Saturday, July 30, 2011

The real problem with Cowboys & Aliens: The ampersand

The film Cowboys & Aliens opened Friday to high expectations. However, according to Deadline, it's not doing very well.
According to Universal's North American box office stats, Cowboys & Aliens opened only #2 Friday with $12.994M, beaten by the $13.291M debut of Sony Pictures' The Smurfs. But Universal is still claiming its Western/scifi mashup should come in #1 for the weekend at $36.78M, behind the little blue guys toon's $36.02M. Or is that only wishful thinking at this point? Smurfs is really overperforming while Cowboys & Aliens is way behind expectations to the point of tanking.
The movie took a tortured path from graphic novel concept to movie property to graphic novel to actual film -- it was apparently sold to movie producers before anything more than a title and cover existed (check out some of that story here, and some more interesting stuff here). All of that time spent in development only increased the cost of the film, which in about ten years went through about a dozen script drafts. The budget is estimated to be around $165 million, or $180 million.

If Deadline's estimate holds, C & A won't make it to $40 million this weekend. That would be a disastrous opening weekend for a movie that cost so much. Maybe it will make the money back overseas, where alien invasion films and American westerns do boffo box office (am I being facetious? I don't know), but it would have to make a ton of money.

The reviews haven't been stellar. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 44%. Even worse, its Cinemascore is B. That happens to be the same score that Green Lantern earned. And we all know how I felt about Green Lantern. It was feebogzh.

So what happened? Was it that the mash-up of the western and alien invasion films was too original for moviegoers? Was it that the movie was too dark? Is it the fact that there was another interesting alien invasion movie that opened this weekend? Was it the nude scene?

If you read this post's headline, you know what I believe was the real problem with this film. It has a stinking ampersand in its title. I effing hate ampersands. For crying out loud, just write out the word

and.

It's not that hard. It's only three letters. Three letters, versus one little squiggle. You can't spare the time? Your art department can't figure out a way to make "and" look good? You've got to resort to an ugly, annoying little squiggle right there in the middle of your title?


In general, the presence of an ampersand in the title of a film is a big, bold signal that said film is to be avoided at all costs. I offer by way of examples the following partial list:

Gnomeo Ampersand Juliet
Cats Ampersand Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty GaloreBatman Ampersand Robin
Angels Ampersand Demons
Thelma Ampersand Louise
Fast Ampersand Furious (okay this is actually a pretty decent movie)
Toddlers Ampersand Tiaras (not a movie but a pretty creepy show)
US News Ampersand World Report (not a movie but a rotten magazine publication)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Ampersand Her Lover

The only real exception that I can think of is the lost classic movie Penn Ampersand Teller Get Killed, which is a dark, weird film I haven't seen since I was a kid so maybe I'm misremembering it as a great film or I'm letting my love for Penn Ampersand Teller cloud my judgment on this.

Please, at long last -- let the ampersands of time run out.

Cowboys and Aliens. How hard was that?

Bonus: Penn Ampersand Teller Get Killed is apparently available on YouTube. Now I can see if I agree with my younger self about that movie. Did I have good taste back then? I'll let you know!



Image source.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DC's "Aquaman" reboot, the difficulties with being "brand-new and fresh," and the curse of PoMo

In September, DC Comics will be "rebooting" their entire line of comics. I have written a bit about the subject here, and here. The fact that DC is attempting to "shake things up" is a positive sign. It's also a positive sign that they're releasing their comics as both printed pamphlets and as digital downloads on the same day.

However, as I've already written (see the two links above!), the content they're showing us does not look promising. DC's co-publisher, Dan DiDio, has stated,
“If we can convince the people here we’re doing something brand-new and fresh, we have a good chance to really get the people outside on board.”
What they have released thus far has done little to show us that what they're doing is "brand-new and fresh." Click one of the links in the first paragraph to find out more, or just look at this image, which I fear tells us all we need to know about DC's company-wide "re-boot":


I think that the people running DC comics are sincere in their attempts to be "brand new and fresh." I think that they believe that the image above is, somehow, "brand new and fresh." I also believe that they are, themselves, fans who just love these characters so much they just know you'll love them, too! and have so much invested in them that they cannot see that what they're doing has already been done, and done to death.

Moreover, I believe that they are utterly baffled as to why Marvel commands so much of the market, nearly 45%, while they themselves command about 25%-30%. DC has some of the most interesting characters in comics. This might, in itself, be part of their problem.

DC is owned by Warner Bros, which is looking to those comic book characters for their next, post-Harry Potter, franchise. To that end, they spent as much as $300 million on the disastrous "Green Lantern" film. The people who make these comics are responsible for keeping them "relevant" to a dwindling audience, and protecting them as intellectual property for Warner Bros, which hopes to use them as film, television, and toy products. I have no doubt they're getting a lot of pressure from WB to do something to remove from their books the odor of second place that seems to have overwhelmed them for years.

This means that each of the creative decisions in each of these books is being undertaken with input from marketing, promotion, licensing, and merchandising people. Inside "DC" and at Warner Bros. Oh, and editors. This means that every great idea that the talent comes up with, however bold it might be in the pitch itself, gets turned to stasist and conservative mush after it's been through the corporate grinder. What was "brand new and fresh" when Mr. DiDio et. al. were discussing it over lunch at, oh, let's say they have great taste and ate at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles became, well, it became that Justice League image you see above by the time it got to the (digital) printer.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part, based on my own very brief experience writing comics. But it's like that with any writing for hire, really. There are concessions to be made. When there are millions of dollars in licensing and merchandising on the line, the concessions pile up dramatically. And then you all have to go out and give interviews in which you promote your original idea (the one you really believe in), and hope that not too many people realize that it doesn't quite match up with the final, printed version.

The Hollywood Reporter ran some more images from another of DC's "reboots," the first issue of a new "Aquaman" comic book. Of the reboot itself, THR writes:
Behind the move is a feeling that DC must re-energize itself for the 21st century, not only to combat Marvel's dominance but also to counter the perception that only die-hards are still combing through the periodicals. So, in sync with a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, DC will, in an industry first, release digital issues day-and-date with hard copies and develop new stories designed to recapture lost readers and win over a younger generation. (And potentially sow the seeds of future blockbuster TV and film franchises.)
That is a lot to have to accomplish. Based on what we've seen so far (the Justice League cover image above), it appears as though DC either isn't really trying to appeal to anyone who's not a "die-hard," or they just flat out don't know how to appeal to anyone who's not a "die-hard."

They are not, for instance, trying to appeal to me. I happen to love comics. I also love superheroes. I haven't read a superhero comic book all the way through in a long time. If that image above is any indication, they do not want me as a customer.

But, then, that's okay if they can "sow the seeds of future blockbuster TV and film franchises." Besides that, I have fairly idiosyncratic taste.

More from THR shows just how much worse off DC is than I thought:
Heroes will be tweaked and aged down to showcase them not as established titans but as strivers who "have to sweat to fight the bad guys," [Jim] Lee says. For example, Johns' new take on Aquaman -- here THR offers an exclusive sneak peek at pages 5 to 8 of issue No. 1, with art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado -- retools the underwater-breathing hero so he is no longer the king of Atlantis and now plays off his second-banana status.

"Geoff has dived into the grandeur of the character while addressing that he's been a running joke," Lee says. "It's going to have humor and majesty."
Aquaman is, or was, the king of Atlantis. This is a man who can live underwater indefinitely, withstanding the immense pressure of being miles below the surface of the ocean. Think about how much force is exerted on a body when it dives underwater -- water is heavy, for crying out loud. The earth is something like 80% water. Aquaman is one of the very few sentient beings that can live in that environment. He is, in other words, sole protector of something like 80% of the planet. He can talk to animals that live in the ocean. This guy is a champion for crying out loud, and yet, DC is "retooling" him to "play off his second-banana status."

Wha--?

If Aquaman were a real, actual, living being, he would be regarded as one of the most amazing people on the planet. I bet you that he would be one of the most -- if not the most -- popular superheroes, if for no other reason than our ever-present worries about climate change. Aquaman would be a fetish figure all over the world.

And yet, DC is treating him as a "second banana." How so? Here's one page from the preview DC released:


Again I ask: Wha--? The "glass of water" line is intended to be funny -- or, at least, the reaction to the "glass of water" line is intended to be funny: check that pause in the fifth panel, and the sheepish looks -- but it only makes sense in a "winking at the audience" PoMo kind of way. As a reference to Aquaman's "second banana" status, and the jokes made at his expense in the real world (even NPR has called for a moratorium on Aquaman jokes -- and now DC is making them?) don't work in the context of a comic book about Aquaman.

DC needs to own Aquaman. He is a tough bastard. He rules 80% of the freaking planet. If there's an oil spill somewhere or trouble on an oil rig, who are you calling? When that oil drill burst off the coast of Louisiana, leaking millions of barrels of oil, wouldn't you have liked to see a goddam Aquaman swim down there and plug it up in about five minutes?

"Second banana"? Are you kidding me?

Submarine disasters. Sinking ships.  Sea embargoes. For crying out loud, Aquaman has the trademark on sea rescue. It's not his fault if he's been saddled with creators who can't think of anything to do with him (he actually has had, on occasion, some decent writers working on him).

Iron Man was a joke at Marvel. A second banana, maybe third banana. He was basically just Marvel's version of Batman, and a halfhearted rip-off at that. But Marvel took him seriously. Marvel owned Iron Man. Today, Iron Man is one of the most famous superheroes in the world. And Iron Man has to build himself a special submarine suit of armor if he wants to go swimming five miles under the sea. Aquaman can just dive right in.

DC needs to stop with the PoMo (I'm thinking specifically of Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated stuff, but the "glass of water" line is a small example of just how prevalent that movement has become in American mainstream comics -- and, yes, it is a major reason why fewer and fewer people are reading mainstream comics; after awhile, it's no fun reading a story whose sole purpose seems to be for the writer to prove how so very clever he can be while still creating a product that the corporate overlords can market) and start taking their characters seriously, and without so much oh-so-clever guile. And if you're going to make a change, go all out with it. Don't just repackage the same old, and tell us it's "brand new."

If DC is intent on this "humor and majesty" stuff, perhaps they could make Aquaman a lovably earnest fellow who doesn't realize that the policeman's barb (and, really if you'd just seen someone flip over a truck and resist machine gun bullets would you really make a joke at his expense?) was intended as snark, and he could talk about the importance of staying hydrated, but that he doesn't need anything to drink at that moment because of, oh, something about the nature of his oceanic powers? Over the course of the first issue, Aquaman's earnestness would win out over the nonsensical PoMo. (Maybe that could be one of his powers -- overcoming PoMo and deconstructionism in comics -- in the second issue he could battle a character called Deacon Struckshonne, who has a big beard and wears enormous rings like Alan Moore. Of course, that in itself is PoMo and deconstructionist, isn't it? You can't win.)

But. Over at the Aquaman Shrine (the "die-hards" beyond whom DC is attempting to appeal), I found this image, also recently released by DC:


In his post accompanying this image, joe writes:
Speaking personally, I can see the influence of both the legendary Jim Aparo as well as the amazing George Perez in Reis & Prado's artistic style. These elements combined with their own larger-than-life, modern approach lead me to believe that it is their art that will be responsible for introducing the Sea King and his cast to a whole new generation of Aquaman fans.
Maybe it will; I don't know. But that artwork (which looks to me like everything DC's been doing for the last ten years, to ever-dwindling sales) has a lot to overcome. Just for starters: Why is "the Sea King" standing in the middle of a city? they couldn't create a dramatic image of him, perhaps, swimming?

I'm not sure if even a glass of water will help him.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Winklevoss twins and "the nature of irony"

Recently, Larry Summers, the miserable failure of an asshole who resigned in disgrace after a pathetic tenure as Barack Obama's "chief financial advisor," called the Winklevoss twins "as sholes."

You can watch the video here. (Embed disabled by request!)

The Winklevoss twins (or, if you prefer, Winklevii) are the two young men who claim to have invented facebook. They sued TIME magazine person of the year Mark Zuckerberg and settled for $65 million. Actually it was apparently $20 cash and $45 million in stock, which is now worth something like $150 million. Now they've given up with the pursuit of the lawsuit, or it was dismissed by a judge in Boston, or something.

Perhaps the worst part of the whole ordeal was that it inspired one of the most overrated movies of last year.

Anyway, the Winklevii have a lot of money, even more money than they had before, which was apparently a lot of money. Beyond that, I don't know much about them. I hope they're happy.

At the time they attended Harvard, financial genius Larry Summers was the president. In January 2009 he joined the Obama administration as an economic advisor.

His tenure was marked by failures that would be hilarious if it weren't for the fact that we're all suffering because of them.

Well, Mr. Summers, the Winkelvii might be as sholes (I don't know them, never met them, never will), but at least they haven't done anything to directly contribute to the destruction of the world's economy. The way you have.

I'd say that makes you the as shole. One as shole calling someone else an as shole is what you'd call ironic.

Mr. Summers made his "as shole" remarks at something called the Fortune Brainstorm tech conference, in front of a group of people who sat to listen to this man, presumably because they thought he had something worthwhile to say. Therefore, it's probably a safe assumption that the people who invited Mr. Summers to speak, and the people who willingly came to listen to him -- despite his almost uninterrupted string of failures -- are also as sholes.

A group of people sitting and respectfully listening to an as shole speak at a conference that isn't called "The Big Giant As shole Conference" is another bit of irony.

"As sholegate" was covered by something called First Post, by a semiliterate snarkist who frames the situation thus:
Larry Summers told the Fortune Brainstorm tech conference in Aspen, Colorado earlier this week about the famous incident when the cocky – and cosseted – twins asked to meet him to discuss Zuckerberg's alleged theft of their ideas.

That meeting is a particularly entertaining scene in David Fincher's Oscar-winning film. Seeing the pair of undergraduates arrive overdressed in matching suits, the fictionalised Summers sneers: "From the looks of it they want to sell me a Brooks Brothers franchise."
Ho, ho! That is clever, the way the fictional version of Mr. Summers (from an Academy Award winning film, no less!) belittled two young men who had the audacity to get dressed up for a meeting with a university president (and what scintillating dialogue!). One can completely understand why said president might want to take these little slugs down a peg or two-- seriously, getting dressed up? To see a university president? Who did they think they were?
The Winklevosses, known on the internet as Winklevii, would arguably have done well to rise above Summers's comment. Instead, they have delighted gossip fans with a 600-word defence.

They write: "[Summers'] manner was not inconsistent with his reputation and present day admissions of being tactfully challenged. [He failed] to shake hands with the three of us upon entering his office (doing so would have required him to take his feet off his desk and stand up from his chair)."

Misunderstanding the nature of irony, they add: "Ironically, our choice of attire that day was made out of respect and deference to the office of the President."
No, actually the Winklevii did not misunderstand the nature of irony. It really is ironic that they got dressed up to show respect and deference to the office of the President, when said president was in fact a complete and utter as shole.

In trying to be oh so arch and clever and inserting her own comment into the Winklevii statement, it's the author of the post who reveals that she misunderstands the nature of irony. How ironic!

Larry Summers in action.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spider-Man villain arrested at Comic-Con!

In a cheap attempt to get some more "nipple slip" traffic, here is a photo of actor Rhys Ifans proudly displaying his nipple.

Reuters, which is allegedly some kind of "news" organization, ran a story about a "Spider-Man" villain being arrested at Comic Con. This is the headline:

"Spider-Man" villain Ifans arrested at Comic-Con

The "Ifans" referenced in the headline is an actor called Rhys Ifans. He is an actor who portrays a "villain" called The Lizard in the upcoming Spider-Man film, "The Amazing Spider-Man. Mr. Ifans is not himself a villain -- nor, for that matter, is Spider-Man an actual person. As for the arrest:
[San Diego police spokeswoman Lt. Andra] Brown told Reuters a member of Ifans' "entourage" did not have proper identification to enter Comic-Con, a gathering of science-fiction fans and comic book lovers. for a promotional event to tout the upcoming "Spider-Man" movie.

Ifans used his hand to push his way past security, Brown said. He cursed the staff, hurled insults at the United States and loudly complained: "I don't live here," she said.

The police spokeswoman added that Ifans' breath "smelled like alcohol" but he was not cited for public drunkenness.
I attended every Comic-Con from 1999-2007, and I can say that it just got more and more every year. More crowded, more harrowing, more tiring, more tiresome. A big part of the problem, for me, were the security guards and the volunteers who stood around trying to direct traffic. They honestly thought that this was their ONE BIG CHANCE to lord it over on the miserable nerds and geeks who attended -- many of whom have paid extraordinary amounts of money, not only in admission charges but in travel, hotel, and food expenses, not to mention the time spent getting into the convention center and walking around -- and to show them exactly who was in charge. They could be completely insufferable.

I have had my own oh so minor run-ins with these people, usually about the direction of foot traffic -- "you can't go that direction, if you want to get into that exhibit hall you have to go all the way around the corner and come back the way you came," that kind of stuff.

So, on the one hand, I sympathize with Mr. Ifans.

On the other hand, he is a very well-compensated Hollywood celebrity who was attending on Sony Pictures' dime and most people bent over backwards to ensure that this man and his costars had as easy a time as possible under the circumstances, and by the way boo hoo isn't such a burden having to go to beautiful San Diego, one of the loveliest cities in the world, to promote your multi-hundred-million-dollar major studio film?

So, on the other hand, Mr. Ifans can fook off, as I believe they say in the country from which he hails (he's Welsh).

The Wrap has more:
An individual with knowledge of the incident said security was very "tight and aggressive backstage." The person said Ifans stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, and when he tried to get back in security tried to stop him and his entourage, which escalated into an argument.
This person might be Ifans himself, or a member of his entourage, but I'm inclined to believe the "tight and aggressive" line. Still, I find it very difficult to believe that security was particularly "tight and aggressive" with one of the stars of a major Hollywood movie who was there to sit on a panel promoting said movie.

Also, where did he go to smoke his cigarette???
Here is a statement to TheWrap from Lt. Brown:

"Rhys Ifans (the Lizard in the new "Spider-Man" movie) was placed under citizen's arrest for battery on a security guard. A member of his entourage did not have proper credentials for the entrance he was at. He was abusive, belligerent, and aggressive, and shoved a female security guard aside to shove his way through. After the panel, he was cited and released. He was verbally abusive to all around...security, the PD and the USA. After receiving his citation he left the venue."
It's interesting to me that the spokesperson seems to be emphasizing, not just in the statement above but in her quotes to the press, that Mr. Ifans was "verbally abusive" to the police department and the USA. I'm not sure how one is "verbally abusive" to an organization of professional law enforcement members and an entire country. I don't think it's possible. Let's assume he said, "The USA is bollocks."

Is that verbal abuse? Against a country? Poor USA, can't take a few insults from an actor for crying out loud. Pity the poor San Diego police department, Rhys Ifans says he doesn't like them.

Even if Mr. Ifans was "verbally abusive" to the USA etc, here in this country we have a FIRST AMENDMENT that guarantees freedom of speech and expression. That has no bearing at all on the incident. If he was "verbally abusive" to the specific security guard whom he allegedly shoved, then, yes, that might be relevant. But who cares if he doesn't like the USA?

Moreover, in this country, you are to be considered INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. The police spokesperson's statement reads, "He was abusive, belligerent, and aggressive, and shoved a female security guard aside to shove his way through." Nowhere does it say that he has merely been accused of this behavior. Nor does it use the word "allegedly." This is a statement from the San Diego police department's spokesperson. It carries a lot of weight.

Anyway, this is the most interesting "Spider-Man" movie reboot news I have heard yet.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Possibly inaccurate headline: Walt Disney promotional stunt goes horribly wrong, adorable bear nearly dies as a result

The AP is reporting that a brown bear recently came perilously close to dying, owing to the fact that it had a jar stuck on its head.
State wildlife officers looked for the bear for three weeks after reports he was caught in the jug. The Knoxville News Sentinel said the male bear was roaming around Newport, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Here is a photo of the bear with a jar on its head:


The bear's three week ordeal took a tool on its health:
The bear weighed just 115 pounds, about half its expected weight.
Now, I have no proof of this, other than my own suspicions and speculation, but I believe this near tragedy was nothing more than a corporate promotional stunt gone horribly wrong. Look at that timeline. The bear had the jar stuck on its head for about three weeks. Today is July 21. That means that since roughly early July, this poor bear has had a jar stuck on its head.

On July 15th, the Disney company released a new animated film featuring a storybook bear called "Winnie the Pooh."


Did you realize that Disney was releasing this movie? I didn't, until I happened to be standing in the vicinity of a movie theater, and saw the above poster. And I wasn't the only one who was clueless as to this film's existence. It didn't even make $8 million opening weekend. An animated Disney film! It's almost as if the Disney Company made plans to advertise their film, but then had to scrap those plans at the last minute, because something went awry.

Like, for instance, putting a jar on a bear's head. We all know the classic image of the lovable Winnie the Pooh character, struggling to pull a pot of honey (or, "hunny," as Mr. Pooh adorably spells it -- illiteracy is cute!) from off his head.


So, what better way (goes the thinking of the heartless businessmen at the Walt Disney megacorporation) to promote their film product than to put a jar on a bear's head, and send him out into the wild, so that everyone can see him and think, "Oh, won't it be great to see the new 'Winnie the Pooh' movie that's coming out?"

And yet, the bear got away from its corporate masters, and nearly died from starvation and malnutrition.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not prone to hyperbole, nor am I a "conspiracy theorist." But never in my twenty years of studying corporate malfeasance and conspiracies against consumers have I ever come upon a more compelling piece of evidence that a major corporation was attempting to exploit nature in order to sell its product to the sheeple who mindlessly consume its products.

How many more bears have to suffer before Winnie the Pooh is finally pulled from theaters? Probably not many, actually, given the amount of business the film did opening weekend.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My review of the new "Dark Knight Rises" teaser trailer

Last Thursday night, I was one of the first in line to watch the final installment of the new Harry Pooter movie, "Harry Pooter and the Deadly Gallows Part 4," and I was so excited, as you probably guessed already. I had on all of my wizard gear, such as my magic wand, and the muggle, and my quiddick things. Also, I had on a cloak, and my Pooster glasses. I loved the last Harry Pooper movie, because it is just exactly the movie that fans of this long-running, unique fantasy series deserve. It had all the wonderment of the other films of the series, although I was surprised by the part when Harry Pookie died, but I especially loved the part where Harry pooped in Hermiony's mouth. Even though I think that they stole my idea for a movie where people poop in each others' mouths when they have romantic relations, I still loved it because that is how real wizards would be romantic with each other, and also share their magical relations, by trading the magic that comes out of their butts ("potters"), and putting it directly in the mouth of the other wizard ("consumption").

But what really made me excited was that the new "Dark Knight Arises" teaser trailer was released at the same time as the new Harry Pooted movie. This created quite a dilemma for me, as a fan of both this unique movie series about a school for magic and a "chosen one" who has to do a lot of magical stuff and avenge the deaths of his family by a fearsome villain who seems to be unstoppable, and a fan of the other, Batman movie series about a superhero whose parents are killed so he goes out to avenge their deaths by doing a bunch of stuff and he learns how to be a hero because he's a designated heroic person who has to save everybody. The dilemma was: How do I concentrate on this great Harry Potters movie, when I have just seen the teaser trailer for the next greatest film of all time, "The Dark Knight Raises"? Well, the answer was to just go see the new Harpy Toasters film a second, and then a third time, but as a fan of all the wonderful wizarding action of those films, I was going to do that anyway. So my next answer was to talk about all the great stuff that I saw in the new "Darker Knight than the Previous Dark Knight" teaser trailer.

Then I decided to wait because the teaser trailer was only available in the movies, and I didn't want to talk about this great teaser trailer without people being able to see it online, because talking about it when only people who have gone to see the latest Herky Perky movie have seen it seemed like a cruel thing to do, because as I've already said, the new Hoary Pottie movie is the greatest film of all time, full of unique visuals and magical scenarios that make you love life all the more. Now the teaser trailer is available online, so now I can talk about it.

First of all, here is the teaser trailer:



The first thing you'll notice is the green screen, and the announcement announcing that "The following PREVIEW has been approved for APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc." This raises ("rises") a lot of questions. For instance, what is an "APPROPRIATE AUDIENCE"? Who is the mysterious "Motion Picture Association of America, Inc"? Are they the people who decided who is an "appropriate audience"? Are they in any way associated with the League of Shadows, which is the group that tried to kill Batman in "Batman Begins"? Why are some of the words in this strange message, such as the word "PREVIEW," written in much bolder letters than the other words? Is director Christopher Nolan, who is known as a very clever person who makes clever films, sending us a secret message, i.e., "PREVIEW APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES"? Could this be a secret cry for help from the Batman?

The next part that we notice is the blue smoke, and then there is a logo for Warner Bros, and then for LEGENDARY PICTURES. What could be the meaning of this blue smoke? It is probably has to do with the fact that there is going to be some fires in this movie, and then the Dark Knight will "rise" from the ashes of the fire, like that famous bird of myth, the gryphon. That is from the Harry Pooler movies, as well, as the students of Wizard University all ride on gryphons when they play their wizard game Squamish. But anyway, in the last Batman movie, you will remember that the Joker did a bunch of stuff where he exploded everything like the hospital, and then he set all that money on fire as well, so probably since we've been hearing that this last installment of Christopher Nolan's series will bring the entire trilogy full circle, this blue smoke is a reference to that. But, why is the smoke blue? Is it because the Dark Knight is really sad ("blue")? Or is it because something that was burning caused the smoke to be blue, like if you burned a piece of blue paper on which you'd written the words "Don't give up, Batman!," the paper would make blue smoke when it burned? Probably that is it.

Warner Bros is the company that made the Batman movies, and Legendary Pictures is another company that also made the Batman movies, so that is what those logos mean. But why are these mysterious organizations working together, when Warner Bros owns DC comics, which owns Batman? Why did they have to work with another movie company to make this movie? Is this a reference to the mysterious League of Shadows, which tried to kill Batman in the first movie?

Food Network's Guy Fieri appears in the new Batman film as "BallBuster"

Next, the screen goes black. An eerie feeling arrests your soul. This blackness is no doubt a reference to the blackness that accompanies the feeling of loss that you feel when a great movie franchise is about to stop making tons and tons of money. The Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures people were probably all sad and blue because of the fact that this is the last new Batman movie that will be released until the next reboot, which will probably be in about six months and I for one can. Not. WAIT for that, you know it will be amazing, because this teaser trailer is so great. But what does the blackness REALLY mean? Could it be the blackness of Batman's soul? Or the soul of the villains that Batman will face in this movie? I can't wait to find out!

Next we see some buildings. I wonder what the buildings could mean. Could they mean that this movie will take place in, oh, I don't know... A CITY? Such as, perhaps, the home base of Batman, GOTHAM CITY (If you read the comics or saw the other Batman movies you probably already knew that)? This teaser trailer is letting us know that the movie takes place in Gotham City, which is not all that surprising.

Next, the screen goes black again, a reference to the blackness we saw earlier in the teaser trailer. Then there is a message on the screen,

"EVERY HERO HAS A JOURNEY"

Is that a message to us, or to Batman? Who is sending the message? Perhaps it is the mysterious League of Shadows, which tried to kill Batman in the first Christopher Nolan Batman film? All we can be sure of for sure is the fact that there is no period (".") at the end of this message, which means that it is an incomplete thought... There is more coming!

Next, the screen goes black again, a reference to the last time the screen went black in this teaser trailer, and we hear Liam Neeson's voice from the first movie, telling Bruce Wayne that he needed to be more than a man so that he could be a Batman and scare criminals, and we see a clip from the first Christopher Nolan Batman film. That is no doubt a reference to the first Christopher Nolan Batman film, and you love it because you know that this "journey" (remember the first message we just saw a few seconds before?) is coming full circle for this "hero," i.e., "Batman."

Pornographic film actress Penny Flame as the mysterious Batman villain Madame Garters and Long Filter.

The screen goes black again! This is probably a reference to when Batman lost consciousness that one time, and I will tell you why I think that is so in just a minute (it's because of Bane being one of the villains in this movie!). Next, we see another message, probably from the same mysterious figures?

"EVERY JOURNEY HAS AN END"

Now that is ominous. I wonder if this in fact a message from the mysterious Hollywood Star Whackers, who are after Randy and Evi Quaid, both of whom are in this movie, I have heard.

Then the screen goes black again, probably a reference to the blackness of fear that engulfs a tortured soul, because then we see another clip from "Batman Begins," where young Bruce Wayne is being chased by scary bats, and by Katie Holmes. Because this new movie brings the trilogy full circle, Katie Holmes will make an appearance as the mysterious Lady Replaced, a villain who can replace herself by creating imperfect duplicates of herself to take her place. It will be interesting to see just how they decide to work her into the movie, considering this film features about 100 villains, including Liam Neeson as Qi Gon's Al-Ghul, from the first movie, although it is unclear at this point if he will appear in a flashback sequence, or if he cheated death in the first movie.

Next, the screen goes black again, and we finally find out who has been sending us those mysterious messages from earlier ("EVERY HERO HAS A ETC"):

"FROM CHRISTOPHER NOLAN"

You love that message, because you were worried the messages were being sent by the mysterious League of Shadows, the group that tried to kill Batman in "Batman Begins." Instead, the message is from the filmmaker himself, so you know that Batman isn't in any real danger, he probably won't die or anything, even though Bane is in this movie, and Bane killed Batman in the original comics by sending all of his former villains out after him, learning about all of his weaknesses, and then, when he found out that Batman had a spine and that breaking his spine and killing him would probably be his weakness, he broke Batman's spine and killed him, because Bane is the smartest Batman villain and no other villain had ever thought to break Batman's spine and kill him.

The screen goes black again. Then, we get our first glimpse of "Community" and "Hangover 2" star Ken Jeong as Penguin. He is in everything right now, and he is so funny. But here he plays a very scary version of the Penguin. He's a little more Asian than the comic book version of the Penguin, but everyone scoffed when Christopher Nolan cast Heath Ledger as the Joker, and we all know how that turned out (Heath Ledger died). The Penguin tells Batman "I'm gonna kill you now!" and does a karate style kick. At this point, it is unclear if this is supposed to be funny or not, but it definitely looks scary, even though I did laugh a little bit, too, but only because of "Community" is so funny -- it's like a TV show about TV shows! How can that NOT be funny? Every single week. It's like a deconstruction of the sit-com format. It's so funny. Just what we deserve. A deconstruction of sit-coms. Also, "Hangover 2" was the same as "Hangover 1," which was so good that it needed to be remade two years later.

"Community" and "Hangover 2" star Ken Jeong as Penguin in the new film "Dark Knight Gets Bigger."

Anyway, then the screen goes black again. There is an image of Gary Oldman giving Christian Bale an acting class. He says, "The trick is to take any kind of dialogue, no matter how over-ripe, and make it believable." Then he proceeds to do just that, telling him, "You must RISE from this bed, and fight evil once again!" And then Christian Bale goes, "What if I don't exist anymore" (which is a reference to Grant Morrison's run on the Batman comic book, when Bruce Wayne disappeared for awhile in another dimension by going back in time, and then Bruce Wayne's son, John Wayne, took over as Batman for awhile, and the old Robin became Dick Grayson, who was a trapeze stripper and he went on tour with Glenn Beck. I have said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think Grant Morrison knew where he was going with that whole arc.

Anyway, do you think that this signals that Batman is going to join the Fantastic Four or, excuse me, the Future Foundation, in this movie? Probably, because next we see an image of Tom Hardy as The Thing. He really beefed up for this role, and took some kind of medicine that turned his skin into a sort of rocky substance -- talk about dedication! -- so his look is quite convincing, yet still in keeping with the "realism" of the previous Christopher Nolan films.

 Randy and Evi Quaid as Batman villains the Hollywood Star Whackers.

Next we see Randy and Evi Quaid as the Hollywood Star Whackers. "We are going to end your franchise!" they scream while, in the background, Ken Jeong's Penguin does a spin kick, kicking Robin in the gut, and causing Robin's bowels to evacuate, a la Arsole Fantüme. The screen goes black immediately, and then we see DC Comics publisher Dan DiDio talking about how all of the DC comic books are going to reboot in September. I am almost as excited about that as I am about the next Batman movie, "The Dark Knight is Really, Really Dark Trust Us," because as Dan DiDio says, "Everybody, no matter how dumb, will love our new DC comics series!" and you know that is true.

Next there is a brief shot of Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern. He looks into the camera and he says, "Save me, Batman!" and then he disappears in a puff of green smoke, which is probably a reference to the blue smoke at the beginning of the trailer.

Then we see Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. She says, "I think that it would be good to sleep with you," and then she winks at me. Then she jumps off the screen and into my arms, and we pick up Megan Fox and Myammee from VH1's I Love Money and go to the Chateau Marmont and the next morning the paparazzi are all waiting outside and we all leave at the same time, kind of grinning sheepishly.

Megan Fox ignoring a fan trying to give her a yellow rose as I lead her into the Chateau Marmont, so we can spend the night together.

Anyway, I think that this trailer looks really amazing, and if it weren't for the fact that the new Harry Harry movie was already released, I would say that it was the greatest movie of the year, but as it is, I can only say that it is the second best movie of the year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The US Military's insidious recruitment effort: getting soldiers to ask out hot celebrities, and then the celebrities say yes

Another US soldier has asked out another hot celebrity; this one a member of a women's soccer team (AKA "football" in the rest of the world):
Capt. Nassar Jabour posted a You Tube video asking [Hope] Solo to attend the Austrian Officer’s Ball with him this January. In the video Jabour says he “doesn’t want to marry” Hope, he just wants to take her to the dance. And in the meantime, if she’d like to get to know him better, he’d “love a pen pal.”
Here is the video of Capt. Jabour asking out Ms. Solo:



Here is a photo of Ms. Solo:


Lucky ball!

I said "another US soldier has asked out another hot celebrity" in the first paragraph of this post because, as Capt. Jabour himself says in the video, the actress Mila Kunis and the actor Justin Timberlake have also been asked out by soldiers.
Mila Kunis is definitely going to the Marine Corps Ball with Sgt. Scott Moore in November.
...
The whole saga began earlier this month, when Timberlake told Kunis of Moore's date request, which the Marine -- who's currently stationed in Afghanistan -- posted on YouTube. At Timberlake's urging, the "Black Swan" star declared that she would accept the date.

Timberlake has also received an invitation to the same ball, from a female Marine stationed in Virginia, but he has yet to respond.
Here is a photo of Ms. Kunis:


And Justin Timberlake:


Clearly, these are three attractive young people. Two of them are more attractive than the other one, as far as I'm concerned, but I'll let you decide for yourself which of the three is best. Maybe you like all three of them equally, I don't know. That's on you. I won't judge. Anyway, it is pretty clear that this whole "soldiers-asking-out-celebrities" thing has been orchestrated by our military-industrial complex (US military in coordination with the powerful corporations for which these celebrities work) to make the soldiers' life more appealing.

As the US military spreads itself all over the world, becoming involved in more and more conflicts, our government needs to recruit more soldiers. Holding out the promise that they will get to attend some kind of "ball" with the likes of Mila Kunis is enough incentive for anyone, most especially me. I don't know where my nearest recruitment center is located, but I'm heading over there tomorrow. In the meantime, I am preparing a video in which I will be asking for a date with the lovely JoAnn Worley.


It's not like I had any other chance of meeting her.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The top 25 comic book movies of all time, ever -- the most definitive list this month

Back in May, a writer at Moviefone unleashed upon the internet a definitive list of the top 25 comic book movies. The piece candidly acknowledges the difficulties in undertaking such a task:
The trouble with making a Top 25 list is how you judge the entries. Do you do it by box office receipts? Or critical consensus? What about the quality of the script, or how well a movie has aged? We took all of these factors into account while making our list, with one more criteria [sic]: how significant is the movie? Where does it stand in the history of comic book movies? These twenty-five entries are the 25 most significant comic movies, with a few entries you'll recognize and a few that you should seek out immediately.
Box office receipts, which I assume here is intended to mean the number of tickets sold, is something that can be quantified. Calling his list the "top 25" rather than the "25 best" suggests that he should probably just have gone by the amount of money each film has earned. Of course then you get into the problems of rising ticket prices, DVD and blu-ray sales, rentals, the amount of money the films earn on pay-per-view, pay cable, basic cable, networks, and syndication. That's pretty complicated, and movie studios are notoriously creative in their accounting practices.

The author then mentions "critical consensus," which of course has no bearing on anything. Critics are unreliable barometers of quality, but even if they were, the author has drifted away from "top 25" and into "25 best" territory which, based on the title of his list, is not his intention. He also mentions that "quality of script" and "how well a movie has aged" are also taken into consideration. This implies that art is quantifiable in ways that it just isn't. "Quality of script" is in the eye of the beholder, and, didn't Jessica Alba once claim that scripts were little more than suggestions for the actors?
“Good actors, never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say.”
Ms. Alba has appeared in at least three comic book based movies, so she should know.

As for "how well a movie has aged," that is slightly more quantifiable than "quality of script"-- I think most of us would agree that "The Birth of a Nation" and "Triumph of the Will" have not aged well. So I'll give him that. But his last "criteria" (and that illiterate pluralization does not bode well for the Moviefone author), "how significant is the movie," is so abstract as to be meaningless. In what way? The aforementioned "Birth of a Nation" and "Triumph of the Will" are also considered by many-- film scholars, mostly -- to be "significant". Yet neither of those films has aged well. So which "criteria" is the more important?

Anyway, here is the Moviefone list:
25. Shogun Assassin
24. A History of Violence
23. 300
22. Road to Perdition
21. Hellboy
20. X-Men
19. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
18. Persepolis
17. Sin City
16. X2
15. Ghost in the Shell
14. Iron Man
13. Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro
12. Spider-Man
11. The Rocketeer
10. Superman
9. American Splendor
8. Men in Black
7. Batman
6. Spider-Man II
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4. Ghost World
3. Akira
2. The Dark Knight
1. Blade
Over all this is fairly conventional list. There are a few idiosyncratic choices, but the big ones that everyone claims to love are all in the relative places you'd expect. Putting "Blade" in the top spot was probably an attempt to start a dialogue which, along with trying to get links, is the main reason for such lists.

But what about the alleged "criteria" the author employed? How "significant," really, is "A History of Violence"? (Nothing in that movie hadn't already been said in a thousand better films.) How well has "Road to Perdition" aged? (It felt old and dated when it was released.) How many "box office receipts" did "The Rocketeer" move? (Not many.)

"A History of Violence" is the only boring movie David Cronenberg ever made. It gave the impression of being written by someone who'd never been to America -- only seen a few crime movies and decided that's how everyone acts here. "Road to Perdition" took a vigorous, entertaining and thought-provoking book and drained from it every ounce of life, turning it into a Tableau vivant. "Hellboy" was basically just a slightly below-average "X-Files" episode, with a big red guy in it. "X-Men" felt unfinished, and contains one of the most infamous pieces of dialogue in history: When Storm uttered her line about what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning, the audience with which I saw the film groaned collectively. "Iron Man" is a neocon wish-fulfillment fantasy, and it stands in stark contrast to "Persepolis," which fell in just behind it on this list, and "The Dark Knight," which came in ahead of it. "The Rocketeer" is dull and completely forgettable; I'm sure I saw it, at some point, but I've thankfully traded the memory for one of myself, sitting in a darkened room, doing nothing for about 90 minutes. "Superman" is one of the most overrated films of all time and I will tell you why shortly. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was terrible upon release, an unfunny and uninteresting non-adventure that has only gotten worse with age.

"Ghost World" is an unpleasant mixture of mean-spiritedness and cloying sentimentality, with an obtuse ending that shows a complete lack of courage on the part of the filmmakers. Contrast that with "Art School Confidential," which was made by the same creators, Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes. That film is also venomous, but it attacks everyone equally, including the protagonist, Jerome. Like Enid of "Ghost World," Jerome thinks that he's better than everyone else. He also believes that artists like him are going to be pure and decent, with higher aspirations and morals than those in the suburbia that he finds stifling and phony. If he can just get out, he'll find people with elevated aspirations, and the full potential of which humans are capable. What he learns is that the art world is full of petty, phony people who are motivated by crass insecurity, who are just looking for the next big trend to follow -- it's just as bad as the world he thought he was escaping. The main difference is their superior, pretentious attitude. By the end of the film, Jerome learns he was no better than anyone else, and he happily gives in to the temptations of celebrity, selling out whatever principles he thought he had in the beginning.

 



I give the Moviefone author points for including "Castle of Cagliostro," "Scott Pilgrim," "American Splendor," and "Shogun Assassin," some of which will end up on my own top 25 list. But something about Moviefone's list intrigued me very much: None of my own five favorite comic book based movies appears anywhere on it. A couple of my five favorites are fairly obscure, but two of them were major, big-budget releases with big stars (one of them was a big summer release that cost over $90 million), and one of them, my all-time favorite comic book based movie, has a significant cult following.

But maybe my own favorites haven't aged well, or achieved some favorable "critical consensus." Anyway, I wanted to see if my own tastes are really that far outside the mainstream, so I googled "top comic book movies" and I found another "top 25" list, this one from a website called IGN.

Their list starts out unpromisingly, in the subheader:
Top 25 Comic Book Movies of All Time
And no, Tank Girl isn't one of them.
Right off the bat, before the article even starts, the reader has encountered hostility. This is a definitive list. Not to be questioned. Anyone who likes "Tank Girl" is shit out of luck with the (three credited) authors of this piece.

But it gets worse, with the introduction:
As Inception gives us another excuse to worship at the altar of Nolan, and with Comic-Con right around the corner, IGN does the rank and file thing again. This time, we present our Top 25 Comic Book Movies of All Time. *Drops the mic.* Now, we know what you're saying: How come you didn't give Dolph Lundgren's Punisher some love? Or or or where's my Judge Dredd?! Answer: Really? Care space for those movies exist? Really? Real Answer: Because we here at IGN Geek used the following criteria to sort out the bad movies from the really awesome, kick-ass ones. That criteria is [sic] as follows: Impact on the genre, geekout-ability moments, level of storytelling - does the adaptation exceed/do justice to its source material? - and Editor's Choice. What's our number one pick? Read on to find out, True Believers. And sound off your favorite films in the comments, unless they're Punisher or Judge Dredd. Seriously, spare yourself the mockery. It's not worth it.
The authors of this list have apparently come up with some fantastic alchemical way of quantifying art. Or, rather, they are going to fearlessly defend the status quo. You see, the mass of fanboys have decided, as a group, that Dolph Lundgren's "Punisher" and "Judge Dredd" are unworthy even of discussion. Rather than debate a film on its merits, they will mock you for your taste.

Again: They will mock you for your taste. This is nothing but a defense mechanism, for someone who is so unsure of his opinion, and has such low self-esteem, that he can't stand the thought of having to actually debate you. You might win!

They make this assertion in the same paragraph in which they pathetically solicit comments on their list.

But if you're going to affect such an attitude, you need to back it up with some interesting choices. If not proper grammar (seriously, people who make lists of top 25 comic book movies: criteria is plural. Criterion is singular -- but then again, the authors of this list are probably too cool for literacy). Their criteria are completely arbitrary, most especially that "Editor's Choice" bit. Basically, anything goes with this list. Except, of course, "Tank Girl," Dolph Lundgren's "Punisher," and "Judge Dredd."

 



Full disclosure: "Judge Dredd" would appear on my own list of the top 25 comic book movies. It's a hilarious, serious film about a serious subject-- long before the PATRIOT Act, this film anticipated a world in which officials get to write their own search warrants and render judgment without the fuss and bother of going to a "judge." Of course, it's based on a comic book that also anticipated this loathsome situation -- although for me, the comic book, while generally entertaining, has a mildly distasteful feel to it. Some of the individual stories are great (the "Judge Death" story reprinted in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 03 is one of my all-time favorite comics stories), but Judge Dredd is presented as too heroic a figure in the books. In the film, Dredd has to be cast out of the system to learn the error of his -- and society's -- ways. In other words, it meets at least one of IGN's alleged "criteria:" It exceeds/does justice to the source material. It's no "Demolition Man," but it's a decent film with a warning about our future. Plus, as you can see from the photo above, it features Sylvester Stallone wearing a codpiece.

Here is IGN's list. Remember, these authors are genuine authorities, with some great insights and perfect knowledge to quantify art. Presumably, also, these three authors have seen every single comic book based film ever made, so as to all the better make these judgments:
25. The Rocketeer
24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
23. The Crow
22. Hellboy
21. Blade
20 Batman Returns
19. Men in Black
18. Superman II
17. Ghost World
16. Dick Tracy
15. Sin City
14. American Splendor
13. Watchmen
12. Kick-Ass
11. 300
10. A History of Violence
9. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
8. Spider-Man
7. X2
6. Iron Man
5. Batman Begins
4. Road to Perdition
3. Superman: The Movie
2. Spider-Man 2
1. The Dark Knight
Have you ever met someone who stared down his nose at you, all attitude and swagger, going on about how great and amazing he was, but after five minutes of talking to him you realized he was nothing but a scared, simpering little twit with no insight, who was trying to prove how cool and with it he was by parroting his peers? That is what I thought when I saw this list. Based on that introduction, I expected something unique and bold. I mean, these are the people who are going to mock you for liking "Judge Dredd." But this list is even more safe, more provincial, more vanilla than the Moviefone list. All of these are American films, you'll note. Not even "Akira" made the cut for these stalwarts of film quantification. 17 of them are superhero movies. 4 of them are Batman movies. Four out of 25 feature the same superhero!

When you're going to cop an attitude, bring something different to the discussion -- this list is just tired and embarrassing. I bet the authors' all time favorite films are "Citizen Kane" and "Gone with the Wind," too. It's almost pointless to even talk about these selections, but, because of the nasty attitude ("nastitude": noun: a belligerently self-righteous manner, usually affected to hide deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy and fear. When the sitting congressman was asked about the photos of his genitalia which appeared on his twitter feed, he exhibited a real nastitude.) they exhibited in their tawdry introduction, I'm going to do just that.

 



First, I will mention the one good thing about this silly list: It features one of my five favorite comic book adaptations: "The Crow." This is a powerful, thought-provoking meditation on death and vengeance that asks serious questions. It's downbeat, but like any great art it is never depressing. Everything about the film, from the production design to the cinematography to the music conveys a sense of loss and sadness. Unlike most superhero films, there is a feeling of genuine danger. It's a grown-up movie, with a story that feels simultaneously classic and unique, like it has always existed. It's timeless.

It also has a fantastic song by the woefully underappreciated genius Jane Siberry.

Now, the bad. There is so much bad, but what jumps out at you right away is the presence of "Dick Tracy" on this list. "Dick Tracy" could be the undeniable best film of all time, ever made, but it is based on a comic strip, not a comic book. So it doesn't even qualify for inclusion. The authors, with the same charm and subliteracy (and don't forget the word I made up, "nastitude!") exhibited in their introduction, excuse themselves this way:
Yeah we know we're cheating a little bit here, and yeah, we know it is a comic strip and not a comic book. But the strip found its way into binded volumes so... Bob's you're [sic] uncle.
That's a bit like saying, "Yeah, I know 'The Raven' is a poem, but I found it in a short story collection, so, Im [sic] calling it a short story."

This list has no credibility.

But even if we're going to "[cheat] a little here" and include comic strip-based films, why not include a good comic strip-based film, like "I Go Pogo"? Or how about that "Far Side" movie? Or a movie that's not a pretentious exercise in self-regard, like "The Phantom"? What about all those "Peanuts" based films from the 70s? How about "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," or "A Charlie Brown Christmas"? I dislike the "Peanuts" immensely, but those films are generally beloved, and they certainly "exceed/do justice to the source material."

The next movie that jumps out is "Kick Ass." This list appeared in July 2010. "Kick Ass" was released on April 16, 2010. Less than three months after its release, "Kick Ass" has apparently made enough of an "[i]mpact on the genre" to not only merit inclusion on this list, but to be listed as the 12th "top" of all time. Surely we need more than three months to make such an important decision. You might have absolutely loved "Kick Ass" when it came out, but don't tastes change? Don't you evolve?

When I was eight or nine, HBO aired the movie "Xanadu" every Sunday for about three months. And I watched it just about every time it aired. I loved that movie. If you'd asked me at the time to name my favorite musical, I'd have told you "Xanadu." I loved Olivia Newton-John. I loved ELO's music. I loved the roller skating. Today, my tastes have changed. I have matured. I am slightly embarrassed to have ever liked the movie "Xanadu" -- catching it on one of the pay cable channels a few months ago was a painful experience. There is no story in that film -- someone decides to build a roller disco, and then they do! There isn't even a greedy land developer to oppose them! And the guy with whom Olivia Newton-John's muse Terpsichore falls in love is a completely forgettable drip (albeit with beautiful hair). If you asked me now what is my favorite musical, I would choose something much more refined and dignified, like "The Apple."

But some people don't evolve. Check the presence of "Superman: The Movie" in the number three position. Here's how the authors describe it:
The original superhero film, Richard Donner's 1978 Superman brandished its subtitle -- The Movie, bitch! -- with pride. This was nothing like the matinee serials that depicted caped heroes of the past, or the cheesy TV shows that picked up those low-end reigns in the decades that followed. No, this was certainly a movie -- an epic tale of the strange visitor from the planet Krypton known as Kal-El.

In many ways, the film set the standard for the genre which persists to this day. A cast of heavyweight actors gives the movie an instant respectability factor, while an unknown fulfills the main character's printed-page specifications (and the fanboys' needs). Christopher Reeve simply was Superman, and Clark Kent for that matter, while Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor brought a new level of humor to the baddie while (in this film anyway) never losing his truly evil streak. And speaking of streaks, the sight of Superman soaring through the sky to the strains of John Williams while he chases down an errant nuclear missile? Yeah, we believed a man could fly.

The series would degenerate fairly quickly after this (Superman II is great and all, but remember it was mostly shot at the same time as the first film). And funnily enough, that would also prove to be a trend that Superman's descendants would follow: crappy sequels.

Favorite Moment: Superman: "Easy, miss. I've got you." Lois Lane: "You… you've got me? Who's got you?!" Superman: Chuckles. Us: Goosebumps.
If that is your "favorite moment," it is a poor film indeed. And "Superman: The Movie" is a poor movie. The acting is either wooden (Reeve), shrill (Kidder), campy (Hackman), or catatonic (Brando). The movie is turgid, bloated, and unsure of itself. The presence of the words "The Movie" in the title of the film is not, as the authors suggest, a prideful boast; it's a sad betrayal of its own feelings of inadequacy. It's an attempt to distance itself from its source material. This film did not have the confidence to simply refer to itself as "Superman." It had to throw in that "The Movie" to feel better about itself -- no, this isn't the "comic book," it's a movie, I swear.

It's also deadly dull. I saw it in the theater on its first release, and it put me to sleep. As a young comic book fan I was desperately excited to see it -- a "serious" take on the superhero! How could it lose?

Well, it made a lot of money. For its time, I suppose the special effects are okay. But never once did I believe he was flying. Never once did I believe anything about this film. Moreover, it breaks one of the cardinal rules of storytelling, ending with a deus ex machina. Lois Lane who, as played by Margot Kidder, was a walking irritant (she was capable of giving a good performance: look at "Sisters," for instance -- clearly she was just slumming in this film), has died. So Superman flies into earth's orbit and then starts flying at superspeed around the earth counter to its rotation. For some reason, this causes the earth to start rotating in the opposite direction. This doesn't damage the ozone layer, or throw the seasons out of whack, destroy crops and cause mass starvation as the environment of the earth is totally devastated. No, inexplicably, forcing the earth to spin in the opposite direction makes time move backwards. Superman makes time move backward so that he can save the irritating Lois Lane from death.

Well, for crying out loud, if Superman can do that, why doesn't he just do it all the time? Why does he do it when a woman he wants to sleep with dies, and not when some children in Africa get shot by warlords? What the hell kind of a dick is this "Superman," anyway? If I were one given to making blanket, world-weary judgments about the decline of civilization, I might suggest that the Superman of "Superman: The Movie" is the perfect hero for my generation. A completely selfish narcissist. Willing to risk the lives of everyone on the planet-- willing to risk destroying the planet itself-- for a little nookie. But I'm not, so I won't. Instead, I will post a photo from a film that I like better than "Superman: The Movie," "Howard the Duck."



And I dislike the movie "Howard the Duck," but at least it has Lea Thompson in her nighties.

When I was a kid, and reading comic books, I was often made of. Teased, called names. My sexual orientation was called into question. Why a boy reading books with illustrations of extremely buff men in skintight outfits should be accused of being "gay" (as an insult-- remember, this was the 1970s, and our bullies weren't as politically correct as they are now) is beyond me. But "Superman: The Movie" at least pretended to treat the subject with reverence and respect, even if it couldn't have given less of a shit about the audience.

(By the way: "Superman II" is almost as bad. Only the third Superman film, called "Superman III," shows any life, and that because of the presence of the genius Richard Pryor. But the original, rejected proposal for the film could have been the greatest comic book movie of all time.)

As for "Spider-Man 2," that film is basically a remake of the first "Spider-Man," (Peter Parker's relationship with a science father figure who goes bad), with a dash of "Superman II" (superhero loses his superpowers). Yes, it's well-made, as was the first, as was the third, but none of the Spider-Man films stick with you in any particularly meaningful way, and I have never had any desire to watch any of them again, since seeing them in the theaters. This is a major criterion for inclusion on my own list: Have I wanted to actually watch them again since seeing them the first time?

"The Dark Knight" is actually a good movie, and would appear on my own top 25 list. For some reason, the IGN authors chose to discuss this film in an uninsightful video post. It can be found here , but please don't waste your time. For one thing, you have to sit through an ad to get to the commentary. How edgy cool is that? (Drops mic!) Some hipster doofus called Greg Miller -- you can tell how cool and ironic he is, because he's wearing a "re-elect Mike Haggar" t-shirt -- is the host. I bet he's got a really interesting, provocative opinion, no?

Well, no. He's got a very conventional opinion. He even acknowledges the banality of his list by cutely enthusing, "Holy top 25, you didn't really think we weren't going to pick 'The Dark Knight' as the greatest comic book movie ever made, did you?"

No, but someone who's obviously cool enough to wear a "re-elect Mike Haggar" t-shirt could at least have some compelling reasons as to why "The Dark Knight" is such a great film. But the most our host can offer is, "It also elevated [the comic book movie] to an art form."

Film already is an art form.

You can see why these people copped an attitude. If all you've got to offer is conventional wisdom, and you're unsure of yourself and your opinions, cop an attitude and hope you intimidate people into thinking you're cool. But you're not, IGN authors. You're pitiable.

 



Anyway, we've still seen only one of my top five favorite comic book based films. So I went back to my google search and found this completely idiosyncratic and bizarre list from MSN, from way back in 2004. It bills itself as "Top 10 Comic Book Movies." But that's just a bait and switch. The subhead says, "From superheros to super-geeks, we recall the best comic book/strip films ever made".

This is clearly someone who sees a few boxes with drawings in them and thinks, "Comic strips, comic books, they're all the same." No, they are not. Comic strips have daily continuity, they have limited space, limited layout options, they have to quickly recap what happened the previous day (or week, if it's a weekly strip) and then move the story forward, to end on a cliffhanger for the following day or week.

Unless it's a gag strip -- then it has to tell a joke in a few panels.

Comic books have several pages over which to tell a story. They have an entire page on which lay out the artwork.

I've only listed superficial differences. The two art forms aren't interchangeable. Despite what the IGN authors, and the MSN author, believes.

Anyway, MSN's list of the top 10:
10. Flash Gordon
9. Dick Tracy
8. Popeye
7 Superman: The Movie
6. X-Men
5. Blade II
4. Barbarella
3. Spider-Man
1. Ghost World
The first three entries on this list are all comic strips. One of those strips, Thimble Theater (the strip in which Popeye was born) happens to be my personal favorite comic strip of all time, with Popeye being my all-time favorite superhero. But the movie is just... well, as the author of this list says, "You have to be a special kind of person to love Robert Altman's 'Popeye.'" I assume this is meant to be a compliment. The author continues:
Maligned by too many as silly, this cartoonish musical looks exactly like E.C. Segar's comic strip, with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall perfectly embodying Popeye and Olive Oyl, respectively (Duvall was born to play the string bean). And kudos to Paul Thomas Anderson who, 22 years later, honored "Popeye" by using the Harry Nilsson-penned ode "He Needs Me" (sung by Duvall) to punctuate the eccentricity of his romantic "Punch-Drunk Love."
Here the author betrays that lack of confidence that seems to be unfortunately typical in fanboys: For some reason, Paul Thomas Anderson's approval is needed to validate the author's opinion. And, no, the movie does not look "exactly like E.C. Segar's comic strip." It looks like a big, messy stage production slapped together after watching a few of the Fleischer cartoons based on the comic strip.

I do give the author some credit for including "Barbarella" on this list. That film, based on a French comic book, features a young and lovely Jane Fonda in various states of undress.
Unless you're talking to a die-hard feminist, it's hard to find someone who doesn't enjoy "Barbarella." Roger Vadim directed his then-wife Jane Fonda as French comic-strip artist Jean-Claude Forest's sci-fi nymphet who wears skimpy, '60s space-age get-ups and, in the most memorable sequence, insatiably breaks the Orgasmatron. Psychedelic, campy and just plain sexy, this is required viewing for every horny nerd out there ... and it's a lot more fun than "Austin Powers."
It is more fun than "Austin Powers," but then, you can say that about most things. Last year, I actually went through a (minor, thank you for your concern, I'm fine) medical procedure that was more fun than "Austin Powers." Anyway, I saw "Barbarella" on HBO back when I was about five or six, and it definitely made an impression on me. Yes, Jane Fonda was hot (she might have been the first woman I ever consciously thought of in such a way), but for me the most memorable scene was the one in which Barbarella was attacked by the blade-toothed dolls. What horror, as Ms. Fonda's beautiful flesh was covered in technicolor red sauce! One of the most terrifying images I've ever seen.

 



Sadly, much like "Xanadu," this film has not held up for me as my tastes have evolved. Attempting to watch it recently made me surprisingly bored, and I finally had to give up.

The MSN list does have the distinction of containing absolutely no film that would make it into my own top 25 list.

Moving on, Film 4 has a list that it has grimly and arrogantly declared to be "25 comic book movies to see before you die." There are a lot of things I want to do before I die (work as a gigolo, write a long, pointless blog post about top comic book movies lists, complete at least 50 marathons), but making sure I see a certain number of "comic book movies" isn't one of them.

Anyway, here is Film 4's list:
X2

V for Vendetta

The Crow

When the Wind Blows

Spider-Man 2

Sin City

Persepolis

Kick-Ass

Watchmen

Superman II

Heavy Metal

Hellboy

A History of Violence

Iron Man

Ghost World

Ghost in the Shell

Flash Gordon

The Dark Knight

Creepshow

Constantine

Blade II

Batman Returns

American Splendor

300

Akira
This list has a number of distinctions. For one thing, it's the one list that doesn't "rank" the movies. It takes a genuine intellect to discern the subtle differences that separate a "number 16" film from a "number 17" film. The list-makers are here tacitly acknowledging a limitation of such lists -- or their own limitations; either way, that is a good thing. It also features "The Crow," which, as I've already said, is one of my own top five. This is also the first list to feature "Heavy Metal," another film which would make my own top 25 list. When I was a kid, it was "Heavy Metal" magazine, which mostly reprinted comics that had appeared originally in French comics magazines like "Metal Hurlant" and "Pilote," that really got me interested in comics in general. Most especially the works of Phillippe Druillet and Moebius made huge impressions on me -- but the stuff by Voss and Lob and Bilal was also great. The American Richard Corben's "Den," with his insanely muscled men and huge-breasted women, was also a favorite. Sadly, the filmmakers were only able to obtain the rights to a few of the American artists' works. The "Den" segment is great, as is the segment based on Angus McKie's "So Beautiful and So Dangerous," at least until it just completely gives up at the end. The rest of the film is entertaining enough, but it's frustrating to think of what might have been if Druillet's "Urm the Mad," or Moebius' "Arzach" had been included.

It also contains "V for Vendetta," another of my "top 25."

Another point in this list's favor is that it's the first to contain a film that I haven't seen. I'd never even heard of "When the Wind Blows." Here's how the film is described:
You'd think today's kids would have some respect for their own mortality - so why do they remain so fearless? Well, unlike the 1970s and 1980s generation, they aren't continually being scared stiff. Consider the evidence: scary kids' TV with scary theme tunes; the potential for drowning in a pre-Thames Barrier London; the daily possibility of being blown up by the IRA; icebergs with the voice of John Hurt giving us Aids; heroin screwing us up (or at least giving us unsightly acne). And the granddaddy of all bogeymen: da bomb. Permeating all pop culture, from 'Two Tribes' to Threads, the ridiculously real threat of nuclear annihilation gave us all the screaming abdabs - not helped by Jimmy T Murakami's adaptation of Briggs' graphic novel 'When The Wind Blows', a darkly satirical riposte to those fatuous 'Protect And Survive' leaflets (and an exact photo negative of Disney's 1957 propaganda cartoon Our Friend The Atom). For Jim and Hilda Bloggs, taking a few doors off their hinges and climbing into a brown paper bag should be enough to ensure their post-holocaust survival. After all, the government wouldn't lie to us. Would they?
This does what a good "top whatever list" should do-- it intrigues us enough to get us interested in seeking out a film we haven't seen before. It's not copping a "nastitude," like the IGN list (I am going to keep using that portmanteau until everyone else does, too). I would take issue with the author's contention that "today's kids...aren't continually being scared stiff." That's just wrong-- what about "terrorism," "stranger danger," "climate change," and "the obesity epidemic"? Kids are always going to be "scared," it's just that what we're using to scare them is changing.

On the negative side, this list also features "Flash Gordon," which was originally a comic strip (oh, well, "Bob's you're [sic] uncle"):
In an alternative universe, George Lucas snapped up the rights to 'Flash Gordon', and praised God he didn't have to rely on his fallback option: directing a mere homage to it. In another alternative universe, only very slightly removed from our own, Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights, 'Dune' novelist Frank Herbert co-wrote the screenplay and Nicolas Roeg added it to his directors CV. In yet a third alternative universe, De Laurentiis replaced Roeg at the last minute with Mike Hodges, a director previously known for gritty crime thrillers like Get Carter. Ah, hang on, that did happen. If Roeg, according to the producer, had attempted to make "Shakespeare out of a comic book," Hodges proved the perfect director - despite serious misgivings: poor optical effects, a novice frontman, an Italian designer who spoke no English, and costumes you could hardly move in. As Melody Anderson (Dale Arden) said later, "It wasn't an actor's picture. It was a special effects picture." And all the better for it.
Yes, but those special effects were just bad. And no matter how much campy fun the movie is, and how much we enjoy the soundtrack that Queen put together, this is a movie based on a comic strip for crying out loud.

Then there's the presence of the film "Creepshow," which wasn't even based on a comic strip:
In 1954, Dr Frederic Wertham published his rabble-rousing thesis 'Seduction Of The Innocent', citing comic books as a cause of illiteracy, juvenile delinquency and sexual subversion: according to Wertham, Batman and Robin clearly batted for the other side, while Wonder Woman was little more than a bondage-happy lesbian. If Wertham's accusations led to a congressional hearing, most damagingly, for EC comics publisher Bill Gaines, it also spelled the beginning of the end for EC's lurid horror titles, such as 'Tales From The Crypt' and 'The Vault Of Horror', with the self-censoring Comics Code Authority ruling comic books could no longer use words like "terror" or "horror" on their covers. Naturally, this didn't stop a generation of young Americans guzzling them down. And the faster Mr and Mrs Romero confiscated young George's corrupting EC comics, the sooner he'd smuggle them back. "I'd go somewhere with them and listen to some Alan Freed!" the Creepshow director chuckles. When Romero and Stephen King had the idea of framing their EC comics-inspired anthology with period-style artwork, they knew just who to call: Jack Kamen, whose lurid, controversial illustrations had burned indelibly into the minds of many an impressionable teenybopper.
So now we're allowing in movies that were inspired by comics, as opposed to being based on comics? That doesn't seem fair, does it? "Creepshow" features segments written by Stephen King either specifically for the film, or based on his own prose short stories. I guess if you can include comic strip-based films, you can include "Creepshow," but where is Sam Raimi's great "Darkman"? That movie would probably be in my top 5, if allowed. For that matter, how about Brad Bird's "The Incredibles," which is the second-best superhero film ever made (by which of course I mean it's my second favorite superhero movie -- "Mark of Zorro" is my number one)? Both of those films were clearly inspired by comics. How about Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element," which bears an uncanny resemblance to Jodorowsky's and Moebius's "The Incal"? Including "Creepshow" on this list just opens a whole can of worms or, if you prefer, cockroaches (see the movie!). Let's leave this list now, before we get too far into the weeds, which is where we already are, where we've been for awhile now, actually.

Here's someone else's top 20 list . The author introduces it this way:
In honor of the recent release of "Thor" in theaters, and the upcoming releases of "Captain America," "Green Lantern," and "X-men:The First Class," I have decided to put together my Top 20 list of the Best Comic Book Movies of All Time.

I should point out that, in the interest of not making a Top 50 or 100 list, I intentionally left out some movies that, while based on a comic or graphic novel (like "History of Violence" and "Road To Perdition"), did not really have any "comic book" elements in them (i.e., superpowers, costumes, sci-fi elements, or heavy visual elements), and I also excluded all animated films based on comic books as well (i.e., no "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm").

As it is "Thor" has already made my list, and from seeing the trailers for the other three pending movies, it wouldn't surprise me if they end up knocking some of my favorites off this list, or possibly forcing me to expand it to a Top 25 List.
This person doesn't make any pretense to criteria like "impact on genre" or "critical consensus." He's all "Editor's choice," and why not? It's his list, he can do what he wants. Including arbitrarily choose to exclude animated movies, or movies that didn't have "heavy visual elements" (although I am happy for any reason to exclude "Road to Perdition" from any "top whatever" list, I am curious as to why this person believes it doesn't feature "heavy visual elements"? That film is all "heavy visual elements," in fact it is weighed down by its "visual elements," to the exclusion of the emotional engagement that was present in the original work). Is setting out to make a list, and then arbitrarily placing restrictions on that list, any more silly than setting out to make a list (comic book movies) and then breaking your own rules about what you put on that list (comic strip movies)? Anyway, here is his top 20 list:
20. Wanted
19. The Incredible Hulk
18. Superman The Movie
17. Men in Black
16. Sin City
15. Watchmen
14. Superman II
13. Iron Man 2
12. 300
11. Blade
10. Batman
9. Thor
8. Spider-Man 2
7.Kick-Ass
6. X-Men
5. Spider-Man
4. X-2
3. Iron Man
2. Batman Begins
1. The Dark Knight
Regarding "Thor," which, as the author points out in his introduction, is still in theaters as of the publishing of his list, he writes:
Yes, "Thor" already made my Top 10, but given that unlike the other movies on this list, I have only had a chance to see "Thor" once, I reserve my right to change my mind after further viewings. That being said, while I was initially skeptical about this movie, it was surprisingly really good. Chris Hemsworth's performance of Thor reminded me of the fun and adventurous take that Robert Downey, Jr., brought to the "Iron Man" role. Anthony Hopkins was perfect as "Odin," and Tom Hiddleson made a fantastic "Loki." While I would have liked to see more, the action and fight sequences were fantastic, especially the first battle between Thor and the Frost Giants. You can read my entire official review here: www.squidoo.com/thor-review
He's seen "Thor" only once, he reserves the right to change his mind about it, and yet he placed it in his top 10, above "300," "Blade," and "Sin City." But he might change his mind. That is some enthusiasm. It's also an acknowledgment that this whole "top whatever" list thing is ephemeral, subject to our changing tastes. This is a good thing, and a vast improvement over the "nastitude" exhibited by the IGN authors.



Also of interest is the presence of "Watchmen" on this list. Moviefone's author resisted placing that movie on his list, but the "Tank Girl" despising authors over at IGN, and Film 4 critics both listed it. The film version of "Watchmen" is so misguided, so jumbled and nonsensical that it actually made me question my appreciation for the source material.

The novel, which appeared originally in 12 comic books, is one of the most elegantly constructed comic book series of all time. Each issue is like a piece of a very complicated, dense puzzle, and for at least seven or eight issues I was a-tremble with anticipation over what was happening. The characters had an authentic feel, despite the fact that they wore tights and capes, and the book raised some serious political questions. But it was the structure of the book that mattered.

The ending was nasty and nonsensical. Murdering millions of innocent people so that the politicians and government officials who created the dangerous environment in which everyone was living could -- what, suddenly start working together? -- was an intriguing idea, perhaps, to a psychopath. The mentality that believes that has any chance of working is the same mentality that got us into no fewer than three illegal wars in the Middle East. And as bad as the ending seemed when the original issues were published, back in 1986-87, it feels embarrassingly dated today, following the events of September 11, 2001, specifically.

Ozymandias was supposed to be the smartest man in the world-- it didn't occur to him to just assassinate Richard Nixon? (And by the way-- why is Mr. Nixon the only world political leader we see in the film? In three hours they couldn't figure a way to work in his Russian counterpart? Doesn't he at least bear some responsibility for the state of the world?)

By having Ozymandias "frame" Dr. Manhattan, the filmmakers only amplified the flawed reasoning of the original ending. Other countries would be more likely to go to war in that situation, not less. For crying out loud, look at the still-flourishing "9/11 truth movement." Why would a worldwide attack by an American (an American who single-handedly won the Vietnam war), that kills millions of people all over the world, not make us even more hated?

Almost as bad is the structure of the film. By following so closely the structure of the original 12-issue series, it felt more like you were being read to than watching a movie. And the movie also had an oddly static feel. Look for instance at the scene in which Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre break Rorschach out of prison. They break into the prison and make their way down a corridor. They punch a few prisoners. They pick up Rorschach. They leave. There is nothing dynamic about the sequence.

The fact that the movie was directed by Zack Snyder, who made "300," only makes it worse. "300" is the opposite of "Watchmen;" it has genuine energy and movement. It's exciting to look at. Every scene is elegantly constructed, like a painting, and all the soldiers' sculpted bodies are beautiful and alive against the computer generated backgrounds. But those elegantly-constructed scenes move. It uses the tools of modern filmmaking and computer technology to create a tribute to heroism in the face of impending doom. One could look at it as a metaphor for our dying culture, if one were given over to such grand pronouncements. One could also say that "300" spits in the face of "Superman: The Movie."

Again, none of my own top five made the cut, but in fairness to me and him, based on the restrictions he laid out in his introduction, two, and possibly even three of my top five would be disqualified for inclusion on this list.

Here's another top 10 list, this one posted May 11, 2010 -- it features both "Iron Man 2" and "Kick Ass," which were released within a month of that date. I'm not going to bother posting the whole list, but I do want to highlight the author's top two choices:
2. The Dark Knight
This was a comic book movie at it’s darkest. I admit that I walked out The Dark Knight very depressed. I mean look at the facts-the movie’s real focus (and almost hero), Harvey Dent, is out of the picture, Batman is now on the run (due to his own choice), his girlfriend is dead-it all ends on a down note. It’s very much The Empire Strikes Back of the series. But let’s look at the positives. Ledger, in his last full performance, gives us a very scary, and very memorable Joker (“Wanna see a magic trick?”). Aaron Eckhart is amazing as Harvey Dent, and, for a few brief moments, Two Face. And Christian Bale (raspy voice aside) still proves that he is the best combination of Batman and Bruce Wayne. The movie is just too good, too well written, and too smart and I would be idiotic not to put it on the list.

1. Iron Man

This movie came out the same summer as the number 2 movie on my list. While The Dark Knight was more of a well rounded movie, there is a reason why I prefer Marvel Comics (Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk)-their characters are just more fun. Obviously, Marvel Studios (in it’s first production) injected the original Iron Man movie with this “fun” and it shows. As soon as the movie kicks in with AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” you immediatley see Tony Stark, scotch in hand, sunglasses on, making clever remarks. That opening alone just sets the tone for the movie-it’s awesome! Plus, the movie succeds where Iron Man 2 didn’t because all the best moments were not given away in the trailers. For me, the best part of this movie was where Tony suits up in the Mark III armor for the first time. The sequence, the music, and the final shot of Stark’s face is just awesome. Also, hearing the clang of the Mark I armor as Tony stomps towards the door (trying to escape captivity) to take down the terrorists had me cracking a smile. Why is this movie number one? Everything works-the cast, the special effects, the pacing, the music, the humor, the drama, everything. It’s an awesome movie, one that I saw three times in theatres, and proudly own on dvd. I love it. More than any other comic book movie. Period.
As this author notes, "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight" were both released in the same summer. Both were very successful at the box office. Both were well-constructed. Both had decent-to-very-good performances. Both had interesting visuals. And there the similarities end.

I cannot express to you -- I lack the vocabulary-- the deep loathing I have for the film "Iron Man." It is a morally bankrupt film. It is corrupt. At its core it is rotten, all the more nasty for the skill that was utilized in putting it together. While the author of this particular list claims that he "walked out [sic] The Dark Knight very depressed," I admit that I walked out of "Iron Man" very depressed. The reasons are brought into focus by comparing "Iron Man" with "The Dark Knight":

Toward the end of “The Dark Knight,” it’s revealed that Batman/Bruce Wayne has been working on a secret project that basically turns everyone’s cell phone into sonar images. He can spy on everyone in Gotham City. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it’s both ultra cool and scary as hell. Batman realizes that one person shouldn’t have this power- he rationalizes using it because he needs to track the Joker, who is undeniably worse than Batman.

This same Batman who, in “Batman Begins,” brought down the entire League of Shadows to save the life of one murderer doesn’t trust himself to only use the spying device once. That’s why he gives Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division, the power to destroy it at any time. And he does just that, once Batman has found Joker.

There are a few decent people in the government, but even those decent people can be corrupted, as happened to poor Harvey Dent. A recurring theme throughout the film is that Commissioner Gordon doesn’t know who on the police force he can trust.

Compare this to the fascist presented in the "Iron Man" movie. This is a guy who builds weapons for the government, so it can perpetuate its Middle Eastern war policies. When Tony Stark is kidnapped, he uses his expertise to build a weapon to free himself (I did kind of like that the terrorists who kidnapped Mr. Stark were too stupid to see that he was building a suit of armor right under their noses). Upon his return to the United States he builds another, more impressive killing machine, so that he can fly back to the Middle East and act as a de facto government agent.

He hasn’t learned anything at all. Tony Stark should never have been in the Middle East. Our soldiers shouldn’t have been there. If it hadn’t been for the United States’ corrupt and continuously wrong-headed policies (one long uninterrupted string of failure, it seems), he wouldn’t have gotten kidnapped.

Iron Man works for the government. Batman works outside of the government. At the end of “The Dark Knight,” Commissioner Gordon is forced to destroy the Bat-Signal, effectively severing all ties between hero and government. At the end of “Iron Man,” Tony Stark is recruited by Nick Fury of SHIELD, which we’re led to believe is some government defense agency.

Batman refuses to use a gun. Iron Man has rocket launchers that pop out of his shoulders.

Bruce Wayne spends the entire film nursing his broken heart. Tony Stark literally has a hole in his chest.

Bruce Wayne pretends to sleep with one hot prima ballerina after another, as part of his carefree, millionaire playboy cover. Tony Stark actually hops from bed to bed (come to think of it, this is one point where Iron Man is better than Batman. Sorry- forget this one.)

"The Dark Knight," along with "Batman Begins" (which I actually prefer) both belong on my top 25 list. "Iron Man" belongs on my bottom 25 list, which is the worst thing I can think of to write about it. Trust me, no film wants to be on my bottom 25 list. It's bad.

But, again and finally, none of my own top five are on this list, either. I am beginning to wonder if I'm swimming so far outside the mainstream that I'm just an odd duck. I'm not sure if that was a mixed metaphor (ducks do swim, right?), but I know that on my own blog I've been called a "troll," for holding an opinion that was "unpopular." Maybe I'm just a troll.

Maybe I should move under a bridge, and demand first-born children before allowing people to cross said bridge.

Here is my own top 25 list. As I mentioned above, a film's "re-watchability" was one major criterion. Films were chosen based on their sheer badassedness, their kickassedness, their geekassedness, and their overall artistic merit. Also, I considered if the film was necessary to advance the cause of film as art (in other words, if this film didn't exist, would the world be poorer for it?). Also taken into consideration was Editor's Choice. And I also gave some weight to "Bob's you're [sic] uncle." Please also note that inclusion on this list does not necessarily mean I consider the film to be "good." These are just what I consider to be the top 25 comic book based movies, and most comic book based movies are terrible.

The first twenty will be unranked, and presented in "Editor's Choice" order:

Batman Begins
Most superhero movies that detail the hero's origin story follow the same template. It is tired and cliche now, it was tired and cliche when "Batman Begins" was released, but Christopher Nolan added a philosophical flourish to this film. Because the government in Gotham City is so inherently corrupt, and most of its workers so dishonest, Batman must take it upon himself to help the honest citizens.

In the late '30s through around 1940, when superheroes first appeared in comics, they were mostly figures of justice. Superman and Batman willingly and gleefully broke the law all the time, in order to right what they saw as some fundamental wrong. Then Joe Simon created the abominable Captain America, specifically to promote/cash in on the government's desire to involve the US in World War II, and things started changing. Superheroes became figures of "law and order," unconcerned so much with "justice." But as we all know, laws are often unjust, and are created by politicians and bureaucrats for occasionally nefarious purposes. In "Batman Begins," Batman is a figure of justice, not of "law." This film is about that distinction.

The Dark Knight
See above

Batman: Ashes to Ashes
"Fan films" are created by people who are motivated solely by love for the characters they follow in the comics or in film or television. And, perhaps, to have something to put in their demo reels. Regardless, many fan films exhibit enthusiasm and creativity that is sorely lacking in major, officially licensed films produced by the big studios for big money. "Ashes to Ashes" is my own favorite: It is "Un Chien Andalou" of fan films. It tells the story of a petty thug haunted by a terrible past and, in the present, a bizarre and horrific Batman and Joker. But then again, the story might be something that rational people try to impose on the film later, as in a dream. The movie is a series of terrible, disjointed images-- it's like opening the head of a fevered fanboy and videotaping the worst superhero-related nightmare he ever had. It's probably the best attempt to create the film equivalent of a dream since the last episode of "Twin Peaks." Because it's a fan film and can't be sold, you can actually watch it here if you like, but be warned: It's fifteen minutes of not safe for work craziness.

Heavy Metal
See above

Castle of Cagliostro
I am a cynical, hateful bastard. Either that, or I am an optimist who is constantly being disappointed. Watching "Castle of Cagliostro" for the first time when I was eleven made me feel like a kid again. It is the film for which the word "whimsical" was not coined, but it's certainly an apt description. The hero is the lovable cad Lupin, a master thief who was originally conceived as the grandson of the famous criminal mastermind Arsene Lupin, created by French author Maurice Leblanc. When Lupin realizes that his latest haul of stolen money is counterfeit, he decides to track down the counterfeiter, leading him to Cagliostro and one zany, exciting situation after another. The chase scenes are as good as any ever filmed, especially the final chase in the castle's clock tower.

Art School Confidential
See above

American Splendor
Harvey Pekar's autobiographical "American Splendor" comic stories are self-serving celebrations of everyday life, specifically Harvey Pekar's everyday life. It takes a lot of chutzpah to write anything at all, but to so obsessively chronicle every aspect of your life -- a story about standing in line at a grocery store, or taking the city bus -- requires a mania with which most people are not cursed. I happen to be very glad that Mr. Pekar was so cursed, because I always found his stories to be oddly inspiring. The film adaptation of several of his stories, along with the book he wrote with his wife, Our Cancer Year, is a clever and exciting mixture of live action scripted film, animation, and documentary that feels like the original comics, and a movie adaptation of those comics. Mr. Pekar was a man with an implacable moral code, and he was unwilling to compromise for anyone, even when he was in the wrong -- and, in his stories, he often did admit he was wrong. And yet, he couldn't help himself, he still did the wrong thing anyway. People are like that sometimes. As a celebration of Mr. Pekar, with all his faults, it becomes a celebration not necessarily of "the everyman," but of a specific type of "everyman." An exasperating, stubborn everyman whose great success is living his life without compromising.

Blade
We're still dealing with the oppression of the Victorian era-- by which I mean the guilt and shame imposed on the masses by those in power, in particular where sexual desire is concerned -- and for examples of the long reach of Victorian repression in modern pop culture, one need look no further than the continuing popularity of vampires. Oh, what a disservice Bram Stoker did to everyone who has come after, grafting onto the vampire mythology heaping doses of judgment and superstitious fear. But, oh, what an amazing marketing genius. And, it wouldn't have worked so well if there weren't something in humans that wanted to be exploited. Humans seem to like to feel guilty, especially when they feel good. It's why religion has been so effective for so long.

I'm not a fan of vampires, but I am a fan of Daywalkers, which is what Blade is. His mother, while still pregnant with the fetus Blade, was bitten by a vampire. Presumably, the pregnancy itself wasn't enough of a punishment for having sex. Blade's mother paid the price, but Blade himself became a superhero with all of the powers of a vampire, but with none of the weaknesses. He can go out in the sunlight without being burned to a crisp, for instance.

The vampires of the film, who of course operate in some shadowy secret society, are attempting to discover some kind of MacGuffin that will give them the power to take over the world, or something. Blade is intent on stopping them. The story doesn't really matter. It is the attitude of the film, in particular of watching Blade in the person of Wesley Snipes, a powerful, tough, modern man with genuine sex appeal destroy the remnants of what Stoker hath wrought that makes the film worthwhile.

Fritz the Cat
I always thought that Robert Crumb was one of the best artists to ever work in comics. I love the way he renders figures, and I love the shading and cross-hatching. But his solo stories usually left me feeling cold; I believe it has much to do with the fact that, despite their salacious veneer, at heart his stories feel reactionary, even Puritanical in their underlying attitude. His Fritz the Cat stories are his best work by a long shot, and Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of the stories improves upon them just slightly, with the result being an effective satire of America in the early 1970s. It's generally remembered as the first X-rated animated film (it's pretty tame compared to, say, a typical "South Park" episode), but it also made over $100 million at the box office, which means it's the most successful "independent" animated film of all time.

 



Swamp Thing
Before Wes Craven made "Nightmare on Elm Street," which did alright for him, he made this adaptation of the DC Comics horror character, which did not do alright for him. The story is of a scientist who creates a chemical formula that will turn deserts into lush swampland, or something, but when a rival scientist Arcane's goons burn down his laboratory, some of the chemicals get on the scientist, and he turns into a superstrong creature in a green, rubber suit with a clearly visible zipper. What it lacked in budget it more than made up for with enthusiasm, and charm. Also, it had Adrienne Barbeau in a tight white T-shirt.

V for Vendetta
There are a lot of people who believe that the role of government should be to protect people from any danger, and that the best way to do this is to completely dominate and control them. Most of those people go into the government, and set about building institutions that erode freedom in the name of "safety." The comic book stories appeared originally back in 1982, and the writer Alan Moore has said he wrote it in response to what he saw happening in England under Margaret Thatcher's leadership, but that doesn't really matter because, surprise, all leaders are the same!, and everything's worse now in England and America -- thanks to the ongoing wars in which we are forever engaged: wars on poverty, drugs, terror, obesity, wars in the Middle East, are all used as excuses by our governments to limit our freedoms. There are cameras on nearly every corner in England, catching such criminal acts as placing cats in rubbish bins; we've got cameras in America, too. We've also got children being frisked on their way to boarding airplanes because, apparently, the act of traveling is enough to make you a terror suspect. (But, hey, at least the TSA is now "revising" its current patting-down-those-under-12 policy!) By fighting a corrupt system, V is labeled a "terrorist," but this film suggests that in fact it's the oppressive government that's the real threat, and offers the hopeful if perhaps naive idea that one person can inspire everyone to rise up and demand the government that supposedly works for them stop treating them as criminals.

Superman: The Mad Scientist
In 1941, the Fleischer Studios began releasing a series of short animated films based on Superman's comics. They remain by far the best filmed representations of the character (if only that original proposal for "Superman III" had been filmed!). This particular short is the first in the series, featuring a no-nonsense recap of Superman's origin up to that time, along with an electrothanasia ray, a destroyed bridge, smoking journalists, falling buildings, and obviously a mad scientist. Also, some absolutely beautiful animation, most especially when Superman punches the electrothanasia ray. These shorts managed to capture the manic energy of the "one damn thing after another" style of writing employed in the original comics. Moreover, the danger in this film feels more real than that of "Superman: The Movie." You can actually watch this film here, if you like.

Akira
The movie begins with the complete destruction of Tokyo in a mysterious and powerful explosion. 30 years later, Neo Tokyo has risen in its place, a better city, visually stunning and full of life and energy. Right away, one of the film's main themes is apparent: the resilience of humanity.

However, like any big city, Neo Tokyo has its share of teenage biker gangs who fight each other in high-speed motorcycle battles on the city's streets. There's also the corrupt Council and the terrorists who oppose them. And then there's the shady government scientists doing experiments with ESP.

Good movie, excellent animation, everybody likes it. I saw it four times in high school and college, so I really, really liked it at the time. It's full of effectively disturbing images, such as tragic Tetsuo's guts spilling out onto the sidewalk and the brutal gun and motorcycle battles. The ending is left deliberately vague, and it's never made entirely clear exactly what "Akira" is supposed to be-- it's some kind of government weapon, or project, or something-- but the questions that linger on after the film ends are worth thinking about.

 



Immortal
In 2090, a group of advanced beings who sort of resemble gods as depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs live in a pyramid that's floating high above New York. These beings believe that they are in fact gods, and the creators of the human race. One of them is a particularly annoying jerk called Horus, whose antics have earned him a death sentence from his fellow immortals. He's given seven days to visit earth before he'll be killed. In that seven days, Horus plans to inhabit the body of a human man and impregnate a human woman, so that he can extend his life.

Horus's plan is complicated by the fact that humans have been modifying themselves with replacement body parts. Horus can't occupy a human body long enough to get the job done. Or, something like that. That is maybe a third of the movie. I mean, it gets a lot more complicated from there.

French illustrator Enki Bilal adapted his own "Nikopol Trilogy" into a film featuring a mixture of live action and computer animation that looks so much like a French science fiction comic book that watching it for the first time I had that same giddy feeling that I'd had when I first opened an issue of "Heavy Metal" magazine when I was six years old. Half the time the story made no sense to me, but the visuals are absolutely beautiful. Bilal was able to translate his drawing style, with its muted colors and high detail, perfectly.

300
See above

Judge Dredd
See above



Batman XXX: A Porn Parody
For most people, those moments in which they achieve sexual climax are the happiest of their lives. That sweet sense of anticipation that gives way to a tingling of the loins, then the dizziness of ecstatic release and complete loss of self as you exist only in that single moment before the drowsiness and then the calm of blissful sleep is unmatchable. There is no greater feeling than the giddy thrill that comes from coming.

For many, that feeling of joy is only enhanced when it is shared with a partner. Yet there are times when it must be experienced alone. Perhaps you’ve just broken up. Perhaps you’re physically loathsome. Perhaps you’re being oppressed by some reactionary religious government edict. Perhaps you don’t have money for bus fare. In those times, pornography is the most helpful alternative.

Look at the areas where internet pornography is most frequently consumed. In the United States, Utah is the pornography-consumption capital. This also happens to be one of our most religious states. The Middle East, a vast wasteland of religious repression, is another region in which an unusually large amount of pornography is enjoyed.

Making people happy is the noblest pursuit. Making people who are suffering repression happy is even nobler than the noblest pursuit.

Those who make pornography are the noblest people I know.

Compare the inclusive world of pornography, inviting to anyone with an internet connection, to that of the modern comic book. Today's comics are so loaded down with backstory, so burdened by years of continuity, that they have become exclusive (or, "X-clusive"). The world of comics is populated by angry fans who puzzle over ever bit of minutiae, and take to the message boards to criticize anyone who doesn't toe the line about their favorite characters or this month's favored writers or artists.

Pornography has it all over comics. Pornographers, when they do comic book themed "porn parodies," are slumming. But "Batman XXX: A Porn Parody" is an uncannily perfect parody of the Adam West television show, which was itself based on the Batman comics of that era. This then is a (unofficial) comic book movie once removed, with the added bonus of hard core sex. Watching this film was like what I remember wanting the show to be as a kid. And, yes, I always thought that Catwoman and Batman should do it. All that flirting between Julie Newmar and Adam West drove me crazy.

The sets, the costumes, the quality of the acting -- everything matches perfectly with the 1960s original series. Everything about this film works, from the sets to the costumes to the acting, to the campy tone, match perfectly the original series.

This is a film that does exactly what you want a film to do-- it makes the viewer insanely happy. It does the opposite of what most comics now do.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim is a self-absorbed slacker who is between jobs and only has a place to live thanks to the generosity of a gay friend, with whom he shares a bed. He has spent the last year in a mopey haze, after having been dumped by a young woman who is now famous. No one would blame this woman for dumping him, based on what we see of him at the beginning of the film. The time he's not spending moping he spends in a band, and with his 17 year-old girlfriend, whom he has yet to kiss. He meets a woman called Ramona, and finally starts to break out of the dreary rut of his life, only to learn that he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends ("The League of Seven Evil Exes") before he can move forward with his life.

This film uses the conventions of fanboy culture -- in particular comic books/superhero narrative and video games -- not only in the narrative itself, but in the structure of the film, which uses devices like captions and Street Fighter style introductions to the fights between Scott and the Exes -- to both critique and celebrate that culture. Michael Cera's impassive "manboy" shtick, which has worn a bit thin, is perfect in this context, and Edgar Wright's direction is frenetic and witty. It's his best film, which is saying a lot.

Jonah Hex
This movie starts unpromisingly, with some surprisingly bad animation, but then quickly recovers with some surprisingly bad live-action. In some ways, "Jonah Hex" is one of those all-too-rare "so bad it's good" kind of films, but in other ways, "Jonah Hex" is just very good. Hex, a Confederate soldier, ran afoul of his unit's commander Quentin Turnbull when he both refused to engage in the killing of civilians and then shot and killed Turnbull's son. So Turnbull killed Hex's family, forced him to watch, and then branded Hex's face with Turnbull's initials.

Hex is rescued by Indians, and somehow in the process he obtains the ability to briefly revive the dead and so communicate with them. This doesn't make sense in the actual context of the film except as a metaphor-- Hex was forced to watch his family burned alive, and now has the ability to briefly revive the dead -- but the manner in which it's employed is funny and moving. Hex's intimate relationship with the dead (his ability to communicate with them), ultimately profits him in no meaningful way. He cannot bring his family back; all he can do is live removed from society, with only Megan Fox in a bustier to keep him company.

Danger: Diabolik
Most people might remember this as one of the last films parodied by the philistines on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," but this is actually an entertaining, clever, and totally demented film. Director Mario Bava uses an assortment of camera tricks and pop-art sets to create a world that's as lush and vibrant as anything created with CGI today. As for Diabolik-- he's an anarchic, nasty criminal mastermind whose antics are bringing down the government of whatever European country it is in which he operates. He kills police officers and bombs government buildings because, oh, what the hell, they're there, and they're either in the way of his thieving plans, or they might be in the future.

And now my top five:

 


5. The Spirit
Frank Miller, creator of the original "Sin City," "300," and "Dark Knight Returns" comics, and author of "Elektra: Assassin" and "Hard Boiled," is one of the greatest cartoonists of all time -- up there with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Milton Caniff. His stories are insanely creative and, unlike so much of what is published in mainstream comics today, distinctive. Even his work with characters like Batman feels like nothing else anyone's doing. He was credited as co-director on the film adaptation of "Sin City," but "The Spirit" is Miller unbound, without the mitigating influence of Robert Rodriguez.

"The Spirit" is a completely crazy movie. It's so over the top and bold that watching it is almost exhausting. It seems like at no point did anyone say to Mr. Miller, "No, that's too much, you can't do that."

In Will Eisner's original Spirit newspaper comic book insert, the Spirit character was a former police officer Denny Colt who, for some reason, was able to punch his way out of his grave and dig his way back out. No real explanation for this was ever given, and no real explanation was ever given as to why the Spirit was able to withstand the terrible, punishing beatings he received in most of the stories. He was basically an everyman in a blue suit who could take a lot of punishment. In Frank Miller's film adaptation, the Spirit has a healing superpower, the result of medical testing done at the hands of his arch-enemy, The Octopus, a supervillain who shouts his lines while wearing samurai and nazi outfits, and carrying huge guns with ten barrels.

The movie is like a catalogue of everything I happen to love about Mr. Miller's work: the script is full of overripe, hardboiled dialogue. The movie is full of beautiful women photographed as if they are stylized pieces of art. It has oddball throw away characters. Brutal violence. Literal toilet humor. Romance, danger, excitement.

More than any other film on this list, and more than any other film ever made, "The Spirit" has the look and feel of a comic book but, unlike "Watchmen," "The Spirit" actually moves like a movie. Stylistically, it's a perfect match between the two media. It's imperfect, I know, but it's also balls-out entertaining that its flaws are easily ignored.

 



4. Mystery Men
Throughout the Spring and Summer of 1999, residents of Los Angeles saw billboards all over town which featured silhouettes of superheroes like "The Shoveler," "The Blue Raja," "The Bowler," and "Mr. Furious." Any intrigue that might have been engendered by these billboards (trust me, there was very little intriguing about them) was negated by the movie's tagline, "Expect the Unexpected." If that isn't the worst tagline in movie history, then, well, I won't finish my thought, but that is a very, very bad tagline.

The movie deserved a lot better than the crummy marketing campaign, but I don't think that's all that killed this movie at the box office. It was, and remains to this day, the best filmed parody of superheroes. In many ways, it's a vicious evisceration of the entire idea. And if there is any group of people that does not have a good sense of humor about itself and what it loves, it is comic book fandom. And when the fanboys didn't come out in force to jack up the opening weekend, the movie had the stink of failure upon it, and it just never recovered.

There is so much to love about this movie, and so much that it gets right about the absurdity of superheroes. There's Champion City's most famous superhero, Captain Amazing, and his costume covered with product logos, like a NASCAR driver. There's the conversation between the second-string superheroes Mr. Furious, the Shoveler, and the Blue Raja, in which Mr. Furious insists that Captain Amazing, must be billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, and the Shoveler says no, that doesn't make any sense, because Lance Hunt wears glasses and Captain Amazing doesn't. There is the Blue Raja, in his room, practicing his cutlery-based puns ("I didn't expect to see you again so-- spoon!"). There's the Spleen's origin story-- cursed by a gypsy that forevermore he would always be the one who had "dealt it!" There is the scene in which the second stringers leap upon Casanova Frankenstein's car, throwing cutlery, a bowling ball, and flatulence at it, with Mr. Furious leaping on the roof shouting, "Your roof! Your roof! Your roof is on fire!" There is Captain Amazing's gruesome demise. There is Tom Waits eating a bowl of cereal, watching television, and wondering, "Oh yeah... how'd that whole 'Death Ray' thing work out?"

Then, there's the fight between the women in the Wonder Woman outfits. It's like they somehow got hold of the sketchbook I kept in third grade!

The only criticism of the film is the presence of that terrible Smash Mouth song that was in every other movie in 1999-2000, I don't want to mention it by name but you remember it I'm sure.

"Mystery Men" got it too right, too soon. Perhaps if it were released today, it might be different. Then again, superhero movies have already become parodies of themselves. In a world in which "Iron Man 2," "Thor," and oh fill in the blank can make it onto fans' top-10 lists, "Mystery Men" might just be superfluous.

Or not. You can actually watch the entire film here.

 



3. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Asterix is a resident of the only area of Gaul that remained unconquered by the Romans. Although the small city in which he lived was surrounded by Roman sentries, they were able to hold out thanks to a magic elixir concocted by the town's druid, which gave all the residents super strength. The Roman sentries, having been defeated yet again by the Gauls, decide that they must be gods, but Julius Ceaser is unconvinced. He decides, however, to test the Gauls in the manner of the demi-God Hercules, by presenting them with twelve tasks. If they successfully perform them all, Julius Ceaser will be convinced that they're actually gods and hand over the entire Roman empire to them. If they fail, they must agree to become slaves.

The Gauls agree to these terms, and Asterix and his sidekick Obelix are sent out to, among other things, outrace the fastest man in Rome, resist Sirens who promise them anything they could ever want (the two leave their island when the Sirens refuse to kill and cook a wild boar for Obelix), deal with a bureaucracy while filling out paperwork required to complete the next task, and crossing an invisible bridge "which you do not see, over there."

The movie is full of slapstick humor, historical and literary references, lowbrow humor, and full-on surrealism. It's also one of the most fun, and funniest, films ever made.

You can actually watch the film here, online, and judge for yourself.

2. The Crow
No matter how far human beings advance, death is the one unavoidable absolute; everyone dies. We understand this in the abstract, and yet when it happens to someone we love, we always ask the same questions, and wonder the same things. Why now? Why her/him? What did s/he do to deserve this? How could something so terrible have no real explanation? Was it all for nothing after all?

Human beings have always used art to help them deal with that which seems inexplicable, or unfair. The artist James O'Barr created the original comic book "The Crow" as a way of processing his grief over the death of his girlfriend, in an accident caused by a drunk driver. The story of the original comic book series is bleak, angry, introspective, self-hating, and fantastic. It's easily one of the best American comics ever published, as well as one of the most affecting fictional accounts of how people cope with death ever published in any medium.

The film is an almost perfect adaptation. Using the novel as a basis, the director Alex Proyas created a unique piece of cinematic art that is kinetic, imposing, melancholic, and disturbingly violent. One year after being beaten and killed, a man is revived by a crow and given the chance to take revenge on the despicable reprobates who killed him and his girlfriend. This he does in brutal fashion, taking out each member of the gang one by one.

It's the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy: To return from the dead, to avenge the loss of a loved one. The appeal of the concept is visceral, but the film looks terrible and beautiful and stylish. The Detroit in which the revived musician Eric Draven exacts his revenge is a nightmare city, rigged to give aid and comfort to the corrupt and the violent. This is cinema as perception -- no place is this unrelentingly dark all the time, no world is this full of corruption and hopelessness. But when you're trying to deal with your grief, especially grief that comes from senseless violence, everything is a reminder of what you've lost.

1. Oldboy
A man called Oh Dae-su, who is a bit of a jerk, is abducted by unknown assailants and awakens to find himself in a room from which he can't escape. For fifteen years he remains in this drab room, with no idea of why he is there, nor who has locked him away. His only contact comes from a television set, on which he learns, a year into his incarceration, that his wife was killed and he himself is suspect.

After 15 years, Dae-su is released, and is presented with some money and a cell phone by a homeless man. His ordeal isn't over -- it's actually about to get a whole lot worse. He meets a young waitress named Mido who decides to help Dae-su investigate the terrible plot against him. The more they learn the worse it gets for everyone involved, and the last act is basically one gut-wrenching revelation after another.

Oldboy is based on a Japanese comic book published in 1997, but it's from a grand tradition of moralizing horror entertainment that is as old as human beings. Western audiences will note echoes of classic Greek tragedy, such as the works of Euripides and Sophocles, through Jacobean theater, Shakespeare, say, and then Aphra Behn, and following a line straight through to modern horror films like "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street."

One of the joys of this hilariously overwrought, bleak film is that its revelations raise just as many questions as they answer. The motives for revenge are clear in both the protagonist and antagonist, and yet the actions are inscrutable. The story moves forward with such force that the viewer barely has time to even think about what's happening; but it definitely lingers once it's over. The film isn't realistic (the plot relies a little too heavily on coincidence), but it is authentic. It is authentic because it appeals to something prurient in human nature -- the grotesque depths of imagination of which human beings are capable. In a way, it is the flip side of "The Crow" -- not a wish fulfillment, but a begrudge fulfillment.

It also has one of the best fight scenes of the last decade, as Dae-su, armed first with a hammer, then his fists, fights maybe 30 guys in a long, dark, narrow corridor. The scene is a microcosm of the film: Brutally violent, exhausting, beautifully photographed, grungy, and filled with what critics sometimes call "Grand Guignol humor."


"All those who are blood-type AB, raise your hand."

Having finished composing my own top 25 list, I have to admit it was extremely difficult. But then, so is playing the accordion. Just because doing something is difficult doesn't mean it should be done, nor that we should celebrate and encourage those who do.

I note that I did something for which I criticized IGN's list -- ranked four "Batman" related films. I am not willing to call myself a hypocrite, however, because two of my four were "unofficial," and therefore kind of, in a way, don't count as "Batman" films. I would also like to excuse any other perceived hypocrisy that readers might detect in this post. As I've said, making such lists is hard.

I would, however, like to link to one of my favorite "top" lists, a list of favorite horror films of a writer called A.Jaye at a blog called Thrill Fiction. His list is everything I think such lists should be-- written with confidence not arrogance, and with an interesting and unique point of view. His number one choice, "Exorcist III," was a movie I hadn't seen before reading his explanation of why he chose it. I've seen it since-- it's a good film. Not my favorite horror film, but a good film. And I wouldn't have seen it without reading his list.

That is what these lists should do. Spread enthusiasm. They shouldn't be taken as an excuse to belittle someone else because their taste is different from yours. That defeats the whole purpose. After reading that IGN list, I question my appreciation of every one of the films from their list that appears on my own. How can I share a liking for certain films with such people?

I'm sure you have your own choices for favorite comic book movies, and I'm sure they're different from mine. At least, I hope they are. If we can't tolerate disagreement about art, then we can't really tolerate disagreement on anything, can we?

This was originally posted at When Falls the Coliseum.