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News Around the Net

April 16th, 2021

Here’s a trailer for Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a new documentary exploring the creation of Sesame Street!  I can’t wait to see this:

This new mini-trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife is… well… it’s something…!

Watching mini Stay Pufts cooking one another is certainly… memorable!

Here’s a new trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book series Jupiter’s Legacy:

That’s a decent trailer and it’s fun to see some memorable images from the comic brought to life.  But the trailer doesn’t do a great job, in my opinion, of selling the core concept of the comic, which is what happens when the spoiled children of world-saving super-heroes turn against their parents, thinking they can do better.  Is the series diverging from that set-up?  Or are they trying to keep that twist as a surprise?  I just wonder about this trailer which doesn’t seem so well-designed to interest people who don’t know the comic…

In other Mark Millar news, Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) has signed up to write and direct a film adapting Mr. Millar’s series Starlight, which was illustrated by Goran Parlov.  Cool!

Here’s a trailer for the upcoming animated direct-to-DVD/blu-ray Batman film, an adaptation of the classic story The Long Halloween:

Click here for a look back at the classic “steamed hams” bit from The Simpsons episode “22 Short Films About Springfield”.

This is an interesting interview with screenwriter Chris Terrio.  On the one hand, I’m not a big fan of his recent work (which includes the script for Batman v. Superman, Justice League, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker).  On the other hand, I have some sympathy for him; his work certainly wasn’t well-represented by the theatrically released versions of either Batman v. Superman or Justice League.  It’s interesting to read his perspective.

Click here for an interesting interview with John de Lancie, discussing his reprising the role of Q for the second season of Star Trek: Picard.

I think making a fifth Indiana Jones movie, at this point, is a terrible idea.  That being said, casting Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the film is a great way to get me interested!

It looks like the companies behind Robotech and Macross have finally worked out their differences!  I loved Robotech as a kid, and I’ve long wanted to see more of the original Japanese Macross shows and movies, which have been extremely difficult to watch legally here in the States.  I hope we’ll now see that start to change.

There’s a new Kickstarter campaign to make more episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000!!  I’ve backed it.  Can’t wait to see what they’re cooking up.

Thanks for reading!!

Click here to purchase [continued]

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Josh Reviews Godzilla vs. Kong

April 14th, 2021

Well, I have to admit to at least being somewhat impressed that the folks at Legendary powered through and made their monster-movie crossover, despite the somewhat lackluster box office performance of the previous movies in the series.  For myself, I thought Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla was OK, and I really dug 2017’s Kong: Skull Island; but I thought 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters was terrible.  But here we are, at the big smack-down between Godzilla and Kong.  Godzilla vs. Kong is fun to watch, but wowsers, the movie is eye-rollingly dumb.

For a movie called Godzilla vs. Kong, there isn’t nearly as much Godzilla versus Kong fighting as I’d expected.  The film makes us wait quite a while for their first tussle (a fight in the middle of the ocean that ends in a weirdly inconclusive way).  However, I did quite enjoy their big third act smackdown in the middle of Hong Kong.

This is a big-budget visual effects spectacle, and the film looks great.  Both Kong and Godzilla look terrific on screen; the CGI is very realistic.  I had an easy time accepting that these two huge crazy monsters actually exist.  There’s quite a lot of CGI carnage when the monsters battle.  I was impressed with the scale of the film, and I had fun watching these two famous movie monsters go at it.  When the movie pushes the boring human characters to the rear and lets Kong and Godzilla tussle, it’s a lot of fun!

The realization of Kong is my favorite aspect of the film.  I really like the look of Kong here.  He looks a lot older and more grizzled than he did in Skull Island.  (This film is set half a century later, so that makes sense.). Kong is insanely ginormous, but I guess that was needed so that he could match up against Godzilla.  I can go with with it.  Most importantly, Kong feels like a real character in a way that none of the human beings in the film actually do!

The movie has a great cast, though sadly none of them are given anything to do.  This film isn’t quite as ridiculously dumb as Godzilla: King of the Monsters… but it’s nevertheless disappointingly populated with one-dimensional characters and nonsensical plot twists.

The best character in the film is the deaf young girl Jia, played by Kaylee Hottle.  This young child actor is phenomenal; so emotive and naturalistic!  I was bowled over.  Rebecca Hall plays  Dr. Ilene Andrews, a Monarch scientist who’s been looking after Kong.  I love Ms. Hall, and she’s a charismatic on-screen presence, but we never really get to know her character at all.  Why is she … [continued]

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Josh Reviews On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola’s latest film, On the Rocks, stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.  So Laura enlists the aid of her wealthy, playboy-like father, Felix, to track Dean and get to the bottom of what’s going on.  Felix is played by Bill Murray, reuniting at last with Ms. Coppola for the first time since Lost in Translation.  This was one of my favorite movies of 2020!

On the Rocks is very funny.  The pairing of Mr. Murray and Ms. Jones yields as much comedic fruit as I’d hoped.  At the same time, On the Rocks is also a moving, sometimes sad story of the complicated relationship between Laura and her father.  I love how nuanced this film’s storytelling is.  No one is reduced to a simple character, a hero or a villain.  Everyone in this film is imperfect, and Ms. Coppola demonstrates an endearing amount of affection for these broken, flawed people.  I love that about the film.

Both Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are absolutely delightful in the film.  I love their chemistry with one another.  The film really takes off when the two of them are on-screen together, bouncing off one another.  Thankfully, the film’s loose, leisurely pace gives them plenty of time together to play.

This is not a film that is very heavy on plot.  In less-skilled hands that might have resulted in a boring, meandering story.  But what Ms. Coppola has created is a wonderfully engaging character study of these two imperfect people, and the many layers of their relationship with one another.  The film avoids the type of Big Dramatic plot twists or surprises that you might expect to see.  There are a few crazy situations, but for the most part the movie is pleasurably grounded in what feels like real life.

The film sings because of the performances of its two leads.  Bill Murray is magnetic; his charm and charisma show us how Felix has been able to dance his way so successfully through life.  (One of my favorite scenes in the film is the way Felix is able to almost effortlessly turn around what begins as a tense interaction with a policeman.  What’s unspoken yet omnipresent is that things might have played out very differently for Laura, a woman of color, had her wealthy white father not been there.)  And yet Ms. Coppola doesn’t allow Bill Murray’s likability to ever let Felix all the way off the hook for his bad behavior, the ripples of which Laura is clearly still struggling with.  Felix has left significant damage in his wake; and yet, at the same time, there’s … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

April 9th, 2021

I’m delighted by this new trailer for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad:

I hope it’s good!!  I have faith in James Gunn, and the film has a hell of a cast.  (And I smiled seeing Starro at the very end!!)  I’d really like to truly love a DC movie again one of these days…

This is a fun new trailer for the newest Star Wars animated series, The Bad Batch:

It’s a great surprise to see Fennec Shand from The Mandalorian in there!!  I was also happy to see Tarkin, and to get a glimpse of Rex (back at what looks like the location of the crashed Republic ship from the finale of The Clone Wars series… which begs the question: will Ahsoka appear in this series??  I hope so!).

Here’s a trailer for the Space Jam sequel:

That made me smile, even though I don’t remember much liking the original Space Jam.  

I do, though, have a lot of nostalgic love for the original Nike Looney Tunes commercial from 1992 that was the inspiration for Space Jam.  In case you’re not familiar with it, here it is:

Apparently, Gary Whitta (Rogue One) and Jonathan Betuel are hoping to mount a sequel to The Last Starfighter.  Their concept reel has made its way online:

For more information on this project, you can click here.  I loved The Last Starfighter as a kid!!  Though it’s hard for me to imagine this sequel ever actually getting made…

William Shatner turned 90 recently!!  Amazing.  In honor of his birthday, two of the very best William Shatner impersonators — Kevin Pollak and Maurice LaMarche — got together to honor the man:

Quite a few new Star Trek-related trailers dropped this week.  My favorite is this short look at Lower Decks season two:

I enjoyed season one a lot more than I’d expected to, and I’m eager to see new episodes.  Lots of fun nerdy Trek jokes in that trailer.

Here’s a new trailer for season two of Star Trek: Picard:

I wish I could get more excited about the return of Q.  I love John de Lancie, but I think Q has been played out, and I just don’t have any faith that the creative team behind Picard can tell a good new story that will be a worthy use of this once-great character.  I’d love to be wrong.

We also got a trailer for the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery (that is far more substantial than that Picard teaser):

That’s a pretty in-depth trailer for a season that I don’t expect we’ll actually see for some time (seeing as Discovery’s third season only finished airing a few months … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Greyhound

April 7th, 2021
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Earlier this week I reviewed News of the World, one of two great Tom Hanks films released in the latter part of 2020.  The other was Greyhound.  Based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester, the film depicts several terrifying days in the middle of the Atlantic during World War II.  Mr. Hanks plays Commander Ernest Krause, who has been assigned to captain the Fletcher-class destroyer the USS Keeling (whose radio call sign is “Greyhound”).  Their mission: escort a fleet of 37 Allied supply ships across the Atlantic to England.  However, for several days, the fleet is out of range of air support, during which they are terrifyingly menaced by a pack of German submarines.

Greyhound is a taut, intense thriller.  It was one of my favorites of 2020!  This is a nail-biter of a film.  I was on the edge of my seat throughout this film’s short run-time.  It’s only 91 minutes long!  I can’t remember the last mainstream drama or action film that was so short.  It’s a nice change of pace, and the film zips along entertainingly.

Tom Hanks is spectacular, as always.  He imbues Commander Krause with an endearing nobility.  (This is yet another in the list of strong leaders of men who Mr. Hanks has played in his career.)  Mr. Hanks’ skill at bringing complete verisimilitude to his characters serves him well here.  It’s Mr. Hanks’ focused commitment to the role that draws in the audience and makes us fully believe the reality of the intense and dangerous situation in which the crew of the Greyhound find themselves.

I loved how thoroughly the film (written by Mr. Hanks, and directed by Aaron Schneider) immerses the viewer in the jargon and atmosphere of this ship at war.  We’re thrown right into the middle of the story, and the film doesn’t stop to hold your hand and spell out exactly what everything means and how it works.  Nevertheless, the storytelling is crisp and clear.  I didn’t know all of the terminology, but I was never confused about what was happening.  Mr. Hanks has not written too many films, but when he does he consistently demonstrates a confident hand, and Greyhound is no exception.

Mr. Schneider and his team did a great job of realistically recreating the world of this film — the ships, the uniforms, the props, etc. — on a relatively low budget (around $50 million).  The film looks great and it never felt fake or stage-bound to me.  There are a handful of expansive, presumably CGI shots that show us the geography of the fleet of Allied ships, but for the most part the film keeps us in just … [continued]

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Josh Reviews News of the World

In News of the World, Tom Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who now eeks out a living by traveling from town to town to read from newspapers for the townspeople’s entertainment and edification.  Captain Kidd winds up entangled with a young girl named Johanna, who was kidnapped from her family years ago and raised among a tribe of Native Americans; now she is alone and Captain Kidd sets out to reunite her with her surviving family members.  This was one of my favorite movies of 2020!

News of the World was adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles and was directed by Paul Greengrass, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Luke Davies.  I thought the film was a delightful departure for Mr. Greengrass.  It’s far more slowly paced and elegiac than the intense dramas and action films for which Mr. Greengrass is best known (The Bourne films, Green Zone, Captain Phillips).  But Mr. Greengrass’ skill is on display in every frame of this beautiful, melancholy film.  His eye for composition is well evident.  This is a gorgeous film to look at; the vistas of the American frontier are dazzling.  Mr. Greengrass’ skill at character drama are front and center.  And he remains an expert at crafting an action sequence, such as the tense mid-movie shoot-out between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Kidd, and the three criminals who try to steal Johanna away from him.

There’s nothing earth-shatteringly surprising or original in the film’s story.  I’ve seen many previous versions of this story, in which a tough older man gradually bonds with a younger child thrust into his care.  And yet I was pleased by how well the film drew me into this tale, despite the familiarity of its overall structure.  I quite enjoyed this film; I was invested in these characters’ story.

A good deal of the credit must go to the strong two main actors.  Let’s start with the great Tom Hanks, who gives yet another spectacular performance.  Now, admittedly, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking territory for Mr. Hanks; he’s played the grizzled guy with a heart of gold before.  But the power of his charisma and persona shine through the screen in a way that is quite remarkable.  And when Mr. Hanks really brings it, there are few who can match him.  I’m thinking in particular of a scene, late in the film, in which Captain Kidd finally faces the grief he’s buried.  It’s an extraordinary few moments of film.  That scene stuck with me long after I’d finished watching this movie.

Helena Zengel plays Johanna.  She’s gotten a lot of acclaim for her performance (including being nominated for a Golden … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Vast of Night

April 1st, 2021

In a small New Mexico town in the 1950’s, on a night in which most of the town is gathered in the local gymnasium for a basketball game, the young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick), and her friend, local radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz ), hear a mysterious sound that they come to believe is extra-terrestrial.  In the time it takes for the basketball game to be played, Fay and DJ find themselves drawn into a tense adventure, as they seek to uncover the truth of what’s been happening in their town.

I was completely blown away by this film!  (I listed it as one of my favorite films of 2020!!)  First-time filmmaker Andrew Patterson has exploded onto the scene with this wonderful sci-fi drama.   Mr. Patterson also co-wrote the film (under the pseudonym James Montague), along with Craig W. Sanger.

The film was made for a tiny budget (less than a million dollars), and it is beautifully simple, featuring a very small cast.  But Mr. Patterson and his team have stretched their resources with incredible skill to create a wonderfully fully-realized film that feels much larger than it actually is.  This is a completely professional-looking, polished piece of work.  If you’d told me this was made for $50 million for a studio, I’d have believed you.

Mr. Patterson’s camera-work and technical virtuosity is impressive.  The film is structured around a series of lengthy takes that are visually stunning and that also do a terrific job at ratcheting up the tension.  Time after time, I found myself giddy with delight as I realized that I was watching what looked like an extremely lengthy, uncut take.  The film opens with a jaw-dropping sequence in which we watch DJ walk through the packed school gymnasium, as the basketball game is about to begin, moving throughout the crowd and jumping in and out of various conversations.  I was astounded watching this sequence unfold, as I started to realized we hadn’t yet seen a cut.  It’s a bold announcement of the film’s ambitions, and things only get more impressive from there.  In particular, there’s one tracking shot that moves through a huge stretch of the town that absolutely blew me away.  (I’m sure there was some hidden editing in that shot and some of those others, but I was looking carefully and, if they were there, the edits were flawlessly hidden.)

The film’s two young stars, Ms. McCormick (who plays Fay) and Mr. Horowitz (who plays DJ), rise to the challenge of having to perform in these long, theater-like takes.  There’s one especially stunning sequence in which Ms. McCormick performs a lengthy sequence, all alone, while she’s working the switchboard; I had … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Palm Springs

In Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakov, Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a man who, we quickly discover, has been trapped in a Groundhog Day style time loop.  Nyles has been living the same day over and over and over.  That day happens to be the wedding of Tala and Abe, and Nyles is there because his girlfriend Misty is a bridesmaid.  Nyles has already arrived at the point that we saw Bill Murray get to in the middle of Groundhog Day — he’s already lived this day uncounted times, and he’s become resigned to his fate that he will continue reliving that day forever.  But then something changes: Nyles hooks up with the bride’s sister Sarah (Cristin Miloti), and she winds up stuck in the time-loop with him!  Things get crazier from there.

Who knew how much I would love yet another riff on Groundhog Day?  Last year I fell in love with the Groundhog Day type story of Russian Doll.  When I first heard about Palm Springs, I am pretty sure I gave a mental eye-roll.  Yet another Groundhog Day riff??  I was already surprised that I’d enjoyed Russian Doll as much as I did.  There was no way I’d be into still another play on Groundhog Day, was there?

And yet, Palm Springs is an absolute delight!   I was completely surprised by how much I loved this film.  (I listed it as my #2 favorite film of 2020!!)

First off, the film is very, very funny.  As it did in Groundhog Day, this concept proves a fertile ground for comedy.  And yet, while the basic set-up is similar, I was pleased that Palm Springs takes this story in very different directions than Groundhog Day did.  The film is perfectly paced; the story unfolds in a delightfully pleasing manner.  The film has a number of fun twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout (and that I will not spoil here in this review).  This is a film best viewed without knowing much about its story beyond the basic premise.

I will say that I was pleased that Palm Springs proved to be as rich a character piece as Groundhog Day did.  This is not an empty farce.  Palm Springs is a very funny comedy, but it’s also a great character piece that explores these two damaged people, Nyles and Sarah.  The events in the film have real emotional stakes for them.  This is a quality in almost all of my favorite comedies.  I think having some dramatic weight to the story enhances the comedy.

Andy Samberg and Cristin Miloti are both terrific in the lead roles.  I’m sure it’s … [continued]

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