The saga continues in....

February 23rd, 2015
New comics posted daily, Monday through Thursday!

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Late-breaking update to my last post — take a gander at this new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!!

WOW that is a hell of a trailer.  I love hearing Mark Hamill’s voice-over, echoing his words to Leia in Return of the Jedi.  Love the shot of the crashed Star Destroyer… and I love even more seeing the Millenium Falcon fly into what looks like the guts of that ruined Star Destroyer!  And that last shot and that last line… wow.  It’s very weird seeing a very old Han Solo, but I sort of love it.  I still don’t know if this movie is going to be any good, but I have huge love for this trailer.  Pure bliss.

This is amazing.  Just trust me.

This is a great article on Dune from The New Yorker from a little while back.  It is indeed curious that Dune has not penetrated the pop culture the way The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars has.  But for those of us who know and love Dune, it is a treasure.  (And I do love all of Frank Herbert’s five sequels, even though they are imperfect.  Sadly the Dune novels written after Frank Herbert’s death by his son Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson have, for the most part, disappointed.)

Please lord let this be true.  Seventeen additional episodes of Arrested Development??  Let’s do this.

Hey, season two of True Detective is coming!  Can’t wait:

I’m also fairly eager for the third season of Orange is the New Black:

I was surprised by the glum tone of the first trailer for Marvel’s Ant Man.  This new trailer is far stronger, though I’m still a little surprised at how serious they’re making the film look.  Is that really the tone?  I do love that train gag at the end of the trailer, though.

In other Marvel news, this raised my eyebrows: Marvel can’t make a Hulk stand-alone film because Universal retains the rights to any Hulk solo film?  Wow, that is a crazy tangle of legal red-tape.  This doesn’t bug me too much because as awesome and perfect as Mark Ruffalo is as Bruce Banner, I think the Hulk functions best in a supporting role rather than carrying his own movie.  I do hope, though, to someday see a Guardians of the Galaxy/Planet Hulk crossover story-line movie.   I’ve tried to avoid too heavy spoilers for Age of Ultron and the upcoming slate of Marvel films, but various bits and pieces that I have heard and read lead me to suspect that might be coming a few years down the road, and that is awesome.

This new trailer for Terminator: Genisys[continued]

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The Great Movie Drought of 2015 & Josh’s Want-to-See List

April 13th, 2015

I watch a lot of movies.  Not an absurd amount, but certainly more than the average bear.  I usually get to a movie theatre at least twice a month, and watch lots of flicks at home on DVD, blu-ray or streaming.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy for the past few months that I haven’t gotten out to see any new movies in the theatre.  The only new movie I have seen in a theatre since mid-January is Kingsman: The Secret Service.  

I feel very weird not having been to a movie theatre lately!  But here’s what’s weirder.  Last week I went on-line to Fandango.  I knew I wasn’t going to have time to go to see a movie but I was just curious what was out there that I was missing.  (I keep a ridiculously lengthy list of all the movies I want to see, and I wanted to see what needed to be added.)  And for the first time in years, for the first time in as long as I can remember, there was not a single movie playing in any of the movie theaters around me that I had any interest in seeing.  I mean, not a single movie!  I seriously cannot remember a time when there was not a single new movie playing that I wanted to see.  Usually there are more movies that interest me than I know I will ever get to see!  (God bless DVDs, blu-rays, and streaming video!)  But, belch, there is just nothing at the multiplex now that I am interested in.  I know that February through April are usually a slow time for new movies, but this is quite a drought.

What’s particularly weird is that, as 2015 approached, everyone was writing about how crazily stuffed-to-the-gills with big, highly-anticipated movies 2015 was going to be!!  I read so many articles about that.  So where are all these good movies?  I don’t see anything interesting on the horizon until next month’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

After that, thankfully, things look like they will be turning up.  Here’s a by-no-means-complete list of movies scheduled to come out later in 2015 that I am interested in seeing:

Ant-Man – The first trailer was lame, but I have high hopes for this movie.  It’s got a great cast.  Marvel hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have made some pretty good movies together!  Their latest collaboration is a cold war spy story, and the Coen Brothers were involved in writing the script!  I have high hopes for this one.

Crimson Peak – I know almost nothing about this, but it’s a horror film directed by Guillermo del … [continued]

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Days of De Palma (Part 11): Raising Cain (1992)

Slowly but surely, my journey through the films of Brian De Palma continues!  (If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to all the other Brian De Palma films I have watched!)

Sandwiched in between two high-profile Brian De Palma films that I had never before seen, The Bonfire of the Vanities and Carlito’s Way, was this film that I had never heard of.  A horror film directed by De Palma and starring John Lithgow?  I was intrigued!

At the start of Raising Cain we meet Dr. Carter Nix (John Lithgow), who is at a playground with his daughter, Amy.  When his wife, Jenny (Lolita Davodovich) is late to pick them up, Carter and Amy accept a ride home from another mom at the playground.  On the ride home, when the mom laughs at one of Carter’s suggestions regarding child-rearing, Carter loses control and murders her!  Yikes, this film doesn’t take long before taking a sharp turn into weirdness.  Things get far nuttier from there.  Carter’s wife, Jenny, begins to suspect something is amiss with him and, meanwhile, resumes an affair with a hunky former patient, Jack (Steven Bauer).  This turns her into a target for Carter, who we (and Jenny) discover has been twisted by the psychological experiments of his father into a creature with multiple personalities, many of them violent and disturbed.

There’s a core of a good idea for a horror film at the heart of that story, but I found Raising Cain to be pretty terrible.  It’s stunning to me how Brian De Palma seems to bounce from crafting truly excellent, masterful films (Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables) to such horrendous, amateurish misfires (Wise Guys, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and now this).  It’s fascinating!  I am not sure I have an explanation for this inconsistency in Mr. De Palma’s work.  I will say that I think he is much better off directing scripts written by other, stronger writers.  Mr. De Palma wrote the script for Raising Cain himself, and I think that is part of the problem with this film.

There is not much that I found to be good in Raising Cain.  The story is mostly laughable, rather than scary.  John Lithgow is a great actor, but he is entirely stranded by the script and direction.  His portrayal of Carter’s multiple personalities didn’t work for me at all.  I found it all to be incredibly silly as Mr. Lithgow would adopt different accents and costumes to portray the different sides of Carter’s broken mind.  Again, I can see this working in theory, but the execution fails.  It’s surprising, because John Lithgow is … [continued]

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The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part V: Plague of Frogs

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  What began as a series of sporadic mini-series and short-stories featuring the big red occult investigator has deepened over the past twenty years into what is, for my money, the richest and most consistently entertaining comic book universe of stories out there.  Click here for part one, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction.  Click here for part two, in which I discussed The Wolves of Saint August, The Corpse and the Iron Shoes, and Wake the Devil.  Click here for part three, in which I discussed a variety of Hellboy short stories including The Right Hand of Doom and Box Full of Evil.  Click here for part four, in which I discussed Hellboy’s last mission for the B.P.R.D.: Conquerer Worm.

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At the end of Conquerer Worm, Hellboy left the B.P.R.D. and then, in the two-issue The Third Wish, H.B. got himself into a lot of trouble at the bottom of the ocean.  We left him floating, alone in the dark waters; a heck of a cliffhanger.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it’d wind up being a while before we returned to Hellboy’s story.

Meanwhile, with Hellboy departed from the B.P.R.D., it became clear that Mike Mignola was interested in expanding the scope of his stories to move beyond focusing only on the big red guy.  Following up on B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth, 2003 saw the release of four B.P.R.D. one-shots, written and illustrated by a variety of individuals.   These were: The Soul of Venice, Dark Waters, Night Train, and There’s Something Under My Bed.  Mike Mignola wasn’t credited as the writer of any of them, and (as a result) none of them are all that interesting.

This was not a good start to the idea of an expanded Hellboy universe.  It just felt like a lame dilution of the series, with lesser artists and lesser writers.  Re-reading it now, Night Train doesn’t even feel like it should be considered in continuity.  Shouldn’t Lobster Johnson be abroad, getting himself killed, in 1939?  Dark Waters is notable because it’s the first Hellboy-universe work of artist Guy Davis, who will soon become the main B.P.R.D. artist.  But other than that, these one-shots are forgettable (and the last one, There’s Something Under My Bed, is almost unreadable).  I was extremely unenthused by these early attempts to expand the Hellboy universe, and I was disappointed by the increasingly slow pace of new Mignola written-and-drawn Hellboy stories.  This was a low point for me as a Hellboy fan.  Which brings us up to … [continued]

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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Fargo (The Series)

April 6th, 2015
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When I first read that Fargo, the wonderful Coen Brothers movie, was being adapted into a TV series, I was not remotely interested.  Can you blame me?  When is the last time a good movie was successfully turned into a TV show that was remotely worth one’s time?  But then a funny thing happened.  This show I had completely dismissed started getting positive review.  Very positive reviews.  As 2014 drew to a close, I started seeing FX’s Fargo TV show listed on Best TV of the Year lists.  Again and again.  Had I made a mistake in writing off this show?  And so, at the very end of 2014, right before putting together my own Best TV of 2014 list, I watched the whole first season of Fargo.

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I was not at first bowled over by the pilot episode.It was extremely well-made, gorgeously shot, and certainly filled with a wonderful ensemble of actors.  But I was surprised that this was the same show about which I had read such effusive praise.  I had two main problems with the pilot.

Number one, I wasn’t pleased by the way they seemed to take some of the iconic Fargo moments and characters and remove much of what, to me, had made them special.  A famous shot in Fargo is when a sleeping Marge (Frances McDormand) is awoken early in the morning.  We see Marge’s husband’s arm draped over her.  One of my favorite aspects of the film Fargo is the beautiful relationship between Marge and her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch), which is a reverse of the standard movie-cop archetypes.  It’s the woman who is the tough, smart cop, and the man who is in the stay-at-home, supportive role.  But in the show, when we see that shot, it seems that we’re back to the usual archetype with it being the woman’s arm draped over a man: the police chief Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle).  How boring to take that great Fargo flip and to flip in back to the original cliche!  Things got worse for me when we actually got to the Marge (Frances McDormand) character — in the TV show, the character is called Molly (and is played by Allison Tolman).  In the film, we first meet Marge when she is investigating an abandoned car and a dead body that have been found by the side of the road.  Marge is sharp and gets right to the important details.  She is way ahead of all the other cops.  In the show, we meet Molly in a similar way, but here, she makes some mistakes in her deductions and has to be corrected by the man, chief Thurman.  I was surprised and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Jinx

March 30th, 2015
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HBO’s riveting six-episode true-crime documentary series, The Jinx, is one of the most compelling pieces of television I have seen in a long time.  This is edge-of-your-seat television, and the twists and turns of the story are so staggeringly jaw-dropping because these things really happened.  The events you see unfold in The Jinx are so extraordinary, so unbelievable, that they feel like this must be fiction.  But all of these events actually happened!!

The Jinx has been in the new quite a lot recently, as it’s main subject was arrested on the eve of the airing of the finale.  But somehow, luckily, though I had seen the headlines, I had avoided reading too much about the show.  When I started watching the first episode, I went in pretty cold.  I didn’t really have any idea what The Jinx was going to be about, or what sort of story it was going to tell over the course of its six episodes.  The show immediately sunk its hooks into me, and I could not stop watching.  I marathoned all six episodes in one afternoon.  I was home sick for the day, and though it wasn’t my intention to spend the entire afternoon on the couch watching TV, once I started watching The Jinx I could not turn it off.

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The Jinx focuses on Robert Durst, now 71 years old.  Mr. Durst is a member of an extremely wealthy family of real estate developers in New York City.  Unbelievably, Mr. Durst has been suspected of involvement in the deaths of three separate people over a span of 33 years.  In 1982, his first wife, Kathleen Durst disappeared.  In 2000, Mr. Durst’s close friend Susan Berman was murdered in her home.  And in 2001, Mr. Durst dismembered his neighbor in Galveston, Texas, and threw the dead man’s body parts into Galveston Bay.  Mr. Durst was tried for that third death, and even though he admitted to killing the man and to cutting up his body and throwing the pieces, wrapped in garbage bags, into the bay, Mr. Durst was acquitted.  (His lawyers argued that the man’s death was self-defense, not murder.)

The story of how The Jinx came to be is almost as fascinating as that of Mr. Durst (though less violent!).  In 2010, Andrew Jarecki directed a feature film called All Good Things that told the story of Robert Durst and the disappearance (and presumed murder) of his first wife Kathleen.  The film starred Ryan Gosling & Kirsten Dunst.  Following the release of that film, Mr. Jarecki got a phone call from his film’s subject: Robert Durst himself.  Surprisingly, it was not an antagonistic conversation.  In fact, Mr. Durst expressed an interest in … [continued]

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Don’t tease me, universe!  I desperately want this news of a possible resurrection of The X-Files to be true!!

The X-Files

I am thrilled to have three cartoons from Motion Pictures included in JOMIX — Jewish Comics; Art & Derivation, an exhibition currently open in New York City.  Click here for more details!  I was also delighted to get such a nice mention in this review of The Jewish Comix Anthology The Anthology is still available for purchase at amazon!

This is an older article, but Rolling Stone’s The Last Days of 30 Rock is a magnificently in-depth look at the life and end of Tina Fey’s wonderful sitcom.

Keeping us on a similar topic, I loved this A.V. Club look back at Newsradio, listing their ten favorite episodes of that late great series.

I love listening to comic book author Brian Michael Bendis talk, usually on the wonderful wordballoon podcast.  His recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast is hugely entertaining.

After losing Leonard Nimoy last month, we also lost the great, woefully under-appreciated Harve Bennett.  Mr. Bennett was critically involved in the “trilogy” of Trek films: Star Trek II, III, and IV.  Most importantly, without Mr. Bennett’s involvement, Star Trek II might never have happened after Star Trek: The Motion Picture underwhelmed.  Mr. Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer are the men who saved Star Trek.  Harve Bennett is responsible for what, to me, is the greatest iteration of Trek, those three films.  Star Trek would not be the franchise that it is today without Harve Bennett.  Rest in peace.  (You can learn a lot more about Harve Bennett by reading this wonderful eulogy on badassdigest.com.)

We also recently lost Sam Simon, who was one of the key creative voices in the early (and best) seasons of The Simpsons.

On a more upbeat note, watch this:

I am super-duper excited for Captain America: Civil War.  The idea of adapting that great comic book story-line for the Marvel cinematic universe is genius.  They should probably be calling it The Avengers 3 rather than Cap 3, but whatever.  Looking further down the road, I am thrilled that it looks like The Russo Brothers, after directing The Winter Soldier and then Civil War, will be directing the two-part Avengers: Infinity War films.  It’s been clear for a long while that Joss Whedon would be stepping aside after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if it wasn’t going to be Mr. Whedon, I am delighted that the Russo Brothers are taking the lead in guiding Marvel’s Avengers franchise.  These next few years of Marvel movies are going to be amazing.

Kevin Smith is making Mallrats 2…?  Okay…  … [continued]

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Powers is a TV Show At Last! So is it Any Good…?

I’m a huge, huge fan of Powers, the self-published comic book series written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming.  I bought the very first issue back in 2000, and I have been following it monthly (or as near-to-monthly as the series gets) ever since.  (I wrote about Powers here and here!)  While I think the series has dipped in quality a little bit in recent years, it’s still a terrific book and one of the more brilliant premises for a series that I have ever come across.  Detective Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are homicide detectives.  But they live in a world of super-heroes and super-villains, and they investigate Powers-related homicides.  That is a genius-level idea (one that has been imitated in the years since).  Combine that great hook with Bendis’ incredible gift for dialogue and Oeming’s wonderful stylized artwork and you have the recipe for a classic comic book series.

Hollywood clearly thought so too, because Powers has famously been in development ever since the second issue was published.  For years and years it was being developed as a new TV series by FX, and in 2011 they actually filmed a pilot episode.  But I guess it wasn’t that successful, because FX declined to continue on to make a series.  At first they announced that they’d be re-working that pilot, but then the project was dropped.  (I would LOVE to see that original Powers pilot someday!!)  But in a crazy twist, Powers wasn’t dead.  Instead, it was picked up to become the first show for the newly developed Playstation Network.  A new cast was brought in and new writers were hired, and, after 15 years of “development hell,” Powers actually existed as a 10-episode TV series.  The first three episodes were released last week, and a new one will be released every Tuesday (starting tonight!) for the next seven weeks.

So, after this crazy fifteen years of development (and boy, I really hope this means Bendis will get around to writing a sequel to Fortune and Glory some-time soon!!), is Powers the Playstation Network TV show any good?

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Well, the jury is still out.  It is hood, but it is not the home-run I had been hoping for.  There are a lot of aspects of these first three episodes that are a lot weaker than I’d expected.  However, by the end of the third episode, I could see the potential in this series, and I can envision a scenario in which I will be very, very satisfied by the end of the ten episode first season.  I can also see a scenario in which I will be very, very let down!  We’ll see … [continued]