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

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Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within

I enjoyed this summer’s solid-though-not-spectacular Star Trek Beyond, but for me, for the past decade-plus most of the best Star Trek has been of the unofficial kind.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many of the Star Trek fan films that are being made (fan films that sadly remain threatened by Paramount’s draconian lawsuit against the fan-film Axanar), and I’ve also been eating up the Star Trek novels being published by Pocket Books.  Those novels have been weaving a vast, interconnected saga, taking the Trek characters and stories far beyond the last official on-screen adventures of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which ended with a whimper with 2002′s dismal Nemesis), Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 1999), and Voyager (my least favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 2001).  But I’ve fallen somewhat behind on reading the new Trek books, so much so that when I started to read one of the new ones, I found I had lost the thread of several of the stories.  So I decided to go back and re-read several of the Trek novels from the past few years, which has been a lot of fun.  While doing so, I also decided to read some of the Trek e-book novellas that I had skipped over originally.  My first stop was Christopher L. Bennett’s “Typhon Pact” novella: The Struggle Within.

Back in 2010, Pocket Books published a four-novel series subtitled “Typhon Pact.”  Introduced in Keith R.A. DeCandido’s novel A Singular Destiny, the Typhon Pact was an alliance of many of the Federation’s fiercest enemies: the Romulans, the Gorn, the Tholians, the Tzenkethi, and more.  The Typhon Pact four-book series explored this newly-created alliance, with each book fleshing out one of those just-mentioned alien races.  Over the course of those four books and the many novels that have followed, it’s been fun to see both the story of this anti-Federation alliance play out, and also to see these various alien races well-developed.  We already knew a lot about the Romulans, but the Gorn and Tholians were little-seen in previous official on-screen Trek canon — and the Tzenkethi have never actually been seen on-screen, they were only mentioned a few times on Deep Space Nine — leaving a lot of room for the writers to expand and elaborate upon them.

Christopher L. Bennett’s 2011 e-book novella, The Struggle Within, takes some time developing the Kinshaya, another race who had been mentioned as being a part of the Typhon Pact but who had not been explored by any of the previous “Typhon Pact” novels.  The book tells two parallel stories.  In the first, two characters from the post-Nemesis-set … [continued]

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Josh Reviews HBO’s Confirmation

August 23rd, 2016

HBO’s movie Confirmation brings to life the story of Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings to replace Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Anita Hill’s allegations that Judge Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together at the department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Televised hearings held before the Senate Judiciary Commission, including testimony by both Judge Thomas and Professor Hill, gripped the nation.  HBO’s film Confirmation is a riveting reenactment of the drama and turmoil surrounding this very public confrontation between Judge Thomas and Professor Hill.

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I well remember the days in 1991 in which this drama played out on televisions and in newspapers across the nation, and Confirmation skillfully draws the viewer back into the middle of this wrenching debate.  I imagine that few who will watch this movie will enter it without preexisting opinions regarding the veracity of Professor Hill’s accusations.  Wisely understanding this, the makers of Confirmation (the film was written by Susannah Grant and directed by Rick Famuyiwa) made a game attempt at presenting the story from both Judge Thomas and Professor Hill’s side.  The film cuts back and forth between the two throughout its run-time, and avoids painting either character as too dastardly a villain, though in the end it does appear to me that the filmmakers were siding with Professor Hill.  (I will freely admit, here, that my sympathies as well lie firmly with Professor Hill.)  Watching Confirmation unfold, my heart broke anew for what Professor Hill went through over the course of this very public spectacle which ended with Judge Thomas’ confirmation.

Kerry Washington is magnificent in the role, bringing great courage and dignity to the role of Anita Hill.  Playing a well-known public figure can be difficult, but Ms. Washington rises to the challenge, skillfully bringing her depiction of Professor Hill to life and making the character her own.  At the same time, when the film eventually arrives at Professor Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Washington has the enormous challenge of performing a real-life scene that so many of us remember so well, while still seeming natural in her performance.  Ms. Washington hits this out of the park, and the sequences of Professor Hill’s testimony are a highlight of the movie.

Wendell Pierce (so beloved to fans of The Wire and Treme) is equally incredible as Judge Thomas.  Mr. Pierce had, in my opinion, an even greater challenge than did Ms. Washington, in his attempt to bring to life this depiction of the very private Judge Thomas.  In all the world, only Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill know whether Professor Hill’s accusations were true, and as I commented above this film does not … [continued]

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The Winds of Winter: Josh Reviews Season Six of Game of Thrones!

August 15th, 2016
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I am hideously late in posting this review, but I had a lot to say about season six of Game of Thrones.  First and foremost, while I have read a lot of criticism of this season online, I found season six to be thrilling, with the show as good as it has ever been if not better.  How many shows demonstrate such storytelling strength this deep into their run?  For me, Game of Thrones has been getting better and better with each season.  The show briefly threatened to lose me in the third season, as I began to tire somewhat of the endless misery being forced upon the characters I had grown to love, and impatient with the way the show kept pulling the characters further and further apart from one another.  But with season four I was happy that some of the show’s disparate story-strands and characters began to at last be drawn together, and the show has been on a narrative build since then that is tremendously impressive.

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With Jon Snow’s death in the final moments of season five, the event fans had wondered about since the very beginning finally happened: the show caught up with George R.R. Martin’s novels.  As pretty much everyone knows, with season six the show burst ahead of the novels to venture into unexplored territory.  It will be fascinating, in the years ahead, to look back at season six of Game of Thrones (as well as the not-yet-made seasons seven and eight) and compare it with Mr. Martin’s final two (or more?) novels to see how similar or dissimilar they wind up being.

For me, the most noticeable difference between season six and the previous, adapted-from-a-book seasons was that the pace of the storytelling felt dramatically sped up.  Back in season one, it took Catelyn Stark half the season to journey from Winterfell to King’s Landing.  I loved that about the show, that it took the time to dig into the details and develop the reality of the world of Westeros.  But here in season six characters bounced all over the place in no time at all.  For the most part this worked, as this deep into the show I was eager for the story to start reaching some conclusions and din’t want to see characters knocked out of the story-telling for lengthy amounts of time as they traveled from place to place.  (The one bridge to far for me, though, this season was the silliness of Varys’ getting from Dorne to back on Daenarys’ boat in the final few minutes of the finale.  That stretched my credibility a bit too far…)

The highlight of the season for me was unquestionably the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Suicide Squad

Following the disappointment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that I found to be overly dour and grim and dull (and, even more problematically, filled with almost nonsensical plotting and paper-thin characters), I thought Suicide Squad looked like a breath of fresh air for the burgeoning DC movie-verse, fun and anarchic.  Sadly, the film has almost all of the exact same problems as Batman v. Superman: the plot makes little sense, the characters are underdeveloped, and the whole thing reeks of desperation to be cool and adult, while failing to be either.  I actually think Batman v. Superman is better than Suicide Squad — something I can’t believe I am writing.  Oy vey!

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Created by John Ostrander in the eighties (actually, recreated, as there was a previous Silver Age version of the concept) (and I was happy to see that Mr. Ostrander got a fun shout-out in the third act of the film), the idea behind Suicide Squad is that government operative Amanda Waller (played here by Viola Davis) has gathered a group of meta-human super-villains and attempts to coerce them into doing good on the government’s behalf as a way to commute their sentences (and avoid getting blown up by the bombs she’s had implanted in their necks).  Here in the film, the DC world has been shaken by the arrival, and then departure, of Superman, which lends context to Amanda Waller’s desperation to have some meta-humans she can control.  Of course, the idea of trying to control these super-powered crazies is probably a bad idea.

I am somewhat shocked that this obscure property has made it to the big screen, so in this I applaud DC/Warners for having the guts to dig this deeply into the wonderful history of DC Comics.  I never really expected to see Harley Quinn in live-action on-screen, let alone Deadshot or Katana.  While I think DC/Warners are shooting themselves in the foot by rushing to create a shared cinematic universe — in slavish imitation of what Marvel Studios has done so well — without taking the time to carefully develop each property individually, which has been Marvel’s (very successful) strategy, I must admit that it’s also sort of cool that this new slate of DC movies are dropping us into a universe fully in motion.  Man of Steel was a new origin story for Superman, but Batman v. Superman presented us with a Batman who had been in operation for decades and already had a Robin killed, and a Wonder Woman who had been around since WWI at least, while also suggesting the existence of many other super-humans (all the other members of what will be the Justice League.)  Here … [continued]

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More Great Stuff From Comic-Con and Other News Around the Net!

August 1st, 2016

Last week I wrote about a lot of stuff that had been released in and around Comic-Con that had gotten my nerd juices flowing.  Here’s lots more fun stuff that didn’t make it into that post!

Let’s begin with this spectacular trailer for the third season of Star Wars Rebels:

Holy cow that looks great.  I love the new shaved-head look for Ezra.  And Wedge!  Y-Wings!  And Admiral Thrawn (the villain from Timothy Zahn’s brilliant Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels from the nineties) is now officially in Star Wars continuity??  That is AMAZING!!

And here is our first look at the new Star Trek show, which we have learned will be called Star Trek: Discovery.

I must admit to being extremely underwhelmed by this.  This new ship is obviously based on a famous unused Ralph McQuarrie concept drawing for the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  While there is something cool about seeing this famous image brought to life, I sort of hate the look of this as a Federation ship.  It is ugly and boxy.  I detest the look of the J J. Abrams nuEnterprise, and I was hoping this new show would get back to the great look of classic Starfleet ships, but this feels like a big swing and a miss to me.  I’m not a fan of the new series logo either.  Oh well.  Look, this is just an early tease and I still have great faith in Bryan Fuller, Nicholas Meyer, and the other terrific writers they’ve assembled to lead this new Trek series.  But this teaser does not make me all warm and fuzzy…

By the way, for a look at a much better-looking Enterprise, and also a look at the TMP-era idea of an asteroid-based starbase, check out this short film from a few years ago from the fan-made Star Trek: Phase II (Star Trek: New Voyages) series (skip to 6:55 to see the good stuff):

Getting back to that Star Trek: Discovery tease, does the low registry number on the ship give us an indication that this show takes place around the days of the original Kirk/Spock Enterprise?  And is the “31″ in the registry number an indication that this show might feature an early iteration of the secret Section 31, first introduced in Deep Space Nine, or is that just a winking joke to the fans?  We’ll see…

For a tease that has me far more excited, here’s a trailer for season four of Sherlock!  I can’t wait for the next installments of this brilliant show!!

I wrote in my previous post that Netflix was killing it these days.  More proof?  Netflix has just been [continued]

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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]