Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Guest Contributor: Isa

Today Raritania introduces a guest contributor, Isa, of the Culture Coverage web site, with her cinematic round-up, "The Best Superhero Movies on Netflix."

If you aren't familiar with Culture Coverage, you can check it out by following the link--or get a glimpse of their latest by finding it in the blog list at the right side of the page.

Guest Post: The Best Superhero Movies on Netflix

Of all the different film genres out there, superhero films set themselves apart by telling uniquely compelling, fantastic, yet relatable stories. Each one is about the desire of one or more heroes to rise above the everyday problems we face; their struggles are just taken to the extreme.
If you have Netflix and some time to kill, there are some awesome superhero movies to watch.  We’ve handpicked five of Netflix’s best superhero films for you to enjoy.
Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron
Our first selection is admittedly two separate films, but it seemed appropriate to list them together. The first Avengers movie was excellent. Combining a substantial cast of heroes with a well-written script produced a film that was both intellectually entertaining and packed with action to satisfy all.
The second installment to the Avengers, Age of Ultron was also well received, featuring a return of the first cast as well as the addition of new heroes and villains. In Age of Ultron, Tony Stark creates a peacekeeping program called Ultron, but the program is compromised, and our heroes must stop it before it eliminates humankind.
Either film is worth seeing, but if you haven’t seen the first Avengers film, it should definitely come before the sequel. For that matter, the superhero films leading up to the Avengers are also worth seeing.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
As the second installment to the Captain America franchise, The Winter Soldier takes the story and expands it tremendously. Steve Rogers is adjusting to the modern world and now works for S.H.I.E.L.D. He learns Hydra has infiltrated the organization, creating chaos so people will sacrifice freedom for security. The Helicarriers that were meant to provide said security are actually being used for global surveillance and to target threats to Hydra. Cap must fight the Winter Soldier to stop their mission. 
Captain America films offer a different kind of appeal. Unlike fantastical heroes such as Hulk, Captain America has little in the way of superpowers. His opponents are likewise less over-the-top, leaving considerably more room for intrigue with a reduced focus on explosive theatrics.
The first Captain America film is also listed on Netflix if you’re interested.
Speaking of intellectual superhero films, if your interests lie more in the realm of black comedy, then Super is a perfect fit. Similar to Kick Ass, Super is all about a superhero without any special powers. Unlike Captain America, that means none at all: no super strength, fast healing, special intelligence and no unlimited funding in the way you might see Ironman or Batman.
Instead, we follow Frank, who later becomes the Crimson Bolt, as he sets off on a mission to beat up criminals and save his wife, Sarah. The film explores the more violent aspect of being a superhero, which is often glorified and even overlooked in mainstream DC or Marvel films. Remember, those batarangs have razor-sharp edges; they don’t tickle.
On the front of superheroes that are different, we have Hellboy. Generally speaking, superheroes tend to be humans or aliens that are somehow endowed with incredible powers. Hellboy, contrarily, is actually the son Azzael, one of hell’s dukes. Basically he’s a demon child summoned to Earth by Nazis and later becomes a superhero.
All of that backstory actually makes for a pretty interesting hero. Hellboy steps away from the conventional by being a force for good that is most certainly not the picture of a smiling, broad-shouldered man wearing his underwear on the outside. Hellboy is rough, tough and ready for action.
Naturally, there’s a human side to the story. Hellboy still has a considerable human element that is explored throughout the film, not at the expense of action though. This is one movie that has no shortage of crude humor and explosive excitement.
Guardians of the Galaxy
My initial impression of Guardians of the Galaxy was somewhat quizzical. In what way does a raccoon fit into the superhero genre? Yet just a few minutes into the film, that thought is completely abolished by the unabashed appreciation for just how incredible a job the director, actor and CGI team did in putting together the character Rocket the Raccoon.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a mixture of childish and witty humor jam-packed with alien action and intrigue. Peter Quill, also known as Starlord, is the film’s human element that helps us understand what’s going on. He shares the audience’s foreign element and gives the film a way to introduce ideas and concepts that native characters would be all too familiar with.
Without too much hesitation, I can personally say Guardians was my favorite of the bunch. Don’t take my word for it; check it out yourself.
Runners Up
As you can see, Netflix has no shortage of superhero films. If all these live-action films aren’t exactly your cup of tea, don’t forget Netflix also hosts quite a variety of animated superhero films, such as Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
Just be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing the films so you don’t end up like Batman with your information compromised. This guide from Secure Thoughts will also show you how to use a VPN to circumvent any geo-blocking restrictions if the films are not available on Netflix in your country.
Another excellent franchise to consider is Spiderman, both the 2002 version and the newer franchise, The Amazing Spiderman. While they don’t meet my personal top five, they’re definitely still worth seeing.
What about you? What superhero films do you think are worth watching on Netflix?
About the Author: Isa has been a fan of superheroes since she was a little girl. Since then superhero films have really taken off! When she’s not watching films, she’s writing about internet security or popular culture. Visit to read more of her work.

Of G.I. Joe and James Bond

Watching 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I was, of course, struck by the ways in which the film was derivative of the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me--in its undersea fortress and stolen missile scheme, and to some extent, even its tossing in an affair between Duke and Baroness.

While noting this in my book (shameless plug time) James Bond's Evolution, I didn't give the matter all that much thought. As is the case with most of the other cartoons of the 1980s I haven't seen since, I remembered little more than opening credits sequences and theme songs, a few character designs and quirks, the essential pattern of the public service announcements ("Knowing is half the battle!"), at most a small shred of a scene or two.

Still, more recently running into reruns of the old mid-'80s Sunbow-produced series (to go by what I see on fan sites, still the canonical, "real" Joe to most), I have had occasion to think again about the influences and resemblances, above and beyond the broad way in which the Bond film series was a model for later action-adventure (cinematic pacing and structure, the subject matter, scaling, photography and editing of action sequences) in general--and which seems less surprising the more I learn about the series' history.1

Larry Hama's creation of G.I. Joe is, after all, an outgrowth of an attempt to spin off Marvel's Nick Fury--Marvel's answer to the '60s era spy craze James Bond did so much to explode (however much the conception diverged in later years). And it shows in the similarity of the conception. Like James Bond, Joe takes a popular genre of globe-trotting action-adventure devoted to an over-the-top version of intelligence, covert operations and low-intensity warfare in the contemporary "real world" (as it was the '80s, paramilitary/techno-thriller action rather than spies) and turns down its usual political charge to the end of appealing to the widest possible audience. A certain amount of flag-waving remained part of the package, G.I. Joe highlighting its heroes' nationality, the subtitle in the Sunbow-Dic era "A Real American Hero," appearing on the screen as the main cast stands pumping its fists in front of a giant American flag at the end of the opening titles. However, as in the early movies about 007 the G.I. Joe series eschewed overt demonization of other governments and countries, in large part by centering the adventures on an imaginary villain carefully crafted to be acceptable as a villain to all--again, in much the same fashion as the early Bond films.

Just like the SPECTRE of the early films (which replaced the Soviet Union's SMERSH in Dr. No), Cobra is an international criminal organization with an agenda of pure and naked power-seeking, even the pretension of a higher cause or ideology absent. As the means by which it pursued this goal frequently called for the physical destruction of a large part of the world Cobra, like many a Bond villain, was a threat not just to a narrow "national interest," but the whole planet, with both superpowers pointedly included, and in cases, forced to cooperate (the Joes working with their Soviet counterparts in the October Guard on more than one occasion).

One might add that Cobra, like SPECTRE, is led by a villain whose face is kept carefully hidden (Cobra Commander), and whose organization, apart from his colorful senior staff (metal-faced Destro, the bad Bond girl-ish Baroness) and a few similarly colorful henchmen (the mercenary Zartan and his Dreadnoks), rests atop a foundation of vast numbers of faceless foot soldiers whose principal role is that of inexplicably willing cannon fodder. And of course, Cobra also shares the Bond villains' penchant for elaborate fortress-bases (at times, under the sea or in space), and for the wacky in their high-tech schemes for world domination.

That same imperative of toning things down also led G.I. Joe, like the later installments of the Bond films, to replace bloody violence with over-the-top gadgetry. (The Joes and Cobras fire laser bolts instead of bullets from their guns--and in the second season the Joes are apt to be firing them not at other people, but androids.)

Indeed, it is worth remembering that a conspicuously James Bondian agent "guest stars" in a Sunbow series episode, specifically "Matthew Burke" in the allusively titled "The Spy Who Rooked Me," which mixes up with the Joes a tuxedo-wearing British superspy who first appears outside a Vegas nightclub, subsequently drives a gadget-packed car (complete with ejector seat) and, while having to keep it G-rated, still manages to put enough moves on Lady Jaye to get Flint jealous. In the end Bond does not come off so favorably as he might, but still accomplishes his mission handily, while in the process getting the better of his allies as well as his enemies--so that in the end, it still seems fair to call the episode an homage to a crucial predecessor.

Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on James Bond

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