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Star Trek: Collateral Damage

David Mack’s new Star Trek novel, Collateral Damage, looks to me like it might represent the conclusion of an amazing, almost two-decade-long experiment on the part of Pocket Books to create a connected continuity of Star Trek novels.

It began in 2001 with the publication of S.D. Perry’s Avatar, which launched a series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels that carried forward the characters’ stories, following the DS9 finale, which aired in 1999.  It continued with the “A Time To…” novels, a nine-book series published in 2004, that were set in the months prior to 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, the final Star Trek: The Next Generation film.  In the years that followed, a vast tapestry of connected novels developed, and grew to include novels set across all the Trek series, including the Original Series, Voyager, and Enterprise.  Characters from different series would appear in various books, and character arcs and other storylines would continue from book to book, sometimes crossing between series.  Most of the novels were stand-alone stories, but together they fit into a wonderfully expansive tapestry.  I have written about a great many of those novels on this site.  I love continuity and I love epic stories, and these Star Trek novels have together represented a hugely entertaining saga that has given me so much enjoyment over the past two decades.

After November, 2017, Pocket Books temporarily ceased publication of new Star Trek fiction.  No formal explanation was ever offered, to my knowledge, though comments from some sources indicated that the contract with Paramount/CBS was being renegotiated.  I wonder if, behind the scenes, with the new Picard series in the works, there was also a question of how and if these Star Trek novels could continue.  I am excited for Picard (I thought the first episode was great) but I am certain that this new show will contradict huge swaths of the post-Nemesis story that has been crafted for Picard and the other TNG characters in these novels.  After a lengthy hiatus, I was delighted when Pocket books began publishing new Star Trek fiction again last spring, with Dayton Ward’s novel Available Light.  However, while new Trek novels will apparently continue, David Mack’s novel Collateral Damage looks like it might be that last novel set within this post-Nemesis continuity.  None of the Star Trek novels I see on the 2020 schedule seem to be connected to this continuing story.

I can certainly understand hitting pause while we all wait to see what story Picard will actually tell.  But I do hope that Collateral Damage is not the last Star Trek book in this continuity.  I’d hate for two decades of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Fast Color

Fast Color made my list of my favorite movies of 2019.  It’s a beautiful story of a young woman, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who has been living on her own for years but who finally returns home to her mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and young daughter.  Ruth is in desperate circumstances: afflicted by powerful seizures that can literally shake the ground around her, hunted by a mysterious group of alleged scientists, and pursued by the local sheriff (David Strathairn).  It seems that all the women in Ruth’s family, going back many generations, are gifted (or cursed) with a special power, but something has gone dreadfully wrong for Ruth.

Fast Color is an absolute delight.  It didn’t get a wide release, but I exhort readers of this site to track it down and check it out.  (It’s available to stream for free with Amazon Prime.)

This is a story about people with super-powers, but it’s not like anything I’ve seen before in a film.  This isn’t an action-adventure film, it’s a small-scale character drama, focusing on three generations of powerful African American women: Ruth, her mother Bo, and her daughter Lila.  I love seeing the idea of super-heroes filtered through this very different type of film, this very personal character drama.

Directed and co-written (with her husband Jordan Horowitz, who produced La La Land) by Julia Hart, the film features three fantastic performances by three incredible women.  I really enjoyed Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance in Black Mirror (she was in “San Junipero,” the stand-out episode of season three), and she’s phenomenal in the central role here.  We can see that Ruth is damaged, but the film takes its time in allowing us to peel back the layers and to discover her full story.  Ms. Mbatha-Raw’s performance is beautiful, as she show’s us Ruth’s fierceness and her determination, and also her fear and her shame.  I thought Lorraine Toussaint was fantastic as Vee, the major antagonist of the second season of Orange is the New Black, and I loved her work here as Ruth’s mother Bo.  Bo and Ruth start the film in a difficult place; there’s a schism in their relationship.  Bo is tough with Ruth.  This didn’t surprise me, because I was mainly familiar with Ms. Toussaint’s work as an almost villain on Orange is the New Black.  But I was delighted that the film gradually opened up Bo’s character and history as the story unfolded, just as it did for Ruth.  Ms. Toussaint’s performance gradually morphs into that of a beautiful, fiercely warm mother bear.  The climax rests almost entirely on Bo’s bravery and strength, and it’s a wonder to behold.  I also loved the surprise of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Premiere of Star Trek: Picard!

Set decades after the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new series Star Trek: Picard reintroduces us to Jean-Luc Picard.  No longer the captain of the Enterprise, or indeed a Starfleet officer of any kind, Picard lives out his days overseeing his family winery, assisted by two gentle aides.  But when a young woman on the run seeks him out, and Picard discovers that she shares a connection to one of his former Enterprise crew-mates, the former captain must re-enter the world he has been hiding from for so long.

I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I remember being so excited for the premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” and I watched every episode of the series as it came out.  (Many of those episodes I have rewatched at least a dozen times, likely more!!)  I loved that show and I loved those characters.  I was disappointed that the movie franchise never really took off.  (I get a lot of enjoyment out of Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, even though I think both films are deeply flawed.  Star Trek: Insurrection is forgettable and Star Trek: Nemesis is an abomination before the Lord.)  I never expected to see Patrick Stewart back in this role ever again.  But the creative and critical success of Logan, in which Mr. Stewart returned to portray an elderly version of Professor X, surely paved the way for his return, here, to the character of Jean-Luc Picard.

I was excited for this show, though very dubious.  I can’t say I have much faith in Alex Kurtzman, who is the current steward of the Star Trek franchise.  I didn’t love any of the three rebooted Trek films that Mr. Kurtzman was involved with (they’re fun but deeply flawed, and even when I love them they don’t really feel like true Star Trek to me); I have found Star Trek: Discovery to be a huge disappointment; and the “Short Trek” short films have been very hit-or-miss.

But I am pleased to report that I thought the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, titled “Remembrance,” was pretty great!!

It’s a pleasure to see Patrick Stewart back in this iconic role, and Mr. Stewart is, as always, fantastic.  He still has an incredible magnetism that is on full display whenever he is on-screen.  His commanding presence reaches out and grabs you.  It’s fascinating and sad to see Mr. Stewart play this older, damaged version of Picard.  This is still Picard — Mr. Stewart shows us Picard’s intelligence and empathy and warmth.  But this Picard has been changed by the events that have transpired since last we saw him.  Mr. Stewart … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series and Graphic Novels of 2019 — Part Three!

Click here for all of my “honorable mentions”, and click here for numbers 20 through 11 on my list of my favorite comic book series and graphic novels of 2019!  Here now is the conclusion to my list!

(As I did for parts 1 and 2, I’ll post Amazon links to all of these books at the bottom of this post.)

10. Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld titles (Pearl illustrated by Michael Gaydos, Cover illustrated by David Mack, Scarlet illustrated by Alex Maleev, The United States vs Murder Inc. illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming) — Well, this is obviously a huge cheat in my including all four of Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld series, but they’re all fantastic.  This was a lighter year for Mr. Bendis’ creator-owned series than 2018, as three of these series (Cover, Scarlet, and The United States vs. Murder Inc.) all wrapped up their current runs early in the year.  But I nevertheless got a huge amount of enjoyment out of all four of these series.  Pearl re-teamed Mr. Bendis with Jessica Jones co-creator Michael Gaydos for the tale of a young female tattoo artist who is mixed up with the Yakuza.  Cover re-teamed Mr. Bendis with Echo co-creator and Alias/Jessica Jones cover artist David Mack for the story of a comic book artist who becomes an undercover C.I.A. operative (a tale loosely based on Mr. Mack’s own experiences!).  Scarlet re-teamed Mr. Bendis with Alex Maleev (who has illustrated MANY of Mr. Bendis’ previous comic book stories, most notably a long, incredible run on Daredevil, and who this year collaborated with Mr. Bendis on DC’s Event Leviathan), and tells the story of an angry young woman in Portland, railing against corruption in the police force and in politics, who winds up starting a new American revolution.  Finally, the United States vs Murder Inc. re-teamed Mr. Bendis with Powers co-creator Michael Avon Oeming for a story of a world in which the mob (“Murder Inc.”) eventually took over a large portion of the Eastern seaboard and went to war with the U.S. government.  All four titles are fantastic original creations, illustrated by four of the very best artists working in comic books today.  These books are everything that I think great comic books should be.

9. The Batman’s Grave (by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch) — Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch have previously collaborated on some incredible comic books (most notably their original run on The Authority), and this new twelve-issue Batman story already stands with their best work.  We’re four issues in, and I still don’t yet quite see the picture of what larger story is being told, but these initial four issues, which have … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series and Graphic Novels of 2019 — Part Two!

Yesterday I listed a lot of great comic books that I enjoyed in 2019.  But those were just my “honorable mentions”!  Let’s dig into my real list.  (As I did yesterday, I’ll post Amazon links to all of these books at the bottom of this post.)

20. The Green Lantern (by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp) — This reinvention of the Green Lantern series is heavy on the outlandish sci-fi, which makes it right up my alley.  Grant Morrison’s stories are always twisty and weird and fascinating, and this is no exception.  I like the emphasis on the idea of Hal Jordan as a “space cop,” and I love how inventive this series is, continually throwing new and ever-crazier sci-fi concepts onto each page.

19. Moonshine (by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso) — The team behind the extraordinary comic book epic 100 Bullets (go read that immediately if you haven’t yet done so!!), Mr. Azzarello & Mr. Risso, have re-teamed for this story of prohibition, gangsters, booze, and werewolves.  After a lengthy hiatus, two new issues were published in 2019; I’m glad to have this series back!

18. Mae (by Gene Ha) — A teenaged girl named Mae follows her older sister Abbie through a mysterious doorway, and finds herself swept up in an epic adventure on a fantasy world.  I love this story, which is packed to overflowing with fun, original sci-fi and fantasy concepts, characters, and settings.  The story is delightful, and Mr. Ha’s artwork is astonishing.  The final two issues of the second volume were published in 2019… I hope 2020 brings additional issues!

17. The Wild Storm (by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt) — I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Ellis and Mr. Davis-Hunt’s brilliant reinvention of the Wildstorm universe (which began with Jim Lee’s Wildcats comic, one of the first series published after Image Comics launched in the nineties).  Mr. Ellis had written a number of terrific stories for that Wildstorm universe (especially his series, The Authority, which was illustrated by Bryan Hitch), so who better to relaunch that universe?  This twenty-four issue limited-series was magnificent, rich in fascinating concepts and characters.  It was cool to see so much of what made the original Wildstorm universe interesting distilled down into this thrilling new story.  I wish this series didn’t have to end!!  (And I wish that it had actually launched additional series set in this remained universe, as it seems to have been intended to…)

15. Thanos: The Infinity Ending (by Jim Starlin and Alan Davis) — the great Jim Starlin, who created Thanos several decades ago, returned to the character (and so many of his other favorites, including Adam Warlock and Pip the Troll) for … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series and Graphic Novels of 2019 — Part One!

Welcome back! I  hope you enjoyed reading my look back at my favorite TV shows of 2019, and my favorite movies of 2019.  Here now is my list of my favorite comic book series and graphic novels of 2019…!

There were a LOT of great comic books in 2019.  Let’s start with my lengthy list of honorable mentions.

I’ve included Amazon links to all of these books at the bottom of this post.  (Please remember that if you click through to Amazon from any of the links on this site, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of any purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.  This is a big help to me, so thank you!!)  OK, onwards…!

Marvels: Epilogue Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross reunited for this short story set after the events of their brilliant Marvels series (which retold the first several decades of Marvel Comics’ history from the point of view of photographer Phil Sheldon).  This tale adapted the events of Uncanny X-Men #98, and it was a delight seeing the classic X-Men team brought to life by Mr. Ross!

Superman: Year One this three-issue, large-size limited series from DC Comics’ Black Label was a weird new version of Superman’s origin story, written but Frank Miller and illustrated by John Romita Jr.  Those two had previously collaborated on the magnificent Man Without Fear, the definitive Daredevil origin story.  This is not Man Without Fear, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But it’s such an out-there version of Superman that I enjoyed reading it even though my eyebrows were raised throughout.

X-Men: Grand Design — X-Tinction Ed Piskor’s wonderful X-Men: Grand Design issues each take years of continuity from the multi-decade-long history of X-Men comic books and attempt to condense and synthesize those stories into a unified narrative.  The two-issue X-Tinction mini-series brought this grand experiment to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.  It made this long-time X-Men fan very happy.

Marvel Comics #1000 (and #1001) — this lengthy one-shot special featured a plethora of one-page stories written and illustrated by a variety of different creative teams that looked back at Marvel Comics’ lengthy history while also introducing some new characters and concepts that I expect will feature in future stories.

Ghosted in LA Written by Sina Grace and illustrated by Siobhan Keenan, this tells the story of a young college student, Daphne, who discovers a manor filled with ghosts.  Daphne winds up feeling closer to those ghosts than … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2019 — Part Four!

We have arrived at the conclusion of my list of my favorite movies of 2019!  Please click here to read numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.  And now, without further delay, here are my FIVE FAVORITE movies of 2019:

5. The Irishman The Irishman tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who was a hitman for the Bufalino crime family.  Frank claims to have been the man who killed Jimmy Hoffa.  The film chronicles decades of Frank’s life, from his first involvement with the Bufalino family, through his close friendship with Hoffa, and eventually through Hoffa’s death and the long, lonely years of the rest of Frank’s life.  It is an absolute delight to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together on-screen in so many deliciously meaty scenes in this film.  Both men turn in strong performances, and their on-screen chemistry together is everything you’d want it to be.  But Joe Pesci, who hasn’t been seen on-screen in years, absolutely steals the movie right out from under them in his role as Russell Bufalino, a powerful mob figure who becomes Frank’s mentor.  Mr. Pesci is so great!!  I loved the film’s interwoven structure of flashbacks within flashbacks, as we follow Frank and the other characters across the decades.  I was very impressed with the CGI and makeup effects used to age and de-age Mr. De Niro, Mr. Pesci, and others.  For the most part, that work was seamless.  Even in those few moments in which the visual effects trickery doesn’t quite work, I admired the film’s ambition in telling this broad story.  I know some have complained that the film is too long, and that the last half-hour drags, but I loved that last half-hour!  Those final sequences were critical to the film — we need to see the fall-out from Frank’s violent life.  I didn’t find the ending boring at all; I thought it was the most moving part of the film.  What a delight that the master Martin Scorsese is still creating films as epic and engaging as this one!  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Knives Out When wealthy author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plumer) is found dead in his home, many of his family members and others in his orbit all seem to have a possible motive. Enter: detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who has been hired to get to the bottom of the whole bloody affair.  I have so much love in my heart for this film!!  Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a ferociously entertaining film, a delightfully funny and twisty … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2019 — Part Three!

I hope you are enjoying my look back at my favorite movies of 2019!  Please click here to see numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here to see numbers fifteen through eleven.  And now… onward into my TOP TEN!

10. Uncut Gems Adam Sandler is absolutely electrifying in this film, written and directed by Josh and Benny Safdie.  (The script was also co-written by Ronald Bronstein.)  Mr. Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in the Diamond District in New York City.  He is buried in debts, but the fast-talking Howard has a series of plans within plans to get the better of everyone who is after him and to get a big payday.  I have enjoyed Mr. Sandler’s previous turns in more serious films (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Funny People), but his work here is head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever seen him do before.  Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta), Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, Julia Fox, and Kevin Garnett (doing a terrific job playing himself) are all so much fun in supporting roles as people caught in Howard’s orbit.  The film is a magnificent exercise in sustained tension.  From practically the first moment until the last, the Safdie brothers skillfully ratchet the tension up and up and up.  It’s an incredibly stressful experience watching this movie!!  And, at the same time, so much fun!!  (My full review is coming soon.)

9. Late Night Mindy Kaling wrote and stars in this film as Molly Patel, a young woman hired as the only woman on the all-white-male writing staff of a late-night talk-show.  That talk show is run by multi-decade late-night veteran Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson.  Directed by Nisha Ganatra, Late Night is a phenomenal showcase for the talents of both Ms. Kaling and Ms. Thompson.  They make a fantastic pairing — I love their chemistry on-screen!  Ms. Thompson in particular is spectacular, delivering a powerhouse performance as her character goes through quite a journey over the course of the film.  The film has a lot to say about being a woman working in show business, and it’s also a fun peek behind the curtain at the running of a TV show.  The film is very funny, while also having true dramatic heft.  The supporting cast excels: the great John Lithgow, Amy Ryan (The Wire), Reid Scott (Veep), Paul Walter Hauser (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Ike Barinholtz, Max Cassella, John Early, and Hugh Dancy and all fun and funny.  If you missed this film this past summer, I encourage you to check it out.  (Click here for my full review.)

8. Spider-Man: Far From Home This … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2019 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my look back at my favorite movies of 2019!  Shall we continue…?

15. Brittany Runs a Marathon In Amazon Studios’ film, Jillian Bell (The Night Before, Office Christmas Party) stars as Brittany, a single young woman living in New York who, after seeing a doctor (as part of a scheme to score a prescription to Adderall), gets the surprising news that she is unhealthy and needs to lose weight.  Initially resistant to the idea, Brittany gradually begins to experiment by going for a run.  To her great surprise, she gets into it, and eventually sets a goal of running the New York City Marathon.  Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, this film is very funny while also packing some serious dramatic weight in the grounded drama of Brittany’s often-painful, often-failed journey to grow up.  Brittany’s weight isn’t really what the film is about.  As the story unfolds, and we get to know Brittany as a person, we gradually discover — as she does — the damaged places within her, and the steps she needs to take in order to heal.  That’s the true journey Brittany is on in the film.  Jillian Bell has always impressed me with her comedic timing, and it’s a delight to see her step into a leading role here in this film.  Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, In a World…, They Came Together), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Brockmire), Lil Rel Howery, and Micah Stock all kill in their supporting roles.  I’m really glad to have seen this film!  (My full review is coming soon.)

14. Doctor Sleep I’m really bummed this film didn’t do better at the box office, because Doctor Sleep is a terrific film, a satisfying adaptation of Mr. King’s novel (a sequel to The Shining) and also a satisfying sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film of The Shining.  Written and directed by Mike Flanagan, I was continually pleased and delighted by this film.  I thought it was a wonderful character study and also a thrilling supernatural yarn, and I was impressed by the many clever ways in which the film slightly tweaked the Doctor Sleep novel’s story so as to maintain continuity with Mr. Kubrick’s film.  Ewan McGreggor is terrific as the lead, an all-grown-up Daniel Torrance whose life after the events of The Shining has not been easy.  At the edge of losing his life to alcoholism, the film (and Mr. King’s novel) is as much the story of Dan’s clawing his way back to humanity and a life as it is about a battle with supernatural forces.  Kyliegh Curran is terrific as the young girl, Abra, whose … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2019 — Part One!

I hope you enjoyed my list of my favorite TV series of 2019!  And now, on to my list of my twenty favorite movies of 2019 — here we go…!

20. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker I debated whether or not to include The Rise of Skywalker on this list.  The film has so many flaws.  I don’t like how simplistic and predictable it is.  I don’t like how it undoes many of the things I loved about The Last Jedi (putting Kylo Ren back in the mask, saying that Rey DOES have a familial connection to a famous Star Wars character after all, and, most damningly, totally sidelining Rose Tico).  I don’t like how dumb and nonsensical the Emperor’s plan is.  On the other hand, there is still a lot that I enjoyed about this film.  I loved the renewed focus on the trio of Rey-Finn-Poe.  I loved the clever way Leia was incorporated into the film’s story despite the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher.  I loved Adam Driver’s continued amazing work as Kylo Ren.  I thought the film was visually stunning.  I thought John Williams’ score (his final Star Wars score ever…?) was beautiful.  I loved the Han-Kylo scene.  I had a lot of fun sitting in the theatre and being carried along by the film’s rollicking pace.  Despite it’s many flaws, I’m sure this is a film that I will rewatch many times in the future — probably, in all honesty, more times than many other films on this list.  So I figured The Rise of Skywalker needed to be included.  (Click here for my full review.)

19. It: Chapter Two — Like The Rise of Skywalker, It: Chapter Two is flawed.  The film is too long, and it doesn’t pack the emotional punch or the scares that the first film did.  And yet, I think that critics were way too hard on this film.  I quite enjoyed it.  The casting of the adult versions of the Losers’ Club was absolutely perfect.  Better than I could have dreamed: James McAvoy as Bill, Jessica Chastain as Beverly, Bill Hader as Richie, James Ransone as Eddie, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, Jay Ryan as Ben, and Andy Bean as Stanley.  Wow!  The best moments in the film are the scenes (such as their epic reunion over Chinese food) when that ensemble was all together.  Additionally, of course, Bill Skarsgård returned as Pennywise, as deliriously weird and horrific as he was in Chapter One.  It’s exciting to see Stephen King’s brilliant novel brought to life as skillfully as it was here.  (Click here for my full review.)

18. Joker Todd Phillips’ Joker isn’t … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Five!

Huzzah!  We’ve arrived at the end of my lengthy list of my favorite TV series of 2019!  Click here for numbers twenty-five through twenty-one, click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.  And now, without further delay or fanfare, here are my five favorite TV series of 2019:

5. The Mandalorian The first live-action Star Wars TV show was a revelation!  Created by Jon Favreau, this new show made the new Disney+ streaming service an essential purchase.  Each of the eight episodes in this short first season were near-perfect.  I loved how wonderfully retro they were in their approach of telling a complete story in every single episode.  Set several years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the series follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter who finds himself on the run from the bounty hunter guild after deciding to rescue the asset that he was hired to deliver to an aged Imperial officer (played beautifully by Werner Herzog).  Of course, we all know by now that the asset was a child that we all refer to as “baby Yoda”.  The series is a wonderful expansion of Star Wars lore.  It’s awesome to see lots of new planets as well as some familiar ones (episode five took place on Tattoine).  The series is filled with nods and references to the history of Star Wars (we get to see Battle Droids, Jawas, an Ugnaught, etc.) while doing what I want the film series to do: telling new stories with new characters set within the Star Wars universe.  (The influence of Dave Filoni, who masterminded the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, was clearly felt.)  The series is gorgeous to behold — it’s visually stunning.  The production values are incredible — absolutely movie-quality, not at all cheapened for TV.  The cast was spectacular: Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) was fantastic as the titular Mandalorian, despite having his face concealed behind a mask; I fell in love with the Taika Waititi-voiced IG-11, as well as the Ugnaught voiced by Nick Nolte (“I have spoken”); I already mentioned Werner Herzog, and I also loved seeing Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) as Moff Gideon; Gina Carano was perfect as the ex-Rebellion shock trooper Cara Dune… and I haven’t even mentioned Amy Sedaris, Ming Na-Wen, Clancy Brown, and so many more great actors who filled out this universe!!  Each episode was an absolute delight.  I cannot wait for more to come next year.  (Click here for my review of the Mandalorian premiere.  My full review of this first season … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Four!

All right!  We’ve entered the TOP TEN of my list of my favorite TV series of 2019!  Click here for numbers twenty-five through twenty-one, click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven.

10. Legion The best super-hero show that no one I know was watching.  Created by Noah Hawley (Fargo), Legion was a gloriously weird, outlandish, surprising series that eschewed all the tropes of a standard super-hero TV show.  Every time I thought I might know where the show was going, I’d be surprised to, instead, get a dance number!  Or a bizarre digression into, say, watching a Japanese-language explanation of the rules of time-travel!  This show was an incredible visual feast, filled with extraordinarily unusual and memorable sequences.  This third and final season took a deep dive into the X-Men mythology, exploring the events in which a young Charles Xavier fell in love with an Israeli woman, Gabrielle Haller, and confronted the powerful psychic villainy of Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King.  This was thrilling to see on-screen.  At the same time, the show moved even further away from the type of standard super-hero narrative that one might expect, choosing instead to get weirder and wilder.  There was never anything on TV quite like this show.  I miss it already.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)

9. Better Things Pamela Adlon’s gloriously strange, personal, funny, moving show is one of the most unique and wonderful series currently being produced.  It is phenomenal expression of Ms. Adlon’s enormous talent: she wrote almost every episode (eight of the season’s twelve episodes), and she directed ALL of them.  This show focuses on an incredible array of strong and interesting women: single mother Sam Fox (played by Ms. Adlon), her mother Phil, and her three children Max, Frankie, and Duke… and also the many other interesting women in Sam’s life!  Ms. Adlon’s storytelling is hyper-focused on honesty, specifically when it comes to depicting the real-life joys and struggles and sorrows of life as a working single parent of kids.  She seems to revel in showing the audience real-life moments we’ve never seen on TV before.  (As a prime example: episode seven, “Toilet,” chronicles Sam’s preparations for her colonoscopy.)  Season three was the first season created without the involvement of Louis C.K., but the show didn’t miss a beat and, if anything, was even better in that it became more personal than ever for Ms. Adlon, completely infused with her life and her experiences and her perspective.  If you’ve never seen this show, you should remedy that immediately.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)… [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Three!

Welcome back! Click here for numbers twenty-five through twenty-one on my list of my favorite TV shows of 2019, and click here for numbers twenty through sixteen.  Shall we proceed…?

15. The Tick Amazon’s fantastic super-hero comedy-adventure was sadly cancelled after only two seasons.  There have now, unbelievably, been three different TV versions of Ben Edlund’s The Tick (which began as an independently-published, black-and-white comic book-series in 1988), and they’ve all failed.  But I’m thankful these two great seasons of this latest version exist!  I don’t know anyone who watched this show, but you’re all missing out!  This joyous, sweet, funny series was a constant delight.  The cast was spectacular: Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy) was absolute comedic perfection as the Tick; Griffin Newman was the every-man anchor of the show as Arthur; Valerie Curry was terrific as Arthur’s sister Dot; Yara Martinez was a deadpan delight as the villainous Miss Lint; Scott Speiser was great as the growling, hyper-violent vigilante Overkill, and Alan Tudyk (Firefly) was hilarious as always as Overkill’s partner, the sentient boat Dangerboat.  These two seasons are still available on Amazon — go watch them now!  (Click here for my review of The Tick series premiere.  My full review of season two is coming soon.)

14. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Tina Fey & Robert Carlock’s brilliant, hilarious, criminally-underrated show was every inch as brilliant, hilarious, and criminally-underrated as always in its fourth and sadly final season.  I already miss this show so much!!  This was one of the funniest shows on television, with an insane joke-per-second pace.  It was also one of the sweetest, with a heart-warming emphasis on positivity and niceness.  The perennially good-hearted Kimmy was the role that Ellie Kemper was born to play, and Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, and Jane Krakowski were unendingly amazing.  Females are stong.  Dammit!  (Click here for my full review of season four.)

13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine This amazing show was, thankfully, saved from cancellation by NBC.  This sixth season was a gift, and I would have been thankful had it just been an indulgent victory lap.  But what we got was possibly the best season of the show!  From the origin of Hitchcock and Scully, to Gina’s farewell, to the episode (“The Crime Scene”) that unfolded over weeks and months, to the episode (“Ticking Clocks”) that took place in real time, the show was always inventive and playful.  The main cast is one of the best on television (Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, etc.), and the guest stars this season were amazing: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sean Astin, Ike Barinholtz, and … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Two!

Welcome back! Yesterday I began my list of My Favorite TV Shows of 2019!  Let’s continue:

20. The Imagineering Story I loved every minute of this six-part Disney+ documentary series, exploring the history of Disney’s theme-parks and their rides.  The series was directed by Leslie Iwerks, who is the daughter of Disney Imagineer Don Iwerks and the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, who co-created Mickey Mouse.  So she knows a bit about Disney!  Yes, of course this is a pro-Disney piece of propaganda.  But it is magnificent, well-earned propaganda!  The series digs deeply into the ins and outs of the different Disney parks and all of the best attractions, from the Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Tours to the Enchanted Tiki Room to Space Mountain to the Tower of Terror to Soarin’ to so many more.  We get to meet many of the talented men and women who helped create these attractions, and we learn many of the secrets of the parks and their history.  This was pure joy for me.  I could have happily watched six hours more.

19. The Spy I watched all six episodes of this magnificent Netflix mini-series with my stomach tightly clenched.  This true story of an Israeli spy in Syria in the 1950’s, directed and co-written by Gideon Raff (with co-writer Max Perry), was intense and gripping.  Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic, playing things completely straight as Eli Cohen, an Israeli who was born in Egypt who volunteers to serve his country in an extremely dangerous manner: creating a completely false life for himself in Syria.  The Americans’ Noah Emmerich is great as Eli’s Mossad handler Dan Peleg.  The series beautifully captures the look and feel of Israel and Syria in the fifties.  It’s a fantastic achievement and a great exercise in tension and suspense.

18. Silicon Valley I was sad to see this wonderful comedy draw to a close this year!  It went out at the height of its powers, with a final seven-episode season that could stand with the very best of the show.  In this final year, the Pied Piper team finally found success, but that didn’t mean that things were any easier for them.  What an ensemble: Thomas Middleditch, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Amanda Crew, Matt Ross, and more.  Any one of those talents could have head-lined their own show!  I will miss every hapless member of the Pied Piper team.  (Click here for my full review of season six.)

17. Stranger Things Season three of this show was every bit as much fun as the first two.  This loving homage to eighties horror and adventure, and to the books of … [continued]

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I am excited to begin my Best of 2019 lists!  Let’s kick things off with my list of my favorite TV series of 2019.  What a year this was for TV!!!  I watched SO MUCH great TV, and even so, there were still so many shows I wanted to see but didn’t get to, including but not limited to: the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Russian Doll, Barry, Living With Yourself, Undone, The Expanse, Fosse/Verdon, Chernobyl, Unbelievable, Ramy, Modern Love, Sex Education, and so many more shows.

Despite that, I had no trouble coming up with a whopping TWENTY-FIVE shows from 2019 that I absolutely loved.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Before we dive in, though, please allow me to make a request for you to support my work here by clicking through to Amazon from any of the links on this site.  If you do, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of any purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You can use the Amazon banner ad at the top of the page, or any specific Amazon link within one of my blogs.  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.  If all the readers of this site would just click through to Amazon through one of my links, whenever you do your shopping, it’d be a huge help towards keeping the lights on here.

OK, here we go:

25. From the Earth to the Moon OK, I’m starting the list off with a cheat.  This HBO mini-series came out back in 1998!  But this year, the series was released on blu-ray.  It was extraordinary to see the show in HD, and I was delighted that they took the time to redo the series’ visual effects, which were originally created in Standard Definition!  That was very cool and not anything I’d ever expected.  (The series would be even higher on my list if they hadn’t made the boneheaded decision to crop the original 4×3 full-screen presentation to a 16×9 image.  Growing up, I hated when widescreen films were cropped for 4×3 TVs, and the reverse is no better!!)  I adore this mini-series, executive-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, which charts the Apollo missions that first put a man on the moon.  It’s as entertaining, and vitally relevant, as it ever was.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.  Each one of the series’ twelve episodes is magnificent.

24. Jessica Jones The biggest disappointment of the inglorious end of Marvel’s Netflix shows … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Latest Short Treks

January 3rd, 2020
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As we await the start of the new Picard show, we’ve gotten several new Star Trek short films, called “Short Treks,” on CBS All-Access.  I really loved the four “Short Treks” we got between seasons one and two of Discovery, though I wasn’t wild about the first two we got in this latest batch.  (Let’s not mince words: they were awful.)  The three most recent ones have been better, though none as good as that first batch:

Ask Not — In this very short installment, a young Starfleet cadet finds herself in the midst of a dangerous situation alongside Captain Pike.  I really like this new character of cadet Sidhu, played by Amrit Kaur.  It’s great to see a strong, competent female new character, especially one played by an actress of color.  I’d love to see her again.  Anson Mount is great as Pike, as he was throughout season two of Discovery.  The test that cadet Sidhu is put through is cruel — it’s a bit hard for me to believe this is how Starfleet operates — but we’ve seen Starfleet cadets put through this sort of simulation before (see TNG’s “Coming of Age”) so there is precedent for this.  The short looks great.  None of these shorts look to have been made on the cheap, which is great.  In particular, I quite like the Discovery version of the Original Series uniforms.  The short’s biggest weakness is that, like most of Discovery, it’s too fast-paced and too confusing.  The short runs less than 10 minutes in length.  It could have used a few extra minutes to slow down and better set up cadet Sidhu and her location and situation.  Despite that, it’s a pretty solid short until the intensely aggravating shot at the end of Main Engineering on the Enterprise, which looks NOTHING like Main Engineering from the Original Series Enterprise, and is yet another slap in the face to long-time Star Trek fans.

Ephraim and Dot — This short is the first Star Trek animated project since The Animated Series from the seventies!  It tells the cute story of the at-first antagonistic encounter between a space-faring tardigrade (introduced in Discovery’s first season) and one of the Enterprise’s repair robots (seen in Discovery season two).  I hugely hate and object to the existence of Star Wars-like droids in the Star Trek universe.  I was bummed to see one of those robots used as the centerpiece for this short.  But then I was very surprised and delighted to hear audio from “Space Seed” and discover that this short seems to be set in the classic Star Trek continuity of the Original Series!  I loved how the … [continued]

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News Around the Net

I am still saddened by the death, a few weeks ago, of Rene Auberjonois, who played Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Mr. Auberjonois was an amazing actor.  Deep Space Nine is my favorite of all the Star Trek series, and Odo was one of the best characters.  Coming so soon after the death of Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog, this is such sad news.  Here’s Mr. Auberjonois’ obituary from The Washington Post.  And here’s a beautiful remembrance, written by his co-star (and on-screen soul-mate) Nana Visitor.

This first trailer for Wonder Woman: 1984 looks great!!

I dig the nineteen-eighties vibe! The action looks terrific.  Gal Gadot seems spectacular as always.  I can’t wait to see more of Kirsten Wiig’s character.  I’m intrigued by the hints as to how they brought Steve Trevor back.  (I’m assuming he’ll die again at the end, right?)  It’s going to be a long wait until summer for this one…!

And here’s a great new trailer for Jason Reitman’s new Ghostbusters film:

Wow, when that “call it fate…” line from the original 1984 film plays, I got chills.  OK, I must admit, I’m intrigued!  I wish we’d gotten another movie with the great all-female cast Paul Feig assembled for his version — if only to stick it to all the misogynistic haters.  But, failing that, this sounds like an interesting approach to take with a sequel.  Jason Reitman is a terrific director, and seeing as his father, Ivan Reitman, directed the first two Ghostbusters films, Mr. Reitman feels like the right person to help a new one!  I’m eager to see what he’s put together!  Here’s more interesting new info on Jason Reitman’s upcoming film.

Here’s our first look at Christopher Nolan’s next film, Tenet:

I don’t know what the heck the film is about, but a new Christopher Nolan film always has my interest.

Here’s an energetic first look at the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights:

That looks great!  I never saw the show, but I’m excited for this film version.

There is no world in which I will be seeing the Cats movie.  But I am fascinated by the studio’s decision to replace the version that was released to theaters with a new version of the film with updated/fixed visual effects.  Has that ever before happened?  Read the story here.

Buckle up and set aside some time to enjoy this amazing Party Down reunion.  I adore that little-seen show.  (Click here for my review of season one, and here for my review of season two.)  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and remedy that immediately.  You won’t be disappointed, … [continued]