The Impossible Task… Ranking the Pixar Films

There is no studio quite like Pixar. Not only have they been the gold standard for cutting edge animation, but they have also routinely given us heartwarming stories that are entertaining for moviegoers of all ages. With 20 films under their belt, I decided to try my hand at ranking them. Full disclosure, making this list was like splitting hairs as most of them are sensational. Nevertheless, here is my countdown of all of Disney/Pixar’s full length films.

20. CARS 2

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Easily the black sheep of the Pixar family. While it’s more boring than terrible, this unnecessary sequel is neither thematically profound nor is it clever. Making Cars sidekick, Mater the lead and shifting the plot to being a spy film rather than focusing on racing were two mistakes that made it feel like a direct to DVD Disney film rather than a Pixar masterpiece.

Best Moment: Mater experiencing a Japanese toilet for the first time warranted a chuckle, I guess.

19. CARS 3

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The only Pixar movie that actually made me doze off upon first viewing. The story, which puts the focus back on Lightning McQueen being an athlete fading from his prime, is endearing enough. But the movie itself doesn’t have nearly enough humor or exciting moments to be considered entertaining for anyone other than young children.

Best Moment: The final race where Lightning McQueen coaches up Cruz Ramirez to victory was a nice touch.

18. THE GOOD DINOSAUR

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This movie was incredibly heartwarming and carried the Pixar torch of making audience members tear up. The problem is, it isn’t nearly original enough. A studio known for its unique characters and stories managed to make a film that ended up being a mashup of a bunch of other Disney movies we’d already seen.

Best Moment: Arlo and Spot go on a pretty wild trip off some poison berries.

17. BRAVE

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Princess Merida was a great character and her triplet brothers were hilarious. But this movie wasn’t particularly memorable. There wasn’t a ton of exciting moments and even though there were some good laughs, it can’t outweigh the fact that Brave isn’t nearly as rewatchable as many of the other Pixar movies.

Best Moment: Princess Merida makes a trip to see the quirky wood carver who moonlights as a witch.

16. CARS

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Sorry to pick on the Cars franchise, but these movies aren’t as great for audiences members of all ages. The first film in the trilogy was good, but not great. The plot was sound, and of course the animation was gorgeous, but there just wasn’t enough clever humor to make it a masterpiece. Most of the humor came from car puns and it kind of got old in this movie’s lengthy run time.

Best Moment: Guido performs the most epic pit stop ever.

15. RATATOUILLE

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The characters were fun and quirky and the animated food looked incredibly appetizing. But again, great film, not particularly memorable for being funny or exciting. This was one of those movies everyone should see, but it isn’t exactly one you’d be dying to own.

Best Moment: Remy cooks up a dish so spectacular that it makes food critic and French curmudgeon Anton Ego reminisce to his childhood.

14. INCREDIBLES 2

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Pixar’s latest film is really fun and exciting. It’s arguably funnier than the first and the action scenes are some of the best in the history of animation. But as plots go, this is probably Pixar’s weakest non-Cars story.

Best Moment: Baby Jack Jack vs. the Raccoon

13. MONSTERS INC.

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Baby Boo was adorable and Sully and Mike were a fantastic onscreen duo. It’s almost crazy to me to put this movie so low on the list, but it isn’t quite as funny or thematically groundbreaking as the movies above it.

Best Moment: “Welcome to the Himalayas! Snow cone?”

12. TOY STORY 2

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One of the few animated sequels that lived up to the hype. But in hindsight, it’s the weakest of the Toy Story trilogy. Jessie and Bullseye were great additions to the franchise and there are plenty of laughs in this film. But I can’t help but feel like Buzz Lightyear and the rest of Andy’s toys took too much of a backseat to Woody in this one.

Best Moment: Buzz Lightyear #2 vs. Zerg

11. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

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I was surprised at how much I loved this movie. The collegiate theme to the movie was a great aesthetic. It made the film feel more unique than any Pixar sequel and managed to create more depth and nuance to Mike and Sully’s already wonderful chemistry.

Best Moment: The snail monster “rushing” to class.

10. INSIDE OUT

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Now we’re really starting to split hairs. I absolutely loved this movie. That it barely cracks the top 10 is a testament to Pixar’s films since it’s release. A creative story and a beautiful message about the importance of every emotion manages to outweigh the lack of laugh out loud moments in comparison to other Pixar films.

Best Moment: If Bing Bong’s epic sacrifice doesn’t get you in your feelings, you have no soul.

9. A BUG’S LIFE

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One of the most rewatchable animated movies ever. The characters are fun and quirky. The story is smart and funny. And, above all, Hopper is a sensational villain and the studios best antagonist to date.

Best Moment: Hopper demonstrates why the grasshoppers need to keep the ants in line after one of his foolish subordinates suggests taking time off.

8. WALL-E

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Sure, there isn’t a lot of dialogue. But I’ve watched and enjoyed several silent films, so that doesn’t bother me. This movie is arguably Pixar’s most endearing and manages to be smart and humorous despite its unconventional method of storytelling.

Best Moment: WALL-E adorably tries to woo Eve with dancing and a flower.

7. FINDING DORY

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This movie was as heartfelt as it was hilarious. It successfully built its narrative around the previous film’s incredible supporting character. It is a model of how you make a sequel while placing a different character at the forefront (Looking at you Cars 2).

Best Moment: Hank the octopus experiences Dory’s short term memory loss for the first time when trying to get her tag.

6. COCO

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One could make the argument that this is Pixar’s best film and I wouldn’t argue with you. It doesn’t have as many laughs and memorable characters as other movies in the gallery, but it is still an absolute masterpiece. The visuals, the tear inducing story, and the beautiful representation of Mexican culture should all be applauded.

Best Moment: Mama Coco remembers her father when Miguel plays “Remember Me”

5. TOY STORY 3

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This movie had a lot of elements from Toy Story 2, but with better execution. Transplanting Jessie’s arc to the villain was an upgrade, and the movie gave Buzz Lightyear and the rest of Andy’s toys, a fun and humorous arc. For anyone who ever had a favorite toy, the finale is still enough to bring even the toughest of personas to tears. This movie was so good that I have no desire for Toy Story 4.

Best Moment: The toys in the furnace is a gut punch of emotion.

4. UP

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No opening scene in cinema has a more gut punching intro. From there, Up set the stage for one of the most endearing stories to date. Even without the heartwarming elements, this movie would stand the test of time for being a fun, family adventure.

Best Moment: The opening montage with Carl and Ellie… duh.

3. TOY STORY

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The film that started it all. Great characters. A ton of memorable, hilarious moments. A great story with a good lesson for people of all ages. Toy Story had it all. Over two decades old and it still holds up as a cinematic masterpiece.

Best Moment: “Don’t you get it! You see the hat! I am Misses Nesbit!”

2. FINDING NEMO

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The beginning may not be quite as tear inducing as UP’s, but it isn’t too far behind. (Disney sure likes killing off parents). Finding Nemo has one of the best assortments of supporting characters of any film ever made. Despite having a ton of characters, every single one that comes on screen leaves a mark. It paces seamlessly and provides some fantastic laughs throughout making it as close to a perfect movie as one can fathom.

Best Moment: The initiation of “Sharkbate”… or anything involving Dory.

1. THE INCREDIBLES

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Maybe I’m biased because superheroes are my favorite, but no animated film is as rewatchable for me as this one. The characters are fun and unique, the laughs are plentiful, the music is sensational, and the design is flawless. Throw in a well paced story, some exhilarating action, and a fantastic villain and you have Pixar’s most fun and memorable film.

Best Moment: Dash escapes Syndrome’s henchmen is a close second… but superhero costumed designer, Edna Mode steals the show.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know what Pixar films make your Top Ten.

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Tag (Full Review)

Everyone played tag growing up. It’s a fun game, but few could take it to the level of a group of friends who have played the game for over 30 years. It’s a wildly exciting true story published by the Wall Street Journal in 2013. The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to connect with your best friends. So taking this story of friends reconnecting and keeping the childlike fun alive and turning it into a comedy with an all-star cast is a recipe for a fun ride.

Tag_(2018_film)Every May since they were kids, five guys get together and play tag. It doesn’t matter that they live in different states and have careers and lives of their own, the game will still be played. But one skilled player, Jerry (Jeremy Renner), has never been tagged. With his wedding approaching, his friends Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), and Sable (Hannibal Burress) team up to finally tag him. With Hoagie’s super competitive wife (Isla Fisher) and a Wall Street Journalist (Annabelle Wallis) along for the ride, the guys scheme out a plan to end Jerry’s perfect streak.

Tag moves at a sometimes uneven, often unbelievable, but pleasantly quirky pace. It takes a while for the cast to find their chemistry, but once they get their footing, everything works. Each character has individual moments that will make you chuckle, especially Hannibal Burress and Isla Fisher. The movie is at its best when it isn’t cramming unnecessary subplots, like a love triangle between Hamm’s Bob, Johnson’s Chilli, and an old flame played by Rashida Jones.

The nuance of the cat and mouse nature of the movie is nice. And there are plenty of funny moments, which is one of the most important things for a comedy, but that isn’t what makes Tag memorable. Once the climax roles around, the film finally hammers home its emotional core. The final scene is a wonderfully heartfelt ode to friendship that makes every weak moment in the movie evaporate amidst the pure joy that everyone onscreen is having.

FINAL GRADE: B

Incredibles 2 (Full Review)

The wait is finally over! It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since Brad Bird directed the Disney/Pixar classic. Most of the Pixar films are brilliant, but The Incredibles is my all time favorite. But not all Pixar sequels are created equal. So despite deep excitement, Incredibles 2 had to live up to lofty expectations of being more like Finding Dory than Cars 2.

The_Incredibles_2Super strong Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), his super stretching wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), his speedster son Dash (Huck Milner), his force field creating daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), and his best friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) jump back into action to save the city from the evil Underminor (John Ratzenberger). But their destructive heroics are unfortunately met with more government scrutiny that forces them back into hiding. Luckily for them, Elastigirl is approached by a pair of siblings (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) who want to use their Telecommunications company to prove to the world that superheroes are still necessary. While she battles a new villain called the Screenslaver, Mr. Incredible has to handle the equally arduous tasks of helping Dash with his homework, dealing with Violet’s teenage angst, and figuring out baby Jack Jack’s unhinged new powers.

The film’s plot isn’t as concise and its biggest flaw is its villain. The “twist” can be seen a mile away by any viewer who isn’t in grade school and the horde of new characters never make their mark outside of showcasing some visually appealing superpowers. Thus, Incredibles 2 never quite comes together as well as its predecessor. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an absolute fun, family film.

The action, which is more plentiful this time around, is absolutely stellar. Elastigirl being at the forefront creates several exhilarating moments. Her powers are far more interesting than Mr. Incredible’s, so we are treated to some very creative sequences like a fantastic motorcycle chase scene. There are also plenty of laughs. Baby Jack Jack gets more screen time and absolutely steals the show. His interaction with Edna Mode (Brad Bird), the hilarious superhero fashion designer from the first film, is one of the funniest scenes in either movie.

It’s no shame not living up to a transcendent previous film, so don’t feel too disappointed if Incredibles 2 isn’t quite a homerun. Maybe a decade from now when they greenlight Incredibles 3, we’ll get a story that resonates a little more. But, if great humor and eye-popping action with endearing characters is all we get out of this long awaited sequel, we should count ourselves lucky for the experience.

FINAL GRADE: B

Ocean’s 8 (Full Review)

Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s 11 is one of my all time favorite films. With charisma and a brilliantly clever heist, the film cemented itself as one of the best in the genre. Now it’s the ladies turn. With Gary Ross (Hunger Games) at the helm and a wealth of talented actresses to work with, Ocean’s 8 looks to rekindle the magic that Ocean’s 12 and 13 couldn’t quite recapture.

OceansEightPosterAfter serving 5 years in prison for fraud, Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) is back in the family business. With her best friend and fellow con-artist, Lou (Cate Blanchett) at her side, she plans to steal a $150 million necklace from celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the annual Met Ball in New York City. To pull off the elaborate heist, she recruits a former thief turned housewife (Sarah Paulson), a down on her luck designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a pickpocket (Awkwafina), and a brilliant hacker (Rihanna).

In an industry of shallow and unnecessary remakes (The Mummy), it’s a breath of fresh air that Ocean’s 8 never feels like a cheap knock off. From the style, to the humor, to the endless celebrity cameos, the film manages to feel organically similar to Ocean’s 11, but the diverse and fantastic cast creates a unique feel. Even characters like Debbie and Lou, who have identical personalities to George Clooney’s Danny and Brad Pitt’s Rusty, work well off of the strength of the chemistry and wit of Bullock and Blanchett. It only takes one, early shoplifting scene for Bullock to cement herself as a worthy successor to the franchise. As for the supporting cast, it’s surprisingly Rihanna who stands out the most. Her performance as the hacker named 9 Ball, is smart, sly, and fun making it clear she’s having a blast every minute she’s on screen.

Things aren’t completely rosy. With such a large cast, it’s easy for at least one character to slip through the cracks. Here, it’s Mindy Kaling’s Amita, who unlike her co-stars, never really gets a chance to let her personality shine. The heist itself also feels almost too easy for the ladies and somewhat undermines the suspense. So while it might not be quite as clever as Ocean’s 11, this reboot manages to properly re-establish a franchise that provides some wonderful humor and a fun cinematic experience. And it’s one of the few reboots that isn’t a waste of time and money.

FINAL GRADE: B

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Full Review)

Han Solo is one of the most popular characters from the original 1970’s Star Wars trilogy. The slick talking, charmer and his furry, temperamental partner Chewbacca, are two of cinema’s greatest outlaws. So, there is perhaps no characters worthier of a spin-off movie. With Harrison Ford far too old to reprise the role that launched his career, Aldin Ehrenreich has the lofty task of portraying the character in this prequel adventure.

Solo_A_Star_Wars_Story_posterSolo: A Star Wars Story introduces Han as a young, wannabe pilot, looking to free himself and an old flame (Emilia Clarke) from a life of servitude. Han’s mission to procure a ship and escape life working for the Empire, leads him to his future partner Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and a crew of thieves (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau). Eventually, Han finds himself working for a vicious gangster (Paul Bettany) who needs him to pull off a virtually impossible heist. To accomplish the job, Han will need the help of famed hustler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and their impressive ship… the Millennium Falcon.

Ron Howard stepped in to take over directing duties for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller after most of the film was already shot. The changes in direction are a bit noticeable in the film’s overstuffed plot. It takes a while to get going, and newcomers will likely find themselves scratching their heads at the many unexplained plot elements that Star Wars purists will fully understand. But when Solo manages to find its footing, it is actually one of the most fun, visually appealing, and exciting Star Wars films.

The set pieces and action sequences make the film feel like a cross between a gritty western and a space age, heist caper. As for Ehrenreich, he holds his own in a role that is essentially impossible for anyone to truly embody better than Ford. He brings enough charm, and the script gives him enough moments, to make the entire journey feel like an organic Han Solo story, even if the absence of Harrison Ford makes things feel a tad off.

The new characters in Solo don’t quite do enough to become memorable. L3-37, a witty droid hell bent on freeing her fellow robotic brothers and sisters from servitude, is easily the most enjoyable. But she doesn’t get the screen time to quite steal the show. The rest of the faces all feel like stock counterparts only there to further the plot, with the exception of Glover’s fantastic embodiment of a young Billy Dee Williams. The movie also succumbs to the popular prequel problem of trying too hard to weave in threads from other movies in the series.

With plenty of charm and some exhilarating action to counterbalance some obvious flaws, Solo is a movie that will entertain most casual fans of the genre, even if we all wish Harrison Ford was a few decades younger to breathe more life into it. Solo won’t be considered a top shelf sci-fi entry, or even an upper echelon Star Wars film. But for a film that isn’t holistically necessary, it deserves credit for having some incredible moments.

FINAL GRADE: C, Not bad, but highly flawed.

Deadpool 2 (Full Review)

For fans of Marvel Comics’ Deadpool, the 2016 film was a violent, raunchy dream come true. For newcomers, it was a surprisingly fresh subversion from the typical superhero flick. Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice, Deadpool 2 reunites the foul mouthed, fourth wall breaking mercenary with the original cast and also introduces a host of intriguing new faces.

Deadpool_2_posterRyan Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson, a former cancer victim turned into the virtually, unkillable anti-hero, known as Deadpool. Under the guise of his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Deadpool takes it upon himself to protect an orphaned young mutant (Julian Dennison) from Cable (Josh Brolin), a cybernetic mutant sent from the future. To ensure the kid’s safety, Deadpool forms the X-Force, headlined by a luck manipulating mutant named Domino (Zazie Beetz).

David Leitch takes over for Tim Miller as director, and it feel noticeable. At times Deadpool 2 threatens to falter under the weight of its overwhelming meta-humor. The fourth wall breaks, pop culture references, and potty humor come in an often overwhelming wave that doesn’t feel nearly as organic as it did in the first film. The movie’s disjointed plot doesn’t help matters, at times feeling like two separate movies.

But never fear, Ryan Reynolds is here. The actor’s charm and wit again radiates in this role he was born to play. And he isn’t the only player that shines. Zazie Beetz is stylishly brash and enticing as Domino. She pulls off the femme fetale roll effortlessly while bringing enough comedic timing to work as Deadpool’s perfect counterpart. The movie also does a marvelous job in implementing her unique superpowers to enhance action sequences.

Many of the new characters fall flat. Josh Brolin is fine as Cable, but doesn’t get enough to do other than be brooding. And Julian Dennison’s performance dangles between comedic and annoying. These uneven moments, however, end up being counterbalanced by hilarious performances from the returning cast. Karan Soni’s cap driver, Dopinder and Leslie Uggams’ Blind Al, seem to bring laugh out loud moments every time they are on screen.

Despite going overkill with the meta-humor in spots, the laughs do land more times than they don’t. Brilliantly funny cameos, a few hilarious twists, and genuine charisma from most of this cast make Deadpool 2 a film that only mildly succumbs to sequel-itis, but still manages to be wildly entertaining and worth a several viewings to take it all in.

FINAL GRADE: B

Avengers: Infinity War (Spoiler Free) Review

The word ‘Ambitious’ isn’t quite enough to describe it. Marvel Studios Producer Kevin Feige probably couldn’t have imagined that this vast cinematic universe would become as successful as it is when Iron Man first released ten years ago. Along with a host of incredible directors and acting talent, he has carved out a collection of unique films that seamlessly blend into one cohesive story. It has all led to a film that holds no punches.

Avengers_Infinity_War_posterThanos (Josh Brolin), an intimidating force who has been pulling strings behind the scenes in several films, has finally come to the forefront. Hell bent on wiping out half of the universe to create balance, he along with his minions, are out to capture the Power, Space, Reality, Soul, Time, and Mind infinity stones. Standing in their way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Braldey Cooper, Pom Klementieff, and Vin Diesel) along with a horde of supporting characters from the MCU (Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Letitia Wright, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba).

Anyone familiar with comics knows that you have to often suspend your notions of practicality to enjoy the overarching stories and their themes. Avengers: Infinity War is no different. The movie moves at a sometimes disorienting pace that will leave those who aren’t familiar with these types of films in the dust. There are so many characters, that the movie can’t help but feel complex and at times muddled. But after eighteen films of character building, Infinity War serves as a visual narrative treat to those who have been there every step of the way.

The vast collection of cast members intermingle with characters they’ve never been on screen alongside with an almost flawless chemistry. We get Thor teaming up with Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Iron Man with Dr. Strange, The Avengers with the army of Wakanda. When fan favorites arrive on the scene there’s a nostalgic sensation that is enough to make fans absolutely giddy. So even at its rare hokey moments (one character does something atypically stupid and a new character feels completely out of place), Infinity War revitalizes the same fun, awestricken feeling audiences got with the first Avengers movie.

The humor feels organic, but make no mistake, this movie raises the MCU stakes unlike any other. Thanos, off nothing more than sheer might, determination, and intimidation, manages to cement himself as one of cinema’s most daunting villains. The heart pounding climax of the film is sure to leave audiences frozen in their seats as the credits role. For a franchise whose biggest flaws have usually revolved around lack of strong antagonists and unwillingness to sacrifice major characters, the Russo Brothers (Captain America Winter Solider and Civil War) manage to create a film that serves as a middle finger to anyone who ever criticized. The result is a sometimes uneven, but overall shocking, emotional roller coaster that feels like the Empire Strikes Back of the superhero genre.

FINAL GRADE: A

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers: Infinty War is the remarkable culmination of ten years of superhero filmmaking. When Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios first embarked on this bold venture it seemed farfetched that it would reach its current level of success. But now, even lesser known comic characters like The Guardians of the Galaxy have become household names. All of the movies in the MCU haven’t been classic, but some are incredible. So here is my rank of all of the movies that have made up the greatest comic book franchise in film history so far. (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen some of these movies)

18. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

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This film wasn’t awful. In fact, in comparison to Ang Lee’s non-MCU Hulk film, it’s fantastic. But the film isn’t remotely memorable and was the first inclination that this universe might not succeed. Other than an appearance from Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in Captain America: Civil War and a post-credit cameo by Tony Stark, it has no real connection to the rest of the franchise. Edward Norton’s stale performance doesn’t help, and it makes me wonder what this movie might’ve been if Mark Ruffalo had starred in it instead.

17. IRON MAN 3 (2013)

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The most egregious error of this film is making a mockery out of The Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch nemesis in the comics. But there are a ton of other problems with it too. Rhodey doesn’t do much of anything and too much of the film is spent with Tony Stark out of his Iron Man armor. There was also a few plot holes and the arc of Stark mentoring a young boy fell flat. The biggest saving grace is the army of Iron Man suits that shows up in the climax, but even that was spoiled by the trailers.

16. THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

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Like The Incredible Hulk, this film was also unmemorable and had by far the weakest villain of all the MCU films. It also brought back the useless humans of the previous Thor movie. But there are some bright spots that keep it from being terrible. There was the great chemistry between Thor and his brother Loki, as well as a pretty awesome fight sequence that showed how much of a bad ass Thor’s mother Frigga is.

15. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

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This movie was a letdown for me. It was far too much like the first Avengers and had a lot of left field plot points. Hawkeye having a family, Thor going to a “mind bath” that foreshadowed the Infinity Stones, and the random romance between Hulk and Black Widow were just some of the things that just felt out of place. Even Ultron, though performed impeccably by James Spader, felt underutilized. So while there are some awesome moments, the muddle of characters and frenetic plot made this movie underwhelming.

14. IRON MAN 2 (2010)

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This movie is better after repeated viewings, but it still pales in comparison to the first Iron Man film. The plot goes all over the place, with Tony inventing a new element in one day and Black Widow’s debut feeling forced. The story also doesn’t do enough to develop Mickey Rourke’s villain Ivan Vanko, but it does feature Tony Stark’s impressive suit case armor and a nice climactic battle with Don Cheadle finally debuting as Iron Man’s partner War Machine.

13. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

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The movie was certainly entertaining. But it was hard to live up to the hype of the previous Guardians film’s breakout success. The biggest problem with this movie, other than the muddled plot, is that it tries too hard to be funny. Jokes are thrown at the audience at every turn, often undermining serious moments. Meanwhile characters like Dave Bautista’s Drax get virtually nothing to do other than be another form of comic relief. And even though the death of Yondu was a nice endearing touch, the father-son dynamic between he and Star Lord felt forced.

12. THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

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Just like Guardians 2, this movie hurts itself by constantly trying to be funny. It’s even more unusual here, as the plot revolves around very serious stakes including the apocalypse of Thor’s homeworld, Asgard. It also doesn’t feel true to the other Thor films, as it discards important supporting characters from the previous films like they never even mattered. The movie does make up for some of its flaws thanks to some awesome action sequences and good chemistry between the cast.

11. THOR (2011)

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The parts spent on Earth aren’t very interesting at all. But this is still the most compelling Thor movie. The visuals are stunning and Tom Hiddleston’s debut as Loki is nothing short of sensational. Up until Black Panther, his performance was by far the greatest villain in the MCU and it gave this movie a Shakespearean feel when it focused on Asgard and not humans.

10. CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011)

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I thoroughly enjoy this movie more than most. Chris Evans’ performance as scrawny do gooder turned super soldier is fantastic. The World War II vibe is a unique touch and the movie paces well. The only real flaw is the unfortunately underwhelming portrayal of The Red Skull, Cap’s arch nemesis. When you cast someone like Hugo Weaving for your villain, you expect a little more nuance then your run of the mill megalomaniac.

9. ANT-MAN (2015)

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Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Marvel was smart to make it more of a heist film than a superhero origin story, which gives it a distinctive quality among the genre. The villain isn’t memorable and there are a ton of hokey moments, but Paul Rudd manages to be a compelling lead and the visuals to this movie are absolutely incredible.

8. AVENGERS (2012)

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This was the movie that first proved that mixing a bunch of superheroes from different worlds could work. The chemistry among the cast is perfection and many of the action sequences are jaw dropping. But let’s not act like the plot to this film wasn’t weak. Loki just brings a random alien army to earth and the superheroes team up. Not exactly nuanced stuff.

7. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

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Tom Holland cemented himself as a perfect Peter Parker with this coming of age story mixed with superhero flare. The supporting cast brings great comedic timing and every piece serves a purpose. Michael Keaton brings his A-game as one of the MCU’s best villains and Robert Downey Jr. does a great job in the mentor role. If there were more action in this movie, it would be higher on the list.

6. DR. STRANGE (2016)

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Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely kills it as the arrogant and downtrodden Stephen Strange. Chiwetel Ejiofor also is great as good guy turned future villain Baron Mordo. And even though the Mads Mikkelsen’s villain isn’t wholly memorable, the plot paces well, the humor doesn’t feel forced, and the visuals are some of the most impressive in superhero cinematic history.

5. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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Easily the most surprising success in the MCU’s history. This movie is fun from start to finish and Director James Gunn does a wonderful job to pace the story and center the plot around its eclectic, yet charismatic characters. Even though the movie features another generic villain in Ronan, there are enough stakes to make the journey worthwhile. Chris Pratt is phenomenal as Peter Quill and the movie’s comedy feels organic. The film’s soundtrack is also another plus.

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

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While it was by no means as massive as the comic book event it is named after, Civil War ended up righting many of the wrongs from Age of Ultron. The dynamic between Tony and Cap came together well to create stakes that felt higher than in any previous MCU film. The epic airport battle and the successful introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man into the franchise help make this into one of the best film’s of the MCU’s Phase III.

3. IRON MAN (2008)

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We wouldn’t even be here without this breakout hit. As superhero origin stories go, this film had virtually everything. A flawed, but charismatic hero in Robert Downey Jr.’s debut as Tony Stark, a strong supporting cast, and fantastic special effects. It revealed the MCU’s potential and made Iron Man a household name. If only they could’ve recaptured this magic. Neither of its sequels were able to match it’s perfect blend of tone, pacing, and action.

2. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

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The Russo Brothers, who also directed Civil War and are set to make Infinity War and Avengers 4, turned this Cap film into an exhilarating thriller that felt like more than a superhero film. Chris Evans once again turned in an earnest portrayal as Captain America and the film’s political undertones also made the movie feel as nuanced as it was action packed. Fun supporting characters, brilliant fight choreography, and an interesting plot made this my #1 MCU film up until 2018…

1. BLACK PANTHER (2018)

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No, I’m not being prisoner of the moment here. This movie isn’t just the best movie in the MCU, it’s possibly the greatest superhero film ever made. Chadwick Boseman’s performance has James Bond levels of suave. But the supporting cast is what makes this movie transcendent. The horde of strong, magnetic female characters each add something to both the story and the hero’s journey. Even characters like Winston Duke’s M’Baku manage to shine in only about twenty minutes of screen time. The villains are also sensational. Andy Serkis brings comedic charisma to the role of Ulysses Claue while Michael B. Jordan delivers an incredibly passionate and endearing performance as Erik Killmonger, an antagonist whose compelling ideology leads to enlightenment and growth for the protagonist. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, the action sequences are jaw dropping. No other MCU film is as fun and thematically profound as Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.

There you have it. Don’t like my rankings? Feel free to comment your thoughts and share which MCU films are your favorite. As always, thanks for reading, liking, and sharing!

Isle of Dogs (Full Review)

Rampage (Full Review)

I remember playing Rampage the arcade game at Chuck E’ Cheese. You could choose between a giant gorilla, lizard, or wolf and the object of the game was to destroy buildings and eat people. Yep… that sounds exactly like the type of thing that would get turned into a movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2018.

Rampage_teaser_film_posterJohnson stars as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who looks after a rare albino gorilla named George at the San Diego Zoo. When George is exposed to a dangerous chemical that alters his DNA, he becomes violent and starts to grow exponentially. Along with a mutated wolf and alligator, George goes on a rampage through Chicago. To save his primate friend, Davis teams up with a genetics expert (Naomi Harris) and a federal agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to find the cure within the shady company that inadvertently created them.

It’s hard to remember a movie with more incoherent plot threads than this one. Not the inexplicable opening street race in Fate of the Furious, not even the plots to the last four Transformers movies. They all pale in comparison to this nonsensical mess. The villains, a Research Company CEO (Malin Ackerman) and her useless, dimwitted brother (Jake Lacy) are the stupidest, most annoying antagonists I can fathom. Forget the fact that a reasonable motive is never given for why they’d even be experimenting with a substance that creates massive murderous mutations, when things go haywire Ackerman’s character’s solution is to draw the three creatures to Chicago to cure them. That’s right. The villain actually thinks signaling giant monsters to a major U.S. city is a great way to get away with creating giant monsters.

If you’re going to commit to cheesy, dumb fun, then don’t have your two leads taking things seriously. Pretty much every character other than Johnson and Harris is a buffoon. There’s the generic military general (Demetrius Grosse) who would rather get countless soldiers killed and bomb a heavily populated area than listen to literally the only two characters with knowledge on the situation. As for Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s cartoonish cowboy spiel, it would work if Johnson didn’t constantly undermine it by acting like he’s fully committed. Morgan’s character makes dumb decisions too, like bringing a violent gorilla, he plans on killing anyway, aboard a plane. Why not just shoot it after you manage to sedate it?

When Dwayne Johnson’s tough guy routine feels like the most intelligent thing in a movie, you know you have a problem. Between moronic characters and plot points that make absolutely no sense, the only thing to enjoy about Rampage is the CGI destruction in the last twenty minutes. A few scenes of bonding between Johnson and the CGI ape make for some mild endearment. But is that where we are with movies now? Is a few jokes and a tough guy all audiences need to ignore plots that don’t even try to add up? If so, then I can see why Hollywood keeps crapping out Transformers and Fast and Furious movies. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this monotonous mess turns into a franchise.

FINAL GRADE: D

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