Ranking the MCU: The Top 5 Films

Hello and welcome back for the fifth and final article in my series “Ranking the MCU.

In retrospect, I realize I should have added the words “so far” to that title, because with the release of Eternals just this weekend, and several more MCU films coming round the way, this series will in no way prove comprehensive over time. Marvel is the machine that keeps on going. It’s been quite a ride so far folks, but this is where I’m stopping.

… For now.

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Ranking the MCU: #10-#6

Hello and welcome back to my rankings of the 25 feature films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). We are cracking into the top 10 today, so if you haven’t already I strongly recommend that you check out my other articles here, here, and here.

Remember that this list represents my opinion, which is in no way authoritative (though, I’d like to think I know a little bit about what I am talking about), and this numerical order is really just a convenient formality. On some days I may feel more strongly about some of these films than others, and what I think makes them better or worse than their peers ebbs and flows. I just want to talk about these movies as an educational experience, for any hopeful storytellers out there with blockbuster aspirations themselves.

With all that in mind, let’s get on with entries 10 through six:

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Ranking the MCU: The Middle Five

Hello, happy hump day, and welcome back to my ranking, from worst to best, of the feature films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There have so far been 25 of these pictures released to the public, and I have been writing on each of them in chunks of five. You can read about my thoughts on the bottom 10 films here and here.

Today on Wednesday, this most middling of days, I’ll be writing on those films of the MCU that aren’t so terrible, but don’t quite make it into the top 10 either.

Just a quick reminder before I begin: these rankings represent my opinion, which as comic-lover and aspiring filmmaker is as informed as it can be, but it is by no means authoritative. Secondly, organizing these films in numerical order is really just a formality for convenience’s sake. On some days I may feel more strongly about one film over another. I may like it less, or like it more. Time will tell. What I am describing to you here are my emotional responses to these movies, what I value in film. Should any of you reading this want to be storytellers yourself, especially in the realm of film, then you may find this project of mine somewhat educational. There’s value in that.

With all that out of the way, let’s get on with the list:

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Dune (2021) Review: The Story Must Flow

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as Paul Atreides and the Lady Jessica. Photo: Warner Bros.

2021’s Dune is the second feature-length film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic of the same name. It takes place far into a space-faring future, where at the behest of the Padishah Emperor, the royal house Atreides assumes control of the planet Arrakis. Arrakis is home to “the spice,” the substance that makes spaceflight possible. It is therefore the most coveted thing in the universe, and for that reason watching over Arrakis will mean only danger for House Atreides.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and featuring an ensemble cast of stars, Dune has so much working for it. Everyone involved in this project is giving their absolute best for what they’ve been given to work with–but as it turns out, what they’ve been given to work with isn’t much. That’s not a comment on the source material’s deep backstory, but rather on the truncated cut of this film. American audiences have seen three-hour-plus movies in the past. Dune could have benefited from being one itself.

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Ranking the MCU: #20-#16

Hello and welcome back to my ranking of the feature-length films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which make 25 with the recent release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. You can see my thoughts on what I consider to be the bottom fifth here.

Just a reminder of two things I went over in the original post: this list represents my opinion. In no way would I consider myself an objective authority, but I do think I know a thing or two about storytelling and filmmaking. Whatever I lament or commend these movies for, I hope readers can learn from it, should they choose to be storytellers themselves someday. The second is that the numerical order of this list is really just a formality; in no way were these films quantitatively judged against each other. On some days I may feel more strongly about a film than another, for good or bad. Films are emotional experiences, and what I am relating to you here are my emotions as reaction.

With that in mind, let’s get on with the next chunk of the list:

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Ranking the MCU: The 5 Worst Films

Just over 13 years ago in the spring of 2008, Iron Man was released into theaters. It would be the foundational work in a mega-media franchise that we now know today as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” or MCU for short. This multi-movie project, under the calculated direction of producer Kevin Feige, would be unlike anything the world had ever seen before. It would tell the story of a fictional world across a multitude of films, intertwining the separate stories of several different characters, and how their own journeys would wind and weave together into one shared, epic saga.

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Too many saints in Newark: Reviewing the Sopranos movie

From left: Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal), “Junior” Soprano (Corey Stoll), Silvio Dante (John Magaro), “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), and Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) watch as downtown Newark burns. This one frame encapsulates the crammed nature of the film’s story. Photo: Warner Bros.

The Sopranos changed American media forever, launching us into a Golden Age of Television that no one’s really sure we’ve left in the 22 years since the show first premiered in 1999. It redefined what compelling, relatable and sympathetic characters could look like and the sort of personal issues they could share with audiences on screen. It is well worthy of the title of the greatest television series of all time.

With The Many Saints of Newark, showrunner David Chase brings his opus back to life, this time on the big screen while collaborating with returning cohorts director Alan Taylor and co-writer Lawrence Konner. The result is a film filled with fan fodder, but one that is ultimately unnecessary and inert. Spoilers below:

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The Green Knight: An old tale, retold for modern times

Early in their studies, fledgling archaeologists are often confronted by this classic dilemma: in a world of finite resources and where time’s arrow only marches forward, what use is there in preserving the past?

Answers to the quandary vary, but the most common would be something like this: to learn more about who we are presently, and who we may very well become. In this similar vein, A24’sThe Green Knight resurfaces an artifact of yore, appropriating its characters and devices for moral lessons more relevant to today. It’s an overall satisfying reimagining, rife with apt performances and impressive production, though it can at times fall victim to the “arthouse powerhouse” studio’s worst instincts.

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Living Free Under Fascism: The Existential Nightmare of The Conformist

Born in Northern Italy in 1941, it would not be unfair to say that Bernardo Bertolucci’s first-hand experiences with fascism were likely indistinct and inoffensive to his young mind. Mussolini’s regime had fallen when Bernardo was only two, and the future director had only just turned four when the Salò Republic puppet state had finally disintegrated in 1945.

Raised in what he described as a “Marxist context” by intellectual parents in the city of Parma, the young Bernardo came of age during the fledgling days of the First Italian Republic. Though there would be echoes of nationalist extremism, the more apparent political crises of this time (and thus, far more impressionable upon Bertolucci) would have been the severe disparities in wealth between any and all sorts of Italian communities during the so-called “Economic Miracle.”

Given all of this, it is no wonder that Bertolucci admits that his 1970 classic The Conformist, in spite of its fascist setting and aesthetic, is first and foremost a film about the middle-class. It is a gorgeous and oftentimes hilarious critique on the self-preserving but ultimately unfulfilling nature of the affluent, rife with striking visual metaphors (our protagonist at one point, while practicing his aim, mindlessly points a pistol to his head, only to ask: “where is my hat?”). 

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COVID-1984? Examining Accusations of Authoritarianism in Pandemic Safety Measures

Black Lives Matters protestors marching in Pleasanton, CA in June of 2020. All are wearing face-masks—are all sheeple to a new Big Brother? Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo

“You fucking Nazi,” the young man said to me.

He was about my height, skinny, and wore a backwards billed cap over his shoulder-length hair. In another world, maybe we could have been friends—but not now, not at this moment in history. For, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, the young man had gone against my store’s policy and refused to properly wear his mask.

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