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.

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My Favorite Films of 2015

As we’re coming to the end of 2015, I thought I would share my list of favorite films of 2015.  They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan is the story of two people each at their own crossroads.  Ryan (played by Ben Barnes) is a vagabond musician who rides the rails and stops to make some money playing music.  Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a newly single mom who is trying to rebuild her life after a divorce.  The two meet and each help the other to find the direction that each needs to take.  It wasn’t a well known movie but I really enjoyed it. (Technically this film debuted in Venice in 2014 but wasn’t released in the US until 2015 so it counts as a 2015 movie)

I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird

Probably the best documentary of 2015, I Am Big Bird tells the story about the life of Caroll Spinney.  He is best know for his role as Big Bird (as well as Oscar the Grouch) on Sesame Street.  With classic footage, some pretty cool animation as well as interviews from people who know Caroll best (as well as from the man himself), it is a great film and one that any fan of Big Bird and Sesame Street.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) as a widow who in her former life was a musician and songstress.  She is kind of stuck in a rut until she encounters and befriends a young man who fixes pools as well as an older gentlemen (played by Sam Elliott) whom she falls in love with.  Those two relationships help her to see that there’s still more to life and to enjoy the people she is with including her daughter and her close best friends.  I love a good story and this film tells a good story.

Love and Mercy

Love And Mercy

Love and Mercy is the biopic of the co-founder of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.  The film tells his story in two parts switching back between young Brian Wilson in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) while he was with the band and the success that he had and older Brian Wilson in the 1980s (played by John Cusack) while he was in the midst of dealing at his lowest point with his mental health and how he helped to overcome that.  Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also have strong roles in the film.  I’m a fan of a good biopic and this was a really good one.  (This was also a 2014 film with premiere in Toronto International Film Festival but didn’t get released until 2015)

When Marnie Was There

Marnie

When Marnie Was There holds the distinction (for the moment) of being the last Studio Ghibli film to be released (now granted Only Yesterday will finally get a English dubbing & theatrical release in a few months but this so far is the last new feature).  It is adapted from a book by the same name and tells the story of Anna, a 12 year old girl who goes to live with some relatives in the summer to help deal with her asthma.  While she’s there she meets Marnie, a young girl who helps Anna to learn more about herself and that she is truly loved by her family.  I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I really enjoyed this film. (Yes I know this is a 2014 film released in Japan but the English dub of the film released this year so it counts)

Inside Out

Inside Out

One could say now we’re getting to the “big time” films.  Inside Out was the first Pixar film of 2015 and in my opinion was the better film.  It tells the story of a young girl named Riley and the “emotions” that are inside her head.  These emotions (Happy, Sad, Fear, Anger, Disgust) interact and help shape Riley as she grows up.  When a move from Minnesota to San Francisco changes things for Riley and her family, there a lot of changes.  These changes also include the emotions learning to change and grow as well.  It is like many Pixar films in that they work on multiple levels.  I loved it and it’s in my top 5 of favorite Pixar films of all time.

Furious 7

Furious 7

I love the Fast and the Furious series of films all the way back to the first one.  So I was excited to see this film as well and it didn’t disappoint me.  This film, like it’s predecessors, is your blockbuster action type movie.  It was a finale of sorts because of the death of Paul Walker which meant his character’s story arc was ending and they did a good job of finishing that story (without killing the character off).  I know there will be a few more films in this series and hopefully they will do as good a job of sticking to what they’re good at with the series.

Ant-Man

Ant Man

Out of the two Marvel films and all the superhero films that released in 2015, Ant-Man was my favorite.  I loved the story of Scott Lang and how an unlikely guy like him became a superhero.  Paul Rudd did a great job as Scott and was a big fan of his in the film (and like me, Paul is a huge Kansas City Royals fan so it was a very good year for him).  The rest of the cast was great too with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll and others.  It had a great mix of comedy and drama and I think sets itself up well for what’s going to happen in Phase 3 of the MCU.

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

I am a huge Peanuts fan.  I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic strips.  My first dog I ever had was a beagle named Snoopy.  So I was super excited for this film to release.  Probably out of any film not named Star Wars, I had the most expectations on this film.  And it didn’t disappoint at all.  I loved this film.  It told a story that is very Charlie Brownesque.  It was a Peanuts movie through and through.  It was a classic story told with 21st century technology (CGI animation).  They got it right with the tone and story and it is an example of what people who are telling new stories of classic franchises should do.

Creed

Rocky and Adonis

Speaking of films that get it right of telling a new story with a classic franchise, Creed is another great example.  It is a spiritual successor/sequel to the Rocky franchise.  It tells the story of Adonis Johnson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his journey to become a boxer.  It’s also the story of how he accepts being the son of Apollo Creed, combatant & friend of Rocky Balboa.  Rocky himself is really the only connection to the previous films (there are a few references and mentions and Apollo’s wife is in the film but a different actress [Phylicia Rashad] plays her in this film) and Stallone does a great job of being the Mickey to Adonis’ Rocky in this film.   It mirrors the first Rocky film but also tells its own story.  To me I feel this film deserves at least a Best Director nomination and at best a Best Picture nomination.  It was the best film not named Star Wars to me in 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This was the most anticipated film for me for 2015.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and been one since I could remember.  This was the first film of the franchise that I walked into the theater and had no idea what was going to happen (because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back released and I was 4 when I saw Return of the Jedi and by the time I saw the Special Editions when I was a teenager I had seen the films numerous times and the prequels I had some kind of idea given that they were prequels).  I loved this film.  Like Creed, this film was it’s own story but yet is connected to the films that came before it.  It had great characters (both new and old) and had a great story.  I am interested in seeing what is in store and hope that Disney and Lucasfilm continue to build on a great start to the next trilogy of the Star Wars saga.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2015.  What is your list?  Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list?  I’d love to hear what your films are.  I’m looking forward to seeing what good films there will be in 2016

Michael’s Rankings: Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

I love to do rankings every now and then.  So I figured since I recently saw Ant-Man, that I would look back and review to rank the list of Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  Let me preface this by saying that this is my ranking of the films based on my favorites.  I’m sure some films are higher on my list than in others and vice versa.  Also this is through Phase 2.  Once Phase 3 gets going next year, I’m sure I will revisit this list and adjust accordingly.  So here is the list (from least favorite to favorite):

12.) 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.

11.)  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.

10.) 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.

9.) 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.

8.) 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.

7.) 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.

6.) 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.

5.) Ant-Man

Yes, the newest entrant in the MCU makes my top 5 list.  You can see my post on the film from yesterday to see some of the reasons why I enjoyed it.  I’ll say again that it has a lot of the same beats as the first Iron Man.  It is my 2nd favorite Phase 2 film and if you haven’t seen it, you need to see it.  You really need to see it in the theater.

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.  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.  I will say that I rewatched it a couple of months ago and saw 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.  But given a choice, there’s some I’d watch first before others.  I’m looking forward to Phase 3 and seeing what’s next.

“I Know A Guy”: My Thoughts on Ant-Man

Ant-Man

So I went and saw Ant-Man today.  Granted, this was not an unexpected visit to the movie theater.  I have been looking forward to this film for a long time.  Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the comic.  Ant-Man was one of those Marvel characters that I knew about but wasn’t really into as a kid.  But given the track record of Marvel Studios, I expected this to be a fun, enjoyable film.  I expected this even with the turmoil of losing it’s original director and there were some changes to the script.

At the heart of the film is the main character Scott Lang.  Now when you think Ant-Man, you think Hank Pym.  And rightfully so, Pym was one of the original Avengers in the comics.  And Pym is in the film, but he is much older and retired.  In the comics the 2nd Ant-Man was Lang and his journey was different that Pym’s.  Lang was a thief (or he would describe a “burglar”).  But the reasons he stole in the comics was to get money to pay for medical treatments for his daughter Cassie.  He stumbled upon the suit and basically “cleaned up his act” and would become a hero.

I won’t spoil the film but I will share some of my thoughts.  The essential origin story for the 2nd Ant-Man is pretty much on par.  Lang is a burglar who is just getting out of prison for stealing from a crooked company and playing Robin Hood with the money.  He want to clean up his act and make a better way so he can be back in his daughter’s life again.  But his skills are needed when Hank Pym needs him to break into his old lab (since he no longer is a part of Pym Tech) to make sure his former protege Darren Cross doesn’t weaponize his work (which he does in the form of Yellowjacket).

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang is great.  He is that everyman that is looking for a second chance.  And at the heart of this movie is second chances.  Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) is looking for a second chance with his daughter Hope (played by Evangeline Lilly).  Hank sees helping Scott out as a way to redeem himself from the loss of his wife Janet Van Dyne (aka The Wasp) and the separation that took place with him and Hope.

In a lot of ways, this film has a lot of the same beats as the first Iron Man.  It is an origin story of a Marvel character that isn’t essentially an A character but a huge component of The Avengers.  You have the scientist and the protege (Pym and Cross).  You have the strained relationship between parent and child (Hank & Hope).  And you have the hero looking for a second chance.

The style of the film is like a heist film (which essentially that’s the plot device for it) which is different from other Marvel films and that’s a good thing.  Some of the best Marvel films have been when it is its own thing.  And Ant-Man is it’s own thing.  Granted, it’s still connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there are cameos (including the good old Stan Lee cameo) but it’s very much in the vein of other origin story movies.

As far as Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and technically it is under Phase 2), I would put Ant-Man right up there with Guardians of the Galaxy as my favorites.  It had action, it had suspense and it had a lot of good laughable moments.  And that’s a good time at the theater when you have that.  I hope the film does well because it is these type of movies that would hope Hollywood would make more of in the future.