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The Trial of the Chicago 7, written & directed by Aaron Sorkin (mastermind behind Sports Night & The West Wing, writer of such terrific films as A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, Moneyball, and Charlie Wilson’s War, and the writer/director of the underrated Molly’s Game) tells the story of the seven men (really eight, counting Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers) who were put on trial by the U.S. government following the violence between the Chicago Police and the anti-war and counter-culture protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  The film is a story about members of our government using their political power to try to destroy their enemies.  It’s about how our criminal justice system can be twisted by bad-faith actors to be used as a weapon against against our citizenry.  And it’s about men and women protesting what they see as the wrongs of our society and being met by anger and violence from the police.  In short, this is not only a critical history lesson that’s important for every American — it’s also a film that is very much about what is happening in the United States of America today in 2020.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is phenomenal.  It’s riveting.  It’s funny and it’s horrifying.  It’s a film that will make you angry — it’s designed to do so — but it’s not a depressing slog.  Mr. Sorkin’s skill with dialogue ensures that almost every single scene is so brilliantly written that you’ll be dazzled by the word-play.  His skill with structure ensures that he is able to dramatize a trial that went on for month after long month is presented in such a way that, when watching the film unfold, you’re carried along with the drama of the story.  The film that is jam-packed with characters and plot points, but Aaron Sorkin’s stills as a writer and director ensures that none of this ever becomes overwhelming or confusing or, worst of all, boring.  (The film’s opening sequence, which introduces us to a wealth of characters and backstory in a mile-a-minute series of walk-and-talk scenes that somehow manage to be clear, concise, and fun, is magnificent, and gave me confidence that I was in good hands with this film.)

The cast is absolutely extraordinary.  One of the film’s greatest strengths is how well we’re allowed to get to know all eight defendants in the trial, how they’re each well-developed as distinct and interesting characters.  (OK, six of the eight.  We don’t spend too much time with Lee Weiner, played by Noah Robbins (Zach on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) or John Froines, played by Daniel … [continued]

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“Mr. President.  Welcome back.”

I can’t wait to watch that later today!!

Wayne Knight has reprised his role as Newman from Seinfeld to give some advice on mail-in voting and the importance of making a plan to VOTE:

Moving on to less-serious news… here’s a trailer for the Amazon Prime animated series, adapting the comic book series Invincible:

It’s cool to see the comic’s designs so faithfully recreated on-screen!  And the voice cast looks to be amazing: J. K. Simmons, Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, Mark Hamill, Seth Rogen, Gillian Anderson, Andrew Rannells, Zazie Beetz, Wakton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas, Mae Whitman, Chris Diamantopoulos, Zachary Quinto, Mahershala Ali, Kevin Michael Richardson, Lauren Cohan, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, and more!!  The comic book series, created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker and illustrated by artist Ryan Ottley, is actually a lot more interesting than the set-up originally appears.  I’ve been curious to see if this new show’s marketing would spoil any of those twists.  So far they haven’t.  I’m thankful they’re preserving the series’ fun secrets (at least, so far), though that also presents a challenge in how to convey to people that this show is different from all the other super-hero stories people have already seen on-screen…

Here’s our first full trailer for the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, coming to CBS All Access:

I really hope this is good.  I love the novel so much.  The trailer is decent, though it looks sort of “TV” to me, without the breadth I hope this epic tale will receive.  I also don’t think the trailer does a good job of explaining anything about this story to anyone who’s not already familiar with it.  (I’m assuming the way the trailer glosses over the plague that mostly destroys humanity is because, in a world with COVID, they thought that’d be too on the nose.  But focusing on the weird supernatural stuff does a disservice to the story, in my opinion…)

Here’s a trailer for Mank, the new film from David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) and the making of Citizen Kane:

A new film from David Fincher is always exciting, and I love Citizen Kane, so I can’t wait for this one.  I’m thankful it’ll be available to watch on Netflix in December.

I am very excited to learn that Benedict Cumberbatch will reportedly be appearing as Doctor Strange in the third MCU Spider-Man film!  I’m also slightly concerned, though cautiously optimistic, to read that Jamie Foxx will be reprising his role as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I [continued]

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Josh’s Guide to Great Geeky Gifts — Part Two!

October 13th, 2020
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October 13-14 is Amazon’s Prime Day, in which they trumpet all sorts of great discounted deals across their site.  Personally, I enjoy hunting through their deals and I almost always make some great purchases each year when this comes around.  So I thought this might be a fun excuse to assemble a list of awesome geeky gifts that might interest readers of this site either as something fun to get for themselves, or as great potential gift ideas for your friends and loved ones!

Full disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  That means 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.  So please, allow me to ask: when you’re thinking about doing some online shopping, please click through to Amazon through one of my links.  It’d be a huge help to allowing this website to continue!  Thank you!

Yesterday, in Part One of my list, I suggested some great movies in 4K, some of my favorite extended cuts of movies, and some great complete series sets of TV shows.

Today, in Part Two, I’ll be suggesting some great novels, some great graphic novels, and some great entertainment-related books.  Onward!

Great Novels:

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee — In my humble and correct opinion, this is the greatest American novel of all time.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams — No novel gives me more pure joy than this one.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien — Last year I decided to replace the well-worn copies I had of these beloved books, and I bought this lovely pocket-sized edition, with beautiful leatherette covers.  I adore this new edition.  Check it out:

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy — I adore the entire multi-book saga, probably the greatest sci-fi saga ever written.  It starts here with the original three books.

Dune, by Frank Herbert — Wait, maybe THIS is the greatest sci-fi saga ever written?  With Denis Villeneuve’s film coming out next year, now’s a great time to dive into this epic.  The spice must flow.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon — A pure delight from start-to-finish.

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols Brilliant film director and writer Nicholas Meyer released his latest Holmes pastiche last year, in which … [continued]

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Josh’s Guide to Great Geeky Gifts — Part One!

October 12th, 2020
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October 13-14 is Amazon’s Prime Day, in which they trumpet all sorts of great discounted deals across their site.  Personally, I enjoy hunting through their deals and I almost always make some great purchases each year when this comes around.  So I thought this might be a fun excuse to assemble a list of awesome geeky gifts that might interest readers of this site either as something fun to get for themselves, or as great potential gift ideas for your friends and loved ones!

Full disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  That means 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.  So please, allow me to ask: when you’re thinking about doing some online shopping, please click through to Amazon through one of my links.  It’d be a huge help to allowing this website to continue!  Thank you!

Today, in Part One of my list, I’ll be suggesting some great movies in 4K, some of my favorite extended cuts of movies, and some great complete series sets of TV shows.  Onward:

Great Movies in 4K

If you love movies and you love physical media, here are some great films available in beautiful 4K:

The Goonies — One of my all-time favorite films, looking more beautiful than ever.

Superman: The Movie — It’s still one of the best super-hero movies ever made.  I have bought many different versions of this film on home video over the years.  I haven’t yet taken the plunge for this new 4k edition, but I am sorely tempted!

The Prestige — My favorite Christopher Nolan movie (you read that right) in the most beautiful home-video format possible.

Ex Machina — A gloriously twisty sci-fi film that is currently a steal at $10 for the 4K version!! (No guarantees how long that price will last.)  Click here for my full review of the film.

The Hunt for Red October — By far the best Tom Clancy adaptation in any media.  I love this film so much.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind — One of Steven Spielberg’s greatest films, and one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made.

 

Great Extended Cuts of Great Movies:

Blade Runner: The Final Cut — The best version of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece.

Watchmen: Ultimate Cut — Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s classic comic … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die

Back in 2004, Pocket Book published a connected series of nine Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, designed to bridge the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the TNG movies.  Nemesis introduced several changes to the status quo of the TNG crew (Riker and Troi were engaged to be married and Riker was finally moving on to his own command; Worf and Wesley were apparently back in Starfleet, etc.), and this book series was designed to explain those new developments and to give Nemesis more of a context that fit with pre-established Trek continuity.

I didn’t read the “A Time To…” series back when it was first released.  While I was hooked into the interconnected series of DS9 novels that continued the DS9 story past the events of the finale, “What You Leave Behind,” the Pocket Books Trek line hadn’t yet merged into the very-cool tapestry that I have been following and enjoying for the past decade and a half, weaving together characters and story-lines from all the Trek series.  So at the time, I didn’t view this new TNG series as a must-read.  But the primary reason I didn’t read it was that I hated Nemesis.  I thought it was a failure through and through, and while it was a delight to see Riker and Troi’s storylines finally moving forward in that movie, many of the other changes felt like annoying reversals of character developments that I had enjoyed.  Worf’s unexplained return to a Starfleet uniform was the most galling.  I was delighted by the way Deep Space Nine developed Worf’s character, and I thought that the place where they left Worf at the end of the series, as the new Federation ambassador to the Klingon empire, was a perfect next step for the character.  And so I was super-annoyed at Nemesis for undoing that development without any explanation, and dropping Worf right back where he had been long ago on TNG, as security chief for the Enterprise.  (Adding insult to injury, Nemesis’ general stupidity and carelessness of storytelling led me to believe that this change to Worf might have just been an accidental oversight, rather than a change made with a good reason at heart.  Or at least, any reason beyond: we want Worf in the movie so let’s just put him back on the Enterprise and assume the fans won’t notice or care that we’re undoing all of his development from DS9.)  And so I was not exactly chomping at the bit at the prospect of reading nine books devoted to explaining these changes.  I preferred to ignore Nemesis to the best of my ability.

But in the years since, Pocket … [continued]

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Let’s start with the most important agenda item: VOTE.  If you don’t want to listen to me, please listen to these naked celebrities:

I mentioned a few weeks ago that news leaked out that Sacha Baron Cohen had secretly filmed a Borat sequel.  Well, now there’s a trailer, a title, and it’ll be streaming on Amazon Prime Video in just a few weeks: on October 23rd!  Buckle up:

Here’s a trailer for Marvel 616, a documentary series coming soon to Disney+.  The series will explore the Marvel comics, its history, its obscure characters, creators, cosplayers, and more.  I love the very geeky title (a deep dive reference to what is sometimes used as the official designation of the Marvel universe, number 616 among the multiverse of different alternate universes found in the comics — the designation was first found in Captain Britain comics in the UK written by Dave Thorpe and subsequently Alan Moore, and I believe it was brought into the mainstream Marvel universe by long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont) and I’m curious to see what they’ve put together:

Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Contact, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)’s new film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches (with a screenplay co-written by Guillermo del Toro!!) has just been announced as coming to HBO Max, bypassing a theatrical release.  And it’s coming out Oct. 22nd!  Wow!  Here’s a trailer:

It’s been a while since I’ve truly loved a new film by Mr. Zemeckis, but back in the day he directed some of my favorite movies of all time.  I’m curious to see what he’s done with The Witches.  I’d love for this to be great!

Here’s a trailer for The Show, a film whose script was written by comic book genius Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell, and too many other masterpieces to mention).  Who knows if this film will actually be any good, but I’m certainly intrigued by this super-bizarre trailer:

Aaron Sorkin has a terrific idea for a sequel to The Social Network.  I doubt this will ever actually happen… but wow, I would LOVE to see that film!

In a good news/bad news situation, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has apparently been pushed back almost an entire year.  It was supposed to come out this December; now it’s reportedly being held until October 2022.  I hate having to wait another year for this film that I am desperate to see.  But I personally wasn’t planning to go see any movie in the theater this December, and I’d hate to see the film be released and tank at the box office because people aren’t ready to go back to the movies.  Oh … [continued]

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The Parker Films: Slayground (1983)

October 5th, 2020
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I’m continuing my look at the films based on Donald E. Westlake (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark)’s Parker Character.  I really enjoyed 1967’s Point Blank (click here for my review) and 1968’s The Split (click here for my review).  I thought 1973’s The Outfit was a step down, though I did still enjoy the film.  (Click here for my review.)  The next Parker film I watched was 1983’s Slayground, based on the 14th Parker novel with the same name.  Unfortunately, I thought this one was a major dud.

It’s fun seeing a young, virile Peter Coyote (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Sphere, Erin Brockovich, The 4400) in the leading role as the Parker character.  (As usual, the character has a different name: in this film, he’s called Stone.)  (That’s a lot better name than Earl Macklin given to Robert Duvall in The Outfit!)  Mr. Coyote’s glorious nineteen-eighties hair is a sight to behold.  Mr. Coyote does his best, and watching him at work in his prime was, for me, the most enjoyable aspect of this film.  Unfortunately, he can’t elevate the material out of B-movie-land.  It also doesn’t help that he’s given a bizarrely un-dangerous wardrobe, with lots of puffy sweaters.  This is a much gentler Parker character than we’ve seen in the three previous Parker films I watched.  He seems to care a lot more about the woman in his life than any of the other Parkers did.  (Though the film does a poor job of fleshing out her character.)

In most of the other Parker films, the story revolves around Parker getting betrayed or otherwise screwed over during a heist; and then Parker needs to get revenge.  In this film, what goes wrong during the crime is that the twitchy get-away driver accidentally crashes into a civilian’s car and kills a little girl.  The person looking for revenge is her angry father, who eventually sends a hit-man after Parker (Stone).  It’s an ugly plot-twist that Stone is complicit in the death of a child.  (It’s not Stone’s direct fault, but it happened during a crime he was committing.)  This has the effect of taking any fun this crime film might have had right out of the film.  The girl’s death casts an ugly pall over the entire story, in my opinion.  Now, a somber, elegiac story about a criminal whose life takes a terrible turn because of a tragedy like this might have been an interesting film.  But that’s not at all the type of film this is trying to be.  And so I think that is the biggest miscalculation in a film that seems to be filled with miscalculations.

Because … [continued]

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VOTE

October 1st, 2020
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An important message from your friends at Hamilton:

I’ll be back next week with more reviews and other fun stuff! Enjoy the weekend. And please VOTE.… [continued]