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News Around the Net!

January 28th, 2022

Let’s kick things off with our first glimpse at Guillermo del Toro’s animated new adaptation of Pinocchio:

I’m eager to see what unique stamp Mr. del Toro has put on this classic story!

Here’s a trailer for Will Arnett’s new improv detective show Murderville:

That looks terrific!  I can’t wait to see it.

Here’s a substantial first look at Moon Knight, which will be the next Marvel Disney+ show:

I cannot believe that we’re really getting a Moon Knight show!  What a blast it is to see this character (who has a long history in the comics but who remains a relatively obscure, second or third-tier character) getting his own TV show!  The trailer looks weird and wild in all the best ways.  I hope this works.

Here’s a new trailer for the second season of Star Trek: Picard:

It’s a solidly put-together trailer but 1) I’m not interested in the “time-travel to present day” story and 2) I have no faith that the people producing modern Star Trek are capable of pulling off a good new Trek show.  I’d love to be wrong.  (But I don’t expect to be.)

Here’s the reveal of the title of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show:

I’m intrigued to see what this show is going to be, and I want it to be good.  But that teaser feels so much like a B-version of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films to me, with music that’s not-quite Howard Shore’s LOTR themes and a voice-over from a regal, ethereal woman who isn’t quite Cate Blanchett…

This is interesting: a documentary called Slugfest, produced by the Russo Brothers (who directed Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame) and narrated by Kevin Smith, exploring the long rivalry between Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  Here’s a trailer:

That looks like fun!  It’s apparently available for viewing right now on the Roku Channel — I’m going to have to track this down.

If, like me, you’re watching and loving James Gunn’s Peacemaker show, you’re enjoying the incredible opening credits dance sequence.  Click here for a fantastic Q&A with Mr. Gunn, digging into how that all came to be!

Click here to read an interesting short piece by Aaron Sorkin, in which he lays out his philosophy of searching for “truth over accuracy” when working on biopics and other stories based on true events.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Jonathan Hickman’s reinvention of the X-Men comics for the past few years.  I’m sad that Mr. Hinkman has now moved on to other projects!  Click here for a fantastic oral history of this “Krakoan Age” of X-Men comics, in which Mr. Hickman and many of the other talented writers involved in … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2021 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of my favorite comic book series of 2021!  Here’s the conclusion of my list:

20. Dune: House Atreides (by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson & Dev Pramanik) — Despite my love for Dune, I didn’t care for the prequel novels written by Mr. Herbert & Mr. Anderson.  But Jae Lee’s gorgeous cover got me to buy the first issue, and I’ve been surprised how much I’ve been enjoying this comic book retelling of those novels’ stories.  Mr. Herbert & Mr. Anderson did a good job with this adaptation, paring down the story’s complications for an entertaining twelve-issue run.  It’s a fun return back into the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

19. Batman: The Adventures Continue Season Two (by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Ty Templeton, & Rick Burchett) and Justice League: Infinity (by James Tucker, J.M. DeMatteis, & Ethen Beavers) — I am thoroughly enjoying these two series which tell new stories in the continuities of, respectively, Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited shows.  I adored both those animated series, and it’s great fun to read new stories set after the final episodes of each of those two shows.

18. Batman ’89 (by Sam Hamm & Joe Quinones) and Superman ’78 (by Robert Venditti & Wilfredo Torres) — Similarly, I am loving these two mini-series, each of which tells a new story set in the events of those iconic movies: Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie.  Batman ’89 is centered on Harvey Dent, played memorably by Billy Dee Williams.  We never got to see Mr. Williams become Two-Face in the movies, but we get that story here, and it’s a lot of fun so far.  The series also, to my surprise, picks up on the end of Batman Returns and brings back a still-alive Catwoman, who re-enters the life of Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Sam Hamm co-wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, and was credited for the story of Batman Returns.  It’s fun to see what he might have done with this franchise if left to his own devices!  Meanwhile, Superman ’78 tells a cool story of Brainiac’s arrival in the Metropolis of Richard Donner’s Superman film.  Brainiac was often rumored to appear in a live-action Superman film; this is a fun way to imagine what that might have been like!  I’m particularly enjoying artist Wilfredo Torres’ depictions of Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent/Superman, Margo Kidder’s Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.  This is a cool alternate version of what Superman III might have been (or should I say: should have been)!

17. Marvel’s Voices (by various writers and artists) — This series … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2021 — Part One!

There were so many wonderful comic book stories published in 2021!  It fills me with joy that this medium I love so much is still so vibrant.  Maybe you’re a reader of this site who likes some of the movies and TV shows I write about, but you’ve never been into any comic book stuff?  If so, I hope you’ll take a look through this list and pick something that interests you.  You won’t regret it!

Graphic novels:

Reckless: Friend of the Devil and Reckless: Destroy All Monsters (by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips) — The unbeatable team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips published two new installments of their Reckless graphic novel series this year, and I loved them both so much!  The series tells noir mystery/crime stories set in Los Angeles in the eighties.  These are perfect pieces of pulp entertainment.  (Click here to find the first Reckless story and away you go!)

Autobiographix Dark Horse Comics republished their 2003 collection of short, black-and-white autobiographical stories, written and drawn by some of the best talents in comics, including Will Eisner, Sergio Aragonés, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, Stan Sakai, and many more.  What a great demonstration of the power of this medium and of the short story.  (Click here to find it.)

The Other History of the DC Universe (by John Ridley & Giuseppe Camuncoli & Andrea Cucchi) — This gripping, heartbreaking story tracks the history of several African American characters through many years of DC Comics’ continuity.  The series brilliantly expands upon the stories that have been told with these characters over the decades, weaving them in and out of other major events within the DC universe.  Written by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, the story is a compelling and important exploration of the lives of these Black characters, giving them a richness they didn’t always have in the hands of other creators.  The story is a wonderful look back at the history of the DC universe, as well as a tale that feels completely of the moment.  I loved the extensive prose style of the book.  Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art has never been better.  This is a major work; it blew me away.  (Click here to find the collected edition.)

Catwoman: Lonely City (by Cliff Chiang) — It’s ten years after the death of Batman and Selina Kyle has just been released after a decade in prison.  Returning to a Gotham City transformed by a militaristic police force (that replaced the costumed superheroes of yore), Selina endeavors to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.  But a promise she made to a dying Bruce Wayne, and her sense that things … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2021 — Part Five!

January 24th, 2022

I hope you’ve enjoyed my look back at my favorite movies of 2021!  Click here for part one, click here for part two, click here for part three, and click here for part four!  And now, we’ve finally arrived at my FIVE favorite movies of 2021…!

5. Judas and the Black Messiah This riveting film tells the story of the murder of Fred Hampton, the charismatic chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther party in 1969, by members of the Chicago police, working with the FBI.  The film is anchored by two spectacular performances: Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, and Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal, the Black Panther member who was actually a mole for the FBI and whose actions helped lead to Hampton’s murder.  Both men deliver towering, magnetic, deeply moving performances.  This film should be required viewing in every American History class in the United States.  I was blown away by this story and the incredible skill of Shaka King (director and co-writer) and his collaborators in bringing it to life.  This film will make you mad.  It should.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. The French Dispatch Once again, I was mesmerized by a new film from Wes Anderson.  I adored this loving salute to writers, those unique individuals who invest themselves fully in a story and do their best to capture the essence of who and what they witness using only the written word.  (Many of the characters in the film, writers for the fictional French Dispatch, are loosely based on actual writers for The New Yorker.)  I loved the film’s clever structure (vignettes that mimic the different type of feature articles found in a magazine like The New Yorker), and the film featured one spectacular actor after another, including but by no means limited to: Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Owen Wilson, Adirne Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Liev Schreiber,Léa Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Bob Balaban, Henry Winkler, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Fisher Stevens, Wally Wolodarsky, Lyna Khoudri, and many more.  Whimsical and moving, this is a great film.  I loved it.  (Click here for my full review.)

3. Tick, Tick… Boom! Lin-Manuel Miranda’s electric directorial debut was written by Steven Levenson (who won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Dear Evan Hansen), adapting the musical by Jonathan Larson (best known as the creator of Rent).  This autobiographical story was based on Mr. Larson’s pre-Rent days as a dirt-poor waiter living in New York City and struggling to break through into the world of musical theater.  Andrew Garfield is tremendous … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2021 — Part Four!

January 21st, 2022

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my list of my favorite movies of 2021!  Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.  And now, let’s dive into my TOP TEN favorite movies of 2021…!

10. Encanto The second amazing Disney animated film of 2021, Encanto is a beautiful and moving story about family, about magic, and about the lingering effects of trauma.  The film is fun and filled with joy while also containing an impressively nuanced and layered narrative.  It’s delightful to see a Disney animated film so centered on a multigenerational Latinx family; in particular a story steeped in Colombian culture.  The music, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is extraordinary — propulsive and memorable.  (Everyone’s going nuts these days, and rightly so, for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, but for me the film’s showstopper is the first song, “The Family Madrigal”, a fast-paced earworm of a tune that spectacularly introduces the film’s huge cast of characters.)  The animation is gorgeous (as always for Disney) and I was particularly impressed by the animation of the dance choreography, which was intricate and unique.  I can’t wait to see this movie again.  (My full review is coming soon.)

9. The Eternals The general consensus seems to be that The Eternals stinks, but I found it to be a delight!  I love that Marvel and director Chloé Zhao created a film that’s different from what has become the standard adventure/jokey tone of the MCU, but that instead is more somber and elegiac than what we’ve come to expect.  I like that this is a long film that explores a huge cast of characters, brought to life by a terrific ensemble of actors.  I like that director Chloé Zhao and her team have brought a sense of epic scope and beauty to the film, as well as a focus on an exploration of the characters, as well as the broader cosmic universe of the MCU.  The film is beautiful, with a memorable “on location” feel in beautiful settings across the globe, a credit to the work of Ms. Zhao and her crew.  It’s very cool to see this obscure group of characters — created in the seventies by comic book god Jack Kirby — brought to life on-screen.  There’s plenty of Marvel fun to be had here, and also a story that’s a little more complex and layered than the average Marvel movie.  I suspect this is a film I will have a lot of fun re-watching in the years to come.  (Click here for my full review.)

8. The Suicide Squad Forget the terrible 2016 Suicide Squad film.  James Gunn’s sequel/reboot … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2021 — Part Three!

January 20th, 2022

Click here for part one of my look back at my favorite movies of 2021, and click here for part two!

15. Raya and the Last Dragon The first of two exquisitely enjoyable new Disney animated films released this year, Raya and the Last Dragon is an exciting adventure story with a pleasing balance of fun action and rich characters, set in a delightfully well fleshed-out original world.  It’s a pleasure to see a Disney film that so richly embraces Southeast Asian culture.  Kelly Marie Tran is tremendous as Raya, Disney’s first princess (and the story makes sure to clarify that Raya is a princess) of Southeast Asian descent, and Awkwafina is both hilarious and tender and moving as the dragon Sisu.  The animation is gorgeous, and the voice-cast is top-notch.  It’s hard to ask for more!  (Click here for my full review.)

14. The Harder They Fall — Jeymes Samuel’s fun and gripping Western is an attempt to move Old West stories away from the usual white male perspective and recenter the narrative on the stories of people of color and women.  I loved this rollicking Western, and I was blown away by the work of the stupendous cast, including Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, Danielle Deadwyler, and so many more!  I loved the modern music on the soundtrack, and I loved the “title card” freeze-frames and text captions as the film introduces each member of Nat and Buck’s gangs, and so many other fun touches like that.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. One Night in Miami Regina King’s powerhouse of a directorial debut (written by Kemp Powers, adapting his own play), is a riveting fictionalized version of what might have happened on the night in February, 1965, when Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke were together celebrating after Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston, a moment captured in a famous photograph.  It’s a fascinating exploration of these four complex, charismatic men.  There’s a lot of joy and drama to be found in imagining what these four men might have had to say to one another, and how they might have bounced off of one another.  All four lead actors are extraordinary: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Aldis Hodge, Eli Goree, and Leslie Odom Jr.  I found this film to be fascinating from start to finish.  (Click here for my full review.)

12. No Time to Die This fifth and final film starring Daniel Craig as James Bond is excellent.  This is top-tier Bond.  Mr. Craig remains remarkably magnetic as 007, bringing toughness but also humor and, more importantly, real feeling and drama to … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2021 — Part Two!

January 19th, 2022

Yesterday I began my look back at my favorite movies of 2021!  Let’s continue…!

20. Oxygen — In this thrilling, tense sci-fi film, Mélanie Laurent plays the main character (whose name we don’t at first know), who wakes up trapped in some sort of futuristic medical pod.  She doesn’t know who she is or how she got there, but she doesn’t seem to have the needed authority or codes to order the pod’s A.I. to unlock it and release her, and the oxygen within the pod is rapidly running out.  I always love original sci-fi stories, and I was impressed by the way director Alexandre Aja and screenwriter Christie LeBlanc were able to create a great sci-fi premise here in this film.  I love the way the movie is structured as a mystery, with Ms. Laurent’s character and the audience gradually putting together the pieces of the puzzle, while also being a nail-biting race-against-the-clock thriller.  Mélanie Laurent is electric as basically the only human being we see on screen for the entire film.  (Click here for my full review.)

19. Don’t Look Up Adam McKay’s sci-fi comedy/satire is so spot-on and so prescient that it feels more like a documentary film than a satire/comedy.  Perhaps that’s why it’s been rubbing some viewers the wrong way.  Certainly I will confess that I didn’t get much joy from watching the film, despite how funny it was.  This was because my stomach was churning the entire time, as I realized that this fictional satirical premise felt entirely plausible and realistic based on how the world seems to look most days!!  Mr. McCay has perhaps done his job too well.  Don’t Look Up makes its point so well that it’s something of a downer.  At the same time, I found it to be absolutely riveting and stuffed full to overflowing with one incredible performance after another by Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Ron Perlman, Melanie Lynskey, and many more.  (My full review is coming soon.)

18. The Last Duel While this film can’t hold a candle to some of Ridley Scott’s greatest works, I think The Last Duel was unfairly ignored this year.  I really dug this Rashomon style re-telling of the feud that erupted between Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and his former friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) after de Carrouges’ wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accused Le Gris of raping her.  All three lead actors turn in magnificent, memorable performances, creating indelibly memorable characters. Add to that list Ben Affleck, who blew me away with his work as the wealthy and jovially self-centered Count Pierre d’Alençon.  I … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2021 — Part One!

January 18th, 2022

Welcome to my list of my favorite movies of 2021!  While I’ve seen a lot of movies this year, as usual there were plenty I wanted to see but didn’t get to.  In specific, I’ve been continuing to avoid movie theaters, so there are a number of movies that were released to theaters towards the end of the year that aren’t yet streaming, so I haven’t seen them yet, including: Nightmare Alley, West Side Story, House of Gucci, Licorice Pizza, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and more.  But, there are still SO MANY great 2021 movies that are worth celebrating!!  Let’s dive in:

25. The Super Bob Einstein Movie This joyous documentary, directed by Danny Gold, salutes the great Bob Einstein, who passed away in 2019.  The doc features interviews from Mr. Einstein’s family (including his brother, Albert Brooks), and the many creative talents who worked with him and loved him, including many of the key players on Curb Your Enthusiasm (including Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove, and others).  The doc also features robust clips of Mr. Einstein’s work from throughout the years, including some of his great moments on Curb, his incredible scene with Albert Brooks in Modern Romance, and lots and lots of Super Dave ridiculousness.  A fun salute to a comedic giant.  (My full review is coming soon.)

24. Val Next on my list is another wonderful documentary.  Val, directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, explores the life and career of Val Kilmer.  Utilizing the epic trove of home video footage that the actor has recorded throughout his life, both at home and on the sets of many of the movies in which he has performed, the documentary is remarkably intimate.  It’s also bittersweet, as Mr. Kilmer has lost the use of his beautiful voice due to throat cancer (something I had no idea had happened until I saw the first trailer for this film).  (Click here for my full review.)

23. Justice League: The Snyder Cut OK, why is this movie on my list?  It’s not, by any of my usual metrics, a good movie.  It is insanely long.  It is howlingly dumb at times.  There are plot points that make no sense.  Mr. Snyder demonstrates a near-complete lack of understanding of these iconic characters.  Time and again things happen in the film because someone (likely Mr. Snyder) thought they’d be cool or look cool, but what’s happening doesn’t make any plot or character sense.  And yet, I think it’s very cool that this film exists.  I think it’s a shame and unfair that Warner Brothers lost faith in Mr. Snyder during the film’s production, and I think … [continued]

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