Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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     Now that I have watched “Ant-Man” it is time for the Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far! I originally was going to rate them from least to greatest and include all of them but that struck me a bit as overkill, better to focus on the truly great ones so that those ones will recieve more attention, since Marvel doesn’t exactly need help for getting people to talk about these films.

     For what I look for in a film is mostly bittersweet. I am drawn to loss and joy and how they relate as well as having a narrative that makes sense and doesn’t have too many climaxes. I value story structure unless it is suberveted or done in a unique way the way the Coens or Tarantino does it…given that there aren’t really any directors with that level of uniqueness in what they do in these films, I’ll be ignoring that. Disney is conservative and cautious and that is something pretty universal in these films, even the ones that take risks like “Avengers,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

  So without further ado, here are my Top 5 from least to greatest.:

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5. Iron Man (2008)

     It was a tough toss up between “Iron Man” and “Ant-Man” but in the end I decided on “Iron Man” because Tony Stark is just the more compelling character. Ant-Man’s universe is fascinating but Scott Lang is kind of boring and bland while Tony is in conflict with everyone. He is always changing, growing and adapting and it makes his origin story compelling. His story also shows us the Military Industrial Complex as it is his weapons that are used to capture him when he is in Afghanistan and it’s decision to stop making and selling weapons that leads to the conflict with his mentor. Robert Downey Jr. completely owns this role as well and Jeff Bridges isn’t half bad as Stain he just isn’t given much to do, which is a problem for a lot of Marvel villains actually and why I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the first.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/iron-man-2008-changing-the-merchant-of-war/

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4. Iron Man 3 (2013)

   I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the original because it isn’t as much about Iron Man the hero as it is about Tony Stark and him facing the consequences of his ego and selfish actions. We see countless people die from a man he cared nothing about and we see his ego put Pepper at risk when the Mandarin attacks his home. The film also subverts comic book tropes too as the Mandarin is not who you suspect and the baddie is one of the more memorable villains to come out of these films. Definitely would recommend it as it completes Tony’s arc and sets up the next phase of the Marvel Universe really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/iron-man-3-consequences-from-the-past/

The Avengers

3. The Avengers (2012)

   Joss Whedon pulled off magic when he made this film. “The Avengers” is a film that should not work. How does a man out of time (Captain America) 2 secret agents (Widow and Hawkeye) a God (Thor) a sci. fi. industrialist (Iron Man) and a mutant (Hulk/Bruce Banner) work in a film? On paper it shouldn’t but it does because of how well Disney and Marvel built their universe and it is a lot of fun! Loki is the best villain the films (Kingpin is probably best overall if we count the Netflix show) and seeing the witty banter and fantastic action in a very tight story is really wonderful. “Age of Ultron” could not capture this magic, and I’ll be surprised if any Avengers film does post this. This is something rare and wonderful and in many ways was the perfect storm.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/the-avengers-2012-bringing-the-team-together/

Guardians of the Galaxy

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

     “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a masterpiece. If you are looking for a fun adventure with great comedy that has no real heroes, this is the film for you. I didn’t know who these guys were until the film but I care far more about Groot, Starlord, Gamora and Rocket than I do about the Avengers. All of them are flawed and like Tony Stark they end up causing a lot of their own problems in the course of getting by. The weakest part of this film is the problem that Marvel has overall where Rhonin is boring and Thanos does nothing. Besides that, this adventure is awesome and there are so many great and colorful characters. I highly recommend it. This film made Chris Pratt the most wanted action star for a reason.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

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  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

First place goes to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This was the film that got me to care about Captain America and is easily one of the best political thrillers to be made. There are consequences, the world changes and there is loss throughout the film. This is Marvel and Disney at their best as the villain is even made compelling and given reasons for the things he does and the choices he makes. Every character deals with their past or lack of past and the difficulty of those situations force them to grow. The action is of course really great too and Anthony Mackie as Falcon is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film has yet to be beat by MCU and still easily holds it’s place at Number 1 on my list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

Now that you’ve seen my list I’d be curious to hear about yours. It is pretty cool that we live in an era where comics are the new medium to tell great stories on the screen.

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Top 5 Films of 2014

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This is the first time that I’m doing a Top 5 list for the year, but there shall be many more to come as the blog continues to exist. This was a great year for films and there are a lot of films I’m going to mention that didn’t make the list that I still think you should watch, again this was a great year for films. The films that made the list are ones that stand out to me though and are ones that I plan to own and would watch multiple times…these are the movies that stand on their own as a film and are the best of the best for this year. So, before I get into the list, here are the honorary mentions.

“Big Hero 6” Disney Studios did it again, it’s rich and deep and worth seeing. “X-Men Days of Future Past,” Bryan Singer is back and the X-Men series is great again. “Gone Girl” and “Interstellar” almost made the list but after re-reading my reviews I realized that the problems they have don’t elevate them to best of the best. Still worth seeing, “The Book of Life,” excellent animation and story, which “How to Train Your Dragon 2” also did and had loss, in a kids film just like “Big Hero 6.” This was a good year for animated stories. None of these are in the top 5 though, but you should still check them out. Also, “Mockingjay Part 1” is the best of that Franchise so far too.

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5) Guardians of the Galaxy

Director James Gunn

This script is hilarious, the characters are rich and you know what…you will care about what happens to a talking Racoon and a Tree Alien that can only say, “I am Groot.” That is the magic of this story as it shows just how expansive the marvel universe really is.  James Gunn is clearly the right guy to be put in charge of this franchise and I can’t wait to see how he expands the universe. These characters are broken and flawed and we love them because of it. They are forced to grow from the mistakes they make and they learn to care about each other. It also has a rocking soundtrack full of that 70’s rock n’ roll that adds humor to scenes and provides an epic feel in many scenes. My issue with why it isn’t higher on the list are two reasons…Thanos is just kind of hanging around, and Gamora’s development doesn’t really happen. The guys have great character arcs, but Gamora doesn’t get enough screen time for her character and and her character’s motivations to be developed. Still made the top 5 for a reason though. Definitely worth checking out and multiple watches. It truly is a masterpiece.

Score: 9.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

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4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Director Anthony and Joe Russo

I didn’t care about Captain America in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” after “Winter Soldier” he is my favorite member of the Avengers. This is a movie with consequences which “Guardians of the Galaxy” lacked in regards to the Marvel Continuity. One of the major parts of the world is destroyed and we learn that one of the enemies that was a nobody enemy before is like a virus in the world of Marvel. This is powerful as we finally have an enemy that feels like a threat, Captain America has to wrestle with being a moral hero in questionable situations where there isn’t a clear good or bad. Hell, the bad guy is sympathetic even though he only appears in this movie. We also realize just how complicated Black Widow is, it was this movie that made me want the Black Widow film…her story is rich and we get glimpses of this in this film. We are also introduced to Falcon who is one of my favorite characters now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He may someday be Captain America’s replacement too when Chris Evans leaves, at least the new comics leave that option open which makes me happy. Again, this is a movie with consequences in the world of Marvel as a whole and has so many rich characters who all receive development. The scenes at the end also set up “Age of Ultron” really well in regards to two characters who will be appearing in it. Only issue with the film is that the Winter Soldier doesn’t get enough of development. He is a force of nature more than anything else. Still worth checking out though. It’s my favorite of the Disney Marvel films so far and stands strong on it’s own as a part of the greater whole. Not only that the issue of freedom and security is addressed in an awesome matter. It answers the “So what?” in regards to it’s own existence better than any Marvel film prior.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

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3) Birdman

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro truly created a masterpiece here. This movie critiques the culture of New York City, reveals the nature of lies (acting in a way is a lie, playing pretend and people want the lie for the story) and dealing with Ego and pride as Michael Keaton plays his greatest character so far in his best performance of all time. Not only does the film deal with issue that actually matter and how to grow beyond the ego and have an all star cast but it also has beautiful cinematography and the music which as a constant drum throughout is great at adding tension. This film was also filmed to look like a continuous shot so you feel like you are in a lived in world. The characters are all flawed and all of them are forced to grow from circumstances and situations. My only issue with this film is the ambiguous ending. So much of the film is about breaking out of ambiguity which is embraced at the end which sadly takes away from what could have been a perfect film. I put it above “Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” even though it has a lower score since it is an original film and not part of a franchise. In the era of franchises I greatly value the self-contained story.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/birdman-2014-a-surreal-exploration-of-meaning-and-ego/

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2) Noah

Director Darren Aronofsky

“Noah” is the best of Darren Aronofsky’s work in my opinion. It has a much better reason for it’s existence than “Black Swan” which is another favorite film and tackles if humanity is truly worth saving. It also has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in any movie. What elevates this film above “Birdman” it isn’t ambiguous. “Noah” is mad clearly and God is an abstract. It’s such a beautiful take on a mythological tale that I can’t help but appreciate it simply for existing. It gives fallen angels the look of giant rock golems and we see just how dark humanity can become and just how flawed Noah and his family are. There are no heroes in this film which gives the dilemma of humanity being worth saving truly an issue. It’s dark which is what Aronofsky’s specializes in, though as far as the ending goes it is more bittersweet than some of his other films… which is saying something,  given the premise of Noah is mass genocide of the human race. Great performances from Connelly, Watson and Crowe as well. Some of the best work I’ve seen from all of them. Definitely check it out if you like dark films with a point.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/noah-2014-the-meaning-of-humanity/

The Grand Budapest Hotel

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director Wes Anderson

The greatest film of 2014 goes to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This film tackles the very nature of story in that it is presented to us as the author talking about the book, which before is lead into with a child reading the book, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” at his monument. From here the richness only goes deeper as we see a country torn apart by war and corruption that our heroes live in. From the refugee Zero finding love with Agatha as they are both poor people with nothing except each other and Gustave H. who lives only for them and The Grand Budapest Hotel which is his legacy and what he puts his lifeblood into. The film explores the nature of humanity and we see cowards, heroes, villains and people of all types living in a harsh world where the people who have the ability to push forth their will use it to supress others…from the outcast immigrants like Zero, to Gustave H. because he doesn’t come from money and was loved by an old woman who was old money. This film shows us that family is more than blood and that sorrow can be around any corner, just like the good moments and adventures we have will always be with us. This is the best Wes Anderson film and one of my favorite film of all times. If you are looking for a timeless film and the best film of 2014, check this one out. It is worth every bit of praise it has received and is one of the greatest films of all time.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/edthe-grand-budapest-hotel-2014-of-story-the-nostalgia-from-loss-and-a-life-lived/

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): A Masterpiece of Sci. Fi., Action and Comedy Gold

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I really want to see more of James Gunn’s movies after this. I haven’t seen any of his other stuff, but it has been a while since three things (sci. fi., action and comedy) have gone so well together. Marvel Studios you have done it again, and what a spectacular way to end the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” at least until “Ant-Man” and “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” later.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” follows the story of Quill after he watches his mother die of cancer and he is kidnapped by aliens. In the future he has become an outlaw dubbing himself Star-Lord, from here he finds a device that a buyer has promised him a lot for which brings Gamora (one of the daughters of Thanos) and Rocket the Raccoon and Groot trying to capture the device. They all end up in prison where Drax’s attempt to kill Gamora allies them together to take out the main baddy Ronan who works for Thanos and wants to destroy Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. From here the story unfolds as their personalities collide.

Warning – Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Drax – Who would have thought a professional wrestler would end up being an amazing actor. Dave Bautista owns this role and has a lot of comedic moments as his character doesn’t understand figurative expressions. He is the one who brings the team together too besides Rocket and Groot protecting Star-Lord because they want what he has. Drax is the most reckless of the group and more than a little insane. He also has a heart, that we get to see in the end and we know why he is the way he is since Ronan slaughtered his wife and child. Can’t wait to see what they do with this guy in the sequel. After Gamora saves his life she becomes part of the team to him too.

Rocket – Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the snarky, sarcastic raccoon with a major chip on his shoulder. His character is an inventor and was experimented on to become the creature he is today. This becomes a plot point when he gets really drunk in the outlaw hideaway Knowhere and Quill and the others finally understand what he is going through. There sticking up for him leads to him eventually them as family. He has a touching scene with Drax after Groot is gone and we see his humanity in a plant in a pot carries at the end.

Groot – “We are Groot,” is one of the best lines in the film and it is when Groot sacrifices his body so that the Guardians of the Galaxy will survive. He is the heart of the group and the one who acts for the best in any situation. Vin Diesel’s voice acting gives a lot to this role given for most of the film Groot can only say, “I am Groot,” in different inflections to get his point across.

Gamora – I want to know more about her relationship with Thanos given Thanos kidnapped her and destroyed her family in order to make her a weapon. Her sister Nebula I believe went through something similar. She is great as the guarded assassin but shows a lot of humanity. She is the one who reminds Quill that there is more to the galaxy than money, and teaches him the meaning of honor. They have a great complex friendship/romance and her friendship with the rest of the team, especially Drax who first sees her as an enemy, is a pleasure to watch. Zoe Saldana is once again fantastic in sci. fi.

The Collector and Knowhere – First Nowhere is a fantastic location. A Titan’s head made into a city as the organics are processed from it is a masterful idea. It makes sense the Collector would make this his home. He is creepy as always and shows us the device is a purple infinite stone of which there are six. When they are distracted his slave destroys everything having him finally face some accountability for treating people like objects. Knowhere is where Ronan arrives with Nebula and his army after Drax gives them a call. The Collector has a funny scene at the end too.

Nova Corps – Nova Corps is a like a futuristic military made up of mostly humans or humanlike aliens. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime and John Reilly plays Corpsmen Dey her unspoken second in command. When Ronan attacks having consumed an infinite stone (He is a Kree Zealot who sees the Xandar’s as needing to be cleansed). She risks everything including trusting the Guardians of the Galaxy to protect them from Ronan using the Infinite Stone to consume their world.

Nebula – Karen Gillian has a lot of range. I loved her as Amy Pond on Doctor Who and as Nebula…one of Thanos’s daughters who hates her sister Gamora and Thanos…she makes a complex baddy. She can also regenerate her body and escapes during the last battle managing to survive. We don’t know where her loyalties are, and I love that.

The Comedy – From Drax’s inability to understand language expressions, to Quill’s sarcasm, or Gamora’s obliviousness or Groot’s Grootness…contrasted by Rocket’s crazyness creates some great moments of comedy. Better comedy than “The Avengers,” for sure, which didn’t always know what tone it wanted.

The Final Battle – The final battle is fantastic and has a cost. Groot loses his body, the Nova Corps is decimated, and their capital is at least partially in ruins. There is the moment of awesome too when Drax, Quill, Gamora and Rocket use the power of friendship to contain the infinity stone and use it to destroy Ronan.

Quill / Star-Lord – This guy is wonderful. He starts out as the scoundrel and becomes the accidental hero. There is not a moment this guy is unfunny though. I love his arc in becoming a hero too since we do see much of his motivation is money. I really want to see Chris Pratt in other things now. Not much more to say, beyond his hero journey is fun and in the end he isn’t a total hero as he plans to do a little bit of good and a little bit of bad with the team.

The Music – Using the mixed tape that Quill’s mother gave him when she was alive we get some amazing 80’s music throughout the film, all the songs work perfectly and also contribute to the comedy too as Quill embraces every song so fully. I loved the soundtrack and plan on using it for writing inspiration.

Okay/Good – Ronan – Nebula is the Loki of this movie…Ronan is the Malekith. We know he’s a religously fanatical Kree who follows Thanos, but we don’t know what his religion fully intends. He hams it up perfectly though and is a great threat, since unlike Loki in “The Avengers,” this guy can actually succeed, and he nearly does.

Thanos – He is just a shadow in the background and doesn’t feel like a threat yet. We know he’s a powerful manipulator…but so is Loki. What sets him apart from Loki besides number of followers in the MCU? That is one thing I hope we learn as the Infinite Arc unfolds. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed powerless to do anything about Ronan’s betrayal, which was a shame…I was hoping he would come to Xandar to take the infinite stone himself and shut down his subordinate for the betrayal.

This is one of my favorite movies of the year, and in many ways on par with “Winter Soldier,” the only reason I can’t give it a ten is because within the Marvel Cinematic Universe H.Y.D.R.A. now feels like a much greater threat than Thanos. I would like that to change, since this guy is a destroyer of worlds. We’ll see what happens. Character, action and humorwise this film did everything it needed to do and I very highly recommend it.

My final score is 9.8 / 10. One of my new favorite films.

Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure

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Who would have thought that Disney buying the rights to Marvel would turn out to be such a great thing? Who knew they would create such wonderful and masterful stories that are overall pretty coherent?

As I continue the “Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect,” I will be starting the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure in the lead up to “Guardians of the Galaxy. This is something I have been looking forward to doing since, “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Iron Man,” and “The Avengers,” are some of the best films ever made.

How I’m going to go about it is every week I’ll review a movie or more starting with the first films. Today I’m doing “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in honor of Independence Day, and later on “Thor,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” After I will do their sequels and finally end with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Afterwords I shall do a retrospect and rating them from worst to best.

This series will be called, “The Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” let’s assemble the Avengers!