Sunday 29 January 2017

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

by Ryan Mackett aka “TBay Movie Guy”

I have been asked by more than a few people what my favourite Marvel movies are and how I would rank them. I thought that as my first contribution to this blog I would do just that: a ranking of the movies that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in what I personally believe to be in order from “worst” to best. I put “worst” in quotes because lets be honest, MCU movies at their worst are still pretty damn good. 

Also, I need to be clear here: I am a DC guy. Superman and Batman are my two favourite fictional characters (at least non-Star Wars characters). This however puts me in a unique position. I know enough about the Marvel characters and am a big enough fan of comic books in general to appreciate what Marvel is doing and understand where they are going with the MCU, however I am not so emotionally invested in the Marvel characters that I get upset about things like organic web shooters or who really created Ultron. I get legitimately excited for the Marvel films because I am a comic book fan, and I can go into them, relax, and watch them with no expectations because at the end of the day, I don't really care if Marvel messes up their films or don't get all the details perfectly right. 

My opinion of the DC films of late differs greatly. I AM emotionally invested in the DC characters and films. As I mentioned above, Superman and Batman are my HEROES. I go into the DC films with nervous excitement. I want them to be awesome, I don’t want Warner Bros. and the DC filmmakers to mess them up and I want them to live up to my personal fanboy expectations. Unfortunately more often than not, I am extremely disappointed with the DC films, both as a HUGE DC fanboy, and as a movie reviewer. More on that in a later article. Don't even get me started on Batman v Superman or The Dark Knight Rises.

I should also mention that I am NOT including the Marvel/Netflix series in this discussion, as I am focussing only on the theatrical MCU films. Just know that I consider both seasons of Daredevil, along with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, to be part of The Marvels category. They are all amazing series and you should watch them if you haven’t. Truly remarkable stuff. 

I digress, I am here to talk about the MCU. I have ranked the 14 MCU films from “worst” to best.

Lets get started!  

The Mediocre

These are the MCU films that are decent, but aren't great. I mean, even Pixar has had a few duds. The MCU films in this category represent Marvel Studios’ relative blunders, so to speak.

14. Iron Man 3 (2013)

An Iron Man movie written and directed by Shane Black? The same guy who worked with Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ) on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?? Oh my God YES! Black is a terrific writer and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was fantastic. Why the hell is Iron Man 3 in my opinion the “worst” of the MCU, you ask? Because it is so frustratingly a disappointment and a missed opportunity. It had so many things going for it, touches of absolute brilliance, that I felt it didn't capitalize on. 

Right off the bat, as the first post-invasion (i.e. the events of The Avengers) film, we are presented with a Tony Stark that is struggling with PTSD. This guy, who is cocky, has a larger than life personality and infinite amounts of charisma, has just been through the most traumatic experience of his life, and has been knocked down a few pegs. Not only has he met a couple gods, a recently-thawed war hero and a Hulk, he had to fight off an alien invasion and save the city of New York from a nuclear bomb by throwing it through a portal that nearly trapped him in another part of the universe. This guy has seen some shit and is struggling to deal with it. This is a fascinating and innovative direction to take the character of Stark, and giving him PTSD and showing him deal with it is as close as Disney will likely get to the Demon in a Bottle storyline as they dare. 

Not only is Tony having a crisis of conscious and trying to come to terms with his new status as superhero, he has to deal with an old rival coming out of the woodwork and causing trouble for him in the form of the Extremis virus. 

I honestly thought that this film should have made a conscious effort to scale things way back. How would the Tony Stark we know deal with his PTSD and try to regain a sense of normalcy in his life? I would have assumed that he would have gone back to doing what he did best as Iron Man before facing off against aliens and gods: taking on terrorists and other terrestrial threats. 

Saving the passengers on Air Force One was a terrific action scene and was the sort of stuff I wanted to see from this film. Maybe a storyline with The Mandarin that connected back to the Ten Rings hint we got in the first Iron Man film. More with him bonding with the young boy that he saw so much of himself in. I wanted a more grounded film to act as a breather from the epicness of The Avengers. 

Instead we get a fire-breathing villain and a Pepper Pots that can inexplicably do super kung fu, along with a Tony that apparently could have cured his heart problem all along. In typical comic book movie sequel fashion, Iron Man 3 ultimately tries to outdo its previous instalments by raising the stakes to absurd heights. 

13. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

While I didn't hate The Incredible Hulk, it definitely left me feeling “meh” afterwards. It was bland, and ultimately forgettable. I liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and William Hurt as General “Thunderbolt" Ross, and the action was decent enough. But when the coolest part of the movie was when RDJ as Stark shows up at the end in a quick cameo, and the fact that this is all I really have to say about this film,  it becomes clear why it comes in at #13 on my list. 

12. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

I actually really liked this Thor sequel. In fact I think I liked it a lot more than most people did. I do have one big problem with it though.

It’s inconsistent with the established rules of the MCU. In The Avengers, it is clearly established that Hulk is the strongest, most powerful there is. Yet he and Thor have a fist fight and Thor laughs it off. Why then, does Thor get the absolute shit kicked out of him by Kurse, who is essentially a low-level henchman within the framework of the MCU? If Thor is powerful enough to take a beating from Hulk and literally laugh it off, he should have been able to hold his own against this Kurse guy. 

Additionally, the main villain in The Dark World, Malekith, essentially wants to destroy the entire universe. Why didn't Thor call in help? I mean, the reason why the Avengers needed to assemble in the first place was to save New York City from an alien invasion. You'd think the threat of total universal annihilation would be reason enough to call in assistance from the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, especially considering it took all of them just to save one city, let alone the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. 

Here’s the thing, I understand that the solo films need to be their own thing and do their own thing while still contributing to the larger MCU. In fact, I would argue that The Dark World does a great job of working as a stand-alone Marvel film, whereas others on this list can be criticized for having too much world-building at the expense of that particular film’s plot. 

But the movies also need to adhere to their own rules. And don't argue that I need to suspend my disbelief. I recognize that we are dealing with movies that include flying thunder gods, green monsters and magic sceptres. All I ask is that the power levels and abilities of the characters remain consistent throughout, because if The Dark World is any indication, Thor and his warrior buddies should have been able to handle the invasion of New York without any other help.   

11. Iron Man 2 (2010)

This is another MCU film that I truly liked more than a lot of other people. It’s also the first of the MCU films to truly feel like it was more concerned with world-building rather than focusing on its own plot. 

As a follow-up to the first Iron Man, I thought it was great. Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash was an interesting character, and I actually enjoyed the world-building for the most part. Unfortunately the film seemed to come to a complete halt part way through to establish a bunch of Avengers stuff. While this was interesting, it didn't do anything for the plot of the film itself, hence its low place on my list. 

I loved the final action set piece, although the biggest flaw of the film was how short and anti-climactic it was. Iron Man and War machine going toe-to-toe with Hammer Drones and Whiplash should have been a way cooler and way longer set piece. The film did however introduce us to Black Widow, though! 

The Mighty

These films are the backbone of the MCU. Good, solid films that are a joy to watch and leave me feeling excited.

10. Thor (2011)

I loved Thor. I thought Kenneth Branagh did a fantastic job of capturing the comic book essence of the characters. The film came close to camp a few times, but it had some genuine laughs. It also told Thor’s origin per se without feeling like an origin story. I also thought that Thor did a great job of world-building without feeling like a placeholder film. The SHIELD segments felt integral to the plot while simultaneously also providing a look into the larger world of the Avengers that was yet to come. 

I also quite enjoyed Thor’s character arc. We see him go from cocky, spoiled brat to a somewhat more humbled, charismatic warrior. It was also our first glimpse at Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The effects were cool, and while the battle with the Destroyer was a bit anti-climactic, the film felt like it paid off. 

9. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Joe Johnston did a great job with the first Captain America film. Instead of shying away from the campy propaganda that was the Captain America of the 40s, he fully embraced it and did a brilliant job of weaving together the Cap of yore and the modern superhero version in a way that felt authentic.

Making the movie a World War II period film with modern day bookends was a bold move. He could have easily had a few WWII flashbacks and made the film centre on Cap in modern days. Instead he told a great story that set up Hydra, flawlessly integrated aspects of the Asgardian mythos of the Thor film while building up to The Avengers. All of the world-building that took place in The First Avenger affected its plot and also contributed to the bigger picture. 

This film could have been a flop if handled differently. Chris Evans embodied the role and gave us a great, authentic Captain America. 

8. Ant-Man (2015)

I loved Ant-Man. Paul Rudd was terrific as Scott Lang, with his deadpan comedic delivery, and the overall comedic tone of the film worked really well. The briefcase fight scene with The Cure blasting on the iPhone and the Thomas the Tank Engine sequence were both great. Ant-Man also gave us our first taste of alternate dimensions with Scott shrinking down to the subatomic level. 

I also appreciated how Ant-Man wove into the larger MCU through Agent Carter and Howard Stark. I would have loved to have seen what the film would have been like if Edgar Wright hadn't  left the production, but what we were left with was good fun. 

The main reason why I have it ranked relatively low is that after I watched it in theatres, I couldn't wait to see it again, but when I did see it again on Blu-Ray in my home theatre, it didn't leave me with quite the same feeling it did the first time I saw it. 

7. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Joss Whedon’s second outing as director of an Avengers film is arguably far weaker than his first go, however the film still had some truly great stand-out moments. 

The problem with Age of Ultron is that Whedon wasn't allowed to breathe. He was forced to work within the narrow scope left between everything that had come before and everything that has been so carefully planned to come after. Where The Avengers felt like a massive culminating payoff after a build-up that spanned multiple films, Age of Ultron felt like a placeholder film. Where The Avengers ended on the possibility of what was to come, Age of Ultron felt like it solely existed as a mechanism to introduce new characters and set up new plot threads of later films. Ironically, what should have been another huge payoff film ended up being the film in the MCU most guilty of blatant world-building at the expense of its own plot. 

That all being said, the Hulkbuster scene was amazing, the opening battle was cool, and The Vision stole the show. James Spader as Ultron was also perfectly cast. 

6. Iron Man (2008)

This is it. The film that started it all. In one of the boldest (and best) casting moves in the history of comic book movies, the first Marvel Studios film took a second- or arguably third-tier superhero in Iron Man and made him the foundation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With no Spider-Man or Hulk (Marvel’s two most popular comic book characters) to play with, Marvel turned to Iron Man and ended up telling a terrific origin story and laid the groundwork of one of the most successful film franchises in history. The after-credits teaser that featured an eye-patched Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury sent fans into a frenzy with its hint of “The Avengers Initiative”. 

The movie suffers from a weak third act, but the special effects, action set pieces, terrific character development in Tony Stark and of course RDJ’s performance have solidified Iron Man as one of the best comic book movies ever. 

5. Doctor Strange (2016)

It’s no coincidence that Doctor Strange follows Iron Man on my list. The origin story told in this film along with Stephen Strange’s character arc mirrors that of Tony Stark’s beautifully. The main difference is that whereas Stark’s origin is rooted in the technological, Strange’s is rooted in the mystical. 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange was the best, most iconic and bang-on Marvel superhero casting since RDJ as Stark. Both characters begin as egotistical, self-important jackasses who go through terribly humbling experiences and ultimately emerge as confident, self-assured heroes. 

On top of that, the visuals in Doctor Strange were the craziest, most inventive and at times nauseatingly cool employed in a Marvel film to date. I am very excited to see how the mystical realms of Doctor Strange’s stories will fold into the larger MCU. 

4. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I really struggled with whether to include Civil War as part of the Mighty grouping or the Marvels grouping. While I absolutely loved Civil War and truly think it is one of the MCU’s best, I ultimately felt it was more deserving in this spot just outside the top three, for one reason in particular, and that is the Cap vs. Stark scene at the end. But before I get into that, lets look at what worked. 

This film didn't need to be branded as the third Captain America movie. It could have worked perfectly as Civil War, although it was essentially an avengers movie. This movie incorporated perfect world-building without sacrificing any of its own plot elements. It further developed the characters of Scarlet Witch and The Vision, it brought Ant-Man into the larger universe in a creative way, and it introduced us to Marvel’s Batman: Black Panther. It also marked the first appearance of Spider-Man in the MCU. 

Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures worked out a deal to allow Spider-Man to appear in this film. In only slightly more screen time than Boba Fett received in The Empire Strikes Back, Marvel gave us the best cinematic interpretation of Spider-Man yet.The airport battle scene was also one of the coolest action scenes in any movie from 2016. 

The conflict at the heart of Civil War boils down to the differing ideals of Captain America and Iron Man. Ironically, I think the one thing that really takes away from the film is the one thing that audiences were most excited to see: Cap vs. Stark. 

I think what would have worked better is if maybe the iconic Cap vs. Stark battle scenes from the trailer would have happened earlier in the film, say, during the airport battle sequence. Because when we get to the film’s climax, Cap and Stark come to a shaky truce. I was really looking forward to them putting aside their idealistic differences and team up with Black Panther and Bucky to face off against the other evil super soldiers. Instead, we are given the “twist” that is Bucky killed Stark’s parents, which leads to Stark resolving to kill Bucky to avenge them. The way this played out on screen was, to me, not much better a justification to fight than what caused Supes and Bats to duke it out in BvS. 

But I understand that the entire premise of the film was to give audiences the iconic Captain America versus Iron Man fight, and, in the end, that fight was pretty damn awesome. It also leads us into unique, uncharted territory for these characters during the next phase.  

The Marvels

These are the cream of the crop, representing the absolute best that the MCU has to offer. These films also represent tremendous examples of superb filmmaking on multiple levels, and transcend their label as “comic book movies”.

3. The Avengers (2012)

This is the payoff of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Joss Whedon perfectly utilizes all the best aspects of each character and tells a great story and gives us a truly remarkable climax to a five-film build-up. 

Great lines, great effects, incredible action, and the best on-screen version of Hulk yet, who had two scene-stealing moments. The Avengers to this day remains one of my favourites and go-to home theatre demos. It also never gets old or boring. 

My only complaint is that I think Thor was a little under-utilized during the final battle. 

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

In my review of The Winter Solider, I said that we have finally gotten past the point where we need to say things like “it was good, for a comic book movie”. Captain America: The Winter Solider is a terrific movie period. It is essentially a 70s spy thriller that just so happens to feature Captain America and some other super heroes. Along with Robert Redford, who is always awesome. 

The film introduced us to Falcon, who is another cool Marvel character that, if you read the comics, becomes a somewhat important member of the Captain America family. It also marks the return of the presumed-dead Bucky Barnes, reincarnated as the brain-washed assassin known as The Winter Soldier. 

The movie featured terrific action sequences and had gorgeous cinematography, courtesy of Thunder Bay’s own Trent Opaloch (he also shot Civil War, Elysium, District 9, Chappie, and is working on Infinity War and the other, yet to be titled Avengers sequel). The film also marked the MCU directorial debut of the Russo brothers who also directed Civil War and will be directing Infinity War and Avengers 4. 

I do have one major gripe with The Winter Soldier though, and it harkens back to an issue I had with The Dark World: where was everybody else? I'm not asking for gratuitous cameos here or anything like that, but a simple line of dialogue like “Boy we sure could use a Hulk right around now!” or “Where’s Stark? Didn't he design these things?” sure could have helped explain some glaring plot holes. 

I mean, it was established in the film that Tony Stark helped design the helicarriers that the heroes are tasked with destroying. It would have at least been nice to have a single throwaway line of dialogue explaining where he is and why he isn't there helping take down something he helped design. Same thing with Hulk. He would have been real useful in smashing helicarriers out of the sky. Thankfully this is a minor gripe that the Russos fixed in Civil War (Thunderbolt Ross makes one of his points in that film by pointing out that no one knows where Banner or Thor are). 

Thats all I'm asking for here! Marvel has literally spent multiple films establishing that this is a shared, interconnected universe, utilizing cameos and easter eggs and dialogue and visual cues to hammer home to the audience that the MCU is one big interconnected story. The least they can do is throw us a bone when we are trying to suspend our disbelief as to why certain characters aren't around when they probably would be.   

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Without a doubt, Guardians of the Galaxy is the best film in the MCU. Everything about it was wonderful. The casting was spot on. Chris Pratt as Starlord/Peter Quill, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, especially Dave Bautista as Drax. Even Vin Diesel as Groot was inspired casting. 

The film was also able to stand on its own as an MCU film, with the fewest connections to the other films in the series. It was able to breathe and do its own thing without feeling entrenched in the intricacies of the other films’ interconnectedness. 

The visuals were beautiful. It was so colourful and bright and detailed! It truly was a breath of fresh air, in a world where comic book movies are trying to “out dark” each other.

And the music. My God the music. It was so good, and utilized perfectly.  

Aside from its success as an MCU film, it works perfectly simply as a sci-fi film. It felt so much like a space opera. I hope to God that Disney allows James Gunn to direct a Star Wars film at some point. I have viewed Guardians multiple times, and each time it just resonates and never fails to entertain. 


Well there it is folks, my “official ranking” of the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Do you agree with me? Do you think I'm out to lunch? Let me know!

If you are interested in my opinions of other films, be sure to check out my reviews on my Facebook page (, or visit The Chronicle Journal website! You can email me at, as well.  

Wednesday 11 January 2017

The Golden Globezzzzzz...zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Hosted by this chump
The 2017 Golden Globes was an incredible snoozefest with the highlight for me being Jimmy Fallon's sad attempt at improvising when the teleprompter went out. Go back to your fake ass scripted interviews on your fake ass show you hack.

The show was a pretty quiet event this year even with the many surprise underdog winners. It was a year of wins from shows I've never watched and some I've never even heard of. It's refreshing to see new work being recognized and rewarded. Unfortunately, none of that made the show interesting.

The opening was a singing, dancing extravaganza that was a homage to La La Land which is great if you've seen La La Land. If you didn't then you missed the joke. I asked, "Who is Jimmy Fallon being right now?" as he played the piano with a lock of hair falling over his face, cause I hadn't seen the movie yet and missed the joke. However, I can say that even after seeing La La Land, the opening bit didn't get any better.

And can I just add that while I loved Eleven (Mille Bobbie Brown) doing the Stranger Things rap, they missed a huuuuuuuge opportunity by not showcasing Dustin's (Gaten Matarazzo) truly incredible voice. I couldn't believe it. I mean, that kid's got pipes. Check it out for yourself, the kid is singing Les Mis karaoke at a birthday party. I mean, come on.

People won, people lost, Meryl Streep was awesome as always and laid the smack on Trump but it still wasn't a good show. Even wins from my favourite people, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, didn't make it better. I blame Jimmy Fallon. Can you even remember him saying anything after the disastrous opening 'monologue'? I sure can't.

0 out of 10, would not recommend.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Shut Up and Watch This: "Letterkenny" and "Rick and Morty"

Letterkenny is one of those shows. You know, those shows. The show that is only on a subscription service, and you see the commercials and you think it looks mildly entertaining but you don't have that Crave TV thing so you just never bother.

Then, one night you're laying on your couch and it suddenly comes on a random channel. You watch the cold open of episode one. Your mouth drops open. You rewind it five times because it is just that funny. You can't go to bed because they're showing all of season one and you think you'll watch just one more. It's 3 am and you work in the morning. You PVR them all. You are the hero at Xmas when you show it to everyone. YES.

The show takes place in the small town of Letterkenny, Ontario, and follows the simple lives of Wayne, his sister Katy, and his bestie Daryl. There's also Jonesy and Reilly, Katy's two hockey player boyfriends (yes that's right, she openly dates both of them and it's amazing), Stewart, the leader of the local goth meth dealers, Pastor Wayne, Squirrely Dan, and Gail the horndog bartender. Each character shines and there isn't a dud in the batch.

The writing is snappy, clever and so full with lightening fast wit that you'll find yourself rewinding the show over and over to catch the zingers you've missed while laughing. I had to put on the closed captioning at one point to appreciate the gibberish pouring out at lightening speed from the mouths of Jonesy and Reilly as they went on one of their many goofy slang spiels.

Season one has 6 episodes, each one as funny as the last. As I watched I was positive I wouldn't like the episode 'Fartbook.' How wrong I was. Who knew that I would laugh so hard at the concept of a website that was "like 'Facebook'. But for farts."

The show is an instant classic, and in the same manner of The Simpsons and South Park, one that will be quoted for years to come. I know that all I want to do now is throw a Super Soft Birthday Party for my bestie, and after you've watched that episode, you will too. Pitter patter, let's get at 'er!

Favourite quote: 

Jonesy: Nice onesie. Does it come in mens? 
Wayne: Oh, I think you come in men enough for all of us. 
Jonesy: You better come in my - I mean, you better come - 
Riley: I think you better come and say that to his face you fuckin' hicks. 
Daryl: Nice execution. 
Wayne: Yer doin' terrific.

If you like: SCTV, Arrested Development, Trailer Park Boys, you'll love this show

Rick and Morty is a show that everyone who has ever seen, loves. It's an adult animated series following the adventures of Rick, his grandson Morty, granddaughter Summer, and their eternally bickering parents Beth and Jerry.

Rick and Morty's characters originally were based on Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future, but aside from Rick being a mad scientist and Morty's name sounding like Marty, that's where the similarities end.

The show is something that you've never experienced before. It messes with your head. It sticks with you. It's all you can think about after watching it. You can't stop shouting awesome quotes at your co-workers, and when they shout one back you embrace that co-worker and bond as one forever as you babble to each other how incredible the show is.

Rick is an alcoholic genius scientist that comes back into his daughter's life after many years of being an absent father after abandoning his wife and child. He's a drunken, drooling, burping disaster of a man who is, quite frankly, disgusting. But oh, he is funny. Not 'slapstick, fall down drunk' funny. He's more of a 'fuck you, life!' cynical kind of funny.

Morty is Rick's granson. He's a simple kid who get dragged on all sorts of insane science adventures with Rick in all sorts of alien planets and alternate dimensions. Every other show ever made with this concept has these kinds of adventures be the most wondrous experiences ever, but not the creators of Rick and Morty. Travelling the multiverse, using love potions at the dance, making their dog intelligent and able to communicate, buying a sexbot, going on a medieval quest, all these things end up with real repercussions. One minute you're cry-laughing as Beth and Jerry's attempt at freeing an alien they found chained up in a secret lab under their garage, and the next you're taken aback by the crushing sadness at Rick's attempted suicide.

The animation is filled with details and characters. It's ambitious to say the least. One episode has Rick trying to convince the family that an alien parasite is reproducing within the household every time they tell a story through flashbacks, and every time they show the family afterward there's more and more crazy characters. Reverse Giraffe, Photography Raptor, Sleepy Gary, Ghost in a Jar, Tinkle, Amish Cyborg, the list goes on and on and on.

As for the writing, it's hard to praise without sounding gushing. All the characters are fully fleshed and interesting. The story lines have relationships grow, issues surface, and sinister plot twists that you will never see coming.

This is a show literally brimming with quotes. The internet is filled with them. But the show is more than that. It's clever and funny and sad and mean and disturbing. It's sweet and touching and crude and gross and hilarious.

Favorite quote (and there's so, so many....):

Morty: Oh, man. I mean, you know, I-I don't want to shoot nobody.
Rick: They're just robots, Morty! It's okay to shoot them! They're robots!
(Morty shoots)
Glenn: Aaaaah! My leg is shot off!
Other Gromflomite: Glenn's bleeding to death! Someone call his wife and children!
Morty: They're not robots, Rick!

Rick: It's a figure of speech, Morty. They're bureaucrats! I don't respect them! Just keep shooting, Morty. You have no idea what prison is like here!

If you like: The Venture Brothers, South Park, Futurama, Clone High, Archer, Bob's Burgers, you'll love this show.

Monday 2 January 2017

The NFL has an MVP Problem

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a sports fan is the debating with other sports fans. Gretzky or Orr? American League vs. National League? Was the Dream Team the best sports team ever assembled?

The NFL is no different: Best quarterback of all time? ’85 bears or ’72 Dolphins? How does Jeff Fisher keep getting work? As the calendar rushes toward January, the hottest topic of debate becomes who deserves the MVP? And that's a big problem.

Why? Because half the debate surrounding the MVP deals with how we define Most Valuable Player. And everyone’s definition is different.

The whole process has become an intellectual exercise wherein value is assigned to an individual player based on their specific situation in an attempt to determine which player holds the most value to their team. Unfortunately, there are far too many ways to evaluate this.

There’s the “if-we-took-this-player-off-their-team” game. Or the “if-we-swapped-Player-A-with-Player-B” method of deduction. Voters are asked to make assumptions and predict imaginary win-loss records based on these scenarios.

This leads us deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole as everyone tries to simply figure out the relative value of an individual within the ultimate team sport. It’s a process that leads to more questions than answers.

Look at Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. How can two players on the same team be in the running for MVP? If one is supposed to be a more valuable player to their team than any other single player in the entire league, then how can the other even be considered? Shouldn’t they cancel each other’s value out?

How can Tom Brady possibly be MVP if his team went 3-1 without him? Is that something that should be considered? Would his chances of winning be greater if the Patriots had gone 0-4 without him?

More importantly: Should they?

In 2011, Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury. The Colts went from a team that consistently averaged 12 wins to a pathetic 2-14. Dead last. ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser publicly advocated for Manning to win the MVP -- despite not playing a single game -- because of the enormous, tangible impact he had on that team’s record. Sounds silly. But, by Kornheiser’s definition of “most valuable”, Manning was the MVP.

Recently, I’ve heard it suggested that Quarterback-A was more valuable than Quarterback-B because Quarterback-A’s backup is better than Quarterback-B’s backup. Is this really something we should be trying to gauge?

Quarterbacks have won or shared in the NFL MVP 40 times in 58 years. That might not even be as unwarranted as the numbers might suggest. The reality is that quarterbacks are the hardest players to replace on most football teams. Their value is skewed based on their impact on a game. Especially in today’s NFL, which has seen a greater emphasis placed on the passing game.

In 2014, J.J. Watt made a serious run at the MVP. And while he was far and away the defensive player of the year, making the leap to NFL MVP was something that only two defensive players had ever done -- and not since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

The biggest knock against Watt was his team’s record, which ended up being 9-7 and not good enough to make the playoffs that year.

The question was: How valuable could he be? Without him, they would be what? 6-10 and missing the playoffs instead of 9-7 and missing the playoffs? The end result? Here’s your second MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: Rename the award.

Most Outstanding Player.

Voters would then only be asked to measure a player’s performance against every other player in the league. That’s it.

If the award had been for Most Outstanding Player in 2014, Watt would have very likely won the award. And deservedly so.

Imagine if the Oscars, instead of awarding best performance by an actor, gave out the "Most Valuable Actor in a Film Award"? What a mess that would be. 

Come on, NFL, we have enough trouble trying to figure out what is or isn’t a catch these days. We shouldn't need a degree in theoretical physics and Ph.D. in philosophy to discuss who deserves the MVP award.

12 Best Television Shows of 2016

Full discloser: This list is anything but comprehensive. How could it be? With new shows flooding the airwaves and streaming services, it’s impossible to keep up. Netflix alone seems to release an original series every week. No doubt there are absences from this list. No doubt I will discover great shows from 2016 in the New Year. So in a weird way this list as fluid as it is written in stone.

2016 was another great year for television. With shows like The Leftovers, Fargo, and Master of None taking the year off, I found room for a few new shows on this year’s list.

12 - Daredevil (Netflix)

Season 2 of Daredevil built on the grittiness of its first season with the addition of Elodie Yong as Elektra and Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle/The Punisher. Watching this show felt like reading the best Punisher/Daredevil comics of the ‘90s. Best of all, it doesn’t suffer from the overpopulation of characters like Marvel’s recent films.

11 - This Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

John Oliver and the This Week Tonight staff continued to shed light on underreported or otherwise unreported stories as well as attempting to make sense of the nuttiest election year in recent memory. They did it with equal measure humor and profundity. And in the end, he left us with one overwhelming conclusion that we all basically agree with: Fuck you, 2016!

10 - Mr. Robot (USA)

Now with more Alf! Perhaps no show was a bigger surprise last year than Mr. Robot. This quirky drama with an enigmatic name and odd premise hit the overcrowded television landscape with little fanfare. And if the oversaturation of content and overflowing DVRs wasn’t enough to have Mr. Robot become just another show that failed to find an audience, it was on USA of all networks. I mean, really? USA? But it started gaining overwhelmingly positive word of mouth and landed on many critics’ top 10 lists for 2015. The new season had a lot to live up to, and most of us who were big fans of season one, were more than happy to overlook the bumps in the road (sometimes big ones). I’ll be the first to admit that my enthusiasm for this season had a lot to do with the show as a whole -- that includes season one and any season that has yet to come -- and less to do with any specific episode in this uneven season two.

09 - Bob’s Burgers (FOX)

This show gets better every season. One of the few laugh out loud shows in my rotation. It’s certainly not the most realistic family show on television, but it may be the most relatable. Butts!

08 - Game of Thrones (HBO)

No longer are Benioff and Weiss beholden to the source material. That was most apparent from the extreme change in pace the show displayed this season. Actions that would have previously taken an entire season took mere episodes and the show was the better for it -- mostly. At times Martin’s books did act as an anchor, causing the show to be mired in its own muck. But that anchor also served to hold the story in place. Without it, the show did a little drifting this season. But that was before an endgame was in place. Now that B & W know exactly how many episodes remain they can steer the ship smoothly to port. (Like with the touching and tragic Hodor reveal.) And Dany can set sail for Westeros. Finally!

07 - Westworld (HBO)

Westworld took a while for me to warm up to, and to be honest I never fully got there. In a way, it’s the perfect show for today’s social media landscape. It’s a show that is a puzzle, but one with a solution that begs to be crowdsourced. At times the whole thing left me cold. Westworld is the San Antonio Spurs of television shows. I enjoy watching it in that it’s intellectually stimulating, but in no way is it emotionally engaging.

06 - Stranger Things (Netflix)

Similar to how Mr. Robot came out of nowhere to capture the attention of critics in 2015, Stranger Things captured the imagination of seemly everyone in 2016. Because of the Netflix model (of which we are all aware of by now), one day Stranger Things just appeared. All eight chapters. And for most of us, it was finished as fast as it appeared. This Duffer Brothers’ offering proves that when film or television is heavily influenced, the word “derivative” is only used when the finished product is bad. But when it’s good, it’s one of those viewing experiences that welcomes us to share in the affection of the original material and reminds of our own childhood.

05 - Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Thank you, AMC. This show has been one of the very best shows on television almost since the day it aired. Despite this, the show’s ratings are terrible. Yet, AMC has stuck by it. They renewed it for a third season and when the ratings remained bad… they chose to renew it for a fourth and final season (coming in 2017). After season one -- when the show was basically Mad Men set in the ‘80s world of personal computers with Lee Pace’s Joe MacMillan as your generic Don Draper figure, the show pivoted. Hard. Season two saw the focus shift to the female characters and the show was much better for it. This past season saw a time jump but remained on the same track as we bore witness to the birth of the internet while the characters continued to struggle with their own connectivity issues.

04 - Veep (HBO)

Veep’s creator Armando Iannucci departed, making way for a new showrunner (David Mandel) in 2016. The result was the show’s best season to date -- or at the very least, its funniest. Jon H. Ryan for congress!

03 - Better Call Saul (AMC)

Continuing to hold the belt for best cold opens on television, Better Call Saul, suffered from a very unique problem: the title character was the least compelling part of the show. Fortunately, the show spends ample time with Mike (that’s when the show really excels). And when we are with Jimmy, most of his time is spent bouncing off Kim and Chuck. Both Jonathon Banks and Rhea Seehorn excelled and earned every bit of story time they were given.

02 - The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

Every bit of the ten episodes was needed to tell this story. From the moment the stage was set in the wake of the Rodney King beating, through to the final verdict, the show managed to navigate the disparate personalities and circumstances of a case that really was better suited to be a work of drama than real life. Both Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson shine in roles that finally showcase their talents.

01 - The Americans (FX)

There is a quiet scene in episode ten of this season’s The Americans between Keri Russell and Frank Langella. They sit at a kitchen table. Gabriel (Langella’s character) simply inquires, “Do you want me to ask?” What follows is twelve seconds of silence as Elizabeth (Russell) considers. In that long pause is some of the best acting put on any screen this year. It’s tense, powerful, and heartbreaking. Not just because of the amazing performance Russell gives, but also because the moment built off the previous 48 episodes of the series. There were so many moments like that this season. So much of what makes this show great is how internal it is. It’s a show about personal struggles and personal stakes set against global ones.