Monthly Archives: June 2014

Holy Reread Batman! – The Man Who Laughs

Part Two of the Batman Reread! In this, Eric and his wife, Kendra, look back on Batman: The Man Who Laughs.

250px-Themanwholaughs

You’re the only one laughing, buddy!

Eric: Batman: The Man Who Laughs was written by Ed Brubaker with art by Doug Mahnke and released as a one shot graphic novel in 2005. It’s reads as a direct sequel to Year One, dealing with Batman’s first encounter with the Joker.

I’m trying to remember what I thought when I first read this book way back when. In all honesty, I don’t think it left too much of an impact, it was just another book I grabbed at the Comic Book Palace (Haverhill, Ma). Sure, it was a little longer, being a graphic novel, but it read like any other one shot. At the time, I might have been interested in the Joker’s origin, but time has tempered that desire.

Kendra: I really liked this one. However, I wasn’t prepared for how dark it was. I have been watching a lot of the Batman animated series with Eric and though the Joker is bad news, we know Batman’s got it under control. Here, however, he was definitely a force to be reckoned with. In Gotham’s defense, they had never dealt with The Joker before so they truly had no idea what to expect.

Even though Batman: The Man Who Laughs was written 18 years after Year One, it is still written in the same style. We get to hear the entire story by going back and forth between Batman and Gordon’s points of view. Also, it seems to take place not long after Year One. Gordon is captain but still not commissioner, and he fills us in on what Batman has been up to since showing up on the scene. It was cool to read them back to back so it seems like a continuous story.

The reason Gordon is here.

The reason Gordon is here.

Eric: The problem with being a sequel to Year One is that the book just isn’t as good. I don’t mean it should or could be at Year One’s level, but it’s not as good as a story for what it’s doing. It gets from point A to point B, but without any real pathos or style. Considering this is the first battle between two legendary characters, you would expect to see something memorable.

Joker kills some people. Batman thinks maybe the Joker was the Red Hood.  Joker is going to poison Gotham’s water supply. Batman stops him. The end.

It’s not very compelling. Jim Gordon is in it, narrating like he did Year One. The problem is that Gordon doesn’t do anything besides serving as exposition. Where his story was just as important as Batman’s in Miller’s tale, here Gordon is used because Year One used him. He explains what’s happening, gives us some plot and reaction to the Joker’s crimes, but he’s basically useless.

BM_NML_011.480x480-75

Pretty gruesome stuff, Joker!

Kendra: Like I said before, this is really dark which is not usually my style but it worked. Some of the pictures were hard to look at. While reading this I realized that I was seeing a side of the Joker I had not seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The Joker’s poisonous laughing gas seems to be an integral part of the character in the comics and animated series, but they left it completely out of the movie. I wish Nolan had used this in his film. I think maybe they didn’t use it because in Batman Begins, the Scarecrow tried to poison the water system. Still, Joker loses some of his personality when all he’s doing is planting bombs everywhere.

Eric: The parts that work for me in this book are small. Seeing the victims of Joker’s experiments as he tries to perfect his toxin is creepy, if not overly grotesque. Batman may feel responsible for the Joker and he’s willing to make some hard choices to stop the clown’s plans. If this is canon, I suppose it gives us the most solid look at the Joker’s origin, but we might have been better off not knowing.

Mahnke’s art is solid, but too sketchy for my taste. Realism is nice, but Year One had that and wasn’t ever ugly. His Bruce Wayne looks older than Gordon at times. The Joker gets the benefits here, as he does look like a scary clown, but it’s still done is a way that tries to remind us that this grounded. Depending on your taste for such things, your mileage might vary with Mahnke’s art style.

Batman-TheManWhoLaughs-Page20

The art is good, but not amazing. But maybe you’ll disagree!

Kendra: The only other problem I had with it was there was no big fight at the end. Batman just blew up what Joker needed and that was it. He did it in the nick of time but it still seemed too easy. I liked seeing Batman’s struggle with whether or not to kill the Joker. I did like being reassured that Batman is truly out for justice and that he’s not a killer (How ‘bout that Man of Steel)! Overall I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. A must read for any true Batman fan. Just be prepared to see the Jokers most evil side.

Eric: Kendra’s review makes mine sound harsh. Batman: The Man Who Laughs is still a solid comic book, telling a story as well as it can. It was also a sequel written twenty years later from the first part. But it doesn’t do anything more, or say anything about the relationship between the Joker and Batman/Gordon/Gotham.

Next week is our first recap week. I’ll be flying solo as I look at other stories set between Batman: The Man Who Laughs and Batman: The Long Halloween. This won’t be a ‘reread’ because I’m just working off of memory, but some (all) of these tales are still worth checking out. If you want to check them out before then, here’s the list;

Batman: Year Two
Batman: Lovers and Madmen
Batman: Dead to Rights
Batman: Snow

See you next week!

Holy Reread Batman! – Year One

Part One of the Batman Reread! In this, Eric and his wife, Kendra, look back on Batman: Year One.

The cause...

The cause…

Eric: Batman: Year One was written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli. After Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams brought Batman back from camp into the darker realism of his original intent, Miller pushed it even further. While O’Neil’s Batman was a return to grounded form, it was still a superhero that could exist in a world with Superman and Wonder Woman. Miller’s take on the character in Year One is a character that works best away from all that. Gotham is gritty and shares more in common with New York City circa the 1970s. While Superman is mentioned, his kind has no place in this world.

...and effect.

…and effect.

What struck me first, while rereading this book, was that most of what I remembered from this was in the first issue alone. Jim Gordon beating down Flass, Bruce getting the crap kicked out of him his first night out and the iconic scene of the bat breaking through the glass, these all happen in part one of four. I don’t know why these specific moments have stuck with me so long. Maybe it’s the idea of Gordon showing the corrupt cops he’s not to be taken lightly that gave me respect for the character. Maybe when I first read this, I couldn’t believe Batman was ever green enough that he would get hurt against a pimp and a twelve year old. I was only seventeen or so when I got Year One for Christmas, so my experience with the character in comic form was still limited by three or four books.

Kendra: This is the first real Batman comic I’ve ever read. Before this all I knew of Batman was what I’d seen in the movies and animated shows and the few times he has popped up in Birds of Prey. I had seen the Batman: Year One animated movie so I knew basically what they story was about. It’s very interesting to see Gordon and Batman’s characters before they became what we know them as. It never even occurred to me that there was a time before Gordon became commissioner. It’s new to me seeing him as a flawed character. I’m so used to seeing him as the only non-crooked cop in Gotham so it was surprising to see him do something immoral (cheating on his wife). I hated it but I suppose they did it to give his character more depth.

yearonebats

Later used by Batman Begins.

Eric: The rest of the comic, beyond the first issue, is still great. Batman fending off the police, working with Harvey Dent, jumping off the bridge to save Gordon’s son, these are classic moments. When Batman Begins came out, I was knocked back by how much like Year One it was, down to specific scenes. When Christian Bale, dresses as Batman, summoned a swarm of bats to escape Gotham’s special unit, it was like the comic panels were made into motion. The idea that Batman must become a symbol of fear, rather than just a man, is presented here as not something that Bruce realized right away. He learns the hard way that he needs something extra to truly fight crime his way. It’s a testament to the comic and the movie that those concepts worked so well.

Kendra: I like how parallel the stories of Gordon and Batman are. They both are just starting their new roles in Gotham, they both fail miserably at their first attempts at justice, They both have to find ways to make people fear them, and they ultimately end up forging the friendship we are all used to seeing. Its great storytelling.

The real star of the book.

The real star of the book.

Eric: I’ve never picked up on the fact that Gordon needs to learn to use fear to fight his battle. It makes the comparisons even stronger. What I’ve always noticed though, even back when I first read it, is that Year One is Jim Gordon’s story. While Bruce/Batman still has the title and own the major scenes, it’s more about Gordon coming to Gotham and taking over the police force. Batman has the criminal chain, Gordon has the corrupt cops. But Batman doesn’t really have to contend with Gordon’s presence, where the latter must to the former. Batman becomes an element that Gordon must either confront or join, and that is just as important to his success in Gotham as taking out the dirty commissioner.

It's still iconic, 30 years later.

It’s still iconic, 30 years later.

Kendra: After reading Year One, I thought “wow! Gordon should get his own movie or something!” Low and behold here comes the show Gotham. I hope it does a good job but you never know, we all thought Agents of SHIELD was going to be good and look what happened there. I have hopes though. Anyway I liked the focus on Gordon. I feel like it should have been called “Gotham Year One” or something because most of the focus was on Gordon.

Eric: It’s amazing to me how well this comic still holds up, almost thirty years later, and more than ten years since I first read it. Because of the tight writing and gorgeous art, nothing seems wasted. What needs to be told is told, with all the fat trimmed out. If there’s one element I don’t think works quiet as well as I once did, it’s the inclusion of Catwoman in the story. It’s still good, no question, but it does seem like an idea that you could cut and not lose anything from it. But it’s still gravy over the best turkey I’ve ever had, so I shouldn’t complain. I don’t even feel like I’m overstating the quality. It’s not for no reason that this was considered canon for Batman’s origin for three decades, no one wanted to even attempt this again after Miller hit it out of the park. I will say that I’m sad to see it go from continuity, as I am with most New 52 decisions. However, I’ve enjoyed most of Scott Snyder’s Batman work, so I’m excited to see what Zero Year brings to the game.

Next up, Batman: The Man Who Laughs!

 

Holy Reread Batman! – Introduction

The-Dark-Knight-ReturnsI’ve been in a huge Batman mood lately. I’m rewatching Batman: The Animated Series (which hopefully will go all the way to Justice League Unlimited). I also started listening to Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith and that’s been rekindling my whole love affair with the character. The thing about Batman, for me, is that my interest in him doesn’t stem from the comics. Where I feel in love with the X-Men and Daredevil through the old stories, Batman is a character who encompasses every form of media and I was introduced to through cartoons, movies and video games.

But when I did get into the comics, I got into them hard. I started with No Man’s Land, but then started into the classics, Year One, Dark Knight Returns and the Long Halloween. I haven’t stopped since either, and the amount of Batman comics I’ve read is second only to the X-Men.

But I want to read them again.

971553It’s been maybe a decade since I read my first Batman comics and I haven’t reread most of them since. Now it’s time to go back. So, I’m going to reread all the old classics, my favorites and the new stuff. Below, is my reading order from top to bottom.

Year One
The Man Who Laughs
Quick Looks Part One
The Long Halloween
Dark Victory
The Killing Joke
Death in the Family
No Man’s Land
Hush
Under the Red Hood
Batman and Son
Heart of Hush
Whatever Happened to the Cape Crusader?
The Court of Owls
Death of the Family
The Dark Knight Returns

250px-NML1I’m reading them in story-chronological, not publication order. This lets me end with the Dark Knight Returns, which seems to make sense for the whole plan. Also, there are some key stories that I don’t feel like rereading because I didn’t like them (Knightfall) or they don’t seem as important (The Cult), but I’m still going to comment on them when they would come up chronologically. This way, I don’t have to get through Grant Morrison’s crap again.

Batman_Death_In_The_Family_TPB_coverAs a note, if you haven’t read them, don’t expect a full summary of the stories. One thing I can’t stand about most rereads/rewatches is that they spend 85% of the text explaining the episode, and then add a quip comment or two.

Also, my lovely wife will be (hopefully) reading them too and commenting. It’s going to be her first time through each of them, so we get another perspective on how the books have aged and other neat bits.  So, most likely, this will be a regular (weekly) production on the blog. Feel free to read along and comment as I work through this list.

The X-Men Movies – A Look Back

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the seventh X-Men movie. The SEVENTH. Let that sink in. Not counting Marvel Studios’ Avengers line, that’s the longest running superhero universe franchise ever. Spider-Man was rebooted after three movies, Batman and Superman after four (or five if you count Superman Returns in the original run). The Fantastic Four only got two and looks like Green Lantern gets one.

I think we tend to forget how impressive it is, even with its flaws, that the X-Men have lasted so long with a single continuity. There’s errors in the timeline, attempts to go back and change, but every movie is part of the same series. The X-Men are the Star Trek of superheroes.

I think it’s nice that the quality turn around is back on high. For a while, it seemed like darkness was overtaking the series. Before X-Men: First Class, we had two good X-Men movies and two bad ones. Now, three movies later, those are the only bad ones in the series. I want to do a quick rundown and look back at the series and see what’s held up and what hasn’t.

MPW-34135X-Men
Released 2000

Think about this. Fourteen years ago, the last good superhero movie was Blade in 1998 and before that, which ever Batman movie you liked before the franchise fell apart (I kind of like Batman Forever). The first X-Men movie is responsible for the modern superhero genre. It’s not just important for the X-Men, it’s important for films. X-Men showed the world that superhero movies could be serious, satisfying both fans and newcomers. It set the trend for adding Easter eggs for future films and characters and the benefits of treating its heroes with respect. Without X-Men’s big box office success, Spider-Man wouldn’t have been greenlit and the rest is history.

I guess I kind of got away from talking about the movie as a whole…sorry. I love this movie. I know, by today’s standards it looks cheap in certain places (the Statue of Liberty fight) and Magneto’s plan isn’t the best. But this movie has everything else it needs to succeed. I’ve probably quoted this movie more than any other, and the writing is strong enough to prove why. Xavier, Wolverine, Rogue and Magneto all come across as believable and cool. Even Jean turns up alright in this movie. Toad, of all characters, probably gets more respect than he ever has, even with that terrible Storm line directed at him. I love the feel this movie has from the very beginning all the way up to the Ellis Island scenes, where the movie shows it’s weaker elements. This movie made me want to go to the school in a bad way and I wanted more, more and more.

X2 ONE SHEET A ¥ Art Machine Job#5263 ¥ Version A ¥  02/28/03X2: X-Men United
Released 2003

I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve talked about this movie before, and I’m never shy about how great it is. X-Men was good, this was great. X2 feels like an X-Men movie, from the school to the characters, to the way every one intersects out of each other’s lives.

Nightcrawler represents some of the best parts of the world, cool look, cool powers, tragic past, lovable scamp. This was also the last time Wolverine’s past would be cool, since both the movies and the comics decided to give away the secrets. This movie is memorable scene after memorable scene, from the tornado vs. jet scene to the Deathstrike fight, from the White House to the Mansion invasion, its great. And the movie doesn’t skip on the slower scenes, like Pyro’s longing gaze at family life or Wolverine and Iceman talking about girls.

There’s some rough patches, like Rogue not being to important or Cyclops being written out early, but they’re minor quibbles. If I only had one example to explain the X-Men to those who don’t understand, I use this movie. Or I just watch it because I want to.

 

X-Men_The_Last_StandX-Men: The Last Stand
Released 2006

Let’s hold on before we tear this movie apart. First, the trailer was awesome. It made this movie look thoughtful, stylistic and action packed. We had every right to believe that it would be the best yet. I mean, pitting the Juggernaut against Kitty Pride is an inspired idea! They can both go through walls! How could that not be awesome!

Let’s talk about the bad first, so we can end on a high note. Said Juggernaut/Kitty fight was a huge letdown lacking any imagination. In fact, all the action scenes are forgettable, save one. Even the final match-up between the X-Men and Magneto’s army was a mess, without any new powers or ideas. Popular characters like Multiple Man and Angel are important until they’re not, Cyclops is killed off screen, Rogue loses her powers off screen, Wolverine gets from New York to California and back off screen. The cure, which was the most promising story line, might work but maybe not? Dark Phoenix is kind of powerful but more of a hot mess than the end of the world. Iceman vs. Pyro is a DBZ ripoff without the fun and Magneto asking, “What have I done?” is worse than Storm’s questions about toads and lightning. Okay, lets stop and get to the good quick.

I’ve learned a strategy for this movie and that’s to watch it right after X2. I mean, right after. Because if you still have the feeling of excitement that comes with the closing moments of that movie, it will wash over the third film and carry you along for almost the whole thing. There are good things about the movie. Magneto is still great, the Danger Room gets some play, Kelsey Grammer is a wonderful choice for Beast and hey, look, it’s Multiple Man! The struggle for Jean at her old home is the only memorable action bit in the film, maybe because it’s the only one with high stakes (Xavier’s life). Also, the soundtrack is epic in scope and plays like it was scored for a better film. But where the complaints are small points for the first two films, the compliments are in short supply for the Last Stand.

x-men-origins-wolverine-posterX-Men Origins: Wolverine
Released 2009

In order to control my venting, I’m trying something else. Let’s just focus on what I would have done with this concept.

If revealing Wolverine’s origin is going to be important to both the audience and the character, it needs to matter. If we just show it all, it doesn’t work because the audience now know’s his past, but the character doesn’t, so revealing it to him later will be redundant. So, no prequel. Instead, lets have the movie take place after  The Last Stand. With Jean gone, Magneto (temporally) neutralized and the X-Men enjoying some peace and quiet, Wolverine can get back to focusing on find out who he was. Since she didn’t have a lot to do before, Rogue decides to go with him. Knowing Striker made him the weapon he is today, he starts digging into the generals past, which leads him to his own. We can bring back Sabretooth from the first movie and up his intelligence a bit or maybe use Omega Red. Both have a history with Wolverine’s Weapon X days. While searching, Wolverine and Rogue discover that a lot of memories are false implants, that he may have been with a woman named Silver Fox who was murdered by those who wanted him in the program, and that he wasn’t such a nice guy back then either. Maybe, we show some scenes of his childhood, but that doesn’t matter so much as what brought him to Weapon X. His search could take him to a shutdown Department H/Alpha Flight and friends named the Hudsons. Of course, at the end of the movie, Wolverine discovers a good amount, but it doesn’t give him the peace he needs. Realizing he’s always been a weapon and hurt those who care about him, he leaves the X-Men until we see him again in The Wolverine.

Of course, no one asked me. So we have a movie that doesn’t matter, to audiences or the rest of the films. Nice going, Fox.

X-Men-First-Class-Poster-01X-Men: First Class
Released 2011

So, I love X2. That’s no secret. But, to this day, I can’t decide if it’s still my favorite or best. Because First Class is that good.

It’s stylish. It’s cool. It has a sense of humor and fun that the others movies lack. This film doesn’t need Wolverine because Michael Fassbender (more like Face bender!) is that cool. The new crew of X-kids aren’t as iconic but they’re great all the same, and I love seeing Havok and Banshee get some screen time. The movie also made one of the worst comic book ideas (Azazel) and made it awesome. Sebastian Shaw finally gets his hand at being the bad guy, we get goofy silver age technology and groovy training montages. And the soundtrack is awesome.

For a while, the X-Movies felt like an ex-girlfriend. After X2, everything seemed to be going well. But then The Last Stand  happened and she went off the rails so we broke up. We had lost the magic. But the, here comes a Wolverine movie and the trailers look promising. Maybe she’s cleaned up her act. Maybe she has changed. Okay, so we get back together. Then I find out she’s even worse then before. Crazy, even. I bail out and stop answering phone calls, heck, I change my number. Forget it. I’m done. But, then, I see the trailer for First Class and I hear she really has changed for the better. The breakup made her rethink a lot of decisions she was making. We flirt a little, have a few talks over coffee and then, when I see the movie, I can’t help myself. I propose. I’m ready to stick with her through better or worse. Thanks, X-Men: First Class.

the-wolverine-teaser-posterThe Wolverine
Released 2013

Wolverine is overexposed as a character, with people forgetting that less is more and that he’s a cool character even when played as just another part of a larger team. Just because he’s popular doesn’t mean he has to be the center. But, if you have to make a solo film, make it matter. And that’s what The Wolverine gets right.

While X-Men Origins: Wolverine was an minor character parade disguised as a solo piece, The Wolverine is true to it’s name. The main focus is on Logan, emotionally distraught and lost after having to kill the woman he spent about two weekends with (seriously, if you think about the whole time that Wolverine and Jean are interacting in the time frame of the movie, they spend about two whole days together). The movie starts of slow and thoughtful and you realize this is a different type of superhero movie. Having this film take place in Japan helps it standout as well and this character fits perfectly in that environment, being both a man with a long past but also, by being a mutant, a man of the future. Like the comic by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, the movie wisely tells a story about Wolverine as a ronin, a masterless samurai.

The action is great, with a lot of people liking the bullet train scene by my favorite bit is in the medical lab. It’s intense and has a great built up, and when Wolverine gets back into the fight, you can feel the weight of it all. It’s almost like the movie wants to end there, but Logan still has some bad guys to stop and, while I don’t hate the last act of the movie like other critics, it is weaker than the rest of the movie. And since X-Men: Days of Future Past ignores a lot of this movie, the bits at the end are fairly inconsequential. But, if they never make another solo Wolverine movie (and I kind of wish they would stop and focus on the team), this is as good as it’s going to get.

rs_634x939-140324091106-634.jennifer-lawrence-x-men.ls.32414X-Men: Days of Future Past
Released 2014

The X-Men series seems to be the king of rebooting without rebooting, maybe second only to the Terminator series. Between X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and now X-Men: Days of Future Past, the series has tried to restart and change direction three times without actually starting over. I don’t mind, as long as the movies are good, and DoFP is good.

It’s not my favorite of the movies. That’s still a battle between the second and First Class. I would have liked to see Bishop, Warpath and Blink get more screen time/dialog. Beast doesn’t seem to have too much to do and I feel like we didn’t get enough time with future Magneto and Xavier as both their dreams seem to be crashing around them. One more complaint. Killing off the First Class crew off screen; Banshee, Emma Frost and Azazel, that doesn’t sit right with me. Especially the first two, since one could of worked on the team still and the Emma is one of the strongest characters in the comic.

But the rest of the movie is great. Fassbender, decked out like his comic book counterpart, is almost the perfect Magneto. Wolverine is less the focus and more of a side character, which works well for him. The Sentinels are bad news and we get to see the X-Men of the future fight them to the death…twice! All while being a classic X-Men movie!

The best part of DoFP is that it gives hope, for the movies and the franchise. The ending of the film, for both timelines, makes me want to what another hundred X-Men movies. I want to keep following the original movie cast, I want to keep going with the First Class crew, I want to see where they’re going with Mystique and Wolverine, I want to see all the X-Men together and happy and saving the day again and again. While I’m a little weary, since the last time I had this much excitement for the series future was after X2, and we can see how well that went, I feel confident that the franchise is on the right track.

Rolling Stone’s Top 20 Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century

Rolling Stone magazine just put out a list of their top scifi films of this century and it’s an impressive collection. I’ve seen all but two of the movies so I’ve decided to rundown the list and see what I thought of their selections. You can check out the original article here for their reasons. Either way, this is a good time to be into science fiction and you should fill out the checklist I setup here to show the world how much you’ve seen.

mpasunshineposterb20. Sunshine
I already gushed about this so you can read the post here. A good summery is that I liked it a lot, it felt somewhat old school and also left me feeling down, in a good way. More man vs. nature, with some man vs. man and man vs. himself thrown in for good measure. It’s got a killer soundtrack and should be higher on this list.

19. Donnie Darko
I will never understand why people like this film. It pretentious and muddy, without real meaning or an understanding of pacing. Pure film school crap and I’m certain you have to be a freshman in college to have good feelings about this thing. Like everyone at the end of this movie, I wish I could forget it happened. #baddream

attach-2850-monstersposter18. Monsters
The cinematographer’s monster movie, though it would have helped to have a guy on lighting. I feel like it’s more impressive that this movie exists rather than what it does. Made for half a million bucks on prosumer cameras and out of the box editing programs, it looks pretty darn professional and makes me jealous. On the other hand, it’s not super entertaining. As my wife states, it’s really about actors starring at things, and she’s right. The problem is, because of the darkness, we can’t see what they’re looking at.

17. Reign of Fire
I remember thinking this movie was pretty cool stuff when I saw it in theaters. Today, it’s alright but not a great film. I agree with RS though. With Bale and McConehay in the lead roles, this movie would be a blockbuster if opening today. Even if the whole film doesn’t hold up, the dragons still look cool.

attack-the-block16. Attack the Block
The inner city indi scifi film we never knew we wanted but got anyway. This movie is fun, weird and not too shy to throw in some social commentary. I like that it’s all in one night, that it’s a better Goonies than the Goonies and forces us to root for character we wouldn’t expect. The monsters are cool and the slow-motion final is amazing and worth watching on loop a few times.

15. Cloverfield
This is one of those ‘one and done’ films for me, it was great in theaters and did something new to an already great genre, but I’ve never rewatched it. A film like this, that relies on a certain trick, such as the found footage, isn’t something that works as well a second time, either because the surprise is gone or I don’t want to sit through shaky cam anymore. Still, it was a great night in the theater.

14. Primer
A film that I tried really hard to understand. It’s confusing, but intriguing, despite an almost criminally low budget. I’m not ashamed to admit I went online to find explanations to this afterwards but I’m a bit embarrassed that I still don’t quite get it.

13. Minority Report
Better than a lot of us remember. It’s fast paced, gorgeous and has some real, painful heart in the main story. I used to think this was too dark to enjoy but that actually helps now that I’m older.

Big_Moon_revised12. Moon
To say I loved Moon is an understatement. I made everyone I knew watch this after I had. It’s just too great. It’s small, personal and the kind of scifi film anyone can make if they have the right talent. Rockwell is sometimes a little off the wall, but he plays it just right. Kevin Spacey as the computer is like a warmer version of Hal, that actually wants to help. And what a soundtrack! It must be a prerequirisit for science fiction these days and I’m fine with that.

11. The World’s End
This was just non-stop fun. While Shaun of the Dead is still my favorite of these films, TWE was so good it almost took the top. My wife didn’t love it, she found it too serious to be a laugh riot. Me? I like a little darkness and drama to give weight to the jokes. I was smiling the whole time because this movie just doesn’t stop. If you haven’t seen it, do.

10. The Host
I think I was a little disappointed with this movie. It’s reputation is on par with Battle Royal but it never clicked for me. There were times when it was almost there, especially during the first attack. But it drags in the middle and the end doesn’t totally hit home. I liked the humor but didn’t get the politics. Your milage may vary.

her_xlg9. Her
Just watched this a few weeks ago. I’m of two minds about it. On one hand, I like the way it explores relationships and humanity falling out of talking to humans. It’s well acted, well scored and gorgeous. On the the other hand, it borders on boring and slow. I feel like this film could have been cut to a ninty minute timeframe and have been stronger for it. As it stands, not bad but not life changing. At least, until I get my intelligent O.S.

8. Looper
I don’t get it. Looper isn’t a bad film but a top 20? From the past thirteen years? No way. The concept is cool but it’s poorly executed and Emily Blunt’s character comes out of nowhere. I didn’t think the action was that great, or the acting. Considering the guy who made this was the one responsible for Brick, I would have thought this to be more promising. Not for me.

7. Serenity
The great tragedy of Firefly is well known but Serenity almost makes the pain go away. Being both a stand alone movie and a continuation of the show, this one is a feel good film. I know some people are still bitter about the show’s end, but I feel like Serenity is a true endcap for the series, giving closure to most of the things we felt denied. What a way to go out.

district9_poster6. Distrit 9
This movie was one of the best surprises I’ve ever had. I had no idea what to expect so everything about this movie seemed to come out of left field. It was a high speed thrill ride with depth and characters you cared about. I was so nervous near the end that I actually prayed to God that things would turn out well. That’s how into the movie I was. And still am.

5. Gravity
Top five? Maybe. Considering how much science it fudges, and how rough the small amounts of dialoge are, it seems like it’s so far up because of freshness and good will. If this list was made a while back, I bet Avatar would be here, because both films are experiences, rides, but not the greatest. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie and the soundtrack, but without the big screen to watch it on everytime, it doesn’t seem as strong as other choices on the list. But then, this is Rolling Stone’s list, not mine.

wall_e4. Wall-E
Probably my favorite Pixar film after Finding Nemo and the Toy Story series. It’s cute, I love the simplicity of the story, the characters are charming, it’s just a great film. I might not have even thought of putting this movie on the list, but I’m glad it made it.

3. Under the Skin
Melancholy as anything on the planet. This would be another film I didn’t fully understand, but the basics are there. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, Earth is rough and loneliness is a universal language.

2. Inception
Number two? I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve only watched it once and then was in the theaters. But when I saw it, it left a strong impression on me, one that hit hard for someone going through a breakup and trying to reconcile happy memoires with sad realities. But number two? Over Moon? I guess that makes sense, but I’m not thrilled.

children_of_men_ver81. Children of Men
This makes sense. It’s not my favorite film, but it does seem like the strongest contender here. I might have put District 9 at the top instead, but this isn’t my list. But enough about me, this is Children of Men’s moment. It’s a great movie, depressingly uplifting under a dark tone without feeling hopeless. Humanity has never looked worse, and better, than this film and the ending has as much weight as needed. I need to watch this again.

Missing in Action
If Cloverfield made it, Chronicle should have been here and higher. Easily better than Looper or Donnie Darko, maybe they didn’t add it because it’s almost a superhero film but its a white-knuckle ride through and through.

Also missing are Another Earth and Troll Hunter, though the latter might be considered fantasy. My guess is Rise of the Planet of the Apes didn’t make it because this a non-franchise list, but I wonder if 28 Day Later is too much of a straight horror movie to make the cut? I would probably keep War of the Worlds off because of the sappy ending and also The Island because we shouldn’t reward Michael Bay, even for good movies.