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Josh Reviews the Animated Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

February 23rd, 2018
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Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an adaptation of the wonderful Gotham by Gaslight graphic novel from 1989 (written by Brian Augustyn and illustrated by Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell).  The story is set in a Victorian Era version of Gotham City, in which the vigilante Batman attempts to find and stop the serial killer Jack, who is murdering women across the city.

Batman versus Jack the Ripper is a fantastic idea, and both the original graphic novel and this new animated adaptation really sink their teeth into this deliciously juicy concept.  There’s a reason the original graphic novel is so beloved.  It was the first of what DC would later call “Elseworlds” stories, in which the familiar DC characters were transposed into alternate settings.  Brian Augustyn wrote a great story, and the artwork by comics luminaries Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell is fantastic.

I quite enjoyed the animated adaptation!  This is one of the best DC animated films in years!  This film feels like a return to what this series of direct-to-DVD/blu-ray animated films was originally designed to be: stand-alone adaptations of famous stories from across the years of DC Comics.  Gotham by Gaslight was a great choice to be adapted — it’s a great story with a lot of potential to be expanded and brought to life via animation.

And expand it they have.  The original story is a fairly short tale, and I was pleased with how the concept was expanded upon in this film.  I enjoyed how the film allowed us to see Victorian versions of many more characters from the Batman supporting cast (hero and villain) than we saw in the original graphic novel.  I was especially pleased by the larger role given to Selina Kyle.  I was surprised, at first, that this animated adaptation changed the identity of the villain from who he was in the original story, but this new version worked great.  (And the film takes the time to successfully develop a number of red herrings, so that the final revelation was actually a surprise to me.)

The animation is solid if not spectacular, consistent with the past several years of these DC animated films.  Where the film shines is in the character designs, which are a lovely blend of the Mignola/Russell artwork from the original graphic novel and the style that Bruce Timm pioneered for the DC animated adventures back with Batman: The Animated Series.  For the past several years, many of these DC animated films have had terribly bulky, ugly and awkward character designs, but I loved the look of the designs in this film.  And the general animation was solid.  These designs animated well.  There were some CGI … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Final Season One Episodes of Star Trek: Discovery

Well, Star Trek: Discovery has wrapped up its first season.  What did I think of this final run of episodes?

What’s Past is Prologue — This conclusion to the extended Mirror Universe string of episodes was a high-point of the season for me.  I think it’s crazy that this show — theoretically designed to broaden the appeal of Star Trek and attract new fans to the franchise — has wound up spending such a long time in the Mirror Universe (which seems designed to please long-time Trek fans but befuddle newbies), but if you put that baggage aside, this multi-episode romp in the Mirror Universe has been a hoot, and things got even crazier and more fun in this episode.  With Lorca revealed as a Mirror Universe baddie, this episode careened from one juicy action sequence to the next, as Burnham and the Mirror Georgiou fight for their lives on the run from Lorca and his goons.

The episode looked gorgeous.  It was filled with a number of beautifully designed unusual shots (director Olatunde Osunsanmi did a terrific job) which highlighted the show’s production values.  The sets, the props, the costumes, everything looked great.  (Totally wrong for this prequel era of Star Trek, but if you can put that aside…)  And the outer-space visual effects were magnificent, as we finally got a truly great Discovery space-ship action scene as the Discovery attempted to attack and destroy the Empress’ enormous city-ship, the Charon.  Great stuff.

I loved seeing Landry (Rekha Sharma), who was originally killed off way too early and stupidly, back on the show.  I loved seeing Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) again, and I enjoyed the interplay between her and Burnham.  These are two great, strong female characters.  I loved seeing how competent and effective Saru was, in command of the Discovery.  I liked the idea that Mirror Lorca wound up in the Prime universe via a transporter accident during an ion storm, the same as happened with Kirk & co. in “Mirror, Mirror.”  (And I appreciated that the show actually showed us a glimpse of an ion storm, though I wish that had looked a little cooler.)

It was interesting that Voq/Ash was absent from this episode.  I was surprised that was the case, after all the buildup, but I didn’t miss him in all this Mirror Universe fun craziness.

I’m not sure I understand the nature of the threat to the mycelial network, or why the destruction of this network would destroy all life across the multiple universes.  I wish that had been fleshed out more.  But again, in the short term, I didn’t mind that too much in the midst of all this Mirror Universe fun stuff.

My … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Black Panther

I know, intellectually, that Marvel Studios’ incredible streak of great movies is going to end sometime.  It has to.  No win streak can continue indefinitely.  But it didn’t end this past weekend, as Marvel Studios released Black Panther, a fantastic addition to their ever-expanding Cinematic Universe.  Black Panther is, incredibly, the eighteenth film in this interconnected movie universe.  It still boggles my mind that there exists an eighteen-movies-and-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And what’s even more impressive is just how terrific all of these films have been.  There isn’t a true stinker in the bunch.  (The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 are, I think, the two least successful films, and even both of those have a lot to enjoy in them.)  The last several films in particular have been fantastic, and Black Panther continues that streak of excellence.

Picking up after the death of his father King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther opens with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home to Wakanda to claim his position as king.  Wakanda is a technological paradise, though they use their technology to hide that fact from the rest of the world.  When the vicious thief and weapons merchant Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who killed the parents of T’Challa’s close friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), resurfaces, T’Challa leads a team consisting of Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of the fierce female Wakandan fighting force the Dora Milaje, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s former flame who believes that Wakanda must engage with the outside world, to capture Klaue.  That mission goes awry when they discover that Klaue is in league with a young man named Eric (Michael B. Jordan), a black-ops soldier who calls himself Killmonger, and who has a secret connection to the Wakandan royal family.  Killmonger challenges T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda, and the once-peaceful nation threatens to split into civil war.

Black Panther is fantastic.  It fits squarely into the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also standing completely on its own and having its own unique style.  The film references Captain America: Civil War, but you absolutely don’t have to have seen that film to enjoy this one.  And while many fans thought that the one not-yet-seen Infinity Stone (which will surely come into play in this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War) would appear in this film, I was happy that didn’t happen.  Black Panther didn’t need that additional baggage — it’s better for this film to be able to tell its own, complete story.  (If that final Infinity Stone is indeed hidden in Wakanda, as many fans guess, I am glad they held that reveal for Infinity War.)

Director Ryan Coogler (Creed) has crafted a magnificent film, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Cloverfield Paradox

February 16th, 2018

I love both of the first two Cloverfield films.  I think they’re both terrific, and underrated.  (Click here for my review of Cloverfield, and here for my review of 10 Cloverfield Lane.)  I was super-excited when I heard that a third Cloverfield movie was in the works, and I love that J.J. Abrams and his team have figured out yet another stunt for surprising audiences with the release of the film — in this case, a Super Bowl trailer that announced that the full film was available for viewing immediately after the game on Netflix.  Well done.

As with the first two Cloverfield films, the secrecy surrounding The Cloverfield Paradox is a big part of the experience of watching it, so I won’t say too much.  I can tell you that the film is set in the near future, when the Earth is running out of energy.  The astronauts on board a space station are working on a project to construct an enormous particle accelerator to create energy in an effort to save human civilization.  Suffice to say, something goes terribly wrong.

I was really primed to enjoy this film, but sadly, I found The Cloverfield Paradox to be a dud.  It’s a shame, because all the ingredients are there for a terrific film.  I love the set-up.  I am always excited about an original sci-fi story, and I particularly like sci-fi films set in a realistic near-future like this one.  (There’s just something I dig about that sort of futuristic-but-plausible setting for a sci-fi adventure story.).  I love the look of the film — the design of the space-station, the look of the costumes and the props, all of that is great.  And the cast… wow.  The cast is phenomenal.  Just look at this ensemble: Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who starred in the best episode of Black Mirror’s first Netflix season), David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds, Captain America: Civil War), John Ortiz (American Gangster, The Drop, Kong: Skull Island), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, This is 40, Molly’s Game), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2), and Aksel Hennie (The Martian).  That is an incredible cast!!

For the first 45-ish minutes of The Cloverfield Paradox, I was enjoying the film.  It was exciting and suspenseful and weird.

But as the film progressed, it became clear that the story did not make any sense, and that the … [continued]

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And so we reach the end of my look back at my favorite movies of 2017!  Click here for part one of my list, click here for part two, and click here for part three!  And now, here are my five favorite movies of 2017:

5. The Big Sick The Big Sick, written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and directed by Michael Showalter, is based on the true story of Kumail and Emily’s relationship.  The first half of the film feels like a romantic comedy, and then things take a dramatic shift when Emily falls into a coma.  This film is deeply emotional and also very, very funny.  It feels like the heir to the great comedic-dramatic films of James L. Brooks (such as Broadcast News, one of my favorites).  Mr. Nanjiani and Ms. Gordon’s script is sharp and deep, able to bring the funny in a big way while also diving deeply into these characters and, particularly, Kumail’s struggles to balance the expectations of his Muslim family with his personal life choices.  It’s a delight to see Mr. Nanjiani step so effortlessly into this leading-man role, while Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are spectacular as Emily’s parents.  The film is as much about them as it is about Kumail and Emily, which is a bold choice and a key ingredient of this film’s greatness.  I love this film dearly.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi It’s hard to imagine a Star Wars film being underrated, and yet, I have found the on-line anger directed towards Star Wars: The Last Jedi to be quite perplexing.  The film is not perfect.  The mid-movie digression to Canto Bight doesn’t work and feels like a colossal waste of time, and the slow starship chase that forms the spine of the film’s narrative is ridiculous (why the First Order ships couldn’t use light speed to zip in front of the fleeing rebel spaceship is a mystery to me), which weakens the entire film.  And yet, there is so much to love in this film.  First of all, I love the film for constantly defying expectations.  Every time I thought I knew where the film was going, it surprised me.  Sometimes those choices worked and sometimes they didn’t, but while many seem to be frustrated that this is not the Star Wars film they’d expected it to be, I love The Last Jedi for that.  (If you want to watch The Empire Strikes Back, they already made that movie!  So go and watch it!)  I love that The Last Jedi attempts to expand our understanding of the Force.  I love Mark Hamill’s work … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2017 — Part Three!

Click here for part one of my list of my favorite movies of 2017, and click here for part two!  And now, onwards into my TOP TEN:

10. It 2017 brought two Stephen King adaptations that I was super-excited about.  Sadly, The Dark Tower was a dud, but It was even better than I had dared hope.  The film is very scary and filled with the sorts of nightmare-inducing imagery that you might expect.  But the reason the movie works as well as it does is that, just as the original novel did, it takes the time to develop every one of the seven kids who are involved in the story, so that by the end you know and care about every single one of them.  There isn’t a weak link in this remarkable assemblage of child actors.  I am almost sorry that the sequel will feature these characters as adults (the original novel tells two parallel stories, but this first film adaptation wisely chose to only tell the half of the story set when the kids were thirteen), because I’d love to see lots more movies with this cast!  Like all the best fantasy or sci-fi stories, the fantastical elements in It are an allegory.  It is a story about growing up, about that moment in which one leaves childhood behind and takes that first, tentative step into adulthood and the wider world beyond.  I was hooked into this film from the first frame until the last.  (Click here for my full review.)

9. Baby Driver  That Edgar Wright has not directed a film since his vastly-underrated 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a crime against humanity, a fact reinforced by how terrific his long-awaited return to cinemas, Baby Driver, is.  This is a fiercely entertaining rush of a film, with every instant of screen-time packed to the gills with great music, exciting action sequences, and witty dialogue.  The cast is spectacular (Jon Hamm is a stand-out), the dialogue is razor-sharp, and the film’s score is magnificent, a marvelous array of music that comes together to create a distinct world and vibe for the film.  The main character Baby’s identity is wrapped up in the music he listens to (particularly when working as a get-away driver for criminals) and the music he makes, and so too is Baby Driver the film completely of a piece with the music in its score.  And who knew Edgar Wright could direct action so well??  The car-chase action in the film is extraordinary, visceral and thrilling.  Baby Driver is pure cinematic joy from start to finish.  (Click here for my full review.)

8. [continued]

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Movie Trailers and More News Around the Net!

February 9th, 2018
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As usual, quite a few interesting new movie trailers debuted during the Super Bowl.

My favorite was this new look at Infinity War:

Holy cow am I excited for that movie.  Every shot in that short teaser is great, highlighting this crossover movie’s assemblage of heroes.  Thor is with the Guardians off the Galaxy!  Iron Man and Spider-Man and Doctor Strange!  Captain America and the Hulk and the Black Panther and the Black Widow together in Wakanda!  Very cool.  I love the triumphant presentation of the Avengers theme.  And that last shot of Thanos looks terrific.

We’ve finally gotten our first glimpse at Solo (coming out in just THREE MONTHS, which is crazy), with the Super Bowl trailer and then an extended version:

Any glimpse of footage from a new Star Wars film is a cause for excitement, and we see a lot of great stuff in those teaser trailers.  The cast looks great (I love the shots of Donald Glover as Lando — I am excited to see his interpretation of the character) and those shots of the Millennium Falcon in action are gorgeous.  (I love that look at the pristine white corridor of the Falcon.)  But I don’t see anything yet to convince me that a Young Han Solo movie is anything other than a dumb idea.  (I also continue to be worried about whether Alden Ehrenreich will work as Han.  He looks the part, but I wasn’t taken by his voice-over in the longer trailer.  His voice sounded too high-pitched to me.  He didn’t sound anything like Han Solo, to my ears.)  We’ll see…

I absolutely loved this first look at Mission: Impossible — Fallout:

That is a pretty bonkers trailer!  The last few Mission: Impossible movies have been pretty great, so I have high hopes this will continue.  The cast is once again great (I love how many returning characters we glimpse) and there is a lot of pretty terrific-looking action in that trailer.

On the other end of the spectrum is this trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:

Blech.  I thought Jurassic World was terrible, and so far the trailers for the sequel look even worse and more nonsensical.  I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t expect to be.

I loved the first two Cloverfield films, and I am excited for the third:

And it’s available to watch RIGHT NOW on Netflix??  Fantastic.

Wow, following the success of DC/Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman, Marvel has made a Black Widow movie?  Fantastic!

Oh, sorry, that’s Red Sparrow.  My mistake.  This one feels like it could go either way.  With Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton, this could be a great adult thriller… or it … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2017 — Part Two!

Click here for part one of my list of my Favorite Movies of 2017!  Let’s continue…

15. Coco Once again, the mad geniuses at Pixar have crafted a film that is fun, visually stunning, and emotionally complex.  The “hook” of the film is young Miguel’s accidental journey into the Land of the Dead, and the film creates an entire universe and mythology out of the idea of death and the afterlife with as much care, creativity, and attention to detail that we saw in Inside Outs creation of the world inside a young girl’s head.  But why this film, like so many of Pixar’s films, is so impressive is how emotionally rich it is.  There were a number of moments in the third act that had me in tears.  I love that this is an original story, and I love the way that Lee Unkrich and his team were able to develop and explore all of these fascinating characters over the course of this relatively short film.  The film surprised me again and again.  This is yet another winner from Pixar.  (Click here for my full review.)

14. Dunkirk Like all of Christopher Nolan’s films, Dunkirk is crafted with the precision of a Swiss Watch.  I love the way that the film is divided into three different sections, depicting the conflict at Dunkirk from the perspective of characters on land, at sea, and in the air, and I am bowled over by how perfectly those three stories, which take place over differing amounts of time, slowly slide into chronological synch as the film builds to its conclusion.  It’s an extraordinary narrative feat.  I was impressed with how Mr. Nolan stripped away most of the dialogue in the film, resulting in a near-silent movie which relies mostly on its gorgeous and haunting visuals — along with a unique score — to tell the story.  Dunkirk is a cold film, with none of the sentimentality that one might expect in a war movie.  It’s a bold approach, one that makes Dunkirk an unusual and unexpected film.  I love those choices, and the result is a singularly impressive and moving piece of work.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Alien: Covenant A vastly underrated film that, sadly, failed to find an audience.  I stand by my conviction that Alien: Covenant is the third-best film in the entire Alien franchise (bested only, of course, by the original two films: Alien and Aliens).  The film is a sequel to Prometheus, but it’s also far more directly linked to the original Alien (as Prometheus should have been) in a way that brings focus and … [continued]

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