Top 10 Girls of Comics & Honorable Mentions

 

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS AND HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

With my Fantasy Girl entry for Black Canary, I’ve revamped my Top 10 Girls of Comics and Honorable Mentions, which you can find linked through the page menu:

(10) Black Cat (I’ve promoted her from honorable mention, particularly with the potential Silver & Black film on the way with her and Silver Sable. She replaces Empowered – the latter is now a special mention)

(9) Harley Quinn

(8) Black Widow

(7) X-men – Emma Frost (Mystique & Psylocke)

(6) Witchblade (Angelus)

(5) Lady Death (Purgatori)

(4) Vampirella (Pantha & Blood-Red Queen of Hearts)

(3) Red Sonja

(2) Catwoman

(1) Wonder Woman

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

 

DC COMICS

Black Canary

Zatanna

Poison Ivy

Starfire

 

MARVEL COMICS

Fantastic Four – Susan Storm / Invisible Woman

Ms Marvel / Captain Marvel

Elektra

 

IMAGE COMICS & OTHER

Gen 13 – Caitlin Fairchild

Aphrodite IX

Aspen Matthews

Danger Girl – Abbey Chase & Sydney Savage

Cassie Hack

Sin City – Nancy Callahan

Shi

 

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics (Honorable Mention): Black Canary (1947)

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (HONORABLE MENTION): BLACK CANARY (1947)

 

The Canary Cry! Um, chirp – I guess?

 

It is a little hard to take a superpower by the name of Canary Cry seriously – or for that matter a superheroine by the name of Black Canary, particularly when she’s part of a superhero team by the name of the Birds of Prey. Has someone told DC Comics that canaries aren’t in fact raptors or birds of prey? I mean, canaries aren’t known for their fierceness – when I think of canaries, my first thought is of the proverbial canary in the coal mine, which is known for, you know, dying.

 

However, you should take the Black Canary seriously (well, as seriously, as you take any comics character). For one thing, she is one of DC Comics earliest superheroines, with her debut in Flash Comics in 1947 – although not only did she not appear in her own title, she appeared as a backup character to a backup character, Johnny Thunder. Of course, she proved a lot more durable than Johnny Thunder. Who’s Johnny Thunder? Exactly.

 

 

From there, her history is convoluted – as it is for any long-standing DC Comics character, with its multiverse (Earth-1? Earth-2?) and its reboots (Crisis in Infinite Earths?! New 52?! DC Rebirth?!) I mean, it’s enough to drive anyone mad. Black Canary’s history is so convoluted that the character was effectively split between mother and daughter, Dinah Lance nee Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance respectively (although I think even those names might change), with the emphasis on the latter for modern comics.

 

Actually, that’s not too convoluted compared to her television incarnation in Arrow and the wider Arrowverse – where the character is split between Dinah Laurel Lance, her sister Sara Lance (who dies but is resurrected as the White Canary), an evil doppelganger from Earth-2 known as Black Siren and another Black Canary entirely by the alter ego of Dinah Drake.

 

Speaking of Arrow, it’s fairly consistent that the modern Black Canary is professionally and romantically involved with one of DC’s most useless superheroes, Green Arrow. (I’m not a fan of archer superheroes. A bow is not a superpower! It’s not even Batman levels of badass!).

 

 

Another consistency is her costume – you’ve got to admire a superhero who fights crime in a leotard and fishnet stockings, although she usually accessorizes with a jacket and occasionally has variant costumes.

 

 

Of course, fighting crime in a leotard and fishnets is a little easier when you are a “prodigious hand-to-hand combatant”, as the modern Black Canary has been portrayed.

 

It’s all about the kicks

 

In addition to her martial arts skills, she has also been detected “as an expert motorcyclist, gymnast, covert operative, and investigator” as well as “excellent leader and tactician”. So like the avian-themed female version of Batman? Unlike Green Arrow or Batman for that matter, she also has an actual superpower, the so-called Canary Cry – a high-powered sonic scream which can severely damage both inorganic and organic objects, with people being the most obvious example of the latter.

 

 

The origins of the Canary Cry have varied over the years – from outright magic, literally “a wizard did it” through the metahuman gene to alien genes.

 

 

Black Canary has also been adapted into various media, including video games as well as animated and live-action television series (such as the aforementioned Arrow)

Top 10 Comic Book Films (Revised)

 

TOP 10 COMIC BOOK FILMS (REVISED)

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2017 promises to be a big year in comic book films, so much so that I am anticipating quite a few shake-ups in my Top 10 Comic Book Films.

 

There’s the upcoming Spiderman: Homecoming, which may see that Marvel movie magic erase that bad taste of those Amazing Spiderman films and perhaps see the character return to the heights of the Sam Raimi films – or even better, given that Tom Holland appears to be a much better fit for the character than Toby Maguire.

 

There’s the first female superhero film Wonder Woman, which may be the DC Cinematic Universe’s saving grace, if it escapes the, ah, mixed results of that universe to date – particularly given Gal Gadot’s portray of its title character, one of the few positive things in critical assessments of Batman v Superman.

 

Thor: Ragnarok even promises to pique my interest in what has previously been one of the less interesting parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for me.

 

And then there is the more exotic fare of Ghost in the Shell (which has looked visually spectacular in trailers, although I’m not quite so confident in its direction) and Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets (although I’m equally not so confident in Cara Delevingne in it)

 

However, first up this year has been Logan – a film that has shaken up my standing Top 10 Comic Book Films so much that it has leapt up to the top three (and becoming my new favorite film from the X-men franchise). Yes – I liked it that much, better than The Dark Knight or Captain America: Civil War.

 

And so, these are my top ten comic book films, revised for the addition of 2017’s Logan (and some shuffling of other entries)

 

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(10) DEADPOOL (2016)

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What better wildcard entry  for tenth place than Deadpool?

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The character himself is a wildcard, above all because he knows that he is a fictional character in a comic, or in this case, comic book movie, and engages the audience as such. As he quips about the presence of only two X-men in the movie – “It’s almost as if the studio couldn’t afford another X-man”.

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The title character, Marvel Comics’ Wade Wilson or Deadpool, is known at the Merc with a Mouth, for his constant wisecracking and breaking the fourth wall, which the film’s script (for which the writers are credited as “the true heroes”) used to good effect. His superhuman ability is his healing factor, although that’s nothing compared to his cinematic resurrection from the mess that was Wolverine: Origins – a mess both generally and also particularly with respect to his character. It’s not easy coming back from a film that notoriously made his character unrecognizable, while being the cinematic equivalent of punching its audience in the head – amongst other things by sewing his trademark mouth shut. Characteristically, the Deadpool film casually mocks the former film with a figurine of its version of the character.

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As for the film itself, it’s just pure, R-rated subversive fun and demonstrated that by becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie ever (as well as the highest grossing movie in the X-men franchise), while embracing the character’s appearance and personality – “Fast, funny and gleefully profane, the fourth-wall busting Deadpool subverts the superhero film formula with wildly entertaining – and decidedly non-family friendly – results”.

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Above all, it gets its superhero landing right!

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(9) KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014)

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For my ninth place entry, we have Kingsman: The Secret Service, a playful and subversive parody of  spy films in general and James Bond in particular – adapted from a comic by Mark Millar (similarly to another Millar work, Kickass, a playful and subversive parody of superhero film).

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The film apparently originated when Millar and director Matthew Vaughn were at a bar discussing how the spy film genre was too serious and they wanted to do a fun one. And boy did they deliver on that premise – as Guardian writer Jordan Hoffman quipped, “no one in the production can believe that they’re getting away with such a batshit Bond”. It takes all the elements of a Bond film and ramps them up with its tongue firmly in its cheek – Bond on crack.

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Of course, there is the eponymous spy agency – stylish (“manners maketh man”) and quintessentially British (named for Arthurian characters), with Colin Firth’s Galahad in a superb action role. However, it is Samuel L. Jackson who steals the spotlight, hamming it up with his lisping, megalomaniac supervillain Valentine – such that he makes Bond villains look positively tame by comparison (although his blade-legged henchwoman Gazelle comes a close second). Valentine’s supervillain scheme is to fix global warming (yay!) by killing most of the world’s population (um – not so yay?) – the mechanism for this is revealed in a frenzied continuous action scene so good that Cinema Sins did one of its rare deduction of five sins for it.

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Per Rolling Stone magazine – “This slam-bang action movie about British secret agents is deliriously shaken, not stirred … Even when it stops making sense, Kingsman is unstoppable fun”.

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(8) IRON MAN (2008)

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“The truth is…I am Iron Man!”

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Iron Man kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, with Robert Downey Jr. in the role to which he was perfectly suited (heh). Few people outside comics fandom were aware of Iron Man or Tony Stark prior to Robert Downey Jr’s debut as the character in the Iron Man film. Thanks to his portrayal of the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now everyone knows about Iron Man. The original character was created in 1963 as a counterpoint to the counterculture at the time, and he sure showed those hippies – an American billionaire playboy, arms dealing business magnate and technological genius. Like Batman, he relies on his money and gadgets, particularly the armored powered suits that give him his superhero identity.  Of course, it doesn’t explain how he has managed to suspend the laws of physics inside his suits and avoid being mashed inside them (like any other vehicular collision). Yeah, they’d be pouring him out of his suit afterwards.

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Anyway, the first film retells his origin story from the comics, only updated from Tony Stark creating his first Iron Man suit to escape captivity by dirty commies in Vietnam, to escaping captivity by dirty terrorists in Afghanistan. From there on, it’s essentially about Tony creating better suits to become a superhero, until he gets in a suit-swinging contest with the primary villain – “my suit is bigger than yours!”

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Thereafter, Iron Man has predominated not only his own movies, but also in the Avengers films (including the de facto Avengers film in Captain America Civil War). As Tony Stark quips in the Avengers Age of Ultron film (the source of my title image) – “I just pay for everything and design everything and make everyone look cooler”. Indeed, he does. Also, as we see in his first film, he has a stripper pole for stewardesses in his private jet – and if that doesn’t make him a superhero, I don’t know what does…

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RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(7) SPIDERMAN (2002)

It wouldn’t be a top ten comic book film list without the screen incarnation of everyone’s favorite web-slinging, wise-cracking friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

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The 1990’s have been dubbed the Dark Age of Comics for thematic (and quality) reasons, but they were a darker age in comic book movies much more for quality reasons. DC Comics, which predominated comic book films at that time, had ground to a halt with the execrable sequels to Superman (especially the fourth) and the even more execrable sequels to Batman (again especially the fourth, infamously killing the franchise until it was resurrected by Christopher Nolan). Marvel Comics then revived comic book movies in the new millennium – although not with the properties it had in its own name in the present Marvel Cinematic Universe, but with its properties that it had sold off to other studios, X-men (to Fox) and Spiderman (to Sony).

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Spiderman has had a checkered cinematic history since, but who can forget the pure enjoyment of Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman movie in 2002? It engagingly told the now familiar origin story of Spiderman (Uncle Ben and “with great power comes great responsibility), although with some modifications – Spiderman’s web-shooting was now organic rather than by his own invention, which I found to be both more plausible (as well as more consistent with his origin story) and more entertaining as adolescent sexual innuendo (Spiderman splurging his web about the place, particularly when Mary Jane was on the scene). And it engagingly presented the young superhero, one who brought out the best in New York City (if not J. Jonah Jameson), in his battle against the Green Goblin, perfectly played by Willem Dafoe. Man – he even looked like the Green Goblin before his transformation. (Why did they bother with the mask?)

 

 

Some enjoy the sequel with Doctor Octopus even more – I certainly enjoyed it, although to me the original eclipsed it with its fresh quality. The third Raimi movie…doesn’t get so much love. And yes, we’ll all like to forget Spiderman’s envenomed evil dancing, but I still enjoyed the movie, mainly because I also love Venom (even if the film badly fumbled him, as well as shoehorning him into a movie crowded with villains). Also, it doesn’t look so bad now after the rebooted Amazing Spiderman sequel essentially did the same thing, only worse, with Electro. Although even then, I didn’t hate that movie, and liked the first one (particularly with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy). That’s just how much I love Spiderman.

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And I have high expectations of Spiderman assuming his rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the aptly named and upcoming Homecoming, particularly given how that Universe and Tom Holland nailed the character in his appearance in the Captain America Civil War film.

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RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

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(6) DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

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The Doctor is in!

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The focus of the film is the titular Doctor, perfectly cast as Benedict Cumberbatch (and his cheekbones). The plot revolves around his origin, mirroring that in the comics. Unlike other titled doctors in comics, Doctor Strange is actually a medical doctor – his origin story is that he was a brilliant (and arrogant) neurosurgeon, but a car accident smashed the bones in his hands so that he couldn’t perform surgery. He then obsessively searched the world for a cure, but instead found something much cooler – magic! He is accepted as student by the Tibetan Master known as the Ancient One, somewhat incongruously played by the white and female Tilda Swinton, although she carries it off with her characteristic aplomb. He becomes a practitioner of the mystical arts, aided by such artifacts as the time-bending Eye of Agamotto and the show-stealing Cloak of Levitation, ultimately rising to Marvel’s mystical champion and punching out the Marvel Comics equivalent of Cthulhu while travelling psychedelic magical landscapes. (Or not, since the finale involves something refreshingly different from the usual superhero modus operandi of literally punching out the supervillain antagonist).

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Admittedly, on the one hand, it’s a little like magic Iron Man (or, in the words of Honest Trailers, Iron Man on weed), but on the other hand – MAGIC! It’s the introduction of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – well, more so than Norse gods, the Scarlet Witch, mysterious powers and every other fantasy element in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, including those nominally based on ‘fuzzy’ science (even more so when you throw in Spiderman and the X-men).

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And what an introduction! The magic, and the aforementioned psychedelic magical landscapes, are characterized by, in the phrase of TV Tropes, visual effects of awesome – typically (and accurately) described in reviews as a combination of The Matrix and Inception. Although – if only it had stuck with the literally flame-headed Balrog-style Dormammu from the comics…

IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

Civil-War-Concept-Art-2

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(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

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And so we come to the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its superhero team assembled over the course of its films – Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers.

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You all know the achievements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least in terms of box office predominance and positive critical reception, but these reflect the ability to translate a diverse and extensive storied universe (spanning decades in the comics) to the screen.

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captain-america-civil-war

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And at its peak to date is the recent Captain America: Civil War. It continued the successful ensemble tradition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while introducing the new character of African Batman Catman Black Panther. Although, like Wolverine, his superhero weapon of choice is…claws? Hello kitty! And introducing Marvel’s Spiderman into his rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also continued the Marvel Cinematic Universe tradition of compacting complex story and themes from the comics into a cinematic adaptation.

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Although, in your heart, you known Iron Man had the moral high ground in the Civil War storyline. Well, perhaps not in the comics, which were a little more nuanced (although is it so outrageous having some sort of government registration for people with potentially destructive or lethal powers?), but definitely in the film. I mean, come on Cap, what is your problem with the United Nations wanting a little accountability? You know, tapping you on the shoulder and asking why so many civilians were killed as collateral damage? Instead, Cap throws his petulant hissy fit – even more so when it’s to save his precious Bucky. Just get a room already, you two!

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And Team Iron Man totally should have won that airport battle hands down. I mean, it was nice of Captain America to handicap his team by picking the most useless Avenger, Hawkeye. Although, come to think of it, what exactly is Bucky’s power? A metal arm?! Apart from the Scarlet Witch and Ant Man, Cap’s team was really a law of diminishing returns. Falcon? Hawkeye?! Bucky?!?! That battle should have been over by the time it took Spiderman to splurge them all with his web, as How It Should Have Ended pointed out. (Ewww, sticky!)

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

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(4) THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

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Why so serious?

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It wouldn’t be a comic book movie top ten list without Batman.

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Matching the diversity and different moods of the Batman mythos, Batman has come in different flavors in his screen adaptations. (And no, get your mind out of the Bat-nippled Joel Schumacher gutter). There was the incredibly camp film originating from the equally camp TV series of the sixties. In contrast, the Tim Burton films took a dark Gothic direction to match the name of Batman’s city, although they retained a certain Gothic camp quality, particularly in the second (and somewhat incoherent) film – before Joel Schumacher took the franchise into the aforementioned gutter, (infamously “killing the franchise”)

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Looming above them all – and reviving the franchise – is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with its centerpiece film, The Dark Knight. Indeed, the film is considered by critics to be one of the best movies of the decade as well as one of the best superhero movies ever – taking Batman into a gritty, realistic direction (almost plausible – or as plausible as a billionaire in a batsuit can get).

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You all know the film. You all know the quotes – and the memes (the memes the Internet deserves, but not the ones it needs right now). And capering as a force of pure chaotic evil at the heart of it all was Heath Ledger’s Joker. O yes – some men just want to watch the world burn…

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RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

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(3) LOGAN (2017)

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I liked this 2017 X-men film so much that it has leapt into the top three, as well as becoming my favorite film from the franchise. Based on the X-men comic storyline, Old Man Logan, the film is set in a dystopian future United States (rather than the post-apocalyptic future of the comics).

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Why do I like it so much? Well, it helps that it abandons the ensemble cast of the previous films of the franchise (always a difficult task to balance or juggle) to focus on its two most intriguing characters, fan favorite Wolverine (the titular Logan), played by Hugh Jackman and Charles Xavier (or Professor X), played by Patrick Stewart. As the film opens, Wolverine’s mutant healing factor (which includes longevity) has gone awry and he has aged, as he is being slowly poisoned by the adamantium in his skeleton. Charles Xavier been even less fortunate – as the film opens with him a fugitive tended to by Wolverine, his former telepathic abilities now turned against himself (and others – to the extent that it has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction) due to neurogenerative disease. It also helps that both Jackman and Stewart are at the top of their game at portraying the depths of their respective characters.

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The plot doesn’t always hang together (and is hard to reconcile with the previous X-men film franchise – what has become of the other X-men?!). It helps that it mixes genre effectively as a neo-Western superhero road movie. The Western elements particularly loom large, with the classic Western film Shane a point of reference on a number of occasions – not to mention the cybernetic Reavers (who, as one of those aforementioned plot points, don’t appear to actually be any good at, ah, reaving).

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Above all, it has more heart than any other film in the franchise, even if at times it is a raw and broken one. And I have a particular soft spot for stories of heroes at the end of their days, but who still rise to the call of heroism one last time (or for one last chance of redemption) – or in the context of the Western, one last ride into the sunset.

 

“We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved heaven and earth, that which we are, we are:

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” –

Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

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RATING: IT’S A RAVE: 4 STARS****

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(2) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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Marvel Comics got cosmic, baby, with The Guardians of the Galaxy.

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And it’s particularly striking that this film works as well as it does – given that it takes an ensemble from Marvel Comics C-list roster into its equally bizarre and eclectic cosmic setting. As I said at the outset of my top ten, I tend to stay aware of a wide range of comics, and I hadn’t heard of the Guardians (although I was aware of elements of Marvel’s cosmic setting).

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How does it work so well?

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Well, there’s that cosmic setting with its visual effects.

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There’s the funky sixties and seventies soundtrack on its protagonist’s impossibly durable mixtape (and for which he is prepared to risk death)

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There’s Chris Pratt’s charismatic and comedic performance as the protagonist Peter Quill or Star-Lord (although the latter doesn’t quite catch on as well as he would like, much to his disappointment) – with such highlights as dancing off the villain.

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There’s Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, with my personal favorite highlights including when she proclaims their heroism “we’re just like Kevin Bacon” (from a reference by Quill to Footloose) – and when she dances, ever so slightly, at the end (after rejecting the idea of dancing – prompting Quill’s Footloose reference)

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There’s Dave Batista’s incredibly literal-minded Drax the Destroyer. (“Nothing goes over my head – my reflexes are too fast”).

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There’s Bradley Cooper’s voiced (and spotlight-stealing) Rocket Racoon.

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And then there’s Groot. Just Groot. I love Groot. Vin Diesel-voiced three-worded vocabulary tree-thing Groot. While the rest of the Guardians start off as rogues at best, Groot is the innocent and true hero amongst them – with a heart at big as he is. Cinema Sins did its rare reversal of sin count for Groot, not once but twice – firstly, when he offers a beggar girl a flower grown from his hand (“I’ll take a sin off for Groot being awesome – I’m not made of stone”, the narrator quips as he knocks off a sin), and secondly, when he beams with a beautiful child-like grin to his colleagues after saving them from a wave of attackers.

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And of course, there’s him dancing as regrown seedling to the Jackson Five.

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(1) DREDD (2012)

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You knew this was coming – it’s my favorite comic so it’s also my favorite comic book movie. Of course, one does not necessarily follow from the other – the woeful 1995 Judge Dredd movie is a case in point. Fortunately, the 2012 Dredd movie got it right, although unfortunately it did not get the box office numbers.

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Judge Dredd is the most iconic character from the British weekly SF anthology comic, 2000 AD, ongoing since it was launched in 1977. Unfortunately, American audiences remain somewhat unfamiliar with (or unresponsive to) Judge Dredd, despite his American setting (albeit futuristic) and despite that he is effectively a quintessential American hero in the same vein as Batman – relying on superior discipline, training, experience, equipment and resources, except as a governmental lawman rather than a vigilante billionaire. (They even both effectively remain masked in their public identities, as Dredd never removes his helmet). This is despite his iconic status, particularly in Britain, and despite American audiences being familiar with many of the alumni of 2000 AD, as virtually every British writer (and artist) of note working in American comics started there (and indeed often in the Judge Dredd storyline itself) – Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar and so on.

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Even more unfortunately, the first substantial introduction of American audiences to Judge Dredd was the 1995 film, although fortunately that particular horror is fading with time. This Hollywood travesty was particularly inexcusable, because the essence of Judge Dredd is ultimately very simple – Judge Dredd is a futuristic Dirty Harry in a dystopian (and post-apocalyptic) SF satire. How hard is that, Hollywood?! On second thoughts, this simple formula is probably too much for Hollywood to handle – when they couldn’t even have Dredd keep his helmet on throughout the film.

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The 2012 film was much more effective in capturing the elements of the original comic (not least in keeping Dredd’s helmet on throughout the film). It is not perfect in this respect. For one thing, it minimizes the satire or comedy to focus on effective world building, although that was probably a matter of necessity. For another, it alters the original storyline from the comics, notably by having psi-Judge Anderson as Dredd’s Rookie. Nevertheless, it is effective in having a stripped-back storyline to the most basic of Dredd storylines, which was indeed that in the very first Dredd episode in the comics (with a length of six pages) – the entry into a building or city block to apprehend criminal perpetrators or ‘perps’. In the first comics episode, the perp was Judge-killer ‘Whitey’ in the rundown Empire State Building. In the 2012 film, it’s slo-mo drug-lord Ma-Ma – played by Lena Headey – in a lockdown of a residential city block, similar to The Raid.

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Unfortunately, the film was not as effective in capturing an audience for its cinematic release, nor in commencing a franchise (but I’ll continue to lobby for the latter with my top spot here). I mean, come on people! Karl Urban acting with his chin as Dredd. Cersei Lannister as scarred city block drug lord. What more could you want? In its own way, this is as unfortunate as the 1995 film, particularly at a time when comic book movies are in such vogue (and dystopian or post-apocalyptic movies have always been popular) – because if ever a comic deserved its own cinematic or screen universe, it’s Dredd, especially when you consider the dreck (or drokk – Judge Dredd slang in-joke alert) that does get adaptations. It has fared better as a cult film with fans and home media release, so perhaps some further adaptation is possible – perhaps a television adaptation would be better, as it suits the more episodic nature as well as longer arcs of the storyline. Whatever the case, I’ll just repeat my ten reasons why Judge Dredd is the galaxy’s greatest comic – and why it deserves its own cinematic or screen universe:

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

Cult, Pulp & Kink: The Flash (2014-2016)

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CULT, PULP & KINK: THE FLASH (2014-2016)

 

THE FLASH (2014)

 

“My name is Barry Allen and I am the fastest man alive!”

 

Quite simply, The Flash is my favorite comics television series so far – the pure enjoyment of superhero fantasy. And let’s face it, The Flash is fantasy, despite its pretensions to ‘science’ – the Speed Force (and its associated time travel) is effectively magic. (Actually, it would be interesting to read fantasy designed about speed mages). In fairness though, the same could be said of most, if not all, superhero origin stories framed as ‘science’. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) adapting many of the more ridiculous elements from the comics to the screen, The Flash is irresistibly fun. Who can resist the multiverse? Time travel? Superhuman speed? Gorilla Grodd? King Shark?

 

Ironically, it was a spinoff from Arrow (and takes place within the so-called Arrowverse), but is much more fun than that dour series and its billionaire with a bow. Although, I have never been able to take ‘superhero’ archers seriously. Get a gun! Things have changed since Robin Hood. And all those flashbacks to that goddamn island! Even Arrow is more fun on The Flash. But I digress.

 

As I said, The Flash is fun. The villains, particularly the seasonal ‘Big Bad’ evil speedsters, are chillingly fun. It balances drama and spectacle with humor (a balance that the DC Cinematic Universe is often criticized as lacking) – “The Flash benefits from its purposefully light atmosphere, making it a superhero show uniquely geared toward genre fans as well as novices.”

 

Except maybe, just maybe, Barry – you should think about not screwing with time travel?

 

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Go, Flash, go!

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

Top 10 Comic Book Films

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TOP 10 COMIC BOOK FILMS

 

And I’ve revamped my top 10 comic book films, included on its own page and below. Star-Lord Peter Quill breaks out his dancing to celebrate as Guardians of the Galaxy rockets up to top the Marvel Cinematic Universe in fourth place. It’s kept out of the top three only by my personal favorite Dredd as well as two of the biggest superheroes, Batman and Spiderman. Sadly, I’ve dropped former silver medalist Hellboy to special mention, given the absence of a sequel or ongoing franchise. Doctor Strange is a new entry in fifth place, as well as Iron Man in sixth place – mainly to spite Team Cap in Civil War. Otherwise, the rest of the top ten is the essentially the same, but shuffled about the new entries. Enjoy!

 

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TOP 10 COMIC BOOK FILMS

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We are living in the golden age of comic book films, in which it seems that whole comic book universes are brought to the screen and predominate the box office – but sadly not those snobby Academy Awards. We’ll just have to knock those “serious”  dramas nobody watches out from the nominations. I mean, come on – there wasn’t enough actual Birdman in Birdman! Smells like balls indeed. (Although I actually did like that film).

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Given that I have my top ten comics AND my top ten fantasy and SF films, it stands to reason that I also have my top ten comic book movies – particularly as I excluded films based on comics from my top ten fantasy & SF films (even though they are overwhelmingly fantasy or SF in nature).

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The casual reader of Stark After Dark might get the impression that I follow more comics than I actually do. I do have a love of the medium, will have a look at anything in it and read about or up on them, but I actually read only a few comics and actively follow even fewer of them, almost entirely outside mainstream DC Comics or Marvel. Now it is true that I am aware of a wide range of comics, but with some exceptions (such as my love of comic girl art), this awareness typically comes from their cinematic or screen adaptations, which prompts my reading about them.

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The cinematic franchises do dominate the top ten, because I love a comic book universe – and even more so a comic book universe brought to cinematic life. However, there are a couple of ‘independent’ entries, although one is due for a sequel and the other (my top entry) is sorely in need of a screen franchise. (I’ll even take a television adaptation).

Anyway, these are my top ten comic book films.

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(10) DEADPOOL (2016)

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What better wildcard entry  for tenth place than Deadpool?

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The character himself is a wildcard, above all because he knows that he is a fictional character in a comic, or in this case, comic book movie, and engages the audience as such. As he quips about the presence of only two X-men in the movie – “It’s almost as if the studio couldn’t afford another X-man”.

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The title character, Marvel Comics’ Wade Wilson or Deadpool, is known at the Merc with a Mouth, for his constant wisecracking and breaking the fourth wall, which the film’s script (for which the writers are credited as “the true heroes”) used to good effect. His superhuman ability is his healing factor, although that’s nothing compared to his cinematic resurrection from the mess that was Wolverine: Origins – a mess both generally and also particularly with respect to his character. It’s not easy coming back from a film that notoriously made his character unrecognizable, while being the cinematic equivalent of punching its audience in the head – amongst other things by sewing his trademark mouth shut. Characteristically, the Deadpool film casually mocks the former film with a figurine of its version of the character.

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As for the film itself, it’s just pure, R-rated subversive fun and demonstrated that by becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie ever (as well as the highest grossing movie in the X-men franchise), while embracing the character’s appearance and personality – “Fast, funny and gleefully profane, the fourth-wall busting Deadpool subverts the superhero film formula with wildly entertaining – and decidedly non-family friendly – results”.

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Above all, it gets its superhero landing right!

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(9) KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014)

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For my ninth place entry, we have Kingsman: The Secret Service, a playful and subversive parody of  spy films in general and James Bond in particular – adapted from a comic by Mark Millar (similarly to another Millar work, Kickass, a playful and subversive parody of superhero film).

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The film apparently originated when Millar and director Matthew Vaughn were at a bar discussing how the spy film genre was too serious and they wanted to do a fun one. And boy did they deliver on that premise – as Guardian writer Jordan Hoffman quipped, “no one in the production can believe that they’re getting away with such a batshit Bond”. It takes all the elements of a Bond film and ramps them up with its tongue firmly in its cheek – Bond on crack.

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Of course, there is the eponymous spy agency – stylish (“manners maketh man”) and quintessentially British (named for Arthurian characters), with Colin Firth’s Galahad in a superb action role. However, it is Samuel L. Jackson who steals the spotlight, hamming it up with his lisping, megalomaniac supervillain Valentine – such that he makes Bond villains look positively tame by comparison (although his blade-legged henchwoman Gazelle comes a close second). Valentine’s supervillain scheme is to fix global warming (yay!) by killing most of the world’s population (um – not so yay?) – the mechanism for this is revealed in a frenzied continuous action scene so good that Cinema Sins did one of its rare deduction of five sins for it.

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Per Rolling Stone magazine – “This slam-bang action movie about British secret agents is deliriously shaken, not stirred … Even when it stops making sense, Kingsman is unstoppable fun”.

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(8) X-MEN – DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

The X-men films were part of the revival of comic book movies in the new millennium by Marvel Comics, albeit by those properties they had sold to other studios, and a precursor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself.

Firstly, they effectively deployed an ensemble superhero cast or team, as opposed to a solitary superhero protagonist.

Although, let's face it, it's all about Wolverine (even if it's probably Professor X who's the most powerful mutant, sitting back with a smug smile in his wheelchair as he mindrapes everyone)

Although, let’s face it, it’s all about Wolverine (even if it’s probably Professor X who’s the most powerful mutant, sitting back with a smug smile in his wheelchair as he mindrapes everyone)

Secondly, they successfully used characters that were relatively unknown outside comics fandom and made them mainstream.

Finally, they have endured as a franchise, including spinoff films (one of which, Deadpool, has already appeared as tenth place entry), although that franchise seems to have slumped in reboot territory yet again with the somewhat disappointing X-men: Apocalypse.

But which X-men film to choose? It’s a close call. The first film of course admirably achieved its important task of introducing the main characters and even more so as an exercise in building its world of mutant superhumans (even if those mutations more resemble magic than biology).

The second film is often argued to be superior to the first film.

The third film…not so much. Indeed, while it has some points of interest (and moments of unintentional humor – “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”), I tend to concur with the opinion of it as a low point in the franchise – one in which the franchise wallowed until revived by the ‘prequel sequel’ X-men: First Class (which almost earned this place entry on the basis of Wolverine’s response to attempted recruitment by Professor X and Magneto – which also earned the deduction of a sin from the CinemaSins sin tally for the film).

And yes – there’s the latest addition to the franchise, X-men: Apocalypse, which I liked well enough, but was somewhat underwhelming.

But as my place entry indicates, I’m going with X-men: Days of Future Past. For one thing, I always loved the Sentinels as antagonists, so the Sentinel apocalypse scenario in this film was a delight.

Also, I like blue butts and I cannot lie...

Also, I like blue butts and I cannot lie…

For another, I always love time travel stories, especially desperate last-ditch time travel into the past to reverse doomsday. And time travel as a mutant power? Awesome! Although, where had Kitty Pryde been hiding that ability all along? Wouldn’t it have been useful at other points as well? And of course, its time travel effectively erased the events of the third film (and Wolverine Origins) from the past. Bravo, Days of Future Past, bra-vo! And finally, there’s that standout scene with Quicksilver (which once again, knocked off five sins from the CinemaSins sin tally).

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(7) CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

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And so we come to the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its superhero team assembled over the course of its films – Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers.

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You all know the achievements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least in terms of box office predominance and positive critical reception, but these reflect the ability to translate a diverse and extensive storied universe (spanning decades in the comics) to the screen.

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And at its peak to date is the recent Captain America: Civil War. It continued the successful ensemble tradition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while introducing the new character of African Batman Catman Black Panther. Although, like Wolverine, his superhero weapon of choice is…claws? Hello kitty! And introducing Marvel’s Spiderman into his rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also continued the Marvel Cinematic Universe tradition of compacting complex story and themes from the comics into a cinematic adaptation.

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Although, in your heart, you known Iron Man had the moral high ground in the Civil War storyline. Well, perhaps not in the comics, which were a little more nuanced (although is it so outrageous having some sort of government registration for people with potentially destructive or lethal powers?), but definitely in the film. I mean, come on Cap, what is your problem with the United Nations wanting a little accountability? You know, tapping you on the shoulder and asking why so many civilians were killed as collateral damage? Instead, Cap throws his petulant hissy fit – even more so when it’s to save his precious Bucky. Just get a room already, you two!

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And Team Iron Man totally should have won that airport battle hands down. I mean, it was nice of Captain America to handicap his team by picking the most useless Avenger, Hawkeye. Although, come to think of it, what exactly is Bucky’s power? A metal arm?! Apart from the Scarlet Witch and Ant Man, Cap’s team was really a law of diminishing returns. Falcon? Hawkeye?! Bucky?!?! That battle should have been over by the time it took Spiderman to splurge them all with his web, as How It Should Have Ended pointed out. (Ewww, sticky!)

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(6) IRON MAN (2008)

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“The truth is…I am Iron Man!”

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And I take my revenge on behalf of Team Stark in Civil War by placing Iron Man ahead of it in my top ten comics film. But seriously, apart from the narcissistic thrill of my name, it is one thing to achieve a film such as Captain America Civil War at the peak of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Iron Man kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, with Robert Downey Jr. in the role to which he was perfectly suited (heh). Few people outside comics fandom were aware of Iron Man or Tony Stark prior to Robert Downey Jr’s debut as the character in the Iron Man film. Thanks to his portrayal of the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now everyone knows about Iron Man. The original character was created in 1963 as a counterpoint to the counterculture at the time, and he sure showed those hippies – an American billionaire playboy, arms dealing business magnate and technological genius. Like Batman, he relies on his money and gadgets, particularly the armored powered suits that give him his superhero identity.  Of course, it doesn’t explain how he has managed to suspend the laws of physics inside his suits and avoid being mashed inside them (like any other vehicular collision). Yeah, they’d be pouring him out of his suit afterwards.

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Anyway, the first film retells his origin story from the comics, only updated from Tony Stark creating his first Iron Man suit to escape captivity by dirty commies in Vietnam, to escaping captivity by dirty terrorists in Afghanistan. From there on, it’s essentially about Tony creating better suits to become a superhero, until he gets in a suit-swinging contest with the primary villain – “my suit is bigger than yours!”

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Thereafter, Iron Man has predominated not only his own movies, but also in the Avengers films (including the de facto Avengers film in Captain America Civil War). As Tony Stark quips in the Avengers Age of Ultron film (the source of my title image) – “I just pay for everything and design everything and make everyone look cooler”. Indeed, he does. Also, as we see in his first film, he has a stripper pole for stewardesses in his private jet – and if that doesn’t make him a superhero, I don’t know what does…

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RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(5) DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

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The Doctor is in!

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In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that is, in my favorite comic book movie of 2016.

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The focus of the film is the titular Doctor, perfectly cast as Benedict Cumberbatch (and his cheekbones). The plot revolves around his origin, mirroring that in the comics. Unlike other titled doctors in comics, Doctor Strange is actually a medical doctor – his origin story is that he was a brilliant (and arrogant) neurosurgeon, but a car accident smashed the bones in his hands so that he couldn’t perform surgery. He then obsessively searched the world for a cure, but instead found something much cooler – magic! He is accepted as student by the Tibetan Master known as the Ancient One, somewhat incongruously played by the white and female Tilda Swinton, although she carries it off with her characteristic aplomb. He becomes a practitioner of the mystical arts, aided by such artifacts as the time-bending Eye of Agamotto and the show-stealing Cloak of Levitation, ultimately rising to Marvel’s mystical champion and punching out the Marvel Comics equivalent of Cthulhu while travelling psychedelic magical landscapes. (Or not, since the finale involves something refreshingly different from the usual superhero modus operandi of literally punching out the supervillain antagonist).

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So why was this my favorite comic book movie of 2016 or indeed, one of my favorite Marvel films? Well, for one thing, it was refreshingly different in its stripped back story from the increasingly convoluted plots and crowded universes of the other comic book films of 2016, even when as deftly handled as in Captain America Civil War. And for another thing, but mostly – MAGIC! It’s the introduction of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – well, more so than Norse gods, the Scarlet Witch, mysterious powers and every other fantasy element in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, including those nominally based on ‘fuzzy’ science (even more so when you throw in Spiderman and the X-men).

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And what an introduction! The magic, and the aforementioned psychedelic magical landscapes, are characterized by, in the words of TV Tropes, visual effects of awesome – typically (and accurately) described in reviews as a combination of The Matrix and Inception. Although…if only it had stuck with the literally flame-headed Balrog-style Dormammu from the comics.

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(4) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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Marvel Comics got cosmic, baby, with The Guardians of the Galaxy.

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And it’s particularly striking that this film works as well as it does – given that it takes an ensemble from Marvel Comics C-list roster into its equally bizarre and eclectic cosmic setting. As I said at the outset of my top ten, I tend to stay aware of a wide range of comics, and I hadn’t heard of the Guardians (although I was aware of elements of Marvel’s cosmic setting).

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How does it work so well?

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Well, there’s that cosmic setting with its visual effects.

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There’s the funky sixties and seventies soundtrack on its protagonist’s impossibly durable mixtape (and for which he is prepared to risk death)

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There’s Chris Pratt’s charismatic and comedic performance as the protagonist Peter Quill or Star-Lord (although the latter doesn’t quite catch on as well as he would like, much to his disappointment) – with such highlights as dancing off the villain.

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There’s Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, with my personal favorite highlights including when she proclaims their heroism “we’re just like Kevin Bacon” (from a reference by Quill to Footloose) – and when she dances, ever so slightly, at the end (after rejecting the idea of dancing – prompting Quill’s Footloose reference)

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There’s Dave Batista’s incredibly literal-minded Drax the Destroyer. (“Nothing goes over my head – my reflexes are too fast”).

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There’s Bradley Cooper’s voiced (and spotlight-stealing) Rocket Racoon.

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And then there’s Groot. Just Groot. I love Groot. Vin Diesel-voiced three-worded vocabulary tree-thing Groot. While the rest of the Guardians start off as rogues at best, Groot is the innocent and true hero amongst them – with a heart at big as he is. Cinema Sins did its rare reversal of sin count for Groot, not once but twice – firstly, when he offers a beggar girl a flower grown from his hand (“I’ll take a sin off for Groot being awesome – I’m not made of stone”, the narrator quips as he knocks off a sin), and secondly, when he beams with a beautiful child-like grin to his colleagues after saving them from a wave of attackers.

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And of course, there’s him dancing as regrown seedling to the Jackson Five.

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

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(3) SPIDERMAN (2002)

It wouldn’t be a top ten comic book film list without the screen incarnation of everyone’s favorite web-slinging, wise-cracking friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

The 1990’s have been dubbed the Dark Age of Comics for thematic (and quality) reasons, but they were a darker age in comic book movies much more for quality reasons. DC Comics, which predominated comic book films at that time, had ground to a halt with the execrable sequels to Superman (especially the fourth) and the even more execrable sequels to Batman (again especially the fourth, infamously killing the franchise until it was resurrected by Christopher Nolan). Marvel Comics then revived comic book movies in the new millennium – although not with the properties it had in its own name in the present Marvel Cinematic Universe, but with its properties that it had sold off to other studios, X-men (to Fox) and Spiderman (to Sony).

Spiderman has had a checkered cinematic history since, but who can forget the pure enjoyment of Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman movie in 2002? It engagingly told the now familiar origin story of Spiderman (Uncle Ben and “with great power comes great responsibility), although with some modifications – Spiderman’s web-shooting was now organic rather than by his own invention, which I found to be both more plausible (as well as more consistent with his origin story) and more entertaining as adolescent sexual innuendo (Spiderman splurging his web about the place, particularly when Mary Jane was on the scene). And it engagingly presented the young superhero, one who brought out the best in New York City (if not J. Jonah Jameson), in his battle against the Green Goblin, perfectly played by Willem Dafoe. Man – he even looked like the Green Goblin before his transformation. (Why did they bother with the mask?)

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Some enjoy the sequel with Doctor Octopus even more – I certainly enjoyed it, although to me the original eclipsed it with its fresh quality. The third Raimi movie…doesn’t get so much love. And yes, we’ll all like to forget Spiderman’s envenomed evil dancing, but I still enjoyed the movie, mainly because I also love Venom (even if the film badly fumbled him, as well as shoehorning him into a movie crowded with villains). Also, it doesn’t look so bad now after the rebooted Amazing Spiderman sequel essentially did the same thing, only worse, with Electro. Although even then, I didn’t hate that movie, and liked the first one (particularly with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy). That’s just how much I love Spiderman.

And I have high expectations of Spiderman assuming his rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the impeding and aptly named Homecoming, particularly given how that Universe and Tom Holland nailed the character in his appearance in the Captain America Civil War film.

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

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(2) THE DARK KNIGHT (2005)

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Why so serious?

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It wouldn’t be a comic book movie top ten list without Batman – and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy remains the best screen incarnation of Batman. Yes, Batman is one of the more promising aspects of the present DC Cinematic Universe, but for the moment (and until the DC Cinematic Universe delivers on that promise), the Dark Knight trilogy reigns supreme.

Matching the diversity and different moods of the Batman mythos, Batman has come in different flavors in his screen adaptations. (And no, get your mind out of the Bat-nippled Joel Schumacher gutter). There was the incredibly camp film originating from the equally camp TV series of the sixties. In contrast, the Tim Burton films took a dark Gothic direction to match the name of Batman’s city, although they retained a certain Gothic camp quality, particularly in the second (and somewhat incoherent) film – before Joel Schumacher bat-crapped all over the franchise in the sequels and took it into the aforementioned gutter, (infamously “killing the franchise”)

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Looming above them all – and reviving the franchise – is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with its centerpiece film, The Dark Knight. Indeed, the film is considered by critics to be one of the best movies of the decade as well as one of the best superhero movies ever – taking Batman into a gritty, realistic direction (almost plausible – or as plausible as a billionaire in a bat-suit can get).

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You all know the film. You all know the quotes – and the memes (the memes the Internet deserves, but not the ones it needs right now). And capering as a force of pure chaotic evil at the heart of it all was Heath Ledger’s Joker. O yes – some men just want to watch the world burn…

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RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

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(1) DREDD (2012)

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You knew this was coming – it’s my favorite comic so it’s also my favorite comic book movie. Of course, one does not necessarily follow from the other – the woeful 1995 Judge Dredd movie is a case in point. Fortunately, the 2012 Dredd movie got it right, although unfortunately it did not get the box office numbers.

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Judge Dredd is the most iconic character from the British weekly SF anthology comic, 2000 AD, ongoing since it was launched in 1977. Unfortunately, American audiences remain somewhat unfamiliar with (or unresponsive to) Judge Dredd, despite his American setting (albeit futuristic) and despite that he is effectively a quintessential American hero in the same vein as Batman – relying on superior discipline, training, experience, equipment and resources, except as a governmental lawman rather than a vigilante billionaire. (They even both effectively remain masked in their public identities, as Dredd never removes his helmet). This is despite his iconic status, particularly in Britain, and despite American audiences being familiar with many of the alumni of 2000 AD, as virtually every British writer (and artist) of note working in American comics started there (and indeed often in the Judge Dredd storyline itself) – Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar and so on.

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Even more unfortunately, the first substantial introduction of American audiences to Judge Dredd was the 1995 film, although fortunately that particular horror is fading with time. This Hollywood travesty was particularly inexcusable, because the essence of Judge Dredd is ultimately very simple – Judge Dredd is a futuristic Dirty Harry in a dystopian (and post-apocalyptic) SF satire. How hard is that, Hollywood?! On second thoughts, this simple formula is probably too much for Hollywood to handle – when they couldn’t even have Dredd keep his helmet on throughout the film.

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The 2012 film was much more effective in capturing the elements of the original comic (not least in keeping Dredd’s helmet on throughout the film). It is not perfect in this respect. For one thing, it minimizes the satire or comedy to focus on effective world building, although that was probably a matter of necessity. For another, it alters the original storyline from the comics, notably by having psi-Judge Anderson as Dredd’s Rookie. Nevertheless, it is effective in having a stripped-back storyline to the most basic of Dredd storylines, which was indeed that in the very first Dredd episode in the comics (with a length of six pages) – the entry into a building or city block to apprehend criminal perpetrators or ‘perps’. In the first comics episode, the perp was Judge-killer ‘Whitey’ in the rundown Empire State Building. In the 2012 film, it’s slo-mo drug-lord Ma-Ma – played by Lena Headey – in a lockdown of a residential city block, similar to The Raid.

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Unfortunately, the film was not as effective in capturing an audience for its cinematic release, nor in commencing a franchise (but I’ll continue to lobby for the latter with my top spot here). I mean, come on people! Karl Urban acting with his chin as Dredd. Cersei Lannister as scarred city block drug lord. What more could you want? In its own way, this is as unfortunate as the 1995 film, particularly at a time when comic book movies are in such vogue (and dystopian or post-apocalyptic movies have always been popular) – because if ever a comic deserved its own cinematic or screen universe, it’s Dredd, especially when you consider the dreck (or drokk – Judge Dredd slang in-joke alert) that does get adaptations. It has fared better as a cult film with fans and home media release, so perhaps some further adaptation is possible – perhaps a television adaptation would be better, as it suits the more episodic nature as well as longer arcs of the storyline. Whatever the case, I’ll just repeat my ten reasons why Judge Dredd is the galaxy’s greatest comic – and why it deserves its own cinematic or screen universe:

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Animation: (10) Aya

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FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIMATION: (10) AYA

 

My tenth place wildcard entry is the newest girl on my animated scene, Aya from Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

 

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This CGI animated series, in the characteristic art style of Bruce Timm (albeit in CGI form), was of course based on DC Comics superhero Green Lantern, apparently to cash in on the 2011 film. Hmmm, that confidence might have been a little…misplaced. Although to be honest, the whole concept of the Green Lantern has always left me a little cold – it all just seems a little silly. Aya on the other hand…

 

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Technically, Aya is not a girl – she’s the artificial intelligence of Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s starship, who just happens to take the form or projection (or whatever) of a robot girl. And how!

 

I know I say this every time I talk about robot girls, but why doesn't MY computer operating system look like this?!

I know I say this every time I talk about robot girls, but why doesn’t MY computer operating system look like this?!

 

Of course, she’s even better as a bad girl (because I do love my bad girls) – when she turns evil, or more precisely emotionless, all in black of course.

 

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As an artificial intelligence, she’s somewhat new to emotion, and when she experiences emotional pain, her response is to attempt to eliminate emotion not only in herself, but everywhere – which of course means the elimination of all organic life. It’s only logical, after all.

 

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Top 10 Animated Films: (5) Megamind

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TOP 10 ANIMATED FILMS: (5) MEGAMIND

 

“Oh you’re a villain alright, just not a super one!”

“Yeah, what’s the difference?”

“PRESEN-TATION!”

 

And how! Now THAT’S how you do a supervillain protagonist in a superhero comics movie. Take note, DC Cinematic Universe. I didn’t think that Suicide Squad was as bad as its more negative reviews – although I also didn’t think that it was particularly good – but it certainly didn’t live up to its supervillain potential as demonstrated by my fifth place entry, Dreamworks’ 2010 film, Megamind.

 

What’s the difference? Presentation!

 

 

Megamind is an inversion, subversion and deconstruction of superhero mythos, particularly Superman. In the words of TV Tropes:

“What happens when you take the Superman mythos and give the point of view (and ultimate victory) to Lex Luthor/Brainiac instead?”

 

Megamind (magnificently voiced by Will Ferrell) – as indicated, an alien supervillain combination of Superman villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac, but more resembling a blue Brainiac in appearance – consistently fails in his plots against Metro Man, the film’s Superman counterpart (based in Metro City), usually by kidnapping Lois Lane counterpart, the equally alliterative Roxanne Ritchi. (For what it’s worth, Megamind is helped by his hordes of robots as well as Minion, his – ah – minion, a sapient talking alien fish in a somewhat inexplicable robot gorilla costume).

 

However, in their last confrontation, Megamind actually manages to destroy his nemesis, much to his own surprise, although he doesn’t waste much time celebrating his victory by taking over Metro City.

 

 

After initially gloating over his victory, Megamind soon realizes that winning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And so he dreams up the creation of a new superhero adversary, only for it to go horribly wrong when his new nemesis doesn’t play by the same rules as Metro Man…

 

“So what’s the plan?”

“Well, it mostly involves not dying!”

“I like that plan!”

 

Hmm – sounds like most of my plans…

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics (Redux): Special Mention – Power Girl

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FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (REDUX) : SPECIAL MENTION – POWER GIRL

 

Close runner-up to Supergirl is Power Girl.

 

Mainly because she IS Supergirl – Supergirl from an alternate dimension in the convoluted multiverse of DC Comics. (Although in fairness, what multiverse wouldn’t be convoluted?). She became trapped in DC Comics’ ‘home’ dimension after one of DC Comics’ characteristic dimensional crises, coexisting with her alternate self Supergirl.

 

Though they are biologically the same person, Power Girl has a different superhero moniker, public identity (Karen Starr), personality, costume and appearance.

 

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As Supergirl’s alternate dimensional counterpart, she shares Supergirl’s origin as a cousin of Superman, along with all the usual Kryptonian superpowers (in short, everything – the superpower kitchen sink or superpower lottery). Of course, her most prominent superpower is that dubbed by TV Tropes as the most common superpower (a voluptuous bust) – indeed, she literally embodies it, as “quite possibly the Most Common Superpower incarnate” and certainly the most buxom superheroine of the DC Comics Universe.

 

What’s more, she flaunts it to match – with her costume’s famous (or infamous) cleavage window (in the place of the Superman logo in Superman’s or Supergirl’s costume). No wonder “my eyes are up here” is almost her catchphrase.

 

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She has been depicted as a member of a number of superhero teams, as well as being paired up with other female characters – with perhaps the most striking odd couple as her partnership with Harley Quinn (in the so-called New 52 DC Universe reboot).

 

She appears to be a relatively popular choice with cosplayers of a certain, ah, physique.

 

This cosplayer has even added the initials of Power Girl artist Adam Hughes

This cosplayer has even added the initials of Power Girl artist Adam Hughes

 

 

Top 10 Comic Book Movies: (3) The Dark Knight

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TOP 10 COMIC BOOK MOVIES: (3) THE DARK KNIGHT

 

Why so serious?

 

It wouldn’t be a comic book movie top ten list without Batman.

 

As I compared Batman to Superman in my top ten heroes of comics, while Superman is the greater superhero (and the one I’d actually like most to inhabit the real world), Batman is the better character with better (and more diverse) stories, and above all, he’s a character with which he can more readily identify. Batman is more interesting – and more cinematic.

 

Matching the diversity and different moods of the Batman mythos, Batman has come in different flavors in his screen adaptations. (And no, get your mind out of the Bat-nippled Joel Schumacher gutter). There was the incredibly camp film originating from the equally camp TV series of the sixties. In contrast, the Tim Burton films took a dark Gothic direction to match the name of Batman’s city, although they retained a certain Gothic camp quality, particularly in the second (and somewhat incoherent) film – before Joel Schumacher took the franchise into the aforementioned gutter, (infamously “killing the franchise”)

 

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Looming above them all – and reviving the franchise – is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with its centerpiece film, The Dark Knight. Indeed, the film is considered by critics to be one of the best movies of the decade as well as one of the best superhero movies ever – taking Batman into a gritty, realistic direction (almost plausible – or as plausible as a billionaire in a batsuit can get).

 

You all know the film. You all know the quotes – and the memes (the memes the Internet deserves, but not the ones it needs right now). And capering as a force of pure chaotic evil at the heart of it all was Heath Ledger’s Joker. O yes – some men just want to watch the world burn…

 

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Top 10 Comic Book Movies

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TOP 10 COMIC BOOK MOVIES

 

We are living in the golden age of comic book movies, in which it seems that whole comic book universes are brought to the screen and predominate the box office – but sadly not those snobby Academy Awards. We’ll just have to knock those “serious”  dramas nobody watches out from the nominations. I mean, come on – there wasn’t enough actual Birdman in Birdman! Smells like balls indeed. (Although I did like the film).

 

Anyway, I have previously posted my top ten comics AND my top ten fantasy and SF films, so it stands to reason that I post my top ten comic book movies – particularly as I excluded films based on comics from my top ten fantasy & SF films (even though they are overwhelmingly fantasy or SF in nature).

 

The casual reader of Stark After Dark might get the impression that I follow more comics than I actually do. I do have a love of the medium, will have a look at anything in it and read about or up on them, but I actually read only a few comics and actively follow even fewer of them, almost entirely outside mainstream DC Comics or Marvel. Now it is true that I am aware of a wide range of comics, but with some exceptions (such as my love of comic girl art), this awareness typically comes from their cinematic or screen adaptations, which prompts my reading about them.

 

Anyway, you know the drill – counting down the top ten – but with my usual twists. Tenth place is for my wildcard entry – something a little different, exotic or quixotic – and entries thereafter tend to become more iconic (which in comic book movie terms means DC or Marvel) as we count down to the top three, although in this case my two favorite comic books movies are not from DC or Marvel.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – COUNTING DOWN FROM (10) NEXT POST