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Part Two of Josh’s Review of The Mandalorian Season Two

Click here for the first half of my review of The Mandalorian, season two!  And now, onwards:

Chapter Thirteen: “The Jedi” — As I wrote in part one of my review, getting to see Ahsoka Tano brought to life in live-action was extraordinary.  I never thought this would actually happen.  I couldn’t possibly have wished for a more faithful, more awesome depiction of Ahsoka than what we got here in this episode.  Rosario Dawson was brilliant, absolutely perfect.  She was amazing in the spectacular fight sequences and also in the quiet moments.  What’s amazing about this episode is that there was so much additional awesomeness beyond just the appearance of Ahsoka!!  Hearing Bo Katan say the name “Ahsoka Tano” in episode three was spine-tingling.  Almost as great — and shockingly unexpected!! — was hearing Ahsoka herself say the name “Grand Admiral Thrawn” here!!  I am overjoyed at the thought that Thrawn (first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s terrific Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels, and brought to animated life on Star Wars: Rebels) might be coming to live-action life in future seasons of The Mandalorian!!  (Or one of the multiple spin-off shows Disney has recently announced.)  Do the events of this episode occur before or after the final scenes of Star Wars: Rebels??  (I’d at first assumed after, meaning Ahsoka is still on the trail of Thrawn and Ezra… but comments from Dave Filoni have drawn that into question…)  I loved meeting the Magistrate (Morgan Elsbeth, played by Diana Lee Inosanto).  Her fight with Ahsoka (Beskar spear versus lightsabers) was amazing and intense.  I was so happy to see Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens) as the Magistrate’s hired mercenary.  (I wish this was more than a one-off appearance!!)  It was fun to learn Baby Yoda’s true name (through Grogu is a little sillier a name than I’d hoped), and I enjoyed the scenes of Ahsoka’s helping Mando gauge Grogu’s burgeoning Force abilities.  I was surprised Ahsoka didn’t agree to help train Grogu herself.  It felt somewhat out of character for her to pass the buck like that.  The idea of just letting Grogu’s Force-wielding abilities dwindle seems sad and short-sighted.  (And also risky — what damage could he cause with his abilities, without proper training in how to use and control them??)  On the other hand, Ahsoka famously declared “I am no Jedi” (in the spectacular Rebels episode “Twilight of the Apprentice”), so I can understand why she wouldn’t want to be a part of training future Jedi.  Speaking of which, it’s an interesting piece of discontinuity that this episode about Ahsoka is titled “The Jedi”.  Has Ahsoka come to piece with the fact that she really is … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Mandalorian Season Two

There was certainly a lot of expectation and anticipation before the release of the first season of The Mandalorian last year.  It was the first Star Wars live-action TV show!  What would it be like?  And yet, in many ways, I think that first season was a huge surprise to many people.  It was to me.  Even though I’d hoped it would be great, I was taken aback by just how great it was.  And, of course, “Baby Yoda” (officially “the child” on the show) took the world by storm.  And so I felt there were even greater weights of pressure and expectation on the second season of the show.  Would Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni and their team be able to make a second season that would rise to the level of that first season, and to fans’ enormous expectations?

Once again, they made it look easy.  The second season of The Mandalorian was pure joy for me, from start to finish.  I will say again what I said about that first season: this is exactly what I want new Star Wars to be.  The series is astoundingly faithful to the continuity and history of Star Wars, while also being unafraid to tell new stories with new characters and new locations.

This second season enormously expanded the universe of the show.  Season one was filled with connections to the larger Star Wars universe; we saw Jawas and an IG battle droid and that ice-cream-maker from The Empire Strikes Back and the Darksaber.  At the same time, the season told a tightly-focused story of Mando and the Child and their adventures on the “Outer Rim.”  Season two expanded the scope of the show dramatically.  For me, the greatest strength of The Mandalorian was the way the series was able to weave together connections to the movies (Boba Fett), the animated series (Bo Katan, Ahsoka Tano, the Darksaber), and also to Star Wars novels (Grand Admiral Thrawn, Cobb Vanth), comic books (the planet Tython where Baby Yoda communes with the Force) video games (the Dark Troopers), and so much more. The respect for the vast tapestry of the Star Wars expanded universe was amazing.  This series is clearly made by people with a tremendous knowledge of and love for Star Wars, and that makes me so happy to see.  (I wish modern Star Trek was overseen by people with this amount of knowledge and love.)

As a huge fan of the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars and Rebels, the highlight of this season was seeing Bo Katan and Ahsoka Tano brought to life in live action.  I cannot describe how happy that made me!!!  Seeing Bo Katan in … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Wonder Woman 1984

December 28th, 2020
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Wonder Woman 1984 picks up the story of Diana/Wonder Woman many decades after her first film (which was set in 1918).  Diana is living a solitary, lonely life, helping people when she can while keeping her existence as a superhuman among mortals a secret.  Joy returns to her world when Steve Trevor, her true love who sacrificed himself at the end of the first film, mysteriously returns to life.  His resurrection appears to be tied to the powerful dream-stone which failed oil tycoon Max Lord uncovers.  Max wants to use the powers of the stone to grant himself the life of fame and fortune he’s always wanted, but the wish-granting powers of the stone, once unleashed, begin to wreak havoc upon the world.  Also tied up in this story is Barbara Minerva, whose wish allows her to become the confident, powerful woman she’s always wanted to be; and who does not want to allow Diana to undo anything the stone has done.

Wonder Woman 1984 is an entertaining sequel to 2017’s first Wonder Woman film.  I found a lot to enjoy in the film.  But it’s uneven, and the unsuccessful Barbara Minerva aspect of the story — which I’ll discuss in more detail in a moment — serves as an anchor that keeps the movie from greatness.  Wonder Woman 1984 is nowhere near the greatness of most of the Marvel Studios films we’ve been lucky to have been enjoying for the past several years, though it’s far stronger than most of the DCU films from the past several years.  If the goal of this film was to tell an entertaining story that would allow you to spend more enjoyable time with Diana and Steve, two characters you liked from the first film, then Wonder Woman 1984 succeeds.  But this is certainly not a sequel that goes beyond the original film, adding complexities and depth to the characters and the world (the way truly great sequels do).

Most of the best aspects of Wonder Woman 1984 come down to my two favorite elements of the first Wonder Woman film: Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.  Ms. Gadot proves that her strong performance in the first Wonder Woman was not a fluke.  She is, once again, absolutely spectacular as Wonder Woman.  She has the physicality that the character needs — strong and beautiful — but more importantly she’s able to embody all of the critical qualities of Diana from the comics.  She shows us Diana’s kindness and her soulfulness.  She is able to play Diana as an innocent and yet also as someone with a spine of absolute steel when it comes to what she knows is right.  The film’s best choice is … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to Love and A Time to Hate

I’ve gone back to read, for the first time, the nine-book “A Time To…” saga of Star Trek novels published in 2004, designed to bridge the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the TNG movies.  (Click here for my review of books 1 and 2: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, by John Vornholt, and click here for my review of books 3 and 4: A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.)

Robert Greenberger has written a variety of  Star Trek projects over the years, but he is best known to me as the editor of DC Comics’ wonderful Star Trek comic book series in the eighties/nineties.  I have warm memories of those comics (most especially Peter David’s long run on the main Star Trek series), and Mr. Greenberg regularly wrote/“hosted” the letters page, which I always loved reading.  It was a delight to read these two novels which he’d written!

These books were, I think, the shortest books in the series.  Mr. Greenberg’s writing style felt different to me than many/most other Pocket Books Trek novels.  For example, Mr Greenberg seemed to favor shorter scenes, with his chapters often jumping quickly from one character/location to another.  And he often summarized parts of conversations or other events, rather than taking the reader through those scenes in full.  It’s interesting to read a Star Trek novel written in something different from the usual “house” style.  That’s not necessarily bad, but the books were sometimes choppy and hard to understand.  There were several times reading these books when I had to stop and flip back a few pages to make sure I understood what was happening.  Sometimes there were apparent contradictions or discrepancies in the writing that I couldn’t figure out.  Here’s just one example: about 100 pages into book one, a second murder is reported and Riker is sent to investigate.  I expected him to arrive at a crime scene, but instead we read about a calm farm.  When Riker talks to the main witness, we read that the man “sat back and considered the question, summoning up memories of the events a few weeks past.”  A few weeks past??  I thought the second murder had just happened!  How can it have taken place weeks ago?  Why wasn’t it reported at the time??  If these questions were explained in the book’s text, I missed them.

(Frankly, the books contained several examples of what seemed to me like blatant mistakes that surely should have been caught during the editing process.  At one point, we read: “‘Chip off the old block,’ Kyle said sardonically.  … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Let’s start with a few minutes of pure joy — a look at Peter Jackson’s in-the-works Beatles documentary, The Beatles: Get Back:

More joy?  Sit back and take a gander at these two featurettes filled with incredible behind-the-scenes footage and deleted/alternate moments from the making of The Empire Strikes Back!!

Click here to watch a short documentary looking back at Planes, Traines and Automobiles (a comedy that I dearly love), with lots of fun glimpses of deleted scenes!

Click here for the Criterion Channel’s fantastic look back at the amazing films written & directed by Albert Brooks!  I love every one of these movies.

Click here for a great Q&A with Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed, on the occasion of the FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY (wow!) of Bloom County!  Sadly, I feel like the days of the must-read daily comic strip are long in the past, but I continue to adore Bloom County, both the classic cartoons from the eighties and the new strips that Mr. Breathed periodically publishes on Facebook!

Click here for an interesting Q & A with Temuera Morrison, on his (and Boba Fett’s) return to the Star Wars universe in The Mandalorian!

In less happy Boba Fett-related news, Jeremy Bulloch, the original actor who played Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, has passed away.

Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11 is currently in production!  Click here for an interesting and funny article by Curb Executive Producer Jeff Schaffer in which he discusses the bizarre and complicated process of shooting a television show during a pandemic.

This lengthy, and somewhat depressing but endlessly fascinating article explores J.K. Rowling and how her recent anti-trans public statements have alienated many Harry Potter fans.

Here’s an op-ed piece from The AV Club that I completely agree with: “Hey big-budget directors, now’s not the time to grumble about no one seeing your movie in a theater.”

Ready to lose the next 24 hours of your life?  Click here for an insanely amazing twitter thread in which Josh Weinstein (a terrific comedy writer who was the show runner of The Simpsons along with Bill Oakley for seasons seven and eight) interacts with fans to dissect and analyze an array of jokes from over the years of The Simpsons.  I began this blog with pure joy; and with pure joy I shall end it.

Thanks for reading!  Please allow me to make my usual request for all the readers of this site to do your Amazon shopping by clicking through to Amazon through one of the many links on my website (like the ones in this sentence, or the ones found at the bottom of this — and almost every … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Movies That Made Us

The Movies That Made Us is a Netflix documentary series, in which each episode explores the behind-the-scenes work that went into the creation of iconic, beloved movies.  The first season of four episodes spotlighted Dirty Dancing, Home Alone, Ghostbusters, and Die Hard.  The recently-released second season, called The Holiday Movies That Made Us, consisted of two additional episodes, spotlighting Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’m a sucker for making-of documentaries about movies and TV shows.  And Ghostbusters and Die Hard are two of my all-time favorite movies (and neither ever had a great making-of documentary on any of their home video releases), so this series immediately interested me.

I found enjoyment from watching each of these episodes, even the one for Home Alone, a movie I don’t care for all that much.

But I find that I can’t recommend this series too highly.  I quickly tired of the series’ jokey, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek tone.  The series seems to feel that regular making-of documentaries are boring, so they pile on goofy narration, jokey editing, and all sorts of other silliness designed to keep poking the audience.  It’s as if they’re constantly saying: Hey! Look at us!  We’re not dry and boring!  We’re wacky and irreverent!!  I found that all to be, pretty much, hugely annoying.  I wish they’d just played everything straight.  The stories behind the making of these movies are terrific and interesting!!  Just tell those stories and allow us to hear from all of the people being interviewed without constantly playing some yuck-yuck editing trick or throwing a bad pun into the narration!

I don’t know why the series seems to be so self-conscious, even embarrassed maybe, by its subject matter.  It seems to me like someone who chooses to click on this series and watch in on Netflix is most likely someone who is genuinely interested in learning more about these movies.  We don’t need the ridiculous, (bad) joke-filled narration to try to sell us that these documentaries are interesting to watch.  (Seriously, the narration in season one is just the worst.  Ugh.  Thankfully, they used a different narrator in season two, and that voice was much less grating, though the approach to a “wacky” narration was unfortunately unchanged.)

It’s especially frustrating because underneath all of the over-editing, each episode tells a ton of great stories.  I was again and again impressed by how many important behind-the-scenes players they were able to interview for each episode.  Sometimes they missed out on the big names, which undermines the project somewhat.  (Jennifer Grey didn’t participate in the Dirty Dancing episode; Bill Murray didn’t participate in the Ghostbusters episode; Macauley Culkin didn’t participate in the Home Alone episode…)  But they made … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Leftovers Season Two

I thoroughly enjoyed season one of The Leftovers.  I thought season two was even better.  I know I’m several years late to the party here, but at this point I am all-in on this show!

I’d been warned that the first season of The Leftovers might be tough to get through, because of the incredibly heavy, sad subject matter, but that seasons two and three were terrific and paid off one’s investment on the show.  On the one hand, having seen the first two seasons at this point, so far I agree with that assessment.  On the other hand, what’s impressive is how creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta have managed to gently tweak the show without turning it into something else entirely.  This is still, unquestionably, the same show.  And I’m starting from a place in which I LOVED season one, even while I freely admit that it was hard to watch at times.  Season two isn’t suddenly all light and frothy!  There are still some tremendously wrenching, sad things that happen this season.  The show’s characters are, once again, put through an emotional wringer.  (As is the audience!)  And yet, the tone has been subtly adjusted, and I found more joy and humor in the show this season, to balance the grief and the horror.  I also found myself hooked even more deeply by the show’s twisty, absolutely impossible-to-predict-what’s-coming-next storytelling.  So that made this season even more riveting for me, as I felt compelled to zoom quickly onto the next episode after ending the previous one.

(I’m going to dive into this season now, so please beware SPOILERS beyond this point.  If you’ve never seen the show before, all you need to know now is that I am a convert and I highly recommend this series to you… and I think it’s best that you stop reading here to avoid having any of the show’s wonderful storytelling surprises ruined for you.)

I commented in my review of season one that I loved how unpredictable the show’s storytelling was.  That was exponentially even more the case here in season two, and the opening episode is one of the best examples of that.  There was so much craziness in the season one finale, and I couldn’t wait to see what was next for all of the show’s characters.  I’m not sure how I expected the second season to begin, but an extended flashback to caveman (and cavewoman) times was definitely NOT it!  And yet, I was absolutely delighted by that completely out-of-left-field opening.  I love how bizarre and confusing it was, while at the same time how beautifully it summed up so many of the show’s themes and explorations … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Avenue 5 Season One

Avenue 5 is a sci-fi comedy series created by Veep creator Armando Iannucci.  Set sometime in the future, the show depicts the fallout from an accident aboard the Avenue 5, a space-ship cruise-ship, that turns their five-week cruise into a years-long journey.

I loved Veep and I love sci-fi, so a sci-fi comedy from the creator of Veep was of course something I wanted to see.  The series is funny and I enjoyed watching it.  But it’s not nearly as funny as I’d expected, based on Mr. Iannucci’s involvement and the spectacular cast (that includes Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Zach Woods, and many more terrific comedic performers).

Each and every episode made me laugh.  Is that enough to recommend this short (nine half-hour episodes) first season?  Perhaps.  And yet, in almost every episode there was also something that felt somewhat off about the storytelling, as if the many great components of this show weren’t quite clicking together.  A few examples: In the first episode, for quite a while I thought Josh Gad was playing some sort of rock and roll star, a pampered and privileged celebrity aboard the Avenue 5, when in fact he was playing the cruise-line’s owner.  It feels to me like the storytelling should have made that much clearer; and that the show should have given us a reason why the company’s super-rich owner was traveling on board this cruise ship.  Here’s another example: it feels to me like the show should have been able to get a lot more comedic mileage out of the idea that the ships’ head of customer relations, played by Zach Woods, would have a meltdown after the accident hits and his carefully-run cruise ship collapses into chaos.  But that doesn’t really happen, because that character is played as an unhinged loon right from the beginning of the first episode, when we see him being very rude and impatient with the (admittedly demanding and obnoxious) passengers.  So there’s no arc.  Mr. Woods is funny, as always, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

Also, I know the show is a comedy, but it feels like there are too many plot questions the show doesn’t bother to address.  How is it that there is only one engineer on the entire ship (Joe, who meets an untimely demise a few minutes into the first episode) who seems to know anything about how to actually run the ship?  (OK, two engineers: Lenora Crichlow’s Billie is also competent.)  The show could have intended to made an Idiocracy-like point about no one in the near future knowing anything about anything (or how Wall-E, which has a similar premise regarding trouble on an idyllic, futuristic cruiseliner-like … [continued]

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Star Wars, Marvel, and Alien, Oh My!

December 11th, 2020
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Disney unleashed an avalanche of exciting news, today!  Holy guacamole!!  Let’s dig in, starting with all of the Star Wars news.

There’s a LOT of huge news, but what am I most excited about…?

It’s this: Ahsoka Tano is getting her own show!!  Rosario Dawson will be back, and the series will be “set within the timeline of The Mandalorian”, whatever that means exactly.  Is this before or after the end of Rebels?  Does this mean Ahsoka’s search for Grand Admiral Thrown might again cross over with future seasons of The Mandalorian?  I’m intrigued!  Also intriguing: another spin-off show “set within the timeline of The Mandalorian”: Rangers of the New Republic.  Will this be about the (sort-of hapless) X-Wing pilots we’ve glimpsed the season on The Mandalorian?  The concept of a show about X-Wing pilots sounds awesome, and I’d love to see a deeper exploration of what life was like in the Star Wars universe in the early years of the New Republic (after the events of Return of the Jedi and years before The Force Awakens).

I’m also super-pumped by this trailer for the newest animated series, Bad Batch, picking up on the unit of Clone troopers introduced at the end of The Clone Wars series:

To be honest I wasn’t super in love with the Bad Batch concept on Clone Wars.  But I AM extremely excited for a series exploring the time immediately after Episode III and the fall of the Republic.  There are still so many questions about what happened to the Clones and many of the other characters from Clone Wars.  I’m very eager to see what stories this series is going to tell.  And I LOVED seeing Tarkin in that trailer!!  I can’t ever get enough of Tarkin.

Also, there’s another animated show in the works called Star Wars: Visions, a series of Star Wars animated films created by Japanese anime creators.  OK, color me intrigued.

We finally got confirmation of the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, to be directed by Deborah Chow (who did an awesome job directing on The Mandalorian) and starring Ewan McGreggor and Hayden Christensen.  I am super-excited to see Mr. McGreggor back as Obi-Wan.  I am… less than enthused about Mr. Christensen back in the fold.  He’ll be playing Darth Vader… but will we also be seeing him out of the mask?  I’m a little concerned about how Vader and Obi-Wan could be in a story together during the years when Vader didn’t know Obi-Wan was hiding ion Tatooine.  But I’m excited and very curious to see what this show will be about!

Here’s a cool look behind the scenes at Andor, the Rogue One prequel show, focusing on Cassian Andor:… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

December 9th, 2020

So, WOW — Warner Brothers announced last week that their ENTIRE 2021 slate of films will be released to theaters and, simultaneously, to HBO-Max!  Click here for more details.  I am floored.  As a film fan, I love this.  I want to see these movies, and I love that fans will have the option of going to a theater or seeing these films in the comfort (and safety) of their own homes.  Take a gander at this trailer to see the exciting films awaiting us in 2021:

Here’s a fun short interview with Peter Jackson, as PR for the recent 4K releases of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies!

WOW: Alfred Molina is reportedly reprising his role as Doc Ock from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 for the upcoming third MCU Spider-Man film!  Building on reports that Jamie Foxx would be back as Electro, it looks like this next Spidey movie is embracing the multiverse concept (seen so beautifully in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and uniting the MCU Spidey with the original Toby Maguire/Sam Raimi Spidey universe (from which Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock comes) and the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man universe (from which Jamie Foxx’s Electro comes).  Very cool!!

Rest In Peace Chuck Yeager, who died at the incredible age of 97!  Mr. Yeager is, of course, the test pilot who first broke the sound barrier.  I was literally just rewatching The Right Stuff (in which Mr. Yeager features significantly) two days ago!!

Sad news that author J.W. Rinzler, author of an array of incredible books describing the behind-the-scenes details of the creation of some of my very favorite movies (such as The Making of The Empire Strike Back, The Making of Alien, The Making of Planet of the Apes, and more) has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Mr. Rinzler’s latest project is a novel called All Up.  On Facebook, his wife Genevieve describes the book as “a book about the genesis of the space age. It’s written as fiction, but it’s largely based on true stories, delivered in an exciting read.  It’s the “making-of” book for the most outstanding scientific accomplishment of the last century.  All Up is the story of how an unlikely web of horrible wars, crazy research, epic failures, fabulous means, and the dreamers—always the dreamers—all came together, over half a century, to allow humanity to break the bondage of gravity and travel beyond our planet.”  She encourages fans of Mr. Rinzler to consider purchasing All Up!  You can click here to do so.

More sad news: Herbert F. Solow, the head of production at Desilu Studios who oversaw the development of the original Star Trek TV series, … [continued]

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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews The Leftovers Season One

The Leftovers ran for three seasons on HBO, between 2014-2017.  The series was created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, based on Mr. Perotta’s novel.  It takes place three years after 2% of the population “departed” — vanished into thin air in circumstances that are impossible to conclusively explain.  (Was it the Rapture?)  The series explores the lives of many of the denizens of a small town, Mapleton, in Upstate New York.  As we get to know these characters, it becomes clear that each and everyone of them has been deeply damaged by the after-effects of the Sudden Departure, whether or not they actually lost any immediate family members.  One of the show’s central questions is whether that damage is beyond any possibility of repair.

Having been burned by the ending of Lost, I was not interested in watching Mr. Lindelof’s next TV series, so I skipped The Leftovers when it originally ran.  (I’ve written a lot about Lost on this site.  In short, I loved the series but was deeply disappointed by the final season.  I actually quite like the final episode itself.  But I was shocked and heartbroken that the final season refused to answer almost any of the mysteries the show had carefully constructed over the previous five seasons.  It felt to me like a complete betrayal of the audience who had invested so deeply in the show’s story.)  Despite the critical acclaim surrounding The Leftovers — I remember reading about it on a lot of best-of-the-year lists during its run — I couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge.  I wasn’t ready to have my heart broken by a Damon Lindelof TV show again, and everything I’d read about the series’ depressing subject matter kept me away.  Over the years, though, various friends whose opinions I respect have been telling me I need to watch the show.  And then last year I watched and loved Watchmen, the HBO series overseen by Mr. Lindelof (based on the spectacular comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons).  So I decided maybe it was finally time to listen to my friends and give The Leftovers a chance.

My friends all told me the same two things about The Leftovers.  They told me that I needed to brace myself that (like Lost) many of the core mysteries at the show’s center would not be answered.  And they told me that while the first season was incredibly depressing, I needed to stick with the show for all three seasons, because it’s be worth it.

Having now watched the first season (and I’m already deep into the second), I am already very glad that I have finally taken … [continued]

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Zoom Horror Short Film: Full Disclosure

December 4th, 2020
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My friend, filmmaker Michael Strode, has made a short horror film shot over Zoom about a virtual drinks call that goes… poorly.

It’s called Full Disclosure, and it’s a super-fun slice of scary/silly awesomeness.

You can watch it right now:

Enjoy!  Have a great weekend, everyone!!… [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Interactive Animated Film Batman: Death in the Family

December 2nd, 2020
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Batman: Death in the Family is the new animated film from DC/Warner Brothers.  For the first time for DC Animation, the film is presented as an interactive experience, with the viewer having several opportunities to choose the fate of the characters, using one’s remote control, as the story unfolds.

The film is based, of course, on Batman: A Death in the Family, the four-issue storyline that ran through Batman #426-429 in 1988.  That story was written by Jim Starlin (creator of Thanos for Marvel) and illustrated by Jim Aparo (one of the most iconic Batman artists of all time) and Mike DeCarlo, with incredibly iconic covers by Mike Mignola.  The end of issue #428 is memorable for asking readers to call a 1-900 number to determine whether Jason Todd, the second Robin after the original Dick Grayson, would live or die.  Fans narrowly voted for him to die, and so he did in the final issue.

I started reading Batman comics soon afterward.  A Death in the Family is one of the first collected editions I ever owned.  (I still have my beat-up, much-re-read copy!)  The events of that story, and the death of Jason Todd, had ripple effects that were felt for years in the DC universe.  In many ways, those ripples are still being felt today.

Seeing as the original comic had a “choose your own adventure” feel to it, with the 1-900 number call-in, this story is a cool choice to use as the basis for an interactive film.  The interactive experience works fairly well.  It’s cool to be able to play a role in deciding how the story unfolds.  Once you get to the end of the story-path you’ve chosen to follow, the disc helpfully provides a simple menu which allows you to easily retrace your steps and to choose different paths.  I appreciated that a lot.

Netflix has pioneered this approach with its two interactive movies, the Black Mirror special Bandersnatch and the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt movie, Kimmy vs. the Reverend.  As much fun as Death in the Family is, it pales somewhat in comparison to those Netflix films.  While the branching options worked well on my blu-ray, there was a longer pause between options than there was in the Netflix specials, which somewhat interrupted the smooth flow of the story.  More importantly, there are far fewer points of choice in Death in the Family than there were in either Netflix special.

That’s my biggest disappointment with this film, actually.  It is advertised, correctly, as a short film.  Most paths through the story offer the viewer between three to seven points of choice, for a total run-time of around twenty minutes.  What we get … [continued]