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Catching up with Legion Season Two

September 19th, 2019
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I was blown away by the first season of Legion back in 2017.  I thought it was magnificent; hugely creative and weird and unique.  It was a gloriously mindbending experience that pushed the boundaries of what a television show could be.  I loved it.

But by the time season two came out, I felt that I needed to rewatch the first season to refresh my memory of everything happening on this twisty, complicated show.  And so I held off on watching season two until I had a chance to rewatch season one.  Although that first season was only eight episodes, in this age of “peak TV” I found it hard to find the time!  I kept deciding to watch something NEW as opposed to going back to rewatch something I’d already seen.  But I finally made the time, and I’m so glad I did, because it was a delight to rewatch season one — there were so many nuances I caught, knowing where that season would wind up.  And I am certain I got a lot more out of season two having season one fresh in my mind.

So what did I think of season two?  I loved it!

This second season was a wonderful expansion of everything we saw in season one.  I was intrigued to see the way the show took our main characters from season one and pushed them all in unexpected directions.  (This is NOT a show that returns go the status quo at the end of every episode, and I love it for that!)  I enjoyed meeting tons of fascinating new characters.  Most of all, I was delighted that the show continued to be every inch as wonderfully bizarre and unexpected as season one!  Season two was packed full of strange imagery and moments, and the show continued to be playful with its very structure as a TV show, throwing in narration and asides and digressions so that I as a viewer was constantly surprised by the directions in which the show was taking me.

That is what is most memorable and praiseworthy, in my opinion, about Legion.  Creator Noah Hawley and his team are constantly pushing against the limits of what a TV show can be, and the conventions of “normal” TV narrative.  Legion is constantly surprising in terms of what we’re seeing on screen.  Suddenly we’re watching a dance sequence!  (David’s dance-off showdown with Farouk!)  Suddenly we’re listening to narration (by Jon Hamm!!) of how a delusion develops, an idea memorably depicted by showing chicks hatching from eggs (ideas) and a horrifying black goo monster (a delusion).

Visually this show is extraordinary!!  It’s jam-packed with strikingly original, memorable images.  I am haunted … [continued]

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Josh Reviews IT: Chapter Two

September 16th, 2019
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Stephen King’s It is a magnificent novel, complex and horrifying and wonderfully memorable.  The novel tells two interwoven stories: of how the Loser’s Club discovered and fought a horrifyingly evil entity in the small town of Derry in 1957-58, and how they returned to the town 27 years later as adults to once again confront that evil in 1984.  In adapting the novel for film, the filmmakers made the fascinating choice to have the first film tell the kids’ half of the story, with the sequel devoted to the adults’ half of the tale.  (They also cleverly updated the time-frame of the first film, It: Chapter One, to 1989, so that the sequel film could tell the second half of the story in the present day.)  I loved the first It film from 2017.  (Shockingly, I liked it a LOT more than the disappointing adaptation of The Dark Tower, which had been the film I was anticipating far more.)  And so I have been very eager to see how the sequel film, focusing on the adult versions of the characters, would come off!

For the most part, I quite enjoyed It: Chapter Two!  I think it’s a worthy sequel to the first film.  The first film was stronger, mostly because I think the kids’ half of the story is the more interesting half.  The “coming of age” aspect of the kids’ story lends that part of the tale a little more emotional resonance.  I also think this sequel, at two hours and 45 minutes in length, was too long.  It sagged in the middle somewhat.  But that being said, this is a skillfully-made film.  The cast is fantastic, and the film manages to be a lot of fun and also very scary and also quite moving.  It’s tough for a film to accomplish all of that!

The best aspect of It: Chapter Two is the cast.  They have assembled a perfect, and I mean PERFECT, cast to play the adult versions of the kids we met in Chapter One.  James McAvoy plays Bill.  Mr. McAvoy is an amazing actor and a big-time movie star (I’ve been a fan ever since the Sci-Fi Channel’s mini-series adaptation of Dune Messiah) and he’s fantastic as the leader of the “Loser’s Club.”  Jessica Chastain plays Beverly, and she brings such depth and strength to the role of Bev.  Bill Hader plays the funny, fast-talking Richie, and I can’t think of a better actor to play this role.  James Ransone (Ziggy Sobotka from The Wire!) plays Eddie, and while Mr. Ransone isn’t the movie-star that the first three actors I’ve listed are, he is absolute perfection as the adult Richie.  Not only does … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Animated Adaptation of Batman: Hush

September 11th, 2019
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Back in 2003, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee produced a twelve episode story in DC’s Batman comic book called “Hush” that was a year-long mystery, introducing a new villain to the Batman pantheon.  The story was a big hit with fans and has remained one of the memorable Batman tales from the last few decades.  The latest DC Animated film, Batman: Hush, is an adaptation of that story.

It’s rather good!  This is one of the stronger DC animated films from the past few years.  I’m particularly pleased because I’m not a huge fan of the source material.  I think the original twelve-issue story was a fun tour through Batman’s rogues gallery; I like the idea of introducing new characters into the Batman rogues gallery; and Jim Lee’s art is amazing.  But I don’t think the mystery was that effective, and I thought the story was way too drawn out at twelve issues in length.

This animated adaptation has nicely condensed things, creating a story that zips along at a nice pace.  They’ve done a solid job of adapting most of the most memorable beats from the original story, while making changes to make the tale work in the continuity of these DC animated films.  (I enjoyed seeing the references they slipped in to other recent films in this continuity, from Lex Luthor mentioning the attack of Cyborg Superman to seeing Bruce talking to Damian on the car phone.)

It’s fun how many characters they have squeezed into the film.  We get to see many of Batman’s famous villains, just like in the original story.  We also get some brief but nice scenes with other characters from across the DC universe, such as Nightwing, Lady Shiva, and Lois Lane.

As I have commented before, I don’t like the character designs they’re using in these recent DC animated films; I think they’re bulky and awkward looking (the faces especially).  That being said, the animation in this film is very solid.  The fights in particular are very strong.  There are some great moments in the fight with Bane, and the Batman versus Superman fight is terrific.  Jim Lee’s artwork from the original comic book issues is so iconic; I was hoping they’d have adapted the style of animation to reflect a little more of Jim Lee’s original art.  That didn’t happen, but they did work in a few of the most famous images from the original series, such as the iconic image of Batman and Catwoman kissing under the full moon.

The voice cast is a mixed bag.  I’m still not sold on the voice they’ve been using for Commissioner Gordon, and I continue to think that Rainn Wilson is very miscast … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season Six

September 10th, 2019
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A little over a year ago, at the end of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fifth season, the show was cancelled by FOX.  I was so sad to read that news!  For me, it was a wake-up call as to how much I’d grown to love this show.  I didn’t realize how much I loved Brooklyn Nine-Nine until, suddenly, it was gone.  But then, miraculously, it wasn’t!  NBC rescued the show, picking it up for an eighteen-episode sixth season.  These things don’t usually happen!  Despite fan outcries when their shows are cancelled, it’s very rare for a show to actually find another home after a cancellation.  So the simple fact of the existence of a sixth season of the show was quite a gift.  I’d have been happy with almost anything.  What we got, stunningly, was by far the best season of the show so far!

The season began by quickly resolving the season five cliffhanger over whether or not Captain Holt was promoted to commissioner.  The season-opener was good, but it was the second episode that really caught my attention.  “Hitchcock & Scully” gave the focus to the two oafish supporting characters, showing us a flashback to when they were young and effective detectives.  It was a genius concept — showing us that the dumb and lazy dup were once muscled eighties action-star officers — and executed marvelously.  From that point on, I thought this season was on fire.

We got fantastic continuations of many of the series’ annual traditions.  Craig Robinson returned as Doug Judy, the “Pontiac Bandit,” in “A Tale of Two Bandits,” in which Nicole Byer also appeared as Doug Judy’s sister, Trudy Judy.  Mrs. Beyer was so funny!  (She also killed on her one-off appearance on The Good Place last season, in an episode that aired only a few weeks before this one, as a very jovial lady in the Good Place.)  I hope she appears again in the future!  In “Cinco de Mayo,” the gang’s Halloween Heist competition was moved to Cinco de Mayo in order to take the stress off of Terry, who was preparing for his Lieutenant’s exam.  (Because this new season didn’t begin airing on NBC until well after Halloween, this was a clever way to continue this annual tradition!). In the season finale, “Suicide Squad,” we get to see an alliance of many of the show’s (villainous) guest stars, including the Vulture (Dean Winters), Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick), and C.J. Stentley (Ken Marino).

In recent years, the show has occasionally dipped its toes into more dramatic territory.  This season saw a few examples of that.  In “He Said She Said,” Amy reveals the harassment that she suffered coming up as a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Better Things Season Three

Pamela Adlon’s show Better Things continues to be one of my very favorite TV shows currently being made.  I recently caught up with season three, and it’s every bit as magnificent as I had hoped.  (Click here for my review of Better Things season one, and here for my review of season two.)

Better Things was co-created by Pamela Adlon, who also plays the lead role, writes most of the episodes (she wrote or co-wrote eight of the twelve season three episodes), and directed ALL of them in season three.  This is a magnificent showcase for Ms. Adlon’s talents, and I love that she has created a show that is idiosyncratic and unique.  Better Things is unlike most other television.  The show zooms from comedy to heartbreaking drama and back again at a moment’s notice.  It has a loose approach to narrative structure, with some episodes containing several vignettes that have little to nothing to do with one another, and some story-lines carrying through multiple episodes while other single episodes represent completely stand-along mini-movies or tone poems all their own.  There are many reasons why I love this show; one of the best is that, from episode to episode and moment to moment, I never know what I’m going to get.

I love that the show’s focus is firmly on Sam (Ms. Adlon’s character), her three kids Max, Frankie, and Duke, and the other women in their lives.  There are male characters on the show and many of them are great and interesting.  But this is a show that is about these women and their experiences.

Ms. Adlon seems focused on honesty, on depicting the real-life joys and struggles and sorrows of life as a working single parent of kids.  She seems to revel in showing the audience real-life moments we’ve never seen on TV before.  (As a prime example: episode seven, “Toilet,” chronicles Sam’s preparations for her colonoscopy.)

There are times when the show seems to idolize Sam a bit too much.  (“Your mother may be the greatest mother in the world,” Sam’s brother Marion (Kevin Pollak) tells her young daughter Duke at one point.)  But on the other hand, the show again and again shows Sam’s flaws and bad behavior.  So it works that the show is structured so as to put Sam’s hard work as a parent up on a bit of a pedestal.  Sam is a great mother not because she is perfect.  Far from it, she screws up and makes questionable decisions in nearly every episode.  But her effort day in and day out, and her unconditional love for her kids, and her stubborn refusal to stick to the path that most … [continued]

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News Around the Net — UPDATED with Bond 25 Title

UPDATE: The Title of Bond 25 has been revealed:

It’s an OK title.  A bit generic, but also sort of classic Bond sounding.  I just hope this movie is better than SPECTRE, which I found to be heartbreakingly disappointing.

Recently I shared the exciting news that Brandon Routh would be reprising his role as Superman from the underrated Superman Returns in the upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover that will be running through the DC “Arrowverse” TV shows in the fall.  Now there’s even more exciting news: Kevin Conway, who voiced Bruce Wayne/Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and who is, for me, the definitive actor to play Batman, will finally be playing the character in live action!  Mr. Conway will ALSO be appearing in this “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, apparently playing the elderly Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond!  I am so excited for this!!  I have never before watched any of these “Arrowverse” shows, but it sure looks like I’ll be needing to tune in for this one…

The Matrix is heading back to theaters 8/30-9/5 in celebration of its 20th anniversary!  Cool!  Speaking of The Matrix: Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are all apparently involved in making a new fourth Matrix film??  Wow, I did not expect that!!

This is interesting: apparently Stephen King himself has written a new “coda” for the ending of The Stand miniseries adaptation!  I am very curious to see what Mr. King has added to the end of his famous story.  (I’m actually in the middle of reading the novel for the first time, right now!)

Speaking of Stephen King, this is a great look back at The Green Mile, Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s serialized novel.  I love The Green Mile and think it’s a hugely underrated film.

This trailer for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix film The Irishman looks spectacular:

Oh, man, that looks like classic Scorsese.  Great cast.  Intriguing story.  I’m excited.

I didn’t know anything about Eddie Murphy’s new film Dolemite is My Name before watching this trailer, but now I can’t wait to see this:

That looks great!  It’s fantastic to see Eddie Murphy back on the big screen in an interesting-looking movie, and the ensemble cast of the film looks amazing.  (By the way, I highly recommend Eddie Murphy’s appearance on the newest batch of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Netflix show!)

This is great news: Atlanta has already been renewed for a fourth season, even though season three is still months away from release!  I loved season one and season two, and I can’t wait for more.

CBS and Paramount are merging, which … [continued]

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Josh Reviews True Detective Season Three

Like many, I loved the first season of True Detective.  The ending was a little disappointing (in that the many plot threads weren’t wrapped up as neatly as I’d hoped), but I thought it was a riveting, smart, adult drama.  The writing was sharp, the directing was memorable, and the acting was magnificent.  Season two was a bit of a letdown, but while most of the world seemed to hate that season, I enjoyed it a lot.  After that second season was so poorly received, it seemed that True Detective was dead.  And so I was delighted when, a few years later, word came that a third season was happening.  Lo and behold, I think season three might be the best season of the show!

Mahershala Ali stars in season three as Detective Wayne Hays.  As was the case in season one, the season-long investigation unfolds over three timelines, which we follow simultaneously throughout the season.  In 1980, Detective Hays and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) investigate the disappearance of two children, Will and Julie Purcell.  In 1990, the unsolved case is reopened when video footage seems to show that Julie Purcell is still alive.  In 2015, an elderly Hays is interviewed about the case for a True Crime TV show.  (I love that the show found a way to incorporate the True Crime trend that has bloomed in popularity over the past several years.)

Whereas season one had two leads and season two had four, season three focuses on one single main character: Mahershala Ali’s Detective Hays.  This is a terrific choice.  I have enjoyed Mr. Ali’s work for years, ever since he was the best thing about the sci-fi show The 4400.  He’s become a successful movie star now, but I’m thrilled he continues to work in TV as well.  (He was one of the best aspects of Luke Cage season one.)  True Detective creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has crafted a showcase role for Mr. Ali, who proceeded to knock it right out of the park.  Mr. Ali is absolutely riveting from start to finish.  I love how he is able to successfully craft different versions of Hays at these three different points in his life.  Mr. Ali’s magnetic intensity is perfect for bringing the audience along through this complicated story taking place across decades.

One of the best things about True Detective season three is that the central mystery wraps up in a more satisfying, comprehensible way than it did in either season one or two.  The show is still fiendishly difficulty to follow — which I believe is by design.  It’s unlikely a viewer will be able to get ahead of … [continued]

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Star Trek: Foul Deeds Will Rise

For a while now I have been catching up with a bunch of Star Trek novels that I had skipped reading when they were originally published.  With more books on my “to-read” shelf than I had time to read, I often found myself choosing to read the Star Trek novels that were set in the novel series’ wonderful interconnected continuity that moved the Star Trek story and characters beyond the series finales of the 24th century-set Trek shows (TNG, DS9, and Voyager).  This meant that often I wound up skipping the stand-along stories set in Captain Kirk’s era.  Over the past several months I have been finally catching up with those books, the first batch of which were all written by Greg Cox.  Mr. Cox is a terrific writer (his two Eugenics War novels are among my very favorite Trek novels!) and it has been a pleasure catching up with these great books that I had missed reading!

While the past several novels (including Assignment: Eternity, The Rings of Time, The Weight of Worlds, and No Time Like the Past) were all set during the Original Series era of Kirk’s first five-year mission on board the Enterprise, this latest novel, Foul Deeds Will Rise, is set during the movie era, between Star Trek V and Star Trek VI.  It’s an interesting change of pace, and Mr. Cox shows just as much skill at depicting the movie-era of Kirk and the Enterprise as he was at writing stories set during the five-year mission.

Foul Deeds Will Rise is a sequel to the Original Series episode, “The Conscience of the King.”  That episode ends with young Lenore Karidian exposed as a murderer and driven mad by the accidental death of her father at her own hands.  As she is taken away, McCoy assures Kirk that Lenore would get the best psychological care that the Federation could provide.  But what would become of Lenore?  Foul Deeds Will Rise picks up that fascinating question.

Twenty years after those events, the Enterprise-A is called in to help mediate a fierce dispute between planetary neighbors Oyolo and Pavak.  Kevin Reilly, now a Federation Ambassador, is back on board the Enterprise to help broker the peace talks.  While visiting Oyolo, Captain Kirk is shocked to encounter Lenore Karidian, now going under the name Lyla Kassidy.  After many years in a rehabilitation institute, Lenore/Lyla has been declared sane and released; she is now a part of a relief mission to Oyolo, where she attempts to give back to the Federation as a way of atoning for her crimes.  She agrees to join Captain Kirk on board the Enterprise for a reception, but … [continued]

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