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February 23rd, 2015
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News Around the Net: Comic-Con Edition!

July 29th, 2016

There has been a TON of cool stuff hitting the web this past week during Comic-Con!  Here’s some of what has caught my eye:

OK, I strongly disliked Batman v Superman, but that doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for DC to release some strong films.  I have always been a Marvel Guy, but I’d still love to see some awesome DC movies in the future.  Giving me hope is this terrific trailer for Wonder Woman:

I love the look of that footage, love Wonder Woman’s costume, love the golden lasso, love the trench warfare stuff, and love “what I do is not up to you.”

I’m also feeling very positive about this very solid-looking trailer for Justice League:

Bruce Timm’s spectacular animated Justice League show was very clever in their use of Batman, and the ways they were able to use him as a source of humor without mocking the character.  The tone of this trailer reminds me of that very much, and I like that.  I also quite liked the looks of all the other Justice League characters so far, especially The Flash and Aquaman.  I am intrigued.

I have had pretty much zero interest in the new King Kong movie Skull Island for the past year that I’ve been reading about its development, but all that has changed after seeing this terrific trailer:

I don’t know if the movie will be any good, but that is one spectacular trailer.  I’m intrigued at how humongous they have made Kong here.  This is a very different approach than that seen in Peter Jackson’s version (which I feel is very underrated).

Marvel, meanwhile, released this new trailer for Dr. Strange, which I am very excited for:

And Marvel’s Netflix TV universe unleashed all sorts of exciting goodness, from this great sizzle reel:

To this great teaser for Luke Cage, a show I am super-pumped for:

And this teaser for Iron Fist:

That’s a very short tease but I like what I see so far, particularly that very faithful logo.

Now here is an also-brief but also-tantalizing tease for their team-up show, The Defenders:

That logo is clever, and I love that, judging from the voice-over, Stick will be in this!!  I hope Marvel’s Netflix group can pull off this super-hero crossover as well as the film division did.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we also got the great news that there will be a season three of Daredevil.  Cant wait for all of his.  So far, Marvel plus Netflix has been batting 1,000.

Now, I don’t have too much faith in Marvel TV outside of Netflix, and the idea of an X-Men spin-off show featuring a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek Beyond!

July 25th, 2016

For the 25th anniversary of Star Trek back in 1991, we were blessed with the minor miracle that was Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  That film remains one of my very favorite Trek anythings, from all the many TV shows and movies.  It’s a gorgeous film, surprising dark yet rich with character, and one that does what Star Trek does so well: telling an exciting sci-fi story that has profound relevance to the modern day.  As befits a film released during the franchise’s 25th anniversary year, the film pays homage to the entire history of Star Trek to that point, deftly connecting the dots between the classic Trek crew and that of The Next Generation, set more than seventy years later.  Most impressively of all, as I have written about before, Star Trek VI is that rarest of things in pop culture: a satisfying, definitive conclusion to a long-running, popular series.

STAR TREK BEYOND

Star Trek Beyond, released twenty-five years later during the franchise’s (hard-to-be-believed) fiftieth anniversary, is not Star Trek VI.  It lacks that film’s sophistication and intelligence, nor does it feel like any sort of encompassing statement about the franchise as a whole.

But that being said, Star Trek Beyond is a heck of a lot of fun, and a worthy sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot.  Thankfully, Beyond allows one to entirely forget about the horrendous, indefensible Star Trek Into Darkness.  Just imagine that the Enterprise started its 5 year mission at the end of 2009′s Star Trek, and you can skip Into Darkness and cut right to Beyond’s opening, set more than two years into the deep-space mission.

As the film begins, we see that Captain Kirk is beset by ennui as the monotony of the ship’s years-long mission into unexplored space has begun to set in.  Just as Kirk is beginning to doubt himself and his chosen path of captaining a starship, the Enterprise runs afoul of a vicious swarm of alien ships that decimates the ship and leaves her crew scattered on a hostile alien planet.  The separated Enterprise crewmembers must find a way to survive and reunite, while attempting to stop the devious plans of the alien leader, Krall (Idris Elba).

There is a lot to like about Star Trek Beyond.  The film looks absolutely gorgeous, and as I have written in my reviews of both of the two previous nuTrek films, it is an absolute joy to see a Star Trek adventure realized on such a big, blockbuster-sized budget.  This film is filled with one incredible sequence after another.  The enormous starbase Yorktown is extraordinary.  The extended sequence in which the Enterprise is taken out by Krall’s bee-like ships … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Paul Feig’s Rebooted Ghostbusters!

Let’s cut right to the chase: the original Ghostbusters is one of the all time great movies, definitely in my top ten.  Paul Feig’s rebooted Ghostbusters can’t hold a candle to the original.  But this new film is still a ton of fun, very funny and very enjoyable from start to finish.  Mr. Feig is one of the great comedy directors working today, and mixed with this tremendous cast he ‘s created a great movie that is funny and exciting.  Ignore the haters who were all bent out of shape at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters: this is a solid movie that is definitely worth seeing.

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The idea of rebooting/remaking one of the all-time great movies is a foolhardy one.  I have been saying that for years, ever since rumors of a new Ghostbusters began floating around.  Remake BAD movies that you can improve upon!  Why hobble yourself by forcing audiences to compare your new movie, at every turn, to one of the greatest movies of all time?  It just seems insane to me.

Equally insane?  The crazy, misogynistic anger that has been out there, across the internet, at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters.  What year is this??  Who cares whether the new Ghostbusters are male or female or whatever??  The questions should be: are they funny?  Does this new cast have a great dynamic together?  Do they create interesting new characters who you care about and root for?  Those are the questions that you should be asking.  And by the way, the answer to all three of those questions is YES, which is why this new Ghostbusters works as well as it does.

But getting back to my original point, I have been saying all along, and I still feel this way now after having seen the new Ghostbusters, that rather than remaking one of the all-time-great films, I’d have preferred had Paul Feig and this cast come together to make an original film.  That would have been more interesting to me, and in my opinion it would have given this project a better chance for greatness (rather than my constantly thinking about, while watching it, the ways in which it falls short of the original Ghostbusters).

However, that being said, this is probably as good a version of a rebooted Ghostbusters as I can imagine seeing.  I have a few quibbles, of course, but overall the movie works very, very well.  The cast is great.  The jokes work.  The visual effects are terrific.  The film successfully walks a fine line between telling the familiar type of story we expect from a rebooted Ghostbusters film while also finding some new twists and new spins to put on … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Independence Day: Resurgence

July 14th, 2016

I distinctly remember the experience of seeing Independence Day in a movie theatre, twenty years ago.  That film was a triumph of marketing, and I was super-pumped to see what had been hyped as a big-budget sci-fi epic.  I was somewhat disappointed by the finished product, particularly the egregiously stupid “let’s just plug our laptop into alien technology to defeat them all” ending, but I also really enjoyed the experience of seeing that film in a packed theatre.  I had a heck of a fun time watching the movie, laughing and cheering along with the crowd, even as I was very well aware that the actual film wasn’t living up to my expectations.

A sequel seemed like a foregone conclusion, but to my surprise one never arrived.  As the years passed, I assumed one never would.  But since 2016 seems to be the year of sequels to movies made more than a decade ago (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Finding Dory), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this was the year than a second Independence Day film finally arrived.

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I didnt have high hopes for Independence Day: Resurgence (and by the way, what a bland, almost meaningless title that is), and the film met those expectations.  The film is very, very flat.  There are almost no surprises in the story, and not a lot of humor or excitement.  Quite a lot of stuff happens in the film, but none of it really engaged me in any way as a viewer.  This is somewhat surprising, because while the first film had a pretty stupid story and rather one-dimensional characters, what it succeeded at tremendously was in grabbing the audience and being a fun, popcorn-eating rollercoaster ride.  This sequel lacks any of that energy.

The film has a strong cast, but no one is given anything approaching a character to play.  While I can easily list the film’s many characters, I would be hard pressed to describe to you any sort of drama or arc or development that any character goes through.  Jeff Goldblum’s David and his father, Judd Hirsch’s Julius, have sort of drifted apart and sort of make up by the end?  Liam Hemsworth’s Jake and Jessie Usher’s Dylan had a fight years ago because Jake was reckless in training, but make up by the end?  Is there anything else?  I wasn’t walking into an Independence Day movie expecting serious adult drama or any sort of realistically interesting sci-fi story.  But it’s as if director Roland Emmerich (who was also one of a host of credited writers on the film) totally forgot how to create characters that would be in any way interesting and so … [continued]

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Josh Suffers Through Netflix’s Love

July 11th, 2016
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Love is a ten-episode Netflix show created by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust & Lesley Arfin.  The show chronicles the slow steps along the way of two single people, Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), as the find their way into a relationship with one another.

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I was interested in watching Love because of the involvement of Judd Apatow.  I started watching Freaks and Geeks back when the pilot originally aired, and I was immediately hooked on Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s gloriously unique, funny and heartbreaking creation.  I have been a huge fan ever since of pretty much every person who was in front of and behind the camera on Freaks and Geeks.  I eagerly followed Judd Apatow to his next TV show, the equally great (and, sadly, equally unsuccessful) show Undeclared.  When Mr. Apatow found big-screen success, I was thrilled, and I have enjoyed all of his films.  I adore The 40 Year Old Virgin, and even Mr. Apatow’s lesser big-screen works such as Funny People and This is Forty have given me a lot of enjoyment.  When I read that Mr. Apatow would be returning to TV a few years ago, producing HBO’s Girls, I was excited, though I quickly discovered that I did not really enjoy that particular show.  I stuck with Girls through its first three seasons before giving up.  I respect it as a well-made and unique piece of work, but I ultimately found all the characters to be so unlikable that I found watching the show to be a chore.

When I read that Mr. Apatow would also be producing a new Netflix show, Love, I was again excited.  Unfortunately, I feel about Love very similarly to the way I felt about Girls.  I hugely respect it as a well-made show, and it’s great to see such a specific, idiosyncratic voice brought to life on TV.  It’s clear that with both Girls and Love, Mr. Apatow is allowing his co-creators’ unique voices to shine through.  (With Girls, that would be Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner, while here in Love it’s the married pair of Paul Rust — who also stars as Gus — and Lesley Arfin.)  It’s great to see these new, unique voices.  Sadly, it’s just that I don’t find myself enjoying either of these shows.

Freaks and Geeks was painful and awkward, but I adored each and every one of the characters, and so I could go along for the ride even when it was painful.  And the show was often able to be hugely, fall on the floor funny.  I can’t say that either of those things are true of Love.  There were a few big laughs, for sure, but … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The BFG

I adored the work of Roald Dahl as a kid, and The BFG was in heavy rotation for me for many years.  The idea of a movie adaptation of that terrific book was exciting, and that it would be helmed by Steven Spielberg — probably the greatest director working today — was even more tantalizing.

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And so I was somewhat surprised that this big-screen version of The BFG left me rather underwhelmed.  This feels to me like a minor work from Mr. Spielberg.  It’s not head-poundingly frustrating like The Lost World or A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.  Rather, it’s just that the film feels very slight.  There are moments of greatness, but over-all I found The BFG to be somewhat boring.  I don’t think I’ve ever before felt that way about a Steven Spielberg film.

Although Mr. Spielberg has made many movies that feature children, and that are about childhood, it could be that this is the first Spielberg movie that is aimed so squarely at children in the audience.  I can imagine kids being thrilled by the film, but for me as an adult I found it very simplistic, without too much to capture my interest.  There are some lovely ideas in the film and some beautiful sequences (certainly the dream-catching sequence alone, in which the BFG takes Sophie to the underwater/underground magical realm in which one can chase and catch dreams as one would fireflies, is magnificent), but the story moves along without too much depth of character or too many surprises.  What played as a fantastical left-hand turn into craziness in Mr. Dahl’s original book — in which Sophie decides to elicit the help of the Queen of England to help her and the BFG solve their problems — plays in the movie like an amusing but almost distracting digression from the main story.

I was so excited that this adaptation of The BFG represented the final collaboration between Mr. Spielberg and the late, great Melissa Mathison (who wrote E.T.), and so I’m sad to report that I wasn’t as delighted as I’d expected to be by the film’s script.

The one time I was truly moved by the film was in the final moments.  In that bittersweet ending the film finally hit, for me, the emotions that I felt it had been striving for the whole time.  I wish there had been a little more of that emotional resonance in everything that had come before.

Ruby Barnhill, who plays young Sophie, the orphan girl who discovers and befriends the BFG, is lovely in the film.  She spends much of the film interacting with a CGI make-believe giant, and yet despite that she’s able to give a very … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Finding Dory

July 4th, 2016
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Finding Nemo was a terrific movie, great fun and deeply emotional.  It came towards the beginning of an incredible run of original Pixar films that would go on to include The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up.  I adore the universe that was created in Finding Nemo, and it always felt to me to be perfectly complete in and of itself.  This was not a movie that ever felt to me that it was crying out for a sequel.

And so when I learned that, thirteen years after Nemo, Pixar would be releasing a sequel called Finding Dory, I was intrigued and also a little nervous.  The idea of seeing more of these characters and this world was tantalizing.  Dory, voiced so marvelously by Ellen DeGeneres, was a highlight of Nemo, and so a film focusing on her felt like a natural idea.  And yet, to come back and make a sequel so many years later — how often has that ever been successful?

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The very best sequels — and I would count Pixar’s earlier efforts Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 among this number — wind up feeling inevitable.  It’s as if, once you see these additional chapters, they become integral parts of the story that was begun by the original film.

I can’t quite say that Finding Dory reaches that level.  Finding Nemo remains a beautifully perfect, complete creation all its own.  That being said, Finding Dory is a beautiful and very entertaining film, fun and funny and exciting and emotional, just as I would expect from the mad geniuses at Pixar.

The film delves deeply into the character of Dory, the forgetful blue tang introduced in Nemo.  How did she get to where she was when Marlin encountered her in Finding Nemo?  What was her childhood like, and what happened to her parents/family?

When Finding Dory works, it is a devastatingly powerful metaphor for raising a child with a disability.  The film spends a lot of time in flashback with a young Dory and her parents (voiced marvelously by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton).  The animators at Pixar outdid themselves in creating an unbelievably cute design for the young, huge-eyed Dory, a move that only compounds the pain of the moment you know is coming when young Dory will get separated from her parents and, even worse, will forget them.  It’s heartbreaking, and as a dramatic core of the film I was impressed by well the Pixar team were able to come up with something that felt of equal weight to the massacre of Marlin and Nemo’s family that opened Finding Nemo, thus giving this sequel a strong reason for being.  One of the most profoundly sad … [continued]

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The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XV: The Reign of the Black Flame!

My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning has entered the home stretch!

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.  Click here for part five, in which I discussed the beginning of a series of B.P.R.D. spin-offs and a whole new expansion of the Hellboy universe: Plague of Frogs.  Click here for part six, in which I discussed the major shift in the Hellboy story that took-place in The Third Wish and The Island.  Click here for part seven, in which I discussed the incredible B.P.R.D. mini-series that became the new central focus of the continuing Hellboy saga.  Click here for part eight, in which Hellboy finally returns to the spotlight with Darkness Calls.  Click here for part nine, in which the Hellboy universe expands with spin-off series focusing on Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the founding of the B.P.R.D.  And click here for part ten, in which I discussed the “Scorched Earth” trilogy of B.P.R.D. mini-series that wrapped up the series to that point and began the “Hell on Earth” story-line. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.

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We’re getting close to the end of this Hellboy Re-Reading Project blog post!!  It’s exciting to be so close to the end of this massive re-read.  Onward!

Abe Sapien #6-7: The Shape of Things to Come (2013) – Abe heads to Arizona and meets a spirited woman, … [continued]