the first season.  While Jessica Jones is not even close to the most violent shows airing online, it certainly contains more ketchup and red paint than the average crime or detective series.

We live in a time where cable TV shows and their content is far more acceptable—and even requested—by mainstream audiences. From this review, you, Dear Reader, are probably thinking this show is nothing but gratuitous violence and blood throughout.  I apologize if that’s how this reads.  The show does not have a lot of bloody scenes…but when it does, it really does.  Which is what surprised me.  It probably shouldn’t’ve, but alas, it did.  So just be warned.

Daredevil left high expectations mid-summer of last year, leaving us to anticipate nothing but greatness from Netflix’s fall superhero (or superheroine, depending how you stand). And although it did not disappoint (completely), there were several elements lacking from the finished product that made the show significantly weaker than we had hoped for.  The show picked up with a slow, somewhat rocky start.  But once we were introduced to the psychopathic Kilgrave, the show was aided by the underlining chemistry and personal battles of the hero and villain for the rest of the show, for the most part.  A couple of episodes in the middle of the 13-installment season pulled us out of the drama and the action, but picked back up by the end.

But what was the low of the show? What was the best part?

The lull, I personally believe, was the character of Jessica Jones. The performance by Ritter was proficient and probably stuck close to the script.  But the script called for more backstories of the supporting cast—that don’t do many things significant, outside of Jessica’s best friend, the cop, the wannabe Claire Underwood (Carrie-Ann Moss), and the pothead—rather than give Jessica a reason.  I repeat: her performance was fine, but her backstory was questionable.  The character offered to us was sometimes too one-dimensional, or inaccessible, leaving me wanting to root more for Kilgrave than Jones.  Overall, I was excited for the detective story/film noir/gritty atmosphere we were assured from the trailers and the leftover hype from Daredevil, but was moderately disappointed by the story arc that couldn’t make up its mind, the pacing, and the sometimes un-empathetic characters.  Naturally, this is my personal opinion, and it could change with Season 2 (promised to us by Netflix last year).

The great factor was, by far, David Tennant. His performance was an incredible stretch from his typical typecasting.  Being a moviegoer and TV-watcher who has only see Doctor Who through TV spots and the occasional clip on YouTube…I knew very little about Tennant.  I know him from the fourth Harry Potter chapter and the voice of a character in How To Train Your Dragon (2010).  So when I read the tenth Doctor was going to play the main villain in a new Marvel series…I had more than mixed feelings.  But once we were finally introduced to him, I didn’t want to see him leave.  He delivered a performance that had depth, madness, and irrefutable gravity.  And more madness.  Perhaps his character was nothing incredibly new or original, except for his obsession with the Jessica Jones.  Because of the effort his put forth in this season of JJ, I’m half-tempted to watch his version of the Doctor.  At the very least, I’m fascinated with whatever project his takes on next.  Hopefully as another villain.

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I don’t want to seem overtly negative towards JJ.  But I was sadly disappointed that it came up short near the end.  It had a good amount of potential.  It was good, not great.  But I’d be curious to continue with Season 2 later in the year to see where it’s heading.  It might develop the story past the uncontrollable amount of subplots and under-developed characters.  I think with clever editing, it could have been cut down to eight or ten episodes and would have been a better flowing, action packed film noir.

In the end, I’m going to give it a B-. Perhaps a C+.  This I can’t make my mind up about.

This show wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I made it out to be. So if you’re a loyal Marvel following, and enjoyed Netflix’s rendition of Daredevil…this show might possibly be for you.

 

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