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I have watched this most recent trailer for Avengers: Endgame a lot:

I love the nostalgia-focused first half of the trailer, with well-used clips and soundbites from previous films.  (They really tease fans with that Peggy Carter audio!!  That’s from a previous film, but my heart sang for a moment at the thought that maybe she’d appear somehow in Endgame?  Hope springs eternal.)  I love seeing Hawkeye’s daughter (a nice nod to the comics), and I’m intrigued at the glimpses of Hawkeye in the Ronin identity (another nice nod to a story-line from the comics).  (I am guessing that young-girl vanished in the snap, which I’m assuming prompted Hawkeye’s grimness in the trailer and his weird grief-haircut.)  That shot of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) looking at all the missing photos (having presumably escaped from the Quantum Realm where he was stranded at the end of Ant Man and the Wasp) is heartbreaking.  I’m intrigued by the new white Avengers uniforms glimpsed towards the end of the trailer.  (Are those their going-into-space uniforms?)  And, of course, that last shot with Captain Marvel was fantastic; now that we’ve seen the mid-credits scene in Captain Marvel, it’s fun to imagine what role she will play in Endgame.  I’m impressed at how little we actually know about this film’s story, this close to release.  Note that NONE of the film’s trailers have shown new footage of Thanos, who the Avengers will obviously be confronting, eventually, in Endgame.  But we don’t have any idea how this will all play out, which I find very exciting.  Once again, I am hoping and hoping that Marvel will be able to stick the landing.

In other Marvel news — James Gunn has been reinstated to direct Guardians of the Galaxy volume 3!!!  This is fantastic news, I am overjoyed.  What a relief.  I am excited to see how Mr. Gunn will finish this trilogy of films.  (I’m a bit bummed that we’ll have to wait until after he makes his planned Suicide Squad sequel/reboot, which he’s signed on to do after getting dumped by Disney, but if this is what it takes I am not complaining, and I’m happy these two companies, Marvel and Warners, were able to work this all out.)

Here’s our first true substantial look at Game of Thrones’ final season, now only a few weeks away!

I am excited.  I am hoping against hope that they can stick the landing.  (Here’s an interesting look at the lengthy runtime of the series’ final six episodes!)

Rifftrax is 10 years old!!  Here’s a funny short highlight reel they put together:

For those not in the know, Rifftrax is an offshoot of Mystery … [continued]

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Catching up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe After Captain Marvel!

March 20th, 2019

I have had three different people come to me in the past few days with the exact same question.  They’d seen Captain Marvel and loved it, but they’d never seen a single other Marvel movie.  Excited by Captain Marvel (and the Avengers: Endgame tease at the end of the film)  they wanted to know: what should they watch next in order to get caught up?

What a great question!  I’ve had a lot of fun considering what advice to give them.

The interconnected Marvel Universe is an extraordinary creation.  An incredible TWENTY-ONE (Endgame will be number twenty-two) interconnected films that build upon one another and together make up this extraordinary ongoing story.  There has never before been a series of interconnected films as vast and as well-made as this one.  It’s a delight and I get very excited at the thought of new fans discovering the MCU after having gotten hooked by Captain Marvel.  (By the way, the exact same thing happened last year after Black Panther.)

The good news is: you can’t go wrong wherever you decide to start.  Because one of the crazy miracles of the MCU is that THERE ISN’T A STINKER IN THE BUNCH.  I mean it! Twenty-one movies without a bomb!  It’s incredible.  The worst of the Marvel movies (I’d probably put Iron Man 2 at the bottom of the list) is perfectly fine and entertaining.

Part of me wants to tell people to just start at the beginning (with 2008’s Iron Man) and watch the whole twenty-plus film series all the way through.  But I understand that is too much for most people!!  And so, after much debate and consideration, here is my advice on how to get caught up on the MCU post Captain Marvel and to properly ready yourself for the grand finale of Avengers: Endgame, coming next month.

I think the best approach to entering and enjoying the MCU is to start with the first few stand-alone movies that led to that first big Avengers crossover. These are, in order:

Iron Man
Captain America: The First Avenger
Thor
Avengers

This first wave of films will introduce you to all the main characters and build up to the first huge crossover film, Avengers, which still stands as one of the very best of the Marvel movies.  (I included Thor, which is probably the weakest of any of the films I will recommend here, but it’s still very good and it’s important to the larger story.  The one early pre-Avengers stand-alone film that I skipped on this list is The Incredible Hulk, because it’s mediocre, and because they recast Bruce Banner after that film and it’s proven, in … [continued]

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Josh Bids Farewell to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Tina Fey’s 30 Rock nearly as much as I did.  (That first season, it was Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that was the “behind-the-scenes at an SNL-like show” that I was most interested in.  But Studio 60 was gone by the end of the year, whereas the joys of watching Jane Krakowski say “the Rural Juror” cemented my love for 30 Rock.)  When 30 Rock ended, I was eager to watch Ms. Fey and Robert Carlock’s follow-up series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Right from the beginning I knew that Kimmy was something special.  I wish the series had run as long as 30 Rock.  Sadly, these final six episodes conclude Kimmy Schmidt’s fourth season and, it seems, the series.  (However, rumors of a follow-up Netflix movie persist, so hope springs eternal!)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a wonderfully endearing, original creation.  I feel like the show has been under-appreciated while it was around; I hope and expect that its renown will grow in the years ahead.  The show is hilarious.  It’s as stuffed-full with jokes as the very best TV comedies of the modern era, shows like The Simpsons, Arrested Development, and the previously-mentioned 30 Rock.  This is a show with gags piled upon gags piled upon gags.  (For one tiny example, just look at the fake titles of the kids’ books around Kimmy in the image above!)

At the same time, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is an unwaveringly positive, life-affirming show.  The show believes fully in its core messages of niceness and positivity.  Kimmy herself is one of the most positive, joyful lead characters on a TV series in recent memory, and the show has gotten a lot of mileage out of showing how Kimmy’s unbreakable core of moral strength and sunniness have positively affected every character with whom she interacts.  I love that about the show.

This season, the show has focused itself on the issues of how women are treated in today’s society.  This has always been an aspect of the show, as the premise is about how Kimmy and other women were kidnapped and half captive by the Reverend (Jon Hamm, in a hilarious and disturbing series of guest appearances).  So this show has always dealt with how women are (mis)treated by men.  But, energized by today’s #MeToo movement, the show has found a new energy in addressing those issues head-on.  This finale batch of episodes dealt with a number of stories that explored those issues in different ways.  Most primarily, there was Kimmy’s transition into becoming the J.K. Rowling-like author of a fantasy book series called “The Legends of Greemulax,” which was all about teaching boys how … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Light and Shadows” and “If Memory Serves”

We’re at the midpoint of season two of Star Trek: Discovery.  I’ve been enjoying these episodes a lot more than I did season one, so that’s encouraging.  (Though the episodes are still burdened by a stunning disregard for Star Trek continuity and frequently lazy storytelling.)  Let’s dig in:

Episode 7: “Light and Shadows” — Burnham returns to Vulcan where she is finally able to locate Spock, while the Discovery attempts to rescue Pike and Tyler, who are trapped on a shuttlecraft within a temporal anomaly.

The biggest event in this episode is that we finally get to see Spock.  I am glad the show has stopped teasing us regarding Spock and that finally he is on the show and Burnham has found him.  It’s hard to judge Ethan Peck’s performance as Spock yet in this episode, as he doesn’t get much to do other than mumble incoherently.  It’s distressing to see Spock in such an out-of-his-mind state, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see where this all is going.  I’m not sure quite what to make of the revelation that Spock, as a child, had to overcome a learning disability similar to dyslexia.  I suppose there’s nothing canonical that explicitly contradicts this, but I’m not sure I understand the point of adding this major element to Spock’s backstory that we’ve never heard of before.

More distressing is the depiction of Sarek and Amanda.  The two have a tense argument over Spock, where all sorts of elements over Spock’s childhood and the difficulties that the human Amanda and the half-human Spock had growing up on Vulcan come into play.  On the one hand, it’s interesting to see an exploration of what I can see would have been the many, many hard aspects of life on Vulcan for Amanda and her half-human son.  On the other hand, I hate the implication that Amanda and Spock were mistreated by Sarek.  Amanda slaps down Sarek by accusing him of never being willing to live with her and Spock on Earth.  I hate this.  It suggests that Amanda was weak and subservient to Sarek’s wishes, that she was forced to live on Vulcan because Sarek wouldn’t live on Earth.  I never ever saw their relationship that way.  Ever since the characters were first introduced, walking side by side, with their fingers interlocked, in the Original Series episode “Journey to Babel,” I always saw them as partners.  Is it weird, perhaps, that the human Amanda chose to live her life and raise her son among the unemotional Vulcans?  Sure!  But I always saw that as HER choice.  My assumption was that she and Sarek made their life choices TOGETHER.  The suggestion here that Amanda was almost … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Daredevil: Season Three

Daredevil season three reminds me of the early days, when Netflix’s Marvel shows were exciting.  I was blown away by the first season of Daredevil and the first season of Jessica Jones.  These shows were adult, intense, and exciting.  They were gorgeously well-made, with great action and compelling drama.  They took the characters seriously but were still hugely fun pieces of entertainment.  But then things started to go awry, and while I have found moments to enjoy in the shows and seasons that followed, the Marvel Netflix productions settled into mediocrity.  And then Netflix, apparently no longer interested in shows it didn’t completely control/own, cancelled all of them.  (Daredevil was cancelled just a few weeks after season three dropped, despite the positive reviews the season received.  Jessica Jones hasn’t even released its currently-in-production third season, and that show has already been cancelled!)  All of this conspired to make me not exactly in a rush to watch the latest season of Daredevil.  But I knew that I’d loved season one (and enjoyed season two, despite its flaws), and so I did finally decide to watch season three a few weeks ago.  I am delighted I did, because it is TERRIFIC.  This is the strongest season of a Netflix Marvel show since those first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones.  If this is the last we see of this iteration of these characters, I am left completely satisfied.

Daredevil season three picks up the story from the end of The Defenders, after the First Midland building exploded and crashed down on Matt.  But other than that plot-point as the starting-point from the season, the show mostly ignores the events of The Defenders.  There were a few times when this was annoying to me, as I wondered why Matt didn’t call any of his new super-powered friends to help him in his struggles this year.  (This reminds me of the occasional problems in the first few post-Avengers MCU films, as it was hard not to wonder why each individual hero didn’t assemble the full Avengers team every time they were beset by a new super-villain.)  But as the season progressed, I grew to see this as a strength, as Daredevil threw off the shackles of having to maintain an interconnected TV-universe and instead focused back in on the story-lines and characters that made this series so great in the beginning.

The result is a phenomenal season of TV.  Everything I loved about Daredevil back at the beginning is back.  This is an unapologetically dark, adult show, in which bad things happen and things don’t go magically back to normal at the end of each episode.  There is … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Captain Marvel

Hi friends!  Before we continue with my Captain Marvel review, a quick note.  Perhaps you’ve noticed the Amazon links in my posts for the past few weeks.  MotionPicturesComics.com is now an Amazon affiliate.  I ask your help to please support MotionPicturesComics.com by clicking through one of our Amazon links whenever you need to shop!  We’ll receive a small percentage from ANY product you purchase from Amazon within 24 hours after clicking through.  You DON’T have to purchase the product I’ve linked.  Just click through any link on this site over to Amazon and purchase whatever you normally would.  We’ll receive a small percentage, and that will help pay for keeping this website up and running.  Thank you for your help and support!

It’s been a long time coming, but here, at last, is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film focusing on a solo female super-hero!  (Last year’s Ant Man and the Wasp featured Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, though she shared title billing with Paul Rudd’s Ant Man.)  Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers.  When the movie opens, Carol, known as Viers, is serving as a super-powered soldier for the Kree, an intergalactic race at war with the shape-shifting Skulls.  Carol/Viers has no memory of her past prior to six years ago, when she awoke after a crash and was rescued by the Kree soldier Yon-Vogg (Jude Law).  When their unit is ambushed by Skulls, Carol winds up trapped, alone, on Earth, where she discovers that she had a past here.  She meets up with Nick Fury, a young (two-eyed) agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the two team up to attempt to discover Carol’s past and the secret that so many seem to be after.

Captain Marvel is great fun.  It’s a delight to see this strong, powerful female super-hero brought to life on-screen, and Brie Larson is great in the role.  The secret ingredient to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success has been the impeccable casting of its main characters, and the win streak continues here with Brie Larson.  Ms. Larson absolutely looks the part, but far more importantly is the way this Oscar-winning actress is able to handle the film’s emotional beats.  In fact, she’s at her best in the film’s quiet moments, interacting with characters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), or Maria’s young daughter Monica (Akira Akbar).

The film takes place in 1995, before all of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and so in many respects it serves as an origin story of sorts for the MCU, and there are lots of fun connections to be found.  Samuel L. Jackson gets his largest role yet in the MCU as a younger version of … [continued]

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The Ever-Expanding Universe of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy!

For over twenty years now, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics have been one of my very favorite comic book series.  This series has expanded from an occasionally-published series of mini-series and short stories to a vast universe of stories, with multiple interconnected stories chronicling over 100 years of the history of these characters and this universe.  This is my favorite currently-published comic book series!  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  (If you’re new to the Hellboy universe, you can dip your toes into the water with the Hellboy Omnibus vol. 01: Seed of Destruction, a relatively inexpensive lengthy collection of the first several Hellboy mini-series.)

A little while back I spent a long time re-reading the entire saga from the very beginning, and writing about it, and then last year I checked in with the saga again.  Here’s what’s been cooking in my favorite comic book universe in the months since then:

Hellboy: Krampusnacht (2017) — Extraordinary artist Adam Hughes illustrates this one-shot in which, well, Hellboy fights the Krampus.  It’s a fun little yarn, elevated by Mr. Hughes’ gorgeous imagery.  I particularly loved the “Christmas Memories” epilogue, especially that wistful shot of H.B. and Alice.  Here’s hoping there’s a possibility of a happy ending for those two somewhere down the line…

Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon (2017-18) — This delightful five-issue mini-series has Rasputin in the title, but it’s really about Trevor Buttenholm and how, in 1941, he transitioned from an office-bound academic to an in-the-field adventurer.  I love seeing more of Bruttenholm in his prime!  (Hellboy’s mentor and father-figure Bruttenholm was famously killed off in the very first Hellboy mini-series, Seed of Destruction, but in the years since we’ve thankfully gotten many stories exploring who Bruttenholm was.)  Even more delightfully, this story sees Bruttenholm crossing paths with A.N. Sandhu (from Rise of the Black Flame)!  It was great to see Sandhu again, though a bummer that he didn’t make it out of this story alive.  (In issue #3, when Sandhu recounts what he’s been up to since Rise of the Black Flame, I was excited to see he’d crossed paths with the were-yeti monks from 2009’s B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess!)  It was also nice to see Bruttenholm’s chum Harry Middleton (who recently popped up in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1955: Occult Intelligence) again (and a reference to their first brush with the supernatural as boys that led to the death of their friend Billy, as seen in Hellboy and B.P.R.D.: 1953).  I also smiled when Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones popped up to lead a seance.  (Lady Cynthia was first introduced way back in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, but we never learned … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Two!

I rather enjoyed the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but I had a smidge of hesitation entering into season two.  That first season was a wonderful concoction, fun and original, and it felt like a complete story.  Was this a story that had legs, to continue successfully into multiple further seasons?  Did I really want to continue following these characters?  I’m pleased to report that I found season two to be very enjoyable over-all, displaying an impressive amount of craft in front of and behind the camera.  The season does have some flaws, which I will discuss below, but there’s enough about this show that’s good-to-great that I enjoyed making my way through this sophomore season.

As season two begins, we see that Midge Maisel is now working as a stand-up comedian.  She seems to have skill in the craft, and she and Susie have started to scrape together a career for her.  But the two women face several challenges.  The first is Midge’s resistance to fully embracing this new path (she never considers canceling her usual summer vacation trip to the Catskills) and to being honest with her friends and family about what she’s doing.  The second is Susie’s inexperience as a manager and her persistent money problems.  The third is the walls that both women repeatedly encounter as they attempt to succeed in a man’s world in the late nineteen-fifties.

I was surprised and pleased by the degree to which this season, particularly the first few episodes, focused on Midge’s parents, Rose and Abe.  Rose in particular was mostly in the background in season one, but I was delighted by the way the season premiere allowed us into this character, exploring how trapped she felt in New York and the pull of a life on her own in Paris (where she’d enjoyed herself as a younger woman).  This was a surprising and compelling way to begin the season.  Marin Hinkle really shined as Rose in this moment in the spotlight.  I was a little bummed that, once Rose and Abe returned to New York, Rose faded back into the background somewhat.  Now that we’ve proven that Rose is a fully-realized character, I hope the show continues to explore her, and to allow her to have greater agency in the stories to come!

Tony Shaloub’s Abe was a stand-out character in season one, and season two continued to give this great character a lot to do.  Abe was still lovable and Mr. Shaloub’s comic timing and note-perfect line-delivery makes him one of the show’s comedic powerhouses.  But this season didn’t shy away from challenging Abe, as he was forced to confront martial issues and Rose’s unhappiness, … [continued]

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Let’s start with this amazing creation:

Topher Grace and Jeff Yorkes wove together footage from every single Star Wars film so far to create a gorgeous, emotional five-minute tribute to the Star Wars saga.  I have watched this thing a LOT of times so far.  What an incredible expression of love for Star Wars, and what an impressive achievement of editing.  I love the way they juxtaposed moments from the different films in order to connect events and characters.  And I love that they even included snippets of deleted scenes from Episode III, A New Hope, and Return of the Jedi.  Most impressive!

The second trailer for Dark Phoenix recently appeared:

I’m not sure what to think.  X-Men: The Last Stand broke my heart because it bungled the Dark Phoenix storyline.  I’ve long hoped for a reboot.  But so far what we’ve seen of Dark Phoenix doesn’t look any more faithful to the original comics (by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) than The Last Stand was.  For example, the trailer’s opening moment in which a tearful Jean asks “why did you make me do that?” implies that she’s not in control of her actions, which in my opinion is a complete misunderstanding of the Dark Phoenix story, which is about how ultimate power can corrupt even the most noble of souls.  (True, the later comic book stories that returned Jean to the Marvel Universe retconned the Dark Phoenix Saga to suggest that the Phoenix power wasn’t from within Jean, but was an alien entity that had bonded with her.  But even so, I still think it’s incorrect to depict Jean as being controlled by that entity.)  Also, from what we can see on this recently-released poster, Jean’s Dark Phoenix attire doesn’t look anything like her iconic look from the comics, but instead looks almost exactly like the sort of silly dark red jacked that Famke Janssen wore as Dark Phoenix in The Last Stand.  What a weird choice!  With the X-Men characters returning to MCU control following the Disney-Fox merger, Dark Phoenix feels like a “lame duck” movie, as I expect these characters and stories to soon be rebooted and incorporated into the MCU.  I still want Dark Phoenix to be amazing… but as of now I’m not expecting too much…

(And, actually, there is one other remaining Fox X-Men film — the much-delayed New Mutants.  Apparently the planned reshoots for that film still haven’t happened… will they ever…?)

We also recently got our second trailer for the rebooted Hellboy film:

As with Dark Phoenix, I’m not blown away by what we’ve seen of this film so far.  I desperately want this film to be great.  This second … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Reign of the Supermen

Earlier in the year, DC/Warner Brothers released The Death of Superman, an adaptation of the famous story-line that ran through the Superman comic-books in the nineties.  (This was actually the second pass at an animated adaptation of this story, as the very first of this continuing series of direct-to-DVD/bly-ray DC animated films was also a take on the “Death of Superman” story, called Superman: Doomsday.)  This new version of The Death of Superman ended with the death of Superman at the end of his battle with Doomsday in the center of Metropolis.  (Click here for my review!)  This latest animated film, Reign of the Superman, concludes the story.  This film adapts the long “Reign of the Supermen” storyline running through the four regular Superman comic books after Superman’s death, chronicling four new Superman-like characters who arrived at the scene, leaving the citizens of Metropolis (and comic fans) to wonder: which one was the real Superman?  Were any of them?

This film is a solid if unspectacular conclusion to the story.  It fits smoothly with The Death of Superman as two halves of one longer film.  As readers of this blog know, I haven’t been blown away by many of these recent animated DC films.  They’re missing the magic that Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & co. brought to the DC animated shows from the nineties and aughts.  Reign of the Supermen and The Death of Superman both are part of the continuity that has been running through these animated films for the past few years, based on “The New 52” reboot of the DC comic-book universe a few years back.  These films are far stronger than the first few movies in this new series (which I thought were terrible).  Both of these two new films (The Death of Superman and now Reign of the Supermen) are enjoyable to watch.  But they’re not at the level of amazing that I long for these films to be.

The “Reign of the Supermen” storyline ran through multiple comic-book series for many months.  It’s a huge amount of story, and as such, it’s no surprise that they have done a tremendous amount of editing and condensing to squeeze this story into a relatively short (less than an hour-and-a-half) film.  For the most part, I think they’ve done a good job at boiling the story down to its critical elements.  We get to spend a decent amount of time with the four new Supermen, before the truth about who’s-who is revealed.  (Of the four, the “Eradicator” Superman gets short shrift.)  They totally eliminate the whole aspect of the destruction of Coast City from the film.  This didn’t surprise me, both … [continued]