Tom Holland was great, right? We can all agree on that. He was perfect as young Peter Parker, and we can’t wait to see what else he’s going to do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a good thing. He is the Peter Parker for our time.
With his amazing turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming, though, have come the inevitable thinkpieces, blogs and professional sites alike trying to rank not only the different Spider-Man movies, but the different Spider-Men themselves. How does Holland stack up against Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? If you want to get ultra-nerdy, how does he stack up against Nicholas Hammond?
And I get it. I’m a nerd too. There’s something about being a lover of movies or comics or TV that makes you want to rate and debate and rank and “prove” to everybody that your personal favorite version of something was the best, and that debate is one of the driving forces of fandom. I’ve done it myself.
I’m here to tell you today, though, friends… I don’t think it needs to be.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my attempts to mentally reconcile the world of remakes. They’re not stopping, they’re not going anywhere, and it’s true that a lot of them suck. But it’s also true that not all of them do. The second Maltese Falcon is the one everybody remembers. Hitchcock himself remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much into a tighter, more engaging adventure. And re”boots”? Well, that’s what gave us The Dark Knight. And the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies. And if there’s only one tentpole movie left this summer I absolutely HAVE to see, it’s War For the Planet of the Apes.
Here’s another analogy I like to use: they didn’t stop producing Hamlet after Shakespeare died, did they? And not just theatrically, but cinematically. There have been dozens — no, hundreds of films produced over the years based on his works, and a lot of them have been really good. Were it not for people reimagining older stories, we wouldn’t have Bela Lugosi as Dracula or Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, either. And when you ask somebody who their favorite Ebenezer Scrooge is, you can quite literally spend hours debating the merits of Alastair Sim versus George C. Scott versus Michael Caine versus Patrick Stewart versus Albert Finney versus Scrooge McDuck.
I’ve started to put superhero movies in the same category as these works. The same as James Bond. The same as Doctor Who. These are stories and characters, that, every so often, will go through a facelift and become something different. And I’m okay with that. We all should be. The real question — the important question — is therefore NOT “is the new guy better than the last guy,” but rather simply, “is the new guy good?”
This isn’t to say that every character should be recast. I’ve yet to see any evidence that someone other than Robert Englund should be allowed to play Freddy Krueger, for instance. And while I’m open to having new characters join the Ghostbusters (I’m not debating the merits of the 2016 movie, I just mean in general), I don’t ever want to see somebody besides Harold Ramis play Egon Spengler.
But times change and iconic characters can and should be refreshed for new generations.
That said, this means we also have to accept the fact that someday, people other than Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. will play Wolverine and Iron Man. I know, that’s hard to hear. But it’s true. And when it happens, just remember what I’m saying here, and try to judge the new guy for who they are rather than who they aren’t.
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!
- John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), A-
- Logan (2017), A
- Into the Woods (Broadway Cast, 1991), A
- Anomalisa (2015), B
- My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), B
- Volunteers (1985), B
- Werewolf of London (1935), C
- Quiz Show (1994), A-
- Lifeforce (1985), C-
- Honor and Glory (1993), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
- The Magic Sword (1962), C+; MST3K Riff, B+
- Gamera (1965), B-; MST3K Riff, A
- Phantom of the Opera (1943), C+
- Newsies (1992), B+
- Up (2009), A+
- Moana (2016), A-
- Hobgoblins (1988), F; MST3K Riff, A-
- Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), B+
- The Uninvited (1944), B
- Into the Woods (2014), B+
- Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), A-
- Nintendo Quest (2015), B-
- Dune (1984), D+
- Dracula (1931), B+
- Retro Puppet Master (1999), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
- Zombie Nightmare (19870, D; MST3K Riff, A
- 50 Years of Star Trek (2016), B-
- Innerspace (1987), B
- Marooned (aka Space Travelers, 1969), D; MST3K Riff, B-
We’ve got 12 months of movies ahead of us. Now that we’ve looked back at 2016, let’s see what’s coming out this year that’s got me excited…
- The LEGO Batman Movie (Feb. 10). The first LEGO Movie was one of the most unexpected gems of the last few years. The trailers for this first spinoff look to be unfettered fun.
- John Wick Chapter 2 (Feb. 10). Another unexpected hit was the first John Wick movie. I can’t wait for the sequel.
- Logan (March 3). Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine looks like it’s going to be a much darker, more intense take on the character than we’ve seen before.
- Kong: Skull Island (March 10). With Legendary planning an MCU-style connection between this and their Godzilla franchise, I’m really looking forward to the new take on King Kong.
- Beauty and the Beast (March 17). Disney’s rash of live-action remakes of their classic animated films has been hit or miss for me, but Emma Watson as Belle is perfect casting. I’ve got high hopes for this one.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5). After a thrilling, joyful first film, I’m hoping director James Gunn can do the same with this one.
- Wonder Woman (June 2). It’s almost a crime that it’s taken this long for there to be a live-action Wonder Woman movie. Gal Gadot stole every scene of Batman V Superman, and I can’t wait to see this one.
- The Mummy (June 9). Universal is hoping to revive its classic monster franchise with (again) an MCU-style shared universe. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7). Marvel and Sony coming to an agreement for Spider-Man is the best thing that could have happened for the character. Tom Holland rocked in Captain America: Civil War, and I’m hoping for more of that in this film.
- War For the Planet of the Apes (July 14). The first two films in the new Apes franchise were phenomenal — deep, thoughtful films with mesmerizing performances. I feel very good about this next one.
- Dunkirk (July 21). Christopher Nolan doing a World War I epic. How can you not be excited?
- The Dark Tower (July 28). Stephen King’s self-proclaimed “Magnum Opus” is a work that has a need personal meaning for me. I want this movie to be great. The casting is spot-on, although the information that’s come out so far leaves me wondering exactly what angle they’re intending to take on the material.
- It (Sept. 8). Another Stephen King adaptation. Although not as personal to me, it’s still a great book that had an okay TV adaptation. Can any film truly capture the novel?
- Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3). Although the Thor movies gave the MCU its most charismatic villain, they aren’t quite as memorable as the rest of the franchise. This time out, having Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange along for the ride may finally give us a great Thor movie.
- Justice League (Nov. 17). I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was a kid, and the promotional materials have looked fantastic. I can’t wait.
- Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec. 15). Little independent movie. You probably haven’t heard of it.
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.
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.
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. Pete’s Dragon (1977), B+
2. Ernest in the Army (1998), D
3. The Artist (2011), A-
4. The Wolverine (2013), B
5. 101 Dalmatians (1961), B+
6. Puppet Master (1989), C
7. Cloud Atlas (2012), B
8. The Revenge of Dr. X (1970), F; RiffTrax Riff, B-
9. A Goofy Movie (1995), B+
10. Chicken Run (2000), A
11. Starship Troopers (1997), C; RiffTrax Riff, B+
12. Enchanted (2007), A
13. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), C
14. Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009), B-
15. Kick-Ass 2 (2013), B+
16. Shaun of the Dead (2004), A
17. Hot Fuzz (2007), A-
18. The World’s End (2013), A-
19. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), A
20. Robin Hood (1973), B
21. Robin and Marian (1976), B
22. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), B+
23. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), C+
24. Would You Rather (2012), B
25. Masters of the Universe (1987), C
26. Gamer (2009), C
This week’s episode of my podcast, the All New Showcase, features myself and my cohort Kenny giving our opinions on a pair of new superhero movies. We took in The Wolverine and the new animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. To hear our thoughts on those, as well as a comic book and TV pick, click on the link!
Twice a year, on the Showcase podcast, I sit back with whichever of my co-hosts are available and talk about the new movies coming out in the next several months. It’s time for this year’s Showcase Summer Movie Preview!