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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Power Rankings: the Marvel Cinematic Universe [updated 11/24/22]

 You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the 30 released Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as determined by the entire LTC staff that wears glasses and has dark skin . . . named Germar.


30. (29) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness 5.9/10 This. Is not good. The Illuminati and all of the multiverse were wasted here. It's a cartoonish, contrived, and poorly presented fan-service fanmade YouTube indie, written by someone that just finished their first film class. Even that ridiculous third eye looked ridiculous. Is this supposed to be horror or horrible? What happened to the Marvel haha? A waste.


29. (28) The Incredible Hulk 6.5/10 This film works on just about every level. It ranked poorly solely because the field is stacked. Bringing in the Abomination for a show-stopping city-smashing finale was genius. Seeing hints of the Leader was cool. Edward Norton did what he does; he killed it. Some parts drag, but it's about as good as a live-action Hulk film could be outside of The Avengers.

28. (27) Ant-Man and the Wasp 6.5/10 THIS. This is what people are talking about when they say that "superhero movies aren't good" and that "they're all the same" and that they "hate Marvel movies." The best scene takes place mid-credits. Yes, it's sci-fi or fantasy or something, but they break all the rules they made. It's not very funny. And they should have just called it Ant-Man 2

27. (26) Eternals 6.6/10 Not a bad film, but no one bats 1000 forever. The post-Thanos MCU is looking real mediocre. Great characters. Awesome power sets. But also, slow-paced with mostly ho-hum action.



26. (25) Captain America: The First Avenger   6.6/10 Updated Opinion: I've fallen asleep to this many times.  Surprise motherf*cker! (that's a Dexter reference) Honestly, I can't even get through this now, but I remember what it meant then. I'm not a Captain America fan. This film made me care about him. They poked fun at him. He was a guy and not an Uncle Sam poster (except for when he clearly was, but that wasn't by choice). Most importantly, my female non-nerd friends thought this film was dope and not just because the Human Torch starred in it.

25. (24) Thor  6.7/10 Updated Opinion: This is the worst version of Thor. But it's not a bad intro to a damn good trilogy.  The only movie on the list that is absolutely awful. Whenever I hear someone say they liked Thor, I want to punch them in the face very hard. I watched this awful film twice because my ex's sister-in-law convinced the family that it was good. They all hated it. I feel like Thor was the most cartoony or comic-y of the movies. If you liked this movie, you're probably a Thor fan or hardcore comic fan, or you have absolutely terrible taste, or you want to feel my fist.


24. (23) Thor: Love and Thunder 6.7/10 Just no. They attempted to pack too much of what may be the MCU's best story into two tiny hours. Recut this. Leave out the Guardians, and add more Jane, or remove Jane. Add more Valkyrie. Add more Gorr. Remove the jokes that don't land and add more battles that do land. Maybe the MCU on the big screen has run its course.


23. (19)  Iron Man 3  6.7/10 Initially, I liked this more than most. But for some reason, I cannot fathom sitting through it again. Ughhhhh. I loved the Mandarin thing, but was this really an Iron Man movie? I appreciated the Mandarin ruse because we weren't ready for the actual Mandarin yet.  I understood the stuff with the kid, but really? There were two iron men that rarely got to suit up. Annnd the weird fire volcano people . . . . Annnnd Pepper became Iron Man and Fire Lady . . . .  Annnnnnd how did this get ranked so highly? Oh, there were lots of suits fighting at the end--that was cool. Although it was wise of the writers, I never bought RDJ's portrayal of PTSD

22. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 6.7/10 This entire era of movies follows a similar cadence: 1) deep and often explosive beginning; 2) giant, but thin final battle; and 3) uhhh the middle ummm uhhh slower, expository ummm bridge to the final battle. Shang-Chi features amazing characters and decent lore. The story is hopefully one that will prevent MCU critics from saying, "they're all the same movie." It's Awkwafina's best. And still, I wanted more.

21. Black Widow 6.7/10 Everyone will think this should be higher, but again, every movie can't be their best. And they've put out some damn good picture shows. Serious knocks here for being very predictable right down to who would appear in the post-credit. But this is the best action-movie action in a woman-led and dominated action movie ever. 

Photo: Jay Maidment

20. Doctor Strange 6.7/10 Ok, MCU fans stahp it. Every next film cannot be their best film. This was good film, but mediocre in this collection. They've perfected the genre, and now they can crank them out in perpetuity. But Doctor Strange lacked the team dynamic and history that recent entries contain. And while the movie remained active, it wasn't the action of "Winter Soldier," "Ultron," or "Civil War." Yes, magic, but still. Dormammu ending perfect.




19. (18)  Iron Man 2  6.7/10 Updated Opinion: It bores me. No one liked this film, but me; I understand that. But hey, I have a sense of humor. Drunken Iron Man dancing and fighting, stolen suits, HAMMER and weapon malfunctions, the bird, the Widow . . . c'mon!!! 

18. (17) Spider-Man: Homecoming 6.7/10 I was wrong. This is good. Maybe I just hit that age where cutesy teen movies lose their charm. If I have, this is a sad sad time for me. Michael Keaton can do no wrong. And Marvel's actually inspired inspiring casting excites me--sexually (so many shades of brown). This version of Spidey is the most realistic, which often means boring. Tobey > Tom > Andrew

17. (16) Spider-Man: Far From Home 6.7/10 Because I initially hated Homecoming, this movie seemed flawless in comparison. It's fine. All of that Spidey building in Captain America, The Avengers, and that awful first movie finally paid off. This is fun and MCU connective and logical and different from the other twenty-something films. If you know Mysterio, then you knew the story. Still, the spectacle, the possibilities, and the performances made it all worthwhile anyway.

16. (15)  Captain America: The Winter Soldier   6.8/10 Somehow this average flick fooled the world. It wasn't nearly as clever as you think.  It did, however, make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a much better series. The action, especially between Cap and Bucky dwarfs the other non-ensemble films. This rendition of Falcon fits nicely. The Winter Soldier appeared as he might in my dreams and nightmares. Oddly, I enjoyed it more the second time.  Expectations? Hype?

15. (14)  Ant-Man  6.9/10 I found this film to be the least "Marvel-y," which is fine. Because it wasn't a typical Marvel film, it was American film-making 101 and quite predictable. If you like mediocre movies, you will LOVE this. That said, they did pull this off well.

14. (13)  Thor: Ragnarok 7/10 Updated Opinion: It wasn't as silly as I remembered. I get it now. I like it now. Watching the three "Thors" back to back to back really helps this entry. Comedy is fine, but comedy in every single line of dialogue for an hour straight is weird. This is the first movie EVERRRR where every actor played the role of comic relief. Beyond that, it was somewhat amazing--beautifully shot, amazing performances, and CGI excellence. They get bonus points for a decent villain, an Executioner sighting, and a Planet Hulk nod.

13. (12)  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 7/10 They almost did it again. Odd that this film isn't more connected to the Avengers part of the universe. It was hilarious, but almost not a movie. The typical conflict and tension were non-existent. The twists were predictable in a typical way. The B-villain and story were laughable. But to be fair, how do you follow one of the biggest films of all time--the biggest, most universally loved, surprise hit since The Matrix? They almost did it. 

12. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 7.2/10 Not quite T'Challa and Killmonger, but still worthy. The culture(s). The Black girl magic. Mutants. War. Wakanda forever. 


11. (10)  Thor: The Dark World   7.5/10  Yes, I appreciate this film more than most of you, but that's because I get things and stuff. Yes, the bad guy was weak, unimportant, and not memorable, but so what. They took a big cue from The Avengers, and made a film that was fun, funny, action-packed, and included a beginning, middle, and end. I only hated that it was so short.

10. (9)   Avengers: Age Of Ultron   7.5/10 Updated Opinion: And now that the Infinity Saga is done, this is a good filmNot a good film, but a HUGE film. They attempted to pack too much into one film. Ultron and Spader dominated. Why do Ultron, and later the Vision, exist and how? . . . not that important really. They attempted an attempt at explanations all over this thing. Nothing made sense, but it was a wild and fun ride.

9. (8) Avengers: Endgame 7.7/10 Like its portioned-prequel, this is more of an experience than it is a film. Unlike Infinity War, this isn't very good. It is a somewhat perfect--albeit predictable--conclusion. But most importantly, this IS the biggest film event ever.

8. (7) Captain Marvel 7.8/10 Updated opinion: I let one scene, expectations, and the lack of a super-powered ensemble ruin what was otherwise a damn good movie.  First of all, women are superior to men in every way. Secondly, I prefer women-led movies. Room (starring Captain Marvel herself) is the best film of the last five years. And Captain Marvel is not a very good movie . . . like at all. It may be an important movie (not on Black Panther's level, or Wonder Woman's but important). But importance does not equal entertainment. This should've been better.


7. Spider-man: No Way Home 7.9/10 The number one DON'T SPOIL THIS MOVIE of all time did not disappoint. It went as expected, but the music. the feels. the redemption. Not a great film, but a top moment in pop culture history.

6. Iron Man   8/10  I never understood why you feel so strongly and positively about this film. I re-watched it. It's solid, and really solidly establishes the entire universe. I had far more fun with 2 and maybe even 3, but this is a far superior film.

5. Black Panther 8.4/10 Update: This film may be the best by Marvel Studios. Deep. I have no jokes here. Even though this wasn't the best film or my favorite film, it is by far the most important. Had it been less predictable, with a T'Challa that was cool and mysterious like in Civil War, it's a 10/10.

4. The Avengers   8.5/10 Updated Opinion: Post-Infinity Saga and after seeing most of these films multiple times, the champ has tumbled. But still, long live the king.  Nailed it. THIS is what I want to feel every time I pay $50 for popcorn, soda, and Raisinets. What can I say that hasn't been said before? The most balanced movie I've ever seen, if you forget that Hawkeye is also sort of an Avenger. 

3.  Captain America: Civil War 8.7/10 #TeamIronMan all day! This IS actually "Avengers 3: Civil War," but it doesn't lose points for that. Marvel Studios does an unbelievable job of adding characters, combining worlds, and progressing their universe. It's very well-balanced. It loses points (and me) in some of the more verbose scenes. The dialogue wasn't too complex, just too much. The conflict was simple and obvious--show us more of that. Spider-man was flawless. Black Panther was more flawless. 

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy  9/10  People that don't include this in their top two also get punched in the face.  80s references "never go over my head" because "there ain't no thing like me but me" whore. The flick's fairly flawless. 

1. Avengers: Infinity War 9.1/10 No, this isn't a movie, but it's THE best movie-going experience unless you get down like Pee-Wee Herman. I saw it 2.5 times, in theaters, because I just needed to see Hulk get dat ass beat one mo' time.  

Rankings: the DC Extended Universe [Updated 11/24/22]

 You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do nearly enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the twelve released DC Extended Universe films as determined by every African-American staff member at LTC.

12. Suicide Squad 3.8/10 Suicide Squad and Fantastic Four (2015) share the dubious distinction as the only modern superhero films that I have not watched a second time (now includes, oddly, Black Panther). Suicide Squad wins the award for the Best Trailer-Worst Movie combo. I've rarely cared so little for characters or a story. In case you forgot: 1) civilians became putties from Power Rangers; 2) the mission/B villain was Waller; 3) the actual villains were a temporary team member and weird guy you forgot; 4) someone important died immediately; 5) only the marquee names mattered--Robbie, Smith, Leto, Davis--the other 18,000 cast members became background; 6) except for Diablo who could have been cool, if the filmmakers knew anything about storytelling or character development. This movie sucked.

11. Birds of Prey 5.3/10 The world's first big budget woman-powered 80s-action movie got released in 2020. And it would have been cool if they leaned into the ridiculous cheesiness of this thing. But if felt like they took themselves seriously. They also apparently live in the same world, universe, DCEU as Superman, Batman, Shazam . . . . It doesn't feel like these movies, characters, and actors could share an egg sandwich, much less a planet. I don't know how DC Films can look at Marvel Studios stuff and keep cranking out crap. 


10. Shazam! 5.4/10 Arya Stark is super cute in this, and perfect in the role. But whycome a really mature 14-year-old would magic into a 30-year-old with the mind of a 10-year-old? For all of the color, and humor, and action, it's kind of obvious and snooze-festy. Maybe Disney should make DC movies.
Photo: DC/Warner. Bros
9. Wonder Woman 1984 5.4/10 It's always a bad sign when the audience only gets excited for the mid-credits scene. At the end of the film a dude stood in the front of the theatre, turned around, looked at all of us, shrugged, then spread his arms like a dying Christ, but clearly communicating: "well they tried." Patty Jenkins seemed so confident all year; I believed in her. Even ignoring the . . . conceit? of the whole film, everything happens . . . because the film needs or wants it to happen. It's a mess. DC sucks at live-action movies.

8. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice 5.5/10
 The longer cut is better. Basically, they attempted to make an intelligent, dark, and gritty film. They failed. You never attempt to do a thing. You're intelligent or you're not. You can't feign intelligence, you'll look like a fool, i.e. this film.


7. Aquaman 5.9/10 It was fun, but lacked heart and soul. They got so much right--BLACK MANTA, Ocean Master, the visuals and use of tech/science and magic. And after all of that, I could've had a V8.

6. Black Adam 5.9/10 In no universe could the People's Eyebrow do this character justice. But this was unique. It was entertaining. They may have gotten the power levels right. And that obvious end-credit cameo was as good as they get.

5. The Suicide Squad 6/10 The MCU had sex with a made-for-TV-movie, and nine months later I saw The Suicide Squad. This is much, much, better than that awful first attempt.  But if you want to see the real Suicide Squad, the real Task Force X, watch the fourth episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited OR Batman: Assault on Arkham, OR Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay.


4. Wonder Woman 6.5/10 PERFECTION right through the complete obliteration of that long-held German line. Beyond that, the film fizzles. Steve Trevors' motley crew didn't humor, scare, endear, or anything. And Steve dulled much of Diana's shine. Aries did not impress, in appearance, performance, or overall villainy. Wonder Woman, and all of Themyscira, saved what was otherwise a mediocre film.


3. Justice League 6.9/10 I don't get the hate. I somewhat loved this film. Like Thor 2: The Dark World, my only complaint is that it's too short. There's too much to get done in such a small amount of time. But considering the limitations provided, they got EVERYTHING right. EVERYTHING. (maybe I didn't like blaxploitation Aquaman, but everything else) UPDATE: after seeing this four times, I am looking forward to The Snyder Cut.

2. Man of Steel 8/10 Here's the deal, you want your Superman to be a corny-ass Boy Scout. I guess I have to respect that. But I think I like the DCEU Superman because he relays that a person that isn't perfect, that makes mistakes, that gets angry, that looks a little rough, can still be a hero. This is me as Superman. It's every minority, most women, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, people who made a mistake--we still have value. We too can still save the world.

1. Zack Snyder's Justice League 8.7/10 TL; DR, the Movie. Almost Avenger's-level excellence. Snyder proved his point. All of his trademark annoying touches are there. But he's a damn good storyteller and filmmaker. This movie is by far the best of the DCEU. This story needs to continue. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Indie Music: Zach Churchill "Surrender"

by Germar Derron


"Hey, indie music." "Hey Germar, what's up?" "We are not in Kansas anymore."

I used to produce indie music. It never sounded like this. It's hard to think of this as "indie." And yes, I understand that "indie" doesn't equal not good. But this sounds like a song teachers play, in a production or songwriting class, as an example of what radio-ready commercial music should sound like. It's a "comp track." The professor might say something like, "if your track doesn't sound like this, then you're not done yet."

"Surrender" is predictable in the best sense. I sang along, on the first listen, before I'd heard a single lyric. That aural predictability ties to logic and structure--comfort. It's comfortable. And we crave comfort. The lyrics are relatable.

I appreciate the increasingly rarer legitimate chorus included here. He's not afraid to tell his story through rhyme, melody, and repetition (i.e., with lyrics--song).

The mix, production, and arrangement are all 5-star. The vocal is tucked into the track just enough to cut through while also maintaining an aural equity with the other instruments. Someone behind the glass really respects all of the many pieces of this craft.

The message here feels real. Churchill isn't merely singing. This isn't acting or pretense. He believes these lyrics and needs an audience to believe them too. That desperation is most evident on the ending lyrics, over mellow keys and strings or pad, "you can change if you want to."

The song clocks in at over five minutes. That's long for radio destined popular music. But somehow, here, it feels brief. It seems cliffhanger-ish: "what happens next?" The runtime works because of a subtle and pleasant continuing variation in rhythm, vocal style, chords, and melody. Ultimately, Churchill shows us more than enough on "Surrender" to leave no doubt about the beautiful experience to come on his new album, Greater Than.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Indie Music: Bel-la, "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back"

by Germar Derron



Are those crickets?

The music video for "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back" thoughtfully explores its theme through image, rhythm, melody, and soundscape. For a more stripped-down, pristine, studio version, the single also exists untethered from video.

But even before I watched the video, the song pushed a visual--night, solitude, a journey, light that obfuscates, and dreams.

This song, mix-wise, goes hard against the grain, and triumphs unscathed. The instrumental portion is produced and mixed dry and straightforward. The vocal is heavily treated, wet--dreamy. Here, Bel-la reminds me of every Dido song. I love Dido. Typically, this split, or contrast, in styles produces a track that is disconnected. The vocals usually seem to sit on, or ride on, top of a backing track--like a clumsily produced home recording. But here, it works. It adds to the solitude. It's not at all distracting or unappealing. 

I compare the content of the song to "One Sweet Day," by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey. Of course, the tone and genre share little resemblance. But Day began as two different songs. I believe Boyz II Men had a song about the murder of their road manager. Carey's song lamented a lost romantic relationship. Even as a young child, I could feel the push and pull in that track, before I knew the story behind why. Here again, on "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back," I feel both senses of loss. But there is no push and pull, there's a painful agreement.

Beyond the mid-point of this track, a guitar solo replaces the vocals of Bel-la. It's the first time that an instrument takes lead or takes on the dream, or dreamy quality. And when the vocal returns, the entire track is somehow even more cohesive. And that cohesiveness feels like consolation, relief, release--a resolution.

Similar to Dido's "Here With Me," Bel-la's "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back" would do very well as the theme song on a hit television show.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Power Rankings: the Marvel Cinematic Universe [updated 07/16/22]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the 29 released Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as determined by the entire LTC staff that wears glasses and has dark skin . . . named Germar.


29. (28) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness 5.9/10 This. Is not good. The Illuminati and all of the multiverse were wasted here. It's a cartoonish, contrived, and poorly presented fan-service fanmade YouTube indie, written by someone that just finished their first film class. Even that ridiculous third eye looked ridiculous. Is this supposed to be horror or horrible? What happened to the Marvel haha? A waste.


28. (27) The Incredible Hulk 6.5/10 This film works on just about every level. It ranked poorly solely because the field is stacked. Bringing in the Abomination for a show-stopping city-smashing finale was genius. Seeing hints of the Leader was cool. Edward Norton did what he does; he killed it. Some parts drag, but it's about as good as a live-action Hulk film could be outside of The Avengers.

27. (26) Ant-Man and the Wasp 6.5/10 THIS. This is what people are talking about when they say that "superhero movies aren't good" and that "they're all the same" and that they "hate Marvel movies." The best scene takes place mid-credits. Yes, it's sci-fi or fantasy or something, but they break all the rules they made. It's not very funny. And they should have just called it Ant-Man 2

26. (25) Eternals 6.6/10 Not a bad film, but no one bats 1000 forever. The post-Thanos MCU is looking real mediocre. Great characters. Awesome power sets. But also, slow-paced with mostly ho-hum action.



25. (24) Captain America: The First Avenger   6.6/10 Updated Opinion: I've fallen asleep to this many times.  Surprise motherf*cker! (that's a Dexter reference) Honestly, I can't even get through this now, but I remember what it meant then. I'm not a Captain America fan. This film made me care about him. They poked fun at him. He was a guy and not an Uncle Sam poster (except for when he clearly was, but that wasn't by choice). Most importantly, my female non-nerd friends thought this film was dope and not just because the Human Torch starred in it.

24. (23) Thor  6.7/10 Updated Opinion: This is the worst version of Thor. But it's not a bad intro to a damn good trilogy.  The only movie on the list that is absolutely awful. Whenever I hear someone say they liked Thor, I want to punch them in the face very hard. I watched this awful film twice because my ex's sister-in-law convinced the family that it was good. They all hated it. I feel like Thor was the most cartoony or comic-y of the movies. If you liked this movie, you're probably a Thor fan or hardcore comic fan, or you have absolutely terrible taste, or you want to feel my fist.


23. Thor: Love and Thunder 6.7/10 Just no. They attempted to pack too much of what may be the MCU's best story into two tiny hours. Recut this. Leave out the Guardians, and add more Jane, or remove Jane. Add more Valkyrie. Add more Gorr. Remove the jokes that don't land and add more battles that do land. Maybe the MCU on the big screen has run its course.

22. (21) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 6.7/10 This entire era of movies follows a similar cadence: 1) deep and often explosive beginning; 2) giant, but thin final battle; and 3) uhhh the middle ummm uhhh slower, expository ummm bridge to the final battle. Shang-Chi features amazing characters and decent lore. The story is hopefully one that will prevent MCU critics from saying, "they're all the same movie." It's Awkwafina's best. And still, I wanted more.

21. (10) Black Widow 6.7/10 Everyone will think this should be higher, but again, every movie can't be their best. And they've put out some damn good picture shows. Serious knocks here for being very predictable right down to who would appear in the post-credit. But this is the best action-movie action in a woman-led and dominated action movie ever. 

Photo: Jay Maidment

20. (19) Doctor Strange 6.7/10 Ok, MCU fans stahp it. Every next film cannot be their best film. This was good film, but mediocre in this collection. They've perfected the genre, and now they can crank them out in perpetuity. But Doctor Strange lacked the team dynamic and history that recent entries contain. And while the movie remained active, it wasn't the action of "Winter Soldier," "Ultron," or "Civil War." Yes, magic, but still. Dormammu ending perfect.


19. (18)  Iron Man 3  6.7/10 Initially, I liked this more than most. But for some reason, I cannot fathom sitting through it again. Ughhhhh. I loved the Mandarin thing, but was this really an Iron Man movie? I appreciated the Mandarin ruse because we weren't ready for the actual Mandarin yet.  I understood the stuff with the kid, but really? There were two iron men that rarely got to suit up. Annnd the weird fire volcano people . . . . Annnnd Pepper became Iron Man and Fire Lady . . . .  Annnnnnd how did this get ranked so highly? Oh, there were lots of suits fighting at the end--that was cool. Although it was wise of the writers, I never bought RDJ's portrayal of PTSD

18. (17)  Iron Man 2  6.7/10 Updated Opinion: It bores me. No one liked this film, but me; I understand that. But hey, I have a sense of humor. Drunken Iron Man dancing and fighting, stolen suits, HAMMER and weapon malfunctions, the bird, the Widow . . . c'mon!!! 

17. (16) Spider-Man: Homecoming 6.7/10 I was wrong. This is good. Maybe I just hit that age where cutesy teen movies lose their charm. If I have, this is a sad sad time for me. Michael Keaton can do no wrong. And Marvel's actually inspired inspiring casting excites me--sexually (so many shades of brown). This version of Spidey is the most realistic, which often means boring. Tobey > Tom > Andrew

16. (15) Spider-Man: Far From Home 6.7/10 Because I initially hated Homecoming, this movie seemed flawless in comparison. It's fine. All of that Spidey building in Captain America, The Avengers, and that awful first movie finally paid off. This is fun and MCU connective and logical and different from the other twenty-something films. If you know Mysterio, then you knew the story. Still, the spectacle, the possibilities, and the performances made it all worthwhile anyway.

15. (14)  Captain America: The Winter Soldier   6.8/10 Somehow this average flick fooled the world. It wasn't nearly as clever as you think.  It did, however, make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a much better series. The action, especially between Cap and Bucky dwarfs the other non-ensemble films. This rendition of Falcon fits nicely. The Winter Soldier appeared as he might in my dreams and nightmares. Oddly, I enjoyed it more the second time.  Expectations? Hype?

14. (13)  Ant-Man  6.9/10 I found this film to be the least "Marvel-y," which is fine. Because it wasn't a typical Marvel film, it was American film-making 101 and quite predictable. If you like mediocre movies, you will LOVE this. That said, they did pull this off well.

13. (12)  Thor: Ragnarok 7/10 Updated Opinion: It wasn't as silly as I remembered. I get it now. I like it now. Watching the three "Thors" back to back to back really helps this entry. Comedy is fine, but comedy in every single line of dialogue for an hour straight is weird. This is the first movie EVERRRR where every actor played the role of comic relief. Beyond that, it was somewhat amazing--beautifully shot, amazing performances, and CGI excellence. They get bonus points for a decent villain, an Executioner sighting, and a Planet Hulk nod.

12. (11)  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 7/10 They almost did it again. Odd that this film isn't more connected to the Avengers part of the universe. It was hilarious, but almost not a movie. The typical conflict and tension were non-existent. The twists were predictable in a typical way. The B-villain and story were laughable. But to be fair, how do you follow one of the biggest films of all time--the biggest, most universally loved, surprise hit since The Matrix? They almost did it. 


11. (10)  Thor: The Dark World   7.5/10  Yes, I appreciate this film more than most of you, but that's because I get things and stuff. Yes, the bad guy was weak, unimportant, and not memorable, but so what. They took a big cue from The Avengers, and made a film that was fun, funny, action-packed, and included a beginning, middle, and end. I only hated that it was so short.

10. (9)   Avengers: Age Of Ultron   7.5/10 Updated Opinion: And now that the Infinity Saga is done, this is a good filmNot a good film, but a HUGE film. They attempted to pack too much into one film. Ultron and Spader dominated. Why do Ultron, and later the Vision, exist and how? . . . not that important really. They attempted an attempt at explanations all over this thing. Nothing made sense, but it was a wild and fun ride.

9. (8) Avengers: Endgame 7.7/10 Like its portioned-prequel, this is more of an experience than it is a film. Unlike Infinity War, this isn't very good. It is a somewhat perfect--albeit predictable--conclusion. But most importantly, this IS the biggest film event ever.

8. (7) Captain Marvel 7.8/10 Updated opinion: I let one scene, expectations, and the lack of a super-powered ensemble ruin what was otherwise a damn good movie.  First of all, women are superior to men in every way. Secondly, I prefer women-led movies. Room (starring Captain Marvel herself) is the best film of the last five years. And Captain Marvel is not a very good movie . . . like at all. It may be an important movie (not on Black Panther's level, or Wonder Woman's but important). But importance does not equal entertainment. This should've been better.


7. Spider-man: No Way Home 7.9/10 The number one DON'T SPOIL THIS MOVIE of all time did not disappoint. It went as expected, but the music. the feels. the redemption. Not a great film, but a top moment in pop culture history.

6. Iron Man   8/10  I never understood why you feel so strongly and positively about this film. I re-watched it. It's solid, and really solidly establishes the entire universe. I had far more fun with 2 and maybe even 3, but this is a far superior film.

5. Black Panther 8.4/10 Deep. I have no jokes here. Even though this wasn't the best film, or my favorite film, it is by far the most important. Had it been less predictable, with a T'Challa that was cool and mysterious like in Civil War, it's a 10/10.

4. The Avengers   8.5/10 Updated Opinion: Post-Infinity Saga and after seeing most of these films multiple times, the champ has tumbled. But still, long live the king.  Nailed it. THIS is what I want to feel every time I pay $50 for popcorn, soda, and Raisinets. What can I say that hasn't been said before? The most balanced movie I've ever seen, if you forget that Hawkeye is also sort of an Avenger. 

3.  Captain America: Civil War 8.7/10 #TeamIronMan all day! This IS actually "Avengers 3: Civil War," but it doesn't lose points for that. Marvel Studios does an unbelievable job of adding characters, combining worlds, and progressing their universe. It's very well balanced. It loses points (and me) in some of the more verbose scenes. The dialogue wasn't too complex, just too much. The conflict was simple and obvious--show us more of that. Spider-man was flawless. Black Panther was more flawless. 

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy  9/10  People that don't include this in their top two also get punched in the face.  80s references "never go over my head" because "there ain't no thing like me but me" whore. The flick's fairly flawless. 

1. Avengers: Infinity War 9.1/10 No, this isn't a movie, but it's THE best movie-going experience unless you get down like Pee-Wee Herman. I saw it 2.5 times, in theaters, because I just needed to see Hulk get dat ass beat one mo' time.  

Rankings: the Theeuhtahr [Updated: 7/16/22]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. Plus, Germar's life has shifted from music, to film, to . . . stage. And because he sees so many theatrical productions, he will rate and rank them here. Additionally, you're going to click this link because you want to know where your production ranks. 

And remember, a score of 5.5 does not equal 55% failure. It means that the show was better than 55% of all shows.

Photo: Josh Sisk

39. Silent Sky (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 6/10 This is the toughest entry. People involved in this production will think I'm a hater. But a large component of the scores is "rewatchability." And even though this show may be better technically than "Mermaid" or "Wonka," it's not something you'd watch again and again. And that might not be fair, because we sing along to the hits from "Wizard of Oz," "Mermaid," and "Rock of Ages." But rules is rules. To justify this ranking, I'll include quotes from audience members: "the leads lacked chemistry" "I didn't get the set" "where were they supposed to be" "it didn't really catch me" "I didn't get the lights" "why are those stairs so big?" COVID-era shows are tough.  

38. The Wizard of Oz (2013, Southern Arizona) 7.2/10 Monkeys flew, witches melted--an all-around technical achievement. But it was also three hours long and you know how it ends.


37. It's a Wonderful Life (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 The leads dazzled. But you really have to love this era of storytelling, to love this show, in 2018.


36. Willy Wonka (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 It's always all about the Oompa Loompas! It was Wonka . . . wacky and colorful and kid-friendly.


35. The Wizard of Oz (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 One of the best family-fun summer experiences imaginable. Great performances, but a super non-traditional show.


34. Black Super Hero Magic Mama (2022 Baltimore, north) 7.2/10 These stories, writers, and performers are important. As a loud proud Black man, I love this. But I've never really loved Black "message" stories. In part, "we" tell them a lot. And I lived it, so I understand its import and accuracy. But as an audience member, I'm unfortunately always a choir member (where writer/director is a preacher). A few special performances and fun tech made this well worth the price of admission. 


33. Bakkhai (2022, Baltimore Center) 7.2/10 Stellar performances, perfect light design, classic story, but maybe not the best fit for the current climate.

32. 2 Across (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Pandemic plays = smaller shows, smaller casts, smaller sets, smaller audiences, smaller applauses, smaller laughs. Two people talking on a train is a tough sell, even when it's perfect.


31. The Complete History of America (Abridged) (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Tough to believe that three non-professionals (cast members) could pull this off--but they did.

30. The Little Mermaid (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Full disclosure: Germar works on most of these productions. He failed this production. Amazing performances, but inconsistent tech and art direction. #maskup  


29. Harvey (2020, Central Indiana) 7.2/10 Each cast member played their part to perfection. Also, see above: It's a Wonderful Life.

28. A Musical Christmas Carol 7.3/10 (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) The same perfect performances that we now take for granted from this production company. BUT a really poor technical outing. Me thinks "the -VID" strikes again.

27. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 7.3/10 (2021, Farmland Indiana) "Hunchback" is one of the oddest shows that people absolutely adore. Great performances and decent tech, but overall inconsistent.

26. Is Edward Snowden Single? 7.3/10 (2022, Baltimore, in the city) The story . . . ummmm is maybe the worst one on this list. But then it does pull together nicely at the end, and I appreciate that. The production was about as good as any on this list. It was immersive and technically creative. The co-leads performed perfectly. And the venue played its part superbly. 


25. Julius Caesar (2022, North of Center Baltimore) 7.3/10 "So it's like Hamilton?" Well, the cast is Black and the hip-hop influence is flawless. But it's good because it's good, not because it's the next Hamilton.

24. Mamma Mia! (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 This theatre consistently does the biggest best most-crowd-pleasing-fantastical-colorful-creative-imaginative shows of all community theaters. Mamma Mia! definitely kept that streak alive.

23. Mamma Mia! (2019, Michiana) 7.3/10 This Sophie SANGS. Beautiful cast. The director and choreographer put professional stamps all over this thing.

22. Tarzan (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 They used a real baby! They swung on vines and climbed trees. Go-ril-las stole the show. 

21. Scrooge: The Musical (2017, East Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Classic and timeless tale, done by a big diverse cast. Costumed fun.

20. Into the Woods (2019, Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Talented cast. The set designers and builders optimized, and creatively utilized, a tight space.


19. The Music Man (2019, Michiana) 7.5/10 The best ensemble performance ever. 


18. West Side Story (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.5/10 Every time Maria was on stage was the best thing you've seen on a stage. Rosalia . . . Anita . . . . Tony.


17. Now and Then (2019, Michiana) 7.6/10 Casual and modern. And by the end of the show, it's life-changing.


16. Cinderella (2018, Tour) 7.6/10 Beautiful set, world-class dancing, but no soul.

15. Into the Woods (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) 7.6/10 Pitch perfect ensemble singing. 

14. The Little Mermaid (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.6/10 Ariel nailed it. And the magic of the sea was felt throughout the performance.

13. Big River (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 I can't decide if the show is a story about:   1) two cons on the run; 2) crazy Tom Sawyer; or most likely 3) a love story between a white boy with a heart of gold and a runaway slave. Five outstanding performances made this a tough call.


12. First Date (2020, Michiana)  7.7/10 A show for people born after 1984, who would rather see a movie than a play. A home-run from the director.

11. Of Mice and Men (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 Tough tough show, made better and worse by excellent performances.    

10. Animal Farm (2012, Southern Arizona) 7.9/10 Beautiful, moving, and important. When those pigs started walking around in their overalls, you couldn't help but feel the hopelessness of the cycle. 

9. Peter and the Starcatcher (2018, East Central Indiana) 8/10 Odd. And one of the best stagey mcstage plays of all time. And who doesn't love Peter Pan?


8. Sister Act (2019, East Central Indiana) 8.5/10 F.U.N. Also, it's sexy (or it could be), funny, and colorful. Everyone in the cast got a chance to shine.


7. Glitterus: Dragon Rising (2022, Baltimore, downtown) 8.6/10 A world premiere. It's an inclusive "Wizard of Oz/Wiz," by and for millennials. Tech knocks this down a bit. "Community theatre" production, professional-level singing.

6. Matilda (2020, East Central Indiana) 8.7/10 Story? Weak and common. Writing? Random and superfluous. 8000 kids dancing in perfect sync, and singing in perfect harmony with perfect pitch in perfect Harry Potter accents? Nailed that shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

5. My Fair Lady (2017, East Central Indiana) 9/10 The perfect Eliza. Perfect direction.


4. [title of show] (2021, Michiana Indiana) 9.1/10 Four people. Four chairs. No set. These emeffers pulled it off. Good choreography and sick vocals made this an instant classic.
Photo-David DuFour

3. Rock of Ages (2018, East Central Indiana) 9.3/10 If you like the 80s, or listen to the same 10 songs on some whack work FM stations, you'll love this. Plus, it's sexy and makes no sense.

2. Annie (2018, East Central Indiana)  9.5/10 THIS is cheating. Cute little girls, performing classic choreography, to Jay Z's most popular song.

1. Beauty and the Beast (2019, Farmland Indiana) 9.6/10 Everyone sang everything like Whitney sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Plus, they DANCED--DANCING in a show, in Indiana!!! I guess when you collect a check, you get the steps right.

 
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