A Pirates Life for Me

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End be an incomprehensible action packed addition to the franchise, says I. With an unbelievably long 2 hour & 49 minute runtime, At World’s End really should have been the epic conclusion it was trying to be. Instead it’s somehow more complex than Dead Man’s Chest with a slow building story that incorporates endless subplots from a giant ensemble cast. One that I’ll explain to the best of my ability.

It’s quite apparent that Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were filmed back-to-back. Davy Jones is still the main villain, but the incredibly dull Lord Beckett takes command after Norrington brought him his heart. Beckett is so evil that he’ll even hang children for piracy (a Disney movie). Geoffrey Rush is back in full swing as a more heroic Captain Barbossa. Along with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom who are still dragging out Will and Elizabeth’s love story with misunderstandings. Will is still concerned for his father and Elizabeth gradually becomes more of a confidant pirate.

After a trip to Singapore involving Captain Sao Feng, a crew consisting of Captain Barbossa, Gibbs, pristest Tia Dalma, Pintel, Rigatti, Jack the monkey, Will, Elizabeth, and a Chinese crew all plunge their boat over the titular World’s End. It’s there in Davy Jones’ Locker that Johnny Depp officially turns Captain Jack Sparrow into a cartoon character. He sees multiple versions of himself on the Black Pearl as well as thousands of rock crabs. 1 hour and a bizarre series of circumstances later, the crew finally frees Jack after capsizing their boat.

From there the overly complicated plot includes: a Brethren Court of nine pirate lords, Elizabeth becoming a lord then Pirate King, Tia Dalma being both the former lover of Davy Jones and the sea goddess Calypso, and Will gaining control of the Flying Dutchman after stabbing Davy Jones heart. Keith Richards even plays Jack’s father (of which Depp was inspired by). Despite the runtime, the swashbuckling action is a bit scarce. Until the exhilarating climax which pits all the pirates against each other. Where Jack and Davy Jones sword fight on a precarious mast and Barbossa marries Will and Elizabeth in the most badass wedding ever. Although tragic, they do go on to have a post-credits son. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is exciting, but they really should have stopped here. “Savvy.”

3. At World's End

Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones fight on a mast

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest & Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yo Ho, Yo Ho

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest be the grandiose sequel the franchise needed, says I. Even if some of their decisions may have been too grand. The unexpected success of The Curse of the Black Pearl inspired Disney to commission 2 sequels shot back-to-back. Dead Man’s Chest is far more complex with an added bit of deep sea mythology not found in the theme park attraction. Although their story was pretty much complete, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley return as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Their dark and stormy wedding is interrupted by the forgettable Lord Beckett. Leader of the East India Trading Company who sentences Will, Elizabeth, and Norrington to death. For their aid in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Although exaggerated a tiny bit, Johnny Depp is still the best part of any Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This time (along with Gibbs and his crew), Jack seeks to end his debt to Davy Jones. The supernatural Captain of the Flying Dutchman with an octopus beard and crab claw. He and his crew are also cursed with aquatic barnacle encrusted appearances. Through an impressive system of motion capture CGI, Bill Nighy plays what is easily the best villain in the franchise. And not just cause he plays the organ with his tentacles. He’s also a shakespearean style antagonist who cut out his own heart. Which was placed inside the titular chest. This is where things get overly complicated.

Let’s just say, Jack needs his compass, a drunken Norrington wants revenge, Will wants to free his cursed father Bootstrap Bill, Elizabeth becomes a badass pirate, and betrayal is all around. Pintel and Ragetti also return as “good” guys. Along with the undead Jack the Monkey and the prison dog (see post-credit scene). There’s also a love triangle that forms between Elizabeth, Jack, and Will. That ends with a steamy kiss between her and Jack. Despite my growing interest in the franchise, I chose to wait until DVD. I was a bit confused, but the even crazier swashbuckling action made up for it.

There’s the hilarious physics defining cannibal island escape, the awesome three person sword fight on a giant wheel, and Jack’s heroic sacrifice on the Black Pearl against the mythical Kraken. Culminating in a cliffhanger where a voodoo priestess brings Captain Barbossa back to life. Apart from a small sense of over ambition, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was an enjoyable achievement nonetheless. “Savvy.”

2. Dead Man's Chest

Captain Jack Sparrow battles a kraken

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl & Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Why is the Rum Gone?

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl be the greatest film ever based on a theme park attraction, says I. So looking back on it now, it’s truly hard to believe literally no one had faith in the project. Pirates of the Caribbean was originally based on the Disneyland attraction which opened as far back as 1967. Naturally, Disney was at a point in the 2000’s where they wanted to expand on every property they had their hands on. With The Country Bears released the previous year and The Haunted Mansion released shortly after, Pirates of the Caribbean was almost a guaranteed failure. Not to mention the pirate genre was practically dead in the water.

Yet against all the naysayers, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a massive success that made pirates cool again. Despite that, my history with the franchise is very muddled. Pirates of the Caribbean peaked my curiosity when it was first released, but I only ended up seeing The Curse of the Black Pearl a few years later on DVD. I didn’t fully understand the story, but I knew it was a big deal. After a few rewatches, I can honestly say that the films were a perfect way to reignite everyone’s love of seafaring adventure (with a supernatural twist)…

1. The Curse of the Black Pearl

Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner set sail

The Curse of the Black Pearl incorporates elements of the ride, but this is very much an original story that works. Thanks in no small part to Johnny Depp. Who proved himself to be a certified A-lister by giving us one of Disney’s most iconic live-action characters. Captain Jack Sparrow is a dashing roguish pirate with a love for rum that all the ladies went crazy for. Until they slap him. Depp brings him to life with a unique slurred speech pattern and arm movements. While his appearance stands out with Sparrow’s trademark dreadlocks, goatee, eyeliner, and red bandana. He always carries a compass, sword, and gun. Depp was so fully immersed in the character that most people forget that this earned him his first Best Actor nomination.

At Port Royal during the 1700’s, piracy plagues the seven seas. Elizabeth Swann is a free spirited daughter of a governor whose been in love with blacksmith Will Turner since childhood. Something that’s complicated by a proposal from Royal Navy officer Norrington. Keira Knightley plays her first of many period specific characters. While Orlando Bloom was fresh off his success in The Lord of the Rings. Their fates intertwine with Captain Jack Sparrow after his unforgettable entrance on a sinking ship. He’s known for somehow escaping an island (sea turtles), but his crimes of piracy land him in jail. So Will frees Jack and they team up to rescue Elizabeth when she’s kidnapped by pirates. They recruit faithful first mate Mr. Gibbs and a scurvy crew of bildrates (including pre-fame Zoe Saldana).

The titular curse refers to pieces of Aztec gold treasure that was stolen by Jack’s mutinous crew aboard the Black Pearl. Specifically by a grisled Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa, a sympathetic villain that just wants to feel again. All pirates must respect the code after all. The crew become skeletons in the moonlight and are unable to die. The CGI may be dated, but it’s still a creepy effect. Betrayal is around every corner and the swashbuckling action is just as exciting as a theme park. Made even better with the “He’s a Pirate” theme.

This was actually the first PG-13 movie under the family friendly Disney banner. It makes sense considering the lewdity of pirates, but I’m still surprised at how intense it can get. Not that the film doesn’t have a quirky sense of humor with a handful of comic relief characters. Like Pintel and Ragetti or Jack the monkey. Who also appears in the series first post-credits scene. With its more grown up tone, easy to follow story, and sense of adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was just the blockbuster Disney needed. “Savvy.”

Jack_Escape_P1

“You will always remember this as the day that you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow”

Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Falling Slowly

Once is a love story that comes along only once in a lifetime. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Since my options were limited, I decided to seek out movies made in Ireland. So that lead to me checking out Once. A film I intended to check out at some point in my life. It’s a kind of musical that’s almost exclusively known for one song. “Falling Slowly,” which beat 3 Enchanted songs for the honor of Best Original Song. I remember being pretty shocked about that. Until I actually listened to the song. It has great commercial appeal and I actually learned it long before seeing the movie.

The rest of Once is a romance set in Dublin, Ireland. It has a shoestring budget with very rough camera work. I’m not familiar with them, but only the two leads were well known beforehand. Both the Irish Glen Hansard and Czech Markéta Irglová were singers with barely any acting experience. So everything comes across natural. Which is okay when at least 75% of the movie is singing. The other songs are good, but “Falling Slowly” is the only one I’ll remember.

The nameless struggling musicians meet on a street corner and something clicks between them. They don’t know each other, but they want to. So they help each other reach their goals. Only their blossoming romance never seems to take off. Which is probably the point since they’re both still involved in other relationships. Once is a one of a kind romance with songs to spare.

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“Falling slowly”

Legend of the Monkey King

The Forbidden Kingdom is an action packed exploration into Chinese legend. Although I can’t say that I knew too much about the story going in. I only knew that my brother really wanted to watch it due to director Rob Minkoff and actress Liu Yifei (live-action Mulan). Which I understood considering this was her only other American production. Even if The Forbidden Kingdom has a strong Chinese influence. It’s based on a popular 16th Century novel titled Journey to the West. Something that has been adapted several times in China.

My main exposure to elements of the story came from a graphic novel title American Born Chinese. It also featured the Monkey King. A light hearted immortal monkey god that resides in Heaven. Along with a powerful golden staff, the Monkey King is also able to produce clones with strands of his hair. When the evil Jade Warlord traps him in stone, it’s up to a wayward band of travelers to return his staff. Despite the prominent Chinese cast, the main character is actually the kid from Sky High.

Jason is just an ordinary fan of cheesy kung fu movies thrust into a fantasy world in ancient China. He’s joined by a drunken half immortal, a lovely pipa playing warrior out for vengeance, and a mysterious silent monk. They teach him martial arts and how to fulfill his prophesied destiny. They battle many great enemies including a witch with deadly hair, but the Jade Warlord is still the biggest threat. The Forbidden Kingdom has many impressive kung fu fights, but Jackie Chan and Jet Li are really the centerpiece. This was their first movie together and their fight doesn’t disappoint. The Forbidden Kingdom is a forgotten if clunky visual spectacle.

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Lu Yan challenges the silent Monk

Why So Serious? ⭐

The Dark Knight is my all time favorite DC comics superhero movie. It’s also one of the greatest superhero movies ever made (or the absolute best depending on who you ask). It was a no brainer placing it number six on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. I decided to limit myself to one film per comic book universe. Otherwise my list would be nothing but superhero movies. The darkness of the film is made all the more apparent with a title that for the first time drops Batman’s name in favor of his imposing nickname.

Expectations for The Dark Knight were extremely high at the time. Even the trailer that utilized the new Batman theme promised an exhilarating adventure. I remember the experience I had with my family very clearly. At 13 years old, I left the theater practically speechless. Unable to fully process the darker more complex nature of the sequel. It didn’t take me long to realize it was the Dark Knight’s finest outing to date. Sadly a lot of the added attention was attributed to the tragic and very sudden loss of Heath Ledger. Who portrayed the Joker in a way that stole the whole movie and earned the late actor an extremely rare posthumous Oscar…

11. The Dark Knight

Batman fails

The Dark Knight picks up some time after Batman established himself as Gotham’s masked protector. The newly dubbed Lieutenant James Gordon now contacts Batman using the Bat-Signal. To which he often performs his trademark vanishing act. Together Batman, Jim Gordon, and newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent attempt to clean up organized crime in Gotham. Dent’s complex origin inspired by the storyline The Long Halloween, is finally done justice. Blowing the excessively campy Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face out of the water.

Carmine Falcone is replaced by equally realistic comic book crime boss Sal Maroni. Only he and the rest of the mob are too afraid to operate at night due to the success Batman has had fighting crime. He even manages to apprehend Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow. Although there is the unexpected detail of copybat vigilantes attempting to fight crime in his place. Something I’m positive people would be crazy enough to do. This little encounter allows the Dark Knight to finally address a concern that’s been present since the Michael Keaton days. Lack of neck movement. Something Bruce Wayne overcomes with the help of Lucius Fox. Who supplies him with a more tactical Batsuit. Meanwhile Bruce and Alfred are forced to move operations to a shiny new Batcave bunker while Wayne Manor is being rebuilt.

Bruce also deals with the personal struggle of still being in love with Rachel Dawes. Despite her love for fellow lawyer Harvey Dent. But the true struggle is with Batman’s greatest enemy. The Joker is a threat Batman will always face no matter the iteration. In keeping with Nolan’s realistic approach, this Joker is an agent of chaos with echos of a domestic terrorist. He has fun testing the people of Gotham with sadistic acts that push Batman to his limits. Leaving him questioning whether or not he should break his one rule. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite DC superhero movie…

12. The Dark Knight

Batman interrogates the Joker

The Dark Knight is more than just a superhero movie. It can just as easily be labeled a neo-noir crime film. Since Batman is given greater use of his World’s Greatest Detective skills. Christopher Nolan was able to craft a comic book movie the Academy could take seriously. While at the same time pleasing dedicated fans like myself. For me this is the definitive cinematic take on the DC hero. Christian Bale became only the second actor to return as Batman. He brings the same level of dedication that he brought before, but his excessively gravely Bat-Voice is very hit or miss. Really it’s one of the only things The Dark Knight is ever ridiculed for. Leading to many hilarious parodies of it.

Another minor flaw was the recasting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel. She’s a vast improvement in terms of acting, but she’s no Katie Holmes in terms of looks. Gary Oldman is given an even greater role as Jim Gordon. With an arc that finally grants him the rank of Commissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman is also given greater importance in Batman’s fight. As is Michael Caine, who delivers a speech that perfectly summarizes the new take on the Clown Prince of Crime.

Heath Ledger is my (and my mom’s) favorite take on the Joker. Jack Nicholson was great as a comic accurate gag themed clown, but Ledger elevated him to something we’ve never seen before. A Joker without an origin who just does things. His appearance is grubbier with long messy green hair, self applied white makeup, dark eye shadow, a red glasgow smile, and a purple trench coat. Both the Joker’s unique voice and laugh were things Ledger had to perfect in self-imposed isolation. Which probably contributed to his death.

I was taken completely off guard when I first heard the news. All my dad said was that the Joker died. I thought he meant Nicholson, but it was the 28 year old actor with so much potential. His flawlessly immersive performance won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. A groundbreaking win for a superhero movie. Can you believe his initial casting drew criticism? Well the late Heath Ledger has gone down in history as the Joker all subsequent actors aspire to.

He’s responsible for so many iconic moments. Like the broad daylight opening with clown masked goons offing each other one by one. His darkly comedic magic trick and improvised hospital explosion. As well as several retellings of how he got his scars. Scenes I actually performed in my high school Drama class. “Why so serious?” indeed. Of course Batman’s encounters with the Joker are just as awesome. In terms of action, that’s Batman using the Tumbler (Batmobile) in pursuit of the kidnapped Dent. It leads to the creation of the Batpod (Batcycle) in a scene that mirrors 1989 Batman. In terms of drama, it’s the interrogation scene reminiscent of The Killing Joke.

The tension of the encounter leads to the creation of Two-Face. After a shocking twist of fate, half of Harvey’s face is burned to reveal a face that made everyone in the theater gasp. With the flip of a coin, Two-Face decides the fate of anyone responsible. It’s unfortunate that Aaron Eckhart’s terrific performance was so overshadowed. Nevertheless, The Dark Knight ends with Batman using white eyed sonar to locate the Joker and put an end to his never ending joke on Gotham. But this is no happy ending. Batman takes the blame for Harvey’s crimes and becomes the titular Dark Knight. With what I would easily call Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus, The Dark Knight gave us the dark gritty Caped Crusader we deserved.

13. The Dark Knight

The Joker presents his card

Preceded by: Batman Begins & Followed by: The Dark Knight Rises

Fear of Bats

Batman Begins gave the Dark Knight the fresh start he deserved. Something DC desperately needed after the horribly campy mess that was Batman & Robin. When he gets too light, they want to darken him up again. When he gets too dark, they want to lighten him up again. A cycle Batman always seems to go through. Only Batman & Robin was so bad that it set theatrical Batman films back 8 years. Leaving approximately 6 unproduced movie attempts in its wake. The intended fifth film in the original series was Batman Unchained (or Batman Triumphant). Which would have featured Scarecrow, Harley Quinn, and the return of the Joker.

Then there was Batman: DarKnight, which would have had Scarecrow and Man-Bat. As well as a Robin spin-off that was thankfully never made. When those failed, a darker possibly R-rated reboot became a priority. There was talk of a Batman Beyond movie and a Batman: Year One movie directed by Darren Aronofsky. Plus that early attempt at a Batman vs. Superman movie. The project eventually landed in the very capable hands of soon to be critically acclaimed director Christopher Nolan. Who had the brilliant idea of making a man who fights crime in a Batsuit as realistic as possible…

9. Batman Begins

Batman calls in backup

Batman Begins is a title that means this is a reboot that will show the Caped Crusader’s origin in great detail. Yet my 10 year old brain didn’t quite grasp the concept of a reboot or continuity. So I for a long time thought Batman Begins was in some way a continuation of the previous Batman series. Nevertheless, the dark brooding poster was enough to make me very excited. My dad took my brother and I to see it and we loved the darker take on Batman. The intense PG-13 rating was nothing I couldn’t handle.

Batman Begins tells its famous origin out of order, just the way Christopher Nolan likes it. Similar to the comic storyline “The Man Who Falls,” a young Bruce Wayne falls into a well and has a traumatic experience with bats. We get to know his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne a bit better. Giving their inevitable deaths some added weight. Only instead of Zorro, the Wayne’s are watching a performance with people dressed like bats. Which also increases Bruce’s guilt when the comic accurate Joe Chill guns them down. Leaving faithful family butler Alfred Pennyworth as his legal guardian.

The aftermath is something we almost never see. A guilty Bruce leaves Gotham City after nearly murdering Chill in court. On his journey, Bruce trains with the mysterious Henri Ducard. Who teaches him martial arts under the League of Shadows (League of Assassins in the comics). Only Bruce stops short of killing. A rule that’s gone on to define the superhero. Batman begins with Bruce Wayne’s long awaited return to Gotham.

In order to pull off a more grounded portrayal of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, acclaimed British method actor Christian Bale was recast in the part. He proved his dedication by putting on a ton of muscle after being practically anorexic in The Machinist. Bale pulls off the often overlooked fact that Bruce Wayne is juggling three separate personas. The Bruce Wayne that only his closest allies know. The snobby billionaire playboy akin to Patrick Bateman. And the Dark Knight feared by criminals in Gotham.

Batman Begins even gives grounded explanations to every piece of Batman’s mythos. The Batcave is an abandoned underground railroad. While all of his gadgets were military prototypes given to him by Wayne Enterprises employee Lucius Fox. The Batsuit is all black like previous versions with a more armored design and a sharper Bat-Symbol. The cape is capable of gliding with an electric current. His gadgets are more military grade and his Batarang is more like a throwing star. The especially impressive Tumbler (Batmobile) is built more like a tank. It helps to finally make Batman the most interesting character in his own movie.

Not that Batman Begins isn’t filled with an impressive cast of A-listers. The very classy Michael Caine was perfect for a caring, no nonsense Alfred who brings much needed levity. Even talents as big as Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman play a part. The latter of which finally does justice to police Commissioner Gordon. The last honest cop in Gotham who starts out as a young sergeant before partnering up with Batman. Original character Rachel Dawes is both a childhood friend and lawyer who acts as Bruce’s love interest. She looks good, but Katie Holmes is perhaps the only weak link in the cast.

Gotham is a crime-ridden mafia controlled City. The first initial threat is mob boss Carmine Falcone. One of Batman’s more realistic comic book villains. In a terrifying expertly shot sequence, the Dark Knight introduces himself with the famous “I’m Batman.” One of several subtle homages to the 1989 Batman. His voice is deep, but not too much. While doing some detective work, Batman encounters one of his primary antagonists. Scarecrow only made sense due to the film’s theme of fear. Like in the comics, Dr. Jonathan Crane uses fear toxin on his enemies. Cillian Murphy intimidates by simply wearing a tattered mask. Only the Arkham Asylum doctor serves a greater villains plans.

It turns out Liam Neeson was Ra’s al Ghul all along. A more grounded take on one of Batman’s most complex adversaries. His ultimate goal is to destroy Gotham by poisoning the water supply with Scarecrow’s toxin. Batman Begins is filled with moments that define the Dark Knight. Like intimidating a corrupt cop, summoning an army of bats, or saving the city at any cost. Ending with Batman’s fateful train fight with Ra’s al Ghul. The icing on the cake is the Bat-Signal and a very exciting teaser for a certain psychotic clown. An all-star cast, attention to detail, and the right amount of fan service, helped make Batman Begins one of DC’s most influential superhero movies.

10. Batman Begins

Batman leaps

Followed by: The Dark Knight

Kamehameha!

Dragonball Evolution is the worst anime adaptation ever made. You don’t even have to be a hardcore Dragon Ball fan to know that. While my brother is a big fan of manga and anime, I’ve just never had the time. Even though I’m certain I’d become a fan if I watched it. So just a fare warning that this review is based on my very basic knowledge of the source material. I do know that Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z was a very big deal growing up. And that it’s the second most popular anime series in America. Since the hatred for Dragonball Evolution was over 9000, I knew I needed to see it regardless.

Dragonball Evolution is every bit the insulting Americanized adaptation you’d think it would be. For starters, the clearly Japanese Goku is played by random white kid Justin Chatwin. With nothing more than spiked hair, who can’t act to save his life. Instead of a Saiyan kid with a tail, Goku is a generic high school teenager with no friends (so Krillin is out) who just wants a girlfriend. Oh yeah, and he practises martial arts too. None of which looks convincing with its awful CGI hand farting. That they seriously refer to as air bending! His love interest Chi-Chi may be played by the Asian Jamie Chung, but she’s clearly generalized.

Same with the search for the titular Dragon Balls. Which are being pursued by the generically evil Lord Piccolo. Poor James Marsters was dragged into this. Along with Chow Yun-fat who’s clearly nothing like the elderly perverted Master Roshi. Goku’s long time traveling companion Bulma is played by the also white Emmy Rossum. With a lazy blue streak instead of blue hair. The humor is all over the place, the anime’s famous fighting sequences are poorly choreographed, and Chatwin is not equipped to wear Goku’s iconic orange blue outfit. Dragonball Evolution took a complex anime saga and turned it into a generic waste of good source material.

Dragonball Evolution

Goku challenges Piccolo

The Island of Kryptonite

Superman Returns is aptly named. For this was truly a return for the Man of Steel on the big screen. The awful Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was enough to end the original franchise on a bad note. Leaving TV series Lois & Clark as the only live-action Superman in the 90’s. While Smallville kept Superman relevant in the early 2000’s. Yet a new Superman movie was always in the works. In fact, there were a record 5 different Superman movies we could have ended up with.

There was the more direct sequel Superman V. The bizarre sounding Superman Reborn. The infamous Tim Burton directed, Kevin Smith written, Nicolas Cage starring Superman Lives. An early 2000’s Batman vs. Superman. And finally a much more straightforward reboot titled Superman: Flyby. Each project morphed into the next, until we finally ended up with Superman Returns. The most unoriginal project of the bunch, but I finally realize that was the intention. DC had already successfully rebooted Batman the year before, so it was Superman’s turn. Even if it meant director Bryan Singer leaving his already successful superhero franchise in the dust (more on that later)…

8. Superman Returns

Superman lifts a car

Superman Returns nevertheless managed to spark excitement in me. I was 10 at the time and luckily I already saw the only Superman movies that count. The teaser had me the second I heard the iconic John Williams theme. At my age, I was hopelessly confused by this. My child brain thought that made Superman Returns a direct sequel to Superman: The Movie and Superman II. Then again, I think a lot of people were confused. Superman Returns is actually meant to be an homage to the original films. A tribute to Richard Donner and the late Christopher Reeve. Which is all well and good, but it’s just not what we wanted. Not that I didn’t enjoy Superman Returns when I first saw it.

As is tradition, another unknown actor was cast as Clark Kent/Superman. Brandon Routh fit the look of Christopher Reeve and wore the costume well. The costume is mostly the same, only with darker colors and a smaller symbol. Unfortunately, he’s not really given a lot to work with. Which is a shame considering how big Routh’s personality is (especially as another DC superhero on TV). Routh’s Superman is a bit more quiet, while his Clark Kent is more geeky than comical. Which is probably why Superman Returns dedicates a lot less time to Superman than you might think. This is the thinking man’s Superman movie. With the question of whether or not the world needs a savior like Superman.

It picks up after Superman has been gone for over 5 years. Just to make sure Krypton was actually destroyed. Followed by Kal-El crash landing in Smallville where he’s reunited with Ma Kent. Then Clark is brought back to Metropolis where his old job at the Daily Planet is waiting for him. Sam Huntington is a fine Jimmy Olsen and Frank Langella is an okay Perry White. Really the only unusual choice was Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. Especially if she’s meant to be the same as Margot Kidder. Although she has great chemistry with Routh, she was just too young to convincingly play the fearless reporter. Not to mention the fact that she’s also a mother. With a son that may or may not be Superman’s. Yet another original character was created in the form of Richard White. Perry White’s nephew and Lois’ fiancé who was approximately the third romantic other guy that James Marsden played.

On the villainous side, we have Lex Luthor for the 4th time. I know he’s Superman’s greatest enemy, but there are so many other villains to choose from. Regardless, Kevin Spacey is actually one of the better Lex Luthor’s. Along with actually being bald, he manages to be ruthless while at the same time tapping into Gene Hackman’s enthusiasm. Best shown when he screams “Wrong!” But Luthor is once again after real estate. His new diabolical plan is to create his own island using crystals from the Fortress of Solitude mixed with Kryptonite. Parker Posey acts as a replacement for Miss Tessmacher.

Actually most of Superman Returns plays out in a similar way to the original movies. With plenty of reused dialogue that’s fine for nostalgia, but feels a bit hollow the second time around. Except for Jor-El, who’s literally a CGI recreation of Marlon Brando. Seeing the movie years later, I finally realized Superman Returns feels more like a disaster movie than a superhero movie. Superman doesn’t throw a punch in the entire nearly 3 hour movie. Instead Superman rescues a plane in an epic (scientifically accurate) sequence. As well as saves a lot of people, takes a bullet in the eye, recreates the iconic Action comics #1 cover, stops multiple disasters in Metropolis, and lifts a boat out of the ocean.

Ending in a climax that’s both devastating and ridiculous. Devastating because they finally utilize the “Death of Superman” storyline. Ridiculous because Superman actually lifts a gigantic island made out of very toxic Kryptonite into space. Something that would never happen in the comics. If you just want to see Superman fight an enemy of equal or greater power, then this isn’t the movie for you. However, if you’re fine with a love letter to the old fashioned days of the Man of Tomorrow, then Superman Returns just might be worth a second chance.

9. Superman Returns

Superman leans in to kiss Lois Lane

I Want My Scalps

Inglourious Basterds gave Quentin Tarantino a good excuse to kill nazis. With what became his most critically acclaimed film since Pulp Fiction. At least in terms of awards attention. After the more experimental Death Proof, the next Tarantino flick was something so aesthetically different then anything he’s done up to this point. I was certainly thrown off by Inglourious Basterds being a period war picture. Half the time it feels like a foreign film. But all the classic Tarantinoisms are there. From lengthy casual conversations to era appropriate pop culture references. Even a few foot shots make it in.

The profane (possibly misspelled) Inglourious Basterds refers to a group of manly Jewish-American nazi hunting soldiers. Brad Pitt plays their leader Lt. Aldo Raine, who wants nothing more than to brutalise every last nazi and take their scalps. Horror director Eli Roth is one of his top soldiers. On the English side is Michael Fassbender as an undercover Lt, Diane Kruger as undercover German actress Bridget von Hammersmark, and an out of nowhere Mike Myers cameo.

But the real star of the film is Christoph Waltz as the charming yet despicable SS Colonel Hans Landa. Waltz was so magnetic that he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Landa is a “Jew hunter” capable of seeing through deception, but his biggest mistake was sparing one of their lives after a disturbing house raid. That lone survivor is French Jewish theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus. She’s not the biggest name, but Mélanie Laurent is still the person you want to follow the most.

With all the pieces in place, the Basterds and Dreyfus both simultaneously plot to end World War II. After nazis plan to premiere a propaganda film at Shosanna’s theater. History skews completely when the theater is burned to the ground and all the top nazis, including Hitler himself, are viciously killed in a sea of blood & fire. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t satisfying. There’s still plenty of black comedy, but a Best Picture nomination proved Inglourious Basterds was a more sophisticated step in the right direction for Tarantino.

6. Inglorious Basterds

Colonel Hans Landa negotiates