Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Marvel Cinematic Universe So Far

In a mere eight years, the Marvel Comic Company has taken the characters and properties that they still own the movie rights to and produced something unlike anything cinema has ever seen. They didn’t just create another franchise. The intertwined a series of franchises into one cinematic world with no end in sight. Eight years and ten films, if one counts the instalment coming later this year “The Guardians of the Galaxy.” That film promises to blow the Marvel Cinematic Universe up into whole new levels of awesome, expanding things beyond superheroes into space opera. Hopefully they will pull it off.

Meanwhile, here is a personal ranking of the films they have released so far:

1. “The Avengers” (2012) Joss Whedon

The team-up film that no one thought they could pull off, and that every comic fan has always wanted to see.

2. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) The Russo Brothers

Great action AND it is also about something.

3. “Ironman” (2008) John Favreau

The film that made all of this possible, renewed Downey’s career, and made general audiences aware of a Marvel hero that wasn’t Spiderman or an X Man.

4. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) Joe Johnston

The period piece of the series. Also, Captain America is a boyscout superhero that really works as a concept.

5. “Ironman 3” (2013) Shane Black

Shane Black’s comic sensibilities really refine the comedic series of the bunch.

6. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) Alan Taylor

This is well-made nonsense.

7. “Ironman 2” (2010) John Favreau

This is where everything was teetering on the edge of failure. The story almost collapses under the weight of Marvel trying to set up further films.

8. “Thor” (2011) Kenneth Branague

Mixing a fantasy environment into the “real world” setting of the other films.

9. “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) Louis Leterrier

I’m not sure Marvel had a good handle on things at this point.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014)

The phenomenon Marvel has been creating in Hollywood the past decade or so has been a lot of fun. Even when the films are more flash than philosophy—more entertaining trivialities than idea-filled theater—the idea of creating a series of entertaining franchises that intertwine with each other and pulling it off successfully has been amazing to watch. Of course, part of the success lies in the fact that they do occasionally have something to say, like in the case of the first “Ironman” or the first “Captain America.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Faith is Alive and (Not) Well

People are not estranged from the concept of faith. In fact, in this postmodern era we live in they are more open to it than they were in the modern age. The problem is that faith, as it is understood today, has very little to do with truth or even with facts. People have abandoned the idea that truth can be known, and they have truly embraced the buffet approach to faith. Pick and choose what you want to believe, based on any old standard you like. Most likely based on how you feel.

People’s beliefs based on anything but fact range from the idea that we are causing a drastic climate change (that is apparently hiding out deep in the ocean since it isn’t appearing in any of the data) to the idea that life-saving vaccines are causing an illness that—while not identified until recently—has been around long before the vaccines they claim cause it. Whatever “works” for you is good for you to believe, and by “works” people don’t mean that your faith has to affect your life at all. It just has to be what makes you feel good.

People need to believe. Faith has been a part of human existence since humans have been around. The need to relate to truth beyond nature is a part of our reality. I would say it is how we have been made. We were made to relate to our Maker. But up until the past Century or so, that faith needed to make sense. It needed to prove itself true over time.

The worst part about all of this faith as feeling, about the way people treat beliefs as a matter of fashion choice—like selecting the type of underwear you wear—is that it makes having a real discussion about a faith that works nearly impossible. And that makes shining the light a challenging task.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Inheriting the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-31)

This is one of the more well-known and oft-repeated stories in Mark’s Gospel. And yet there are a couple lines that we in Western/American culture almost always overlook. The first is that which comes immediately following Jesus’ instruction to the young man that he sell everything he owns. Jesus says “come, follow me.” This is the same exact calling that Jesus issued his disciples when He called them. It is the same calling that all those who follow Jesus heed when they enter into a relationship with Him and join the Kingdom of God. (Not all who are called “Christians” have heard or obeyed this calling, but then again “asking Jesus into your heart” and accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord are not the same thing.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Rounding Out the Animated FIlms of the Teens So Far:

Here are the remaining animated films of the teens so far, ranked:

16. “Tangled” (2010) 
If “Frozen” is this generation’s “Beaty and the Beast”, this is their “Little Mermaid.”

17. “Rise of the Guardians” (2012) 

18. “Cars 2” (2011) 
I still don’t like the concept, but at least it is funny. more

19. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” (2013) 
“I’m gonna cut the cheese!”

20. “Puss n Boots” (2011) 
Taking the Shrek world to a whole new level of intricacy.

21. “Despicable Me” (2010) 
The better of the two “let’s empathize with bad guys” movies.

22. “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) 
OK, but so much potential, wasted. more

23. “Turbo” (2013) 

24. “Rio” (2011) 

25. “Megamind” (2010) 
The lesser. Mostly for lack of minions. more

26. “Arthur Christmas” (2011) 
I almost dislike this. more

27. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (2012) 

28. “Shrek Forever After” (2010) 

29. “Gnomio and Juliet” (2011) 

30. “Dr. Suess’ The Lorax” (2012) 
Worst ever?
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