Marvel Cinematic Movies – Ranked

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thorimax3Can you believe we’ve had 17 (!) films since we were introduced to Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in an Afghan cave? Marvel has truly shown the rest of the movie studios how to successfully do a movie universe, deftly weaving storylines from one character to another, teaming them up when possible and leaving them alone when necessary. As they got their foundation and feet under them, suddenly the head honchos over at Disney let the films start to be a little more unique with a little more flavor. If one film showed that, it was definitely Thor: Ragnarok.

I just saw it yesterday and I’m still reliving parts of it over and over again in my head. I laughed more than I expected (and I expected to laugh A LOT), yet this movie had some of the most dire consequences of any of the MCU films to date. I think the latter is partly done on purpose: so that the events that happen in the next Avengers team-up, Infinity War, don’t come out of left field. I think there’s a good chance we see some serious characters go down in that movie.

ANYWAY…I saw some other people making their MCU ranking thus far, so I decided to do the same. Now of course, art and movies are subjective, so my list will be different than yours and that’s OK. I based my list on a couple of factors: 1. Would I rewatch it again in a heartbeat? 2. How good of a movie is it? and 3. How does it really fit in and impact the rest of the MCU films?

So without anymore yammering from me…

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. The Avengers
  3. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Thor: Ragnarok
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger
  7. Ant Man
  8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  9. Iron Man
  10. Doctor Strange
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  12. Thor
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  14. Iron Man 3
  15. The Incredible Hulk
  16. Thor: The Dark World
  17. Iron Man 2

Yep. I’m a big Captain America fan. I can hear people talking now, and that’s fine with me. Frankly, up until I actually typed it here, I had the first Cap movie at #5 instead of #6, but that’s really how much fun I had with the new Thor movie. If there is any kind of theme with the first group of movies (except for TFA), it is team-ups! Every single movie in the top five features heroes teaming up with one another, sometimes against other heroes, but oftentimes against one villain or another. Frankly when it comes to the Thor film, I’m still processing it, so come back in a week or so and I might have it a little higher or possibly a little lower. I tried to take the immediacy factor out of things, but I still love it to bits at the moment, so it makes my Top 5.

A few other notable bits:

  • I straight-up LOVE Ant Man. If there was more than just Falcon’s wonderful cameo in the movie, I might have even had it higher on my list. Paul Rudd is just hilarious and that Thomas the Train fight sequence at the end is better than most of the “fighting aliens or robots in the sky” parts that many of the films do.
  • Even if a movie is towards the bottom of the list doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I would re-watch any of these movies and really liked them when they first released in theaters. But Iron Man 2 has some huge flaws and frankly I don’t remember much of the second Thor movie. In fact, the way they were able to take Thor and make him one of the BEST Marvel heroes in Ragnarok speaks to Taika Watiti’s ability to work with characters.
  • Many said that Doctor Strange was a better origin movie than Iron Man, and in some ways I do agree, but Iron Man was the first. If we didn’t have that first movie and the impact it made, we might not have the rest of this list.

But, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Should Guardians 2 be higher? Should Ultron be higher than the Bottom 5? Is Stan Lee the real First Avenger? Where will I put Black Panther on this list? Do I love Captain America too much? (quite possibly). Let me know!

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Overpromising and Underdelivering

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This post deals with a few major topics, one of which is the 90’s Christian band dc Talk. If they aren’t your jam, that’s cool, but I think there are some important points for everyone by the time I finish.

So today was the big day. Most of you probably weren’t even aware of it, but over the last week or two, the Facebook page for 90’s Christian supergroup dc Talk suddenly got busy. Considering the social network didn’t even exist last time they put out an album in the late 90’s, this was curious. About a week ago, they posted an image with one thing on it — 2017. A teaser video soon followed with other Christian artists questioning whether the news was too good to be true. All that led to a “Major Announcement” today at noon.

I, as well as a ton of Christian music fans, kept refreshing their site today ready for the announcement. Would it be a new album? A series of YouTube videos? A reunion tour of sorts? Whatever any of us thought, it would surely be blown away by the announcement. dc Talk was HUGE between 1995 and 1999. When they split up they were still at the height of their popularity and all three of the members continued their careers with solo albums that transitioned into very successful post-band careers for most of them. Today Toby Mac has had perhaps the best career of the three, but Michael Tait is now the lead singer for the Newsboys and Kevin Max recently helped resurrect Audio Adrenaline from retirement.

So.

The announcement came…and landed with a Thud.

dc Talk would be reuniting for…a cruise. A one week cruise that would cost — at minimum — $699 per person.

Social media outrage, considering the Christian audience, was huge.

The top comment on Facebook for the announcement video: “Seriously, that’s it? Now I know how Ralphie from a Christmas story felt when he decoded the message with his decoder. A lousy commercial.”

I know I had expectations. I was actually at the final dc Talk concert in 2001 when they briefly reunited while all doing their own music. I was on board for almost anything. Almost. This was not it.

To be fair, I think the announcement is cool, I just am not game for a cruise at that pricepoint and the hype for it was overblown for that announcement.

Christian music not your thing? Let’s talk superheroes.

Two major superhero movies have released recently. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. Both did well at the box office to start their run, but I think its definitely fair to say that one of them will be remembered a lot more fondly than the other.

When they announced Batman fighting Superman in a movie, they promised a lot. They plastered that logo all over Comic Con that year and had people put it on their Most Anticipated lists years out from its eventual release. The two greatest superheroes in comic history, squaring off? Sign me up for that.

And then…it was okay. Meh. After seeing the trailer, I was primed, but most of the best parts of the movie were verbatim from the trailer. The set-up was wonky for their fight and ultimately didn’t pay off like I would have hoped. I don’t want to dissect the movie too much, but I’ll say I had a number of issues with the movie, but ultimately I would say I enjoyed it. More good than bad. But…

In both the case of dc Talk and BvS, the case is clear. They OVERPROMISED and UNDERDELIVERED.

Now…let’s crack open Captain America: Civil War. In many ways this is a response to DC’s BvS tale. The top two heroes in Marvel’s Universe going at it and fracturing their teams apart. Unlike in DC’s movie, the folks at Marvel accomplished a phenomenal feat — a highly entertaining and intelligent action movie. And the trailer? It was great, but it left SO much for audiences to unpack for themselves.

If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about, but the Airport scene in Germany…in the trailer it is really given the briefest of mentions. But that scene. That scene. In 17 minutes they gave us everything that BvS didn’t.

But even then the movie kept giving and giving and giving. The final act was emotionally brutal and in its own way, even more thrilling than all the action that preceded it.

Marvel OVERDELIVERED.

And thus, I come away from these three events with this lesson: When you are giving an audience something, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If you’ve got the goods, the audience will find usually find you anyway, so try not to overpromise.

There are a number of other lessons to be learned from the releases of these two movies, but we’ll stay away from those today. Instead, just make sure that if you are going to promise the world, you deliver what the audience expects.

Book Reviews – The Fourth Sage & Super

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Oh boy — been a while since I’ve updated this thing. Don’t need to get super-personal, but suffice it to say the past couple weeks have been CRAZY busy. I had a couple conferences to go to, I made a trip to an airport, I hosted my parents and brother at my house to make some much-needed home repairs and updates for five days — it has been crazy.

So, just wanted to ease back into this and give you reviews on not just one, but two books I recently read. I polished off Stefan Bolz’s new book The Fourth Sage about a week ago and then devoured Ernie Lindsey’s Super over the past 24 hours. Both were tremendous and are showcasing how independent authors are putting out outstanding work.


The Fourth Sage – Stefan Bolz

Earlier this year, I read Stefan Bolz’s previous book, The Three Feathers. I thought it was outstanding with a unique voice in a sea of books with generic personalities and stock plots. With The Fourth Sage, Stefan has proved that he is not a one-trick pony and has continued his specific brand of writing to a futuristic world inhabited by Aries and her friends.

10338227_10203080505026343_2241684756519716173_nIn The Three Feathers, Bolz really put a lot of emphasis on fate and destiny to go along with a heavy dose of supernatural and spirituality. There are recurrences of those themes here as well, but with the futuristic corporate society, the metaphysical side is tempered with the science and technology found in Aries’ world. I really enjoyed reading The Fourth Sage and kept rooting for Aries and her friends, even as the deck was continuously stacked against them. Sacrifices are necessary for journeys like Aries’ to succeed, but sacrifice doesn’t always mean the same thing.

There is a positivity present in Bolz’s work that you don’t find in other author’s books. In a post-apocalyptic, authoritarian society, you would expect to find death and depression around every turn, but for some reason, whenever Aries, her winged friend, Born of Night, or any of her numerous friends appear on the page, it is difficult to not smile and know that somehow, someway, their destiny is to survive and even thrive.

Stefan has planned more books in this series and I am very much interested in reading the future installments. Fantastic book, Stefan — good work.


 

Super – Ernie Lindsey

Perhaps the best movie I’ve seen this year was Captain America: Winter Soldier. One of the best things about the narrative of CA2 was the idea that the government (S.H.I.E.L.D.) was directly funding and operating superhero missions around the world. The implications of that, specifically when you combine it with NSA data mining and Edward Snowden, made the movie much more than a superhero flick — it became a modern allegory for our world with Captain America representing the American ideal.

superI didn’t come into reading Ernie Lindsey’s Super with CA2 in mind, but it is hard to distance yourself too much from it after finishing and realizing the complex web Lindsey wove to get to the ending of the book. The protagonist, Leo Craft, is a Superhero Assassin, a distinction he makes at one point to say the Support Group is joins is not superheros that are assassins, but rather people who assassinate superheroes. At first, this sounds terrible, until Lindsey carefully reminds the reader that no one is perfectly good or evil — that shades of grey exist. For some heroes, those shades are lighter, but for others, those shades take on tones of child pornography, abuses of their powers, and betrayal of their countries. For some of those, Craft takes out retribution.

It seems Craft is perfect at his job, but gets a little lazy and doesn’t realize who he hopped into bed with on his latest assignment. From there, the government twists and turns with numerous agencies and multinational organizations takes center stage with Lindsey expertly leaving the reader wanting more at each chapter break. This is one book that I genuinely had a hard time putting down and when my Kindle ran out of battery life, I had to bide my time until it was ready for me to finish the book off.

I thought Lindsey did a great job and left the world open and ripe to numerous other stories or sequels, each of which I would gladly purchase and read. Well done!

Captain America, Bacon and other suggestions

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READER MAILBAG #2

I did this a while ago and thought I’d do it again this weekend. A smattering of my thoughts on a variety of subjects. Thanks to Forbes West, Jeff Carter, Debbie Robbins, Thomas Robins (no relation), Jen George, Travis Mohrman, and my brother for the ideas.


With the impending release of Captain America 2: ‘Merica, I wish to share a story with you. This story will go to show the vast differences between my wife and me (besides the obvious).

So this year for Halloween, my 9-year-old daughter went as Hermione from Harry Potter (she was adorable). While we were out trick-or-treating, we came across more than a few of my wife’s elementary school students. One in particular caught her eye and she exclaimed, “What are you, Captain America?”

Image<——–The boys costume looked more like this.

Yep. That’s Thor. A few weeks later, I was shopping at our local Wally World and came upon this cup and bought a “Captain America” cup for my bride.

She will never live this down.

And on that note, I am pretty psyched about the newest movie in the Marvel universe. In fact, my wife was bemoaning the fact there was a lack of black superheroes just yesterday and I was able to tell her that Falcon, (in fact, the first black superhero) is in the movie. It’ll be nice to have Falcon and hopefully other black superheroes for when I finally bring my son home from Africa.


On a separate note — Bacon.

Consider this: You have been gifted a magnificent ability. You realize one afternoon that your touch can turn the simplest of items into bacon.

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Bacon Candles. (Note — NOT real bacon)

Bread = bacon. Potato chips = bacon. Green beans = bacon. Mushrooms = bacon. Bacon = bacon.

Of course, like any gift, this ability has drawbacks. Your clothes instantly become a slab of pork belly. Grease covers you from head to toe. You attempt to shower, only to find the water becomes little pellets of bacon bits that sprinkle you from above. I know, I know. It sounds delicious and amazing, but you can no longer leave the house. In fact, your house is slowly becoming a giant slab of bacon. (Thankfully, the north-facing side is Canadian bacon — that is, ham.)

Then, you go to bed…bacon wrapped blankets and all, and in the morning you wake to the crackle and smell of smoke. Your house is on fire…check that…it is crisping. Your neighbors have been driven to insanity watching and smelling your house for the past day and will stop at nothing to get at the salty pork fat.

As you lie in your bed, you munch on your cellphone and wait to perish with the rest of your glorious bacon. You realize no one should have this much power. With great power comes great responsibility and you can’t let this ability fall into the wrong hands.

mmmmm….bacon….


I’m just going to leave this bit of knowledge right here:

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Yesterday my wife and I sold our Pontiac Grand Am. We’d had the car for over a decade and it had been a good car. I used it extensively for driving to and from sporting events while working as a sports reporter and it survived a trip to North and South Dakota about six years ago.

It was a bit unexpected so we hadn’t cleaned it out yet. We found a lot of gross things (a pair of pliers covered in the remnants of exploded ketchup packets from the glovebox and a bottle of oil which had leaked in the back seat among others), some odd items (a racketball racket, multiple pens and pencils — the newspaper job, remember) and some nice memories. I found a custom-made Veggie Tales CD with Molly’s name inserted into various songs we used to play on trips. I found a dead watch my wife gave me for an anniversary gift. I sold the car that we brought our daughter home from the hospital in.

We did some cleaning and sold the vehicle. It was a bittersweet day for sure.


I also had a request today to talk about Southern Illinois defecting from the rest of the state and being annexed into Missouri. I must say, that is a fine idea. The corruption and waste of Illinois is well-known, but most people don’t realize the corruption is mostly limited to a fairly small area — Chicago.

Now, I don’t have anything against Chicago, but there is no way for Southern Illinois to be able to swing votes in the General Assembly because they simply lack the votes. I think Illinois could be a great state if everyone could just get along, but even when the House, Senate, and Governor are all Democrats, they can’t get anything accomplished. What a shame.

I’m all for joining Missouri or Indiana. Bring it on.


On a final note, here is a trippy picture of a cat.

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