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Josh Reviews The Predator

I’m an optimist, and someday I hope to see a new, truly great Star Trek movie in the theatres.  Someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Alien movie in the theatres.  And someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Predator movie in the theatres.

This sure as heck ain’t it.

The original Predator, from 1987, is a bad-ass, violent action movie with a sci-fi twist.  It was directed by John McTiernan, in the era in which Mr. McTiernan could do no wrong.  (He also directed Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, two nearly perfect films that I adore.)  I love Predator — it’s got great characters, great action, and a great villain.  It holds up pretty well.  And it has spawned a heck of a lot of sequels, though sadly none of them have succeeded in being more then a relatively pale imitation of that first film.  1990’s Predator 2 is a truly bizarre sequel, transporting the series into the future (an at-the-time futuristic 1997 Los Angeles) and replacing the action-star Arnold Schwarzenegger with a very hyper Danny Glover as the lead.  At the time, it was a disappointment, and it’s hard to argue that the film is all that good, but relative to the films that followed, I now consider Predator 2 to be somewhat underrated!  In a film-fan in-joke, a sequence inside a Predator ship in Predator 2 showed an Alien skull, from the Alien franchise, on the Predator’s trophy wall.  That inspired a wonderful series of Aliens vs. Predator comic-books by Dark Horse Comics, which owned the comic-book rights to both franchises, and that in turn inspired two Alien vs. Predator films in 2004 and 2007, neither of which really lived up to the potential of the premise.  Then, in 2010, Robert Rodriguez produced another straight-up Predator sequel, called Predators (a fun nod to the Alien sequel, Aliens), that was directed by Nimród Antal.  I enjoyed the film’s efforts to do something new with the Predator franchise (such as setting the film on an alien planet as opposed to here on Earth), but in the end I didn’t find it particularly memorable.

And so now here we are with yet another attempt to relaunch the franchise with The Predator.  When I read that Shane Black was writing and directing this film, I was ecstatic.  Mr. Black is an incredible talent.  He wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, two films that I absolutely love.  (He also wrote and directed Iron Man Three, which was pretty great too!)  And he has a connection to Predator in that he appeared as an actor in the first … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

September 18th, 2018

At last!  The first trailer for Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel is here — and, no surprise, it looks great:

There’s a lot to enjoy and unpack there.  Brie Larson seems great for the role, and I’m glad that Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury looks to be a major part of the film.  (I love the moment in which he takes off his glasses to reveal that he still has both eyes.)  I loved the quick glimpse of what looks like the same communications device that Nick used in the final seconds of Infinity War.  I think both versions of Carol Danvers’ super-hero suit (the blue/green Kree warrior version as well as the classic-looking red/blue/gold version) look fantastic.  I’m super-excited that we’re finally getting Skrulls — those classic shape-shifting villains from the comics — in a Marvel movie (I assume the old lady Carol punches in the trailer is a Skrull).  (Is it possible that a story-line in Marvel’s as-yet-unannounced Phase Four of movies will include an adaptation of the “Secret Invasion” story-line from the comics in which the shape-shifting Skrulls wreak havoc?)  My heart sang at the pan down, at the beginning, to reveal the Blockbuster sign — what a clever way to clarify this film’s nineties-era setting!  I can’t wait for this.

My Star Trek-loving self thoroughly enjoyed this tribute to 52 years of Trek at the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys.  The speeches are OK, but it’s the skillfully-made clip package from 1:50 to 4:50 that made my heart sing.  Click here to enjoy.

Jon Kasdan (co-writer of Solo, along with his father, Lawrence Kasdan), has posted to twitter an extensive series of 52 notes/comments on the film Solo on the eve of its release to DVD/blu-ray.  This is fascinating reading for all Star Wars fans.

Speaking of Solo, this is a great interview with Sam Witwer, who voiced… well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say he voiced a certain character on the animated Clone Wars and Rebels series who also appeared in the live-action Solo.

Since the start of the DVD era, I’ve been a big fan and a constant reader of Bill Hunt’s The Digital Bits website.  His latest editorial, “HEY KIDS… BUYING MOVIES? BUY THEM ON DISC, NOT DIGITAL. HERE’S WHY…” is a great summation of something that seems so obvious to me as a collector, and yet I know many feel differently.  It’s a great read.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Conan O’Brien’s late-night show, many of his former writers reminisce about their favorite moments from the history of the show in this fun article.

This is funny — nerdy fans have found a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it continuity error [continued]

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SCI: The Jewish Comix Anthology vol 2 is Now Available!

September 14th, 2018

I am pleased to announce that I have illustrated a short story in SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology vol. 2!  (I also illustrated a story in volume 1!  It’s unfortunately out of print, but you can view the first page of that story here.)  The story I illustrated for volume 2 is called “Wrestling with Jacob,” and it was written by Michael Norwitz.  Whereas my story for volume 1 was in black in white, this story for volume 2 is full-color painted artwork.  This second volume of The Jewish Comics Anthology is focused on sci-fi tales.  I am delighted to be included in this volume, along with incredible talents such as Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack, Ty Templeton, Michael Netzer, Neil Kleid, and many more!

The digital edition of SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology vol. 2 is available RIGHT NOW on Comixology for only $9.99!

The print version will be available soon; I will share news of that when it is ready.

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Star Trek: Elusive Salvation

I loved Dayton Ward’s 2013 Star Trek novel From History’s Shadow.  That novel took several characters and references from across the many different Star Trek series to aliens having been on Earth in the years between 1947 and 1968 and wove them together into a wonderful story about this secret history of the Star Trek universe.  It was brilliant.

And so I was eager to read Elusive Salvation, Mr. Ward’s 2016 follow-up.

Elusive Salvation is a wonderful book, but despite the back cover’s declaring that the novel would be “an all-new adventure from history’s shadow!”, it is not the sequel to From History’s Shadow that it was billed to be.

In fact, it’s not really a sequel at all.  I had expected that this novel would follow the further adventures of the human Captain Wainwright and the Vulcan Mestral (characters from the DS9 episode “Little Green Men” and the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek,” respectively) and Allison Marshall and the other main characters of From History’s Shadow, but that did not prove to be the case.  I was surprised and disappointed that Wainwright and Marshall barely appear in Elusive Salvation. (Wainwright in two short chapters, Marshall not at all.)

Elusive Salvation is a sequel to From History’s Shadow only in that it’s a similar type of story, one that tells parallel narratives of aliens on Earth in the past with a connected adventure of Kirk and the Enterprise in the future.

In this book, we follow a group of aliens who, fleeing their persecutors, crash on Earth in 1845 in the Arctic Circle.  These long-lived aliens live for decades in secret on Earth, and we follow their progress over the years, seeing how they are able to successfully avoid being noticed both by the native human beings and also their alien oppressors who continue to pursue them.  Centuries later, Captain Kirk encounters representatives of this same alien race, the Iramahl, who have at last thrown off the shackles of their oppressors, the Ptaen, and who believe that a secret critical to their race’s survival has been hidden on Earth.

I wrote in my review of From History’s Shadow that I loved how that book, along with Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars novels, had continued to utilize and develop Roberta Lincoln, the woman played by Teri Garr from the Original Series episode “Assignment: Earth.”  I was happy that Roberta appeared again in this novel.  I love seeing more of this character and learning more about her and Gary Seven’s mysterious employers, the Aegis (named by Howard Weinstein in his story for DC Comics’ Star Trek comic book series from the eighties and nineties).

Once again, this novel is, for the most part, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Death of Superman Animated Film

Back in 2007, when DC/Warner Brothers began their series of direct-to-DVD animated films, the first project they tackled was an adaptation of the 1992-93 “Death of Superman” storyline from the comics.  That animated film, Superman: Doomsday, was very entertaining and still stands as one of my favorite of the now thirty-plus DC animated films.  A decade later, DC/Warner Brothers have returned to that well with another adaptation of this famous story-line, this time in an extended two-part film.  So what did I think of the recently-released part one, The Death of Superman?

It’s actually quite good!  I’m pleasantly surprised.  First off, I wasn’t that excited for a second adaptation of this storyline.  The first animated film, as I just mentioned above, was great, and the “Death of Superman” story from the comics is far from my favorite Superman story.  Additionally, this new animated adaptation is set in the “New 52” inspired continuity that has been connecting most of the past several years’ worth of DC’s animated films, and while I love the idea of a continuity between these films, I don’t love many of the creative decisions at the heart of this “New 52” style.  (And, indeed, DC’s 2014 “New 52” relaunch of its comic book universe has, only four years later, already been mostly abandoned.)  So none of this had me exactly chomping at the bit for this new film.

But I’m happy to say, it’s a very entertaining film and a very competently-made adaptation of this storyline.

When this project was first announced, I’d assumed that it would be designed as a more-faithful adaptation of the original source material, as opposed to the first animated adaptation that took a lot of liberties with the story and condensed a year’s worth of plot from across multiple Superman titles into a less-than-ninety minute film.  But, surprisingly, this new adaptation has reconfigured the source material almost as much as the first film did!  First off, as I’d noted above, the story been adjusted to fix into the “New 52” inspired continuity of these recent animated films, which necessitated a number of changes to the story as well as the look of all the characters.  And while a two-part film will surely be able to get into a lot more detail than the original done-in-one animated adaptation, there was still a great deal of condensing that needed to be done to fit this sprawling story into a film.  (Part two looks like it will include a lot more of the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline from the comics, in which various Superman-doppelgangers appeared on the scene following Supey’s death.  Superman: Doomsday skipped all of that, so I’m excited to see part two … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Brockmire Season Two!

September 6th, 2018
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Season one of Brockmire was one of my favorite television discoveries from last year, so I was super-excited for season two!  I loved these eight new episodes, and I continue to highly recommend this show!

Brockmire stars Hank Azaria as disgraced former major league announcer Jim Brockmire.  The show charts Brockmire’s attempts to rebuild his life and return to a big league announcing booth, years after a drunken outburst destroyed his career.  While most shows with that sort of premise would probably depict a main character who is now trying to live life on the straight and narrow, the crazy beauty of Brockmire is that the main character is still a pompous, profane alcoholic jerk.

After only two short seasons, I think Brockmire might be my favorite live-action role of Hank Azaria’s career. It feels like the role he was born to play. The role is a perfect showcase for Mr. Azaria’s impeccable comedic chops.  The man can deliver a punchline like nobody else on television.  But the show also feels like the payoff to all of the dramatic work that Mr. Azaria has done over the past two decades.  Attempting, I suspect, to demonstrate that he can do more than lots of funny voices on The Simpsons, Mr. Azaria has done a number of straight drama projects over the years.  Often, frankly, these didn’t interest me, because personally I got far more enjoyment from Mr. Azaria’s being funny than his being serious.  But Brockmire feels like the perfect combination of all of Mr. Azaria’s strengths.  He is able to be supremely funny, while also seemingly effortlessly carrying the dramatic weight needed to make the character, and the show, feel real.  Brockmire season two goes to some dark places (more on this in a moment), and Mr. Azaria is incredible in the way he is able to plumb the dark depths of where Brockmire is at this season.  In the finale, Mr. Azaria has a dramatic scene with Tyrel Jackson Williams as Charles — this is a moment of pure heart-wrenching drama, no comedy in sight — and Mr. Azaria is absolutely incredible.

At the end of season one, we saw Brockmire make a choice that I, as an audience-member who had been rooting for the character, thought was terrible.  I’d expected the start of season two to hit the reset button and quickly undo that choice.  For so many years, that was the way that television worked.  But, thankfully, the Brockmire team went in a different direction, and all of season two is spent exploring the fallout of that choice, and the ways in which Brockmire’s life slowly unravels.  It’s a bold approach, and one that I applaud.

It … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Netflix’s Jack Ryan: Season One

I loved The Hunt for Red October when I first saw it when it was released back in 1990, and to this day it remains one of my very favorite movies.  None of the follow-up Jack Ryan films was able to match it.  I like the two Harrison Ford films (Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger), though I dream of an alternate universe in which Alec Baldwin returned as Ryan rather than being replaced by Ford.  I don’t think The Sum of All Fears is as bad as most people do, but there’s no question that attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan film franchise didn’t work.  It was, however, far superior to 2014’s abysmal Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, about which the less said, the better.  Now comes Amazon’s eight-episode Jack Ryan series.  So what did I think?

I quite liked it!  This first season of Jack Ryan is strong, exciting television.  The show is superbly made, with a great cast and an epic scope.  This first season was exciting and tense, with great action and compelling cliffhangers that hooked me in and resulted in my blazing through the entire season in short time.   Show-runners Carlton Cuse (who ran Lost with Damon Lindelof) and Graham Roland have done strong work here.

Just like The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, this new Jack Ryan show again reboots the story to zero and retells us Ryan’s origin.  While I find this repeated rebooting to be tiresome, I can understand why a new Jack Ryan TV show would feel the need to do this, and thankfully, they’ve found some interesting new spins on the tale of the young analyst Ryan getting swept up in action and espionage in the field, so the show doesn’t feel like a rehash of stuff we’ve seen before.

While I still long for a great Ryan movie that can rival Red October, after watching these eight episodes, it’s clear that a TV mini-series is the perfect format for telling a Tom Clancy-style story.  (This series isn’t directly adapted from any of Mr. Clancy’s novels, but the type of global terror-threat story it depicts feels very much in the style of Mr. Clancy’s work.)  The eight-episode season gives the show plenty of time to tell a far-reaching, complicated story taking place in many different countries, and allows us to follow many different characters, good guys and bad guys.  The show is able to tell a complex story that has the room to breathe, as opposed to having to squash everything into a two-hour film.  The result is the first truly successful new filmed Jack Ryan story in quite a long while.

I’d at first … [continued]