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!

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The 1st Annual Moore Review Awards

mr2017Welcome, to the first annual Moore Review Awards… or “The Brady’s” for short. There are tons of award shows out there, but few manage to encapsulate all of the film genres and show appreciation for the movie going public who can find enjoyment with the mindless action film as well as the thought provoking Oscar bate. That is what the Brady’s are for. Good performances don’t just come in dramas or period pieces, and my awards highlight all of the movies that make us laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of our seats. Quick side note before we get into the awards, films up for nomination had to have been released in 2016 (even if limited) to be considered. Also, as this is a recap of all of the films of last year, there is a SPOILER WARNING for this article. Now, without further ado… enjoy the first annual Moore Review Awards and feel free to comment and share.

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE

Bronze: Zack Efron (Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates) – Efron is quickly becoming one of the best actors at comedic performances, and he managed to steal the show in this offbeat comedy.

Silver: Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – The unfiltered droid, K2-SO,provided some of the best comic relief in the franchise’s history


Winner: Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) – C’mon. Was there any doubt? Deadpool was one of the best movies of 2016 mainly because it simply let Ryan Reynolds be Ryan Reynolds. And that’s almost always hilarious.

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Other nominees: Dwayne Johnson (Central Intelligence), Kevin Hart (What Now?), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Bronze: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – If the newer Star Wars films have taught us anything, it’s that for this franchise, practical effects work better than CGI.

Silver: The Jungle Book – Jon Favreau and company managed to make an entire jungle and talking animals look incredibly lifelike.

Winner: Doctor Strange – It wasn’t just cool CGI, but the use of it that made this film look mesmerizing. The added 3D effect really helped bring the psychedelic world to life like nothing we’d ever seen in a superhero film.doctorstrange_teaser_trailer

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Other nominees: Assassin’s Creed, Kubo & The Two Strings, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them

BEST SOUNDTRACK

Bronze: Moana – Lin Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame, put his stamp on this Polynesian inspired soundtrack.

Silver: Suicide Squad – the plot may have been a mess, but the soundtrack was a perfect combination of old hits and new music that captured the essence of the ragtag characters.

Winner: La La Land – Old Hollywood musical meets new school Jazz. Even without seasoned vocalists, the music in this film was captivating from start to finish.

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Other nominees: Sing, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Kubo & The Two Strings

BEST ACTION SEQUENCE

Bronze: The Spanish Inquisition Chase Scene (Assassin’s Creed) – Not a lot to love about this movie, but the parkour chase/fight sequences were exhilarating.

Silver: Darth Vader fight scene (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – In a matter of seconds, we got to see why Darth Vader is one of the most menacing villains in pop culture.

Winner: The Airport fight scene (Captain America: Civil War) – The most awesome scene in the history of comic book films. So many heroes doing so many cool things!5289551-3439904924-top-5

Other nominees: The Mirror Dimension fight (Doctor Strange), Batman rescues Martha Kent (Batman v Superman), Quicksilver mansion rescue (X-Men: Apocalypse)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Bronze: Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) – The songstress played Mary Jackson with lovable spunk and a headstrong vigor that made her the woman you’d want to fall in love with.

Silver: Noami Harris (Moonlight) – While the drug addict mother is a bit of a cliché character, Harris played the role with gut wrenching intensity.

Winner: Viola Davis (Fences) – Davis somehow managed to out act Denzel Washington with a few monologues that had beautiful emotional execution.

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Other nominees: Viola Davis (Suicide Squad), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Gal Gadot (Batman v Superman)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Bronze: Robert Downey Jr. (Captain America: Civil War) – RDJ gave his best performance as Tony Stark yet, as a conflicted hero whose sense of retribution pit him against his closest friends.

Silver: John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) – Goodman’s creepy performance was what made the simplistic film so suspenseful.

Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) – An up-incoming actor who played the mentor role with perfection. The biggest flaw with Moonlight is that he isn’t in it enough.

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Other nominees: Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad), Chiwtel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange)

 

BEST ADAPTATION

Bronze: Captain America: Civil War – While it was a watered down version of the comic mini-series, the film succeeded in giving a ton of a heroes reason to be onscreen together and come into conflict with each other.

Silver: Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly’s historical account was well crafted into a heartwarming story about African American women overcoming prejudice.

Winner: Deadpool – No comic film has been adapted as perfectly as this film was. They kept the violence, humor, and fourth wall breaks intact without compromising the endearment of the characters.

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Other nominees: Fences, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

BEST ONSCREEN ROMANCE

Bronze: Ryan Reynolds & Morena Baccarin (Deadpool) – Even with all of the violence and humor, the chemistry between these two is what gave the film its heart.

Silver: Multiple actors who played Black & Kevin (Moonlight) – Same sex relationships are rarely shown on screen, even fewer between men. This film’s portrayal of such a relationship was both groundbreaking and emotionally captivating.

Winner: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – The two actors are insanely likable apart, and their chemistry in this film helped drive an already interesting narrative.

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Other nominees: Matthew McConaughey & Charlize Theron (Kubo & The Two Strings), Seth Rogen & Kristen Wiig (Sausage Party), Lamorne Morris & Margot Bingham (Barbershop: The Next Cut)

BEST ONSCREEN TEAM

Bronze: Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters) – Despite the unfair comparisons to their male predecessors, this group of female comedians had a fun dynamic onscreen and each had a moment to shine.

Silver: Team Cap (Captain America: Civil War) – Unlike Team Iron Man, this team was cohesive and got a surprising MVP performance from Ant-Man.

Winner: The Rebels (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – This team provided a great blend of different characters from noble Chirrut Inwe to snarky K2-SO. Despite their wide range of personalities, they all had a likable trait and they meshed beautifully in accomplishing their ill-fated mission.

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Other nominees: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone (La La Land), The magnificent seven (The Magnificent Seven), Jonah Hill & Miles Teller (War Dogs)

BEST VILLAIN

Bronze: Oscar Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse) – Sure, the Apocalypse character was a bit too cliché megalomaniac. But Isaac brought great charisma and a deviously regal aura to the role.

Silver: Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe) – Creepy, intimidating, and arguably not a villain. Lang’s eerie blind man made this suspense thriller a must see.

Winner: John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) – Goodman’s character might’ve been the only one creepier than the Blind Man. The fact that this murderous, kidnapping, conspiracy theorist turned out to be less crazy than we thought just makes the character even more frightening.

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Other nominees: Ed Skrein (Deadpool), Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), The Shark (The Shallows)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Bronze: La La Land – An endearing idea of molding classic Hollywood musicals with modern jazz as the backdrop to a love story where both characters  are struggling to follow their dreams.

Silver: Moonlight – It’s often amazing how few films there are about same sex relationships. Combining that concept with the element of a character’s childhood, adolescents, and adulthood help add to the splendor of this thought provoking film.

Winner: 10 Cloverfield Lane – Making a movie where virtually all of the scenes take place in two rooms between three characters isn’t easy, but to make one as suspenseful as this one is a testament to a sensational script.

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Other nominees: Zootopia, The Nice Guys, Don’t Breathe

 

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Bronze: Kubo & The Two Strings – Gorgeously animated, stylish, exciting and clever with a wonderful cast of characters.

Silver: Finding Dory – A sequel as good or better than its predecessor. This movie gave us a tear jerking story and a host of wonderful new characters to go along with the ones we loved from Finding Nemo.

Winner: Zootopia – Smart, funny, and incredibly socially relevant for a children’s film. Zootopia is a modern Disney classic.

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Other nominees – Sing, Moana, The Secret Life of Pets

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Bronze: Denis Villenueve (Arrival) – Breathtaking cinematography and brilliant non-linear framing helped make this thinking man’s sci-fi film into one of the most beautiful film’s of the year.

Silver: Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) – This movie was proof that good direction can make or break any film. Claustrophobic camera angles and an eerie score helped make Don’t Breathe a memorable slasher/thriller film.

Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – There were so many memorable scenes that stand out in this film. The musical numbers were sensational and the ending montage was the cherry on top of a well crafted, enjoyable film from beginning to end.

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Other Nominees: Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Travis Knight (Kubo & The Two Strings), Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book)

 

BEST ACTRESS

Bronze: Emma Stone (La La Land) – Stone’s performance was both charming and soulful and had audiences rooting for the struggling actress from her first audition.

Silver: Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) – The sensational depths of her performance as Katherine Johnson can be  summed up in her powerful monologue after having to run in the rain to the ‘colored’ restroom.

Winner: Amy Adams (Arrival) – A movie with such a somber tone has to have a solid leading lady to keep things flowing. Adams is both clever, headstrong and endearingly vulnerable in her performance as Louise Banks.

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Other nominees: Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad), Emily Blunt (Girl on the Train)

 

BEST ACTOR

Bronze: Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) – All of the people who played Chiron were great, but Sanders’ performance as the teenage boy struggling with his sexuality was easily the most incredible. Sanders’ portrayal helped illustrate the boy’s transition from meager bullied kid into a tough and relentless man.

Silver: Denzel Washington (Fences) – Denzel will always deliver. In Fences he had one gripping monologue after another and helped carry a narrative that might’ve dragged without his (and Viola Davis’) performance.

Winner: Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – Sauve, charismatic, and intensely soulful. Gosling made the character of Sebastian easily the most fun and likable character on screen in 2016. He also gets extra credit for actually learning how to tap dance and play the piano for the role.

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Other nominees: Tom Hanks (Sully), Will Smith (Suicide Squad), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)

 

2016 MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Bronze: Deadpool – Making a unique superhero film in this day and age is not easy. And yet, Deadpool manages to be a satire of the genre while also providing intense action and a charming romantic subplot.

Silver: Zootopia – Pertinent to the point that it should be required viewing in schools, Disney’s masterpiece also manages to be heartwarming and incredibly funny for a film with such a thought provoking subject matter.

Winner: La La Land – Fun, beautifully filmed, smart, soulful, and lead by two actors with infectious charm this musical reminded us of what was so wonderful about old school Hollywood filmmaking.

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Other nominees: Arrival, Hidden Figures, Captain America: Civil War, Sully, Finding Dory

There you have it ladies and gents. The first annual MooreReview.com Awards is in the books. Thanks for reading and I look forward to 2017’s nominees. Please like/share and feel free to comment who you think the winners should’ve been. As for the 2016 Academy Awards, expect films like La La LandMoonlight, and Fences to rack up.

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2016

Another year is in the books and with it comes another year of ranking my Top 10 movies. It’s almost impossible to say that one movie is actually the best, so these are simply my favorites; i.e. the movies that I had the most enjoyable experience watching in 2016. Click on each title to read the full review. Thanks to everyone who read, shared, commented, or liked any of my posts this year and I look forward to bringing more insight in 2017. Happy New Year everyone!

10. SING 

While it didn’t break any new narrative ground, Sing capped off one of the best years ever for animated movies. A great cast of characters and wonderful music made this film a fun, heartwarming holiday film for the whole family.

9. DOCTOR STRANGE

Marvel does it again. Even if it wasn’t part of a larger film franchise, it would’ve been an awesome film to watch thanks to a great cast and utterly stunning visuals.

8. MOANA

The animated masterpieces keep on coming. This film gave us two great lead characters that are sure to become Disney classics. A few wonderful songs composed by musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda was the icing on the cake for this fun, stylistically unique adventure.

7. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Capitalizing on the success of The Force Awakens, this film manages to heighten the Star Wars mythos while providing some great original characters and one of the most invigorating final acts of any movie this year.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Whether you side with Captain America or not, it’s hard to argue that the character has produced some of the best super hero films to date. This one was a well crafted thriller that successfully pitted heroes vs. heroes and produced some great action and surprisingly deep emotional moments.

5. ARRIVAL

A great think peace with splendid acting. Arrival was a well crafted narrative with a beautiful message and ending.

4. DEADPOOL

The funniest movie of the year. Ryan Reynolds was at his best and helped deliver a tongue and check, violently awesome take on the superhero genre.

3. LA LA LAND

A gorgeous throwback to old Hollywood musicals that gave us one of the best on screen duos of the year. From start to finish this movie is magically endearing.

2. FINDING DORY

One of the best sequels to date. This movie added fun and interesting characters to go along with one of the best animated characters to ever be onscreen. Chocked full of hilarious moments and enough emotion to make even the toughest person tear up, Finding Dory proved that Pixar is still the best at crafting smart, funny, and touching animated films.

1. ZOOTOPIA

Not only was this movie beautifully animated and filled with some great puns and sight gags, but it also delivered on a story that is incredibly pertinent. Zootopia is an intelligent, emotional guide to humanity disguised as a funny family cartoon and it is a much watch for everyone both young and old.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Jungle Book, Sully, The Secret Life of Pets, X-Men: Apocalypse,  The Nice Guys, Sausage Party, 10 Cloverfield Lane

Captain America: Civil War (Full Review)

Just over a month ago, DC/Warner Bros. released a movie about superheroes fighting superheroes… sort of. Now, along comes the superhero film Goliath that is Marvel to one up them. Captain America: Civil War is an adaptation of one of the most popular comic storylines ever, pitting two of their most iconic heroes against each other. Loosely based on the source material, this cinematic version serves as a sequel to 2014’s phenomenal Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as being a quasi Avengers 2.5.

Captain_America_Civil_War_posterIt’s been a year since the Avengers stopped Ultron from destroying the earth and now Captain America (Chris Evans) leads a new team featuring assassin turned heroine, Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), intelligent android, Vision (Paul Bettany), sorceress, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), winged soldier, Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and Iron Man bestie, James “War Machine” Rhodes (Don Cheadle). After a mission to stop a vengeful terrorist (Frank Grillo) goes horribly wrong, former Hulk adversary and current U.S. Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), brings down the Sokovia Accords: a doctrine forcing all heroes to adhere to the United Nations rather than act as an independent force. While guilt causes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to support the new law, the ever weary Captain America refuses to serve a government agenda, causing things to get dicey when Cap’s former best friend turned brainwashed assassin resurfaces (Sebastian Stan). The conflict splits the Avengers in two, with half siding with Iron Man and the others with Captain America.

All of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films aren’t great, as some might have you believe. Some are mediocre (Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and others I just flat out don’t like (Any Iron Man movie after the first one). But the Captain America films have always stood out to me over the rest. This is due in large part to deeper subject matters and more intricate storytelling. Civil War is no different, in fact, it may be the MCU’s most earnest film yet.

Let’s start with the conflict, unlike with March’s Batman v Superman, this film’s budding rivalry has had several years to brew. So when things go downhill, it feels genuinely heartbreaking to see the two comrades and former friends warring against each other. An exceptional script that does a solid job sharing the two perspectives without condemning either one, makes this film feel more realistic than any Marvel movie to date. Both sides are right just as much as they are wrong, and this aspect drives the entire film and gives it more emotional weight than anything else in the MCU.

A stellar cast helps. Casting is perhaps the greatest strength of the MCU, and here everyone shines, even characters like Hawk Eye (Jermey Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who are only on screen for a few scenes. As for the newcomers, they make their mark and prove that they are worthy additions to an already impressive roster. Chadwick Boseman portrays vengeful Black Panther with a regal fervor while Tom Holland is perfectly witty and exuberant as the new Spider-Man. Both make you excited to see them in future films. And while the MCU hasn’t always given us the best villains, Daniel Bruhl is stellar as the film’s sneaky antagonist.

The film drags a bit in its final act, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo deserve a ton of credit simply for managing to effectively juggle the massive horde of characters involved. It never feels like too much or too little, and when the titular battle goes down, it feels like something out of nerd heaven for fans of the genre even in spite of a few noticeable patches of spotty CGI. But visuals are only one part of making a memorable film. Captain America: Civil War isn’t great simply because of its action. Its captivating subject matter and emotional core are what make it one of the best superhero film’s ever crafted. So regardless of whether you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you’ll come out of Marvel’s latest film feeling like a winner.

FINAL GRADE: A