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Josh Reviews I Am the Night

In between making Wonder Woman and the upcoming sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins and Chris Pine continued their collaboration with the six-episode TNT mini-series, I Am the Night.  The series was created by Sam Sheridan, who wrote five of the six episodes.  Ms. Jenkins directed the first two episodes, while Victoria Mahoney directed episodes 3-4 and Carl Franklin directed episodes 5-6.  Set in the 1960s, the series follows the journey of young woman Pat Atman (India Eisley) to discover the truth about her family.  Pat, who was raised by a single African-American woman, appears to be white, but has grown up believing herself to be bi-racial.  However, when she finds a birth certificate with another name — Fauna Hodel — in her mother’s belongings, she realizes that she was adopted.  As she starts looking for her birth mother and family, she is swept up into a dangerous world of crime and privilege in Los Angeles.  Pat/Fauna’s unexpected ally in her search for the truth is a washed-up, drug-addicted reporter, Jay Singletary (Chris Pine).  Jay’s life was destroyed when he wrote a series of articles attempting to expose some of the secrets that Pat/Fauna’s birth family have been hiding.  Jay sees in her a chance to perhaps finally be able to prove the truth.

I Am the Night is an interesting bird.  It’s a competently made series.  The mystery is twisty and engaging.  The acting is top-notch.  (Chris Pine is particularly great.)  The direction is compelling and the production design is terrific; the series looks great, beautifully bringing to life a variety of different locations of the era.

The series’ main weakness is that its mix of true and fictionalized events felt somewhat uneven to me.  After watching the first episode, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly this series was about (though that did eventually become clearer), and I found myself wondering whether this was supposed to be a true crime series or a fictionalized story.  There wasn’t any text at the beginning saying that this series was based on actual events or anything like that… but then at the end of the episode (and every subsequent episode) we saw several of what looked like photos of the characters who were played by actors on the show.  The on-screen credits say that the series was “inspired by the life of Fauna Hodel.”  What exactly does that mean?  After watching the series I did some reading about it and was able to shed some light on this.  The series is based on Fauna Hodel’s memoir One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.  Fauna really existed, and much of the story of her quest to uncover the truth about … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10

We had to wait a long time between the eighth and ninth seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm (over five years), and when that ninth season of Curb finally arrived, I felt the show had lost its way somewhat.  It was still extremely funny, and jam-packed with wonderful and crazy ideas.  But the longer-running episodes felt shaggier, and more hit-and-miss.  Plots didn’t fit together with the clockwork precision of earlier Curb (and, of course, Seinfeld).  It still made me happy, but I felt the show’s best days were behind it.  I’m thankful that we only had to wait two years between the ninth and tenth seasons of Curb.  This tenth season isn’t a reinvention of the show; it’s stronger than season nine, I think, but I doubt anyone would argue this is one of the best seasons of the show.  Still, not being as good as the best seasons of one of the best TV shows ever made is not a crime!!  I really enjoyed this season, and I think this show still has a lot of life left in it.  There was plenty that didn’t quite work here in season ten, but there was so much to enjoy it’s hard for me to really complain.  Let’s dig in…

The first three episodes of the season had me very concerned.  Those episodes focused primarily on Larry’s running afoul of the #metoo movement.  The idea that the ornery, prickly Larry of Curb — who also happens to be a wealthy, privileged, older white man — would find himself the subject of ire from the #metoo movement is an idea with a lot of merit.  However, I felt those first few episodes made the mistake of drifting into mockery of the #metoo movement.  There’s a subtle but critical difference between mining comedy from that movement (and Larry’s being made a target of it), versus belittling the movement and the women who accuse men of misdeeds, and I think the show was on the wrong side of that line.  The women who were accusing Larry of misconduct were depicted as buffoonish and ridiculous, which I think was a big mistake.  I don’t think this was a good look for the show.  Frankly, I didn’t find it funny; I found it almost unpleasant.

Thankfully, the show moved away from those stories, and the main season-long story-line wound up being the far more interesting (and far better basis for great comedy) story of Larry’s feud with coffee-store owner Mocha Joe (Saverio Guerra), leading to Larry’s opening up a “spite store” — his own coffee shop, Latte Larry’s, right next door to Mocha Joe’s.  The whole idea of a “spite store” is brilliant.  Who hasn’t ever … [continued]

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News Around the Net and Supporting MotionPicturesComics.com!

April 3rd, 2020

Hi out there!  I hope you’re all doing OK and staying healthy.  As always, I appreciate your taking the time to read my site!

The best way for you to support this website is to take advantage of my being an Amazon affiliate.  This means that if you click through to Amazon from any of the links on this site, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of ANY purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You can use the Amazon banner ad at the top of the home page, or any specific Amazon link within one of my blog.  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.

While some are avoiding all on-line ordering these days, I know many others have turned to places like Amazon more than ever.  So please, allow me to ask: when you’re thinking about doing some online shopping, please click through to Amazon through one of my links.  It’d be a huge help to allowing this website to continue!

OK, onwards.  There’s not a whole heck of a lot of news out there in movie and TV land these days.  Like the rest of the world, Hollywood is pretty much shut down.  However, there are a few fun tidbits that I can share today.

Let’s start with this: Nick Frost & Simon Pegg have given their classic “what’s the plan?” scene from Sean of the Dead a Coronavirus update, and it’s hilarious.  Check out the new scene and the 2020 version here.

This is very cool: Rosario Dawson has apparently been cast as Ahsoka Tano for season two of The Mandalorian!  Ahsoka is a fantastic character from the animated Clone Wars series, as well as Star Wars: Rebels.  It’s super-exciting to think we might get to see the character in live-action for the first time!  Rosario Dawson is a terrific actress and a great choice to play her.  Though I do feel bit sad that Actress Ashley Eckstein, who has voiced Ahsoka for so many years, won’t get to play her in live-action.  (Click here for Ms. Eckstein’s comments on these latest developments for Ahsoka.)

Speaking of Ahsoka and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I’m super-excited that the show has returned from the dead for a new run of twelve final episodes.  Want to catch up on this great Star Wars animated series, but you don’t know where to begin?  Here’s a list of great episodes and story-arcs to help!

In other Star Wars news, the saga has been released on 4k, and Bill Hunt from The [continued]

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Josh Reviews Dolemite is My Name

April 1st, 2020
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Dolemite is My Name, directed by Craig Brewer and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, stars Eddie Murphy as performer Rudy Ray Moore, who portrayed the character of Dolemite in his stand-up routine and several “blaxploitation” films.  The film charts Rudy’s joruney from struggling comic to his creation of his Dolemite character, and eventually his independent production of the first Dolemite film in 1975.

I loved this film! I’m a little surprised it hasn’t gotten more acclaim!

Eddie Murphy is electric in the title role as Rudy Ray Moore, the man who created the character of Dolemite for himself in his stand-up comedy act and, eventually, in a series of movies.  I thought it was fsacinating the way the film allowed us to follow Rudy as he struggles to find his voice, and a niche for himself in show-business.  It’s only when he develops the persona of the raunchy, brash Dolemite that his career takes off.  After a successful tour, Rudy gets the idea to create a film starring himself as Dolemite.  When the studios turn down his plans, Rudy decides to make the film on his own.

There have been some great films made previously about an amateurish movie production (most recently James Franco’s The Disaster Artist); I love those types of stories, of a creative person struggling to bring his vision into reality.  Dolemite is My Name truly ignites when it dives into that aspect of Rudy’s life.  I loved the film’s exploration of the many trials and tribulations of actually creating a low-budget film.  This was very cool to see!

But there was plenty beyond that in the film to enjoy; I found the entire run-time of Dolemite is My Name to be an absolute delight.

It’s rare when Eddie Murphy appears in a truly great role on-screen these days, but when he does — as he does here — he reminds us that his comedic timing and charismatic energy cannot be equalled.  Mr. Murphy is on-fire in this film.  That old Eddie Murphy charisma is on full display.  He’s electric whenever he’s on screen!  Mr. Murphy was so funny, but he also nailed all of the film’s dramatic scenes in a way that made it look very easy.  This is a fantastic performance.

Mr. Murphy surrounded himself with an insanely funny and talented cast.  To his credit, he clearly did not have any problem giving funny scenes to the other members of this ensemble!  For instance: I never suspected that Wesley Snipes could be this funny.  Mr. Snipes is a riot as the arrogant and affected D’Urville Martin, who Rudy finagles into directing the film.

Keegan-Michael Key plays the intellectual, academic author Jerry Jones, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Imagineering Story

I loved every minute of this six-part Disney+ documentary series, exploring the history of Disney’s theme-parks and their rides.  The series was directed by Leslie Iwerks, who is the daughter of Disney Imagineer Don Iwerks and the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, who co-created Mickey Mouse.  So she knows a bit about Disney!  Yes, of course this is a pro-Disney piece of propaganda.  But it is magnificent, well-earned propaganda!  The series digs deeply into the ins and outs of the different Disney parks and all of the best attractions, from the Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Tours to the Enchanted Tiki Room to Space Mountain to the Tower of Terror to Soarin’ to so many more.  Through this mini-series, we get to meet many of the talented men and women who helped create these attractions, and we learn many of the secrets of the parks and their history.

Episode one detains the almost-insane, unbelievable effort and expense of building the first Disney theme park, Disneyland in California.  What an extraordinary vision Walt Disney had!  It’s really quite amazing.  We get to see incredible footage of the park’s 1955 opening, and then we see additions and enhancements to the parks made in the following years, which established the concept that the Disney parks would always be changing and updating.  We see the 1959 Tomorrowland redesign, the construction of the Matterhorn (the park’s first thrill ride), the redesign of the jungle cruise that added humor to the ride, and the addition of the monorail.  I loved getting to see insights into the building of iconic Disney rides the Carousel of Progress, It’s a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  The episode ends with Walt Disney’s death at the age of 65 in 1966.  It’s heartbreaking to see how sad so many of Walt’s co-workers are — even in the interviews done in recent years — regarding his death.

Episode two explores the making of the Haunted Mansion, giving some very cool glimpses into how the ghost illusions are made.  We get to see the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971, the first (but far from the last) expansion of the Disney theme park empire.  I loved the tour we got of the secret underground city beneath Walt Disney World, used by cast-members and employees.  I really dug the exploration of EPCOT (still my favorite of the Disney parks!), and how Walt Disney’s idea for an actual sustainable modern city morphed into an educational theme park.  I was delighted to learn that Ray Bradbury wrote the original script for Spaceship Earth.  And it was cool to see the development of the circle-rama technology used in some of the EPCOT … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Season Finale of Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard has been a very mixed bag for me.  I’ve enjoyed watching it, and I think it’s been far better executed than the two seasons of Discovery we’ve gotten so far on CBS All Access.  On the other hand, in my opinion Picard contains many of the same flaws that Discovery has had: plots that doing make sense; storytelling that moves too fast to adequately explain what is happening; thinly-developed characters, many of whom have motivations that either are kept secret from us or that don’t make sense; and a lack of continuity with previously established Star Trek.  The Picard season finale, “Et in Arcadia Ego” part 2, is very much of a piece with the first nine episodes of this season.  There are some wonderful individual moments; the cast is great; Sir Patrick Stewart in particular shines as always; and the visuals are beautiful.  I just wish it all came together in a more satisfying way.

Let’s start with what works.

The show, as always, is beautiful.  The production values on this series have been extraordinary, and it’s awesome to see television Star Trek realized with feature film caliber attention and budget.  There are lots of great locations in this episode: the crashed Borg Cube, the crashed La Sirena, the androids’ utopian complex, and the bridges of several starships.  Seeing the Orchids take on the Romulan fleet in orbit is particularly spectacular.

There are some delightful character moments: Riker’s triumphant return, back in uniform and back in the Captain’s chair on a starship.  (I wish it was the Enterprise.  The series never revealed what happened to the Enterprise...!  I’d love to see her in season two…!)  Picard bidding Riker adieu.  Rios’ and Seven’s sharing a drink, looking out at a gorgeous vista.

And, of course, the scene between Picard and Data.  I’m thrilled that Brent Spiner was back as Data in the finale, beautifully bookending his appearance in the premiere.  (Mr. Spiner also appeared in these last two episodes as Dr. Alton Soong, however that character wasn’t very successful in my opinion.  I just don’t buy that Dr. Soong had a song about the same age as Data who we never heard of before and who never had any interaction with Data while he was alive.)  The survival of Data’s consciousness doesn’t make any plot sense to me, but the scene is so emotionally moving that I can mostly forgive the show for this.  (Though, seriously, as I’d commented at the start of the season, the idea that Data’s consciousness could be reconstructed from one fragment of his positronic net is the sort of magic fake-science I hate to see on Trek.  Also, if Alton … [continued]

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Josh reviews Episodes 7-9 of Star Trek: Picard!

We’re almost at the end of the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  I enjoyed the premiere, but then I felt episodes 2 and 3 were very mediocre.  The show has been better since then (click here for my reviews of episodes 4-6), and I am enjoying watching it.  At the same time, I continue to be disappointed by some baffling story choices that just don’t sit too well with me.  Let’s dig in.  (Beware some spoilers below.)

Episode 7: “Nepenthe”

* There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode.  Seeing Riker and Troi again is an absolute delight.  Both Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis are great, so comfortably reprising their beloved characters.  There were so many wonderful moments between them in the episode.  I loved hearing Riker yell “shields up!” just like old times when he realizes Picard might be in danger.  I love how Troi immediately senses Picard isn’t OK.  I love how quickly Riker puts everything together about Soji.  (I loved that the actress who played Soji mimicked the way Brent Spiner would tilt his head as Data — I recognized that immediately, and I was pleased that Riker did as well.)  I loved hearing Riker call Troi Imzadi.  I also quite enjoyed Lulu Wilson as Riker & Troi’s daughter, Kestra.  (I love the deep cut that their daughter is named Kestra, the name of Deanna’s dead sister as revealed in the TNG episode “Dark Page”.)  This precocious kid could have easily been very annoying, but I quite liked her and I enjoyed the way she and Soji developed a quick and easy bond.  (It’s reminiscent of the way Data connected so easily to children.)  I loved hearing Kestra question Soji about whether she could play the violin, if she liked Sherlock Holmes, etc. (all things Data loved).

* On the other hand, I’m speechless at the incredibly dumb plot point that Riker and Troi’s son Thaddeus died because, after the Federation’s ban on synthetic life forms, they couldn’t get what used to be an easily-acquired cure from something cultivated in a positronic matrix.  Whaaaa…???  How/why could a medicine be cultivated in an android’s brain?  Do the writers even know what a positronic matrix is??  This is ludicrous, a dumb way of trying to connect Riker-Troi to the series’ over-arching story about synthetics.  (If they HAD to make this sort of larger thematic connection, why not say the medicine that could have cured Thaddeus was from Romulus, and so unavailable after the Federation abandoned the Romulans when their sun went super-nova?  That would have made a lot more sense, right?)  (By the way, I’ve been saying all along that Picard’s leaving Starfleet in … [continued]

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Josh Reviews For All Mankind Season One!

I signed up for Apple TV, just so I could watch this new show from Ronald D. Moore.  And I have no regrets!  Mr. Mooore was one of the best writers on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and he was the creator and show-runner of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, a show I absolutely adore.  For All Mankind, created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, tells an alternate history of what might have transpired had the Russians won the space race and beat the U.S. to landing a man on the moon in 1969.  That sounds like it could be a dark version of history, but the show is remarkably positive and aspirational, taking the approach that the continued competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. led to the U.S.’s not abandoning the Apollo program after Apollo 17 in 1972.  This was one of my very favorite TV shows of 2019!

The show depicts this alternate history in a fascinatingly considered, documentary-like approach.  The series isn’t a fake-doc, but it has the gravitas of a period piece chronicle of an important time in history; it just so happens that this history is fake!  It feels like an alt-history version of From the Earth to the Moon.  I thought it was fantastic, a wonderful piece of speculative fiction that was fascinating and thrilling.

I was delighted by the many little details and moments that show us how the show’s alternate history diverged from our reality.  It’s fascinating to hear, on the radio, that Ted Kennedy cancelled his party at Chappaquiddick in order to attend NASA hearings following the Soviet’s moon landings… and then, later in the show, we learn that, untarnished by that tragedy, he’s elected President!  (It’s also fascinating to hear reports, later in the season, that President Ted Kennedy winds up embroiled in a sex scandal involving Mary Jo Kopechne — who, in reality, died at Chappaquiddick in 1969.)

As I noted above, I was very surprised and taken by the idea that, far from this show’s being some sort of dystopia, we see that many remarkably positive events spiral out of the U.S.’s loss of the space race to the Russians.  We see that NASA succeeded in creating a lunar habitat; that public pressure led to the inclusion of female astronauts far earlier than actually happened, and how that change then led to the passage of the E.R.A. in the seventies (while the E.R.A. was never, in reality, ratified).  These are just a few of many examples!  I love how, on the show, the discovery of ice on the moon in 1971 (far earlier than happened in … [continued]

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