My top 10 Superhero films.
by Martin ‘the boxing brain’ Potter
As a kid, I loved superhero movies and especially Superman with Christopher Reeve. This was to the extent that I swung on the washing line and then let go, thinking I could fly like my hero. I ended up smashing my face into a rock and still have a small scar on my eyelid – but, in fairness, it had been a tough week at work and I needed the release…
My love of comic book and superhero films has continued, which I guess is fortunate given that they are now released more often than Spider-Man changes actors. So what are the best Superhero / Comic book films ever made? I don’t know about that, but I can certainly tell you my favourites and, like all good super villains, I will make you bend to my will. Or you’ll kill me. One or the other.
1. The Dark Knight: Batman isn’t really a superhero; as he says himself in his latest Ben Affleck incarnation, his power is being rich. However this doesn’t stop my belief that The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero film ever made or that The Dark Knight trilogy is the best superhero series of films. Yet whilst Bale is excellent as Batman (admittedly Keaton was my favourite to don the cape “let’s get nuts!”), it is Heath Ledger’s twisted turn as a psychotic Joker that steals the show. Like a Michael Mann crime thriller with Batarangs and face paint, The Dark Knight is tense, action packed, just the right shade of dark and brilliantly acted. If you’re complaining about this choice then I’d have to ask “why so serious?”.
2. Superman 2: Perhaps it’s nostalgia or maybe I like sub standard special effects and hammy acting, but Christopher Reeve’s second outing in the famous red cape is my number two. Seeing the man of steel take on not one, but three villains with powers equal to his own in a showdown in the big apple (well, Metropolis) is great fun, as is the diner scene where a bespectacled Clark Kent gets revenge on a trucker (“I’ve been working out”). Ok, so the romantic bit in the middle drags and Terrance Stamp is over the top (although gloriously so in my opinion), but this was top notch 80’s entertainment. Superman 3 with evil Supes deserves special mention, but it is 2 that really flys.
3. Unbreakable: Many will not really view this as a superhero film and many more will think it’s not very good but in my opinion M Night Shyamaln’s second film with Bruce Willis as lead is better than his first (The Sixth Sense). Willis plays a seemingly unremarkable security guy who has never had a day off work sick and as this brooding film builds we find out why – he is, as the title suggests, unbreakable. What Willis’ character doesn’t realise, and neither do we, is that he has a secret super villain nemesis who has been targeting him with terrorist style attack’s all along. The reveal of Mr Glass at the end is brilliantly done and one of the reasons I love this film.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: On the face of it, a talking raccoon, a tree ‘bodyguard’ that says only one phrase (“I am Groot”), an alien played by a wrestler with limited acting experience and a human with a rocket pack but no superpowers doesn’t sound like the recipe for a brilliant motion picture. But a brilliant motion picture is what this is, with all the odd parts coming together to make a zany, satisfying whole, reminiscent of Star Wars. Accompanied by the best film soundtrack of recent years, the rag tag bunch of heroes crack jokes, fight aliens, save the universe (obviously) and make a superstar out of a Pratt. We won’t talk about the second one because that was a bit crap.
5. Blade: Wesley Snipes is well known for trying to viciously cut down his tax bill. He is even better known for viciously cutting down vampires as ‘day-walker’ Blade in the superhero / action / horror flick of the same name. The opening scene, in which blood pumps from the sprinkler system of a nightclub and the previously clandestine vampire revellers turn on their human counterparts, is one of the great comic book film openings. Snipes – cool, moody, aggressive but capable of a wise crack – is perfectly cast as the lead character and has a great ‘buddy’ in Whistler. The fight scenes come thick and fast, the violence is x rated and the end sequence, like the opening one, is pretty special. Just don’t show the kids.
6. X-Men – First Class: The X-Men movies have, in my opinion, been a bit patchy, with some great films (X-Men 2), some terrible ones (The Last Stand), and some confusing ones (Days of Future Past). First Class though is, well, first class. We get to see Professor X as a young, roguish student, complete with hair and a propensity for using his mind bending powers for nefarious means. We also get a different perspective on lead protagonist Magneto, seeing the kinder side to his character, his friendship with Professor X and how he becomes conflicted and finally snaps at non mutants. Set in the 70s and cleverly inter played with real life events (the Cuban missile crisis), this is the best of the X-Men films.
7. Deadpool: The fourth wall breaking, piss taking, money making ‘merc with the mouth’ Deadpool showed that you can still make a successful foul mouthed, violent superhero film in an era saturated with Marvel PG-12 mush. Don’t get me wrong, as this list shows, I enjoy the standard Marvel fare. However Deadpool made a refreshing change from the kiddy friendly comic book norm or the films that try to go too dark and serious in a doomed bid to match The Dark Knight (see Man of Steel). Funny, filthy, action packed and willing to poke fun at the rest of the Marvel universe, Deadpool makes an arse-hat of those who thought Ryan Reynolds couldn’t play a superhero.
8. Captain America: Captain America is the first avenger so perhaps it is apt that he is the first avenger to appear on this list in a solo film. This origin story is set during the Second World War and sees a puny young Steve Rogers undergo an experiment that will allow him to enlist in the armed forces and ultimately transform him into the hero of the title. With newly acquired superhuman abilities and a shield given to him by Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad), the Captain does battle with the Red Skull, who has also obtained abilities, although as a side effect has acquired Sir Alex Ferguson’s face. The historic setting, well paced story, quality casting and set up to the Avengers film makes this one of the stand out Marvel solo films.
9. Avengers Assemble: this is the superhero equivalent of the USA’s basketball dream team, but with less Nike and more Nick (Fury). Bringing together Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and some bloke who has no superpowers but is inexplicably good with a bow and arrow (we are never told why…), this film is every kids dream superhero scenario. Managing to give all the characters decent screen time and capturing the Hulk the best he has ever been on screen (TV show accepted, obviously!), this is a fun, over the top action filled romp featuring one of Marvel’s best villains, Loki, a smug, posh man who you’d never tire of punching, who is superbly played by a smug, posh man who you’d never tire of punching. And thankfully the Hulk does just that.
10. Antman: Much like Guardians, many were not sure what to make of Antman when it was first proposed. It seemed like film bosses, pound signs flashing in their eyes, were looking for any obscure comic book to turn into a film and, as it turns out, they were justified in doing so. A comedy crime caper with echoes of 80’s hit Inner Space, Antman delivers laughs, action, decent special effects and Michael Douglas giving his best performance in a while. Picking Paul Rudd, usually a star of slacker type comedies, as the lead proves a good choice as he is a perfect fit to play the laddish crook turned tiny hero. Ranking this above more established hero’s like Spider-Man and Iron Man might be controversial, but I just think it’s a better film.
Others worth a mention: Batman the Movie, Iron Man, Thor Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, Sin City, Logan, Spider-Man 2, Black Panther.
According to the gospel of new world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, certain events will bring about the apocalypse. But could Fury’s capture of the title be the end for heavyweight boxing as we know it?!
On this triumphant return of the original (and best!) fans boxing podcast, the team discuss all things Fury – Klitschko, telling you why the professional boxing media have got it so, so wrong.
The Joshua – Whyte fight is also previewed. We’ll see you in the car park…
You can also download the show via iTunes
email us at email@example.com and follow us on Twitter @boxingcleverpod @theboxingbrain @george_ogier @marcwilliams22[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/boxingclever/BCP_DEC_15.mp3]
By Martin Potter: Host of The Boxing Clever Podcast
Much has been said and written about the current Pay Per View situation in boxing, with most articles focusing on why the money is ‘needed’ to generate the biggest fights, whilst ignoring the impact on fans and the wider ramifications for the sport.
I guess the theme of this article could apply to most top level sports, but as a fight fan first and foremost, I’d like to attempt, through the medium of poorly constructed prose (!), to explain how fans get suckered into the ‘Fight Fans Financial Flytrap’. Eddie Hearn and Sky, take note…
Step 1: Start watching for free! Everyone loves a freebie and most boxing fans do not immediately jump into the world of PPV. As someone born in the late seventies and growing up in the eighties, I was able to watch many big fights as a kid on terrestrial TV. TV licence aside (which may dad paid for, I hope… Come to think of it, why did he turn the TV off and hide in a cupboard under the stairs whenever the men in suits came knocking?!), boxing on television cost me nothing to watch. Right up until my teenage years in the early nineties, I was able to watch McGuigan, Bruno, Benn, Eubank, Hamed and others for free.
Fight nights on the BBC and ITV were prime time Saturday night viewing, drawing upwards of ten million fans. They were not just domestic match ups; we saw genuine, great world title fights. Fans were happy and fighters became well paid household names.
Even today it could be argued that young fans start watching ‘for free’, given that they are not the ones paying the bills. However, as a great man once said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch… (I don’t know if it was said by a great man as my lack of extensive research hasn’t found who said it).
Stage 2: Emotional investment. After some time of free viewing, or in some cases hardly any time at all, a fight fan or general sports fan will become emotionally involved and attached. The level of emotion will vary; some real crazy fans will get pictures of their favourite fighter / football player / synchronised swimmer tattooed on their face, whilst others will just sit back and clap politely. Either way, an emotional investment will mean you have favourite fighters, trainers etc that you want to watch.
The emotional investment of sports fans can not be under estimated and it is this investment that leads to…
Stage 3: Subscription TV. Now if as a fight fan you have been watching boxing for years free of charge (either because you’re old like me and there was no Sky when you first started watching, or because up until this stage someone else paid the bills), then you will have been emotionally attached to the sport of boxing for some time. You now have a choice: either stop watching the sport you now love or, pay a television company that shows regular fights.
The truth is that once you are at stage 2, there is really no avoiding stage 3. You just have to watch that fight, you need to watch that fighter. You can’t really afford it. Maybe you’ll cancel your subscription after the unification bout has happened or when your favourite fighter has retired? But you won’t. They’ll be another favourite fighter; they’ll be another unification fight, another grudge match. You’re hooked. The TV companies and the promoters know there are a million of you out there and they have you by the balls. You’re headed straight for…
Stage 4: Big Pay Per Views. Note: many skip this and go straight to stage 5. You have got your Sky or Virgin hooked up, you’ve watched Naz / Hatton / Calzaghe / Harrison ascend to world champion status and paying the £x amount per month, whilst not ideal, has been worth it. But are you a true fan? Don’t worry, you’ll be tested… The promoter wants Prince / Ricky / Joe / Audley to fight in a big unification bout but the only way the fight can be made is by putting it on PPV.
Forget the fact that Benn – Eubank was on ITV and both were rich. Forget that long reigning champion and P4P number 2 Kostya Tszyu against Hatton wasn’t a PPV fight. No, to bring this guy over, we really, really need more money from you, the fans. Don’t worry though, only the very biggest and best fights will be on PPV, honest guv’nor.
You have watched their whole career; you simply have to watch them in the big pay per view. You realise it is a bit odd that boxing in the UK existed and thrived prior to pay per view. You understand that fighters became wealthy house hold names before you were asked to stump up an extra £15, on top of the monthly sports subscription, on top of the TV license fee and in addition to the specialist boxing channel fee. However, the promoters wouldn’t lie to you, would they? No, of course not, they simply couldn’t make the fight without PPV.
Stage 5: You’ll pay for any old s#*t on PPV! You’ve reached the point of no return, you have seen all of your favourite fighter’s fights, and you’re buying Boxing Monthly and Boxing News. Some fans might even start writing barely legible boxing blogs and hosting poor quality podcasts (that might then go on to be downloaded thousands of times and hit the top 20 of the sports podcast charts on iTunes, natch!).
This means you are now fully caught in the financial flytrap. You have to watch every fight going, even when you know the fights are likely to be poor. You’ll watch WBU title fights, English title fights and pay to watch Audley Harrison live in Prize-fighter. In short, you’ll watch any boxing that is on offer. This also means that you’ll pay for any boxing on offer, even when the deal that ‘only the biggest and best fights will be on PPV’ seems to have disappeared. Hell, I even paid for Cleverly – Bellew 2 after both fighters lost their titles having been knocked out when they fought genuinely world class fighters. £15? A bargain to you Sir!
So is this all really a problem? And if so, who is to blame?
In short, yes it is a problem. Whilst I am fortunate enough to be able to afford Sky Sports, BT Sport, Boxnation and PPV’s of wildly varying quality, many boxing fans are not. This means that those fans who have built up an emotional attachment either get themselves into financial trouble to continue watching or that boxing loses a fan, probably forever.
On top of this, drawing new fans to boxing becomes more difficult. The free aspect becomes far rarer because even British title fights become PPV, meaning the ‘stage 1’ opportunity for boxing to hook fans diminishes. Therefore, for the promoters and fighters to make the money to which they have become accustomed, more fights need to go on PPV to generate the cash because there are a smaller pool of fans to generate revenue through subscriptions.
In my opinion, the blame lies with the promoters and the TV companies and perhaps, to a lesser extent (and I hate to say this) with the fighters themselves. Sky and the Murdoch group are obscenely wealthy. Eddie Hearn is a rich man. They have got this way by using a clever ‘supply and demand’ model, with the justification being that people are paying for it, so that justifies charging for it. They know sports fans are passionate and get emotionally drawn in, so they supply some free stuff to start, get you hooked, and then demand more.
The fighters are not as culpable, but must share some of the blame. In some respects I put this down to the Mayweather effect. Floyd became the richest sports person on the planet through the American PPV model, despite only a small percentage on the US public actually ever seeing him fight. Many fighters around the world have seen the money he has made and want a piece of the action. Therefore, they push promoters for the most money possible and the promoters, instead of setting realistic expectations, promise them the stars and use PPV to deliver. It is then the fans that pay.
I do not begrudge boxers a decent wage, but boxing, like any industry, should reward people dependant on the level they get to. Anthony Joshua is a prime example. Joshua comes across as a very nice bloke and has bags of talent; he is also exiting to watch. Yet Joshua will be fighting in a PPV fight for the British title and earning a lot of money for the privilege; the sort of money it would take someone on an average wage a good few years to earn.
Joshua will, in my opinion, end up fighting for a world title against world class opposition. Those will be PPV worthy fights and will make Joshua a very rich man. Good luck to him. However, I do not think Joshua, or any fighter for that matter, should be headlining a PPV in a British title fight. Why not? Because the fans, some of who can’t really afford it, will have to pay. They have seen Joshua on free TV at the Olympics, they have seen him on Sky subscription TV. They have made the emotional investment. Let it stay as just an emotional investment until he gets that world title shot.
A great man once said there is no such thing as a free lunch. But Janet Jackson sang that the best things in life are free. Perhaps Janet’s late brother had a more apt song with Smooth Criminal…
The second Boxing Clever podcast of 2015 sees the Boxing Brain interview former Boxing News editor Tris Dixon about his new book, his future plans, general boxing issues and being rejected by Piers Morgan…
The rest of the show sees the team discuss Deontay Wilder following his world title victory, Kevin Mitchell, Derry Matthews and Pacquiao – Mayweather (yawn!)
*Bid for a signed Ricky Hatton framed picture with fight programme by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or @boxingcleverpod on Twitter – funds from the two winning bids go to Great Ormand Street
You can also download the show via iTunes
email us at email@example.com and follow us on Twitter @boxingcleverpod @theboxingbrain @george_ogier @marcwilliams22
Is Chris Eubank Junior as good as the original ‘Simply the Best’? Has old warhorse promotional king Frank Warren managed to put on the most competitive bill in British boxing this year and get one over the young pretender to his crown (a certain Mr Hearn)?
The boxing clever team answer these questions in the big preview of the Fury – Chisora bill. We also cover Hopkins – Kovalev, plus Luke Campbell and Tommy Coyle.
You can also download the show via iTunes
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter @boxingcleverpod @theboxingbrain @george_ogier @marcwilliams22[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/boxingclever/BCP_NOV_2.mp3]
On the first of our November shows, the Boxing Clever team take an in depth look of the grudge fight between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew. Who will win, how will the win and who is the biggest Bell?
You can also download the show via iTunes
No it’s not an episode of Game of Thrones, it’s the October Boxing Clever Podcast in which the team discuss: the return of The Saint George Groves; the controversial King Arthur Abraham’s victory over a brave Paul Smith; Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton and Scott Quigg, plus Mike Tyson’s TV interview.
You can also download the show via iTunes
By Martin Potter – host of The Boxing Clever podcast
Unlike many hardcore boxing fans, I don’t actually mind Eddie Hearn. He may be slicker than an oil spill and take the TOWIE approach to tanning – he is from Brentwood after all – but young Hearn has provided fresh impetus in a traditionally old man’s game (albeit with a helping hand from his own old man). Hearn was bold in picking Wembley to stage Froch – Groves II and it proved to be a fantastic occasion, but in pitching Nathan Cleverly against Tony Bellew as a Box Office fight, I can’t help but feel he (and Sky) has made a big misjudgement.
A few months back I was lucky enough to get my favourite boxing commentator, Ian Darke, onto the Boxing Clever podcast. Darke was the voice of many of Sky’s Box Office biggest fights in the mid to late 90’s and when I spoke to him he talked about how Pay Per View in America had marginalised the sport. Darke mentioned that many American sport fans had never actually seen a world title fight or even bouts involving huge stars like Tyson or Mayweather due to the colossal cost of PPV, which runs from $50 a pop upwards. Will putting fights like Clevely – Bellew on box office push boxing further out of the mainstream in this country?
When Sky Box Office first started, in Darke’s era of covering fights, the bouts shown genuinely felt like major events. The first fight shown was Mike Tyson against Frank Bruno for the WBC Heavyweight title. Bruno was the most beloved fighter in British boxing and arguably the most loved personality in British sport at the time, having reached the zenith of world champion at the fourth time of asking. Almost everyone in the country, man, woman and child, knew who Frank was. Mike Tyson was on another level to Bruno altogether… Having become the youngest heavyweight champion in history, Tyson’s life was a soap opera viewed worldwide. After a spell behind bars, Tyson was out and on the comeback trail and was perhaps the most famous, or infamous, sportsman on planet earth. Bruno Vs. Tyson was a genuine huge event; the most popular figure in British sport against the most famous man in world sport in a rematch for the heavyweight championship of the world. In short, it was pay per view worthy.
After Bruno – Tyson, Sky stuck with the Box Office model but reserved it for the biggest of bouts for the first few years, with even popular Brits like Hatton, Calzaghe and Hamed shown on ‘standard’ Sky. This, to me, seemed fair – build a fighter into a champion and then a champion into a star on the regular channel, which fans still have to pay for after all, and then, when they are a superstar, you can demand a little bit more. However at some point in the mid to late 00’s, for whatever reason, Sky pushed the button, put almost everything on Box Office and eventually jumped the shark (too many metaphors in one sentence?!). Non title, non competitive fights involving Amir Khan were now ‘pay’ TV and boxing fans were fed up. Eventually in 2011, following the Haye – Harrison debacle and Haye’s subsequent damp squib showing against Wlad Klitschko, Sky relented and scrapped Box Office bouts. It was said they would only return if a huge fight / fighter demanded it…
This brings me back to Cleverly Vs Bellew. As stated above, Tyson – Bruno was the first PPV in the UK and sold itself. Haye – Harrison was awful, but Haye was a two weight world champion and owned a version of the world heavyweight title, whilst Harrison was an Olympic champion. The fight created an odour stronger than Hearn’s fake tan, but as an event you could make an argument that it was Box Office. Even in the case of Amir Khan, he was an Olympic medallist at just 17, immensely talented and known by the public following terrestrial TV appearances. Cleverly – Bellew simply does not qualify on any level.
I’m not arguing that the Welshman against the Scouser is a bad fight; it is not. The first scrap, which was not PPV and was for a world title, was both decent and closely contested. However since that fight both men have been KO’d and shown they are not genuine elite world class. Yes, they have won since moving up in weight but neither man has looked spectacular and Cruiserweight is not exactly a glamour division. There is a bit of bad blood but it is not at a Haye – Chisora level. So what the hell makes this a PPV fight? Does Hearn think that because we brought Froch – Groves and it sold out Wembley, on the back of bad blood, that somehow Cleverly – Bellew will do the same?!
Froch is elite world class and a multi time world champion. Groves is on the verges of world class and had shocked Froch and the boxing world with the first fight performance. It was clear the two men did not get on and the rematch was, in my view, PPV worthy. Cleverly, with the greatest of respect, is a former WBO world champion who won a vacant belt and then lost it the first time he faced a real top quality fighter. Tony Bellew was fortunate to beat Ovill Mckenzie, drew with Isaac Chilemba, was sparked by Adonis Stevenson (no shame in that) and has already lost to Cleverly. He is a decent domestic fighter but he is NOT world class. On top of that, unlike Tyson, Bruno, Haye, Harrison, Khan etc, no one outside boxing has a clue who Cleverly and Bellew are! So what is it about this that has convinced Sky to go back to Box Office for a domestic level dust up when they had previously vowed not to do,so?
In my opinion it is close, domestic fights with decent fighters like Cleverly – Bellew that are needed on regular Sky, or even terrestrial TV, to pull in new boxing fans. You will not get new fans by putting fights that should be used to build the popularity of the sport on Box Office. In fact you will force fans away because boxing fans do not like being screwed over.I’m sorry Mr Hearn, despite all the good will you fostered with Froch – Groves, in putting this bout on Box Office I do believe you are screwing both boxing and boxing fans. And that, my Essex friend, is not reem…
It’s been a quiet few months in the world of boxing but luckily the Boxing Clever podcast is back to liven things up…
We discuss a stabbing, a shooting, a sex change, a British world title win and the latest appearance of the sport’s biggest star, Audley… erm… Floyd Mayweather.
You can also download the show via iTunes
In the second of July’s episodes, The Brain is joined by The Big Fella to discuss all things heavyweight related, including a preview of the BIG heavyweight title eliminator between Tyson Fury and Derrick Del Boy Chisora.
The non dynamic duo also have a melt down trying to unravel the multi belt madness and come up with proposal for a not so super six…
You can also download the show via iTunes