Updated Marvel Ranking Post with Black Panther



So, this is a super short post.  I had to go to the Driver’s License Center this morning to renew my Driver’s License.  For those not in America, your Driver’s License in America is SUPER-IMPORTANT!  We don’t have a “universal ID,” in America, but this is pretty close.  It functions as the ID for employment, for (obviously) driving, for banking, for home ownership, for voting, etc.  There’s very little you can do without it, so that’s where I was this morning.

I noticed that over the weekend, people were interested in the Ranking of Marvel Movies post, so I thought I’d fast track my ranking with Black Panther.  I should also note that I forgot that I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and while I didn’t have time to add it in, I will in fairly short order, so the only Marvel movie I haven’t seen is Thor: Ragnarok which I hope to see in May.  Well, that’s all I have time for today!



The Black Panther (Marvel)–Non-Spoiler Movie Review

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Wow.  Just wow!  I saw Black Panther over the weekend and I was absolutely floored by how good of a movie it turned out be!  Based on the traffic on the site over the weekend, it looks a fair number of people came to check and see what I though of it.  Apologies for not posting this review sooner, but I always like to take a day or two to think about my responses–positive or negative to reflect before coming online to talk about them.  I also watched several reviews (spoiler and non-spoiler) to get a feel for how other critics were talking about the movie (I only watch reviews after I’ve already seen something–too many “non-spoiler” reviews give away too much of the plot by focusing on the story.  And this is one story that you don’t want spoiled!  Sure, thanks to foreshadowing, you can see somethings coming in this movie, but still, it really, really works!

A Great Marvel Movie

One of the things that I want to stress is that this is an excellent Marvel movie.  Don’t think this is some cheerless dirge -like epic.  The filmmakers expertly crafted humor, drama, pathos, action, and suspense into the movie.  If you liked other Marvel movies, then you’ll like this one.  However, it also has a sprawling, epic feel to it.  The setting–Wakanda specifically and Africa, in general–is almost a character in itself and is very much a visual spectacle.  The colors really pop (esp. later in the movie) and I really like the way the filmmakers integrated the music into the narrative.  Really impressive stuff.

A Great Story–Plot

This is also where the movie shines.  Don’t worry, as this is a non-spoiler, I won’t talk about the specifics.  However, I will say, from a plotting standpoint, this is “aspirational” for me.  I would love for my stories to show this level of drama, suspense and action sequences.  The filmmakers–for me, at least–got the mix pretty much perfect.  I’ve seen a few reviewers ding it for not having enough action, but I think that, much like any other “origin story,” the filmmakers chose to focus on the introducing us to and developing the characters rather than on slam-bang action.  There are definitely action sequences, but they aren’t there at the exclusion of everything else and they make sense in the context of the story, unlike other movies that I could name.

Great Characters

This is where the movie truly shines.  The characters in this movie are awesome!  There isn’t a character who did not land in terms of characterization, motivation, or development.  I have to say that all the characters really exhibited a pathos that was interesting to watch on screen and really helped to engage me as an audience member.  As a writer, I saw the true power of characters to literally “pull” the audience into the story and then propel them to want to finish the story (again, aspirational for my own writing).  There are standouts of course, but I don’t want to highlight too many, for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that T’Challa has a sister and her banter with her brother is not to be missed.  Her lines are some of the best in the movie (humor-wise) and reminded me of the banter that my uncle and I shared before his untimely passing.


I’ve talked a few times about Afrofuturism on this blog in relation to school, but I’ve never really defined it.  Black Panther is probably the best representation of it that I’ve seen on-screen yet.  Afrofuturism is about the African/African-American experience, but rather than focusing on the past, it instead looks to the future.  Sure, there are references to the past, but rather than dehumanizing, the subject of Afrofuturism acknowledges that the past happened, but it looks to a brighter future with technology and with heart to note that a brighter path is open to all, if we only have the courage to embrace it.  While I may be reading the movie with an Afrofuturistic lens, it does have elements sci-fi that help to make it a movie that isn’t just stuck in the past retreading the same old ground.

Overall Grade: A+ (Excellent)

Really, this movie is an Excellent movie and does all that it sets out to do exceptionally well.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Again, some say it doesn’t have enough action.  I noticed that the very first mission (few scenes) are very dark (although my suspicion is that this is on purpose to make the colors pop when you first enter Wakanda, but it does make it hard to see the very first action scene).  However, I try to grade movies (or other media that I review) with the same grading scale colleges use and Excellent is used when there are either no blemishes or the blemishes are so minor that they don’t detract significantly from the overall experience.  I can’t decide if this is my favorite Marvel movie yet (although I think it might be), but I can safely say that it is in my Top 3.  I’m glad that the filmmakers and actors got a chance to make this movie and that I got a chance to see it!  I don’t usually make recommendations–but in this case, I’ll just say, if you’re at all interested in Marvel movies, or are just curious as to what all the fuss is about, to me, this one didn’t disappoint.


Super Bowl Trailer: Black Panther (Marvel) & Planning on seeing Black Panther Saturday

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Black Panther (Marvel Movie) Movie Poster Releasing on 2_16_18, Image Source: IMDB.com

Regular readers of the blog know that I am a fan of both Marvel and DC.  Yes, heresy I know, but unlike many who watch the comic book movies, I’m actually a fan of comics books.  I bought odd issues from Rite Aid stores (they were called Eckerds Drug Stores) back in the late ’70s and early ’80s from their round spinners that they used to keep near the checkout counter–or more accurately, I should my parents would deign to buy them for me when I saw one that really caught my eye (did I mention that my parents were big on reading?).  Later, as I grew up and received an allowance for chores, the bulk of my money went towards books and comics.  I generally had enough money for 2 paperback books (Sci-Fi/Fantasy, of course) and either 1 magazine or 2 comic books.  Sometimes, if the mag. was cheap enough, I could even squeeze in a comic.  So I have a pretty sizable collection (I had more, but traded about a third away).  The point is, I actually read and enjoyed comics, so I really like and enjoy the comic book movies–most of them, anyway.  So I am stoked about the upcoming Black Panther movie.

Going Saturday
I enjoy most Marvel movies and that I’m really invested in the Marvel Universe (however, because of AMC buying out the local Carmike theater, I missed the latest Marvel and DC movies.  While I wasn’t able to find a new theater, I went ahead and bought advance tickets for Black Panther to see on Saturday, so fingers crossed–I hope it will be good.



Planning on Doing a Non-Spoiler Review and Updating Marvel Ranking Post
If I do go and see it, I will, of course, do a non-spoiler review as I tend to do with the movies that I go see in theaters.  I will probably also rank it on the Ranking of Marvel Movies post as well, but I will probably need to add in the fact somewhere that I’ve missed a Marvel movie (Thor Ragnarok).  The listing won’t actually be complete until I’ve seen that movie and it might be a while based on school, in particular, and life, in general.

Anyway, I hope to be able to talk to you more about it next week and here’s hoping that it has some really strong plotting, characterization, and visuals (& a good dose of humor) as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for today–have a great day, everyone!

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Super Bowl Movie Trailers 2018: Avengers Infinity War

So, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite Super Bowl movie trailers over the coming weeks.  I won’t talk in-depth about them, but rather will just give my general impressions of the trailer and my level of excitement for the upcoming movie.  This won’t be a “daily” feature (probably), but will rather be intermixed with things related to Writing and (for the next two weeks) the Olympics and any other topics that might come to mind.

Avengers: Infinity War
I fairly excited for this movie as the original Avengers movie is in my top 3 Marvel movies of all-time and was number 1 until it was supplanted by Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I really like the emphasis on team interaction in these movies.  I feel, based on this trailer, and the original one that they released earlier in 2017 that they are going for a slightly darker tone, rather than a humorous one.  While wanted to see that in the 2nd movie (Avengers: Age of Ultron), I’m not sure how much I want it in this one.    Regardless of what I want, it seems, based on this trailer, that the movie will feature a more “cataclysmic”/”apocalyptic” plot and more seriousness than previous films have exhibited.  Perhaps I’m wrong and the trademark humor will still be there, but based on the “worried” expressions of Black Panther and Captain America in the thumbnail for the trailer, it seems highly unlikely that the fun of the first Avengers will be there in large quantities–this seems like an entirely different type of movie based on the tone of the trailers.

Normally, I am super excited for any Marvel movie that comes out, but this has the feel of an era of change.  I’ve heard (don’t know how true it is) that the contracts may be up for a number of the actors, so there might be changes to the line-up in the future.  While I’m not how true that is, Marvel’s roster has expanded quite a bit since the days of the original Phase 1 heroes who helmed the original movies and the anchored the original Avengers movie.

Still, assuming AMC doesn’t do any of there normal tricks, I will hopefully see it when it releases May 4th, 2018 (in America).  Hopefully, my trepidations will be proven wrong and I can report back here on the blog how much of a “grand adventure” it is, rather than the “end of an era” that I’m currently fearing.

I remain cautiously optimistic for this one, however.

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Mini-Review: Spider-man Homecoming (No Spoilers)

Over the Thanksgiving Break, my family and I watched Spider-man Homecoming (SMH) and we liked it.  It wasn’t our favorite Marvel movie, but it was still fun and exciting.  I thought I’d do a Mini-Review for the blog based on my love of comic book movies, Marvel movies, and Spider-man movies.  This one was very good–not the best–but still very good.

Action AND Humor
One thing that SPH really gets right is the action sequences as well as the humor of the character.  One of the crucial things that filmmakers don’t really get about the character is that Peter Parker is a “sincere” human being having to react to some of the scummiest situations (both in terms of everyday life and over-the-top villainy) that are out there.  His defense mechanism is his ability to turn every situation into a joke or a wise-crack.  Yes, as Spider-man, Peter is insanely powerful and gifted, but it is the humor that helps him deflect much of the trials and tribulations that he goes through.  While not nearly as funny as say, Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s still a bit of that irrepressible mixture of deft humor along with very strong action scenes that help to sell the movie and Tom Holland’s performance of the character.  As much as I disliked the high school stuff (see below), I think that Tom Holland’s performance of Peter Parker might be my favorite so far (I’ll have to reflect more on that as the year ends and I see it more times to be sure).

Straight Outta’ High School
So why isn’t this my favorite of all the Spider-man movies?  In two words: high school.  The filmmakers decided to “reset” Peter as it were, and placed a significant portion of it in Peter’s high school life/activities.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is where quite a bit of both the tension and the humor comes in, but I’m just not one who really likes (for the most part), high school narratives in movies.  In this case, while well done, these were (again, for the most part) some of the least interesting parts of the movie.  Yes, they were well acted and all the rest, but having collected Spider-man comics during my high school and early college years (freshman & sophomore years), I really think that the true strength of the Peter Parker narrative comes from his struggle to support himself as a young photographer at the Daily Bugle with J. Jonah Jameson.  Yes, I know Peter originally started in high school, but I personally don’t feel that the stories came into their own until his college/work years, and this perception colored my feelings towards the movie.  I liked it, but I would have liked it even more had the filmmakers chosen to “age-up” Peter’s character (as I assume they will in future movies).

Marvel Movie Genres (This would be the YA Movie)
The Marvel movies have been good with mixing different genres into the standard comic book movie formula (well, with the exception of “horror” movies which they don’t seem to want to do even when it is the most appropriate genre–Age of Ultron).  However, this one would be the YA movie, if that’s the case.  Much like movies like The Hunger GamesThe Spiderwick Chronicles, etc., the reliance on such a young cast and the focus on quite a bit of high school drama/activities makes this feel more in line with a YA movie than it does with a typical Marvel movie–not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of.  I should note, however, that the performances by the cast, both younger members and older members, were excellent and well done.  I look forward to their next outing whenever Marvel and Sony team-up again to produce another one.  My only hope is that we move past the high school setting into college and work-life and that they can make that as compelling in the movies as it was in the comics.

Overall Grade: B (Solid performances, action, and humor, dragged down by an over-reliance on high school drama and a bit (not too much, but a definitely bit) of teen angst/drama).

Implications for my Writing: I have to understand that I don’t really like certain genres/things: the “heist” movie, “crime” movies, and apparently “high school” movies.  If I don’t like them, it’s probably not a good idea for me to try to write them in that I probably won’t be able to create a story that is credible and true to the genre because I can’t see past the “flaws” of the genre to do it justice.  There are probably genres that I won’t be successful writing, and the “high school drama” might be one of those genres.


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Comic-Con Week: Thor Ragnarok


So, just like DC, Marvel also released a trailer for Comic-Con.  Their big focus this year, now that Spider-Man: Homecoming has been released, is Thor.  Thor Ragnarok seems like it is going for fun over a dark gritty storyline (which was the mistake that Thor: Dark World made).

As you can see in the trailer–Thor Ragnarok Trailermuch of the action is peppered with quips and fun set-pieces.  This trailer seems to bring back the fun characterization that made the first Thor movie such a surprise.

The only problem (if you can call it a problem) is that it releases in November (the same month that Justice League releases) so both of these movies are going to be fighting for much of the same audience.  Assuming that school and classes go well, I’m most certainly going to try to see both movies.


Ranking the Spider-Man Movies (now updated with Spider-Man Homecoming)


Image Source: Superhero Wikia (Art by John Romita)

I think I may have mentioned it on the blog before, but in case I haven’t, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero.  I really gravitated towards him in high school and his athletic abilities and biting (no pun intended) humor really won me over as a character.  I’ve seen several sites ranking the Spider-Man movies, so I thought I’d get in on the act myself.  Following is a list of the current Spider-Man movies so far that I’ve ranked in order of my own personal preference as to the best (& worst) of the Spider-Man universe (regardless of studio, be it Sony or the MCU).  I’ll be updating this post both when I see Spider-Man: Homecoming and when other movies are released with Spider-Man as the primary character.  As with my Marvel post, I’m going to try to keep things spoiler-free, but (as always) I can’t guarantee that things that I mention won’t spoil things for knowledgeable Spider-Man fans.


Image Source: Wikipedia

Spider-Man 2

This is by far my favorite Spider-Man film.  This film had everything that I wanted in a Spider-Man film: the idea of personal responsibility, the idea of with great power comes great responsibility, great special effects, great villain, great internal character conflict, great external conflict and an ending that gets it (mostly) right.  There are some things that this movie gets wrong, but is as accurate a depiction of Spider-Man as a character and as a comic (so far) that I’ve seen as a movie.  Things were changed and manipulated in Spider-Man 2 that is different from the comic, but I can see the reasons for each change.  To me, this stands as the (current) definitive Spider-Man movie.


Image Source: Wikipedia


Okay, so I like this one, but not nearly as much as its sequel.  I think my enjoyment for this one was muted because it is an “origin” story and I know Spider-Man’s origin like the back of my hand at this point.  Seeing the character evolve (especially when you already know the story) isn’t nearly as impactful as seeing an original adventure featuring the character and I think that’s what hurts this one the most.  Also, the changes the filmmakers made didn’t seem to be needed (unlike the sequel), so I didn’t really feel that the Spider-Man that I knew from the comics and games was presented on-screen faithfully.


spider man homecoming movie poster_imdb

Spider-man Homecoming

After seeing Spider-man Homecoming, I have to say that while I liked it, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.  Much of that is due to the fact that they regressed the character and made him a typical “high school” student. That wasn’t bad in itself, but I have to confess, I’m not much of a “high school drama” type of person and fully half of the movie revolved around Peter’s interaction with his high school friends and environs.  I think the action and the humor was spot on, but the emphasis on high school (Homecoming actually refers to the “homecoming” dance, BTW) really diluted some of the enjoyment of the movie for me.  Still, I liked the acting and the script (sans high school stuff), so I think that I’m most definitely on-board for a new Spider-man movie, especially if they move out of (or minimize) the high school elements.



Image Source: Wikipedia

Amazing Spider-Man 2

Okay, this one is one that the critics and I disagree on.  Critics hated this movie.  I think it is okay.  Not great, not horrible, but in the middle.  I liked the fact that they tried to incorporate the “Gwen Stacey” storyline and that they had the guts to try to replicate it on-screen, even if it didn’t hit/work just right.  I also like that Peter and Gwen were young adults, not high-schoolers and that eliminated one of my dislikes of the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, teen angst (see below).  Too many villains and too much “convenience” really hampered the story and brought it down in my opinion.


Image Source: Wikipedia

Amazing Spider-Man

In a word (or two), teen angst.  This is what kept me from seeing it in the theaters and why (along with a modified retelling of the origin story) kept me from seeing it until much later when I was able to rent it cheaply.  For me, I made the right choice. It wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, mostly because of the actors’ performances, but Spider-Man/Peter Parker is better when he is put in the young adult role, not in the teenage role.  Yes, I know he started/was bitten as a teenager, but the stories that helped grow the character and push him into mainstream consciousness are not his teenage years, but his young adult ones (as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, trying to make rent, trying to hold up his relationships with family and friends, while at the same time trying to be Spider-Man and live up to “Great Responsibility” creed).


Image Source: Wikipedia

Spider-Man 3

Easily the worst of the Spider-Man movies.  This is a prime example of filmmakers not trusting their source material and cherry-picking it for what they want without understanding why it works.  Venom should have been awesome in this movie.  The whole Peter/Mary Jane marriage sub-plot should have worked, the antagonist/ally sub-plot should have worked, but no one tried to understand the storylines from the comics.  Venom works, not because he is a psychopath, but because the symbiote  loves and hates Peter Parker.  It doesn’t want to turn Peter into a “dancing fool” as the movie portrays, but it wants to join with Peter.  When he rejects it, it hates him and wants to kill Peter and it knows everything about Peter Parker–it knows just what will affect him physically and psychologically–and it can disguise itself and be anyone at anytime.  Now throw in Peter wanting to marry Mary Jane and there is the plot that the movie should have followed.  Again, an almost horror take on the superhero genre similar to where Avengers: Age of Ultron should have gone.  How can Peter protect himself and his future wife (i.e., when the movie opened she should have been his fiancé) from a psychopathic killer out for his blood when he can’t even tell where and when that killer is going to strike?  I have the original Venom storyline and I know how that character can be used in stories based on the original writer’s (David Michelinie) interpretation and the original artist’s (Todd McFarlane) illustrations.  What audiences got instead was a watered-down (way down) version of this story without very elements that evoke menace in the character/story.  I could go on, but you get the picture–this one is bad, both because it is bad and because of so many missed opportunities.