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Josh Reviews Palm Springs

In Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakov, Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a man who, we quickly discover, has been trapped in a Groundhog Day style time loop.  Nyles has been living the same day over and over and over.  That day happens to be the wedding of Tala and Abe, and Nyles is there because his girlfriend Misty is a bridesmaid.  Nyles has already arrived at the point that we saw Bill Murray get to in the middle of Groundhog Day — he’s already lived this day uncounted times, and he’s become resigned to his fate that he will continue reliving that day forever.  But then something changes: Nyles hooks up with the bride’s sister Sarah (Cristin Miloti), and she winds up stuck in the time-loop with him!  Things get crazier from there.

Who knew how much I would love yet another riff on Groundhog Day?  Last year I fell in love with the Groundhog Day type story of Russian Doll.  When I first heard about Palm Springs, I am pretty sure I gave a mental eye-roll.  Yet another Groundhog Day riff??  I was already surprised that I’d enjoyed Russian Doll as much as I did.  There was no way I’d be into still another play on Groundhog Day, was there?

And yet, Palm Springs is an absolute delight!   I was completely surprised by how much I loved this film.  (I listed it as my #2 favorite film of 2020!!)

First off, the film is very, very funny.  As it did in Groundhog Day, this concept proves a fertile ground for comedy.  And yet, while the basic set-up is similar, I was pleased that Palm Springs takes this story in very different directions than Groundhog Day did.  The film is perfectly paced; the story unfolds in a delightfully pleasing manner.  The film has a number of fun twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout (and that I will not spoil here in this review).  This is a film best viewed without knowing much about its story beyond the basic premise.

I will say that I was pleased that Palm Springs proved to be as rich a character piece as Groundhog Day did.  This is not an empty farce.  Palm Springs is a very funny comedy, but it’s also a great character piece that explores these two damaged people, Nyles and Sarah.  The events in the film have real emotional stakes for them.  This is a quality in almost all of my favorite comedies.  I think having some dramatic weight to the story enhances the comedy.

Andy Samberg and Cristin Miloti are both terrific in the lead roles.  I’m sure it’s … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

March 25th, 2021

UPDATED: Unfortunately I have to open with the just awful news that Jessica Walter has passed away.  Her work as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development stands among the very best comedic TV performances ever.  Click here for some sweet tributes from her friends and co-workers.

This is a beautifully put-together new trailer for In the Heights, coming out on June 18:

And, oh wait, they also released another trailer, that is also fantastic…!

I want to see that film RIGHT NOW!!

I’m excited that a new TV show from Mike Schur is coming soon!  It’s called Rutherford Falls, and here’s a trailer:

Mike Schur + small town was magic in Parks and Rec.  Will that be the case here, too?  I hope so.  (The only down side for me is that this will be on Peacock, and I’m not currently planning to add that to the list of the ten billion streaming services I already have…  sigh!!)

This is an interesting interview with Kevin Smith and Malcolm Ingram, discussing Mr. Ingram’s documentary, Clerk, about Mr. Smith and his career.  I used to be a huge fan of Mr. Smith’s films — I still think he’s a great storyteller, though it’s been years since I’ve really loved one of his films.  I am, though, for sure interested in seeing Clerk when it’s available…

This is exciting!  Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are working on a new World War II-set mini-series, following up on Band of Brothers (one of my all-time favorite things; I consider this required viewing every few years) and The Pacific.  It will be called Masters of the Air, and it’s being made for Apple TV+.  I have high hopes for this!

I’m surprised and delighted that Genndy Tartakovsky’s wonderful Clone Wars animated shorts will be coming to Disney+ in April!  These 2-D animated shorts were created between 2003-2005, and were set between Episode II and Episode III.  They were bumped out of continuity by the later CGI animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, but I’ve always loved Mr. Tartakovsky’s original shorts.  My DVDs of them are much-watched.  I’m hoping Disney+ will be streaming these in HD!

Wowsers: The Simpsons has reached 700 episodes.  That is just madness.

Click here to read a nice look back at the Wachowski’s film adaptation of V For Vendetta, on the occasion of its 15th anniversary.  The original comic book series, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, is a masterpiece, and I’ve always had a fond place in my heart for the film.  Natalie Portman is fantastic.  It might be time of a rewatch of this, when I can find the time…!

I’m sad to read that … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Snyder Cut of Justice League!

Let’s start here: I’m a Zack Snyder fan.  I was blown away by his adaptation of 300 when it was released in 2006, and I’m a staunch defender of his adaptation of Watchmen (especially the super-long “Ultimate Cut”) which, while flawed, is still a heck of a great movie.  I’ve been a little colder on his DC movies.  There was a lot that I loved about Man of Steel, though it demonstrated a worrisome lack of understanding of the characters (particularly Superman himself, and also Pa Kent) and it bungled its ending.  Batman v. Superman was a mess (though the longer extended cut is far more watchable).  Whatever you think of those films, and of the original theatrical cut of Justice League (which I liked, by the way — oh, it’s a huge mess and the seams of Mr. Whedon’s mid-production reworking of the film are painfully obvious, but I enjoyed it and appreciated the lighter touch of the film after the overly dour Batman v. Superman), I think it’d be difficult to deny that Zack Snyder was poorly treated by Warner Brothers.  I have always thought it a shame that he’d been working for years on those DC universe films, and that he’d actually filmed most of Justice League, but that he wasn’t able to complete the film and, instead, it was mostly rewritten and reshot by another filmmaker.  I was always dubious that the rumored “Snyder Cut” of Justice League was some sort of buried masterpiece.  Remember, Mr. Snyder’s Batman v. Superman was not a good movie.  But I’ve always been curious as to what he originally intended for the film, and I was thrilled to learn that, with the backing of HBO Max, he was finally being allowed to complete his original vision for Justice League.

In evaluating the Snyder Cut of Justice League, one must first make clear that there is no way that this four-hour behemoth is what would have been released to theaters had Mr. Snyder been allowed to complete his film as originally intended.   He certainly would have edited this film down, tightening up the scenes and eliminating the bloat.  This might have been a long film — far longer than Joss Whedon’s zippy Justice League theatrical cut was — but it clearly wouldn’t have looked anything like this.  For this release on HBO Max, Mr. Snyder seems to have taken the approach of including anything and everything that he filmed.  This feels more like an “assembly cut” of the film — a standard practice in which an editor assembles all of the scenes shot for the film, in order, at which point the editor and director begin their work … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Midnight Sky

The Midnight Sky stars George Clooney (who also directed the film) as a grizzled scientist left alone at an arctic research station after an environmental catastrophe has devastated the globe.  After a while, he discovers that he is not as alone as he’d thought: a young girl has secretly stayed behind at the station along with him.  Together, the two must face a perilous journey in an attempt to warn a crew of astronauts, returning to Earth, of the danger that awaits them.

The Midnight Sky was written by Mark L. Smith (who wrote The Revenant and is one of many different people who were at one time attached to write the as-yet-unmade fourth Star Trek film for J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot studios), adapting the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.  (I have not read that novel, so I am judging The Midnight Sky based on the film, alone.)  The brief description I wrote above is one that appeals to me, and I am always excited for a new original sci-fi film.  I loved the first two films George Clooney directed (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck), and while in my opinion none of his subsequent films have been nearly as good, I know he has skills as a director and I was excited to see what he could do with a sci-fi story.  And yet, unfortunately, I must report that I found The Midnight Sky to be a huge disappointment.

The film started off well!  I really enjoyed the mysterious set-up; I love that the film doesn’t hold our hand to spell out what exactly is going on.  We’re forced to catch up with events as we see the evacuation of the research station, and see that George Clooney’s character (who we later find out is named Augustine) has stayed behind for reasons that at first are unclear.  I really dug this almost wordless early-going, as we watch the story unfold as basically a silent film.  We follow Augustine’s life alone at the station and, then, the events that unfold after he discovers the young girl (whose name we learn is Iris), who appears mute.  George Clooney is a far better actor than his movie-star celebrity might lead one to believe; he’s incredibly compelling to watch in these early scenes.  And I quite enjoyed the silent work of Caoilinn Springall, the young actress who plays Iris.  These sections are also beautifully directed by Mr. Clooney, who finds some compelling and eerie visuals in these scenes of two people alone amidst the cold technology of the base and the arctic expanse that surrounds them.

But then the film starts cutting away from Augustine … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Da 5 Bloods

March 17th, 2021
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In Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee’s 2020 film, four Vietnam veterans (played byDelroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.) reunite to travel back to ‘Nam.  Purportedly their mission is to recover and bring home the body of their fallen squad leader, but in fact they’re after a crate of CIA gold that they found and buried back during the war.  I was extremely taken by this film.  (It was one of my favorite movies of 2020!)

First of all: what a cast.  Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr. are each absolutely fantastic as the four surviving “Bloods”.  Delroy Lindo plays Paul, who on the surface seems like the most haunted of the men by his experiences in the war.  Mr. Lindo’s blazing intensity is extremely well-used in the film.  As an audience member I was fearful both for and of Paul from the first moment I laid eyes on him, and wow does Mr. Lindo just crush several key monologues in the film.  I fell in love with Clarke Peters in The Wire and then again in (the beautiful, brilliant, vastly underseen) Treme, and he is marvelous as always here as Otis.  Otis seems to have made most of the arrangements for this return visit to Vietnam, and some of those arrangements seem like they might have been a little sketchy.  Mr. Peters’ innate likability plays nicely against the suspicions the film’s plot raises about Otis.  Norm Lewis plays Eddie, who seems to be the most financially successful of the Bloods, though he is still committed to this mission back into the jungle with his friends (for reasons we discover).  I love how Mr. Lewis makes Eddie the Blood who seems the most out of his element, back in the jungles of ‘Nam.  Then there is Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.; if the movie did nothing more other than to give him a new opportunity to say “sheeeee-it” on film (something which made this fan of The Wire supremely happy), then dayyenu!  That would have been enough.  But he’s got a lot of fun things to do in the film; he might just have been the Blood I most wanted to see get out of this situation intact!  (Though, seriously: that “sheeeee-it” is reason alone to see this film!)  Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Lovecraft Country) is very solid as Paul’s grown-up son David, who finagles his way into being a part oof the men’s mission.

The late, great Chadwick Boseman is tremendous, as he always was, as the Bloods’ dead leader “Stormin” Norman.  Mr. Boseman isn’t in too many scenes, but his role is critical.  We need … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Raya and the Last Dragon

Menaced by the Druun (seemingly unstoppable evil entities that turn people to stone), the once-prosperous, peaceful nation of Kumandra has fractured into five bitterly divided, isolated tribes: Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail.  What little hope still existed could be found in the orb containing the spirit of the last of a once mighty, magical race of dragons.  But when young Raya, the daughter of the chief of the Heart tribe, trusts the wrong person, catastrophe strikes and the orb is shattered.  Years later, Raya is desperately seeking to reassemble the pieces of the shattered orb, to find a way to restore harmony to her broken world.

I very much enjoyed Raya and the Last Dragon!  It’s a pleasure to see Disney Animation continuing to operate at the height of their powers.  (They’ve been on an excellent run of movies this past decade!)  The film is an exciting adventure story, with a pleasing balance of fun action and rich characters, set in a delightfully well fleshed-out original world.  The animation is gorgeous, and the voice-cast is top-notch.  It’s hard to ask for more!

It’s a pleasure to see a Disney film that so richly embraces Southeast Asian culture.  The world of Raya and the Last Dragon is an invented fantasy, but weaving through it on many levels are influences from our real-world Southeast Asia.  The film is led by Kelly Marie Tran as Raya, Disney’s first princess (and the story makes sure to clarify that Raya is a princess) of Southeast Asian descent.  Raya was written by Vietnamese-American screenwriter Qui Nguyen and Malaysian screenwriter Adele Lim.

Kelly Marie Tran (so great as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and so unfairly cast to the side in The Rise of Skywalker) is tremendous in the lead role as Raya.  There’s so much energy and charisma in her vocal performance.  We see Raya’s toughness and her intelligence… and also her deep wells of caring and humanity, even though she has built walls around herself.  Raya is a wonderfully fun, interesting, complex Disney heroine.  For years now Disney has been doing a great job at giving toughness, intelligence, and agency to its female heroines (in Moana, in Frozen, in Wreck-It Ralph, etc.), and Raya is a terrific addition to that lineage.

Then there is Awkwafina, who blew me away as the voice of the Dragon Sisu.  For the first few minutes, this energetic, sassy, wise-talking dragon felt like Mushu (From Mulan) redux, but very quickly Awkwafina made Sisu entirely her own.  She’s very funny in the role, but what really impressed me was the tender soul she was able to give to this silly character.  The buddy-comedy interactions … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

I’m intrigued by this trailer for Oxygen, a new sci-fi film starring Melanie Laurent (who was so great in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds):

I’m a huge Asterix fan — I grew up reading those amazing French comics, written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo — and so I’m excited that Netflix has announced a new Asterix animated series!  I can’t wait for this!  I hope it’s good.

This is exciting — HBO has given the go-ahead to a new limited series by The Wire mastermind David Simon and George Pelecanos (who most recently collaborated on the phenomenal, and criminally under-appreciated, series The Deuce).  It’s about Baltimore police corruption.  How perfect does that sound?  I am in!

I wouldn’t imagine I’d be at all interested in the prospect of a new Space Jam movie, but I have to admit the idea of Lebron James jumping into classic Warner Brothers movies has me intrigued.  Click here for lots more info on this long-in-the-works project.

With Zack Snyder’s 4-hour version of Justice League only days away, word has gotten out of his absolutely bonkers plans for a second and third Justice League film.  It’s quite a read.

Click here for a wonderful look back on Highlander, on the occasion of its 35th (wow!!!) anniversary.  I love that first Highlander film.  It’s one of the best bad movies ever made.

Good news, everybody!  The sixth and final season of Better Call Saul has finally begun production!  I am chomping at the bit to see this…

Rob Delaney (Catastrophe) is in Mission: Impossible 7??  Amazing!!  (Apparently so are Cary Elwes, Indira Varma, Chris Parnell, and Mark Gatiss…  Nice!)

Ryan Coogler recently shared some thoughts on the impossible task he’s facing: writing Black Panther 2 without Chadwick Boseman…

Click here for a gloriously nerdy, in-depth article exploring the tech challenges involved in bringing both versions of The Simpsons (the correct, original 4×3 framing as well as HD versions that are cropped) to Disney+.

For many years, John Byrne was my absolute favorite comic book artist and writer.  His long run illustrating X-Men, along with writer Chris Claremont, is one of the greatest comic-book runs ever, and a huge reason why the X-Men are still so popular today.  I discovered that, on his blog, Mr. Byrne has been writing and penciling new X-Men stories that pick up where his run on the book ended.  It’s a lot of fun to read!  It’s titled X-Men: Elsewhen and you can take a look here.

I’ve been enjoying the comic book continuation of Batman: The Animated Series.  It’s written by key members of the Batman: TAS creative team: Paul Dini … [continued]

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Josh Reviews WandaVision

Marvel Studios has kicked off what looks like a vast array of Disney+ shows with the nine-episode WandaVision, and I couldn’t be happier.  This series was a delight; it was everything I wanted it to be.  It shined a well-deserved spotlight on two characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda and the Vision, who were important, well-loved characters who nevertheless hadn’t actually gotten a tremendous amount of screen-time in the movies.  The series flowed smoothly from where the movies had left off, and in fact was drenched in fun connections to the movies.  It also stood on its own, as an interesting and satisfying story in its own right.  We got movie-quality visuals combined with the adventure, humor, and character-based drama that has made the MCU such a success.  What more could I ask?

I was excited about WandaVision but also nervous.  Marvel has tried several times before to spin off its movie successes onto our TV screens.  When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. launched on ABC in 2013, I was excited for the unprecedented idea of a TV series that would run in continuity with the movies.  The pilot was even written and directed by Joss Whedon (coming off his triumph as the writer/director of The Avengers)!  And yet, I never got into the show.  I watched for a long time — three seasons — but then finally threw in the towel.  I never found the characters or stories as interesting as I’d hoped; there was an (understandably) made-for-TV cheapness to the look of the show that distanced it from the films; and after catching up to the Hydra reveal from Captain America: The Winter Soldier late in the first season, the show and the movies didn’t have much to do with one another (a result of the corporate schism between the TV and film departments at Marvel).  A few years later, an entirely separate series of Marvel shows launched on Netflix.  Here too, I entered into the experience with great excitement, and the first seasons of the first two series, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, were spectacular!  These were serious, adult shows, and I was enthralled.  But then the quality dropped; the subsequent seasons and other series weren’t as good, and the big crossover series The Defenders fizzled.  The shows were all cancelled in 2018.

And now comes a new wave of Marvel shows.  For the first time, these series are being overseen by MCU boss Kevin Feige.  There’s certainly a hugely exciting slate of shows in development for the next few years!  So that all bodes well.  Would WandaVision actually be any good?

Thankfully the answer is a big YES.

First off let me … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

March 3rd, 2021

Well the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually a real thing that is really coming later this month!  Crazy.  I don’t have much hope this will be a great movie, but I must say I cannot wait to see this thing!  Here’s the full trailer, in case you missed it:

And here is a fascinating, in-depth article about the behind the scenes story of the Snyder Cut.

Here’s a beautiful new trailer for the upcoming Pixar film, Luca:

This is huge news: Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the original creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, are returning to create a new animated film and additional TV projects set in the Avatar world!  Very exciting!  (Especially after the disappointing news from a few months back that the duo had parted ways with the Netlix live-action Avatar series.)

I love Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s bonkers, violent generational super-hero comic book series Jupiter’s Legacy, and I’m cautiously excited for the upcoming TV series adaptation, coming to Netflix in May!  Here are some interesting photos of the characters.

As readers of this site know, I love Star Trek and I love the continuing saga of connected Star Trek novels that has been running for the past two decades.  Sadly, the events depicted in Star Trek: Picard contradicted the events told in those novels.  As a result, it looked like the long-running novel series was cut off prematurely after David Mack’s novel Collateral Damage.  I’m excited that, after a lengthy delay, it looks like this novel series will actually be getting a proper conclusion with the three-part novel series Coda, coming next year.  I wish the books would just ignore Picard and keep their series running for many more years.  But if that’s not happening, I’m pleased that the books will get a wrap-up story.  I hope it’s good!

Sigh.  It’s hard for me to muster much enthusiasm for a Star Trek kids show.  But if you’re interested, here’s a look at the main characters of the animated Star Trek: Prodigy.  (This was originally intended to premiere on Nickelodeon, but now the show will launch on the new Paramount+ streaming service.)

Speaking of Paramount+, looks like they’re also hoping to build excitement around revivals of Inside Amy Schumer and also Beavis and Butt-head!  Click here for more info.  (The former interests me more than the latter.)

The second season of Ronald D. Moore’s For All Mankind recently launched on Apple TV+, and I can’t wait to watch it.  Here’s a terrific interview with Mr. Moore.  I love how he suggests that the alternate history presented in For All Mankind just might be the path … [continued]