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Marvel’s Jessica Jones

I’m a little late to the game, but I finally finished the first season of Jessica Jones on Netflix. Jessica Jones is one of the minor superheroes in the Marvel Universe. She’s appeared in a bunch of comics but she’s never been as mainstream as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, etc. But now she has her own show, so Girl Power! and all that. Krysten Ritter stars as the titular character. She’s a washed-up superhero that currently works as a private detective. She ends up taking a case that becomes personal and her traumatic past comes back to haunt her. That sounds like a stereotypical film noir plot, but remember this is the Marvel Universe and crazy shit happens.

If you liked Daredevil, you should watch Jessica Jones. They take place in the same timeline, alongside the future Netflix shows Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Eventually all four heroes will team up in The Defenders, the Netflix equivalent of The Avengers. It’s going to be epic. Luke Cage is a character in Jessica Jones and he’s a badass. I can’t wait to see what his own show will be like.

Jessica Jones is slower paced than Daredevil. It kind of creeps along and I had to force myself to get past the first three episodes. There’s a lot of character development and not as much action as hoped. Then the plot kicks in and you start to see what they are trying to do. I think it’s more aimed towards women. I’m not trying to give much away, but the main villain stalks, torments, manipulates, and controls Jessica Jones. She has to fight for her right to be her own person. It’s about abusive relationships as much as it’s about fighting evil with superpowers.

The supporting cast is pretty solid, but David Tennant deserves the most praise for his portrayal of Kilgrave, the main antagonist. I really don’t want to spoil anything here, but I am so don’t read what I’m about to say if you plan on watching the show. Ok, ready? Here it is! SPOILER: he can control minds. He can make people do whatever he wants so he can do a lot of damage. David Tennant can make you sympathize with him, and make you believe that he’s not really evil. It seems like an oxymoron, but he’s a good villain, and you can’t have a good superhero without a good villain.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones isn’t my favorite show. But I would recommend it. That’s what I’m doing now. You would probably like it if you like superhero detective stories and strong female characters. It’s dark and gritty and realistic despite characters with superpowers. It’s worth binge watching.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed By Brendan H. Young

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Top Seventeen Superhero Movies

Superhero movies have been a staple at the box office for over a decade now, and it seems like its time to Critically Rate them. To make this list the main character(s) must be a superhero. For the purposes of this list, a superhero is someone who has superpowers OR wears a costume/disguise and they must fight crime/bad guys/or a main villain. The film doesn’t need to be based on a comic to qualify; it just needs to be awesome. Here is my list of the Top Seventeen Superhero Movies of All Time.

17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This 1990 film is one of the oldest movies on the list, but it was a successful start to a cinematic franchise. It has comedic moments but it also takes itself seriously. The Shredder is a genuinely scary villain, the teenaged turtles are full of angst, and the action scenes pass the test.

16. The Incredible Hulk. The 2008 film was a sequel/reboot of the 2003 Hulk, and it was a much more satisfying movie. Edward Norton is always solid, Tim Roth plays a great foe, and the special effects were miles ahead of any other Hulk adaptation at that point.

15. Thor. Thor is not just a superhero, he is a god. The 2011 film brought Thor to the big screen for the first time. Kenneth Branagh directed a Shakespearean-style superhero movie that had two powerful brothers facing off. Chris Hemsworth is a picture perfect Thor, but this film gets more credit for introducing Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) who has so far proven to be the best villain in any Marvel movie to date.

14. The Amazing Spider-Man is the 2012 reboot starring Andrew Garfield as your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. Sure, this movie was only made so that Sony could hold onto the movie rights to the character, but it was better than the Sam Raimi directed films in almost every way. It had better casting, better special effects, a better story, and better action scenes. People just didn’t want to watch it because Tobey Maguire is still fresh in their minds. Fuck Tobey Maguire. Give Andrew Garfield a chance.

13. Watchmen. This adaptation of the beloved graphic novel is not perfect by any means, but it deserves a spot on this list. It was thought to be unfilmable but Zack Snyder managed to capture the general essence of it. The most frustrating thing is that he got so many things right, but he still felt compelled to change the storyline. Don’t be fooled by the theatrical release, the director’s cut is better and the ultimate cut is even better than that.

12. Kick-Ass was a good superhero because it was a wry commentary on superhero movies. It made fun of superheroes while celebrating them at the same time. It was hysterically funny and extremely violent. That’s a good formula for entertainment.

11. X-Men was the first film of the X-Men franchise, and its success at the box office paved the way for all the superhero movies to follow. It’s not a faithful adaptation, but it’s an honest one. And the world got to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for the first time.

10. Batman Returns is another film that took a lot of liberties with the source material, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best Batman movies. Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, an army of penguins, and Pee-wee Herman? What more do you need?

9. Iron Man is a great movie because it was so unexpectedly enjoyable. Iron Man is a famous comic book character, but he doesn’t have the prestige that Batman, Spider-man, and Superman enjoy. Robert Downey, Jr. was a bit of a gamble, director Jon Favreau was a bit of a gamble, but everything clicked and fell into place and the seeds for The Avengers movie were planted.

8. Man of Steel. This was the Superman movie that I was waiting for. I honestly enjoyed Superman Returns, but even I have to admit that it was a boring movie. Man of Steel was not boring. And it might not have been Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve’s version of Superman, but it was still Superman. Even if you hated this movie, you still have to admit that the action scenes are more than exhilarating.

7. X2: X-Men United is a superior movie to the original in every single way. It has more mutants, more powers, more action, and a better story. The opening scene with Nightcrawler is reason alone to warrant a spot on this list. It made you think that the X-Men franchise was going to be one of the best series of all time. And then the third one came out and shattered your belief system. Fuck you Brett Ratner. Fuck you.

6. Superman. This is the oldest film on my list and it’s one of the most important. Richard Donner’s film has been the model for every successful superhero movie to follow is. He set the template for superhero movies. He respected the source material, and more importantly, he respected the audience. Christopher Reeve was Clark Kent. He was Superman. And he will always be the standard.

5. Spider-man 2. Tobey Maguire’s second venture as Spider-man will always be one of my favorite sequels. It’s a fun ride from beginning to end and you hardly have time to catch your breath. There’s humor, there’s despair, there’s action, and there’s romance. It’s everything that you want from a Hollywood blockbuster.

4. The Matrix. Yes, Neo is a superhero. He has powers, he has an alter ego (his real name is Thomas Anderson), he has a costume (black trench coat and sunglasses), and he fights the evil Mr. Smith. He’s a superhero, and he’s a badass, and he’s The One.

3. The Incredibles isn’t based on a comic book, it’s not live action, and it’s still a great superhero movie. You could say it’s the best and you would have a valid argument. It’s about a family of superheroes with really cool superpowers and they face off against an interesting supervillain. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it has some amazing action scenes.

2. The Dark Knight is not only the best Batman movie, it’s the best DC movie. Christian Bale deserves some credit, but everybody knows that Heath Ledger carries the movie. His Joker is perhaps the best villain in any superhero movie. Christopher Nolan crafted a great trilogy, but this is the highlight by far. It’s The Dark Knight Trilogy for a reason, not The Batman Begins Trilogy or The Batman and Bane Trilogy.

1. Marvel’s The Avengers. Was there ever any doubt that this would be the best superhero movie of all time? You have Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, and (to a lesser extent) Nick Fury Hawkeye, and Black Widow fighting to save the planet. There are tons of characters and powers, plots and subplots, and somehow Joss Whedon manages to weave everything together to create a fun, entertaining, and satisfying blockbuster. The climactic battle is beyond description, a joyous showcase of special effects and sheer spectacle. It’s why you go to the movies. It’s why you justify spending $20 to watch something in IMAX 3-D.

So that’s my list. I hope you like it or at least respect it. If I missed anything that you think deserves to be on here, let me know and I’ll either add it or tell you why you’re wrong.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Daredevil: Born Again (comic)

Daredevil is an implausible comic book character. It’s has a ludicrous premise: a blind lawyer who uses his heightened senses to fight crime. But when put in the hands of a creative genius like Frank Miller, Daredevil becomes an icon like Batman or Spider-man. Frank Miller’s writing and Dave Mazzucchelli’s artwork are the perfect combination to depict one of the darkest stories in Marvel’s history.

            Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend is a heroin addict and sells his secret identity for a fix. Ultimately the information ends up in the hands of Daredevil’s arch nemisis, the Kingpin. The Kingpin lays out a plan to break Daredevil by destroying Matt Murdock’s life. Matt loses his apartment, the IRS freezes his bank accounts, he gets framed for perjury, he loses his girlfriend to his best friend, and he loses his good name. His life is crumbling around him and he breaks down mentally and physically. Superheroes are supposed to be invincible, so it’s fascinating to see them struggle.

            Born Again is a great comic, and Daredevil is a great comic book character. He belongs on the page, not on the big screen. Forget about Ben Affleck and read some off Frank Miller’s Daredevil comics. You can’t recreate his inner turmoil on film. It doesn’t translate.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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DC vs. Marvel (comic)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the greatest, most powerful heroes and villains from the DC and Marvel Universes met? How awesome would that be? Well, it already happened in 1996, so you missed out. But you can relive the past and pick up DC vs. Marvel and see the two worlds collide.

There is actually a pretty coherent storyline. Writers Ron Marz and Peter David are able brings some of the biggest characters from two rival companies together in a comprehensive way. So back in the day, these two brothers/entities were controlling their own separate universes, until they learned of each other’s existence. One brother is the DC Universe, and the other represents the Marvel Universe. They decide to have a battle between their top superheroes to determine which universe will be destroyed.

Each separate universe starts to be aware that something weird is happening when heroes and villains start vanishing in a flash of light, and new, different masks start showing up. A young man named Axel Asher finds himself inexplicably drawn to an alley where a crazy homeless guy is trying desperately to keep an inter-dimensional gateway contained in a cardboard box. Axel is the Access, and he just might be the key to solving the crisis if he ever accepts his destiny.

6 Marvel characters are chosen to fight 6 DC characters in one-on-one battles to determine the mightier universe. There are some really obvious fights between similarly powered characters like Aquaman vs. Namor, Wolverine vs. Lobo, and Flash vs. Quicksilver. There are also weird, random fights like Robin vs. Jubilee and Superboy vs. Spider-man. Elektra fights Catwoman, the Green Lantern and Silver Surfer duke it out in space, Wonder Woman somehow loses to Storm, Batman and Captain America are pretty evenly matched, and Superman barely beats the Hulk into submission.

Instead of one universe getting destroyed, the Spectre and the Living Tribunal are able to temporarily merge the two universes together. This buys them some time, and has the awesome bonus of creating hybrid superheroes like Dark Claw (a mixture of Batman and Wolverine) and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America’s lovechild).

Access finally gets his shit together and it able to separate the merged universe back to the two separate ones. He gets a little assistance from Batman and Captain America to end the Space Brothers’ hissy fit. And now the two universes can co-exist and life is good.

Yeah, there’s a lot of nonsense about two brother universes using magic humans to end a cosmic dispute, but once you get past that you can appreciate the story. What if the superhero you depended on was powerless to stop the end of the world? What if that superhero vanished and was replaced by a stranger in tights? What if you are a superhero and you can’t simply punch your way to victory?

The art is awesome. The panels spill over into each other, they overlap, it feels very fluid. Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini’s drawings are bold and powerful. And it’s pretty cool to see the Hulk and Superman exchanging blows in the desert.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t slow down the momentum of the story. If you like DC, it’s worth checking out. If you like Marvel, it’s worth checking out. If you like comics, then you should have read this already. You’re slacking.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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The Amazing Spider-Man (film)

Hollywood has a thing for unnecessary reboots and remakes of popular franchises. So I was more than a little doubtful about seeing a new Spider-Man movie with a new cast and director. I thought it would just be another origin story about Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man. Marc Webb made an already established franchise seem new and fresh, and Andrew Garfield plays a great Peter Parker.

Garfield’s Parker is not a loser, he’s shy, kind of quiet, but he rocks a skateboard and wears contacts. He gets picked on by a bully named Flash Thompson, but Flash is an asshole and no one else bullies Peter. He’s a regular kid (smarter than average), and that’s what makes his transformation more exciting.

Peter gets bitten by a magic spider and he gets spider-like powers. One inevitable day, his beloved Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) tries to stop a robber and gets shot and dies on the street. Peter uses his new abilities to try to track down his uncle’s killer. He goes around dark alleys and streets, searching for his uncle’s killer and attacking anyone who matches his description.

He eventually starts wearing a mask, and later a spiffy spandex spidey suit. He also wears some artificial web shooters and he becomes an icon around the city. He gets more confident and asks out his crush, the beautiful and smart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her dad is the chief of police and thinks that Spider-Man is a dangerous vigilante who needs to be stopped.

While Peter is busy playing hero and fighting crime and saving people, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) is busy trying to regrow his stump of an arm and turns himself into a giant lizard and goes on a rampage. Peter is able to figure out that Connors is the Lizard, and that Connors wants to improve humanity by turning them all into lizard monsters. Peter has to stop him because he has the power to stop him.

Then there’s an exciting climax where Spidey fights the Lizard and things break and people die. Then they resolve some unresolved plot issues and drop some hints about the sequel and you leave the theater feeling content.

The movie is called The Amazing Spider-Man. It should really be called the Amazing Peter Parker. There is a lot of emphasis on the man under the mask. He takes off his mask to save a kid, when he’s fighting the lizard in the school, and when he pleads to Chief Stacy to let him stop the lizard. The Spider-Man suit is just a costume, it doesn’t make Peter a hero. Peter is already a hero. Before Peter even gets bitten, he stops a bully from picking on a kid, and gets his ass beat as a result. He was a hero way before the spandex.

When you watch this movie, you can’t help but compare it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Raimi’s version is campy, it’s childish, it’s like the ‘60s Batman TV show. Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man is more realistic; it’s more like Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, just not as dark. Spider-Man is a fun character, he says witty things and wears a colorful suit and wants to be in the spotlight, not in the shadows.

Marc Webb is a great director. He creates genuinely emotional moments between the characters, and he is also able to create amazing and inspiring action sequences. When Uncle Ben dies, he pretty much just lies on the ground and is gone. There are no sentimental last words of advice, no “With great power comes great responsibility” hoopla.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have a great dynamic. They play off each other well. They have a lot of memorable moments, like when he asked her out with out asking her out, how he revealed he was Spider-Man to her, and how he gets her back in the end with a subtle whispered comment in class.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Star in The Amazing Spider-Man

The movie does a lot to establish itself as the foundation for a new series. A large amount of the movie takes place at OsCorp. Dr. Connors is working for the mysterious Norman Osborn, who you never see but often hear about. Peter never catches his uncle’s killer. You find out that there’s more to the deaths of Peter’s parents than what was revealed.

Spider-Man 2 used to be one of my favorite comic book movies. The Amazing Spider-Man just usurped that spot I think. It’s the best Spider-Man movie, without a doubt. Go see it and agree with me.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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