Megan's MCU Rankings

With Avengers: Endgame opening this weekend, I felt it only right to take a look back at where we have come over the course of the last 11 years and 21 movies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is historic in a number of ways, unlike anything that came before, and laying the foundation (for better or for worse) of what is likely to come in the future. You may suffer from superhero fatigue, and you are right to find yourself in such a state, but what Disney and Marvel have done with these films is undeniable and immeasurable feat. I did a ranking of the Marvel movies back in 2017 and in 2015 but for such a momentous occasion as Endgame, I thought we should bring in a few more voices than just my own. Today, I present the rankings of Megan Spell from the On the Download podcast. Tomorrow, we’ll feature Ariel Rada from the Geek101 podcast. And I’ll conclude the series on Friday with my updated rankings. Thanks for reading! -Brian

Hulk.jpg

21. The Incredible Hulk
What is there to say here? It is a mess and can easily be overlooked. Plus, the only main recasting in the whole series, so it feels disconnected. We are all lucky we got through this stumbling block and kept the franchise going.

20. Iron Man 2
I used to not have so much disdain for this movie, but I watched it again recently and it is just not good. They so clearly don't know what to do with Tony Stark, so they revert him back to pre-Iron Man. Doesn't make sense. 

19. Thor: The Dark World
I watched this recently and wanted to really dig into it, but there just isn't much here for me. It is equally the "nerdiest" and takes itself very seriously. Meh.

18. Avengers: Age of Ultron
While the fallout from Ultron opens some interesting reflection (Civil War), I don't find much to praise here. Convoluted plot and a boring villain. Plus, I just don't care much about any of the new characters added.

AntMan.jpg

17. Ant-Man
I have a bias against this movie because I love Edgar Wright and he got booted from this project. The Michael Pena storytelling device is cool, but other than that, this is a forgettable origin story to me.

16. Doctor Strange
I remember liking this a lot at the time but it has fallen over time in my regard. What an overqualified cast; I think people forget Rachel McAdams was even in this because she had so little to do.

15. Thor
Thor is my favorite Avenger these days, so I may be biased. But again, a middling entry in the origin stories.

14. Captain Marvel
Everything about this should have worked for me! 90's girl rock, Jude Law, Brie Larson. I didn't dislike it, it just seemed like a 2012 Marvel movie instead of a 2019 one. I felt they played it very safe, but also introduced a potential premise-breaking hero. Just seems poorly calculated on a few fronts.

13. Ant-Man and the Wasp
I just have a weird grudge where I think this should have been a Wasp-centric film. She is much more qualified and interesting. Marvel clearly has a women problem they are working on fixing; I just worry they are overthinking everything.

Guardians2.jpg

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
Good, but not as good as the original.

11. Captain America: The First Avenger
Entering the top tier now. Who doesn't want to watch Chris Evan's pummel Nazis? He could do it all day. While I think looking back this could be a little generic, it sets up Cap perfectly.

10. Avengers: Infinity War
I had trouble ranking this because the Russos had so much to do here. But I think they pulled it off brilliantly. The first time I've felt there were serious stakes, the payoff of Thanos as the biggest bad, and some fun team ups.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I am a Bucky Barnes apologist, so I just think this is a fun one.

8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Everything I want out of a Spider-man movie is here. Very high school-centric, a believable villain, skipped right over his previously well documented origin story. Bonus points for the Michael Keaton Factor.

7. The Avengers
I'm a sucker for people putting aside their differences to fight for the greater good. You can't tell me you don't get chills when the theme kicks in during the battle of New York. 

CivilWar.jpg

6. Captain America: Civil War
The best Avengers movie isn't actually an "Avengers" movie. One Chris Hemsworth away from being top 3 for me.

5. Iron Man 3
I will defend Iron Man 3 until I die. It is a beautiful allegory of anxiety, depression, and addiction, while also being funny and serving our characters. It is the perfect topper to this trilogy and manages to subvert some dated tropes with the Mandarin character. Big fan.

4. Thor: Ragnarok
The first in my "directors matter" argument, the "soft reboot" of Thor is so unbelievably successful to me. I foresee this being the post-Endgame Marvel model, little side quests with fun pairings. And Queen Cate Blanchett.

3. Black Panther
Ultimately the biggest cultural moment, Black Panther is nearly flawless (some sloppy action, but forgivable). Marvel has never done world building better than this, which is enriched with some of the best performances and to me, the best Marvel villain. Coogler, we stan a legend.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
I see Guardians as the beginning of this "auteur" Marvel era where they start giving the director more influence, which I think really enriches the extended universe. Funny, cohesive, and a, of course, fire soundtrack, this is when I really bought into the "universe", as opposed to just the earth-based entries.

IronMan.jpg

1. Iron Man
How can you beat where it all began? I saw Iron Man maybe four times in theaters and will always watch it if I'm channel flipping. So much magic came together here that still influences lesser imitations. I hardly have any new insights to shed on this, but it is crazy to see how far we have come. Even if Tony doesn't make it through Endgame, at least we'll always have Obadiah Stane yelling, "Tony Stark was able to build this in a CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!" Best line reading of all time.

Megan is a frequent Mad About Movies contributor and friend of the show. You can find her work at meganspell.com and find her podcast On the Download wherever fine podcasts are sold.

Let's Talk About the Dad in Pet Sematary

PetSemataryDad.jpg

As a parent, I am, perhaps annoyingly, particularly attuned to bad parenting in movies. Whether it’s out and out evil parenting, typical inattentive and/or negligent parenting, or bad parenting decisions made simply for the sake of plot convenience, I find myself making mental notes on the moms and dads I see on screen, usually in terms of what not to do. So, as a Movie Parenting aficionado (self-certified), when I tell you the dad in the original Pet Sematary is one of the worst movie dads ever, I expect you’ll trust my educated opinion. When you watch Pet Sematary (you should not watch Pet Sematary, for the record), the first thing that jumps out at you is Herman Munster’s accent. This is undebatable; the accent should be listed as a character unto itself. But the second thing that makes itself incredibly obvious within the first five minutes of the film is that Dr. Louis Creed (played by Dale Midkiff) is a horrible, HORRIBLE parent. Let’s have a look, chronologically through the timeline of the film, at the twenty biggest mistakes Mr. Creed makes as the events of Pet Sematary unfolds.

(Perhaps it goes without saying but HERE BE SPOILERS.) 

1.)   Buys a house on a very busy street, apparently, without ever having visited the house.
I’m sure Mr. Creed is not the first person to have bought a house without ever actually visiting said house but my guy, you’ve got two small children and a cat. Might want to make sure there’s not a very busy trucker road located fourteen feet from your front door. Also, there’s a path to a pet cemetery on your property. You probably want to know that before you buy.

2.)   Leaves his tiny son all alone right next to said very busy street.
To be fair, this one is at least partially on his wife but still: I get that your daughter is hurt and you need to make sure she’s okay but someone needs to take charge of the tiny toddler because, again, you bought a stupid house and he is at all times no further than fourteen feet away from being crushed by a large truck.

3.)   Has a cat.
Never own a cat in a movie, you guys.

4.)   Talks to his weird neighbor (Jud Crandall).
Never talk to your weird neighbor whether you’re in a movie or real life.

5.)   Allows the creepy housekeeper to come back a second time after the first very creepy encounter.
I’m willing to give the Creeds a pass on the initial hire of the very creepy Ms. Dandridge. They’re new in town and looking for help, it stands to reason that they don’t know she’s a creeper. But one visit is really all it should take to make sure she never comes back again.

6.)   Follows weird neighbor to a cursed burial ground.
Mr. Crandall: “Hey I know I just met you yesterday or something, but I see that your cat is dead. Would you mind following me up in into the mountains while carrying the carcass? We’re gonna walk right on past an actual pet cemetery and I don’t plan on telling you what we’re doing until we actually get to our destination.”
Mr. Creed: “Sure.”

7.)   Actually buries the cat in said cursed burial ground.
Mr. Crandall: “Now that you’ve followed me past the pet cemetery and into the mountains, we’ve arrived at this VERY CLEARLY MARKED cursed burial ground. Time for you to bury your cat here.”
Mr. Creed: “Sure.”

8.)   Doesn’t blanch when the neighbor says they have to keep the cat’s burial a secret.
At this point, I’d understand the impetus to not wanna be really open with what just happened because you’ve made a lot of dumb mistakes in this whole operation and maybe you’d rather just keep that to yourself. But as soon as your weird neighbor starts making a deal about not telling anyone what’s what, that’s when you’ve got to know that you very much DO need to tell someone.

9.)   Accepts the neighbor’s excuse for leading him into this whole mess in the first place.
This fool knew exactly what was going to happen with your formerly dead cat, having experienced the terrifying rebirth of a pet himself, instructed you to follow suit, and you’re just totally cool with his reasoning? Come on, bro!

Cat.jpg

10.) Doesn’t kill the cat even though it has freaky glowing eyes.
Okay, alright, we’re in this now. You’ve made some bad choices, but you can still salvage something out of this whole thing if you just Old Yeller the cat right away. But instead, this fool just lets the cat stick around and basically haunt the house like it’s no big deal that his eyes are glowing like that.

11.) Basically cops out when his daughter asks him about the afterlife.
You may not have all the answers, and no one will fault you for being vague. But when your daughter asks you about the afterlife, having just attended her first funeral, your answer CANNOT be, “Eh, I dunno.”

12.) Doesn’t freak out when his wife admits to laughing maniacally when her sister died.
This is probably the most disturbing scene in the movie. I know you’re married and stuff and you want to support your spouse. But I gotta be honest, if my wife comes at me with that kind of crazy, I’m at least making some calls and looking for a couch to crash on if nothing else. Instead, good ol’ Louis is just COOL with this information.

13.) Lets his son get hit by a truck.
A couple things here. One, you KNOW this road is apparently destination number one for big rigs so maybe you wanna keep an eye on that. Two, toddlers are slow. You could give my kid a 50-yard head start on a 55-yard race and I’d still smoke him, not even accounting for his life being on the line. All things considered, we may be vacating the territory covered by “negligence” and moving on into “criminal negligence.”

14.) Does not listen to the ghost when he warns him about the cursed burial ground.
You should always listen to and heed the advice of ghosts. Always.

15.) Goes right on ahead and digs up his dead son despite the warnings from a ghost.
We all grieve in different ways and it’s not cool to mock someone’s grief process…unless that grief process involves the exhumation of your recently deceased toddler son despite a ghost very clearly telling you not to do that. Also, WHY IS HE SMILING while digging up his son?! What is happening?!

16.)  Swears to dead son that, “It’s going to be alright.”
Narrator: It was not alright.

17.) Leaves his scalpel just sitting around in his bag where literally anyone can get it.
I have no idea if real surgeons do this or if it’s just a movie thing. Regardless, if you’ve got kids in the house (even if you can’t anticipate the resurrection of your demon toddler although you probably should since that’s exactly what you plotted to bring about), I’m going to suggest not leaving an extremely sharp blade in your bag where any little hands could get ahold of it.

pet_sematary_02.jpg

18.) Does not just THROW the murderous zombie baby when he is being attacked.
Babies do not weigh much. Even murderous zombie babies weigh, at most, 30 pounds. Chuck that sucker down the stairs, dude!!! I know he has a scalpel and stuff, but he is a baby! Throw him!

19.) Learns literally nothing from this experience and goes ahead and buries his dead wife in cursed burial ground.
So, let’s get this straight. Your cat came back to life and was essentially the worst version of a cat ever. Then a ghost told you not to re-bury your dead son, but you didn’t listen. Then said dead son kills your wife and your weird neighbor and tried to kill you. Somehow you survived. And to commemorate the occasion, you make the mind-boggling decision to run it back and try it again with your dead wife? Alright, man, you reap what you sow.

20.) Makes out with dead wife.
Just me but I’m super uninterested in making out with my recently dead wife while her eye is hanging out of her head having been, you know, recently murdered by my zombie toddler. But you do you, Louis. You do you.

Fave Five: John Goodman

You know who doesn’t have an Academy Award nomination and who definitely should have at least an Academy Award nomination if not an actual Academy Award? John Goodman. I’m sure if I did an exhaustive search of both memory and my vast assortment of movie-related spreadsheets, I could turn up a big bunch of actors and actresses who should have been nominated for an Oscar by now but haven’t been. But in this very moment, if you asked me who is the best working actor/actress who doesn’t have at least an Oscar nomination on his/her resume, I’d name Goodman and feel good about my answer.

 John Goodman is the best. He’s a heck of actor, by all accounts a great guy, and someone who brings joy to my heart every time he shows up on screen no matter how large or small the role. He’s also one of the original American Treasures that Richard and I came up with before Mad About Movies even began and obviously, I expect this is the achievement of which he is proudest. With Captive State opening this weekend, I looked back at his illustrious career and picked my five favorite movie performances.

GoodmanArgo.jpg

5. John Chambers, Argo
This felt like the performance that was most likely to bring an Oscar nomination, though Supporting Actor is always a deep category. I’m not sure there is a better example of Goodman’s inherent likability and pleasantness than what you get with Chambers. The character exudes a much-needed sense of optimism that perfectly balances the inherent hopelessness that exists within the plot.

GoodmanSully.jpg

4. Sully, Monsters Inc. and University
I’m always ready to ride or die for a Pixar movie and Monsters Inc. is one of their best in my estimation. I love how Goodman (and Billy Crystal, too) blends his personality into the on-screen character and I think that’s part of what makes the heart of the movie, Sully and Boo, work so well. Sometimes in animation, the voice is just the voice and the art is just the art and there’s a sense of separation between the two parts. That’s not the case with Goodman and Sully and because of that, I think, you get one of the truly great characters in the Pixar universe.  

GoodmanArizona.jpg

3. Gale, Raising Arizona
This was basically my only frame of reference for Goodman for many years, having never watched Roseanne during its first run. I loved Raising Arizona from an early (too early?) age and always found Gale to be hilarious. Now I see the classic Goodman traits all over this character and it’s kind of amazing that he had such a great sense of identity this early in his career.

GoodmanCloverfield.jpg

2. Howard, 10 Cloverfield Lane
Goodman hasn’t dabbled much in on-screen villainy but 10 Cloverfield Lane exemplifies what a great villain he can be when called upon. Howard is creepy, to be sure, but he’s also very caring and he keeps his craziness relegated to his edges so that you’re never quite sure of what you did and did not see; little pockets of anger that burst forth then dance back behind his pleasant-ish façade. I’d wager it’s a much more nuanced performance than you’d get from most actors in his place and his ability to keep both the audience and his on-screen counterparts on unstable ground makes this movie what it is.

GoodmanLebowski.jpg

1. Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski
I could expand this list out to 20 or 30 entries, but the top spot would never be in jeopardy. Goodman fits the Coen’s world so incredibly well, whether it’s in the aforementioned Raising Arizona or a short stint as a stoic passenger in Inside Llewyn Davis but Lebowski is where he truly shines. Walter is a buffoon and an unhinged buffoon at that but with Goodman at the wheel, he’s a thousand times more likable and memorable than he has any right to be. To be sure, the Coens gave him some INCREDIBLE lines to deliver but it is the actual delivery that brings them home and Goodman knocks every single one of his scenes out of the park. As much as I love Jeff Bridges in the lead and admire the work of Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Julianne Moore, and the rest, I think it’s Goodman that holds the movie together and provides the most entertainment.