‘Buffy’ flashback: All 8 short stories from ‘Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 4’ (2004), ranked (Book review)

The fourth and final “Tales of the Slayer” collection (November 2004) is also the only one centered around a theme: specifically, the Cruciamentum – as seen in “Helpless” (3.12) — wherein the Slayer is weakened by drugs and forced to defeat a vampire via only her wits and fighting skills. Remarkably, these aren’t just eight tales of Slayers being betrayed by their Watchers and feeling horrible; the authors find a variety of angles with which to approach the concept. Here are my rankings, from best to weakest, although there isn’t a bad story in the bunch:

Continue reading “‘Buffy’ flashback: All 8 short stories from ‘Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 4’ (2004), ranked (Book review)”

Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 13 episodes of ‘Daredevil’ Season 3 (2018), ranked (TV review)

There’s something to be said about keeping good villains around, and “Daredevil” Season 3 (October 2018, Netflix) is a case in point. Although Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) was the Big Bad of Season 1, he again fits that bill here, in 13 episodes that explore how one ingenious sociopath can take control of the very systems – the FBI, the justice department – that should theoretically protect society from him.

Continue reading “Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 13 episodes of ‘Daredevil’ Season 3 (2018), ranked (TV review)”

Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 10 episodes of ‘Iron Fist’ Season 2 (2018), ranked (TV review)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for valuing fan feedback, and “Iron Fist” Season 2 (September 2018, Netflix) might be the prime example. After a first season that was rushed through production, moved at a snail’s pace, and had fight scenes that were cobbled together in the editing room, Season 2 is a notable improvement. It’s still slow-paced, but the fights are much better, the locations are magnificent, the score boasts a tasty Far East flavor, and several actors give standout performances. Plus, it’s a tidy 10 episodes, rather than the Netflix norm of 13.

Continue reading “Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 10 episodes of ‘Iron Fist’ Season 2 (2018), ranked (TV review)”

Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 13 episodes of ‘Luke Cage’ Season 2 (2018), ranked (TV review)

Burning slowly like a 1970s urban street thriller, “Luke Cage” feels more comfortable in its suits and shades and bullet-riddled sweatshirts than it did in its first season. Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his Jamaican cohorts – all of the actors doing a wonderful job with the dialect – are entertaining antagonists, but we slowly realize the uber-villain of Season 2 (2018, Netflix) is slick Harlem councilwoman Mariah Stokes Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Cheo Hodari Coker’s series – after many examples illustrating what powerful people can get away with – morphs into a smart meditation on the cost of holding on to power, and how a few bad decisions can see that power spiral away.

Continue reading “Marvel Cinematic Universe flashback: All 13 episodes of ‘Luke Cage’ Season 2 (2018), ranked (TV review)”

John’s top 10 movies of 2018

The dominant genre of 2018 continued to be superheroes; even with the “X-Men” Universe and DC Extended Universe releasing only one film each, the three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were impossible to overlook. Still, this was a less blockbustery year than 2017, and by year’s end I had seen at least one really good film in every genre. From a throwback thriller to an arthouse gem, here are my 10 favorite films of 2018.

Continue reading “John’s top 10 movies of 2018”

John’s top 10 TV shows of 2018

It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.

Continue reading “John’s top 10 TV shows of 2018”

‘Buffy’ flashback: All 4 stories from ‘Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3’ (2003), ranked (Book review)

It’s like an all-star writing contest when Yvonne Navarro, Mel Odom, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder get together to write four novellas for “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3” (November 2003). At this point in my reread, they are four of the five best Buffyverse writers (with Jeff Mariotte filling the other spot). Here are my rankings of their contributions in this third “Tales” volume:

Continue reading “‘Buffy’ flashback: All 4 stories from ‘Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3’ (2003), ranked (Book review)”

All 6 ‘Mission: Impossible’ films, ranked (Movie commentary)

In honor of “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” hitting home rental this week, I thought I’d do a ranking of all six “M:I” movies in which Tom Cruise plays Agent Ethan Hunt.  As an action movie junkie, my views may differ from the typical critical rankings. Cruise does almost all of his own stunts, and they are just as much the star of the show as he is, so I’ve included a nod to the best action sequence in each film.

Continue reading “All 6 ‘Mission: Impossible’ films, ranked (Movie commentary)”