Sunday, August 9, 2015

A as in Alien

In spoken conversation, a "spelling alphabet" is a useful tool for making sure that the listener understands exactly which letter is which. Did he say m or n? Did she say b or p?

In military speak, for example, the word "cat" is spelled "Charlie Alfa Tango" - each word starting with the letter it stands for.

In everyday speech, you're more likely to hear spelling alphabets used in casual ways, such as: "That's b as in Bob."

But Bob is boring. If you're going to spell something for someone, at least inject some pizzazz into it. Here, then, is the official Alien Robot Zombie spelling alphabet:

A as in Alien

B as in Batman

C as in Cobra

D as in Diesel

E as in Epic

F as in Football

G as in Gorilla

H as in Hammer

I as in Ice-Age

J as in Jedi

K as in Kung-Fu

L as in Laser

M as in Magic

N as in Ninja

O as in Overlord

P as in Pirate

Q as in Quasar

R as in Robot

S as in Science!

T as in Tyrant

U as in Unicorn

V as in Venom

W as in Werewolf

X as in X-Ray Vision

Y as in Yoda

Z as in Zombie

Monday, January 5, 2015

Most anticipated splody movies of 2014: recap

At the beginning of each year, I make a list of what I think will be that year’s best movies. My formula for success: equal parts good character development and explosions. Now that 2014 is over, here is my analysis of how my predictions for 2014 went.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). This was the best splody film of the year, and maybe Marvel Studios’ best to date. A perfect blend of 1970s spy-thriller, 1980s action-hero romp, and over-the-top summer blockbuster, this movie had it all. Chris Evans remains perfectly cast as Steve Rogers, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo brought a visceral edge to the action that kept audiences on the edge of their seats. The supporting cast was also top-notch. (One of the best scenes belonged solely to Sam Jackson as Nick Fury.) Every moment of this movie was crammed full of wonderful moments and Easter eggs for Marvel fans, and it is a testament to the skill of the storytelling that the more ridiculous plot elements feel organic. This is where the strength of Marvel’s shared universe begins to shine—small elements that were set up in Cap’s previous film and those of his fellow Avengers pay off here. You don’t have to have seen those films to appreciate this movie, but having seen them enriches the experience. Everyone knows about the famous elevator scene, but two other scenes in particular stood out to me. First, his one-man stealth assault in his first mission in the film is fast-paced and unforgiving, finally showing us what Captain America is capable of when firing on all cylinders. Second, his chase scene with the Winter Soldier is so kinetic I think it knocked the wind out of me as I watched it. Cap is so intense as he pursues his mark that he runs right through walls or leaves huge dents in them as he careens around them. The payoff of that scene is shocking and amazing—just like this film overall.

2. Godzilla
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 73%). This was the first American adaptation of Godzilla, so I was not sure what to expect. (OK, I realize there was a 1998 American film called Godzilla, but let’s be realistic, shall we? That was a Matthew Broderick comedy about a giant iguana, not a Godzilla movie. In Japan, they claimed the iguana creature was a different monster—and then Godzilla killed it. I rest my case.) I need not have worried. Director Gareth Edwards didn’t do the best job with the so-so human drama in this film, but human drama is always filler in a kaiju film. The monster drama, on the other hand, built up steadily to a glorious payoff in the film’s final act. I and the rest of the theater cheered loudly.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 90%). A lot of people predicted this would be Marvel Studios’ first cinematic failure. Instead, it became a runaway success and the highest-grossing comic book movie of the year. (Suck it, a lot of people.) It would be wrong to call this a superhero film, as it was more of a Star Wars type space adventure story. And it was Marvel’s most comedic effort to date. Those elements certainly scored points with mass audiences, and I’m sure that the pure on-screen charm of leading man Chris Pratt (“Star-Lord”) and his talking tree (“Groot”) and raccoon (“Rocket”) sidekicks didn’t hurt. Marvel struck gold with this franchise, and the consensus now is that they could turn Howard the Duck into a billion-dollar franchise if they wanted to.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Result: EPIC FAIL (Tomatometer 53%). I almost feel bad for kicking Sony when they’re down, but the simple fact of the matter is that Sony needs some tough love when it comes to Spider-Man. They have the world’s most popular superhero in their film stable, and they consistently lose money on him. And deservedly so. TASM2 was a mess. Thanks to the Sony Hack, we now know that the entire point of the movie was to kill off Gwen Stacey, something Marvel Studios recommended against doing so soon, since she was a popular character, and a move which turned out to alienate a lot of viewers. The rest of the plot was shoehorned in, in random pieces, to fit a variety of conflicting studio directives, the most ridiculous of which was to sow seeds for an entire cinematic universe—that has now been scrapped because of how disjointed and awful this film was. The sad thing is that there were elements of a good story here, but Sony didn’t know what they had and refused to listen to any of Marvel Studios’ notes to improve the product. Sony and Marvel are supposedly in talks now on a deal that would allow Marvel to reclaim creative control while splitting the costs and profits of these films with Sony. Whatever Marvel asks for, Sony, take the deal. The first step is admitting you have a problem! What should have been on my list: Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. (Tomatometer 90%). Who would have thought that Tom Cruise had another sci-fi hit left in him? Apparently no one thought that, but he did, and this sleeper got great reviews, although it barely made a dent at the box office due to poor marketing.

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 92%). Fox remains a step behind Marvel Studios in crafting a compelling and audience-friendly superhero world. But only a step. This film successfully performed a soft reboot on the franchise by using time travel to hit the reset button on the less popular films in the franchise (X-Men: The Last Stand and at least part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine), thereby erasing past sins and opening the X-Men universe to tons of new storytelling possibilities. Plus, it was a great film in and of itself, ranking alongside X-Men: First Class, X2: X-Men United and The Wolverine as one of the best in the series.

6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 60%). I haven’t seen this yet (although I plan to this week), but I have it on authority that it is a fitting end to the trilogy and perhaps the best of the three. And while it should be noted that The Hobbit was bloated, overly reliant on digital effects, and nowhere near as good as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was nevertheless pure delight to return to Middle Earth.

7. Big Hero 6
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). Disney made good on their promise to translate this Marvel Comics property into an animated feature, giving us the best family-oriented superhero film since The Incredibles. (Given that Disney own both properties, I wonder if we could see a cross-over in the future…?)

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 66%). With the Hunger Games, the books get weaker as the series progresses, but the films have gotten better in relation to the books. I think the film makers have a better handle on this world they have created than the author did. Still, it is strange that they turned the final—and shortest—book into a two-parter. I haven’t seen this one either, and probably won’t until Part 2 comes out. But from what I hear, it’s fine. Just the captivating presence of Jennifer Lawrence is enough to keep me going on this series.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 91%). The original Planet of the Apes in 1968 was cheesy—but delicious. All attempts to expand the franchise, however, were miserable failures until Rise of the Planet of the Apes completely redefined it in 2011. So I wondered if Dawn would follow in its predecessor’s success or sink back into miserable failure. With a new director and almost a completely new cast, I suspected the latter, but this film delivered in spades. The POTA franchise is alive and well, and I cannot wait for the next installment. Long live Caesar! Long live the Apes!

10. Interstellar
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 73%). Can Christopher Nolan do any wrong? That has yet to be proven. His first outing in pure sci-fi gives us yet another gorgeous example of his skill with cinematography, and the acting and storytelling are also compelling. It’s not his best work, but it is delightful, as always. One thing to note: Nolan was intent on using practical effects and avoiding green screens wherever possible—so much so that rather than adding the stars of space in post-production, he projected them onto the background of the actual soundstage, so the actors would feel that they were in space as they did their scenes.

11. Jupiter Ascending
Result: INCOMPLETE (Tomatometer n/a). This movie was delayed to February 6, 2015. Out of pure coincidence, the planet Jupiter is at opposition (its closest approach to Earth) on that date. What should have been on my list: Snowpiercer (Tomatometer 95%). This film was actually released in 2013—everywhere but in the United States. Here, distribution rights disputes caused its delay and it opened in extremely limited release. A major success elsewhere, you should see it if you like dystopian sci-fi. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America) as a passenger aboard a post-apocalyptic train, it tells a riveting, intense and highly original story.

12. RoboCop
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 48%). This film actually received a lot of hate from both critics and fans alike, but I loved it. I think the important thing to remember as you’re watching it is that it is not a remake of the 1987 classic by the same name. Actually, that would have been a disaster, because the 1987 RoboCop is one of the universe’s most perfect films and does not need to be remade. Instead, renowned Brazilian director José Padilha, in his first English-language film, takes the underlying RoboCop concept and crafts an entirely new story around it. And it is a great story. Instead of being rooted in 1980s paranoia, the new tale expands upon modern-day concerns and does it well. It’s not a perfect film, but there is a lot to love here. A lot of detail was put into every scene. For example, there is a fight in the dark where the two different sides are using two different kinds of night vision, and the effect is amazing. What’s more, unlike the original, this one exists in a more realistic and fully-realized world, perfect to explore in more detail in future installments. And I hope we do get sequels to this.


Bonus Wins: I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the kid-oriented The Lego Movie (Tomatometer 96%) was, and I look forward to future installments for this franchise. Meanwhile, Gone Girl (Tomatometer 88%) was a magnificent thriller from director David Fincher and removed all doubt that Ben Affleck has the acting chops to be the new Batman.

Finally, lest I forget, Sharknado 2: The Second One was, if anything, even more glorious than the first installment.

Coming soon: my choices for splody movies most likely to please in 2015...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Twisdom 2014

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.

Genius isn't having all the answers. Genius is knowing what questions to ask in the first place.

What kind of mileage does a Transformer get?

Theory: all video game plots take place in a parallel universe of lobotomized clones.

Don't look now, but there's a ninja on your lap...

This Mickey Mouse cartoon about a trip to the moon is really doing a piss-poor job of teaching my 2-year-old about astrophysics. 

Don't upset the apple cart as it plunges over the cliff.

My wife and my boss just joined Twitter. Welcome aboard! And remember this advice: if you can't express something in 140 characters or less,

You call it ADD. I call it accelerated mental task switching.

No one has killed me yet. Therefore I cannot be killed. #logic

Was asked by a ~10 year old boy this morning: "Can zombies swim?" My answer: "No, but the fresh ones float."

I'm pretty sure the reason my two-year-old cries and screams so much is because he hasn't yet learned how to swear properly.

Million-dollar idea: a watch you wear on your finger like a ring, instead of on your wrist like a bracelet.

It is my strong desire to see Breaking Bad resume 15-20 years from now with Holly White picking up where her father left off.

My ideal bromance: get drunk and discuss the cinematography of car chase scenes.

Happy July! I moved my snow scraper from my back seat to the trunk today. #Michigan

Athcab stromatolites halibut bitches.

I just time traveled.  I oscillated back and forth between "here" and a memory. "Here" won, as it always does, but that was fun.

How to watch sci-fi movies: pretend they were all made in the 1950s on a shoestring budget and be amazed.

My son just said to me: "One time I farted so hard, I cried." #proudpapa

Definition of old age: singing along to a song you've always hated just because you finally found something on the radio you recognize.

Definition of old age: singing along to a song you've always hated just because you finally found something on the radio you recognize.

Does anyone else think that dried flowers are creepy? They should call them "mummy flowers."

I'm practically blind without my glasses. Then again, maybe that's what the world really looks like, and "clarity" is just an illusion.

Show me something that doesn't go with bacon and I'll show you something that isn't worth eating in the first place.

I just hope when A.I. takes over the world, it will at least humor us enough to create bad-ass robots with which to subjugate us.

Scrambles eggs are eggs for people who don't appreciate eggs.

There are two kinds of people in this world: assholes and me.

Bonus Retweets:

The plural of "singlehandedly" is "singlehand-in-handedly"

What I need is a giant, oversized bumper so I can just bumper-car other vehicles right the fuck out of my way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The blood

Hey everybody, I found some blood
Does anyone want to share the blood?
I’m gonna take and steal the blood
I’m gonna touch and feel the blood
I’m gonna make a meal from the blood
I’m gonna dip my heel in the blood
I’m gonna strike a deal with the blood
I’m just tryin’ to be real with the blood
I’ve got so much zeal for the blood
I’ll get a bag to seal the blood
That way I can conceal the blood
I’m gonna kneel before the blood
I’m gonna love and adore the blood
I beg and I implore the blood
Open my mouth and pour the blood
All you fools abhor the blood
I’ve got to get some more of the blood
Find somewhere to store the blood
All I do is for the blood
My pure and precious whore, the blood

—with Jason S.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

History of the universe

Here are some timelines to illustrate the scale of the history - past and future - of our universe.

Our universe is in its infancy. To illustrate just how long the lifespan of the universe is, I showed the four major stages that it will go through. Fittingly, each of these eras is so ridiculously longer than the period before it, by orders of magnitude upon orders of magnitude, that there is no practical way to make the earlier ones visible. (A logarithmic scale works to some extent, but even there you have to cheat.)

We are currently in what scientists call the "Stelliferous" (or star-making) Era. This is the time period where the universe will be familiar to us and life as we know it will be possible. The universe is approximately 13.798 billion years old, and if that entire time were reduced to one millimeter on the timeline, the entire Stelliferous Era would be 7.25 meters long.

The next phase will be the Degenerate Era. With no new stars being formed, the last stellar remnants will slowly decay, and then matter itself will decay. Life may exist in some form throughout part of this era, but it will become increasingly difficult, and the universe will be a dark and lonely place. If we use our same timeline (the Big Bang to present day equals one millimeter), the Degenerate Era would occupy a timeline some 72.5 billion light years across.

For reference, the diameter of the observable universe is currently about 93 billion years, so we would need most of it to make our timeline - again, only one millimeter of which has happened yet.

I'm not going to bother doing the math on the remaining two phases of the universe (the Black Hole Era in which nothing but black holes remain, and the Dark Era in which nothing but decaying particles remain), because our human brains just can't handle it. (Believe it or not, the timescale gets even more ridiculous.)

Better to concentrate on that first breath that our universe has already taken, as I have done below. While time is normally divided into geological subdivisions, I have attempted here to divide it into historical ones. where intervals of the same level (Super-Eon, Eon, Era, Period, Epoch, Division, Stage or Age) are all of roughly the same duration. Each chart shows an increasingly narrow period of time. For more details, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe.

(Note: I am aware that some of the events referred to on the timelines above are considered "fiction." Again, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe to see where I stand on that. Also, I trust if you're reading this blog, you're smart enough to know which is which. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lost '50s B-movies...

...that don't exist but should.

Killer Bettie

A Saucer Full of Rage

My Baby Is a Martian!

Queen of Monster Island

Race to the Moon

Doom! She Cried

Zargon Six

The Scream Out of Space

Image: The Alligator People (1959)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Live-blogging my flight

It's been several months since I last flew. Here are my observations.

Getting through security is not as unpleasant as I remember, but it takes longer than I remember.

They now let you keep small portable electronics turned on during take-off (as long as cellular service is turned off). This is incredibly helpful for me, as I get noise-induced migraines and my noise-canceling headphones are my lifeline on an airplane.

Also, I'm typing this on my cell phone.

During her pre-flight speech, the head flight attendant pronounced "placard" as "plaque-card," and "carry-on" as "carrion." She also called turbulence "rough air." Do people not know what turbulence means anymore?

Still taxiing...

The Great Lakes are stunningly beautiful. Part of me wishes the camera on this phone still worked, but the rest of me realizes that I couldn't do them justice and there's a big plane wing in the way anyway. [Not-so-mental note: find a good photo and insert it here.]

We can use laptops now. That's funny—I already responded to six emails on my phone! (Of course, the recipients still won't realize that for another two hours and twelve minutes...)

Was I saying something about lakes? Nothing but clouds above and clouds below now. Sort of a nice effect, really—two white, fluffy canvases with a little patch of daylight in-between.

And now it's completely white—no open patches save for the plane wing. And it's gotten turbulent. This time, the flight attendant said of the turbulence: "We're experiencing some weather right now."

I don't mind the turbulence, though. Give me a roller-coaster ride all day long. I just wish the engines weren't so noisy. Why is it that airplanes give me a migraine, but loud music doesn't? Must have something to do with the structure of the sound. (I do get a migraine if two TVs are playing simultaneously, for example—even if they're playing quietly.)

I am grieving the loss of the word "turbulence" from the lexicon. (And also, the fact that "weather" now apparently only means "bad weather"?)

At this time every morning I get a cup of coffee. I see that they have theirs in first class already. Grumble.

Kudos to the pilot. Not only did he use the word "turbulence," but he used a numeric infix: "We're at thirty-six fun-filled thousand feet..."

Coffee! And a gluten-free snack: peanuts!

I forgot my rule: always wear a shirt with a front pocket on a plane. That pocket comes in useful when you have limited space. Like right now: I really don't want to put my tray down, so it would be nice to have somewhere easy to put my peanuts. Oh well.

Peanuts and coffee aren't really a great mix, but I'd recommend it over weak black coffee by itself.

I just spent the past hour going over branding research. Somewhere along the way, the turbulence stopped and we now have sunny skies over the Great Plains.

I could use another cup of coffee. But I'll take the sunshine.

That's a lot of farmland.

I am impressed by the immense size and scope of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the great state of Texas and our nation as a whole.

Yee-haw! We've touched down. Cell phones—activate!!!

Crap, I got a lot of email in two hours...

Post Script—On the return flight, the flight attendant again called the severe turbulence "some weather." Sigh.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 8, 2014

How much does King Kong weigh?

King Kong appears to be a giant mountain gorilla. In real life, male mountain gorillas average 195 kg (430 lb) and an upright standing height of 150 cm (59 in). The 2005 movie version was said to be "25 feet" (300 in) in height. Since mass grows exponentially compared to height (because width and depth are also growing), a 25-foot mountain gorilla with the same proportions as a regular-sized one would be around 25.6 metric tonnes (28.3 short tons).

Note, however, that most fan sites list Kong's weight as being in the 6-10 ton range. (For comparison, a large T-rex may have reached up to about 8 tons.) This indicates that Kong's biology is not simply a scaled-up version of a mountain gorilla. Instead, it appears that his species has made some evolutionary adaptations as it has grown to magnificent proportions. While these differences are not readily apparent on the outside, they have given him the mobility and the edge he needs to fill an ecological niche on Skull Island.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What time is it… in Asgard?

In my last post, I demonstrated that the ancient pantheon of deities known in Scandinavian mythology as the Vanir are actually one and the same as the group of powerful beings called the Valar in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings about Middle-earth. The Valar were not only the first inhabitants of Asgard (which is also known as Aman in Quenyan Elvish), but they helped create it, along with the entire, alternate universe that it resides in, which is called Eä.

(Note that in Tolkien’s writings, Eä appeared to be the name for our universe, but I don’t think Tolkien fully grasped the nature of the multiverse. As I have stated before, my goal is to reconcile actual history with every cool fictional narrative in existence and make them all work in one universe. Occasionally that means reinterpreting a few things to make them fit.)

According to Tolkien, time for the Valar was measured in something called “Valian years.” The definition of this term was a little fuzzy, but at one point, Tolkien stated that a Valian year was equal to 9.582 standard Earth years. If you do the math, you’ll see that this equals 3,500 standard Earth days.

In the very early history of Asgard, time was measured in 12-hour “days” – half the length of a day on Earth. Before Asgard had its own sun and moon, it was lit by the Two Trees, the Golden Tree of Laurelin and the Silver Tree of Telperion, and they would alternate giving off light. The sun of Asgard was made from the last fruit of Laurelin, and the moon was made of the last flower of Telperion. Both were set in special vessels crafted by the Vala known as Aulë and placed in the sky. At first they were guided back and forth across the sky, but eventually they were set to orbit Asgard, rising in the east and setting in the west, just as on Earth. (In Tolkien’s writings, these were actually said to be our sun and moon, but that doesn’t jibe with science, so again: multiverse.)

In those early times, a Valian year consisted of 7,000 days of 12 hours each, divided into “months” of 500 days each. The length of the month was chosen based on the cycle of the moon, which having come from a flower would “blossom” from a closed (new) moon to an open (full) moon and back again. The length of the year was chosen by assigning one month in honor of every one of the 14 original Valar.

The days of Asgard have now been the same length as Earth days for tens of thousands of Earth years, long before the Asgardians joined the Vanir in Asgard, and so a 24-hour day is now standard. The length of the Valian year, now known as the Asgardian year, has remained the same by halving the number of days in each month from 500 12-hour days to 250 24-hour days.

The current year of the Asgardian calendar dates from the end of the Æsir-Vanir war, c. 7000 BCE. By a happy coincidence, July 29, 1954 (the date that the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was published) fell on Asgardian New Year in the Year 932 of the Peace. Extrapolating backwards and forwards from that allowed me to figure out what day it was on Asgard at any given time.

As I mentioned, there are 14 months in the Asgardian calendar, each with 250 days, and those days, by design, are exactly the same length as Earth days. The months, in order are as follows:

1. Moon of Winds (named in honor of Manwë)
2. Moon of Stars (named in honor of Varda)
3. Moon of Waters (named in honor of Ulmo)
4. Maker's Moon (named in honor of Aulë)
5. Moon of Fruits (named in honor of Yavanna)
6. Moon of Flowers (named in honor of Vana)
7. Hunter's Moon (named in honor of Oromë)
8. Dancer's Moon (named in honor of Nessa)
9. Judge's Moon (named in honor of Námo)
10. Dreamer's Moon (named in honor of Irmo)
11. Merciful Moon (named in honor of Nienna)
12. Gentle Moon (named in honor of Etsë)
13. Weaver's Moon (named in honor of Vairë)
14. Strong Moon (named in honor of Tulkas)

Asgardians don't commonly use names for days of the week, but when they do, they follow the Earth calendar. However, they are likely to refer to the days using their traditional Germanic names:

Sunday: “Sun’s Day
Monday: “Moon’s Day
Tuesday: “Tyr’s Day
Wednesday: “Odin’s Day
Thursday: “Thor’s Day
Friday: “Freyja’s Day
Saturday: “Bath Day

Every Asgardian year begins on a Thor’s Day (Thursday) and ends on an Odin’s Day (Wednesday). The 125th day of each month is a Full Moon feasting holiday. The last day of the Asgardian year is known as “Night’s Day” and is a time of reflection and reminiscence – and feasting that carries into New Year’s Day.

Asgardians are notoriously bad at paying attention to clocks. They dislike telling time by numbers and are more likely to tell you roughly what time of day it is. Here are some common terms, but keep in mind that individual usage varies:

Midnight (12:00 AM – 3:00 AM)
Foremorn (3:00 AM – 6:00 AM)
Daytide (6:00 AM – 9:00 AM)
Quarterday (9:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
Midday (12:00 PM – 3:00 PM)
Dayfade (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Evenfall (6:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Suppertide (9:00 PM – 12:00 AM)

Here are the first days of each month for several Asgardian calendar years, converted to our calendar. From this (and a little counting), you should be able to figure out the Asgardian date on any given day. By the way, today (June 14, 2014) is day 121 of the Maker’s Moon in the year 938 of the Peace between the Æsir and the Vanir.

Year 930 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: May 30, 1935
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: February 4, 1936
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: October 11, 1936
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: June 18, 1937
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: February 23, 1938
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: October 31, 1938
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: July 8, 1939
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: March 14, 1940
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: November 19, 1940
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: July 27, 1941
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: April 3, 1942
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: December 9, 1942
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: August 16, 1943
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: April 22, 1944

Year 931 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: December 28, 1944
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: September 4, 1945
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: May 12, 1946
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: January 17, 1947
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: September 24, 1947
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: May 31, 1948
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: February 5, 1949
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: October 13, 1949
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: June 20, 1950
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: February 25, 1951
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: November 2, 1951
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: July 9, 1952
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: March 16, 1953
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: November 21, 1953

Year 932 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: July 29, 1954
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: April 5, 1955
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: December 11, 1955
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: August 17, 1956
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: April 24, 1957
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: December 30, 1957
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: September 6, 1958
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: May 14, 1959
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: January 19, 1960
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: September 25, 1960
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: June 2, 1961
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: February 7, 1962 (Note: this is the Asgardian month that Thor debuted as a modern hero on Earth.)
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: October 15, 1962
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: June 22, 1963

Year 933 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: February 27, 1964
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: November 3, 1964
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: July 11, 1965
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: March 18, 1966
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: November 23, 1966
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: July 31, 1967
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: April 6, 1968
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: December 12, 1968
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: August 19, 1969
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: April 26, 1970
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: January 1, 1971
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: September 8, 1971
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: May 15, 1972
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: January 20, 1973

Year 934 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: September 27, 1973
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: June 4, 1974
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: February 9, 1975
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: October 17, 1975
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: June 23, 1976
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: February 28, 1977
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: November 5, 1977
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: July 13, 1978
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: March 20, 1979
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: November 25, 1979
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: August 1, 1980
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: April 8, 1981
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: December 14, 1981
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: August 21, 1982

Year 935 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: April 28, 1983
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: January 3, 1984
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: September 9, 1984
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: May 17, 1985
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: January 22, 1986
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: September 29, 1986
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: June 6, 1987
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: February 11, 1988
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: October 18. 1988
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: June 25, 1989
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: March 2, 1990
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: November 7, 1990
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: July 15, 1991
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: March 21, 1992

Year 936 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: November 26, 1992
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: August 3, 1993
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: April 10, 1994
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: December 16, 1994
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: August 23, 1995
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: April 29, 1996
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: January 4, 1997
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: September 11, 1997
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: May 19, 1998
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: January 24, 1999
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: October 1, 1999
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: June 7, 2000
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: February 12, 2001
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: October 20, 2001

Year 937 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: June 27, 2002
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: March 4, 2003
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: November 9, 2003
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: July 16, 2004
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: March 23, 2005
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: November 28, 2005
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: August 5, 2006
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: April 12, 2007
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: December 18, 2007
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: August 24, 2008
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: May 1, 2009
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: January 6, 2010
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: September 13, 2010
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: May 21, 2011

Year 938 of the Peace (note: this is the current Asgardian year)
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: January 26, 2012
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: October 2, 2012
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: June 9, 2013
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: February 14, 2014
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: October 22, 2014
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: June 29, 2015
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: March 5, 2016
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: November 10, 2016
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: July 18, 2017
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: March 25, 2018
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: November 30, 2018
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: August 7, 2019
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: April 13, 2020
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: December 19, 2020

Year 939 of the Peace
Day 1 of the Moon of Winds: August 26, 2021
Day 1 of the Moon of Stars: May 3, 2022
Day 1 of the Moon of Waters: January 8, 2023
Day 1 of the Maker's Moon: September 15, 2023
Day 1 of the Moon of Fruits: May 22, 2024
Day 1 of the Moon of Flowers: January 27, 2025
Day 1 of the Hunter's Moon: October 4, 2025
Day 1 of the Dancer's Moon: June 11, 2026
Day 1 of the Judge's Moon: February 16, 2027
Day 1 of the Dreamer's Moon: October 24, 2027
Day 1 of the Merciful Moon: June 30, 2028
Day 1 of the Gentle Moon: March 7, 2029
Day 1 of the Weaver's Moon: November 12, 2029
Day 1 of the Strong Moon: July 20, 2030

Future Asgardian New Years...

  • Year 939: August 26, 2021
  • Year 940: March 27, 2031
  • Year 941: October 25, 2040
  • Year 942: May 26, 2050
  • Year 943: December 25, 2059
  • Year 944: July 25, 2069
  • Year 945: February 23, 2079
  • Year 946: September 23, 2088
  • Year 947: April 24, 2098
  • Year 948: November 24, 2107
  • Year 949: June 24, 2117
  • Year 950: January 23, 2127

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Whither the Valar?

For years now, I’ve spent a good deal of my spare time untangling the Secret History of the Universe from clues scattered throughout the writings of mad geniuses and the rambling, obsessive data-dump of fan-boys throughout the infosphere. Others have done this before, but usually for the purpose of creating what-if style fan-fiction, which tends to come off as forced. For me, though, it is an exercise in discovering patterns and overlaps that have existed all along and just haven’t been seen before. One such example is the connection between the Valar, the god-like powers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and the Vanir, a pantheon of gods in Scandinavian mythology of whom very little is known.

Tolkien’s Middle-earth borrowed heavily from Germanic mythology, and so there are already many parallels to begin with, and that makes it easy to reconcile the two. For example, one of the nine realms of traditional Germanic cosmology is “Midgard” (Earth), which is translated “Middle-earth” or “Middle-enclosure.”

Tolkien also said that the history of Middle-earth occurred at some point in our own distant past. For numerous reasons, I have made the argument in my timeline that Middle-earth history predated the Thurian and Hyborian Ages of Robert E. Howard’s writings (the times of Kull of Atlantis and Conan the Cimmerian, respectively).

One of the interesting things about Tolkien’s Valar is that he never gives us their actual names, only a variety of titles by which various peoples of Middle-earth referred to them. In fact, most of the titles that we know from Tolkien’s writings are in the Elvish tongues. That means that if the same beings did appear at a later point in human history, we might not immediately recognize them as such because they might be called by different names.

Thus, in my timeline, I made the argument that the primary gods of Atlantis in Kull’s time were actually the Valar known by different names. And still later, they would be known to other peoples by yet other titles. This is not surprising given the great lengths of time (tens of thousands of years) and variety of peoples and languages who revered them.

The Valar first came to Earth around 80,000 BCE. By the year 23,000 BCE, the Elves had left Earth and the Elvish names of the Valar had been all but forgotten. By the year 7500 BCE, the influence of the Valar had waned and their memory was kept alive only by a small band of followers in the northern kingdom of Vanir. The name “Valar” itself had been forgotten by this time, and the beings were known collectively as “the gods of the Vanir.”

Around 7000 BCE, the Vanir and their gods went to war with the neighboring kingdom of Æsir and their gods. This Æsir-Vanir war is spoken of in Norse mythology. It ended with a truce, as the gods sent representatives to dwell in each other’s kingdoms. According to legend, the Vanir sent a sea god named “Njörðr” and his “sister” (who was also his wife and later the mother of his two children, Freyr and Freyja) to dwell among the Æsir.

The sea god of the Valar was Ulmo, and so I propose that “Njörðr” was simply another title for Ulmo. The wife’s / sister’s name is sometimes given as “Nerthus,” and I propose that this would be Nienna, the only other unmarried Vala. In fact, it has been speculated that “Njörðr” and “Nerthus” are masculine and feminine forms of the same name, so it may be that “Njörðr” was simply a title given to Ulmo for being the husband of Nienna, or Nerthus.

According to my timeline, after the Æsir-Vanir war, the gods of the Æsir were granted a homeland on the great world of Aman, where Tolkien said the Valar and Elves lived. If we match up the realms of Aman, as described in Tolkien’s writings with the traditional nine realms of Scandinavian mythology and the modern interpretation of those realms as seen in Marvel’s Thor comic books, we see that a clear picture emerges:

  • The world of Aman in Tolkien’s writings (also known as the “Undying Lands” or the “Blessed Realm”) became known as Asgard by the new arrivals. This name was applied by to the continent-shaped world as a whole and to the towering city where the Asgardians (the gods of the Æsir and eventually of all Germanic peoples) made their homes.
  • Valinor, home of the Valar in Tolkien’s writings, became known as Vanaheim (“home of the Vanir”).
  • The realm of Eldamar (“elf home”) was called Alfheim (“elf home”) by the Asgardians.
  • And the underground realm of the dwarves was called Nidavellir (“dark dwelling”).

Today, the Asgardians get all of the press, mostly thanks to Thor, while the Vanir have mostly receded into the background. Following the Æsir-Vanir war, the Vanir decided to withdraw from interfering directly in the affairs of human beings. Instead, they chose a young boy on Earth to be their representative. This boy, who would eventually take the name “Shazam,” would spend the next 3,000 years as their champion, granted extraordinary powers by them in the battle against evil. Whenever he uttered the magic word “Vlarem,” composed of the first letters of six of the names he knew them by, he would gain an extraordinary gift from each of them: the strength of Voldar, the wisdom of Lumiun, the speed of Arel, the power of Ribalvei, the courage of Elbiam and the stamina of Marsosh. He would spend the next 3,000 years as their champion battling evil, and then thousands more searching for the right successor.

In 1939, a young American boy named Billy Batson inherited Shazam’s power and now battles evil-doers as Captain Marvel. However, because no one knows who the Vanir are these days, he tells everyone his powers come from the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.

The 14 original Valar / Vanir are as follows. Their oldest known names (the names given to them in Middle-earth in the Quenya Elvish tongue) are listed first, followed by all known alternate names.

  • Manwë Súlimo, Lord of the Winds, King of the Vanir and husband of Varda Elentári (alternate names: Mānawenūz, Aran Einior, Amân, Manweg, Honan*, Honen*, Ribalvei***)
  • Varda Elentári, Queen of the Stars, wife of Manwë Súlimo (alternate names: Elbereth Gilthoniel, Tintallë, Airë Tári, Fanuilos, Gimilnitîr, the Moon Woman*, Elbiam***)
  • Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, and father of Freyr and Freyja with Nienna/Nerthus (alternate names: Ullubōz, Ylmir, Nûron, Ulu, Guiar, Gulma, Njörðr**, Njord**)
  • Aulë the Maker, husband of Yavanna Kementári (alternate names: Aȝūlēz, Óli, Mahal, Tamar, Hotath*, Marsosh***)
  • Yavanna Kementári, Queen of the Earth and Giver of Fruits, sister of Vána and wife of Aulë (alternate names: Ivon, Helfara*)
  • Vána the Ever-Young, Queen of Blossoming Flowers, sister of Yavanna and wife of Oromë (no known alternate names)
  • Oromë Aldaron the Huntsman, brother of Nessa and husband of Vána (alternate names: Arōmēz, Tauron, Béma, Araw, Arel***)
  • Nessa the Dancer, wife of Tulkas (no known alternate names)
  • Námo, Judge of the Dead, Master of Doom, brother of Irmo and Nienna, and husband of Vairë (alternate names: Mandos, Bannoth, Badhron, Zukala*)
  • Irmo, Master of Visions and Dreams, brother of Námo and Nienna, and husband of Estë (alternate names: Lórien, Olofantur, Fulmur, Losfan, Glurim, Lûriel, The Strange God*, The God Which Is Unknown*, Lumiun***)
  • Nienna, Lady of Mercy, sister of Námo and Irmo, and mother of Freyr and Freyja with Ulmo/Njord (alternate names: Nyenna, Heskil, Núri, Qalmë-Tári, Fui, Nerthus**)
  • Etsë  the Gentle, wife of Irmo (alternate names: Îdh, Eord, one of the Star Maidens*)
  • Vairë the Weaver, wife of Námo (alternate names: Gwîr, one of the Star Maidens*)
  • Tulkas Astaldo the Strong, Champion of Valinor, husband of Nessa (alternate names: Tulukhastāz, Tulcus, Valka*, Voldar***)
(All of the above names are from J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, except as noted: *Robert E. Howard’s writings, **Norse mythology, ***DC Comics.)

The cool thing about this is that it gives some added depth and background not just to the Vanir, but to all of Asgard - which as we know from the Thor comics and movies is still thriving in our modern world.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How many James Bonds have there been?

There is a popular theory floating around the Internet that "James Bond" isn't a name, it's an alias - a false name used by all of Britain's MI6 secret agents in the Double-O program (i.e., licensed to kill) to be assigned the number 007. This theory is supposed to explain two things: 1) why James Bond has been able to have such a long career, and 2) why his appearance keeps changing (from actor to actor).

Seeing as how the movies definitely build into a continuous narrative, the longevity question should concern us. Also, there are certain plot points that can only be explained in one of two ways: either the "Bond" name changes hands, or the franchise has been rebooted at some point without anyone realizing it.

So I tend to agree with this crazy Internet theory. However, I do not agree that each actor who has played Bond has played a different agent. In the Eon Productions movie series, six different actors have so far played Bond, but I think the timeline works best with just four agents having used the alias during that span. Here is how I would break it down:

1930 - The original James Bond is born. (This is his real name.)

--- Note: this is the year Sean Connery was actually born.

1937 - Simon Templar is born.

--- Note: Roger Moore is actually older than Connery, but always appeared young for his age.

1947 - James Bond is recruited into British Intelligence.

1953 - The man later known as "Remington Steele" is born. As a child, he is known only as "Harry."

--- Note: this is the year Pierce Brosnan was actually born.

One: 1956-1972

1956 - At age 26, James Bond is assigned to the Double-O section of the British Secret Service and granted a license to kill.

1962 - Dr. No (Sean Connery as James Bond).

Meanwhile, debonair thief and amateur detective Simon Templar (age 25) begins operating as "The Saint" in London.

--- Note: The Saint was the television role that made Roger Moore famous and made everyone liken him to James Bond.

1963 - From Russia with Love (Sean Connery as James Bond).

1964 - Goldfinger (Sean Connery as James Bond).

1965 - Thunderball (Sean Connery as James Bond).

1966 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service (George Lazenby as James Bond).

Bond marries Tracy di Vicenzo, but she is murdered by Ernst Stavro Blofeld shortly after the ceremony.

--- Note: On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released in 1969, but continuity errors actually seem to place it before You Only Live Twice.

1967 - You Only Live Twice (Sean Connery as James Bond).

1969 - Sophisticated thief Simon Templar is offered a job working for British Intelligence.

Note: this is when The Saint ended its run on television.

1971 - Diamonds Are Forever (Sean Connery as James Bond).

1972 - James Bond marries Tiffany Case (the Bond girl from Diamonds Are Forever) and retires to Skyfall, his estate in Scotland. There, for their own protection, they live under assumed names.

Two: 1973-1985

1973 - A son is born to James Bond and Tiffany Case; they name him James.

Meanwhile, former-thief-turned-agent Simon Templar becomes the new 007. Because of his past criminal history, Templar decides to adopt Bond's name as well as his number.

Live and Let Die (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

--- Note: Daniel Craig was actually born in 1968, but this birth year makes more sense for our timeline.

1974 - The Man with the Golden Gun (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

1977 - The Spy Who Loved Me (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

1979 - Moonraker (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

1981 - For Your Eyes Only (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

1982 - A British thief and con-artist who went only by the name "Harry" adopted the alias "Remington Steele" and began working for private detective Laura Holt in Los Angeles.

--- Note: Remington Steele was the television role that made Pierce Brosnan famous and made everyone liken him to James Bond.

1983 - Octopussy (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

1984 - Private detective "Remington Steele" is recruited into MI6 after his associate Laura Holt is killed by the KGB in Ireland.

--- Note: By all rights, the television series Remington Steele should have ended in time for Pierce Brosnan to be the next James Bond. By speeding up the Remington Steele timeline a bit, we can achieve what we need.

1985 - A View to a Kill (Roger Moore as James Bond II).

The second "James Bond" (real name Simon Templar) retires after this mission.

Three: 1986-2002

1986 - After showing remarkable aptitude, the agent known as "Remington Steele" becomes the new 007. Like his predecessor, he decides to leave his former alias behind and use the alias "James Bond."

The pre-title sequence of Goldeneye (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond III) happens soon after this James Bond joins the ranks of the Double-O's.

1987 - The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton as James Bond III).

1989 - Licence to Kill (Timothy Dalton as James Bond III).

1995 - Goldeneye (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond III).

1996 - The son of the original James Bond joins MI6. He's using an assumed name at this point rather than his real name, but the higher-ups know who he is.

1997 - Tomorrow Never Dies (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond III).

1999 - The World Is Not Enough (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond III).

2002 - Die Another Day (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond III).

The third James Bond was killed in action later this year.

--- Note: Sorry, Remington Steele, but Die Another Day was atrocious, so you don't get to retire.

Four: 2006-present

2006 - The son of the original James Bond earns his license to kill and inherits his father's old role as 007.

Casino Royale (Daniel Craig as James Bond IV).

2008 - Quantum of Solace (Daniel Craig as James Bond IV).

2012 - Skyfall (Daniel Craig as James Bond IV).

2015 - Spectre (Daniel Craig as James Bond IV).

So there you have it: there have been four James Bonds. Two of them (father and son) have actually been named James Bond, and two have used the alias in the role of 007 because they couldn't legitimately use their own names.

On screen they have been played by:

I. James Bond, Sr.: Sean Connery (6 films for Eon Productions) and George Lazenby (1 film).

II. Simon Templar: Roger Moore (7 films and 1 prequel television series, The Saint).

III. "Remington Steele": Timothy Dalton (2 films) and Pierce Brosnan (4 films and 1 prequel television series, Remington Steele).

IV. James Bond, Jr.: Daniel Craig (3 films thus far, with at least one more on the way).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Random top 10 list: best movie trilogies

To qualify for this list, each of the entries in a given trilogy had to be a top-notch film in its own right. Many franchise have yielded a fantastic first film, only to be followed by so-so sequels (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, and The Pirates of the Caribbean, just to name a few). Some have even spawned a sequel just as fantastic, only to fall utterly flat in the third film (Alien, The Godfather, X-Men, etc.). But a few rare franchises manage to get all the way to the magic number. Here, then, are the best and most consistent of movie trilogies in history:

#1. Original Star Wars trilogy
Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

There's really no debate here. Others may try to argue, but for pure entertainment value and excellence, the original blockbuster movie trilogy has yet to be beat. Sure, the third installment wasn't nearly as good as the first two, but it was still first-class. All three of these could be watched ad infinitum without any sign of fatigue.

#2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

If any trilogy has come close to Star Wars, it is Lord of the Rings. Damn close - in fact, it is arguably better on artistic value alone, and just as strong in terms of the overall story arc. But where the Star Wars trilogy soars into pure joyful escapism, at times Lord of the Rings gets bogged down under the sheer weight of its own story. Completing the cycle on this trilogy is a commitment of patience! Still, that is only to say that it falls slightly short of Star Wars and far ahead of everything else.

#3. Original Indiana Jones trilogy
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The second installment is a prequel, and it is not quite up to the other two, although it is still fun. That being said, this trilogy is what movies are all about.

#4. Trilogy of the Dead
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Day of the Dead (1985)

The original zombie apocalypse film was followed by two sequels more than a decade later. Each installment was different than the one before - darker, more cynical - and that turned off some people. Even ones who liked the first movie, or the second, may not have liked the entire trilogy. They're even a little tame compared to today's zombie movies, but don't let that fool you. They certainly aren't for everyone, but they are brilliant: claustrophobic, increasingly nihilistic, smart and stimulating.

 #5. Iron Man trilogy
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 3 (2013)

The placement of this trilogy on this list will probably be the most controversial, as the Iron Man movies have divided fans. Everyone loved the first movie universally - it's without a doubt one of the best superhero movies ever made. However, more than a few people were disappointed with the second and third installments, even though commercially they were even greater successes. While the latter two movies may have had their flaws, however, the main problem they had was that they couldn't live up to the shadow cast by the first movie. Taken on their own, they were still incredibly entertaining. They still had Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, which may be the best casting ever for a superhero. And they still had cool Iron Man armor and gadgets, special effects and action sequences, memorable (although not always likable) supporting characters, and solid stories. Again, in terms of pure entertainment, this series is hard to beat and deserves every dollar it made at the box office.

#6. Original three James Bond films
Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)

Nobody did Bond better than Sean Connery, and the first three films were nearly flawless. Released in three successive years, they can be considered a trilogy, even though there have been 20+ Bond films since then.

#7. Original Bourne trilogy
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

And just when Bond seemed to be getting stale, the spy-thriller genre was reinvented by the Jason Bourne series. The three films to star Matt Damon as Jason Bourne were a thrill a minute and never let up.

#8. Evil Dead trilogy
The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead II (1987)
Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness (1992)

This is a weird trilogy: supernatural  horror action with amazing practical effects and tongue-in-cheek twists and turns. The second movie was actually a bigger-budget remake of the shoestring first film - but you need to see them both regardless, because the low-budget effects are just as impressive. The weakest link is the third film, but it makes up for it by being off-the-wall enough to work.

 #9. Dark Knight trilogy
Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

This wasn't the perfect Batman trilogy: too much of the mythology was changed to fit director Christopher Nolan's vision. However, it may have been the perfect Christopher Nolan trilogy. The second film was especially good, and Heath Ledger's portrayal of the psychopathic Joker was haunting. The third film had too many plot holes, but was still great. And the cinematography was some of the best I've ever seen.

#10. Dollars trilogy
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

This trilogy jump-started Clint Eastwood's career and made it OK for western films to be "gritty." Eastwood's "Man with No Name" (he actually goes by a different name in each film) is the ultimate Wild West badass, and the archetype for many "loner" characters who've followed.

 Honorable mention: original Die Hard trilogy
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard 2 (1990)
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

This is the poor-man's action trilogy, and Bruce Willis pulls it off wonderfully. The second film doesn't quite hit the heights of the first and last, but all three are pure entertainment.

Honorable mention: Back to the Future trilogy
Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future II (1989)
Back to the Future III (1990)

The second film is a little too dark, and the third is a little too light, but the first is flawless and overall this is a great series. It's not easy to do time travel right, but the Back to the Future trilogy makes it look easy.