Movie Rankings: 2011, 2010, 2009

2011.

10. PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN 4.  A massive disappointment after the original trilogy, but not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.

9. X-MEN FIRST CLASS.  A pretty good reboot of the franchise set in the 60s.  I definitely prefer the originals but it is cool to see the origin of Xavier and Magneto’s relationship.

8. TIN TIN.  Peter Jackson and Stephen Spielberg team up to create an immensely fun globe trotting family adventure with astounding visuals and set pieces.

7. KUNG FU PANDA 2.  A great sequel to a great movie with a great villain.

6. TRANSFORMERS 3.  Probably the best Bay-formers movie.  Some truly epic action scenes at the end as the villains stage a full out invasion.

5. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4.  Brad Bird creates the best MI movie by far full of instantly iconic big set pieces.

4. FAST FIVE.  This is when the Fast franchise became amazing.  It went from a street racing franchise to a globe trotting Avengers style James Bond franchise and it’s delightful.

3. CAPTAIN AMERICA.  A great introduction to the character and a great WWII story.  Such an earnest and moral character could have been a big misstep in this day and age but the MCU handles him with perfection.

2. THOR.  Another great character introduction that shows the MCU can go big and crazy and cosmic and still work.  Also the introduction to the MCU’s greatest villain in Loki.

1. HARRY POTTER DEATHLY HALLOWS 2.  The best Harry Potter movie and a non-stop action thriller to bring the franchise to a satisfying and thrilling conclusion.

2010.

10. OWLS OF GAHOOLE- Astonishingly gorgeous CGI for a great family adventure story that is willing to go to dark places.

9. A-TEAM.  Not familiar with the source material, but this is a really fun action adventure with great humor and set pieces.

8. TANGLED.  A modern day Disney classic.

7. TOY STORY 3.  I am not a big fan of the first two movies but this had a great story with very mature themes and some great adventure.

6. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.  A delightful family adventure story.

5. IRON MAN 2.  Definitely one of the weaker MCU movies with very forgettable villains.

4. INCEPTION.  My favorite non-Bat Nolan movie.  A masterclass in action and suspicious and plotting.

3. SCOTT PILGRIM.  Another Edgar Wright classic that truly feels like a comic book come to life.

2. HARRY POTTER DEATHLY HALLOWS 1.  While the trio hiding in the forest and turning on each other is tedious, the rest of it is a wonderfully dark adventure that completely jettisons the series format for a full out war.

1. TRON LEGACY.  I dearly love this movie.  The villain’s plot is ridiculous, but everything else is perfection.  The visual design and score is second to none.  I still listen to this soundtrack on the reg.  The action is incredible.  This is a perfect blend between honoring the original and delivering something new.  Jeff Bridges is not a glorified cameo but just as important to the movie as the new lead character.

2009.

10. LAND OF THE LOST.  I actually think this is a reall funny movie!  I have no knowledge of the source material.

9. SHERLOCK HOLMES.  Ritchie and Downey are a great combination to reinvent Sherlock.

8. UP.  Great Pixar movie with a fun adventure quest.

7. DISTRICT 9.  A stellar combination of amazingly realistic CGI with a morality tale.

6. HARRY POTTER HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.  My least favorite of the later books and movies because it’s just a throwback school story for the most part.

5. TRANSFORMERS 2.  There’s definitely ridiculous excess at work, but it remains a visual masterpiece of Bay-hem that expands the scope with more characters and more global locales.

4. WATCHMEN.  As perfect an adaptation as any movie could hope to be of the greatest comic book of all time.

3. TERMINATOR SALVATION.  I think this movie is greatly underappreciated.  Rather than being another mindless remake of T2, they actually did something different and showed the future war for the first time.  The action and spectacle is absolutely amazing and it’s an interesting story that takes the franchise in a new direction.

2. STAR TREK.  A delightful reinvention of the franchise into a Star Wars-y epic action piece with a ton of great character and humor.  Way more cinematic than any Trek movie before it.

1. AVATAR.  James Cameron once again creates an iconic (if unoriginal) sci-fi movie that became the highest grossing movie in history for a reason.  The world of Pandora is a revelation to behold.  And while the story doesn’t really do anything groundbreaking, it still works.

Movie Rankings: 2014, 2013, 2012

2014.

10. GODZILLA.  The human characters are boring but this movie did a wonderful job of building the mystery, scale, and spectacle of a skyscraper sized monster more than any other movie.  

9.  AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.  There’s a lot of bad in here.  Way too much of the movie is a emo stalker love story.  Electro’s character is ridiculous.  The last minute tacked on Green Goblin II appearance is terrible.  Putting that aside there is some great Spidey action in here.

8. BIG HERO 6. A great Disney (secretly Marvel!) superhero animated adventure.

7. HOW TO TRAIN DRAGON 2.  This is an incredibly dark and mature sequel with an amazing story, action, humor, and some truly shocking twists.

6. DAWN OF PLANET OF THE APES.  My favorite Apes movie by far.  First, the CGI is 100% photorealistic.  It’s astonishing.  But more importantly, this tells a wonderful story of how an uneasy peace devolved into war through mistrust and misunderstanding.

5. EDGE OF TOMORROW. I normally hate time loop stories but this milks it for all it’s worth with a ton of great action and humor.

4. X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.  The best X-Men movie!  It was a huge deal to have the original cast come back, though disappointing that only Wolverine actually travels back in time.

3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.  The MCU’s most daring big swing paid off perfectly.  They went full on sci-fi and everything is delightful and hilarious.

2. WINTER SOLDIER.  One of the best of the MCU.  Another wonderful vehicle to make Cap an interesting character with amazing action and truly world-shattering consequences to the franchise.  Who ever though they would destroy SHIELD when the SHIELD television show had just started?!  Daring!

1. HOBBIT BATTLE FIVE ARMIES. Certainly the worst example of Jackson excess and I love every second of it.  The White Council vs. the Necomancer is one of those scenes i dreamed about as a child and seeing it on screen was absolutely magical.  The ridiculously large scale battle, which looks bigger than the one in ROTK, is just pure spectacle.

2013.

10. FROZEN.  While a little overrated, it’s still a Disney classic and cultural juggernaut full of iconic songs.

9. GRAVITY.  Alfonso Cuaron creates an unbeliveably kinetic realtime edge of your seat experience unlike any other.  The special effects look absolutely real.  There’s even some theming and symbolism in the mix.

8. THOR DARK WORLD.  One of the weakest MCU films with perhaps the worst villain, but there are still great character and comedy bits and some great action scenes.

7. PACIFIC RIM.  Not terribly original, but a very fun Del Toro action flick with great spectacle.

6. WHITE HOUSE DOWN.  This movie is so much sheer fun and I’m surprised it’s not more popular.  It’s Die Hard in the White House!

5. FAST FURIOUS 6.  This might be my favorite Fast movie.  It’s got all the best characters and perhaps the series best villain in Owen Shaw and his team, along with some of the greatest set pieces in the franchise.

4. MAN OF STEEL. I’m not a fan of grim and gritty takes on superheroes but this movie still works for me… mostly.  Despite the dark subject matter Supes does remain an aspirational figure, and killing Zod is actually true to the comics.  It’s definintely the best solo Superman movie ever and the first one to truly deliver on the spectacle and power the character should possess.

3. IRON MAN 3.  I think this is a mostly successful movie and while the Mandarin twist initially irked me, I do appreciate it now.  I do wish Tony had spent more time in the armor though.

2. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Aside from the ridiculous ending, I love this movie!  Peter Weller and Cumberbatch were superlative villains.  The action was epic and incredible.  Even more importantly, they brought in Section 31 from DS9!  The ending is still dumb though.

1. HOBBIT DESOLATION OF SMAUG.  With the caveat that this is not a faithful adaptation of the book but a what if exended version… this movie is pure magic.  There’s a lot more action and epicness than the first movie.  We get Legolas, Lee Pace, and Evangelline Lilly.  And the “extended” scene of the Dwarves fighting Smaug in the Lonely Mountain is my all time favorite “addition” that Jackson made to the trilogy.

2012.

10. JOHN CARTER.  Too long and too serious, but a truly epic sci-fi adventure.

9. CLOUD ATLAS.  Another Wachowski masterpiece full of beautiful moments, but it is overly long and overly complicated.

8. CABIN IN THE WOODS.  A classic pastiche of every horror movie trope imaginable.

7. WRECK IT RALPH.  A great parody of video games.

6. SKYFALL.  Definitely the best of the Daniel Craig era with a great villain, great set pieces, and an actual feeling of something momentous occuring in the franchise.

5. DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.  A disappointing conclusion to the Nolan trilogy but full of great individual moments.  Doing Knightfall and No Man’s Land (each fully year long storylines) in a single movie results in a rushed and unsatisfactory telling and an overlong movie, but it was great to see a live action version of these events.  

4. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  Garfield is a much better Spidey than Maguire, but having to sit through a prolonged origin story yet again is tedious, and the Lizard is not a great villain.  Still, the Spidey action is a vast improvement over the Rami trilogy.

3. PROMETHEUS.  There are some plot holes but this is a wonderful continuation of the Alien franchise that does something new and original rather than doing another rehash of Aliens.  The mystery of the Engineers and the origin of the xenomorphs was the great unanswered question of the original movies and this film addresses that subject with a great sense of wonder and mystery.  I’m still disappointed we never got a proper sequel to this.

2. HOBBIT UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.  As a die hard Tolkein fan, I dearly love the Hobbit movies not as a faithful adaptation but as a delightful “what if?” extended version of the original story, remaking it to better fit the style and tone of LOTR.  And it’s magical to see it on the screen.

1. THE AVENGERS.  A perfect movie.  A perfect script.  A moment realized on screen that I never hoped to see.  The movie that changed the MCU from a middling success into the juggernaut that defines movies to this day.

Movie Rankings: 2017, 2016, 2015

2017.

10. PIRATES ON STRANGER TIDES. This was much, much better than the fourth one, but still doesn’t touch the original trilogy.  Javier Bardem made for a solid villain and I do like how it tied back into Will and Elizabeth.

9. JUSTICE LEAGUE.  The J*ss version is deeply, deeply flawed.  But it’s still the first time this team meets on-screen so it’s magical for that alone.

8. LAST JEDI.  I wanted to like this movie, I really did.  I walked in convinced I would love it… and walked out shell-shocked that for the first time in my life I didn’t like a Star Wars movie.  I will never agree with the decision to make Luke a bitter failure who refuses to help anyone, or with the decision to kill him off unnecessarily.  The Canto Bight sequence is wasteful and the starship chase is silly and Poe is turned into a maligned character in it.  Setting up Snoke as the new villain only to kill him off as a joke is shocking, but in a bad way.  This movie goes out of its way to detonate everything set up in the first movie.  All that being said… it’s still Star Wars and it’s an expertly made film even if I don’t agree with it.

7. TRANSFORMERS LAST KNIGHT.  I legitimately enjoyed the first three, really didn’t enjoy the fourth, and this one felt like a redemption of its predecessor.  Optimus turning evil was a dumb movie, but everything about the movie was a vast improvement and Bay-sanity will always get a pass for me.  Nobody makes a better action sequence.

6. KONG SKULL ISLAND.  This is a great movie!  My only complaint is Kong didn’t have a cooler monster to fight, but everything else works.  The characters are interesting and Brie Larson made a particular impression.  I love the Vietnam War setting.  The exploration of the island was very involving.

5. FATE OF THE FURIOUS.  This is one of the better Fast movies.  Dom working for the bad guys was actually well done and for a legitimately good reason.  Charlize Theron is instantly the best villain the franchise ever had.  The action scenes are huge and ridiculous.  I particularly love the NYC scene of remote controlled cars working in tandem; truly iconic.

4. WONDER WOMAN.  Great introductory movie for the character and loved the World War One setting.  No complaints.

3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2.  It’s a little slow in the second act but everything else works.  The characters are hilarious and all have legitimate arcs in the story.  The action and sci-fi insanity is golden.

2. SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING.  This is the best Spider-Man movie as of 2017.  The character, setting, story, action, and villain all works.  They even managed to make the Vulture cool and threatening, which I never thought was possible.

1. THOR RAGNAROK.  Taika Waititi revolutionized Thor the character and the franchise to make a hilarious and classic movie.  This movie is just pure joy all the way through.                

2016.

10. BATMAN VS SUPERMAN. Oh, what a disappointment.  This should have been the greatest thing ever.  Instead we get an overly long complicated plot by the worst Lex Luthor ever put to screen, a Batman who kills people left and right, and a brooding Superman who just doesn’t seem to care.  Still, recreating the fight from Dark Knight Returns was awesome and we did get Wonder Woman and (a terrible) Doomsday.

9. FANTASTIC BEASTS.  It’s a small scale story, but a truly original story in the franchise starring adults was a really interesting thing to see.  I really like Newt and the other characters, and the introduction of Grindelwald was fascinating.

8. DOCTOR STRANGE. This is a lower tier MCU movie for me.  Yet another linear origin story.  Yet another copy of Iron Man 1.  Still, there are fun characters and concepts and action.

7. STAR TREK BEYOND. The villains are completely forgettable but it’s a fun romp with epic visuals.

6. DEADPOOL. So much better, and funnier, than I could have ever hoped for.  They really brought this unique comic to life.

5. INDEPENDENCE DAY 2. As a massive fan of the original, I legitimately love this movie.  I think it was fascinating to show how humanity has adapted to using alien technology while also diligently preparing for the next invasion.  It’s not as good as the original but there a lot to love here.

4. FINDING DORY.  Nemo is the greatest Pixar movie ever and this shockingly manages to be a worthy sequel full of just as many instantly iconic characters and moments.

3. ZOOTOPIA.  I legitimately love this movie.  The world and visuals of Zootopia are absolutely incredible.  I just want to live there.  The characters are great and the story is wonderful and a meaningful parable about racism and police brutality… in a kid’s movie!

2. CIVIL WAR. One of the great MCU movies, and the first one to truly show they’re willing to break the formula and go tragic.  Plus, the Airport fight.  Plus, Spider-Man and Black Panther!

1. ROGUE ONE. While TFA is more fun and iconic, Rogue One is without a doubt the best made of the Disney Star Wars movies.  It’s a legimately important story with instantly classic characters and astonishing recreations of New Hope while still looking utterly modern and realistic.

2015.

10. SPECTRE. I like this movie more than most apparently.  It’s not as good as Skyfall but it’s definitely more enjoyable than Casino or Quantum.  Some great action scenes and I enjoyed the return of Blofield, even with his ridiculous backstory.

9. ANT-MAN.  I think this most is a vast overrated carbon copy of the first Iron Man movie.  That being said, Paul Rudd is hilarious.  Another weak villain and drawn out linear origin story, unfortunately.

8. JUPITER ASCENDING.  I’m a sucker for any original big budget sci-fi and this film is just bursting with crazy visuals and concepts and great action.  It’s not perfect but there is just so much to enjoy.

7. TOMORROWLAND.  I just watched this movie again and it feels better each time.  On my first viewing I was very disappointed that Tomorrowland was a dead, empty world populated by three people, and that stands, but the rest of the movie is a wonderful adventure with a great message.

6. INSIDE OUT.  Classic Pixar!  In addition to telling a deep, meaningful emotional story, it is also full of humor and adventure and great conceptual jokes.

5. FURIOUS 7.  Not quite as good as 5 or 6, but still a solid and thrilling Fast movie with a great villain in Statham and a great new character in Mister Nobody.

4. MAD MAX FURY ROAD.  As a child I loved Beyond Thunderdome, and this is inexplicably a prefer sequel two decades later.  A masterclass in practical action stunts and a classic for the ages.

3. AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON.  I like this movie more than most.  I think it’s almost as good as the first Avengers on most levels, and even better in action and cinematography.  Ultron is not as compelling a villain but he’s decent, and the sheer number of characters involved was mind-boggling at the time.

2. JURASSIC WORLD.  I dearly love this movie as a nostalgia fix.  Jurassic Park was a formative movie and book for me as a kid but I always dreamed of seeing it as a working theme park full of people, and this movie finally realized that dream.  It definitely has some silly and problematic elements in it, but what a ride.

1. STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS.  Another magical return to childhood.  Rey and Finn and Poe are instantly classic new characters.  The story is thrilling, the action scenes are amazing.  My only complaint is that it’s obviously derivative and we never got Luke properly in the film.  

Movie Rankings: 2020, 2019, 2018

I have a sad obsession with movies and making lists, so I went through and made top ten lists for every year of my life!  Please note these are not rankings based on artistic quality, but on sheer enjoyment.

2020.

5. SOUL.  Good but not great Pixar movie.

4. BORAT 2. Sacha risked his life at the onset of the pandemic to give us a hilarious and scathing indictment of American bigotry.

3. BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC.  A shockingly satisfying decades later sequel that is a perfect follow up to both original movies.

2. ONWARD. Solid Pixar with an incredibly sweet ending.

1. TENET. Not my favorite Nolan movie, way too confusing, but a visual spectacle.

2019.

10. FROZEN 2. The first Frozen is a classic and I think this actually had a better story, even if it didn’t have as many iconic songs.

9. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3.  The second one is an amazing movie this is almost as good.

8. JUMANGI 2. I found the first one pretty enjoyable and thought this was even better.

7. HOBBS AND SHAW.  I’m a big Fast fan and this was a solid spin-off with great action and humor.

6. TERMINATOR DARK FATE.  Another better than expected sequel.  I really did not like Genisys and this felt like a redemption of the franchise.

5. GODZILLA 2.  This is my favorite Monster-verse movie.  It was truly epic, end of the world stuff, with a huge amount of monsters, amazing set pieces, and a fascinating look at the concept of the Hollow Earth.

4. SPIDER-MAN FAR FROM HOME.  Aside from a little too much time spent on the high school field trip, this is another great outing.  Mysterio was a great villain, and what a cliffhanger!

3. CAPTAIN MARVEL.  This is a perfect introduction to Carol Danvers.  I was instantly convinced she could lead the future of the MCU.  The Kree/Skrull War and the plot twist of the Skrulls being the victims was a wonderful twist.  Talos is another instantly iconic character.  

2. AVENGERS ENDGAME.  Unpopular opinion: the first hour of this movie is an absolute chore to sit through.  It’s too depressing and too slow.  The time heist is a lot of fun and the ending battle is pretty good.  I do feel this was an underwhelming way to end the saga, however.  I still disagree with the decision to kill Thanos in the first ten minutes and then replace him with an alternate past variant who had none of the character arc from Infinity War.  It completely robs the movie of having a compelling, developed villain.

1. STAR WARS RISE OF SKYWALKER.  Another unpopular opinion!  I love this movie!  After the Last Jedi and the toxic fandom resulting from it, this was a redemptive breath of fresh air.  It is definitely not perfect; Palpatine is my favorite villain and I loved him coming back… but not explaining how and then killing him so easily undercuts the entire concept.  I’m also not happy with using cut footage to awkwardly cram in Leia only to kill her off; it was a disservice to the character.  But it’s a fun movie full of great sequences, and we finally got to see Rey, Finn, and Poe have an adventure for the first time in their third movie.


2018.

10. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET. A wonderful sequel to a wonderful movie.

9. MORTAL ENGINES. It’s a real shame this movie bombed because I thought it was a really interesting original genre world with some great action.

8. SPIDER-VERSE. So much better than I ever would have hoped.  A comic book come to life.

7. READY PLAYER ONE. Speilberg hits it out of the park.  The endless cameos from every property in existance are just the icing on the cake.

6. ANT-MAN AND WASP. I have a special place in my heart for this one.  I think it’s the most purely fun MCU movie just full of hilarious bits and overlapping villain plots.

5. DEADPOOL 2. Even better than the original.  The additions of Cable and Domino make everything twice as great.  Plus we got the Juggernaut and more hilarious interactions with Colossus.

4. BLACK PANTHER. Not only is this a great MCU movie, it’s a great introduction to a brand new world and cast of characters, and a great villain with a meaningful motivation.

3. AQUAMAN. This was so much better than I expected.  The sheer amount of insanity in this film is astounding.  They threw everything and the kitchen sink into this one.

2. SOLO.  While not the most epic or successful Star Wars movie, it’s still a ton of fun and a delightful breath of fresh air after Last Jedi. 1. INFINITY WAR.  The greatest MCU movie ever.  A massive comic book crossover event come to life in a way I never dared to dream of.  An incredible achievement.

Universal Studios Florida!

I love Universal Studios Florida!  It’s delightful as an adult, but I also have a deeper nostalgic childhood connection to USF than Disney World because I went to that one more as a kid.  I have incredibly dim but fond memories of Back to the Future, King Kong, Earthquake, Jaws… Actually I’m not actually sure if I ever rode Jaws as a kid.  It was always broken!  It’s very possible I only rode it a single time as an adult right before it closed.

When I started vacationing again as an adult I started with Disney but eventually made my way to Universal.  While nothing can beat WDW, I do find Universal much less stressful, mainly because there’s a lot less walking.  Cabana Bay, their cheap on-site hotel, is literally across the street from Islands.  I can leave my hotel room, hop on a short bus, and be inside the gates inside of 15 minutes, whereas at Disney you’re lucky if that takes an hour.  It’s so much easier to slip back into your hotel room for an afternoon break.  I also love how the hotels and the shopping district and two parks are all tightly packed together.  Having to pass through City Walk just to enter the parks always makes it feel a little more epic.

Universal Studios the original park will always my favorite of the two.  Like Magic Kingdom, it just has a lot more rides than its sister park, and this is the place of my childhood.  And while I miss the classic original attractions, there are even better additions now with the addition of Diagon Alley and Springfield.  Diagon Alley is an astounding achievement in total immersion.  It’s amazing just to walk around in there.  And the big pink donut remains my favorite park treat.

10. Animal Actors.  Who doesn’t love a stage show of animals doing tricks?

9. E.T. The only remaining opening day attraction!  It’s incredibly dated but there is still something magical about the twilight Pacific forest journey.

8. Fast and Furious. I’m definitely not a fan of all these new rides being nothing more than 3D screens, and this is the worst example of it.  But it’s moderately fun.

7. Jimmy Fallon.  Hate the host, but the ride is actually a pretty fun sim ride through NYC with a trip into space.  The pre-show is also very impressive.

6. Men in Black. An aging attraction, but walking through the cavernous MIB office is never not cool and the shooting game is pretty fun.  At least it’s interactive!

5. Transformers.  Another screen ride, but a well made one.

4. Minions.  This is an excellent simulator ride with a great ride film.  It’s great to take a journey through Gru’s vast underground layer.

3. Simpsons. Back to the Future was my favorite ride as a kid, and this replacement is actually better.  This ride, and the pre-show, is chock full of hilarious jabs at theme parks and Disney.  The graphics aren’t very sharp, but still look epic on the huge screen.

2. The Mummy.  This is my all time favorite roller coaster.  It is just at the acceptable limit of thrills for me with fast accelerations but no big drops.  The story and setting is perfect.  The queue is legitimately creepy and the pre-show is great too.

1. Gringotts.  While it’s mostly just another screen ride, the story and theming is so perfect it’s still incredible.  Walking through the bank is incredible and it’s great to see this story actually taking place in the middle of the seventh book with the actors involved.  Also it doesn’t help that it’s based in Diagon Alley, an incredible area!

ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE.  After the theme park wars of the 80s and 90s, this is shockingly the most recent theme park in Orlando from all the way back in 1999.  I went only once a teenager when it first opened, so my knowledge of the park is almost entirely as an adult.  I don’t even remember the original “Merlinwood” land where Hogsmeade now sits!  This park has great theming with its different lands, but it’s a lot of walking around for a handful of great rides.  

10. Seuss Monorail.  This is me really struggling for ten things.

9. Poseidon’s Fury.  I loved this as a kid and while the story is very goofy, the theming and the sets and the water effects are incredible.  And that building exterior is the best one ever!

8. Hippogriff.  It’s a fun little baby coaster.

7. Bilgewater Barges.  A pretty good river rapids ride.  You will get soaked!

6. Ripsaw Falls.  It’s a lame copy of Splash Mountain but the cartoons are cute.

5. Jurassic Park Ride.  Now here’s a much better Splash Mountain ripoff with some excellent theming!  Too bad the ride is so short though.

4. Skull Island.  Another bad example of a modern ride relying on 3D screens, but the pre-show is second to none and the story / ride film is very cool.

3. Spider-Man.  This ride was a revelation in 1999 and it still holds up well.  The false sensation of motion and falling is very well done and it’s a Spider-Man cartoon so it’s a winner for me.

2. Harry Potter Forbidden Journey.  The pre-show alone, walking through Hogwarts Castle, is worth it alone, but the ride is also fun and thrilling with a great sense of motion.

1. Hagrid’s Coaster. I’ve only gotten to ride this once so far, and it scared the crap out of me, but the theming and story was excellent and I’m sure it’ll be less terrifying on repeat attempts.

I was extremely excited when they finally announced the first new theme park since 1999 in EPIC UNIVERSES, and very disappointed when the pandemic threw all that out the window.  They’re only just now resuming construction for a targeted 2025 opening.  It will be astonishing to experience a brand new theme park for the first time in decades; not a new ride, or a new land, but an entirely new location from the ground up!

Disney World!

Before the pandemic, my sole vacation spot was Orlando Florida for Disney and Universal.  I actually grew up in Florida, but Disney wasn’t a big part of my childhood.  I remember going to Universal (Studios only existed at the time) more often.  I moved out of Florida and promptly forgot about theme parks for a solid decade.  Also, I couldn’t afford vacations for a good ten years!

I went on my first “adult” vacation to Walt Disney World around 2010 and fell instantly in love.  It was a magical journey completely divorced from reality.  Disney picked us up at the airport and we were already in “the Disney bubble” on a bus with shaded windows playing a long promo for WDW.  The hotel, the busing, the parks… it was all a fantasy world.  I was officially hooked.

Now that I can afford it, I’ve been taking all my vacations to WDW and Universal… until the pandemic, of course.  I haven’t been to Disney since 2018 and Universal since 2019.  I still haven’t been to Galaxy’s Edge, a fact that haunts my days and nights!  I’ve had two different trips cancelled due to covid, but I think I’m finally gonna make it this year.

I’ve read a lot of bad press about the new Disney experience.  The free airport bus is going.  The free fast passes are gone.  It sounds like the WDW of 2022 is very different from that of 2018… but I still can’t wait to experience the magic again.  And finally see Galaxy’s Edge!

WDW is an astonishing achievement.  It’s the size of a sprawling city with four different theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, dozens of hotels, a massive shopping district… I’m only interested in the theme parks, but the scale is astounding.

Magic Kingdom will always be my favorite part just for the sheer number of rides.  It’s twice as many as any other park!  Since I love lists so much, here’s a top ten rides:

10. Small World.  It’s a slow boat ride but still a classic.

9. Monsters Inc Laugh Floor.  It’s amazing how they can create live action CGI characters who interact with the audience.

8. Peter Pan.  A classic opening day dark ride.

7. Jungle Cruise.  The animatronics are dated but the skipper’s groan-inducing corny jokes never get old.

6. Big Thunder Mountain.  A perfect little baby coaster with great theming.

5. Pirates.  The sheer scale of the scenes are incredible!

4. Splash Mountain.  An amazing combination of an animatronic show with a log flume ride and some of the catchiest songs ever.

3. Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster.  The theming is second to none and the smooth family coaster is just at my preferred thrill level.

2. Space Mountain.  Another perfect me-sized thrill ride.

1. Haunted Mansion.  Without a doubt the best WDW ride for sheer story, atmosphere, and song.


Animal Kingdom is without a doubt the most gorgeous looking park.  The theming is immaculate everywhere… except for Dinoland USA, anyway.  The addition of Pandora was the crowning achievement; walking around life-sized floating mountains never gets old.

5. Kali River Rapids.  A merely adequate river rapids ride.

4. Dinosaur.  Not very thrilling but the story is cute and dinosaurs are fun.

3. Navi River Journey.  It’s a slow moving boat ride but the Pandora seting is beautiful and it has the most life-life animatronic figure ever created.

2. The Safari. An incredible achievement and putting you inside a zoo.  Every ride is different and you can get so close to the animals!

1. Flight of Passage.  It’s just a sim ride, but the most polished one ever made.  The sense of flight is incredible and the film’s journey through new locales on Pandora is breath-taking every time.

Hollywood Studios was still a half-day park the last time i was there.  I can’t wait to see the addition of Galaxy’s Edge and the two new rides.  I can only go off my four year old memories here.  Even when it was half shuttered, I still enjoyed DHS.  It was small and easy to walk through!

5. Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  Incredibly dated at this point but still cool to see stunts and explosions in real life.

4. Fantasmic.  Give me this over any fireworks show.  The best evening show Disney has to offer.

3. Toy Story Midway Mania.  It’s basically playing a Wii motion control shooter game, but the theming makes it special.

2. Star Tours.  I will never get tired of this ride, particularly since the planet order is randomized each time.  I have ridden this over and over.  It’s pure Star Wars and really recaptures the slightly goofy fun feeling the franchise had back in the Prequel Era under Lucas.

1. Slinky Dog Dash.  I only got to ride this a single time in my life but it was a great coaster and actually pretty scary for this cowardly lion.(One can only assume my new number 1 and 2 will become Rise of the Resistance and Smuggler’s Run in a few months!)

Epcot was my favorite park as a child because I was terrified of any kind of thrill ride whatsoever, and this was nothing but dark rides.  As an adult, it’s the least thrilling park.  I still don’t have much love for the World Showcase since it has almost no rides.  When I think of Epcot, all I think of it is hot concrete and endless walking.

5. Living Seas.  I refer to the entire pavilion than the entry ride.  I love how there is an entire aquarium stuck in the middle of a Disney park.  I love watching the dolphins and manatees.

4. Spaceship Earth.  My favorite part of this ride is how the entire thing is built into a massive ball sitting in the air.  The ride itself is merely fun.

3. Frozen.  I remember loving Maelstrom as a child, but i don’t mind its replacement.  The Frozen theming is perfectly done.

2. Soarin’.  As long as you get the right seat, this is a magic sensation of flying through the air across the entire world.

1. Test Track. This is a thrill ride tailor made for me.  It goes super fast, but on a flat level!

Looking Forward to 2022

After a fallow year for entertainment in 2020, genre came back with a vengeance in 2021, and 2022 is going to be just as packed with new content.  Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

TELEVISION:

10. WILLOW.  I have a lot of fond childhood memories of the movie, and a very vague memory of reading the sequel novels written by Chris Claremont of X-Men fame.  I’m hoping this will be a big budget and epic follow up.

9. MOON KNIGHT.  I don’t have a particular connection to the character from the comics and it looks like a dark and brooding street level hero, but MCU always does it right.

8. MS MARVEL.  Another street level MCU series but I’m sure it’ll be fun.

7. SHE HULK.  This should be a really interesting mashup between a superhero show and a legal drama/comedy, and with all the returning movie stars, I’m hoping it’s great.

6. SECRET INVASION.  This is my most anticipated MCU show for the year.  Samuel L is back and we’ve got Talos from Captain Marvel as well!  I also enjoyed the comic it’s based on.  I’m really curious to see how this story unfolds since the comic was a huge summer crossover starring the Avengers and a major alien invasion, which this will obviously not be.

5. BOOK OF BOBA FETT.  I always loved Boba Fett so this should be great, though the “replacing Jabba as a crime lord” premise is a little odd.

4. MANDALORIAN S3.  Anticipation is high after the astonishing S2; can they meet that level?

3. ANDOR.  I dearly love Rogue One and I am very excited for a prequel series showing the Rebellion’s black ops unit.

2. OBI WAN.  I didn’t expect to be that excited about this…. until I learned Obi doesn’t just hang out in the desert the entire time, and he fights Hayden Christensen as Vader again!

1. LORD OF THE RINGS.  This could easily end up being a massive disappointment, but LOTR is one of my all time favorite book and movie series.  Hell, I even unironically love the Hobbit movies.  So the chance of seeing Sauron in his physical form corrupting Numenor is extremely exciting for me.

MOVIES:

10. THE BATMAN.  I’m sure it’ll be great, but it’s hard to get terribly excited about the endless Batman reboots.

9. BLACK PANTER 2.  I loved the first one.  But Chadwick is gone, raising a great number of questions about how good the sequel could possibly be.  If the rumors of Namor being the villain are true, I’ll be much more interested.

8. SPIDER-VERSE 2.  The first one is amazing and I can’t wait for more.

7. FANTASTIC BEASTS 3.  As problematic as some behind the scenes aspects of this series are… I still really want to see the Dumbledore vs. Grindlewald war.

6. AQUAMAN 2. The first one was so much better than I could have ever expected, so here’s hoping the sequel can live up to it.

5. THE FLASH. I still can’t believe this movie finally happened.  While I’m not terribly excited about this version of the Flash or yet another Flashpoint adaptation, I am very jazzed over the celebrity guest stars.

4. DR STRANGE 2. I didn’t love the first movie but I did love his subsequent appearances.  Throw in Sam Raimi and Scarlett Witch and America Chavez and who knows what else, and this is destined to be something special.

3. THOR 4. Ragnarok is a stupendously fun movie and Taika is back!  Along with Natalie as Lady Thor!  This is going to be amazing!

2. JURASSIC WORLD 3. Loved the first one.  Hated half of the second one.  But dealing with dinos in America plus the full-time return of the original Jurassic Park cast is going to make this another special crossover nostalgia fest, even moreso than the first one.

1. AVATAR 2.  No, that’s not a joke!  I love the first one.  People dump on it now, but for over a decade it was the highest grossing film in history for a reason.  The story wasn’t terribly original, but the visual splendor remains absolutely mind-blowing.  I also have a particular love for the Pandora land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Never bet against James Cameron!  He’s got the Midas touch!

Star Wars Books (Disney Era)

This week saw the release of Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Grey, marking a full year of the High Republic era within the Star Wars publishing franchise.  This imprint has been a real breath of fresh air for the Disney EU.  While it initially sounded very exciting in 2012 with everything being canon and “counting”, as the years went on it quickly became apparent the books and comics were fundamentally nerfed from being consequential since the movies had no pre-planned trajectory.  The books just didn’t have anywhere to go.  But by creating an entire line 200 years before the Prequel Era, the High Republic can tell its own story with importance and consequences.  This is the most invested I’ve been in Star Wars books since 2012.

There have been other good books in the Disney Canon as well though.  Here’s my Top Ten:

10. LOST STARS.  This is a lot of people’s favorite, and it’s well told, but having the story star a pair of background players can only do so much for me.

9. LEIA PRINCESS OF ALDERAAN.  It’s a small YA story but it does a marvelous job of showing how great Leia was even as a teenager.  Also, it made me actually care about Bail Organa and his wife for the first time.

8. MASTER AND APPRENTICE.  A solid Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan pre-TPM adventure.

7. LORDS OF THE SITH.  Honestly I don’t remember this one well but it stars Vader and Palpatine on the run so that’s fun.

6. AHSOKA.  While a small story, Ahsoka is one of my favorite characters and it was wonderful to see her life post Order 66.
5. REBEL RISING.  After seeing Rogue One I was desperate for more Jynn Erso content and this book gives you everything you could ever want.  Her entire life story!

4. BLOODLINE.  Easily the most consequential Sequel Era book or comic, it actually showed us the emergence of the First Order and explained the nature of the New Republic and it’s politics, something the movies never did.  And it’s yet another great showcase for Leia.

3. DARK DISCIPLE.  An adaptation of unfilmed Clone Wars episodes, this actually was a major event of that era and a great story.

2. THRAWN TRILOGY (the new one- no, not the new-new one).  Thrawn is a beloved EU character and getting him re-introduced into the new canon was delightful.  I particularly enjoyed the second book teaming him up with Darth Vader and Prequel Era Anakin and Padme.

1. THE HIGH REPUBLIC.  There are comics, middle grade books, young adult books, and adult books!  I focus mainly on the adult books.  It’s just so great to get an entirely new era and cast set in a time with multiple Jedi.  While I was initially disappointed with the villains being Mad Max space pirates, their leader Marchion Ro has turned out to be a great mystery box.  The other projects also do a good job of rounding out the larger world.  It’s almost like the good old days of the pre-2012 EU all over again!

2021 Year in Review

While in the real world 2021 had all sorts of horrible things happening, including me getting COVID, in the world of fiction it was a pretty great year.  After an entire of year of next to no new content, we were inundated with fresh movies and tv series.  On our last episode of the Sci-Fi Pubcast we went over our favorites for the year, so I thought I’d put it out here as well.

BOOKS:
I can barely remember what I’ve read this year but I think it was mostly older titles.  I do know I finally dove back into Star Trek novels this year in the hopes of catching up.  I was about a decade behind!  The reason was this fall’s release of STAR TREK CODA, a trilogy that forever closes out the serialized continuity running in the books since DS9/VOY/TNG Movies ended.  While some books are better than others, it’s a towering achievement for tie-in fiction.  And unlike the Star Wars Extended Universe (my first love!), this franchise got a proper send-off.  I can’t wait to finally, eventually, get to it.  I’m sure it’s great.

Speaking of franchises ending, on the exact same day as the final Star Trek novel, LEVIATHAN FALLS came out.  The ninth and final chapter of The Expanse series.  I was a slow convert to loving the tv series but it eventually got me into the books.  The tv show is great but the books are even better, and just kept improving.  The closing trilogy was the best of the series, and the final book was one of those rare endings that did not disappoint.  Highly recommended!

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child released their latest Pendergast book this year, BLOODLESS.  The last several books in this series have been merely good for me, but this was a delightful return to form.  This was the best Pendergast book in years!  It finally dipped back more into the genre content the series began in, after many years of mundane real-world killers.  

TELEVISION:
It was the year of Marvel on Disney Plus and all five (!) shows were solid.  I absolutely loved LOKI.  Not only was it fun, funny, and absolutely crazy with the comic book ideas, it was also a vital piece of the larger MCU.  Never in a million years did I think the overarching villain of the next five years would be introduced in a television show!

WHAT IF? was another pleasant surprise.  I expected an animated series to be less important and not in continuity, but this series was a ton of fun, had great animation, and looks like it’s going to directly feed into future movies.

HAWKEYE was a perfectly charming street-level Marvel show and Kate Bishop was instantly great.  WANDAVISION was a great mystery box that had a lot of fun with the sitcom parodies in addition to telling a wonderful story.  FALCON WINTER SOLDIER was the most traditional series and had a few missteps, but was still a great show.

I want to give a special shout out to the latest (shortened) season of DOCTOR WHO.  Jodi Whittaker has always been a wonderful Doctor, though sadly I found her first season full of very unmemorable stories.  Her second season was a vast improvement, and this final third year was even better.  It told a single serialized story over six hours, full of plots and villains, and it was the best thing the franchise has done since the 50th anniversary movie.  I’m very sad Jodi is leaving after such a short stay, but I am very excited to see Russell T Davies returning as showrunner.  His first four years on the show remain my favorite era.
The final season of THE EXPANSE is great so far.  STAR TREK DISCOVERY and LOWER DECKS have both been great.  Even THE FLASH is doing some of the best work since the Arrowverse peaked with Crisis on Infinite Earths two years ago.

MOVIES:
10. Matrix Resurrections.  I get what the director is going for, but everything about this movie was good but not great for me.  A far cry from my beloved original trilogy.  Yes, I even loved the sequels!

9. Raya and the Last Dragon.  Excellent Disney animated fantasy adventure film.

8. Fast Nine.  I love the Fast movies, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.  I much preferred 5 6 7 8.

7. Ghostbusters Afterlife.  I enjoyed this more than expected.  The new characters were great, the returning characters were great, and the story was a great mix of horror and comedy like the original.  Still, I’d like to see the next movie set in NYC and not a cornfield…

6. Free Guy.  Biggest surprise of the year!  This was a hilarious and delightful action/comedy!

5. Godzilla vs Kong.  I thought Godzilla 2 was a better film over all, but this was still a ton of fun.  I love the idea of a hollow earth filled with titanic monsters and want more from that, but there some parts that were just plain silly.  But we all know what you to go to see a movie like this for.

4. Black Widow.  A solidly entertaining Marvel movie.  Yelena is a wonderful new character.

3. The Suicide Squad.  James Gunn made a hilarious and bloody comic book movie full of delightful characters (so many!) and action.

2. Shang Chi.  Another big surprise.  Marvel is always solid but this one really exceed my expectations on every level.

1. Spider-Man No Way Home.  Wow!  I had high expectations and this movie exceeded them.  A success on every level, an all-timer for the MCU, and the best Spidey movie ever made.

https://scifipubcast.space/scifi-pubcast-46

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I talked about the Pendergast series last month, but these two authors have many other excellent novels.

Before Pendergast overtook their careers, they co-wrote some incredibly engrossing thrillers: RIPTIDE, THUNDERHEAD, and THE ICE LIMIT are amazing page turners I have read many, many times. Riptide is a pastisch of the Oak Island Money Pit and every single chapter pulls you in. Thunderhead is about discovering a lost Anasazi cave city out West and the mysterious killers who try to keep it secret. Ice Limit is about an expedition to retrieve a strange meteor from the Arctic Ocean.

There are two co-written series spinning off from the Pendergast series starring Gideon Crew and Nora Kelly respectively. While not as good as the main series, they are still definitely worth a read. I particularly loved THE LOST ISLAND for going full on genre for the first time in years. But the best of all is BEYOND THE ICE LIMIT, a sequel to a novel from 16 (!) years earlier I’d been dying to read.

Of Douglas Preston’s solo works, my favorites would be THE CODEX, IMPACT, and particularly BLASPHEMY. The later is about a particle accelerator test that enables the scientists to speak to an entity claiming to be God. Hi-jinks ensue. The Codex is an old fashioned adventure quest to find a lost treasure buried in South America. Impact is about mysterious meteors hitting the Earth that could wipe out humanity.

Of Lincoln Child’s solo works, my favorites are UTOPIA, DEEP STORM, and the THIRD GATE. Utopia is ‘Die Hard at Disney World’ so that hits all sorts of buttons for me. Deep Storm is an engrossing deep sea thriller about the discovery of an alien artifact at the bottom of the ocean. And Third Gate is a great thriller about discovering an ancient Egyptian tomb that is literally haunted.

My favorite stories by these two authors are invariably the ones that lean into their sci-fi/fantasy sensibilities. When it’s just a mundane killer story, I tend to lose interest, but even those are always expertly written.