Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Best: Entertainment Weekly's Best 100 Movies of All Time

I belong to the shrinking population of people who still subscribe to print magazines.  Particularly, I like getting my copy of EW in mail every week, even though I find them snarky, biased, and Owen Gleiberman has the worst taste in movies.

Anyway, EW put out their list of 100 best films of all time.  Some were inspired choices.  Others were obvious, others were awful.  Here are a few comments on what they wrote.

#1 - Citizen Kane

I know that this movie is important.  It's innovation into what film directing could be cannot be overstated.  And Orson Wells performance is a revelation.  But the #1 Movie of all time?  Sorry, but the film is a technical marvel, but it fails as a narrative.  It is boring, with no surprises (since they tell you the entire story in the first 12 minutes).

#2 - The Godfather

I respect this choice.  This is a movie whose genius I was slow to recognize, but I am now enthralled by  it with each viewing.

#3 - Casablanca

This movie might, in fact, be perfect.  I know so many students in my school who have never seen it and are averse to doing so because of its age.  But it is timeless.  Great writing, great characters, great directing.

#19 - Pulp Fiction

I don't think that this movie is very good in terms of directing.  But I respect people who honor its writing and its audacity.

#25 - 2001: A Space Odyssey

This movie is visually stunning, but I HATE THIS MOVIE.  It has no story!  See my review here.  Or my abridged version here.

#32 - Duck Soup

I don't think this is the best Marx Bros. movie, but it is the zaniest.  Still holds up.

#41 - The Road Warrior

This one baffles me.  There are so many other science fiction and action movies that are MUCH BETTER than this film.  I don't know why this ranks so high.

#43 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

This is the gold standard of fantasy films, matching the record of most Academy Awards.  Why so low on the list?

#47 - A Clockwork Orange

This movie, I'm convinced, is on this list for the same reason as Pulp Fiction.  But at least Pulp Fiction has some watchable scenes.  This is pure dreck.  Awful, awful film.

#52 - Titanic

Like LOTR:TROTK, it has the most Oscars.  It still carries its same emotional impact.

#53 - The Empire Strikes Back

I'm glad at least one Star Wars movie made it onto the list, but if they were honoring movies for their importance, the original Star Wars deserves a slot.

#56 - Schindler's List

This is an absolute masterpiece that is much better than most of the films that come before it.

# 59 - All the President's Men

Should not be on the list.  Boring as heck.

#60 - Rebel Without a Cause

Yes, the imagery is iconic, but the movie is mediocre.

#69 - Dr. Strangelove


#81 - Blade Runner

(see # 69)

#85 - Dirty Harry

(see #60)

#92 The Piano

At this point, the makers of this list have disqualified themselves.  This is one of the worst films I have ever seen in the theater.  You know you have a terrible film when a full monty-ed Keitel is NOT the low point of your movie.  Everything about this film is awful.  Pure dreck.

#97 - Diner

I had heard so much about this movie.  In fact, I bought it in a discount bin and there was a retrospective at the beginning with the cast.  The end of the retrospective had Steve Gutenberg saying, "I guarantee you will like this movie."

Steve Gutenberg lied to me.

Tune in next week when we go over EW's Top 100 Television shows of all time.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Film Flash: World War Z

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Unexpectedly awesome!  The action doesn't let up the entire time in this smart action/horror.

4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Marriage Solution, Modestly Proposed

Since Wednesday, there has been a lot of chatter regarding marriage in this country.  The principle proposed by the pro "gay marriage" side is that you should be allowed to marry whomever you love.

What a splendid idea!  This will solve so many problems, not only in our obviously bigoted American society, but in our Catholic Church as well.  Many have noted the declining number of clergy in our parishes.  Some of the more progressive elements in the Church have said that the ban on marriage among priests is one of the root causes.  It is important to note that in our sexually liberated modern culture, we understand that life loses an essential joy without copulation.  The past 1000 years of priestly celibacy combined with overflowing seminaries and rectories was, of course, a millennia-long fluke that has now self corrected.

And now since we have set the precedent that marriage can be re-defined, the solution stands before us:

Let priests marry each other.

Finally, we will have a solution to the problem of who will get the dying priest's property, since there is no way for a non-married person to go to and make out a will.

Finally, we will have somebody who has the right to visit a priest in the hospital, since there is no other way they could make a list of people who could come and say hello.

And finally, priests will be able to share each other's insurance benefits.  If a priest is a chaplain in the military and he is killed in the line of duty, his fellow priest will now get the widow's compensation.

Now, I already hear some narrow-minded people saying, "But the Catholic Church condemns homosexual sex as sinful.  How can this be a solution."  But as the arguments by people like our president have made, there is a separations between civil marriage and religious marriage.  If there was not, then the president would not have said that he wouldn't force churches to marry homosexuals.  (Of course, as Mark Shea pointed out, note how he said "wouldn't" instead of "couldn't")  So the Catholic Church should simply have its priests engage in civil marriages.  When this happens, they will have finally achieved the equality they have been lacking denied them by all of the haughty married Americans.

So what are we to do about the Church's condemnation of homosexual acts?  Nothing.

The two priests will be married and not have sex.  Statistically speaking, most of them will be heterosexual, after all.  Again, I can hear the unsophisticated objecting, "But marriage is about romantic love!"  Well, who made you the judge of what love is important?!?  After all, LOVE IS LOVE!  So two men want to get married because they have a deep and abiding friendship.  Are you going to discriminate against them because they don't hold to your narrow, bigoted pointed of view as to what love should and shouldn't be?  That sounds too much like the haters who opposed "gay marriage."  They argued that marriage was naturally between a man and a woman because of the natural facts of procreation and family.  But we were told that love was bigger than procreation.  Well, if that is true, then love is bigger than sex!  And marriage should be too.

In fact, we can now apply this principle to entire religious communities.  Think about it.  If marriage is such a good thing, whose definition is only improved by the expansion of it, then the more the merrier.  Wouldn't it be great for a young lady entering the convent to not only not give up marriage, but on the day of her entrance, gain 30 spouses?  And they will all live together and share benefits and visit each other in the hospital and enjoy other rights that would be denied them by the bigoted supporters of binary marriage.  And this would of course include the raising of children.

Herein is another benefit to the Church regarding the declining numbers of priests and religious.  Now that whole communities will be married, they should now adopt children and raise them in their rectories, convents, or monasteries.  If one parent raising a child is enough, and two is an improvement, regardless of gender, then dozens and dozens of mothers or fathers should be even better.  What a loving environment this child will live.  And what kid would not like the peaceful accommodations, the chanting, the wool blankets, and of course Vespers!  I haven't met a child who said that they hated Vespers.

Now I know that some of you are thinking that this would not be fair to the child because they will feel all kinds of pressure to grow up and be a priest, nun, or monk.  Well, first off all, that is unsubstantiated view.  Just because all of a child's parents live a lifestyle that is outside of the norm does, therefore, determine that the child will be oriented toward said lifestyle.  Every single self-reported study from parents contradicts that, and there is no reason a parent should lie about how good of a parent they are.

Second, if this is such a big deal for some people, then they should encourage cross-gender adoption.  There you would have priests and monks raising girls and nuns raising boys.  That way, the children will be free of the pressure to be exactly like "Daddies" and "Mommies."  Instead, they will grow, develop, and mature in an environment surrounded by communities of adults who have heterosexual attractions.  What in the world could possibly be wrong with that?

So in conclusion, the expansion of marriages definition can only have positive benefits in our society, with absolutely no downside.  People who do not see that fail to grasp that when something can be defined as anything, it essentially means nothing.

And we will never have to worry about marriage controversies again, because supporters of expanding marriage definitions will have achieved the ultimate goal:

Marriage means nothing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Evangelizers Post: Creation and Society

I have a new article up at


The creation stories in Genesis are so incredibly rich in their insight and wisdom.  There is a reason that our Lord consistently referred his critics back “to the beginning” when He would make a point about the world or human nature.  It would be foolish to try and unpack all of the depths of those 2 first chapters, but I would like to focus on what it tells us about society.

Whenever God created anything in the first chapter of Genesis, He said that it was good.  But when God looks at Adam, for the first time in the Bible He says that something is not good.

God says that it is not good for the man to be alone.  But how could Adam be alone?  He was living with God in “paradise,” which is literally translated as “the pleasure park.”  What could Adam be lacking?  We were made by God for God and our deepest longing is for the presence of God in our life.  Adam had all that.

But man was incomplete.  Humanity was incomplete.  God made the beasts, but none were suitable partners.  And that is still true for us today.  Pets and animal companions can fill our lives with affection and care, but they will never fulfill us in the way that we truly need.

So God made woman.  There is actually a play on words in the Hebrew text.  The word “woman” in Hebrew is “ishshah.”  Adam says that he calls her this because she was taken from “her husband,” which in Hebrew is “ishah.”  The point is that the two are cut from the same cloth.

You can read the whole thing here

Monday, June 24, 2013

Film Review: Monsters University

PIXAR consistently brings quality films to the screen.  And while all of their movies cannot be great (Cars, Brave) I have not known them to make a bad film.  So it was with decently sized expectations that I sat down to their latest, Monsters University, and I was not disappointed.

This film is a prequel to the fantastic Monsters Inc.  Whereas that movie held its primary focus on Sully (John Goodman), the gentle, furry giant, the current film concentrates on his diminutive, cycloptic best friend Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal).  Set years before the original, Mike comes to Monsters University with one goal in mind: become a scarer.  In the Monsters world, scarers enter the human world to scare children, whose screams are collected as this world's only source of energy.  After visiting Monsters Inc. while young, Mike has dreamed of nothing else.  The problem is that while he is big on knowledge, he is short on natural talent.  This is especially irksome as he meets Sully, who is so full of inherent scariness that he doesn't even try.

Through a series of events that I will not spoil here, Mike and Sully must work together along with Oozma Kappa, the least popular fraternity on campus.  This motley crew must compete in a series of campus games.  As you can expect, hilarity ensues.  We see this especially in the characters like the lovable losers of Oozma Kappa or the popular kids at Roar Omega Roar (led by the fantastically voiced Nathan Fillion).

As can be expected, the movie is visually arresting.  You can feel the care that they took to make this world exceedingly odd and yet beautiful.  That is no easy thing.  Should you feel too ill at ease in the Monsters world, it would make watching the movie difficult at best.  This also goes into the design of the monsters, keeping them closer to something you would see on Sesame Street than Elm Street.  Some very, very young children might be scared (as one young child in the theater was), but it should not be a large concern.  The PIXAR team has fun with the variety of games and monsters at play throughout.

It was also a great deal of fun watching the budding friendship between Sully and Mike.  Their enmity in the beginning feels very real, to the point where it becomes difficult to see who these two could connect at all.  And that is the beauty of the story in that it creates this giant obstacle, but it shows how the characters overcome it in a believable way.

The jokes are fast and furious and even when they don't elicit laughter, they amuse with delight.  I smiled the entire time I watched the film, with exception of the emotionally stirring parts.  And here is a point that surprised me.

PIXAR deals with Mike's problem in a way I did not expect.  His problem is very real and is not easily dismissed.  And it is a problem that so many of us have and most children can grasp.  What happens when your enthusiasm exceeds your abilities?  Not all of us win American Idol.  Hard work is essential to success, but sometimes it is not enough.  That is a harsh reality that this movie does not side-step at all but tackles it head on.  And it handles it in a way that any child can understand and appreciate.

Heck, even I could understand it.

If you are looking for a fun time at the movies for the whole family, check out Monsters University

4 out of 5 stars

Hollywood Hero: Billy Crystal

photo by David Shankbone
Enjoying the success of Monsters University, Billy Crystal raised $1 million for his East Coast hometown that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  Over $100,000.00 was donated by his family.

You can read the whole thing here.

Monday Poetry: Shakespearean Sonnet #3

Shakespeare seems very much preoccupied with procreation.  He keeps trying to get the reader of his sonnets to have children.  Here, he talks about how mirrors reflect beauty accurately, but children reflect the parent's beauty better.

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity? 
Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
   But if thou live, remembered not to be,
   Die single and thine image dies with thee.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Best: Superman Films

Sunday Best: Superman Movies

Superman is not only an American icon, but he has a long history with film in various franchises. Of course, some movies were more successful than others.

I have added two animated movies to the list. I only included them because Superman was the only bill (unlike a Justice League movie). I also chose not to include the atrocious Supergirl (made by one of my favorite directors Jenotte Szcwarc) because even though he is mentioned, Superman never shows up.

So here are the best Superman movies from worst to greatest

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

-Someone once said that the iron clad rule of sequels is that only the last one loses money. I don't see how that couldn't be true for this mistake of a film. Everything about it is stale and wrong. I am embarresed by the fact that I saw this twice in the theater as a child. And I read the novelization ofthe movie.

Superman III

-By now there is almost universal acknowledgment that making Richard Pryor the top bill of a Superman movie was a horrible mistake.   I mean, just look at that poster... I mean...  ugh!  I mean next thing you know they'll make a Judge Dredd movie with a horribly out-of-place comedic sidekic- oh wait, nevermind.

Director Richard Lester finished filming Superman II after Richard Donner was fired. That accounts for the theatrical version of that film being so uneven. But Superman III is Lester's baby. Full of idiocy and pratfalls, it also carries with it luddite predjudice towards computers. But it does have that really awesome (though nonsensical) scene where Superman fights himself.

Superman Returns

-This is not a bad film. It is also not a very good film. It feels like a wasted opportunity. I actually like the fact that Bryan Singer tied everything to the Richard Donner universe. But there were too many problems from the outset to make this movie fly.

All-Star Superman

-Based on the acclaimed Grant Morrison story, I actually like this movie better than the original comic. Morrison can be esoteric at best, but this movie makes the plot and events feel straightforward and emotionally present. In it, Superman finds out that he is dying and is trying to set the world right before he dies. Action-packed, yet touching

Superman vs. The Elite

-Another based on a comic, this one answers the question of why Superman is important in modern society. Here, the Last Son of Krypton takes on edgier heroes who are not afraid to Jack Bauer their way through the bad guys to get the job done. But when Superman stands on principle, the view him as weak and archaic. How can an old fashioned man like that be relevant today? This movie answers that question.

Man of Steel

-Zack Snyder made a Superman movie with a level of spectacular action that the subject deserves. Exciting and epic in every way.

Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Richard Donner's original vision for Superman II removes most of Lester's silliness and presents us with a more emotionally conflicted Superman who has to choose between his happiness and his duty. And Terrance Stamp rocks!

Superman the Movie

-This movie is an American classic in every sense. It is slow, especially in the beginning. But that slowness feels like the breaking of a new dawn, as Richard Donner opened up a new world with Christopher Reeve inspiring us to believe that a man could fly. The utter sincerity that this movie presents is the real magic. To this day, it fills me with wonder and inspiration.   

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Film Flash: Much Ado About Nothing

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Branagh's 1993 version spoils 1st half.  But second half grabs with force.  Acker, Fillion shine!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Time: Jobs

I find Steve Jobs a fascinating person.  I remember watching Pirates of Silicone Valley, a made for TV movie about him and Bill Gates, and the story just grabbed me in ways I did not expect.

This movie appears to go far beyond where the previous film ended, all the way to the end of Jobs life. There is just one thing keeping from wanting to see it though:  Ashton Kutcher.

I have nothing personally against him.  But throughout the entire trailer, I couldn't see Steve Jobs.  I could only see Kelso from That '70's Show.

Am I wrong?  Or do you get the same impression.

Film Flash: Monsters University

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Surprisingly thoughtful and mature message in fun and funny prequel.  I smiled the entire time.

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trailer Time: Drinking Buddies

I don't know...

I really love the cast and I think this movie could be interesting, but there is a reason why most independent movies are awful.

But I think this could be a non-cliched exploration of romance and friendship and how one necessitates certain boundaries or it dies.

The Inversion of Love

In CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, an elder demon writes letters to a junior tempter (the diabolic antithesis to a guardian angel, whose job it is to damn your soul), with advice on how to get a certain man to hell.  Screwtape always ends his letters with, "Your affectionate Uncle Screwtape."

That word, "affectionate" struck me as very odd until the very end of the book.  There, Screwtape explains that his affection is meant purely as desire.  Particularly, a desire to consume.  The demons in hell feast off of the damned and the senior demons devour failed junior demons.  It is all the more creepy when his last letter is signed, "Your affectionate and ravenous Uncle Screwtape."

This is the exact inversion of real love.  In hell, the other is looked at as an object to be taken and consumed completely into the ego, like food being broken down and made a part of the self.  In heaven, the self is freely surrendered to the other so that the they may be united as one and yet be more fully themseleves.

Why am I writting all of this?

Because Screwtape's twisted idea of love seems to have filtered up to some people in this world.  Particularly Judy Nicastro who wrote recently about her abortion for The New York Times.  Particularly note her understanding of love and tell me that it isn't exactly like Screwtape's.

Click the link to the story here.

Of Saints and Supermen

A lot of people don't know that when Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster first came up with the idea for a character named "Superman" that he was intended to be a villain.  The name came from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Some of you may be familiar with Nietzsche.  He is especially popular with teenagers who are looking at a way to rebel against "society."  Nietzsche believed that morality was something imposed upon on us and that right and wrong do not exist objectively.  Most people are like sheep who follow whatever their culture deems good and appropriate.  But if a man could somehow look beyond all of that, if a man had a strong enough will to power that could take him beyond good and evil, he would transcend ordinary humanity and be truly above the fold.  He would be an "Uber-mensh" or "Superman."

Sadly, some in history have tried applying Nietzsche's ideals and tried to make them real.  If you listen to much of Hitler's words on the master race, you find the DNA of the philosopher's thought.  And in art, there have been many attempts to dramatize the "Superman" in stories.  But to my mind, no one has ever realistically done so.

I can understand the appeal of a character who has no morality.  How many of us have known the hell of a guilty conscience.  There is a freedom in not caring about right and wrong.  Let us be honest, if we found out that God would give us a 24-hour pass to commit whatever sin we desired without any consequence, how many of us would indulge?  The idea of the Superman is that he cannot be tied down to conventions and is above consequences.

The problem is that you cannot get beyond consequences and you cannot get beyond your nature.

This is one of the reasons that the art of story-telling is so important for us to understand why Nietzsche is wrong.  Story-telling is the only universal art form and it is the oldest one at that.  CS Lewis understood that when we tell stories, particularly myths, we circumvent the analytic part of the mind and experience the thing directly.  This is not to say that the experience is irrational or merely emotional.  It means that we touch the truth of reality in a straightforward way.  In other words, I can describe to you what friendship is, give you every type of definition, but it will not compare to experiencing Samwise Gamgee taking Frodo onto his back saying, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!"

Think about all of the characters in movies or stories who have embodied the Nietzschian Superman.  First of all, we find that most of them are villains.  Emperor Palpatine says to Anakin "Good is a point of view."  Jack in Lord of the Flies descends into utter savagery.  Voldemort tells Harry Potter that there is no good or evil, but "only power."  Even the Joker from The Dark Knight said he wasn't a monster, he was just "ahead of the curve," meaning that he was the first to understand that morality was a joke that he had moved beyond.

And even attempts to make these "Supermen" heroic often falls flat.  Hipster-geek favorite Joss Whedon has tried several times to do just his.  Angel, the vampire with a soul, concludes that his war against evil is pointless, but he fights because "what else is he going to do?"  Whedon's Mal Reynolds does not believe in archaic things like sin, but he fights for his people with ferocious faithfulness.  Non-Whedonverse character Jack Bauer commits deceit, torture, and murder of innocents to achieve his ends.  We admire these men for their heroism, but their motivations leave us empty.

In the realm of the less fantastic, we see characters like the heroes of Wag the Dog who enter a campaign of lies and smears to get a president re-elected.  We find them them diverting and entertaining.  But part of us also finds them horribly disgusting.  The reason why is because we intuitively get that they are living against their nature.

The best example I have ever seen of a Nietzchian Superman is Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part I and II.  Particularly by the time you get to the end of Part II, Michael has become a man with ice water in his veins who orders the death of all of his enemies, even those in his own family.  And all of his plans have been successful.  He has achieved, through sheer force of will, the triumph he sought.  And yet how haunting is that last shot of Michael sitting alone.  Alone.


Nietzsche should have warned us of the terrible loneliness of those who don't play by society's rules.  Who would want that person cannot see you as anything other than a means to an end?  There are no heroic "Supermen" successfully portrayed in art.  But that does not mean that there are no heroes.

As I wrote in my essay "The Cape and the Cross," we can find copious amounts of heroic characters, particularly those who act as Christ figures.  There is a reason that we latch onto Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and, yes, Superman.  They touch on the truth of heroism, which is self-sacrifice.  This is the nature of a hero, the nature of a saint.

I also think that there is another reason why we intuitively reject the portrayal of the "Superman" but can accept the depiction of the saint.  The reason is that the Superman is a fiction, while the saint is a reality.  Nietzsche concocted the idea of the "Superman" as a way for him to fantasize about an existence beyond his drab life.  Yes, Nietzsche was a great writer and a genius.  He also had the temperament of a petulant child and he went insane and tried to strangle a horse.

But saints are real.  We see them in history.  Who hasn't been moved by the courage of the early Christian martyrs: of Peter, Paul, Andrew, Bartholomew, Agnes, Barbara, and the rest.  We see them in the world today.  As bad as the news of the world is, we also read stories about those like Mother Teresa or Pope Francis, who lovingly devote themselves to the anawim ("the least ones").

And we see them in our every day lives.  We see them in the parents who cradle a crying child at 3am.  We see them in the neighbor who helps you with your home repairs "just because."  We see it in the teacher who stays hours after the last bell has rung to make sure that their student has everything they need to pass.  We see it in that one person in our life who is unfailingly kind to us, even when we don't deserve it.  We see those who do what is right for no other reason than it is right.

When we see Nietzsche's "Superman" in art, we are staring into a window of fantasy.

When we see a saint in art, we are looking at a mirror held up to reality.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Comics: The Green Lantern Geoff Johns Finale

It was the end of an era.

I've very rarely seen the in-book fanfare of farewells that were present in Green Lantern #20, the last issue written by master scribe Geoff Johns.  Interspersed in the narrative were people inside and outside of the comic book industry making small testimonials to Johns epic 9 years with Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of sector 2814.

I've commented in the past on how Johns innovation of the character and the universe made this book the true flagship of the DCU.  His ingenious weaving of old story lines and new innovations wove an amazingly colorful tapestry of cosmic adventure.  But I would like to focus on that final issue.

Johns' Green Lantern had a habit of doing epic-sized stories while planting the seeds of another future epic in the narrative.  During the dire and violent Rise of the Third Army, Johns introduced a new character called Volthoom, the First Lantern.  To introduce his back story, Johns goes back to the oldest legend of the Oans.

The rebel Krona opened a window to the dawn of creation to watch the "Hand of God" create everything.  But instead a human named Volthoom arrives in a space suit.  What are his origins?  How did he get there?  Why is he wearing something that looks like an American flag?  These questions are never answered.  All we know is that Volthoom acts like a vampire on the emotional spectrum and this allows him to manipulate reality and re-write history.

The build up to the finale mostly involved character pieces where Volthoom entered into the main characters' minds and saw what their greatest fears, hopes, loves, and hatreds were.  He then drove them to feel all of these as deeply as he could so that he could feed off of their energies.  These issues proved to be very intriguing glimpses into the psyches of our heroes, but they felt a bit repetitive.

I would say that is the biggest problem with the issue: it is too short.  I do not mean that this particular issue is short.  In fact, it is over long at 64- pages, which is nearly 3-times the size of an average comic. But reading it, I had the same feeling I had when I watched the finale to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The story felt like it was condensed to fit everything in rather than being let out to breathe, making the conclusion more satisfying.  I feel like another 3 months or so would have opened up a richer conclusion.

But having said that, Johns fills his finale with colossal action and powerful character moments.  When the story begins, both Hal Jordan and his eternal foil Sinestro are at their lowest, for reasons I will not spoil here.  Both, at the beginning are Green Lanterns, but both embrace other corps for various reasons. What follows is both exhilarating and tragic.  And that is the way it should be.  There should be a cost, a heavy cost, to fighting the good fight or the victory earned will not feel as valuable.  It also makes the joy that arises out of the sadness all the sweeter.

Johns also wisely ties together loose ends from all of his major epics in his Green Lantern run, like a composer weaving earlier movements and motifs into a grand guignol.  It reminded me so much of what James Robinson did in his conclusion to the incomparable Starman.  Each callback is a thrill and a delight.  And there is a moment where Sinestro confronts a long-time Green Lantern villain that has the trademark "I didn't see that coming but should have" feel to it.  

My favorite moment (MILD SPOILER THIS PARAGRAPH), by far, is between Hal and Sinestro.  In a way, this series has always been about the 2 of them.  Way back in the series, Hal was bringing Sinestro to his execution (things, obviously, did not go as planned).  Before they were attacked, Hal wanted to ask Sinestro a question.  He never got the chance.  That dangling mystery has been a key thread to the whole dynamic between these two.  In the end, Hal finally gets to ask it of Sinestro: "Were we ever friends?"  Sinestros answer is so perfect, so powerful, and so devastating that it makes me want to re-read the entire series once again.

The coda to the story involves the Toris, the keeper of the Book of Oa in the far future, telling a new Green Lantern about the fates of all the main characters.  This had the feeling of the epilogue to the Harry Potter series, which splits fans down the middle.  I personally, very much enjoyed the Green Lantern epilogue.  Johns understands that when you spend so many years with these characters, saying goodbye is difficult.  Like parting with close friends, above all you want to know that they are going to be okay.  Johns lays out the path of all the survivors of this epic finale in a way that is logically consistent and emotionally cathartic.

This is also the best work I've seen Doug Manke do as artist, and that is saying a lot.  I was not excited when he originally took over, but he has time and again proven me wrong.  There are nice moments drawn by Green Lantern Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver and some by Ivan Reis.  All of it flows nicely to capture the wild and imaginative action and heartbreaking drama.

I want to end this review with a simple thank you to Mr. Geoff Johns.  I doubt that you will ever read this, but I just wanted to say that reading your work on Green Lantern has given me years of wonder and joy.  Your stories will stay with me.  

Thank you for filling my world with Green Lantern's Light.

Film Flash: The Heat

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Standard buddy/cop movie minus any real laughs.  A waste of time and talent.

2 out of 5 stars.

Opening June 28th

Monday, June 17, 2013

Film Review: Man of Steel

The movie had ended and the lights came up and despite how bad it was, I convinced myself that I liked it because it was a Superman movie.  It wasn't until time and subsequent viewings that I realized I was simply starved for more Superman on screen and I was willing to take whatever was offered.

I'm speaking, of course, about 2006's Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's mediocre-at-best addition to the Superman mythos.  I tell you this story because I was very much on my guard against this for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel.  My expectations were so very high and I was starved again for seeing more Superman on screen (especially after Smallville ended).  I went to the midnight showing and came out liking it a great deal.  But before I could give it a thorough review, I went to see it again the next day.

Now I've gone from liking it to loving it.

Man of Steel is the retelling of the Superman origin.  Because we've seen this before in previous films, some of the story beats feel familiar.  But Zack Snyder, unlike Bryan Singer, makes a complete break from the Richard Donner aesthetic.  Everything looks new and different.  This version of Superman's father, Jor-El (played by the wonderfully understated Russell Crowe) is a dynamic man of action and conscience, unlike the stiff, stoic Brando version.  He is at odds with his Kryptonian culture and its leaders, particularly General Zod (Michael Shannon).  But in the midst of the chaos, Jor-El steals something called "the codex" and places it with his son Kal in his rocket to Earth.

The first half of the movie is very similar to the structure of Batman Begins, which is no surprise since it was written by the same man, David S. Goyer.  In both films, the hero is seen wandering, trying to find himself and his place in this world.  Clark (Henry Cavill) travels from one odd job to the next encountering what humanity has to offer (often not very nice).  All the while he reflects on his time growing up in Smallville, being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). His journey eventually takes him to a government research station in the north where they are investigating an extra-terrestrial object.  This also happens to be at the same time that investigative reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) comes snooping in to get the real scoop.  Needless to say, this sets off a series of events that bring Clark to the attention of the world as a hero and creates a confrontation with Zod and his fellow insurgents who survived Krypton's explosion.

Let me begin with the movie's negatives, of which there are 3.

First is the use of shakey-cam.  I HATE shaky-cam.  I find it a near-constant distraction.  Watching this, I wondered if someone had stolen all of the tripods from the set and Snyder said, "Eh, forget it, let's film anyway."  Actually, I know this approach was completely intentional on Snyder's part, whose style in movies like 300 and Watchmen is usually slick and smooth.  Here, because the story is so fantastic, he believes that the use of handheld will give the movie a more realistic look.  And to be sure, it does not look as artificial and polished as most movies today.  The lighting is harsher and the colors tend to be muted, which make it feel much more like the real world than, say, Iron Man 3.  I can see here the influence of The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, who acted as producer for Man of Steel.  That cinematography and "realism" of that second Batman film can been felt in this movie.  The shaking was nowhere near as bad as a Blair Witch Project or a Saving Private Ryan.  But the constant shaking became very annoying.

Second, the narrative in the first half is very disjointed.  Using the Batman Begins approach, Goyer writes a story that jumps around in time a lot.  Not only that, but many of the scenes feel artificially truncated, as if there was more written and shot, but surgically removed for times sake (and seeing as how the movie is around 2 and a 1/2 hours as it is, I understand the concern).  This becomes less of a problem on a second viewing.  I think that Goyer wanted to avoid retreading on familiar ground as much as possible and instead wanted to focus on the emotional reality of Clark's journey.

Third, the supporting characters do not get enough screen time.  Lois, Zod, and Jonathan Kent are all very strongly fleshed out.  But most of the other supporting players like Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne) are only touched upon and given small character moments, but they are never fully developed.  Again, the sense I get is that their scenes were there originally but were left on the cutting room floor.

Those are the 3 strongest areas of detraction I can find in this film.  The rest of it soars.

Man of Steel is a true spectacle.  This is where Snyder is the strongest.  I spent much of the movie drinking in the visuals.  When Zod and Superman first exchange blows, I got my money's worth from the film.  I remember watching The Matrix Revolutions fight between Neo and Smith thinking that this would be cool if it was between Superman and Zod.  Well, that fight has nothing on the climatic battle in Man of Steel.  If you just want to see spectacular scenes of super people punching each other, this movie rocks.  In the IMAX, you could feel each punch resonate through your chest.

I loved the performances in this film.  Cavill has to carry a lot of this film with his looks.  When Superman first appears, the American government believe he is a threat.  What I noticed was that he had to use his body to convey strength and power, but his face always displayed a kind of gentleness to illicit trust.  This kinesthetic schizophrenia is not easy to pull off.  That is not to say he constantly has an "aw-shucks" face.  He brings about amazing levels of intensity in the action sequences.

And, to my mind, Amy Adams is the best Lois Lane I have seen on screen.  This Lois is not, naive or gullible.  She is brave, smart, and conscientious.  Because of this, Man of Steel throws out the old ways her relationship to Superman has been defined and forges a new path.

But the two best performances come from Michael Shannon and Kevin Costner.  Shannon's Zod could be dismissed as over-the-top bordering on cartoonish, except for his complete commitment to the character with a fiery intensity that never abates.  When he shouts "I WILL FIND HIM," it feels like the seething anger under his mind finally explodes.  Someone pointed out the me that he has a stare of constant malice similar to Malcolm McDowell's in A Clockwork Orange.  And unlike Terrence Stamps' Zod, Shannon's is oriented solely for the good of Kryptonian society.

Costner, though, is the emotional heart of the movie.  In the few scenes he is in he breaks the heart.  Not since Viggo Mortenson's performance in The Road have I seen such a worn down, burdened father on screen.  He knows, like all fathers, that his words and actions will shape his child's soul.  But he also knows that because Clark is a god among men, those choices will have resonances to the entire world.  He looks both confident and lost.  He conveys the sureness of a father, but underneath his eyes and in the quiver of his voice, you hear his fear at making the wrong choice.  After Clark displays his power to save some people, Jonathan scolds him.  When asked by Clark if he should have just let them die, Jonathan responds "Maybe."  This could have been perceived as a a cold calculation.  But Costner shows, very subtly, how much that horrible answer weighs on him and what it implies.

Thematically, the movie is very rich.  Much has been made of the Christian imagery throughout the film, and it is there in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  As a devout Catholic, I LOVE the fact that before making a life-changing decision, Clark goes to Church and seeks the advice of priest.  And the priest is not supernaturally wise or specially, but he gives the best advice he can in a very human way that resonates through the rest of the film.  And I also got a little thrill to see that in a scene where some school bullies try to goad Clark into a fight, that he is reading the complete works of Plato!  When was the last time you so Plato in a summer blockbuster?  The movie also deals with issues of nature vs. nurture, free-will vs. determinism, fear vs. trust, etc.

Hans Zimmer's score is also fantastic.  Nothing can touch the iconic John Williams work, but Zimmer makes the wise decision to follow none of the Williams' musical motifs and forges a path of his own.  It is the best score I've heard all year, alternately sad and tender and then big and bellicose.

Days later, I still have the feel of Man of Steel lingering in the corner's of my imagination.  Part of me can't wait to see it again and, even more so, anticipates the new adventures of Superman.

4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monday Poetry: Shakespearean Sonnet #2

Like the first sonnet, this one also urges haste in procreation.  This makes me think of all of those commercials for contraceptives that show all of the pleasures you can enjoy by not having kids.  It is amazing when speaking to teenagers about how one day most of them will be parents I receive blank stares of incomprehension back.  The idea of being a parent is so alien to them, even as they imagine themselves as adults (for children tend to imagine adulthood as childhood, but with more freedom).

But the poet, speaking from experience I think, explains that there are deeper and higher beauties that having children brings.

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held: 
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days; 
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
   This were to be new made when thou art old,
   And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Best: TV Dads of All Time

In honor of Father's Day today, I thought we'd recap the best TV dads.

Now this is not as easy as it sounds, considering that television is, for lack of a better term, a moral cesspool.  Too often the dads are the "cool" dads who buy their kids condoms or they are buffoonish bums.  But we cannot deny that what we watch on tv influences the culture, so we should try to find good examples of fatherhood out there on the airwaves

10.  Rick Castle ("Castle")

He is on the list for the pure cool factor.  He would be the rare exception to this list that finds his place because he has a great friendship with his daughter.  But he isn't afraid to go all Liam Neeson in Taken if it means protecting her.

9.  Jay Sherman ("The Critic")

This schlubby loser whose ex-wife hates him finds nothing but joy in his son.  And he goes out of his way to make his son's life better, which is why his son idolizes him.

8.  Benjamin Sisko ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine")

Unlike other commanders in the Star Trek Universe, we got to watch Sisko deal with the trials of being a single father, watching his son grow up to be a man as he balanced his responsibilities against his family, but never forgetting either.

7.  Angel ("Angel")

The main character of this Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off has a lot of flaws.  SPOILER ALERT, but when it came to his son Connor, there was no price he wasn't willing to pay, whether it was giving him up as an infant so he could have a chance at life or giving him away again as a teenager so that he could have a chance to be happy.

6.  Harold Weir ("Freaks and Geeks")

Simple, yet relatable, Harold is the average father doing his best.  And even his flaws in parenting, like always being more worried about his daughter than his son simply because she's his daughter, are understandable and endearing.

5.  Red Foreman ("That '70's Show")

While nearly everyone on that show was a moral degenerate, Red was the constant boot in their you-know-where to help them grow up.  Tough as nails, he gave what structure.  And though he wasn't warm and fuzzy, he was always there for his kids (even his kids' friends).

4.  Keith Mars ("Veronica Mars")

This was a smart, funny, hard-working dad who put everything he had towards the happiness of his daughter.  Yes, he bent or broke the law every once and a while to do it, but he always did it with his daughter's happiness in mind.

3.  Philip Banks ("The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air")

Uncle Phil could have been a simple over-bearing stereotype.  But he was tough and tender as needed.  He was as much a father to Will as he was to his own children.  The episode where Will's dad comes back is particularly poignant and shows what a real father is.

2.  Heathcliff Huxtable ("The Cosby Show")

No television dad reminds me more of my father.  I think people misremember Cliff as being wacky and fun-loving.  In fact, he was a stern disciplinarian who pushed his kids to make good life decisions.  The humor tended to come from his exacerbation at the idiocy of his children.  But he always put them first and was a great role-model.

1.  Jonathan Kent ("Smallville")

Speaking of role models, there is none better than Jonathan Kent on Smallville.  In fact, that is his whole function to the Superman mythos.  He gets his powers from his Kryptonian parents, but he gets his heroism from his earthly ones.  Jonathan gives Clark the moral compass he needs to understand that his powers are a gift to help others.  And while he did make mistakes, he always did so with the intent to help his family.  He was the one who taught Clark not only how to be a Superman, but how to be a man.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Film Flash: Man of Steel

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Wow! That was a SUPERMAN movie. Literally spectacular. (But I hate shakey-cam)

4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Film Review: The Hangover Part III

This review will be shorter than most, because there is not much to write about.  The original Hangover film was audacious and raunchy.  But above all it was funny.  It also had characters that made interior personal journeys.  Granted some like Stu (Ed Helms) made deeper life changes than Phil (Bradley Cooper) or Alan (Zach Galifinakis), but the story changed them and made them a little better than they were.

The Hangover Part II was vile.  I have very little else to say about it.

The Hangover Part III wisely throws away the recycled plot formula from the first 2.  Here, after Alan's father dies, the wolfpack decide to drive him to a rehab clinic.  But a gangster played by John Goodman kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha).  The comic trio is forced to find Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) in order to get Doug back.

I have no problem with the change up in plot structure.  In fact I welcome it.  But with the change in form, there is also a change in style.  The movie plays much more like a heist movie than a wacky comedy.  And that would be fine if they made it as funny as the first.

The jokes fall flat for the most part because most of the characters have lost their flavor.  This is a movie about Alan.  Stu and Phil are there only because you couldn't have a Hangover movie without them.  But the two saner wolves in the pack have little else to do in the story than react to Alan's insanity.  And this would also be more forgivable if Alan was more redeemable.  But rather than enjoying his wacky free spirit, I found myself wanting to wring his neck.

The film also features much more Ken Jeong, which is not a good thing.  If you give him a good enough part, Jeong is hysterical.  But nonsensical is not the same as humorous and that is where his storyline fails.  Rather than rooting for a happy resolution, I was just waiting for the movie to end.  And while it felt like there was some character development by the end of the first movie, the characters just felt static in this one.

The Hangover Part III is not a bad movie per se.  But it is far below the original.  The movie tries to leave you on a high note with an after-credit scene and a montage of the wolf pack from past films, but all that does is remind you how much better the first Hangover was.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Evangelizers Post: Using the Internet for Evangelization

I have a new article up at


I have only been blogging for a little over a year, so please take any advice given here with that in mind.  There are some great pioneers in using the internet to spread the Gospel.  I am only riding on their able coattails.

But what I have found is that when it comes to evangelizing online, one size does not fit all.  There are different approaches that should be taken in different venues and there are different methods of giving and acquiring information.


I have found blogging to be like giving a sermon.  Thoughts are collected in advance and then presented to the community.  There isn’t a lot of interruption or questions.  Blogging reflections and essays forces you to collect your thoughts into some kind of coherent unity so that you can express yourself effectively.  And just as long sermons tend to upset more than they uplift, long blog articles do, too.  Blogging is not like writing a book.  You must be concise and clear in a few paragraphs or you will lose the interest of the audience.

You can read the whole thing here

Fixing Movies: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace

Once again, in honor of Man of Steel coming coming, I thought we'd look back at the Superman movie franchises.  Last time we tackled Superman Returns.  Now we are going to hit the worst of the Superman movies: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace.

For those who haven't seen it, a young boy writes Superman a letter asking him to get rid of all nuclear weapons.  He decides the boy is right, and tells the nations of the world that he will destroy their nuclear stockpiles.  Lex Luthor creates a super villain called Nuclear Man, who happens to be so solar powered that he falls into a coma if he walks into the shade.  That isn't a joke.  Cover this guy in SPF 150 and it would be like kryptonite.  Anyway, Nuclear Man then fights Superman for, I guess, the right to make more nukes.

Now, the DNA of the film is salvageable.  What I mean is that the essential concept is fascinating: what would happen if Superman said "No more nukes?"  However the rest of the film is trash.  Every part of it.  So rather than a usual numbered point-by-point list, I will throw out the whole thing.  I will start with the main plot and try to incorporate as much of the original's ideas as possible.

Instead of a little boy's letter and a runaway subway as our opening, picture this: two small nations who happen to have nukes declare war.  Superman, who usually does not get involved in geo-political matters, tries to stop mass genocide.  One side launches and the other retaliates.  He is able to stop all the missiles except one.  That missile destroys a heavily populated area killing all the people.  He is only able to find one survivor who is dying from the radiation.  He decides to take that one survivor to the fortress and use his sunstone crystals to heal him.  This goes against the fortresses' programming and warns Superman that effects could be disastrous.  He ignores them and does it anyway.  In the process all of the sunstone crystals are destroyed except for the original green stone from the first film.

Superman, shaken by the destruction, decides that nuclear weapons are too dangerous for earthlings to have.  Some, like Jimmy Olson agree.  Others, like army brat Lois Lane, disagree.  This leads to some healthy debate.  But Superman cannot get past the devastation and the two nations are still bristling.  So Superman relieves them of their nukes.  Then he goes to the UN and tells all the nations that he will rid them of their nukes.

This sends the nations of the world into a tailspin.  Superman has now dictated how nations should act. Some respond by sending an army of Braniac-like robots against him.

While fighting them, Superman gets injured.  But the man he rescued with his sun stone as not only fully recovered, but has developed Krytonian-like powers like Superman, but he has chalky-white skin and his face is scared.  He is a lot like Superman, just a little more "bizarre."  Together, they seek to rid all the nations of their nukes, despite their protest.  And they are successful.

Superman's new ally applies this new philosophy of peace to not only nuclear weapons, but all dictators.  He proceeds to overthrow the dictator who sent nukes to his homeland.  Superman talks him out of killing and holding democratic elections.  The ally agrees, grudgingly.  However, the level of violence by conventional arms around the world escalates and border disputes are becoming more common.  The ally goes to the UN and states that he and Superman will decide the nations borders.  This leads to a philosophical argument between Superman and the ally about the use of power.  Superman says that the people need to make their own choices.  The ally says that he is only following the logical conclusion of Superman's premise that only the two of them are can make the right choices for humanity (thus becoming Nietzschian Supermen).

After the dictator who the ally spared is named president in a democratic election.  The ally goes and unceremoniously kills the new president and declares that the people have wasted their one chance to make their own decisions.  Superman goes and confronts him and they have a knock-down, drag out fight, that nearly kills Superman, who slips away, leaving the ally to declare himself dictator of earth, for the good of the world.

Superman's life is saved by none other than Lex Luthor.  Luthor still hates him with a passion, but sees the ally as a bigger threat.  The two agree to join forces to defeat him.  Luthor reasons that only way to defeat the ally is to use whatever Kryptonian tech is left in the Fortress of Solitude.

Superman lures the ally there and they fight in spectacular fashion with any and all resources the fortress has.  Superman is able to defeat the ally and almost convinces him to learn from the error of his ways.  He tells him that they cannot place themselves above humanity, but have to remember that even though they have more power, that doesn't make them wiser.  But Luthor double crosses Superman and sets off a trap in the fortress that is meant to kill both super-powered beings.  The ally is killed and Superman is almost killed as well.  But he uses the power of the last remaining sunstone to save his life.  He escapes and finds Luthor and brings him to justice.

Superman submits himself to the world court for trial, saying he is prepared to accept whatever punishment the people of Earth give him.  However, footage of his fight with the ally in the fortress (filmed by Luthor and obtained by Lois), has spread throughout the world.  They can see that Superman has learned his lesson and was willing to die to make up for it.  They let him go and Superman pledges to put himself above the people of Earth.

The end.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Dan Harmon Returning to Community

photo by Gage Skidmore
Cool cool cool.

I was at a game night recently when myself and another admirer of the show Community were trying to explain its merits.  But apparently our zeal and affection for this show was so intense, that the person with whom we were speaking said we sounded as if we were in a cult.

I find it hard to imagine anyone watching the first three season and not falling in love with Jeff, Annie, Troy, Abed, Britta, and Shirley (though I'll give a pass to Pierce, Chang, and the Dean).  Those first three seasons are gold.

This past fourth season has been panned by critics and fans alike for its lackluster execution (although a good friend of mine who had not like the show before enjoyed it).  The key ingredient missing from this past season was show creator and showrunner Dan Harmon.

Harmon was unceremoniously fired after a very public dust up with cast member Chevy Chase.  But with Chevy gone and apparently at star Joel McHale's insistence, Dan has returned.

Season 4 of Community was funnier than most stuff on tv, but it couldn't touch the first three seasons.  With Harmon back, I hope the magic will return.

And while you have some standard Hollywood morals, the show has one of the most well-rounded Christian lead characters (Shirley) and it has a fairly strong moral center.  They close the circle very well on Jeff's character who, in the pilot, espouses moral relativism only to reject it at the end of season 3 because he encountered truth and love and friendship.

Check Season 1-3 out on DVD.

The Return of Monday Poetry: Shakespearean Sonnet #1

I know I've been lax in posting Monday Poetry.  But I decided to bring this feature back by bringing the sonnets of William Shakespeare each week.

This first poem is a bit obtuse.  But it is his reflection on how beautiful things and beautiful people have  an obligation to make more beautiful people and beautiful things.  That is because age and death draw us down into darkness, so we have to fill the world with beauty while we can.


From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding:
   Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
   To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Film Flash: The Hangover Part III

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Not the worst Hangover film, but the least funny.  Not bad.  But magic is gone.

Sunday Best: Top Ten Opening Credit Sequences

This was a suggestion from Rick O. He wanted my thoughts as to which movies had the best opening credit sequences. This is not to be confused with an opening scene. The credits sequence tends to be some kind of montage that is interested in getting across the emotional truth of the movie. I've always maintained that the end depends upon the beginning. Usually you know whether or not you like a movie within the first 10 minutes. The opening credit sequence is usually less interested in moving the story forward as it is giving you a sense of the kind of movie you are watching.

There are a lot of great opening sequences. Rick O. was efusive in his praise for the opening credit sequence to Die Another Day. I racked my brain as best I could, so I'm sure there are some that I am missing. Also, there are some, like Star Wars, that have great openings, but that are not opening credit sequences, that have been left off.

Dead Again

-This sequence consists only of credits and newspaper headlines. But director Kenneth Brannagh does 2 things: with his choice of music he creates a palpable air of fear and tension. And the headlines are sufficiently ominous that you can't help but feel the malice in convicted murderer Roman Strauss.


-A lifetime of friendship is something difficult to capture on screen. But Ted did this beautifully with a collection of movies and still photos of a life that does not feel too far removed from our own, full of fun and nostalgia. By the time the sequence is over, you feel the life-long bond between the two main characters.

Much Ado About Nothing
-There is something epically romantic about the way Brannah shot the opening credits to this Shakespeare adaptation. His use of slow motion, sweeping camera movements, and musical flourishes fill the film with pure pagentry


-This black and white sequence not only creates an air around our martyred title character, but it sets the tone of parnoia and fear necessary in this epic consipiracy theory


-Again, opening credit sequences are about tone. And Jason Reitman hit it perfectly with its rotoscoped hyper-stylized reality and quircky soundtrack underneath

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

-This deserves its place just for being so odd and at the same time being so strangely funny.

The Wedding Singer

-Director Franc Coraci capture the feel, music, and color of the 1980's in a way that made it appealing to remember. The musical sequence was toe-tapping fun

-The opening reverse sequence is so strange, yet so important. It fills you with questions that demand to be answered, taking you backwards from a developed polaroid of a murdered man.

Resevoir Dogs

-The first time I saw this movie, I didn't like (I have since come to love it). But even then I was struck by the title sequence. It had this innate sense of cool that seemed unrehearsed and genuine. It also works in a way that transitions you to the shocking violence of the film.


-Pure fun that introduces all of the main characters and sets the tone for fun and adventure.


Young Guns
Arthur 2
Back to the Future
Can't Hardly Wait
Spider-Man 2
Flash Gordon
Forrest Gump
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Get Smart
Gross Pointe Blank
Life is Beautiful
Never Ending Story
Office Space
Swing Kids
Catch Me If You Can

(My wife suggested I also put up Lost in Translation, but I think that was a trap.)