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News Around the Net

February 22nd, 2019
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Right after my last News Around the Net post, about a month ago, this trailer dropped:

In this day and age I am rarely shocked by a movie trailer, but I was not at all expecting to discover that Jason Reitman will be making a Ghostbusters sequel!  Jason Reitman is, of course, the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the first two Ghostbusters films, and he’s a fantastic writer/director in his own right.  Apparently he’s making a film that will serve as a sequel to the original two films, ignoring the female-led Ghostbusters reboot film directed by Paul Feig.  (Read more details here.)  I have mixed feelings about this!  On the pro side, I deeply love those first two Ghostbusters film and would love to see another great film made in this universe.  Mr. Reitman is a skilled writer/director in whom I have faith… AND his being the son of Ivan Reitman give shim a strong connection to this franchise that will, hopefully, serve in her favor.  On the con side, after all the negativity surrounding the all-female reboot film, I’d have loved to have seen that great cast allowed another turn at bat.  I’m disappointed that this sequel announcement likely means the all-female incarnation is dead.  I’m also not at all certain that ANY film could possibly live up to the original Ghostbusters at this point, and so a big part of me wishes they’d stop trying.  But, for now, I am cautiously optimistic and eager to learn more about what Mr. Reitman and his team (including co-writer Gil Kenan) are cooking up.

This is a great teaser for Frozen II:

My kids are excited!!

I’m a little less jazzed about this new trailer for Aladdin:

I’m sort of over all of these Disney live-action remakes of their animated films.  (Though I bet my kids will be excited for this one too!)

This is a big crazy (and NSFW) trailer for David Fincher and Tim Miller’s upcoming animated anthology show on Netflix:

I didn’t know anything about this before watching that trailer, and now I am excited to see this!

I’ve quite enjoyed Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s comic-book series Jupiter’s Legacy, and I’m excited that an adaptation is in the works as a TV show for Netflix.  Speaking of adaptations of Mark Millar properties, they’re really moving forward on a third Kingsman movie?  And it’s going to be a prequel?  I loved the original comic book series, The Secret Service, written by Mr. Millar and illustrated by the great Dave Gibbons, upon which the Kingsman films are based.  But the first film didn’t live up to my expectations, and I thought the sequel, [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Point of Light” and “An Obol for Charon”

I was relatively happy with the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season two.  (Click here for my thoughts!)  Episode three was a huge step in the wrong direction, but then the fourth episode might have been the best episode of the new season so far.  So things are looking up!  Sort of.  Please read on for my detailed reviews:

Episode 3: “Point of Light” — I had my quibbles with the first two episodes of Discovery season two, but for the most part I thought they were a strong start to the season.  Things took a step backwards in this third episode.  Blech, this one was weak in the extreme.

Though I will freely admit that, for the most part, the stuff in this episode that took place on Discovery was good-to-great.  It was everything else — all that nonsense with the Klingons and Mirror Georgiou and Section 31 was just terrible, just a huge swing-and-a-miss, in my opinion.  This episode also struggled where the first two episodes succeeded in finding a balance of episodic versus the more common every-episode-leads-right-into-the-next approach of many streaming shows today.  I like continuity.  Strike that, I LOVE continuity.  I WANT these episodes to connect to one another, and to fit together as they tell a story-arc over the course of the season.  But I also want each episode to feel like an episode, to feel like it has its own structure and a definitive beginning-middle-end, even if that ending is a cliffhanger leading into the next installment.  The first two episodes of season two found that balance very well.  But this third episode just feels like a lot of random scenes strung together, continuing stories that were mostly begun back in season one (both the Klingon/Georgiou stuff as well as the spore that had infected Tilly), without actually resolving much of anything.

Let’s start with what’s good, which is most of the Discovery stuff.  I’m worried that they’ve already over-used the plot device of “Tilly does something crazy that turns out to be motivated by a good reason, worries she’s going to be kicked out of the Starfleet command training program, and then is reassured by Saru.”  But that being said, I enjoyed this story even as I want the Discovery writers to find new and better ways to use Tilly.  I enjoyed the mystery of her “I see dead people” friend, and I was pleased they didn’t try to milk the idea of Tilly’s being crazy for too long, allowing Burnham to quickly help Tilly figure out that there was a real scientific explanation for her visions of her dead friend.  I’m glad they didn’t let the mystery of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Glass

I loved M. Night Shyamalan’s film Unbreakable back when it was released in 2000.  I was excited for a superhero film that took superhero films seriously.  (Two decades ago, I could count all the decent superhero movies that had EVER BEEN MADE on one hand.)  I rewatched Unbreakable a few weeks ago, and even when viewed in the context of today’s golden age of superhero films, I think the film holds up well.  It’s got a compelling story, a terrific cast, it’s gorgeously shot (the way Mr. Shyamalan composes the images and stages his scenes is amazing), the dialogue is rich and multi-layered.  It’s great!  It’s still one of my very favorite superhero films.

In my opinion, its only weakness is that it feels like it’s missing its last 30 minutes.  The film is all set-up, but no payoff.  It feels like a perfect first two acts of a film… that is missing act three.  To this day I can’t believe the film ends when David Dunn (Bruce Willis), discovers the truth about what Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) has been up to.  I was expecting an exciting confrontation between these two opposites to unfold… but instead, Elijah just gives himself up and the film ends!  And so, ever since 2000, I felt that Unbreakable was a film that was crying out for a sequel.  But as the years passed, I had long ago given up hope that one would ever arrive.

Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Shyamalan surprised the world by revealing in the closing scene of his 2016 film Split that it was, in fact, a stealth sequel to Unbreakable!  Since that film was a hit, it allowed Mr. Shyamalan to finally return fully to the world of Unbreakable with his latest film, Glass.

Glass serves as a sequel to both Unbreakable and to Split.  Split’s villainous character, Kevin Wendell Crumb (nicknamed “the Horde”) is still on the loose, and he has kidnapped more young women.  We learn that, in the years since Unbreakable, David Dunn (now nicknamed “the Overseer”) has continued to seek out wrong-doers, assisted by his son Joseph.  David sets out to find and stop Kevin.  When the two meet, they battle to a standstill which is interrupted by the police, who take both men into custody.  They bring David and Kevin to a psychiatric facility, overseen by Dr. Ellie Staple.  Elijah is also being kept there.  Dr. Staple believes that all three men suffer from a mental illness, deluding themselves into thinking that they are super-powered.

I was extremely excited for Glass, but I was also dubious that Mr. Shyamalan would be able to craft a satisfactory sequel.  I loved Mr. Shyamalan’s first three … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2018 — Part Three!

Please click here for part one of my list of my Favorite Comic Book Series of 2018, and click here for part two.

5. Saga (by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples) — This wild and crazy, funny and deeply moving sci-fi fantasy adventure continues to surprise and delight me at every turn and just seems to get better and more emotionally rich with each passing year.  Mr. Vaughan is a Joss Whedon-level master at creating characters that we fall in love with, and then putting them (and therefore the audience!) through torturous hell.  There’s no other comic book out there that is anything like Saga, with its roller-coaster-ride style of storytelling, merging an overwhelming amount of stunningly original ideas and concepts with deeply affecting character arcs.  Saga is funny and weird and terrifying and heartbreaking.  Fiona Staple’s gorgeous artwork never disappoints, and is evidence, panel-after-panel and page-after-page, that she is one of the very best illustrators working in this business.  This Saga only gets richer and more emotionally wrenching with every issue.  I adore it.  (And the back-of-the-book letters page is the best in comics today.)  (The best place to begin is with Saga Book One, available on Amazon.)

4. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses (by David Lapham) — I have been a fan of Stray Bullets since I first picked up issue #1 of the original run back in 1995.  The series went away for almost a decade in the aughts, but miraculously returned in 2014 for a new run that has been just as compelling and heartbreaking as those original stories.  This series is the greatest comic book noir I have ever encountered, filled with hard-luck cases for whom life usually goes from bad to worse.  This latest run is theoretically a mini-series, subtitled Sunshine and Roses, but it’s been going on for over forty issues and doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping.  Which is fine by me!  This latest story has looped back in time to depict the adventures of Orson, Beth, and Nina, on the run after stealing money and coke from a group of criminals.  We already know their fates from the early issues of Stray Bullets’ original run, and I wouldn’t have thought there was any more story to tell.  Boy was I wrong!  This is one of the most brilliant, idiosyncratic books out there.  I am so glad it has returned from the dead.  I will have a much longer post about Stray Bullets to share soon!  (Click here for a much longer post in which I sing the praises of Stray Bullets!)  (Dive into the sage with the first, and still probably the best, … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2018 — Part Two!

On Monday I began my list of my Favorite Comic Book Series of 2019!  And now, onwards:

15. Gideon Falls (by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino) — This mindbending story follows Norton, a lonely, possibly mentally-ill man living in a big city, collecting pieces of garbage that he is convinced can be assembled into something important, and Father Fred, a elderly Catholic priest with a secret in his past who has been assigned to the small town of Gideon Falls.  The two men are linked by the mystery of the Black Barn, an urban legend that both Norton and Father Fred gradually become convinced is very real… and very evil.  I don’t have any idea where this story is heading, but I am loving the ride so far.  Andrea Sorrentino’s endlessly inventive page layouts are dynamite.  (Click here to purchase vol 01 from Amazon, and click here to purchase vol 02.)

 

 

14. Star Trek: New Visions (by John Byrne) — I’ve been a fan of John Byrne since I first started reading comics in the early eighties.  It was always clear that he was a Star Trek fan, since I caught the various little Trek references and nods he’d work into his artwork, and I enjoyed the handful of Star Trekmini-series that Mr. Byrne has written and drawn in recent yearsfor IDW.  But he has created an entirely different beast with his New Visions series.  Each issue is a 48-page square-bound publication, and none of the artwork is hand-drawn.  Instead, Mr. Byrne has revitalized the old style of a “photo-play,” using still photos from the original Star Trek series assembled to tell an entirely new story!  As this series has progressed, Mr. Byrne has grown more adept at using Photoshop to manipulate these still-photos, so that he can get more adventurous with his storytelling.  The style works remarkably well, and I have been hugely enjoying these brand new adventures off Kirk, Spock & co. that Mr. Byrne has been crafting.  I am very sorry that the series ended this year!  (Click here to purchase the latest collected volume on Amazon.)

13. East of West (by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta) — How do I even begin to describe this super-weird series?  It depicts a dystopian future in which the Civil War never ended and what we know as the U.S. has been divided into several different still-warring territories.  It’s also about the reincarnated four horsemen of the apocalypse, and their efforts — along with their followers — to bring about the end of the world.  I love the sci-fi-meets-western vibe of the series.  Nick Dragotta draws the way I wish I … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2018 — Part One!

I hope you enjoyed my list of my Favorite Episodes of TV of 2018, and my list of my Favorite Movies of 2018!

Here now is my list of my Favorite Comic Book Series of 2018!

This was an amazing year for comics, and I read lots of great stuff that didn’t make my list, including: Prodigy by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque; the new series of Mark Millar’s Kick Ass and Hit Girl by rotating creative teams, Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s bonkers Batman: Metal; David & Maria Lapham’s new series The Lodger; the Star Trek anthology series Star Trek: Waypoint; Cemetery Beach by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard; Scott Snyder’s Justice League, Heroes in Crisis by Tom King and Clay Mann, and lots more.

I usually use this list to highlight continuing series (or at least mini-series), but I also want to note the terrific one-shot Dr. Horrible: Best Friends Forever (written by Joss Whedon and illustrated by Jose Maria Beroy & Sara Soler), the spectacular new Thanos graphic novel Thanos: The Infinity Conflict (written by Thanos’ creator Jim Starlin and gorgeously illustrated by comic-book master Alan Davis) and My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips — a beautiful stand-alone that made me hoot with glee when the last-page shocker revealed that the whole story took place within the world of their magnificent crime-series Criminal).  I was also really, really happy to see Chris Claremont back writing the X-Men, albeit very briefly, this year, with a short story about Kitty & Colossus in the X-Men Wedding Special and a tale about young Nate Summers in The Exterminated.  

And now, on to my list!

24. S.H.I.E.L.D. (by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver) — Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s magnificent series about the secret history of the Marvel Universe was abruptly cut off back in 2011.  After a long, long, looooong wait, I was delighted that the series was finally completed this year!  It’s crazy that we had to wait so long, but I am so happy that Marvel was able to ensure that this series was brought to its proper conclusion.  When read together as a whole, this is a fantastic story with connections to a lot of Mr. Hickman’s other Marvel work (particularly his runs on Fantastic Four and The Avengers)!  (Click here to purchase vol. 1 of this story from Amazon, and here for vol. 2.)

 

 

 

23. Fantastic Four (by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli)– Marvel hasn’t published a new Fantastic Four book for years, but the series finally returned this year in great form from Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli.  … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part Four!

We’ve reached the end of my list of my Favorite Movies of 2018!  Click here for part one of my list, and click here for part two, and click here for part three.

5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? —  Like so many of my generation, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  The moral and life lessons of Fred Rogers’ television program for children have stayed with me, and are deeply woven into my being.  I knew this, but watching Morgan Neville’s incredible documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I was struck anew by the lessons that Mr. Rogers taught me and so many other kids like me.  The film is a heartwarming (and also, at times, sad) look back at Mr. Rogers’ life and his life’s work: using the medium of television to educate children.  The film allows us to hear from Fred Rogers himself, via archival footage (such as clips from his famous testimony before Congress in 1969) and generous helpings of scenes from the show.  Even better, the film brings together many of the men and women who knew and worked with Mr. Rogers, and they each have fascinating and insightful stories to tell.  Watching the film, I felt a profound sense that something important had been lost from our culture with the passing of Fred Rogers and his children’s television program.  Our world needs more teachers and leaders out there focusing on the values of kindness, of understanding, and of love.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Mission: Impossible — Fallout I am sort of bowled over at how great this FIFTH Mission: Impossible movie is!  Writer-Director Christopher McQuarrie (returning to helm his second-in-a-row Mission film, the first time the same director returned for the next Mission film in the series) has crafted a triumph of fun pop action-adventure filmmaking.  It’s a delight from start to finish, filled with terrific characters, a tightly-woven plot (that actually, for the most part at least, makes sense), and some of the most outrageously bonkers action sequences I have ever seen.  Tom Cruise is tremendous as always, and I love how well this film allowed the IMF team (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin) to play together.  I was delighted that they brought back Michelle Monaghan, drawing to a close story-threads that were begun back in M:I-III.  Henry Cavill’s brute-force CIA operative was a fantastic foil for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.  But this film is all about the astounding action sequences: the halo-jump sequence over Paris; the brutal fist-fight in a bathroom; the prison-van breakout sequence; the motorcycle-and-car chase across Paris; and, of course, the gonzo helicopter chase in the film’s climax (in … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part Three!

I hope you’re enjoying my journey through my Favorite Movies of 2018!  Click here for part one of my list, and click here for part two.

10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs This latest film from the Coen Brothers consists of six short-stories, all set in the Old West.  I thought the film was marvelous — it’s weird and funny and heartbreaking… and did I say weird?  The film’s heart beats with the Coen Brothers’ uniquely off-kilter sensibility.  I can see how it might strain the patience of someone looking for a more standard, traditionally structured narrative film.  But I loved pretty much every minute of it.  Each one of the six stories surprised me, and I loved how easily the film shifted gear from whimsy to melancholy and back again.  The cast was amazing:  Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown, Stephen Root, Harry Melling, Jefferson Mays, Tyne DalyBrendan GleesonSaul Rubenik, Chelcie Ross, and Jojo O’Neill each did fantastic work in their (mostly small) roles.  I love what a unique film this is.  I am thrilled that Netflix supported the Coen Brothers in following their vision to create it.  (Click here for my full review.)

9. Green BookGreen Book is a warm fable the likes of which is a little out of style these days, but I was captivated by this sweet, funny story of the unlikely friendship formed between two very different men of different races and different social strata: Mahershala Ali as the musician Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as his driver, Tony Vallelonga.  The film is anchored by the tremendous performances of its two leading men.  Mr. Ali embodies Don Shirley’s incredible core of strength and dignity as he struggles daily against vicious prejudice and pushes back against those ignorant attitudes.  Meanwhile, Mr. Mortensen bowled me over, yet again, with his incredible ability to transform his voice and his entire physicality to inhabit the role of the dim but well-meaning Tony.  There has been backlash against this film recently for misrepresenting who Don Shirley was and not involving the Shirley family in the making of the film.  I’d probably have ranked this film higher on my list if I felt it was more accurate to the true story.  These accusations, if true, are troubling, but even when I thought this film was based more strongly on a true story, it was clear to me when watching it that I was watching a Hollywood fairy-tale rather than historical fact.  I am OK with that.  The story depicted in the film remains moving and powerful, and with an … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part Two!

On Friday I began my list of my Favorite Movies of 2018!  Onwards:

15. The Year of Spectacular Men Madelyn Deutch wrote and stars in The Year of Spectacular Men as an upbeat but somewhat lost young woman, Izzy.  The film co-stars Madelyn’s sister, Zoey Deutch, as Izzy’s far more successful and together younger sister, Sabrina, and it was directed by their mother, Lea Thompson (who also plays Izzy & Sabrina’s mother in a supporting role in the film).  I love that this film is a family affair!  But the joy of discovering that American treasure Lea Thompson is also a great director is only one reason this film is on my list.  I found the movie to be pleasingly endearing; a warm, good-hearted look at a young woman’s fumbling journey towards taking some control of her life as she steps into adulthood.  (Really, I should say the film is about three women’s journeys, because while Izzy is clearly the focus, the film takes the time to flesh out Sabrina and their mom Deb’s stories as well.)  I love how fully-realized all of the women in this film are.  And I also enjoyed that, while none of the many men who Izzy bounces between during the year chronicled by the film are worthy of her (the film’s title is, ahem, sarcastic), I appreciated that they, too, were fleshed out and presented as (mostly) three-dimensional human beings with strengths and weaknesses.  The film is very well-written (there are some very funny sequences!) and I was impressed by the strong acting of both Deutch sisters.  Emotionally honest but never too downbeat, I found the film to be an enjoyable, funny delight.  (My full review is coming soon.)

14. Incredibles 2 Fourteen years after the spectacular first film, we finally got a sequel to The Incredibles!  And while it doesn’t, perhaps, match the fierce originality of that first film, I was pleased by how effortlessly Incredibles 2 was able to draw us right back into this world and these characters.  The film is fast-paced and very funny, with lots of fantastic and entertaining super-heroic derring-do, along with a strong focus on these rich, complex characters.  It’s a delight to get to spend more time with everyone in the Incredibles world, and I was pleased that the film was able to find interesting ways to move each character’s story forward.  The animation is gorgeous, the cast is terrific, and Michael Giacchino’s score is top-notch.  Bring on Incredibles 3…!  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Song of Back and NeckPaul Lieberstein (Toby from The Office) wrote, directed and stars in this wonderfully bizarre and idiosyncratic movie about … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part One!

I hope you enjoyed my list of my Favorite Episodes of TV of 2018!  (Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.)

And now, let’s dive into my list of my Twenty Favorite Movies of 2018!

I did a lot better this year about seeing all the movies I’d wanted to see than I did in getting to all of the TV shows I wanted to watch.  Still, there were a lot of movies that looked great that I just didn’t get to, including: Operation Finale; The Other Side of the Wind; They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead; Love, Simon; Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot; The Sisters Brothers, The Front Runner, If Beale Street Could Talk, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and more.  So if you want to know why those films don’t appear on my list, now you do.

I also want to begin by mentioning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which would surely have made my Best of 2017 list had I seen it it time, but I didn’t get to see it until well into 2018.  Click here for my full review.

OK, here we go:

Honorable Mention: Annihilation — Alex Garland’s follow-up to the brilliant Ex Machina is flawed, but I admire its huge ambition.  I love that this film is a cerebral sci-fi story, one that is filled with tension without ever devolving into a shoot-em-up.  This is speculative fiction at its best, one that sets up an intriguing sci-fi mystery and then allows its characters to explore and investigate that premise.  I love the cast of female leads, each of whom is terrific: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny.  (Oscar Isaac and Benedict Wong are also pretty great in the film’s two main supporting male roles.)  This is a film that is deeper than it might at first seem, as its story can be seen as an allegory for depression, self-destruction, and mental illness.  This film was mostly ignored this year (though it did make Barack Obama’s list of his favorite 2018 films!!), but it’s definitely worth a look.  (Click here for my full review.)

20. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind Marina Zenovich’s documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, is a fascinating and funny look back at the life and career of Robin Williams.  The film is somber at times, as we explore some of the troubles Mr. Williams faced over the course of his life.  His too-early death hangs over the whole film like a shadow.  But the film is also very very funny, giving lots of time for … [continued]