What DC can learn from the masterpiece that is “Mask of the Phantasm”

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After finishing Stranger Things, I felt I was out of things to watch until television series start picking back up over the next couple of weeks.  So, I had the grand idea to re-watch Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the 1993 animated feature based off the animated series.  I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety since I was six or seven years old, picking up parts of it on television every now and then.  Having seen the film again, I concluded that not only it is a masterpiece, but that DC and Warner Bros can take some ideas and apply it to their upcoming films, especially those involving Batman.

***Spoilers for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ahead.***

Handling Batman’s One Bad Day

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One of the most understood criticism’s of Batman’s first appearance in the DCEU is that it gives us a third retelling of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  Granted, the death of Bruce’s parents are his single biggest motivator (a part of the character I felt was missing from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), but Mask of the Phantasm is able to show the emotional gravity Bruce still feels from their death in the perfect way.  He visits their grave, and often looks to their portrait for advice.  All of this, and we don’t see their murder in Crime Alley.  Mask of the Phantasm handles Bruce’s parent’s death in a way that DC should recreate.  No flashbacks, no back story, and no Martha from this point on, but we do know that it is still the driving force behind why Batman puts on the cowl (we might see another reason in the DCEU, which seems more likely to me honestly, which is the death of Robin, but I think they should still have references to the dead Waynes).

The Joker is pretty much perfect in this film

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Mark Hamill’s iteration of the Joker always seems to be perfect, but his characterization in this film stands above most of the character’s other outings.  The reason is simple: Mask of the Phantasm boils down the Joker to his core concept, and that is mayhem.  Joker has no agenda in this film. His goal, as always, is to get Batman.  But everything he does is perfect, using the Future of the City as his base of operations is classic Joker vs. Batman.  Everyone likes to think that Batman is the only one equipped to deal with things when they do not go his way; Joker proves that to be wrong, especially in this film.  Of course, rigging the place to blow is classic Joker, but it goes to show that he isn’t some laughing crazy person; he is a laughing crazy person with a plan, which is how the Joker should be characterized.

It Sets the bar for original storytelling in comic book adaptations

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You’re probably right that I should consider this more of a spin-off of a television series than a comic book adaptation, but I’m not going to let that bother me.  Mask of the Phantasm is a completely original story written specifically for the screen.  Even the character of Andrea Beaumont/Phantasm was created for this movie.  DC has shown us that a story doesn’t need to adhere to the comics or even draw inspiration from the comics to create good stories (see: Harley Quinn).  With The Batman rumored to be an original story written by Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns, they could take some cues from the writers of this film.  While I do not think there will be any original characters in the DCEU anytime soon, this story shows that a successful comic book adaptation needs no basis in comic books.

It shows the struggle between Batman and Bruce Wayne

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I already touched on this a little bit, but I will expand here.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t do it, most likely because the film was already overstuffed and Bruce Wayne’s life isn’t important to the plot of that movie.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy attempted to do it, but either there was not enough of it in The Dark Knight or too much moping in The Dark Knight Rises.  Mask of the Phantasm shows us a struggle that Batman has to go through- take up a normal life with Andrea, or keep the vow he made to his parents.  This helps to humanize Batman to audiences.  We kind of saw it with Superman already in the DCEU, so why not with Batman.  We do not need a lot of it, but enough for audiences to think that he isn’t just Batman, but also Bruce Wayne (which honestly I find unlikely, especially after the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad).  

Well, those are my thoughts on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.  It really sets the bar high for DC animated movies and superhero movies in general.

What are your thoughts on Mask of the Phantasm? Let me know in the comments!

No Rules: DC and Zack Snyder Refuse to be Beholden to the Comic Books

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We are only two films into the DC Extended Universe, but one thing is clear already: DC and Zack Snyder will not play by the rules of the comics, or other superhero movies.  They are out to create their own unique world, and have already shown us that they aren’t messing around.  Spoilers for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to follow.

Batman is a killer

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The DCEU version of Batman is a killer, which goes against pretty much everything comic book Batman stands for.  We still don’t know all that much about Batfleck, other than the fact that he’s been around the block a couple of times.  Zack Snyder isn’t preoccupied with playing by the rules of comic books, he’s trying to make is own universe, for better or worse.

Superman dies before Justice League

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OK, so Henry Cavill has already been confirmed to be playing Superman in Justice League, and let’s face it, nobody ever really dies in a superhero movie.  But Snyder making the decision to kill Superman before his resurrection tells us that nobody is safe in the DCEU, unless of course they’ve already been confirmed for more solo movies… But the DCEU has taken risks that the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t.  Imagine if they killed off Iron Man before The Avengers?  That is what this is like.  I’m really disappointed that Marvel didn’t kill anyone in Captain America: Civil War, and it just goes to show that DC takes risks two films in whereas the MCU is still trying to play it safe (just forget about the fact that Civil War mopped the floor with Batman v Superman as a movie for a second).

Suicide Squad is all sorts of crazy

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And not just  because the Joker and Harley Quinn are the stars.  Suicide Squad is for many reasons one of the more interesting films to ever enter the superhero genre.  Between focusing on a group of villains and having the Joker in it, DC is signifying that the rules do not apply to them.  I hate the continued MCU comparisons, but just imagine if Marvel tried to make a movie centered around their villains.  It would not work, because their villains flat out suck compared to DC’s.  Part of it is lack of characterization for a lot of them.  One thing that DC has to be given credit for is that they have already characterized their two villains  (General Zod and Lex Luthor) pretty well, whereas Marvel has only done that with Loki.  Plus, Lex Luthor might be in Suicide Squad– my prediction is that the DCEU will feel like more of a cohesive universe than the MCU will, and you can thank Zack Snyder for that.

The DCEU isn’t preoccupied with origin stories

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Sure, we saw Superman’s origin in Man of Steel.  But almost no time was wasted on Batman’s, and we’ve already been introduced to most of the Justice League.  What is even more important, is that this is a universe that has already experienced a lot.  As I said before, Batman has been around the block a couple of times, and the best piece of evidence for this is the dead Robin’s costume.  Unlike Marvel, which created their universe from scratch, DC has already seen action in theirs.  What is more important for DC is what happens to these characters in the universe, rather than how they got there.

What do you think of these choices DC and Zack Snyder have made so far in the DCEU?  Tell me in the comments!

 

Why Batman Killing is Important

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By now, you’ve probably seen the video that shows Batman killing 21 people in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or, you noticed the level of aggression that Ben Affleck’s Batman had when you watched the film yourself.  Batman never kills, or so we are told.  But Batman killing this many people in Batman v Superman is not only important for the arc of the character, but it informs us of some things that we should expect in Justice League and future DC Extended Universe films featuring Batfleck.  Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition are contained in this post.

This isn’t you grandfather’s Batman

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The DCEU offers us a more modern version of the classic DC characters that we all know and love.  The visual style shows a maturity that previous adaptations of the characters have not had- such as Superman’s new suit lacking underwear over it and toning down the color saturation on Wonder Woman’s costume.  Not only is the visual style more mature, but so are the characters themselves.  As you can see above, we’ve come along way from Adam West holding a bowling-ball-with-a-wick type bomb and running around panicking with it.  Two films in, and the threats in the DCEU are the biggest we’ve seen in any DC movie, and they’re only going to get bigger.  So what Batman never killed in the comics? This isn’t the comics, and Batman killing is the perfect way to tell audiences that it’s a different story being told on screen.

We may know what drove Batman to kill

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Of course you remember the Robin costume with graffiti over it from inside the Batcave in Batman v Superman.   This has led to many theories of who Robin could have been, and after months of speculating, we know it is Jason Todd, who is deceased (some rumors and fan theories have suggested we may find out more about this through Jared Leto in Suicide Squad).  Perhaps the death of his trusted sidekick drove him over the edge.  We know that Affleck isn’t an idealized version of Batman who is going to do the right thing in every situation; he’s been around the block a few times, and he knows what’s up.  He is a more broken down, desperate Batman, which could lead to him killing.  Maybe all of those years of doing the ‘right thing’ and sparing the lives of Gotham’s worst only led to the death of Jason Todd, and Batman turns to killing, as he sees it is the only way to make change permanent in Gotham.

The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition shows us more of this grizzled Batman

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Batman v Superman did a good job by mostly skipping Batman’s familiar backstory; what we could have used instead was a little bit more behind Batfleck, such as his motivations.  Luckily, the Ultimate Edition of the film gives us a little bit of insight into this.  While Clark is supposed to be investigating football in Gotham, he is at an apartment where he runs into some residents of Gotham, who tell him firsthand how brutal Batman has become, warning Clark to leave the city before dark.  It is clear that Batman is tired, which could be one of the reasons he kills.

Clearly, Batman has a lot on his mind, and he also kills.  It will definitely be interesting to see where this updated, darker, older, and more desperate version of Batman goes in the next few films.

What do you think of DC’s choice to have Batman be a killer in the DCEU? Let me know in the comments!

 

The ‘Justice League’ Villain- Who Is He?

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We all know the Justice League- Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Green Lantern (who is mysteriously missing from the DCEU).  But what about the villains?  After all, any good superhero movie is only as good as it’s supervillain. Good thing is, you’ve probably already seen him.  Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition ahead.

It’s not who you think it is

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When the Justice League movie was announced, I though that Darkseid would be the main villain.  Well, turns out I was mistaken.  Darkseid will not be the main villain.  But it is not; Darkseid hasn’t been yet confirmed to even appear in the upcoming Justice League.  But Darkseid is the nephew of this character.

Darkseid’s uncle, who controls his army of Parademons

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The main villain in Justice League will be Steppenwolf, as seen here in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Steppenwolf is the uncle of Darkseid, and controls his army.  This is just a hologram of him, communicating with Lex Luthor aboard the Kryptonian ship.  This is why Lex tells Batman that “the bell has been rung”, and that it cannot be un-rung in a scene that was really benefited by the Ultimate Edition.

So what’s his business on Earth?

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Steppenwolf, along with his army, is sent by his nephew Darkseid to retrieve the three Mother Boxes, pieces of technology from Apokolips.  What is so special about these Mother Boxes that could lead to conflict?  One of them is a part of Victor Stone- the part that turned him into Cyborg.  Oh, and another one is in Atlantis, home to Aquaman.  Clearly, the meta-humans will have to band together in order to save this intergalactic threat.

Although… doesn’t one alien taking orders from a more powerful alien who comes to Earth in a plot that is centered around a piece of mysterious technology sound a bit familiar?

Either way, Justice League is shaping up to be quite the movie.  Things that DC has been establishing should begin to matriculate and the stories start to form cohesively.  The previous films in the DCEU should finally come together in Justice League, although it will also have the tall task of having to set up numerous solo movies from characters who don’t have them yet, which is different from the MCU- all of the established characters had their own stories; DC will have to invent them and put the pieces in their starting places by the end of the film; I’m sure they can do it.

Justice League hits theaters in November 2017.  How do you think it will compare to Marvel’s The Avengers? Tell me in the comments!

 

Green Lantern’s mysterious absence from the DC Extended Universe

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In brightest day, in blackest night, no Green Lantern is in my sight.

Batman? Check.  Superman? Check. Wonder Woman? Check.  Flash? Check.  Aquaman? Check.  Cyborg? Check.  Who’s missing?

Green Lantern, that’s who.  It seems like every other character in DC Comics will appear in the DCEU before or in Justice League: Part One, but that is simply not the case with one of their most popular characters- Green Lantern.  But why the mysterious absence when movie studios everywhere are looking for every possible opportunity to include every property they own in a film.

2011’s Green Lantern was the last DC Comics movie before Man of Steel kicked off the DCEU in 2013.  As Ryan Reynolds reminded us in Deadpool earlier this year, Green Lantern was a steaming pile of horse feces.  I’m purposely not mincing words here, that movie sucked.  My biggest complaint with most big-budget films is they look too fake and not real enough.  Green Lantern offended me to my very core by having a CGI Green Lantern costume for Reynolds.  Remember children, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should when referring to matters of CGI.  Not to mention the horrendous plot and all-around uninspired effort from everyone involved except for Reynolds.  Which is probably the reason that DC opted to keep the character in their back pockets when planning the DCEU.

Audiences have a shot attention span.  Who remembers Brandon Routh?  Of the pre-DCEU movies, Green Lantern was the worst by a longshot.  There were some that had a split jury in terms of quality, but there is no denying the suckfest that is Green Lantern.  By keeping him out of the news and off the movie screen, DC is trying to wipe our memories of the film.  9 years is a long time in the movie business.  Since Green Lantern, we’ve already had two Batmans and two Spider-Mans.  Think of everything that will happen between now and 2020 when Green Lantern Corps. is scheduled for release.  By that time, Green Lantern  will be a memory that feels more like a dream because you couldn’t believe how awful the movie was.

DC is also making the right move by staying relatively quiet about any news about Green Lantern Corps.  Rumors suggest that it will focus on Hal Jordan and John Stewart, and that Tyrese Gibson has been in talks to be in the movie.There have also been rumors that Hal Jordan could appear in Justice League: Part Two, but other than that, nothing is known.

Honestly, I am surprised that Green Lantern has yet to be seen, or at the very least, mentioned or referenced in some Easter Egg.  I guess we’ll just have to play the waiting game until 2020 to see what happens to Green Lantern.  There are plenty of films to fill your schedule though, with Suicide Squad later this year, and a whole slew of other DCEU films between that and 2020.

What do you think of Green Lantern’s absence in the DCEU so far? Let me know in the comments.

Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition’ and ‘Justice League’ Expectations

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Remember when you walked out of the theater after seeing this movie the first time?  If you were like me, you thought there were good parts of it but overall, the film was completely lackluster due to no clear direction and a very convoluted plot.  The Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does nothing to clear those two previous issues up, but does add some scenes that clear up some of the problems.  No spoilers ahead.

What happens here in the Ultimate Edition is addition; nothing major is added, but there is enough.  If you could follow the plot of the regular cut of the film, then you will have no problem following this one along.  Characters get added backstories, and there is a pretty good twist at the end, which I almost had to double-take at.  The Ultimate Edition does not fix the failures of its predecessor, although it is undoubtedly better.  It also does a much better job of showing us the future of the DCEU, adding in a scene towards the end that signals the arrival of a villain who will be a major player in the upcoming Justice League films.

We actually know quite a bit about the Justice League films, with Part One slated to come out next year.  Like Batman v Superman, it is being directed by Zack Snyder.   We will get a chance to see Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman in action.  I’m calling it now, Justice League will be better than the first Avengers movie.  You might say I’m full of hot air,  but hear me out.  Stop reading here if you want to avoid a spoiler-ish piece of information(not technically a spoiler since DC released the clip earlier this year, but if you didn’t know, don’t say I didn’t warn you).

What DC has over Marvel, even in the early stages of its shared universe are its villains.  DC has such great villains that they have a whole movie centered around them in Suicide Squad; could you imagine a Marvel supervillain- centered film?  I just image a room with Ronan the Accuser, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Malekith, The Mandarin/ Trevor Slattery, and Ultron arguing for two hours about their motivations.  DC has decided that the villain in Justice League will be Darkseid, who is a better villain than the Other and the faceless CGI army in The Avengers.  DC has also shown characters sharing the screen leading up to Justice League. Marvel didn’t have any of their main heroes share a screen until their team up in The Avengers.  Zack Snyder fit too much into Batman v Superman which was hopefully setting things up for his next DCEU entry, so he should be able to hit the ground running in terms of kicking off the plot in Justice League.  Mark my words, Justice League will be better than The Avengers, and remember, you heard it from me first.

What did you think of the Ultimate Edition? Do you think I’m a moron for what I’ve predicted about Justice League? Let me know in the comments.

Top 10 from the first half of 2016

Hard to believe that we are halfway through 2016 already.  In honor of this non-holiday, I’d like to rank my top 10 movies/tv shows/ etc. from the first half of 2016.  Let this also be a reminder that you should get started on those resolutions.  This is purely based off of what I have seen.

10.  House of Cards Season 4

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House of Cards season 4 premiered on Netflix in March.  The highly anticipated fourth season could not come at a more appropriate time, as the country is currently going through its own election.

Season four was definitely an improvement over season three.  There was a definite Sopranos influence this season.  Kevin Spacey delivered as always.  It will be interesting to see where they take the show and exactly how many more seasons it will last.

9.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Admittedly, this movie was a steaming pile of garbage.  Still, I felt it merited a place on my list.  Not so much a stand-alone movie as it was a trailer for Justice Leage, there is one reason that this earned a spot on my list: Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot shined through the clutter that was in this film.  It was the live action debut of the character, and DC needed a solid performance in order to solidify the character’s silver screen status.  Gadot performed; she has to give some credit to the writers for pretty muc leaving her out of the convoluted mess that was the plot of this film and for the fact that she was give the chance to shine in the final battle.

By introducing viewers to the rest of the Justice League cast members, DC did a good job at building buzz for their next installments.  Personally, I’m extremely excited after Affleck’s promising performance of the Dark Knight, and very excited for his movie, not so much for the fact that he is directing but more so the fact that Zack Snyder isn’t.

8.  X-Men: Apocalypse

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Not the strongest X-Men film made, but it was good enough to earn a spot on my list.

Brian Singer was back at it with a new cast of actors playing familiar characters.  The characters themselves seem a bit tired, although the actors playing them were fantastic, especially Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

Oscar Isaac was good enough in his role; he has quickly become one of my favorite actors in the last couple of years and this performance wasn’t as strong as those he has given in the past.  Nevertheless, this was still an entertaining film, and it got #8 on my list.

7. Fuller House

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Fuller House accomplished what so many revivals fail to do.  Bringing back the nostalgia while having a good story and progressing the characters forward isn’t always an easy task (see: Dumb and Dumber To).  Fuller House, however, manages to do all of this, mainly due to the simplicity of the story and the openness of everyone from the original show’s schedule, except for the Oslen tiwns, who must think that they are better than everyone else.

Still, Fuller House modernized its story and placed enough nostalgia trips in to earn itself a second season.  I watched all 13 episodes the day they were released, and I could not have been happier with the show.  I was caught extremely off guard when they brought back Stephanie’s husband Harry, as well as a strange appearance from San Francisco Giant’s outfielder Hunter Pence.  It’s no Sopranos, but then again, neither was the original.

6.  Daredevil Season 2

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What really got me excited about season two of Daredevil is the inclusion of more characters.  Marvel finally started taking steps to make their Netflix series more like their cinematic universe (both of which share continuity).  The best of these new characters was far and away the Punisher.  The Punisher is a character that is seemingly made for Netflix.  Jon Bernthal was awesome in the role, portraying the character’s brutality as well as his damaged side equally well.

The show’s original characters, or one of them, however, definitely hurt the ranking of this on my list.  Foggy needs to go.  That is all there is to it.  He is as annoying as that kid in class who reminds the teacher to assign homework right before the bell rings.

Still, the action was fantastic, the plot was slightly confusing, but overall it was incredibly entertaining to see Daredevil take to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for another season.  I cannot wait for The Defenders.

5.  Rogue One trailerrogue-one.jpgImage via Disney

I know what you’re thinking.  How can a trailer be on the list? When it is an extremely incredible trailer.  There isn’t much detail yet about Rogue One, the first of three Star Wars spin-offs currently planned.  However, this trailer set the internet ablaze with the new cast of characters, led by Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, who leads a mission to steal the Death Star plans intercepted by Luke in Star Wars.

Rogue One is a different kind of Star Wars movie; it is not about the typical light side vs. dark side battle.  John Williams isn’t scoring the movie either, however.  We get to see a different side of the Rebel alliance than we did in the original trilogy.  Plus, we know in a very vague sense what the results of this film are, so it will be interesting to see where Disney takes us.

4. Orange Is the New Black  Season 4

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If you couldn’t tell already, I watch a lot of Netflix.  My favorite Netflix show is Orange is the New Black.  Season 4 was simply amazing.  They dialed up the craziness in the prison to 11 this season.

What this show succeeds at is making their characters very human, which is something most dramas fail to do.  Every character on the show showcases every emotion, and none of them are one dimensional.  To see what else I have to say about the show, check out my first official review on it!

3. Captain America: Civil War

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Years from now we will look back and say that this set the bar for ‘standalone’ superhero movies.  I use the word ‘standalone’ in air quotes because while everyone ever is in this movie, it is still very much a Captain America movie.

The expectations were sky-high, and this lived up to every single one.  The action, namely from the airport scene was captivating.  The story was easy enough to understand if you were previously familiar with the other MCU and Captain America films.  The new additions of Black Panther and Spider-Man to the MCU were incredible.  This movie should have failed, if we learned anything from trying to over stuff a superhero movie from BvS :Dawn of Justice.  But it succeeded in everything it set up to do, including scattering the Avengers and leaving Earth’s mightiest heroes in disarray before numerous solo films and Infinity War.

2. Better Call Saul season 2

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This is the one show on television that everyone should be watching.  Nothing even comes close.  I haven’t seen one frame of this show that I didn’t love.  Do you remember how tightly scripted and written Breaking Bad was? This show is like that on steroids.

Led by Bob Odenkirk, the Breaking Bad prequel/spin-off is must see television every week.  Everyone thinks that Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is Breaking Bad; I tell them that Breaking Bad was just practice for Better Call Saul.

While not as obviously paced as some other television shows, the action is more subtle and requires more thinking on the part of the viewer; this , along with the stellar quality of the show, make Better Call Saul the most rewarding television experience currently on the air.

1.Deadpool

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Ryan Reynolds didn’t have his mouth sewn shut, machetes put into his forearms and play Green Lantern not to become number one with Deadpool on my list.  There has never been a more entertaining superhero movie ever made.  It is really rare that a studio nails the correct amount of language, violence, and sex to put into a movie- but Fox gave the fans what we wanted and made the film representative of the comics.

Deadpool broke down barriers for comic books; more and more R-rated superhero movies are slated to come out now (including the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Special Edition and Wolverine 3).  It could go down as the most influential superhero movie since Iron Man initiated a shared universe throughout the medium of film.


That wraps up the list.  See something that you thought should be on the list but isn’t ? Disagree with me completely? Let me know in the comments.