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I hope you enjoyed my Top 15 Movies of 2012 list!  You can click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

Now let’s jump into my second Best of 2012 list, my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!

First up, some honorable mentions.  They didn’t make by best-of list, but I really enjoyed The Manhattan Projects, Secret, The Massive, the publication of Alan Moore’s last scripted issue of Supreme, the conclusion of RASL, Ultimate Spider-Man (dropping off my best-of list for the first time since I started doing this, but still a great comic book), Daredevil: End of Days, and Peter David’s X-Factor.

15. Batman Beyond: Unlimited I am loving this continuation of the world of Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Beyond series.  The comic has picked up on many terrific story-lines left hanging by the show’s conclusion, including Terry’s membership in the Justice League, Superman’s return to Metropolis, Terry’s relationship with Dana, the tragic events that befell former Robin Tim Drake (as depicted in the Return of the Joker DVD movie), and at last the introduction of Dick Grayson into Batman Beyond continuity.  With the Justice League and the New Gods front-and-center, as well as a revitalized Jokerz gang, the stories feel suitably big and epic.  I love that each issue is double-sized, with several serialized stories running concurrently.  The art is a little inconsistent on some of the features, but I love Dustin Nguyen’s work, and I am absolutely delighted to see the great Norm Breyfogle once again illustrating a Batman comic.

14. Winter SoldierEd Brubaker’s final Captain America story-line has been terrific, returning full-circle to where his Captain America epic began years ago, with a still-alive Bucky Barnes operating on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, trying his best to be a hero in the murky world of spies and shadows.  I love the relationship between Barnes and the Black Widow.  I love how heavily SHIELD and Nick Fury are involved in the story.  I love Butch Guice’s spectacular illustrations, at once retro and very modern.  This is a great noirish super-hero story, and I’m going to be sorry to see it end.

13. BatwomanJ.H. Williams III’s lavishly illustrated series continues to impress me.  Without question, the main draw is J.H. Williams III’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous art, so creative in terms of page and panel layout, and his use of different artistic styles for different characters/settings.  But Mr. Williams has also been doing fine work as the writer, spinning a great mystery yarn that is grounded but not afraid to embrace the supernatural or the super-heroic.  The latest story-line, featuring … [continued]

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In response to this summer’s lousy Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man (click here for my review), comes this great article on 10 Remakes that Got it Right.  There are some really intriguing films on this list that I have never seen, but have been immediately placed on my “to-watch” list…

It’s old news by now, but I haven’t yet waxed poetic on this site about how excited I am that Peter Jackson has expanded his adaptation of The Hobbit from two films to a trilogy!  Very exciting.  The hints of obscure bits of story from the Lord of the Rings appendices that Mr. Jackson is going to be filming in order to flesh out the story are even more exciting still.  The battle of Dol Goldur??  Awesome!!

The new X-Men film is going to be Days of Future Past??? That’s hugely exciting, but also very worrisome.  Days of Future Past is one of the greatest X-Men stories (heck, one of the greatest comic book stories) of all time.  The idea of that being adapted into a film is extraordinary!!  Bravo to Bryan Singer and xx on taking on this iconic story.  But the thought of a BAD version of Days of Future Past would be horrifying.  I was burned by X3′s brutalization of the Dark Phoenix Saga (probably THE greatest X-Men story of all time), and that’s a pain not easily forgotten… I am crossing my fingers and toes about this one…

Speaking of Bryan Singer, why the heck is he still developing a Battlestar Galactica movie?  Do we really need another version of Galactica, after Ron Moore’s fabulous TV series…?  The only place to go is down…

I am excited to see DC’s upcoming animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal “Last Batman Story” The Dark Knight Returns. (DKR was a strong source of material for Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, as I noted in my review.)  However, this first trailer leaves me underwhelmed in the extreme.  This trailer should have been slow, spooky, and reverent, selling us on a world that had moved on without Batman.  Instead, it seems to be selling a zippy animated adventure.  I hope this doesn’t reflect the tone of the finished product.

In happier news — Larry David, Dave Mandel, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer (key players on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland, Paul) are working together on a new movie for HBO?  Can’t wait!!… [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Amazing Spider-Man

July 6th, 2012
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I went into the theatre very dubious about the prospects for The Amazing Spider-Man being any good.  I adored Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies.  I felt they captured the character of Spider-Man absolutely perfectly, and they were a heck of a lot of fun.  Spider-Man 3 was a huge mis-step, but I felt there was still plenty of life in the series, so I was disappointed when Mr. Raimi and Sony parted company.  I would have liked to have seen him have an opportunity to make a great Spider-Man 4 that would erase the bad memories of the third installment.

But as disappointed as I was to hear that Mr. Raimi wouldn’t be returning to the series, and that Sony planned on re-casting all of the main roles, I was even more disappointed to hear that they planned to start the series over from zero, and re-tell Spidey’s origin.  What is the point of that?  Why waste half a movie re-telling an origin that everyone knows, and that everyone saw so recently in the wildly successful first Spider-Man film??  I would have vastly preferred had they just re-cast the roles, maybe spent five minutes at the start of the film (maybe during the opening credits) re-establishing the origin, and then gone on to tell a great new Spider-Man story with these new actors.

So I was greatly surprised that I actually quite enjoyed the first hour of The Amazing Spider-Man. This revamped version of Spidey’s origin wasn’t dull or ridiculous, I found myself surprisingly taken by it, and by the family drama we were watching unfold.  I don’t think the perfect origin story crafted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko all those years ago needed all the added drama of making a big deal about the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents (the movie suggests that they were up to big secret things, and that they left young Peter in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May because they feared for their lives), but as executed in the film I didn’t have a problem with this new version of events.  The film totally re-works the chain of events leading to Uncle Ben’s death, changes that were totally unnecessary bordering on baffling, BUT somehow I still felt it all worked.  The moment is powerful, and I liked the new way they found to made Peter culpable (in not stopping the criminal, earlier, when he had a chance).  It’s a dreadful, horrible moment, and it works.

It’s a shame, then, that the rest of The Amazing Spider-Man is such a disappointing mess!

I have a lot of problems with the film, but they boil down to three main mistakes.

1.  [continued]

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A Tale of Two Super-Hero Posters

December 13th, 2011
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Last week saw the release of teaser posters for two big super-hero movies coming out in Summer 2012, and they pretty powerfully indicate why I’m far more interested in one of these films than the other.

First is Christopher Nolan’s third (and apparently final) Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises:


What a powerful image.  Obviously with Bane (the villain known for crippling Batman during the Knightfall story-line from the comics in the ’90s), the meaning behind the title The Dark Knight Rises begins to take shape.  (Is Bats going to struggle to walk again after being broken by Bane?)  Christopher Nolan is apparently swearing up and down that this movie represents his final Batman film, and I am really curious to see how much of a “last Batman story” this film is going to be.  Just how finale is this finale going to be?  I’m intrigued and very excited.

Then there’s this poster, for The Amazing Spider-Man:

It’s actually a pretty cool image, but that tag-line “The Untold Story” just bugs the hell out of me.  No, it’s NOT an untold story.  Spider-Man’s origin has been told countless times and countless ways, and we saw it really well done on film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film less than a decade ago!  I’m already annoyed enough that they’re rebooting this great franchise.  This rather defensive tag-line just irritates me even more.  Just tell a great new Spider-Man story!  I don’t mind that there’s a whole new cast.  Just go tell a great new Spidey story and I’ll be there.  I don’t need to sit through another version of the origin story.

Sheesh.… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

The casting announcements have been coming fast and furious for the new Spider-Man film, but I just can’t muster up much excitement.  I simply think it’s a terrible idea to re-boot the Spider-Man franchise, which felt to me like it still had a ton of gas in the tank (despite my dislike of Spider-Man 3).  Take the recent news that Rhys Ifans will be playing The Lizard in the new film.  That should be exciting news — I think the Lizard is a great Spidey villain.  But I’m just bummed that they’re finally using The Lizard in a Spidey film and the great Dylan Baker — who appeared as Dr. Curt Connors in ALL THREE previous Spider-Man films — isn’t going to get to play the character.

Speaking of big announcements about which I just can’t muster up too much excitement is the news that George Lucas will be releasing the Star Wars movies back to theatres in 3D, as well as the follow-up announcement that they’re also working on 3-D conversions of the Indiana Jones films.  On the one hand, any excuse to see the Star Wars and Indy films back on the big screen is exciting.  (After having so much fun seeing Back to the Future back on the big screen, I’ve been hoping that other studios would follow suit and bring some of their best films back to theatres so we can enjoy them as they were meant to be seen.)  But I’m not so excited about the 3-D conversions.  That has the potential to be cool, but a big part of me would really just rather see a beautifully restored 2-D print of those films.  Also, Lucas has unfortunately decided to release the Star Wars films one per year, in order of episode number — which means he’s starting with Episode I, and we won’t get to see The Empire Strikes Back until something like 2016!!  That stinks!

I’ve been interested in the upcoming sci-fi film Skyline ever since seeing the trailer.  But I’m even more interested now, after reading Mr. Beaks’ great piece at AICN about how Colin & Greg Strause basically made the film independently, free from studio oversight or interference.  I can’t wait to see what they’ve put together.

Check out this amazing web-site that contains a treasure trove of footage of Andy Kaufman performing throughout his career, arranged chronologically.  Astounding.

I’d never heard of this movie before seeing the trailer, but now I’m intrigued:

The combination of Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films) and Simon Pegg is genius, and it’s exciting to see John Landis directing again!

Like most viewers, … [continued]

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With Great Power…

I love comic books. And that means that I grew up with a great love of super-hero stories. These days its true that many of my favorite comic books have little to do with super-heroes (looking through my “to-read” pile I see titles like David Lapham’s Young Liars, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower adaptation, Jeff Smith’s new boot RASL, Mike Mignola’s BPRD and Abe Sapien, Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, to name just a few.) But there is still something about a great super-hero yarn that really excites me. (For instance, I’ve been reading and throughly enjoying Ed Brubaker’s run on Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis’ work on Avengers and Secret Invasion, and Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men.)

That love of a good super-hero tale extends to movies. While working on these new Iron Man cartoons, and thinking about the movies still ahead this summer (Hellboy II, The Dark Knight, and The Incredible Hulk), I’ve been thinking about what makes a great super-hero movie.

Here are my five favorite super-hero movies of all time:

5. Unbreakable — Back when I loved M. Night Shyamalan, he made this fantastic little tale about a man (Bruce Willis) who discovers that he cannot be injured. There are no costumes, no witticisms, none of the silly trappings that have come to be associated with super-heroes and super-hero movies. Just a compelling story with some terrific under-played acting from a great cast (Bruce Willis has never been better than he is here as the sad, empty man who discovers that he is different), and some really interesting scene composition, shot set-ups, and editing choices from director Shyamalan.

4. Hellboy — Adapted from a series of mini-series written and gorgeously illustrated by Mike Mignola, Hellboy follows the adventures of a paranormal investigator who is actually a demon from Hell himself. Who loves pancakes. The comic is a wonderfully bizarre, textured mix of fairy tales, folklore and some good old-fashioned monster-fighting action. The film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, and the man tapped to direct the upcoming two films based on The Hobbit) is a remarkable realization of Mignola’s comic. The splendid, consistently under-rated Ron Perlman is brilliant as Hellboy, bringing enormous depth and warmth to the character despite all the red rubber makeup.

3. Spider-Man 2 — Like Hellboy, Spider-Man 2 is another film whose greatest strength is the way it is able to distill the essence of a beloved (albeit much more widely-known) comic book character into a compelling film all its own. Tobey Maguire was born to play the stiff, dorky Peter Parker who one day discovers that with great power comes great responsibility. … [continued]

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Summer (Movie) Lovin’ (OR How Die Hard IV is like The Godfather Part III)

I thought 2007 was a tremendous year for movies. Here are just a handful of terrific ’07 flicks that I saw: Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited, Grindhouse, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Simpsons Movie, The Mist, Gone Baby Gone, Margot at the Wedding, 300, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Juno, Charlie Wilson’s War, Ratatouille…I could go on and on.

And yet my recollection is that 2007 saw one of the most disappointing crop of big-budget summer movies in recent memory.   Other than a couple of the comedies mentioned above (Knocked Up, Superbad, and The Simpsons Movie), I found myself continually disappointed by practically every single summer flick I saw.   Those include:

Spider-Man 3 – What a disaster.   I’ve been mocking it for two weeks on this site, and we have barely plumbed the depths of my disappointment.   The first hour is pretty good (well, except for the whole Harry-has-amnesia thing), but then it just all falls to pieces.   Peter Parker combs his bangs over his forehead to show that us he’s evil.   Sandman agrees to help Venom kill Spider-Man for no reason whatsoever (an act made even more ridiculous considering that the whole first half of the movie bent over backwards to show us that Sandman is really an OK guy just trying to help his daughter).   That awful, awful dance number.   The way Gwen Stacy’s character is completely forgotten about.   That awful, awful dance number.   Ugh.

Shrek 3 –Mildly entertaining at best.

Transformers – Very much like ID4 to me — Big and dumb.   Like ID4, it was a ton of fun to see in the theatre for the first time – lots of eye-candy explosions, lots of great “audience cheering” moments – I would be dishonest if I claimed it wasn’t a blast.   But I really wish the movie was a bit smarter.   Optimus and the gang acting like idiots trying to hide around Spike Witwicky’s house (“my bad”) is kind of like Jeff Goldblum using his Mac powerbook to download a virus into the alien mothership’s computer.   I can’t see myself re-watching this too many times.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – I really didn’t like Pirates of the Caribbean 1 or Pirates of the Caribbean 2, so I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Die Hard IV – To me, Live Free or Die Hard is kind of like The Godfather Part III. Hang on, bear with me.   I have always defended The Godfather Part III. My assertion is that if it had some other title, people would think it was a pretty decent gangster flick.   Not amazing, but enjoyable.   But because it’s the Godfather Part III, viewers compare … [continued]