Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Goes Kapow!

Did you know that Spiderman 3 is coming up this weekend? Seriously. Did you know? Did ya, did ya?

In its honor, I thought I would kick things off early (not that I want it to do very good since I don't have it picked to win in my Summer Movie Tournament) with some talk of comic book movies.

Give me your Top 5 movies based on comic books or graphic novels for you older crowd that refuse to say you still read comic books. I will also take movies that easily fall into the comic book type movie that aren't necessarily based on real comic books (you'll understand).

1. Batman Begins - Not just a great comic book movie, but a great movie. Unlike all the Batman's before it, Nolan makes the character real and in doing so gives this movie true depth.

2. Oldboy - Based on the Japanese Manga. It's one of the best revenge flicks I've ever seen. And the guy eats a live octopus to boot.

3. Unbreakable - Not necessarily based on a comic book, but it feels very much like it. The story of the reluctant super-hero or the super-hero that doesn't know he is fascinates me. I'm not a big fan of shamalamadingdongs but to me, this is his best movie.

4. Spiderman 2 - I watched the first one the other day and the differences between the two are incredible. I was taken by how well Raimi handled the subject matter of this one and was able to deliver such a touching movie. Aside from the opening of the first Spiderman, the rest is utterly forgettable.

5. Sin City - The stories are hit and miss for me, but when Sin City hits, it hits hard. Mickey Rourke is flawless in this.


Anonymous said...

Piper, it's great to see I'm not the only one who went nuts for Batman Begins. For my money though, The Warriors is the best comic book movie that wasn't based on a comic book.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PIPER said...


I had heard at one time that it was supposed to be a trilogy.

Unbreakable, breakable, broken.

Is that bullshit, or had you heard that also?

PIPER said...

Joe Valdez,

You got a blog?

Adam Ross said...

My favorite film discovery last year was Danger: Diabolik, Mario Bava's 1968 movie based on the blockbuster Italian comic. It's such a fucking ride, with John Philip Law in the title role and one of Ennio Morricone's catchiest scores.

Diabolik is the Superman or Batman of Italy and the movie is considered internationally as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations.

PIPER said...

I just read about it. Looks really cool. I'll have to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

I fell asleep twice watching Sin City. Maybe it's not that compelling on screen as it is in the books.

Anonymous said...

Right on! I love Unbreakable.

It made me proud to have original comic art.

I should open up a store.

And be mean to some dad that tries to buy art for some kid.

Anonymous said...

Unbreakable is wonderful until it's last five minutes, when it absolutely falls apart.


1. Superman
2. Sin City
3. X-Men 2
4. Batman Begins
5. Daredevil (just kidding)... Superman 2

Damian Arlyn said...

Great list, Piper. I admit I haven't seen Oldboy yet but with all the talk about it that's bveen going on lately, sounds like I'll have to. I guess I also need to see The Warriors.

Anyway, here are my top 5 favorite comic book/graphic novel movie adaptations:

1 - Superman: The movie (not to mention the hero) to which all other comic book movies owe their very existence. Richard Donner's "super-epic" was the first big-budget movie to takes its subject matter seriously and consequently turned out to be only a great comic book movie but just a great movie. Period. It is also, as I think Bryan Singer's rather bland Superman Returns demonstrates, about as good as a Superman movie can possibly get.

2 - Batman: Alhough it is rather "in" right now to bash Burton's Batman movies (whereas it was always "in" to bash Schumacher's) and praise Nolan's film to high heaven, I have to admit that I still think Burton's film is superior to Nolan's in terms of sheer artistry (while I admit that Nolan's has the upper hand in terms of plot, story and character). Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne is a wonderfully eccentric creation, Jack Nicholson's Joker is positively iconic (Heath Ledgers is gonna have some big shoes to fill) and Danny Elfman's music is indeliable (much better than Howard and Zimmer's unmemorable throbbing score). This was also the first movie to put Batman in all black. Something they've been doing ever since.

3 - Spider-man: While Spider-man 2 is indeed a great film (and improved on the first one in a few areas, particularly special effects), I was one of those few who actually thought the first one was slightly better. The reasons are varied but part of it has to do with the script (the structure of the first one is virtually flawless I think) which was created by one of my favorite Hollywood screenwriters David Koepp, part of it has to do with the believability of Spidey's antics (I noticed in the sequel that Spidey could fall 20 stories onto hard concrete and be okay, which more or less takes any suspense away from the action scenes) and part of it also has to do with plot holes (How exactly did James Franco know where Doc Ock was building his second machine?). At any rate, I love both films and enjoy watching both of them and am very much looking forward to the third (picked up my ticket today).

4 - V for Vendetta: While watching this enthralling film in the theatre it occurred to me that Alan Moore will NEVER be satisfied with a movie based on one of his books. Great visuals, interesting characters, great performanes (particularly by Hugo Weaving whose face we never see) and, not least important of all, provocative ideas made this Warshowski brothers product one of the best films of 2006 and one of the best comic book adaptations ever.

5 - Road to Perdition: Not every comic book has to feature a larger-than-life hero with superhuman powers and an outlandish costume. This dramatic gangster graphic novel becomes a visually amazing (Cinematographer Conrad Hall's last film for which he won a posthumous Oscar) and touching father-son story. Good stuff.

Honorable Mentions:
-Unbreakable: Shyamalan's last good movie.
-The Incredibles: Technically not a comic book movie (like Unbreakable), but might as well have been.
-Batman Begins: Excellent re-boot of the Batman franchise.
-Sin City: The most faithful comic book "translation" (to use Rodriguez's term) ever and simultaneously cinematic as hell.
-300: We have Sin City to thank for this one.
-X-men 1 & 2: Was never much of an X-Men fan as a kid. These films changed that.
-History of Violence: Didn't even know this started out as a graphic novel until the other day.
-Robocop: A brilliant satire that ended up being a great example of the very thing they were satirizing.
-Hellboy: HAd never heard of this character until I saw the movie; gotta love Ron Perlman.
-From Hell: The defintive Jack the Ripper film as far as I'm concerned.
The Greatest American Hero: I know. It's not a comic book movie, but God, I loved this show as a kid! Re-visiting it agtain recently, I found appreciated it even more as an adult.

Guilty Pleasures:
-Blade 1 & 2
-The Shadow
-The Phantom
-Van Helsing
-X-Men 3

And then, of course, there are the worst comic book movies:

-Fantastic Four: If you want to see stupid people bicker, just watch the Real World instead.
-The Hulk: Great transitions. Nothing else.
-Daredevil: Had potential to be awesome but never came even close to realizing it (presumable the Director's Cut is much better).
-League of Extraordinary gentelemen: For God's sake, Sean, take Lucas' offer! Let the fourth Indiana Jones film be your last movie and not this embarassing mess!
Batman Forever/Batman & Robin: I don't think I need to say anything about these movies.
Superman 3 & 4: Worse than Schumacher's rape of the Batman franchise.
-Blade 3: David Goyer is a great writer but a lousy director.

PIPER said...

Good lord Damian,

Hell of a comment.

Here's what I didn't like about the first Spiderman.

It had too much Raimi in it.

Now let me explain myself.

Raimi isn't a grand scheme guy. Darkman was good but it wasn't meant to be epic.

Spiderman was meant to be epic and I still felt Raimi was trying to make it campy here and there, which is fine because that's Raimi, but you have to choose. You can't go half way on that stuff. The scene in particular that just makes me cringe over and over and even now when I write about it is when the Green Goblin captures Spidey and has him on the roof. The Goblin is talking to him and leaning on that sky-light while he's doing it. It's so weird and I know what Raimi was trying to do in that scene. He was trying to not make it this big comic book movie, but everything else about it was big.

Spidey 2 on the other hand, was such a good balance and I think Raimi said "okay, I'm going to do this big, but I'm going to give it a heart." And he did and I loved it and was very surprised by how good it was.

And man, I took some shots for bagging on the Bullitt chase scene and I'm going to take some shots for this, but I liked The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's awful, but I like it. And it's no where near as good as the book.

J.D. said...

My list:

1. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Based on Miyazaki's own manga)
2. V for Vendetta
3. Spider-Man 2
4. 300
5. X2

Yes, I know, I know.

weepingsam said...

I can't pretend this is an actual "best five" - but....

1) Ichi The Killer was manga first. Probably not fair since I haven't actually read it, but... it's the best movie of the type.

2) Batman: the Movie - I'd rather be dead than not trust my own eyes! All that serious stuff is overrated. Someday, if I get feeling really perverse, I might defend Batman and Robin on the same grounds: Uma's certainly in on the joke...

3) Batman - the premier of the Burton film - Cherie theater, back bay Boston, night before the official opening, packed out, everyone hyped, screaming from the second the credits came on - was just about the most enjoyable filmoging experience I have ever had. The film holds up as well. Jack being Jack, Prince on the soundtrack - those great great sets - it's easily the best of the bunch.

4) Does, uh, Crumb count?

5) Batman Returns - "I was your number one son but you treated me like number two!" - gosh, the whole film seems to have been treated like number two.... Not by me! (I admit, there are probably quite a few better films - from Oldboy to Darkman to half of Miyazaki's films, but someone's got to stand up for it.)

And then....

O Brother Where Art Thou comes to mind, because even though it is not, it plays like it is an adaptation of a comic strip. Pogo or Li'l Abner maybe, with traces of Krazy Kat.

Damian Arlyn said...

Well, a great post deserves a good response, Piper. :)

I can certainly respect your opinion regarding the first Spider-man. I will admit that the film has its flaws. In fact, the scene you mention where the Goblin talks to Spider-man on the roof is probably my least favorite scene in the movie. I always figured if he had Spider-man in his power like that, why not just remove his mask and learn his identity? Then he might be in a better position to demand Spidey's compliance.

Then again, some scenes in it are pure genius. I am actually planning on devoting an entire blog to dissecting the scene where Norman confronts his alter-ego in the mirror. I think that sequence is a masterpiece of conception and execution (with amazing staging, camerawork, editing, acting and music). If I were teaching a class on film studies, I would use that scene to highlight some very important elements about cinematic manipulation. It's like like it's own "mini-movie;" masterful and yet simultaneously very subtle.

I, the end, I guess that's why I ultimately feel Spider-man is undervalued. While definitely not perfect, there are a lot of great subtleties to it that many people just don't seem to notice or care to look for (the subjective nature of the camerwork, the juxtaposition of the Peter/Spidey and the Norman/Goblin characters, etc). Again, I admit that in some respects Spider-man 2 improves upon the original (though in other respects I think it takes a step back) but I can't agree that the sequel has "more heart." One of the things that first struck me when I saw Spider-man in the theatre. There are no fewer than six scenes extended conversations between just Peter and Mary Jane. Spider-man is just as much a relationship film as it is a comic book/action film and while Spider-man does an excellent job continuing that relationship (as it seems Spider-man 3 will) it didn't begin there Not at all.

In the case of both films, I like the fact that I can detect Raimi's influence but hardly ever feel like I am being bombarded with it (except on rare occasion like the hospotal emergency room scene in Spider-man 2; that sequence is pure, classic Raimi). Also, and I realize this is entirely subjective, I prefer the Green Goblin as a villian. To me, the Goblin has always been Spider-man's "Joker" while Dock Ock was more or less his "Penguin."

Oh, and the sequel had too many screaming girls for my taste.

Anonymous said...

I would have to go with (in no particular order):

Batman Begins - I thought it could have been even darker and more believeable. It's hard to watch Kate Holmes in that role now she's a zombie.

Hellboy - Didn't take itself too seriously and was all the better for it, IMO.

The Crow - Some great one-liners, and Brandon Lee was fantastic.

Unbreakable - Obviously Mmmm. Night loved that story and put his heart + soul into it. I never tried to figure out the ending or the twist, so I was along for the ride until the end. Nuh-UH! He ditn't!

Constantine - If you think you take heat for the Bullitt chase scene, I have no problem with Keanu as an actor. He was GREAT in this. Peter Stormare was awesome too. It's just a solid movie. My sister-in-law watches this once every few days.

I'd also give honorable mention to Conan The Barbarian and Men in Black.

Damian Arlyn said...

Geez, I can't believe I forgot about The Crow and Men in Black.

Sheamus the... said...

Batman Begins
The Fountain
Spawn animated

PIPER said...


Live action TMNT or the animated?

J.D. said...

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is based on Homer's Odessey. I know, weird. And Seamus said TMNT, which I shall assume as the animated crappsicle. And The Fountain is not based on the graphic novel. Aronofsky wrote that when he thought the film was dead. Warner greenlit it and had (at the time) faith in it, and he published it anyway. The film still counts as Original, since it's not based on it, there just the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna get involved in this "it wasn't based on a comic, but it feels like one" 'cause then I'm just gonna get yelled at.

So sticking to comic movies I can remember, My list is pretty typical:

5. Batman Returns - Such an underrated movie. I enjoyed the first, but it was a little too close to the 80's for my liking (grainy film, and Batman's semi-gray Batsuit reminded me of faded black jeans. Ugh). Returns takes it to such a darker level, and such a gothic, comicy level. How can you go wrong? Catwoman in a stitched-leather suit, crazy circus people, a menacing Penguin, Batman being accused of killing the Ice Princess (or whatever her name was) and being chased by the cops, counting Catwoman's lives, the Bat gliding with his cape...goodness, I gotta watch this one again.

4. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - Okay, I lied. But I couldn't leave this one out. Before Sin City, there was the beautifully crafted digital world of Sky Captain. I saw this in the theater and really didn't like it at all, but revisited it on DVD, and totally fell in love.

3. Spider-man 2 - I hated, HATED the first Spider-man. Too cartoony to respect (but not cartoony enough, depending how you look at it). I made my opinion publicly known. Yet, when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was hooked, and the film didn't disappoint me. The only thing keeping this film from being even better was the change of title (if they had managed to call this The Amazing Spider-man, I would have *insert bizzare form of freaking out or gaining pleasure (or both)*).

2. Unbreakable - This is what Heroes should have been: steady, intriguing, mysterious, and fulfilling. As many have said, this is my favorite Shyamalan film as well. Would I like a sequel? Maybe. It is such a good film by itself. If they had just kept the original ending, this would have been one of my favorite films of all time. Still, it's an awesome film.

1. X-Men 2: X-Men United - Another one that I hated the first time I saw it in the theater. I thought it was boring and stupid. I finally watched it again on DVD a few years later, and man, what a smart, engaging, tragic, epic film! Just about everything about this film works. I love it love it love it.

Honorable Mention:

Sin City - I thought that my initial glee with the film was due to my own hype and expectations, but after watching it again, it's even better than I thought. Sure, it's flawed, but it's pretty darn fun. Marv is just the best.

V for Vendetta - People make fun of me for liking this film, but I thought it was one of the best that came out last year. Ambitious, stylistic, and interesting. Worked for me.

Sheamus the... said...

OH MAN! I completely forgot! Lone Wolf and Cub.

RC said...

good call on unbreakable.

i would throw Road to Perdition on my list.

PIPER said...

Lone Wolf and Cub was a movie?

Sheamus the... said...

Yeah man. Lone Wolf and Cub was a movie. Look it up on Amazon or IMDB. I watched it a month ago. Pretty amazing stuff. Arfonosky(sp) is trying to redo it.
TMNT...live action or cartoons.

Neil Sarver said...

There are, in fact, 6 Lone Wolf and Cub movies. It's been a decade since I've seen any. They're on a list of things for me to revisit. My memories are quite good of them though.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I've thought about this for a few days.

First off, I've only seen about the first 1/3 of Batman Begins, so I can't in good conscience put it on my list, but I was loving what I saw. So, instead I put...

1. Batman - The original Tim Burton Batman was hands down the best in that series.

2. Superman - Man, it's been a long time I've seen that one. Might have to go pick up the DVD and relive one of my absolute favorite childhood movies.

3. X-Men 2 - I almost put X-Men 3... I know I'm in the minority for liking it, but I really did. In the end though, I though about the trilogy overall and felt that 2 was definitely the better of the two.

4. Spider-Man - I wasn't that big of a fan of Spider-Man 2. I had your son's dilemma with that one - half way through I wondered when it was going to end. The first one for me was a lot of fun and set up Peter Parker for a cinematic ride that apparently has taken a turn for the worse.

5. 300 - I haven't read the graphic novel, but I did thumb through it at Barnes & Noble after seeing the film. Of course, the adaptation was aesthetically spot on, and hey, that's pretty great.