Thursday Quote Day: A.A. Milne

This week’s “Thursday Quote Day” features a quote from author A.A. Milne:

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” (A.A. Milne)


MoviePass Adventures: Month 1

I recently signed up for MoviePass.  For those that don’t know, MoviePass is a monthly subscription program that allows one to see a film (2D film) once a day in the movie theater.  I knew about the program for years back when it was first announced but the price point was something that wasn’t worth it.  However back in August, the company announced they were dropping the price down to $9.99 a month.  And as soon as the price jumped, there was a huge rush of people signing up.  I waited on signing up thinking it might be good to wait and see how things go.  I had a friend who signed up for it and liked it so I decided to do the same.

It took about a month or so to get my card.  How it works is you sign up and you get a debit card.  When you get to the theater you go on the app and check in to the movie you want to see.  You then use the debit card to pay for the movie.  The hardest thing was getting the card.  The initial wait time is supposed to be 5-7 days but given the huge demand it took a month (there are many that are still waiting for cards which has been a sticking point with some people).

I have now had the card for a month and have seen 8 films with it.  I thought I would document here the films I’ve seen and some brief thoughts on each one.

1.) Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the original Blade Runner, I was looking forward to seeing this film.  Overall, I really liked it. Probably better than the original but definitely can feel and see the influences in it.

2.) Mark Felt

Based on the true story of Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat”.  It tells the story of the man who helped expose the Watergate scandal.  It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Liam Neeson.

3.) Marshall

Marshall is another based on a true story.  This time it tells the story of Thurgood Marshall, eventual Supreme Court Justice, and the time he defended an accused rapist in Connecticut.  The cast is tremendous in this film and Chadwick Boseman ranks at the top of the list.

4.) Thor: Ragnarok

I did an entire blog post on my thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok so you can go check it out.  I will say I was reminded again how Phase 3 of the MCU has been way better than Phase 2.

5.) Goodbye Christopher Robin

This film is also a “based on a true story”.  It tells the story of A.A. Milne and his family.  Milne was the author of the Winnie the Pooh books and those books were based on his son Christopher Robin Milne and his interaction with the world.  The acting was tremendous and heartrenching.  Domhall Gleeson and Margot Robbie were great and Kelly Macdonald was a showstealer as well.

6.) Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is the newest film adaption to the novel written by Agatha Christie.  I really enjoyed the film.  The ensemble cast was great and the visuals were breathtaking.

7.) Only The Brave

Only the Brave is another “based on a true story” this one of the Granite Mountain hotshots.  They were a firefighting group in Arizona that would be helping to fight some of the deadliest wildfires.  A great cast and a compelling story.

8.) Justice League

Justice League is the big DC superhero team up film.  Overall I thought the film was fine.  I enjoyed the cast and the performance for the most part was good.  It could’ve been better but on the flip side it could’ve been worse.  It was at least a step forward for DC in the film universe.

There are some films that are coming out in the next month or so that I’m excited to see so I’m sure my MoviePass will definitely come in handy.

Michael’s Rankings: Updated Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

Having just seen Thor: Ragnarok I was thinking about where it ranks as far as MCU films and then I realized that I haven’t updated them since 2015.  There have been several MCU films released since then as part of Phase 3.  So here I go with an “updated” listing.  There will be a little bit of changes to fit the new films in but my guess is the top film and the bottom film will probably still be the same. And I’m sure I will revisit this list and adjust accordingly as time goes on and even more films are released.  So here is the list (from least favorite to favorite):

17.) Thor:  The Dark World

The sequel to Thor resides at the bottom of the list.  Nothing against this film.  I enjoyed it but compared to the rest of the MCU and specifically to the first one, this one isn’t as good.  To me, the plot felt kinda disjointed and the Dark Elves could’ve been used better (or at least have potential to carry over into future films).  As you will probably notice in this list, Phase 2 films will occupy a lot of the lower ends of this list.  I’ll address that more here in a little bit.

16.)  Iron Man 3

While I do enjoy the reference to Tennessee in this film (though there is no location in Tennessee where Tony Stark visits), Iron Man 3 is the least enjoyable of the Iron Man trilogy.  I give it credit, it does reference The Avengers in trying to tie the story in the aftermath of those events on Stark.  However, it feels disjointed and the ending, while makes sense if you look at it as just an Iron Man trilogy, does not make sense when you look at the bigger MCU picture.  Hence, why it’s so far down on my list.

15.) Iron Man 2

The lowest film in Phase 1, Iron Man 2 is better than Iron Man 3 but compared to the rest of the MCU films, it’s not as enjoyable for me.  It does have the debut of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and she does a great job.  But when compared to the first Iron Man, this one misses the mark.

Captain America:  Civil War

I mentioned before (and will again shortly) about some films being higher on other people’s lists and some being lower.  This is one that probably for a lot of people would be higher but not on my list.  Like Winter Soldier, I’m not a big fan of the tone of this film.  I’m not a big fan of the impetus for the big clash between Cap & Stark.  I’m not a big fan in general of the portrayal of many of the characters in this film with the exception of Black Panther & Spider-Man.  So Avengers 2.5 as I’ve liked to call it is this far down on the list.

13.) Captain America:  The Winter Soldier

This will be the film that most will be higher on their lists.  Why is it so low on my list?  There are a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t like that they blew up S.H.I.E.L.D..  I get why they did it but I think there were a lot of miles they could’ve traveled with S.H.I.E.L.D. still working and on top of that I didn’t like that they said Hydra was pretty much around inside S.H.I.E.L.D. nearly the entire time of existence.  Two, compared to the first Captain America film, I didn’t necessarily like the tone.  Granted, I’m in the minority on that thought but that’s just me.  It’s a good film and probably out of all the Phase 2 films, it ties most into Avengers:  Age of Ultron the best.  But if I am going to choose between which Captain America film I’m going to watch, this one wouldn’t be my first choice.

12.) Thor

Out of the origin story films, Thor is the lowest.  I like Thor but again compared to other MCU films, it ranks lower.  I like the tone of this film better than The Dark World.  It helps that Loki is more prominent in this film as opposed to the sequel.  I will say the next several films are tough to rank because they are all kinda bunched up together.

11.) Avengers:  Age of Ultron

I’m sure that this film will be one that will be higher on other lists.  And I enjoyed it when I saw it in the theater.  However, the main problem that I had with the film is what made it less enjoyable than some other films.  That problem was continuity.  If you view the film on its own, it’s fine.  However, when you tie it in to the other MCU films, there are problems.  One of the main problems is the end of Iron Man 3 and zero explanation of how Stark went from the end of that film to Age of Ultron.  Hydra is barely around in the film and is a secondary villain at best.  The action scenes were great and I really like that they gave Hawkeye some quality screen time.  He was probably the best character in the film.  I’m going on record as saying this will probably be my least favorite Avengers film.

10.) Thor: Ragnarok

The newest MCU film as of this writing.  You can go back to my recent post to see my overall thoughts on the film.  In regards to this ranking, it is the best of the “trilogy” films so far and the best Thor film.  But in trying to be a Thor film, a Guardians film & a Hulk film, it finds itself here.  I like it better than Age of Ultron which has now become the MCU baseline film for these rankings.

9.) The Incredible Hulk

This will be the film that is lower on a lot of lists.  But I really enjoyed this film.  And I thought Edward Norton did a great job as Bruce Banner/The Hulk and I loved Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (which is another complaint about Age of Ultron, they dismiss Ross and have Banner together with Romanov…but given that Barton is married in MCU, that option wasn’t available, anyway…).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Mark Ruffalo fan and what he’s done with the role.  But this film tells a really good story.  I do hope at some point there is another Hulk standalone film.  But until then, this is the one.

8.) Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Guardians Volume 2 is the highest ranking sequel on the list.  It did a great job of taking a lot of what worked in the first film and furthering the story along.  It hits the right tones of action, drama & comedy and ties things together with the first film.

7.) Ant-Man

Since the last ranking, Ant-Man dropped out of the top 5 because there were two good films that I liked more but it was tough.  I would definitely say the second half of this top 10 are really bunched together.  I’ll mention again why I really enjoyed this film is that it has the same beats as the first Iron Man.  Paul Rudd is Scott Lang & that totally is what makes the film work so well.

6.) Spider-Man:  Homecoming

These next two films were so hard to rank.  I almost could’ve went with a tie for fifth.  But I decided to go the first MCU Spider-Man film or as I also like to call it “The Redemption of Tony Stark”.  This film not only fully introduced Spider-Man into the MCU but redeemed Tony Stark after the events of Civil War.  It is one of the best Spider-Man films (which reminds me I should rank those at some point) and right up there in the MCU.

5.) Doctor Strange

I would guess this film might rank lower in some lists but I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange was great (even though it’s still weird hearing him with an American accent).  The vibe and feel of the film work well together and the story is compelling.  I would highly recommend watching the film while listening to the director’s commentary.  That is probably one of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard for a film.  So far this would be my favorite Phase 3 film and it does show that for the most part I’ve enjoyed the Phase 3 films more than Phase 2.

4.) Captain America:  The First Avenger

Captain America is one of my favorite superhero characters.  And I love the retro feel of this film.  In many ways those two characteristics are what make this film more enjoyable in my mind than The Winter Soldier and Civil War.  I wish though that the Red Skull had survived (and maybe he did, who knows?) but the tone of this film makes the rewatchability more enjoyable.

3.) Guardians of the Galaxy

The best Phase 2 film to me, this film was a lot of fun.  Of course the cast of characters makes the film that much enjoyable.  The film was unlike any other Marvel film up to that point and it’s charm and quirkyness make it stand out to me.  If there is one Phase 2 film I could watch, this would be the one.

2.) Iron Man

The original classic.  The one that started the whole thing.  I love the first Iron Man.  The story it tells is great.  If one goes back and rewatches it now one can see how dated it was.  There was talk of MySpace and there weren’t really any smart phones and a digital camera was used to take a picture.  But it still holds up really well.

1.) The Avengers

To me, the first Avengers film is my favorite.  I love the action.  I love the story.  I love the soundtrack.  It is an awesome film.  If I’m choosing Avengers films, this is the one I’m more likely to go with (that may change when Infinity War comes around but as of right now this is it).

So that’s my list.  Like I said, it’s a ranking of which ones I enjoy the most.  All of them are good films and can watch them again and again.  There was some shuffling around and obviously next year there will be even more shuffling.

A Story of Threes: Thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok

I went and saw Thor: Ragnarok which is the third Thor film and another in the long line of Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  Overall, I really liked the film but there’s a lot to unpack with that.  I will say in advance there will probably be spoilers so be warned.

The reason why I title this post “A Story of Threes” is because there are several connections to the number three.  First, this is the third Thor film (and also interestingly the third MCU film released this year).  At the heart of the film you have the three “children” of Odin: Thor, Loki & Hela.  And what I’ll get into a little more later, this film feels like three films in one: a Thor film, a Guardians of the Galaxy film and a Hulk film.

Like its previous “third films” (Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War) this film is beholden to not only the previous two Thor films but the MCU as a whole.  That is both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing because there is so much to mine from the MCU.  It is a curse because there are times when continuity is ignored or thrown out the window (which can be helpful or hurtful given the context).  In the sense of connectivity (both within the Thor series & then in the MCU as a whole), I thought this film for the most part did a good job with just a couple of exceptions.

Here are some of the things about the film I really enjoyed:

*The action sequences.  This was probably the best fighting scenes in any Thor film and ranks right up there in any MCU film.  It was intense, it was hard hitting and it was impactful.

*The music.  I thought this was one of the best soundtracks for an MCU film.  When I saw who was the composer of the film (Mark Mothersbaugh) it made a lot of sense.  The music throughout the film was right on as well as including the Led Zeppelin song “Immigrant Song” in several key scenes.

*The performance by Anthony Hopkins as Odin.  This was probably his best work in any of the Thor films though it’s brief.  He commanded the screen and his time was meaningful.  My guess is his performance will not be as acknowledged as some others but I thought it was one of the best.

*Speaking of best performances, this was probably the best Loki in any MCU film.  Tom Hiddleston was right in that sweet spot of being mischievous and caring, between a villain and a hero.  I thought the director (Taika Waititi) did a great job in finding that perfect place for Loki and how he interacts with the universe.

*And speaking of villains, Cate Blanchett as Hela was one of the best Marvel villains (though I like when she plays a hero, she can play a great villain).  Like Hopkins as Odin, she commands the screen when she’s on there.  She was a viable threat, which is sometimes a hit or miss proposition in the MCU at times.  When she was around, she was one not to mess around with.

*Also, I thought this was the best looking Hulk they’ve done.  Granted with CGI technology ever advancing, this is to be a given.  But it really does look cool how Hulk looks now even from Avengers: Age of Ultron.  When Banner is Hulk you can see a little of Banner in the face which I thought was a really cool touch.

Now here’s what I didn’t like about the film:

*Remember when I mentioned that this film felt like a Thor film, a Guardians film & a Hulk film?  Well that’s what this film felt like.  The Thor part (because Thor is in it), a Guardians film (because they tried to drop a lot of jokes into it) and a Hulk film (because of Hulk getting a lot of screen time).  The first two Thor films were pretty jokeless.  It feels like this film tried to make up for that.  There were some good funny moments.  But this one right out of the gate felt like it was just trying to get laughs.  Like it was trying to pull jokes out instead of them coming naturally.

It also felt like half the film was a Hulk film.  It was like they decided to make a Planet Hulk film right in the middle of Thor and book ended by the Thor story.  It makes me wish we could get a solo Hulk film and really explored that storyline.  I think it also shortchanged Hela because there was a good chunk of the film she’s not there.  I really enjoyed Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster but I could’ve done with more Hela and saved the Grandmaster for another film.

*Three words: Marvel Villain Syndrome (all I’ll say is if you seen most Marvel films, you know what I mean)

*The connective tissues to the previous films was lacking in several key components.

1) The handling of Jane Foster.  It was a throwaway line that describes why she’s not around.  I don’t know if that’s on Marvel or on Natalie Portman but for a character that in the comics is so tied to the Thor storyline is non existent at this point is sad.

2) #WhereisSif.  Lady Sif is nowhere to be seen, there is no mention of her.  Nothing.  Considering the fact that Asgard is attacked by Hela.  Considering the fact that the Warriors Three all die.  No Sif.  Jane Foster gets a throwaway line of “breaking up with Thor” but Sif gets no mention at all.  Where is one of the most mighty warriors of Asgard?

3)How did Hulk get to Sakaar?  At the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hulk is flying off in the Quinjet but how does the jet get into space? It’s not like Hulk was like “I’m going to space now”.  The comics version of how Hulk got to Sakaar would’ve maybe been better served to use than how this happened.

Like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok has a lot of masters to serve.  It has to serve the story in the film itself, the story of the trilogy of films of that series, and the MCU as a whole.  For it’s part, Thor: Ragnarok was a fun film in and of itself, probably the best third film in the MCU.  But between trying to be three films in one, it’s not one my favorite MCU film.  I do think that Marvel is on the right path toward Avengers: Infinity War and I can’t wait until February for Black Panther.

Updated 2017 Book List

Here is another update for the list of books read in 2017:

Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

College Ministry 101: A Guide to Working with 18-25 Year Olds by Chuck Bomar

Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary by Ernie Johnson Jr.

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Plan B by Pete Wilson

Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed The Movies by Mark Clark

Godzilla FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of the Monsters by Brian Solomon

Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation by Susan J. Napier

What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Church by Dave Anderson & Tim Wilcox

Updated 2017 Book List

Here is the updated book list for this year:

Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

College Ministry 101: A Guide to Working with 18-25 Year Olds by Chuck Bomar

Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary by Ernie Johnson Jr.

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Plan B by Pete Wilson

Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed The Movies by Mark Clark

Godzilla FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of the Monsters by Brian Solomon

Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation by Susan J. Napier

What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert