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2016 in Film

rogue-one-imax-poster

Favorite of the Year: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Once again, it’s a new year, and that means it’s time to take a look back at the releases of the previous year. I managed to clock in a a lot of movies in 2016, although as always there are still several I haven’t seen yet (Arrival, Shin Godzilla, Moana, and many more). So as always, consider this list incomplete. It’s every 2016 movie I’ve seen so far, including TV movies and direct-to-DVD fare, ranked from my favorite to least favorite, with commentary where I find it necessary.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Two years in a row, a Star Wars movie has claimed my top spot. Under its new Disney home, Lucasfilm is on fire.
  • Doctor Strange — Amazingly, for a character I’ve never fully connected with in the comics, Benedict Cumberbatch has turned in one of my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe performances to date.
  • Captain America: Civil War — Although they may as well have called this Avengers 3, the third Captain America movie was a blast. I especially liked the fact that this time around the stakes were much more personal, rather than a save-the-world scenario. It was a nice change of pace.
  • Zootopia — This was a huge surprise to me. Not that it was good (John Lasseter taking over Disney animation is the best thing to happen to Disney animation since Walt Disney himself), but how good it was. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly poignant.
  • For the Love of Spock — Adam Nimoy directs this touching documentary about his father, Leonard.
  • Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice — I don’t care what the critics say, I had a great thrill seeing DC’s trinity on screen for the first time, and I can’t wait to see Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — I felt the same way about this as Rogue One. The studios have learned that if you can make the universe itself the star instead of a particular character, you can make a franchise last much longer. This was a fun addition to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.
  • Star Trek Beyond — It’s rare that the third film in a franchise is the best, but this was the most exciting, most “Star Trek”-like film in the Kelvin Timeline to date.
  • Finding Dory — Lovely follow-up to Finding Nemo, with a heartfelt message.
  • The Nice Guys — Like so many people, I loved this movie, and wish that it had found a larger audience in theaters.
  • Deadpool
  • Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan-Film Ever Made — You may have heard the story of a couple of kids who spent years working on an amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is that story.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Hush — Tense little thriller about a home invasion in the home of a deaf woman.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane — One of the year’s best surprises.
  • Suicide Squad — Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was fantastic. The rest of the movie was pretty good.
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • The Witch
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year — Cute direct-to-DVD movie starring DC’s latest franchise. I love the fact that this series exists, and so does my 6-year-old niece.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse — Weakest of the “First Class” trilogy, but that still places it ahead of the likes of X-Men: The Last Stand or the first two Wolverine movies.
  • Keanu
  • Ghostheads
  • Justice League Vs. Teen Titans
  • Holidays — Fun, if uneven, horror anthology.
  • Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
  • Batman: Bad Blood
  • LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League-Cosmic Clash
  • LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League-Gotham City Breakout
  • Mascots
  • The Jungle Book — I know a lot of people were blown away by this, but it just didn’t do it for me. Admittedly, it may just be because I’ve never been able to get into talking animal movies. It’s a weird hang-up of mine, I admit.
  • Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders — Animated film featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, and damn, do they show their age. When Batman and Robin sound like they’re in their 70s, maybe nostalgia isn’t enough.
  • Dwarvenaut
  • Criminal
  • Grease Live!
  • Dead 7 — Weak-ass SyFy movie starring a bunch of washed-up boy band members in a zombie western.
  • The Neon Demon — Probably the most controversial opinion I’ll have here. The latest from writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn of Drive and Only God Forgives, and like those other films, I found this unbearably dull and overblown.
  • Ghostbusters — A weak script and a weak director tanked this remake.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
  • Paradox

What I Watched In… September 2016

rope

Favorite of the Month: Rope (1948)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Pit and the Pendulum (1961), C+
  2. Superman (1978), A+
  3. Superman II (1980), B+
  4. Superman III (1983), C
  5. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987), D
  6. Arachnia (2003), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  7. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), A
  8. Blazing Saddles (1974), A
  9. Maggie (2015), B+
  10. Sex in the Comix (2012), B
  11. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), A
  12. Contracted (2013), B-
  13. Contracted: Phase II (2015), C
  14. Coherence (2013), B+
  15. Sabotage (1936), B
  16. Trumbo (2015), B
  17. Deathgasm (2015), D
  18. The Phantom Carriage (1921), B+
  19. Black Swan (2010), A-
  20. Burying the Ex (2014), B
  21. Ex Machina (2015), A
  22. Lilo and Stitch (2002), B
  23. Psycho (1960), A+
  24. Psycho II (1983), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  25. DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year (2016), B
  26. Hitchcock (2012), B+
  27. Horror of Dracula (1958), B
  28. Riding the Bullet (2004), C
  29. Ruby (1977), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  30. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), B+
  31. The Fly (1986), B+
  32. Ghostheads (2016), B
  33. Holidays (2016), B-
  34. Monster House (2006), B
  35. Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006), B+
  36. Wayne’s World (1992), A-
  37. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), F; RiffTrax Live Riff, B+
  38. The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009), C
  39. Murder Party (2007), B
  40. Rope (1948), A
  41. Dreamcatcher (2003), C
  42. Trollhunter (2010), B

What I Watched In… March 2016

Batman V Superman Movie Poster

Favorite of the Month: Batman V Superman-Dawn of Justice (2016)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Amadeus (1984), A-
  2. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Cosmic Clash (2016), B+
  3. Age of Consent (1969), B
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), B
  5. The Guest House (2012), D
  6. H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer (2004), C
  7. Time Lapse (2015), B
  8. The Fast and the Furious (2001), B
  9. Batman: Bad Blood (2016) B+
  10. Vertigo (1958), B+
  11. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995), B
  12. Chaos on the Bridge (2014), B+
  13. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), A-
  14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A+
  15. Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell (1988), D
  16. Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (2016), B
  17. The Passion (2016), A
  18. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), C
  19. Batman: Year One (2011), A
  20. Wonder Woman (2009), B+
  21. Man of Steel (2013), A
  22. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), A

In addition to the list, this month my podcast (the All New Showcase) reviewed two of the new releases. Click on the links to listen to our thoughts on 10 Cloverfield Lane and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Learning the Wrong Lesson From Deadpool

(Reblogged from All New Showcase…)

Deadpool Movie PosterIn case you somehow missed it, the Deadpool movie was released last weekend and immediately began shattering box office records: best February opening of all time, best opening ever for an R-rated movie, best opening ever for a first-time director (that’d be Tim Miller), and it came in third in the swimsuit competition. And of course, as always, the movie industry began to thoughtfully and meticulously scrutinize the film’s success to determine what qualities helped it reap the bounty, then implement carefully-considered strategies to create new content that may also be prosperous for the studios.

Ha! I’m kidding, of course. No, the movie studios immediately concluded that the American public wants superhero movies to be full of F-words and Ryan Reynolds’s ass. So today, in what could easily be the first in an infinite series of columns, I would like to discuss how 20th Century Fox – and probably every other major studio – has completely missed the point of what made Deadpool kick butt.

Let’s start with what is probably the least significant part of its success: the timing. Like I said, Deadpool’s $135 million broke the record for the highest February opening of all time. But look at the competition: Zoolander 2, the sequel nobody asked for, and How to Be Single, a movie built around Rebel Wilson playing the only character she ever plays, and who wasn’t even entertaining the first time she did it. That’s not to say Deadpool wasn’t a good movie – in fact, that’s my whole point. January and February, traditionally, have been cinematic graveyards where studios try to bury movies they don’t think anybody will want to see in a season where they don’t think people want to go to the movies. I’ve long believed this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not that people don’t want to go to the movies in February, it’s that the studios don’t give them movies worth watching. Deadpool demonstrates that if you make a movie people want to see, they’ll come out to see it no matter when it is released.

WolverineAnd that brings us to the second question: why was Deadpool a movie people wanted to see? The blood? We have the news for that. The nudity? We have the Internet. The profanity? We have public high schools. All of these are easy answers, and all of these are wrong. And yet, when Fox immediately followed the box office number announcement by saying the third Wolverine movie will be rated R, they’re essentially saying that’s the reason that Deadpool worked. This is incredibly small-minded.

(To be fair, making an R-rated Wolverine was at least under discussion as far back as the first solo movie starring the character. It’s not a new idea. But man, they made sure to let everybody know that after the weekend box office closed, didn’t they?)

The reason those elements worked in Deadpool is because all of the hyper-violence and irreverent dialogue helped to create a tone that is faithful to the character. We didn’t want to see violence, necessarily, we just wanted to see the Deadpool we love. In fact, I’m going to be a little controversial here: I don’t even think Deadpool needed to be an R-rated movie. I don’t mind that it was, I very much enjoyed it, but despite what a lot of people seem to think the majority of his comic book appearances have not been full of F-bombs and boobs. (Sure, the violence is there, but the MPAA is way less concerned with violence than sex or language. Chop off all the limbs you want, but God forbid you show a nipple.)

What are they going to do in an R-rated Wolverine movie that will make it better than the first two? Curse more? The word he’s most associated with in the comics is “bub.” Bury him in naked women? Wolverine’s romantic relationships are classically tortured. Sure the fighting may be more explicit, but does anybody really think X-Men Origins: Wolverine would have been a good movie if only they showed more blood when Hugh Jackman cut off Ryan Reynolds’s head?

Superman the MovieThe best superhero movies (and in fact, most of the best adaptations of any kind) are those that maintain the spirit and feel of the source material: Richard Donner’s Superman, the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe work for precisely this reason. People who have read about a character for years – decades even – don’t want to see a version of a character whipped up by committee, they want to see the version they love. (This, of course, will cause debate when a character has been around long enough that there are multiple valid interpretations, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Compare that to the most epic failure of recent years, the 2015 Fantastic Four. The movie takes a comic whose best stories are about a family of explorers and turns them into a militarized unit who barely share any screen time. Director Josh Trank maintains that studio meddling sank his movie. I tend to think that when the director reportedly tells his actors not to read the comics the movie is based on, there isn’t much more a studio can do to screw it up.

Batman-The Killing 1Let’s not forget that tone is dependent on the individual story as well. There was a lot of buzz last year when the producers of the upcoming Batman: The Killing Joke animated movie announced they were given permission by the studio to go for an R-rated film. It doesn’t have to be, but this is the story that forever entrenched the Joker as a true icon of evil. Gone was the bank robbing clown of the Silver Age – now he was a horrific, unhinged psychopath acting out on a twisted fixation with Batman by torturing his friends. It would be hard to tell that story faithfully and still maintain a PG-13. But that doesn’t mean a Ben Affleck Batman movie or an animated version of the first appearance of Bat-Mite should suddenly be rated R.

All of this is to say that, yes, you probably could make a good R-rated Wolverine movie, but it won’t be good because it’s rated R. The other elements need to be there too.

But what about all of the people who enjoyed Deadpool but don’t read comics? They don’t know if the depiction on screen is faithful to the comic book, and most of them wouldn’t care if they did. So why did they come out in force to see this movie? For one thing, of course, the marketing campaign was as brilliant as the marketing for John Carter was abysmal, but good marketing will only get you so far. People also liked the movie. Why? Obviously, the answer for each individual person will differ, but if I were to venture a guess for the majority, I would say it’s because it’s something different. Look, I would be perfectly happy all day long if they just took the scripts of my favorite comics and put them on screen in front of me, but I also know I’m a 10th-level nerd and what I want probably doesn’t apply to the public at large.

Spider-Man BittenWhat does apply, however, is that people get tired of seeing the same thing. Origin stories, for example. Not just comic fans, but viewers in general are done with origin stories. Nobody needs to see Krypton blow up, Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down, or Peter Parker bitten by a spider ever again. We get it.

Even with less iconic characters, origin stories are largely unnecessary at this point. If a character in a movie is a cop, a firefighter, or a baseball player, people don’t demand we spend half the movie explaining how we get to that point before the real plot begins. Granted, superheroes follow a less conventional path than those other occupations, but at this point the public is familiar enough with the tropes that all but the most convoluted of origins can usually be dealt with in a quick flashback or a few lines of expository dialogue.

“But Blake,” you say, “Deadpool was an origin movie. Doesn’t that contradict your point?” Man, you can be kind of a jerk sometimes. But no, it doesn’t contradict my point. I said that origins are unnecessary, not that they can’t be done well. Audiences – myself included – will accept even the most tired premise if the execution is entertaining and original enough.

M Payoff 1shtAnd that brings me to the most important part of Deadpool’s success. It didn’t matter that it was an origin, because it still felt different from any other superhero movie of the last 17 years. (I consider the modern era of superhero movie to have begun with 1999’s Blade. You know, that other R-rated Marvel movie everybody seems to have forgotten about.) Look at the major successes since then. After the first few years, when superheroes were still a novelty, the biggest movies all brought something new to the table. Iron Man was cocky, witty, and did away with that secret identity jazz right away. It was unique at the time. What’s more, the after-credits stinger (another novelty in 2008) opened the doors for the then-revolutionary Marvel Cinematic Universe. That eventually led to Avengers, another mega-hit, because we had never before seen six superheroes from four different movies come together as a team. The best movies of the eight years since Iron Man all bring something different to the superhero. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller. The Dark Knight was an epic crime drama. And none of them – even the ones that were sequels to other movies – felt like anything else we had ever seen.

SuicideSquadPoster-181c2In an odd way, this actually makes Suicide Squad the most interesting superhero movie for the rest of 2016. I’m the most die-hard Superman fan you’ll find, and I’ve been waiting to see him on screen with Batman and Wonder Woman since I learned how to read. I couldn’t be more excited for that movie. But Suicide Squad is the first time, as far as I can remember, that a superhero movie has actually starred the villains. (You could make an argument for Magneto and Mystique in the most recent X-Men movies, but the moral ambiguity in those films is so thick that nobody could hear you anyway.) We’ve seen villain-starring comics plenty of times, but it’s never really happened on screen. That means the success or failure of this movie will be one for the books. The trailer was very well-received and people seem to be excited about it.

Which means the weekend after it comes out, expect Fox to announce a new X-Factor movie, starring the classic line-up of Sabertooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Toad, and Galactus. Because they just don’t seem to get it.

Ranking 2015 at the movies

Well friends, it’s time to turn the calendar page on yet another year. And cinematically, 2015 was a pretty good one. What follows is every film with a 2015 release date I managed to watch this year (including TV movies and direct-to-DVD movies), with a little commentary on some of them to explain why they ranked like they did. Please note, this is ONLY accounting for those movies I’ve already seen. There are a great number of 2015 releases I’m very interested in but haven’t gotten around to watching yet, including (but not limited to) Creed, The Good Dinosaur, Concussion, Spectre, and The Hateful Eight. (I also have not yet seen Fantastic Four, I should confess. I suppose I will eventually, but at this point I’m looking at watching that movie that the same way I think about a prostate exam — I know it’ll probably happen eventually but that doesn’t mean I have to look forward to it. Also, I’ll wait until it comes on HBO.)

  1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens — This movie did everything the prequels did not. It advanced the story of the Star Wars universe, introduced a wealth of new and engaging characters, and made me excited for the next film coming down the pipe.
  2. The Martian — Incredibly smart and well-researched, surprisingly funny, and altogether a joy to watch, Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the novel by Andy Weir was wonderful.
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road — Having never seen a Mad Max movie until the week before this came out (my wife Erin and I binged the previous three), this was an incredible surprise. Amazing effects, strong characters, and the most spectacular chase scene ever put to film.
  4. The Peanuts Movie — My love for the work of Charles M. Schulz is well-documented and without reservation. The fact that this movie won me over speaks volumes.
  5. Inside Out — Pixar once again nails it with a funny and heartwarming film unlike any other I’ve seen.
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron — While not having the shock value of the first Avengers movie, where the very fact that we were seeing these characters together for the first time was enough to cause spontaneous geek explosions, Joss Whedon’s follow-up advanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely, with a brilliant introduction to one of my favorite characters from the comics, the Vision.
  7. Jurassic World — Although not as mind-blowing as the original, Jurassic World swept me right up and reminded me of everything I loved about dinosaurs as a kid. And that Chris Pratt is simply charming.
  8. Tomorrowland — Many people have complained about Brad Bird’s vision, but I thought this story about allowing people to pursue what makes them exceptional was very well done.
  9. Black Mass
  10. Ant-Man — A middle-of-the-road Marvel movie, but that’s still enough to put it pretty high on my list.
  11. Krampus — Fun new Christmas horror flick.
  12. Circle — Surprisingly effective one-room sci-fi thriller I found on Netflix.
  13. A LEGO Brickumentary
  14. Back in Time — Fun documentary about Back to the Future. Would have been higher on the list, but there’s nothing really revelatory here. It’s all stuff we’ve heard before.
  15. Teacher of the Year
  16. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  17. Digging Up the Marrow — Bizarre and effective mocumentary horror movie by the creator of the Hatchet franchise.
  18. Home
  19. American Experience: Walt Disney
  20. Tales of Halloween
  21. LEGO Super Heroes: Justice League-Attack of the Legion of Doom!
  22. Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow
  23. Advantageous
  24. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  25. The Leisure Class
  26. Descendants
  27. Batman Vs. Robin
  28. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Vs. Bizarro League
  29. The Nightmare
  30. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? — Like the Back to the Future documentary, this one is pretty thorough in examining its subject matter, in this case Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage’s failed attempt at a Superman movie. But also like that other one, there’s very little new here. It’s all stories we’ve heard before, and the presentation isn’t nearly as much fun as the former film.
  31. Everly
  32. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
  33. Parallels
  34. The Green Inferno — I don’t usually watch a movie if I actually expect to dislike it, and as a result, my average ratings often fall on the higher end of the spectrum. This is the first one on this list I genuinely disliked. To be fair, though, it’s not because it was poorly-made, but because Eli Roth’s horror film is simply too gruesome and intense for my tastes.
  35. Strange Magic — A CGI animated jukebox musical about fairies? What the hell was George Lucas thinking?
  36. Sharnkado 3: Oh Hell No! — At this point, I’m just watching them so I can watch the RiffTrax a year later.
  37. A Deadly Adoption — Will Ferrel and Kristin Wiig thought it would be fun to do a Lifetime movie and play it straight. I can only hope it was more fun to make than it was to watch.
  38. 88 — Tedious and dull “thriller” that inexplicably casts Christopher Lloyd as the bad guy. At least, I think he was the bad guy, this movie was all over the place.

What I Watched In… July 2015

Hector and the Search For Happiness

Favorite of the Month: Hector and the Search For Happiness

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Man on Wire (2008) B-
2. Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), C+
3. Destroy All Monsters (1968), B+
4. Psycho II (1983), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
5. Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979), F; MST3K Riff, B+
6. Orca: The Killer Whale (1977), D
7. Captain America (1990), D
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) A
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A+
10. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), B
11. Advantageous (2015), B+
12. Changing Lanes (2002), B
13. WarGames (1983) B+
14. Lost in La Mancha (2002), B+
15. The Projected Man (1966), F; MST3K Riff, B+
16. John Wick (2014) A-
17. Night of the Lepus (1972), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
18. Little Shop of Horrors (1960), D; RiffTrax Riff, A-
19. Comic Store Heroes (2012), D
20. X-Men: First Class (2014), A
21. Back to the Future (1985), A
22. Back to the Future Part II (1989), B+
23. Back to the Future Part III (1990), B
24. Conan the Barbarian (1982), B-
25. In Search of General Tso (2014), B
26. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), C-
27. Pacific Rim (2013), A
28. The Queen of Versailles (2012), B+
29. Hector and the Search For Happiness (2014), A
30. Ant-Man (2015), B+
31. Creep (2014), B-
32. Timeline (2003), C+
33. Hatchet II (2010), B+
34. Hatchet III (2013), B-
35. This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006), A
36. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), A
37. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014), B
38. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), D
39. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), A+
40. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), B+
41. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No (2015), C-
42. Mission: Impossible (1996), B-
43. The Warriors (1979), B+
44. Mission: Impossible II (2000), B
45. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015), B-
46. Wet Hot American Summer (2001), B-
47. Driving Miss Daisy (1989), A
48. Teacher of the Year (2015), A-
49. The Houses October Built (2014), B-
50. These Final Hours (2013), B
51. The 39 Steps (1935), A

What I watched in… April 2014

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A
2. Stripped (2014), A
3. Mr. Nobody (2009), A
4. Nightmare Factory (2011), B-
5. Justice League: War (2014), B
6. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload (2013), B
7. I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
8. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! (1974), B+
9. It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974), B
10. I Accuse My Parents (1944), F; MST3K, B
11. Man of Steel (2013), A
12. Pitch Perfect (2012), B+
13. The Lone Ranger (2013), D
14. Dr. No (1962), B+
15. Odd Thomas (2013), B-

The Marvel Cinematic Universe-Now What?

Captain America-The Winter SoldierThis week in my podcast, All New Showcase Episode 301, I sit back with my frequent co-host Kenny and talk about what the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How is this going to change Agents of SHIELD? What’s going to be different in the Marvel movies and TV shows from now on? Where do they go from here? We get super-spoilery on everything Marvel has done, make predictions about the films and TV shows already in development, talk about those projects still in the rumor stage, and then give their own suggestions for what properties they’d like to see join the MCU! Plus: what other studios are trying to duplicate the MCU’s success?

If this is in your wheelhouse, friends, I kindly invite you to give it a listen.

Episode 301: The Marvel Cinematic Universe-Now What?

Reel to Reel ranks 2013 in movies

And once again, we reach the end of another year. And as usual, I didn’t get to see as many movies as I wanted to. I saw most of the ones I was really excited about, all but one in fact (which wound up not being made at all, sadly). For the record, the ones I didn’t see yet that are still on my to-see list are American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street and Her, all of which will be readily available after the holidays, what with being award bait and all.

So here, for the second year (here’s last year’s list if you’re interested), the list of movies I saw this year roughly in order of how much I liked them, along with brief comments on a few films. This list includes made-for-TV, direct-to-video, and streaming films, as long as they were feature length. The rankings are based purely on how much I enjoyed watching the movie, and no other criteria. I caution you, though, that my opinions on rankings and such change frequently, so if you ask me to make this same list tomorrow, it may well be slightly different:

1. Saving Mr. Banks. Simply a beautiful movie that hits me hard as a writer. I get where both the characters of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney were coming from, I sympathize with them both, and I found the movie deeply moving. I know that a lot of it was conjured up for the sake of cinema, but I’m kind of afraid to look up how much for fear it would ruin the film for me.
2. Frozen. Disney’s best animated movie in years. I particularly like that the film was undeniably a love story, but at the same time, broke every major rule in the usual “princess” formula.
3. Man of Steel. A controversial choice to be this high, I know, but I don’t care. As someone who’s loved Superman since childhood, I thought this film was a worthy jumpstart for both the character and for DC’s effort at a cinematic universe.
4. Pacific Rim. The most underrated movie of the year, in my opinion. Visually exciting and a hell of a lot of fun.
5. Monsters University.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
7. Ender’s Game.
8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
9. An Adventure in Space and Time. TV film about the original star of Doctor Who, William Hartnell, made in conjunction with the series’ 50th anniversary. I really liked it.
10. Evil Dead.
11. The World’s End
12. Oz, The Great and Powerful.
13. Star Trek Into Darkness.
14. Thor: The Dark World.
15. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
16. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II.
17. The Rubber Room. Intriguing documentary about the New York public school system, specifically the practice that leaves teachers accused of assorted mistakes stranded without work for months or years without the opportunity to defend themselves.
18. Crystal Lake Memories:The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Good and terribly thorough documentary about the horror movie series. Make sure you’ve got the time to watch it, though – it’s SEVEN HOURS LONG.
19. Iron Man 3.
20. LEGO Batman The Movie: DC Superheroes Unite.
21. The Wolverine.
22. The Sound of Music. Live TV production of the classic musical.
23. Necessary Evil: The Villains of DC Comics.
24. Europa Report.
25. Superman Unbound.
26. Kick-Ass 2.
27. Warm Bodies.
28. Upstream Color. I really liked the director’s last movie, Primer, so I had high hopes for this one. I felt somewhat let down, though. The movie thought it was smarter than it really was.
29. Escape From Planet Earth.
30. Side Effects.
31. A Good Day to Die Hard.
32. World War Z.
33. Mister Scrooge to See You.
34. Jack the Giant Slayer.
35. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore.
36. The Purge. Intriguing idea – a world where all crime is legal for 12 hours a year – but the film is handled poorly, set up on a soapbox, has a horribly predictable ending and is so heavy-handed it’s impossible to enjoy as a thriller.
37. The Host. The only thing I have to say about this Stephanie Meyer adaptation is that I initially mistyped it as The Hose, and I couldn’t help but think that would have been a more interesting movie.
38. Riddick.
39. Oblivion. I challenge anybody to explain the backstory and plot of this film in a way that does not invite a six-year-old child to point out how outrageously stupid the aliens are. I DARE YOU.
40. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
41. Sharknado. I know that this TV production was supposed to be bad, but I disagree with those who think it was both bad and fun. I just didn’t enjoy it.

What I Watched in… July 2013

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Man of Steel (2013), A
  2. The Incredibles (2004), A
  3. Independence Day (1996), B+
  4. Brave (2012), A-
  5. Despicable Me (2010), B+
  6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1984), B+
  7. Flash Gordon (1980), D
  8. Howard the Duck (1986), D
  9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), A
  10. Star Wars Vs. Star Trek: The Rivalry Continues (2004), F
  11. Lockout (2012), B-
  12. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), C-
  13. Warm Bodies (2013), B
  14. Fangs of the Living Dead (1969), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  15. The Deadly Bees (1967), D+; MST3K Riff, B+
  16. Monsters University (2013), A-
  17. That Guy… Who Was In That thing (2012), B+
  18. Pacific Rim (2012), B+
  19. Peter Pan (1953), B+
  20. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001), B-
  21. Godzilla (1954), B+
  22. Lethal Weapon (1987), B+
  23. Little Shop of Horrors (1986), A-
  24. Cloverfield (2008), B+
  25. Gamera (1965), C; MST3K Riff, A
  26. The Invisible Maniac (1990), F
  27. Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  28. YellowBrickRoad (2010), C-
  29. Gamera Vs. Gaos (1967), D; MST3K Riff, B
  30. Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  31. Gamera Vs. Zigra (1971), C-; MST3K Riff, B
  32. Sharknado (2013), F
  33. Chopping Mall (1986), F
  34. Lilo and Stitch (2002), B+
  35. Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch (2005), B-
  36. Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys (2005), B-
  37. Little Shop of Horrors (1960), D; RiffTrax, B+
  38. The Rubber Room (2013), B+
  39. The Dark Crystal (1982), B
  40. Dark City (1998), A
  41. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013), A-