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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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:

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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.

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All 8 ‘Rocky’/ ‘Creed’ films, ranked (Movie commentary)

Having seen the latest “Rocky”/ “Creed” film, “Creed II,” it’s time to rank all eight films of the saga from worst to first. There are no outright bad films in this series, and a case could be made for any order between No. 2 and No. 7. Just thinking back on the 42 years of “Rocky” films is enough to make me want to blast “Gonna Fly Now” and take a run up the museum steps. Here we go. Ding. Ding.

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Fantastic films and how I rank them: Every ‘Harry Potter’/ Wizarding World movie, from worst to best (Movie commentary)

With movie theaters serving up the latest round of Wizarding World delights from J.K. Rowling in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” here are my rankings of the nine “Harry Potter” universe films so far (I’m considering “Deathly Hallows” to be one movie, not two). Starting from the weakest and working my way to the best, this is how I rank them. Lumos!

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‘Buffy’ flashback: All 10 short stories from ‘Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 2’ (2003), ranked (Book review)

Drawing a better overall crop of writers, “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 2” (January 2003) makes a huge jump in quality from the first volume. The authors have a blast playing with our expectations of how Slayers, Watchers and vampires should behave while using familiar Buffyverse beats to teach us about societies throughout human history. Here are my rankings of the 10 stories:

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