TOP 5: Comic Book Movies

This summer has to hold some sort of record for most comic book movies released during the summer. Thor, Priest, Captain America, Green Lantern, X-Men; First Class, Cowboys and Aliens … This summer is jam-packed with comic book action. With the release of Thor this past Friday, we thought we’d list our top comic book movies of all time.




At the time of its release, Robert Rodriguez’s approach to making a comic book movie (filming it entirely in front of a green screen) was a novelty. Sure, Lucas had created some of his planets on green screen and what-not, but an entire movie? Those of you who have seen the movie know that it recreates the style of Frank Miller’s comic frame by frame. The style is enchanting, the cast is superb, and it’s different fare from your typical “good guy fights bad guy” comic book movie.


With his performance as Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. resurrected his career. Iron Man has great humor, exciting action sequences, and a bald Jeff Bridges, but makes this top five list because it values characterization over spectacle. Sadly, there was a shift in values in last year’s sequel, where pointless action sequences were given more time than focusing on Tony Stark’s character. Here’s hoping the third installment fixes that mistake.

3. X-MEN 2

Let’s face it. The only reason X-Men is so popular is because of Wolverine. By placing Wolverine center stage in ‘X2,” Bryan Singer couldn’t have done any better. Except if he had directed X-Men 3, of course.


Before The Dark Knight investigated the toll that being a superhero has on one’s own life, Spider-Man 2 showed us how hard it is to balance one’s own life and be a superhero at the same time. Doctor Otto Octavian is hands down the best Spider-Man villain, the film has awesome sequences, and the human drama that permeates this film make me return to this swingin’ good time again and again.


You knew this was gonna be number one. What can I say that everyone else hasn’t already said? Nolan flipped a freakin’ semitruck! One of the greatest performances of all time. An ending that still gives me chills. Hands down the greatest comic book movie of all time.


Superman: The Movie (Because even DC has the occasional awesome superhero)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright is going places)

The Watchmen (The opening credit sequence alone is enough to make this movie a classic)



MY CRITERIA: I have to have seen all movies listed. Only one film per franchise can be included. There must be honorable mentions (because I’m a cheat).


Mystery Men is a “there are two kinds of people in the world” kind of movie, and one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Geoffrey Rush is insane as the villainous Casanova Frankenstein, there are fun performances from Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, and yes, Paul Reubens. It’s instantly quotable (“Looks like tonight the lone wolf rides…alone”) and has great re-watchability. Grab a favorite beverage and enjoy this skewed, slapstick take on the superhero genre.


Superman: The Movie is right up there with apple pie. Christopher Reeve gives a fun dual-role performance as Clark Kent and his superhero alter-ego Superman, Gene Hackman steals the show as Lex Luthor, the special effects are awesome, and John William’s score is classic. Some parts don’t work as well for me, like the bumbling Ned Beatty (a tad overacted), and the Lois Lane voiceover. But Superman: The Movie remains a classic superhero film where the hero saves the day and has been a favorite of mine since first watching it many years ago.


Reservations about Spider-Man 3 aside, I really enjoyed Sam Raimi’s take on the Spider-Man tale. The stories complement each-other nicely, without relying too heavily on the previous films. The casting is great, especially J.K. Simmons’ as newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson, chomping through cigars and scenes with ease.


When I first heard about this film (Michael Cera fights ex-boyfriends?) I wasn’t sure how it would play out, having never heard of the graphic novels. But the preview sold me, and off I went. Having now read the graphic novels, I can say that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a loving adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series (he also helped in the writing process for the movie, which is pretty cool). Scott Pilgrim also has a talented cast, employing the likes of Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin; they are great in their roles, bringing the right dose of emotion and apathy to their characters.  Technically, the film is fantastic. The fluid editing (including a mini parody of the style) and special effects complement each other well, combining filmmaking and graphic novel styles; it’s this collaboration that results in the world of Scott Pilgrim that we see on screen.


Heath Ledger as Joker. Batman flipping a freaking semi. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. If anyone knows how to make a successful blockbuster, it’s Christopher Nolan. The talent, music, practical effects, and an impressive on-going story are pitch perfect, creating an epically gritty superhero series that will be hard to beat. I can’t wait to see how it all comes around with The Dark Knight Rises, the final act.


The Rocketeer (For being epically camp)

American Splendor (For being normal)

Hulk (…because I’m one of the few that love it)


Academy Awards Predictions: Part 2


Best Art Direction
Donald Graham Burt / Victor J. Zolfo (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
*Revolutionary Road might give Button a fight, but wow, what a gorgeous film.

Best Cinematography
Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)
*This is a  hard one to call. I loved Button and TDK, but the chaos of Slumdog blew me away. From early on in the film I was expecting to have a Bourne-style headache, but it was surprisingly smooth.

Best Film Editing
Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire)
*The editing and the cinematography blended together so well; you couldn’t have one without the other.


Best Costume Design
Michael O’Connor (The Duchess)
*Period pieces winning the award three times in a row? Probably. I wouldn’t mind seeing Revolutionary Road sneak in for the award.

Best Make-Up
Greg Cannom (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
*This is a toss-up between Button and TDK (*cough*Joker*cough*) Both are very deserving.


Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
*Slumdog and WALL-E also have a pretty good shot at this. Desplat’s score was a great compantion for the film, from atmosphere to period.

Best Original Song
“Down to Earth” (Peter Gabriel) (WALL-E)
*Personally I would choose “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire, but I’m thinking there will be a Slumdog split vote on this one.


Best Sound Mixing
Ben Burtt / Matthew Wood (WALL-E)

Best Sounding Editing
Ben Burtt / Matthew Wood (WALL-E)
*Hand down in my book. The sound was incredible in this film.

Best Visual Effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
*If this doesn’t win, I will be sorely disappointed. It needed some more work, but it was spectacular throughout.


Academy Awards Predictions: Part 1

The following are my tentative predictions for the 2009 Academy Awards.


Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
*I’m being pretty risky with my picks this year, with the Slumdog train constantly picking up momentum, but this was such an incredible film. And winning would help make up for Zodiac not receiving one nomination last year.

Best Director
David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
*Even if Slumdog manages to take best picture over Button, Fincher still deserves the best director award. (Did I mention that Zodiac didn’t receive on enomination last year?)

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth)
*From what I’ve heard (Planning on reading the short story soon), Roth’s adaptation took the story to a whole nother level. It definitely has it’s Forrest Gump influences, but it’s still a great story.

Best Screenplay (Original)
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
*There’s a lot of good competition this year, so it’s a hard call to make. Relative newcomer McDonagh wrote a mighty fine script. The underdog award goes to him.

rourkewinsletledgercannes penelope cruz 3 170508

Best Actor
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
*Just watch The Wrestler, already.

Best Actress
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
*I admit that I haven’t seen The Reader yet, but I plan doing so before the ceremony. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep also have a decent chance here as well.

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
*Especially in a year where there isn’t much competition in the supporting actor award (Why is Josh Brolin in there?), this is a lock.

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
*Again, haven’t seen it, but it should be coming in via NetFlix today. I wouldn’t mind seeing Amy Adams or Marisa Tomei taking the award, either.

wall-e-posterwire-posterWWB Poster intl.indd

Best Animated Feature
*Grade A work from Pixar, from start to finish.

Best Documentary Feature
Man on Wire
*Totally took my breath away; kicking myself that I didn’t see this in the theater when I had the chance. It is nice to see Herzog nominated as well, though it’s not one of his best films. I still have to see the other three nominations.

Best Foreign Language Feature
Waltz With Bashir
*I’m picking this solely on the buzz. I haven’t seen any of the films in this category yet.

I’ll continue with the technical awards at a later date…

Sink the Titanic

According to Box Office Mojo, The Dark Knight is $125,445,189 away from becoming the largest grossing film domestically.

Get out there and watch it again.


2008 Oscar-Bait

Well, it’s been a good year at the movies so far. There are only a few films that I’m interested in seeing this Summer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder)

My Top 5 for 2008 So Far:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Wall-E
3. American Teen
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5. Iron Man

That said, I’m really looking forward to Oscar season this year. I have a feeling that the Academy Awards are going to be insane with competition. Last year was good, but this will probably be better. This afternoon I hunted down the upcoming films for the rest of the year.

My Top 11 Must-Sees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Directed By: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt / Cate Blanchett / Tilda Swinton

Zodiac was royally shafted at the Academy Awards this year. I thought it should have been nominated for picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr) and visual effects. It probably wouldn’t have won any, but it should have had some recognition.

That said, I think Benjamin Button is going to get Fincher back in the game.

(Apple Trailers)

Burn After Reading
Directed By: Ethan Coen / Joel Coen
Starring: Brad Pitt / George Clooney / John Malkovich / Tilda Swinton / Frances McDormand

After the amazing No Country for Old Men last year, it looks like the Coens are back in action with a dark screwball comedy (their forte) with a great ensemble cast. It will be nice to see Frances McDormand in a Coen film again.

(Apple Trailers)

Revolutionary Road
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Starring: Leondardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / Kathy Bates

Looks like a Titanic cast reunion. Add in the director of American Beauty and Road to Perdition and you have an awesome combination.

The Soloist
Directed By: Joe Wright
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. / Jamie Foxx / Catharine Keener

Robert Downey Jr. has been in an insane number of films the last few years. That’s all.

Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Hugh Jackman / Nicole Kidman / David Wenham

Quite simply, this looks epic, and I do not want to miss seeing it on the silver screen. It may end up being the next Lawrence of Arabia for all we know. And you can’t go wrong with Hugh Jacman.

(Apple Trailers)

Directed By: Ed Harris
Starring: Viggo Mortensen / Renée Zellweger / Jeremy Irons / Ed Harris

As long as it’s better than Hidalgo. Solid cast, and the amazing Ed Harris.

Lakeview Terrace
Directed By: Neil LaBute
Starring: Patrick Wilson / Kerry Washington / Samuel L. Jackson

What can I say? The preview sold me. This looks to be quite the tense film.

(Apple Trailers)

Body of Lies
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio / Russell Crowe

Since 2002, DiCaprio hasn’t disappionted me once as an actor. He just keeps plugging away. With 8 films in the next two years, he’s going to be a busy man. And to top it off, the preview reminded me a little bit of Michael Mann’s Heat, which is never a bad thing.


Directed By: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Amy Adams

I’ve heard really good things about the Shanley’s play, which this is based on. And what a great cast.

The Reader
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet / Ralph Fiennes

Directed By: Edward Zwick
Starring: Daniel Craig / Liev Schreiber / Jamie Bell

You can’t go wrong with Edward Zwick.

What films are you looking forward to the most?

The Dark Knight is Awesome

The Dark Knight
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale / Heath Ledger / Gary Oldman / Aaron Eckhart

(This is my spoiler-FREE review. I’ll probably write up a more in-depth review of it later)

Synopsis: Death, mayhem, and chaos swallow Gotham City as a war between good, evil, and what lies between takes place. Harvey Dent, the newly appointed D.A. of Gotham, must join forces with Batman in an ongoing initiative to root out the organized crime that permeates the city. Enter The Joker, a psychotic villian, with his own plans for Gotham.

Review: Watching The Dark Knight on an IMAX screen is an experience that I won’t soon forget. After driving by a minivan engulfed in flame on I-283 and having my GPS take me down a one-way street the wrong way, I finally made it to the showing. It was great listening to the pre-show buzz from the other people in line, hearing snatches of conversations. One that I found amusing went something like this:

“[Christian Bale] He was in Newsies”
“He was in SHAFT”

And naturally, someone spoiled an important twist in the film. May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in your armpits, sir.

So anyways…The Dark Knight met and exceeded my expectations. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was outstanding, and Aaron Eckhart fit the politician role very well. No surprises there. :) The Dark Knight is rated PG-13, but this is definitely not a film for the kiddies. I highly recommend checking this out, especially in IMAX if you get the chance.

Bubble Review

I wasn’t planning on posting anything until I watched The Dark Knight tomorrow afternoon [IMAX-Harrisburg-2:15 PM-“Han Shot First” tshirt], but I also wasn’t planning on watching Bubble

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Debbie Doebereiner / Dustin James Ashley / Misty Wilkins

Firstly, am I the only that constantly confuses Steven oderbergh with David Cronenberg? (At least I can spell their names properly) And secondly, the only Soderbergh films that I have seen previously are the Ocean’s films, Traffic, and The Good German (which I didn’t care for). I can see now that I definitely need to explore more of his earlier work. It’s not all George Clooney and heists. :)

I randomly picked up Bubble at the library a few days, thinking it was from the director of Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. With that in mind, I really wasn’t expecting the style of the film. About 20 minutes into it, I had to check the director on IMDb.

It’s quite an unusual film, more in the style of the Dogme 95 movement than anything else. I learned afterwards that the three main actors hadn’t acted before and the scrpt was improvised. This definitely makes sense, and I thought that it worked out very well. Everything about the film felt real and not forced. I was especially impressed with the subtelty.

There’s an alternate ending on the DVD, which personally I didn’t care for. I’m very glad that they didn’t use it, as it completely ruins the realistic quality of Bubble. I vastly prefer the ending that I did see. Everything isn’t wrapped up in a nice narrative box. There’s a lot to think about in terms of the characters and their motivations, and especially varying degrees of conflict. And of course, toss a little religion into the mix. :)

Bubble could almost be qualified as a short film, clocking in at 73 minutes. For me the length was perfect. With a film like this that doesn’t rely havily on professional actors and a developed script, I’m not sure how it would have fared with another half hour or so. The story was concise and intriguing.

I’m not going to summarize the film. I’d rather just recommend that you get a copy and watch it.

DVD Releases 7/8

Well, there’s only one new DVD that I’m interested in this week. I guess that means I’ll have more time to catch up on my backlog. :-)

1. Batman: Gotham Knight
Why? It’s a collection similar to The Animatrix that bridges the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Sounds cool.

2. Joe Strummer: The Future is Written

3. Stop-Loss

4. The Ruins (Unrated)

5. Superhero Movie