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

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“Of my friend, I can only say this…”

February 28th, 2015
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After reading of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, I knew I needed to watch some Star Trek.  Star Trek II was too painful to consider.  I thought about watching Trek III or Trek IV, both of which were so marvelously directed by Mr. Nimoy.  I thought about Trek VI, which is probably my favorite of all the Trek films, and which features one of Mr. Nimoy’s very best on-screen performances.  (His heartbroken delivery of the line “She does not know” absolutely kills me every time.)  But I decided what I wanted was some classic Trek, so I could see Mr. Nimoy — and the iconic character with whom he has been so indelibly associated for almost 50 years, and now will be forevermore — in his prime.

So I decided to watch “Amok Time,” from the second season of the Original Series.

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“Amok Time” is one of the most famous Trek episodes.  I’ve seen it countless times, but I hadn’t watched it for several years.  It’s astonishing how great this half-century-old TV show looks and sounds on blu-ray, and re-watching the episode I was once again impressed by the show’s boundless creativity, and the high-quality of the production across every area.  This happens to be a very sharply-written episode, filled with some of the very best and most well-known Spock lines.  (Spock’s final statement to the Vulcan Stonn is particularly wonderful: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.  It is not logical, but it is often true.”  There is great wisdom there.)  The amount of world-building in this episode is astounding, as we make our only visit to Vulcan in the series’ run and, in so doing, learn so much about Spock and his people.  It’s all super-cool, everything from our glimpse of the elderly stateswoman T’Pau to those awesome Vulcan weapons (which Trek fans well-know are called the Ahn-woon & the Lirpa) to all the great details in (and fun, made-up Vulcan words for) all the aspects of the Vulcans’ complex mating rituals.  (Again, all true Trek fans know all about Pon Far and the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee and Plak Tow.)  This episode features one of the very best Trek scores of them all, with the incredible theme music for the Vulcan combat.  (I love how we can hear this music playing, very soft and slowly, when Spock first speaks to Kirk on the Enterprise of Pon Farr.)  The episode feels a little of-the-past in the unsettling-to-a-modern-viewer way that the Vulcan combat ritual involves the woman’s being given to the victor.  On the other hand, one can see and respect the groundbreaking-for-its-time way in which this episode presented Vulcan as a matriarchal … [continued]

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Motion Pictures Included in JOMIX Exhibition in NYC!

February 24th, 2015

I am delighted that THREE Motion Pictures comics will be included in the upcoming exhibition: JOMIX: Jewish Comics; Art & Derivation!

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About the Exhibition: From the invention of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, to the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, Jewish artists and writers have served an essential and indispensable role in the comics and graphic novel industry. This exhibition boasts a roster of cutting edge creators, reinvestigating traditional genres like superhero, political satire, romance, horror, science fiction and confessionals through a Jewish lens. Join us for a look at how these contemporary Jewish artists use the comics medium as a way to express and address their own Jewish identity and cultural experience while also examining the complex relationship of art, identity and culture within the Jewish community at large.

Click here for more information on the exhibition!

The exhibition will be on view March 1-May 8, 2015, Monday-Thursday 10-5 by appointment.  The exhibition is located at: UJA-Federation of New York, 130 East 59th, Street Seventh-Floor Gallery, New York City.  Contact Lillian Rodriguez at 1.212.836.1793 or rodriguezl@ujafedny.org.

There will be an opening on March 10th, 2015, from 6:00-7:30 PM.  Guest speakers will include: Karen Green, Graphic Novel Librarian, Columbia University
, and Joel Silverstein and Richard McBee, Exhibit Curators, Jewish Art Salon.  RSVP required by Feb. 26th, 2015. Contact jewishartsalon@gmail.com.  The opening is semi-private; all attendees need to RSVP.

The three comics of mine that will be included are from my Inglorious Basterds parody from back in 2009.  Click here to read the entire Inglorious Basterds series!… [continued]

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Josh Reviews Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

February 23rd, 2015
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I had read that DC was planning on creating a new continuity amongst some of their animated films (while still continuing to release some one-shot, stand-on-their-own films like Assault on Arkham) that would parallel the newly-relaunched “New 52″ DC Universe in the comics.  Justice League: War was the start of this new animated continuity (fitting since that film adapted the story by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee that launched the “New 52″ DC Universe), and the next film, Son of Batman, maintained the look and voice cast with Jason O’Mara as Batman.  Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is the third film in this new continuity, but I was surprised that many members of the voice cast were changed since War.  Nathan Fillion, who has voiced Green Lantern so wonderfully in many previous DC animated films, is back as the character (replacing Justin Kirk from War).  Michelle Monaghan is out as Wonder Woman, replaced by Rosario Dawson (who, interestingly enough, had a supporting role as Artemis in the Wonder Woman stand-alone animated film from 2009).  Alan Tudyk is also out as Superman, replaced by Jerry O’Connell (who has also previously appeared in these DC animated films, playing Shazam in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam from 2010).  Lastly Shemar Moore is out as Cyborg, replaced by Sean Patrick Thomas.

Most of these changes are definite steps up.  I love Alan Tudyk, but he was terribly miscast as Superman in War.  And while I thought Justin Kirk did well as Green Lantern, Nathan Fillion is way better.  I am surprised by all these changes and wonder what the behind-the-scenes story is.  I am particularly surprised that they are using Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, since I thought the intention with these new films was to really set themselves apart from the previous ones.  But I’m not complaining.  These voice changes are a big step in the right direction of correcting some of the many problems with Justice League: War.  (Though of course this begs the question: if they’re OK using Mr. Fillion again, then why can’t we also bring back Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, and the other great voices from the classic DC animated series and films from the past???)

Throne of Atlantis is a loose adaptation of one of the early story-lines of the Justice League in the relaunched “New 52″ DC Universe, written by Geoff Johns.  In both the comics and the film, the story focuses on a conflict over who will rule the undersea realm of Atlantis, which eventually spills over into a battle between the warriors of Atlantis and the surface world.  Here in the animated film, the story also serves as … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Selma

February 18th, 2015

Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, tells the story of several critical months in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, leading up to the voting rights marches from Montgomery to Selma that took place March 7-25, 1965.

This is a powerhouse of a film, absolutely riveting.  The film wisely eschews the birth-to-death approach of a biopic, instead focusing just on one period of time during the life on its subject.  (Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln recently used this approach, to similarly strong effect.)

The film is anchored by the staggeringly great performance of David Oyelowo as Dr. King.  I’ve been a fan of Mr. Oyelowo ever since his great work, as a younger man, on the early seasons of Spooks (called M.I.5 here in the U.S.).  He’s had great supporting roles in a number of films in recent years, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It’s thrilling to see him step into the big leagues with this performance.  Mr. Oyelowo is mesmerizing in the role.  He brings a level of honest humanity to this portrayal of Dr. King, a critical element in allowing the performance and the film to breathe, and to not feel like simply a worshipful paean to a legend.  At the same time, Mr. Oyelowo is able to capture every ounce of Dr. King’s charisma and his persuasive power.  Mr. Oyelowo delivers several speeches in the film, and they are all absolutely magnificent — most particularly the one that closes the film.

The film wastes no time, as it opens, in setting the stage for the story and conveying to the audience all that was at stake.  As we see Dr. King accept the Nobel Peace Prize, we also see an African American woman, Annie Lee Cooper, attempt to register to vote in Selma, Alabama, only to be denied by the white registrar of voters; and in Birmingham, Alabama, we see four children killed in the bombing of the 16th Baptist Church.  This film had its hooks in me right from those opening scenes, and it never let go right up through the end.

Selma is a period piece, but it feels rivetingly of the now.  This is not a dull, dry presentation of historical facts; the film is alive with a passion and an anger that is devastatingly powerful.  I have singled out Mr. Oyelowo for praise, deservedly so, but the entire ensemble is very strong, and the film is very well-crafted by director Ava DuVernay.  We get to know and care about a number of different characters, and we see the story unfold through their eyes as well as through those of Dr. King.

If the film has a weakness, it is … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice is a wonderful film, funny and engaging, a gloriously bizarre journey through a world of drugs and crime and real estate (and dentistry) in 1970′s Los Angeles.

Adapted from a novel by Thomas Pynchon (which I now desperately want to read), the film was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the masters of cinema working today.  Joaquin Phoenix (who was also the star of Mr. Anderson’s last film, The Master) plays “Doc,” a druggie private eye.  One night, an ex-flame, Shasta, surprises Doc in his home and asks for his help unravelling a kidnapping plot centered on her wealthy new lover, real-estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann.  Doc agrees to help, but soon after Shasta herself disappears, and Doc finds himself sucked down a twisty rabbit hole of crosses and double-crosses.

Inherent Vice reminded me a lot of The Big Lebowski.  Both have the same balance of humor and drama, and both center on a drugged-out private eye trying to get to the bottom of a twisty mystery.  The film also has some echoes of Chinatown, in the way that a small mystery eventually sheds light on a larger plot concerning the history of Los Angeles.  But make no mistake, Inherent Vice is a wholly original creation.  It is unique and delightfully weird.

Joaquin Phoenix kills it in the title role.  He is perfect as Doc, striking exactly the right tone.  He’s hysterical, but Doc always remains a serious character with whom the audience can engage.  Mr. Phoenix gives Doc an innocence and nobility that is incredibly sweet and endearing.  Because of this, one completely roots for Doc to succeed as he tries to navigate a world of slippery, deceitful characters.  I can’t believe that Mr. Phoenix isn’t in more conversations for a 2014 best actor Oscar.  This is a fantastic role, one of the best performances of his career.

Katherine Waterston has a star-making performance as Shasta.  She actually has very little screen-time, but she has a few critical scenes, and she needs to be enough of a power in those scenes for her presence to resonate throughout the rest of the film as the object of Doc’s quest.  In this Ms. Waterston succeeds wildly (and not just because of one striking scene of jaw-dropping nudity).  Ms. Waterston is incredible in the role, creating a fully-realized character in just a few minutes, and more than holding her own with Joaquin Phoenix.  This is an actress I will be paying attention to in the future.

The film is jammed-full of wonderful actors who each appear in small roles as Doc’s quest takes him all over the world of nineteen-seventies Los Angeles.  Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, … [continued]

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The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part IV: The Conquerer Worm

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.

Onward!

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Conquerer Worm (2001) — Back in 1939, the vigilante adventurer Lobster Johnson was killed while destroying a key installation of the Nazi space program in Austria.  But now, sixty-one years later, a capsule the Nazis shot into space returns to Earth, with a very dangerous passenger.

Conquerer Worm could be my very favorite Hellboy mini-series.  I just love it.  It’s got all the now-classic Hellboy elements: Nazis, crazy creatures/monsters, and a World War II back-story.  But this mini-series also feels like a huge leap forward for Mr. Mignola and the series.  It is short, only four issues, but holy cow is each issue jam-packed with all sorts of wonderful, original, truly unique weirdness.

The series opens with the death of Lobster Johnson in 1939.  I have now realized this has become something of a delightful trait of Mr. Mignola’s Hellboy stories — starting with the end of a character and then, over the years, going back to slowly flesh out that individual’s character and history.  (Just like Mr. Mignola did with Professor Bruttenholm and, later, Sir Edward Grey!)  It’s a fascinating story-telling device, and it makes a re-reading project like this phenomenal fun as I work my way through these stories and discover all sorts of connections.  Dr. Manning’s briefing about Lobster Johnson in issue #1 is short but wonderfully dense with details, and over the years as the Lobster Johnson story has progressed, I have often returned to these pages to try to parse whatever secrets and details I could find.  (I love Manning’s comment about “weirder stuff,” while we see a panel of the Lobster fighting a living brain.  It’s funny, for years I thought that was just a one-off joke; I had totally forgotten, until this re-read, that we actually saw that specific Lobster Johnson adventure back in Box Full of Evil!)

Von Klempt and his monkeys appear!  I love this crazy villain, it’s … [continued]

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This is a great article revisiting Stephen King’s final three Dark Tower novels.  I absolutely adore these books, and I am not at all in the camp of Dark Tower fans unsatisfied with the ending of Mr. King’s magnum opus.  I spent quite a while reading and writing about the Dark Tower series a few years ago.  Feel free to follow these links to revisit the journey with me: Entering The Dark Tower — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three – The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands — The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass — The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla — The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah — The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower — Return to the Dark Tower — The Little Sisters of EluriaMarvel Comics’ Adaptation of The GunslingerThe Wind Through The Keyhole.

If you, like me, are starting to get very sad about the impending end of Parks and Recreation, then it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole of this epic Twitter exchange of great Parks & Recs clips between Alan Sepinwall & Linda Holmes.  Here’s just a tiny taste:

Oh my god I am going to miss that show.

Holy cow: a Wet Hot American Summer sequel is happening — with all of the original cast — as an eight-episode Netflix series???  That is bonkers!!

This is a terrific article about the central “text” of Star Trek, and the challenges that must be conquered in terms of making future good Star Trek stories, on the big-screen or (hope hope hope) back on TV.  I don’t agree with all of his points, but this piece was written by someone who gets and loves Trek, and I think he has the right idea.

Speaking of Trek, I sure wasted a lot of time watching these old trailers!

We just recently passed the tenth anniversary of the airing of the pilot episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, “33.”  Wow.  I remember watching that when it aired.  (I also watched the mini-series when that aired, about a year-and-a-half before the series kicked off in the States.)  I can’t believe it was that long ago!!  Here is a great, in-depth look back at the greatness of that pilot, and here is a nice Q & A from show-runner Ronald D. Moore.

This is a great list of twelve Simpsons characters who actually evolved.

This concept art for an Alien sequel, developed by Neill Blomkamp, is ludicrously tantalizing.  Ripley and Hicks together again??  … [continued]

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I hope you’ve all enjoyed by Best of 2014 lists!  I’ve listed my Top 20 Movies of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, part three, and part four), my Top 15 Episodes of TV of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, and part three), and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, and part three).  Now we arrive at my final list, the Top 8 Blu-Rays of 2014.

Top eight?  Yeah, top eight.  While this year I have expanded most of my lists (my Top 15 Movies list became a Top 20, and my Top 10 Episodes of TV list became a Top 15), I found I had a hard time coming up with 10 truly great DVDs or Blu-rays.  I think there are two reasons for this.  The first is personal: though I suspect I still buy far more DVDs & blu-rays than the average person, I found that I bought far fewer discs this year than I had in years.  Partly this was to save some money.  But also because of reason number two: that after a golden age of awesome DVD sets with extraordinary special features, great special editions of movies or TV shows are much scarcer these days.  I find myself unimpressed with the behind the scenes features on most blu-rays these days, even the movies that were the biggest hits.  Most studios are trying to save money by cutting back on providing special features for their home video releases, which is a big shame in my opinion.

But still, there were eight blu-rays that I wanted to praise, and here they are:

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes This film was number 5 on my Top 20 Movies of 2014 list, and it looked absolutely spectacular on blu-ray.  And while I wouldn’t say that the special features are phenomenal, they are pretty good, certainly head-and-shoulders above the special features found on almost any other big 2014 release.  There’s about an hour of fun behind-the-scenes featurettes (it’s particularly cool to see Andy Serkis, Terry Notary, and several other familiar faces from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit behind-the-scenes documentaries, appear in these featurettes) and a great commentary track from director Matt Reaves.  (Click here for my original review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.)

7. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution For decades I have been reading or hearing about this film that was written by Star Trek II and VI writer & director Nicholas Meyer (adapting his novel of the same name), but … [continued]