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Watchmen (HBO Series)

Watchmen is an HBO live action series based on the iconic graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It takes place in an alternate world where superheroes are real and cellphones don’t exist. It is brought to the silver screen by Damon Lindelof, the same guy who co-created Lost and The Leftovers. He knows how to tell an exciting and intriguing story with amazing characters. It’s HBO’s best new show of 2019 for a reason.

I had a bit of a head start when it came to watching the Watchmen (see what I did there?), because I own the comic and the Zack Snyder film adaption, so I’m quite familiar with most of the characters and the world they inhabit. Lindelof gives the show a twist by making it take place thirty-four years after the events of the comic. Some original characters return, some are missing, and there are new characters to learn about. Regina King leads a stellar cast that also includes Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Hong Chau just to name a few.

The first season consists of nine episodes, each one running about an hour. It’s meant to be a complete story so it ends with a satisfying conclusion. They still set it up for a potential second season, but this season could be all we get from Lindelof and I’m ok with that. There’s nothing wrong with perfection.

As usual, I will refrain from talking about the plot. It takes a few episodes to get going. There are a lot of characters to introduce and it takes time to discover who they are and what they want. It’s nonlinear with lots of flashbacks and reveals. I was intrigued by the show before it aired and I tried to hype it up to my girlfriend, but she didn’t read the comic and wasn’t impressed with Snyder’s film version, and I ultimately watched the whole show without her. When I finished I wanted to watch it again, this time with her. It was too good not to share.

I made her watch the first episode last week. Then Christmas chaos rolled around and we were too busy to watch anything. We were finally free last night and we binged three episodes in a row. It didn’t matter that she didn’t ever read the comic. That shows how great the show really is. When we watch it, we actually watch it. Like our phones are turned off and we pay attention to the television screen and nothing else. It’s not just for comic book nerds, it’s for anybody who likes action, mysteries, villainous plots, philosophy, alternate histories, and blue wieners.

Who watches the Watchmen? People with good taste. Like me. You should have good taste too. Watch the Watchmen. And spread the word. Everyone deserves to have blue wieners in their life.

Critically Rated at 17/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by 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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Watchmen (film)

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is regarded by many to be the best graphic novel of all time. Zack Snyder’s big screen adaptation is a valiant effort to capture the magic of the comic on film but the end result is somewhat disappointing. The comic is a perfect comic. The film is flawed and you’re a fool if you think its anywhere close to perfect.

It could have been worse though. It’s obvious that Zack Snyder respects the source material. He uses lines and scenes taken directly from the book. The whole first half of the movie is just like the comic. Then it starts deviating from it. And you realize there is no master plan involving kidnapped scientists and artists. So they had to change the ending. And fans don’t like it when you change the iconic ending to an iconic story.

Another problem with the movie is that they spend all the time establishing the main characters and ignoring the minor characters like the citizens of New York. So when NYC blows up and millions of people die, you don’t care because you didn’t know any of them. The director’s cut gives the Bernards a little more screen time, but if you only saw Watchmen in theaters you only catch a few glimpses of them.

The casting is pretty solid. Jackie Earle Haley steals the show as Rorschach. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a great job as the Comedian, and it’s hard to play a character that you mostly get to know through flashbacks. Patrick Wilson does a good job as Nite Owl. Malin Åkerman plays a decent Silk Spectre II and you get to see her boobies (always a good thing). I don’t know about Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan. His delivery is too distant and monotonous and the blue CG wang is distracting.

Some of the actors are miscast. Carla Gugino can’t pull off playing the aging Silk Spectre, and even though she’s pretty to look at, it’s not enough to hide the fact that she can’t act. The worst decision was hiring Matthew Goode to play Ozymandias. In the comic Ozymandias is a super strong athletic gymnast with an intellect off the charts. Matthew Goode can play smart well. But he’s not physically intimidating. He looks skinny and sickly like he’s recovering from chemo.

If you liked the comic, you’ll probably enjoy the movie. If you never read the comic, I doubt you would know what the fuck is going on. It’s a really dense story and the movie tries to cram twelve issues of the comic into a few hours of screen time. Shit is going to be left out, cut out, or butchered. The movie will suffer as a result. It’s not a bad movie. It’s loud. It looks cool. There’s fighting and nudity and masked vigilantes. But it’s not the comic.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Kingdom Come (comic)

Comics should have a good story and good art. Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come has a great story and even greater art. The world is in trouble. Superman has retired, and a bunch of new but dangerous vigilantes rise up to fill the void, so Superman has to get back in the game. He starts recruiting heroes to try to restore balance between metahumans and regular people. Batman thinks Superman’s ideals are outdated, so he creates his own team of heroes, mostly ones without powers. Lex Luthor leads a gang of villains called the Mankind Liberation Front, because you need a league of villains to fight.

Kingdom Come has a lot of similarities to Watchmen. Rorschach even makes a cameo. The glory days for heroes has passed. A lot of heroes have retired, only a few are still active. A growing threat emerges, and heroes are forced to confront it. The heroes have to pick a side, and they don’t always see eye to eye. Right and wrong isn’t always black and white.

The story deals with regular people being threatened by metahumans. The metahumans fight with each other, recklessly destroying things and endangering innocent bystanders. Superman comes out of retirement to remind them that with great power comes great responsibility. I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

Alex Ross’s drawings are practically photorealistic, making the superheroes look even more super. The artwork is amazing. The DC Universe seems to come to life. Alex Ross is a great artist. The panels looks like photographs, sometimes you think you’re reading a scrapbook with captions and not a comic book. The battle scenes are intense and chaotic. He crams a lot of background details into each panel, look carefully and you can find lots of Easter eggs, like characters from other comics or real people.

There are a bunch of DC characters running around the story. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern… most of the big boys make appearances. Captain Marvel plays a significant role; he is probably the most important character. Captain Marvel a.k.a. Billy Batson is the only one who is both a regular mortal person and a metahuman. He is initially being brainwashed and used by Lex, because he is the only one capable of stopping Superman. He eventually regains control of his mind and saves the world. Sorry, that was kind of a spoiler.

This book is worth buying. Not only does it have a good, satisfying story, but the art takes it to a whole new level. You can read it multiple times, and you should read it multiple times. In fact, you should have already read it. So go do that if you haven’t yet.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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This is it. This is the perfect comic. The essential graphic novel that appears on more lists than any other. There is a reason for it. Alan Moore created a 12 issue series featuring original but familiar Superheroes, all of which became icons.

The story itself is rich and dense. It starts with a simple question: what if Superheroes were real? How would the world be different? Most of the superheroes are like Batman, the Green Arrow or the Punisher; they are not immortal, they have no powers, they are real people who don costumes and take on criminals. And what happens when a freak accident results in a new breed of Superheroes with godlike powers?

The world of the Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985, and Superheroes have been outlawed. Only a handful of “masks” are still active and primarily work for the Government. After the death of a former mask named the Comedian, a rogue vigilante believes he’s stumbled across a plot to eliminate former masks. Rorschach enlists and warns fellow allies, and they must work together to foil the plot, unaware of the bigger conspiracy that has a shocking outcome.

The characters of Watchmen are icons now. The Comedian was only in the story through flashbacks, and you only get to know him through the other characters. You see many different aspects to his personality, and some characters are very biased so he is hardly depicted in a good light. Rorschach is instantly recognizable with his trademark inkblot mask. He sees the world in black and white, good and evil. He is an active mask, but he works alone, not for the government. Dr. Manhattan is a God, and he’s American. He is the only character with true powers, however he is no longer able to relate to anyone, not even his girlfriend Laurie. Laurie is also a second-generation mask, known as the Silk Spectre, like her mother before her. Another mask goes by the name Nite Owl, he is very similar to Batman in a lot of ways, just more of a wuss than a badass. Rounding out the main cast of superheroes is the self-proclaimed smartest man in the world, Ozymandias.

Not only is the plot complex and the characters well thought out (possibly excepting Laurie), but the artwork, panel layout and color schemes add even more depth to the story. Chapter 5 (Fearful Symmetry) is symmetrical for crying out loud! Watchman uses a 9 panel layout primarily, but it manipulates is often to give a sense of action or pacing. It reads like a movie, they zoom in and out, they pan over, they enlarge details in scenes. There are hidden smiley faces and crazy background details. There is a comic within the comic. How meta is that?

Not only is Watchmen worth reading 2 or 3 times, I feel you have to read it at least that many times. There are so many throw away lines that allude to different events and characters. The story is so dense, the plot lines weave in and out and blend together. If you ever thought about getting into graphic novels, this is the one to start with.

Critically Rated at a perfect 17/17.

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