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News Around the Net!

April 30th, 2021

Let’s start with this terrific first trailer for Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

That looks great!!  I can’t wait to see some new MCU films!!!

Speaking of Marvel, this is a very funny trailer for Marvel’s new animated M.O.D.O.K. show, starring Patton Oswalt:

Oh, man, am I going to have to start paying for Hulu now??  That looks right up my alley.

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Hadish in a buddy comedy?  OK, I’m interested…!  Here’s a trailer for Here Today:

Here’s another offbeat looking comedy — Nikole Beckwith’s film Together Together, starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison:

This interesting-looking trailer for the second season of Netflix’s animated anthology series Love Death + Robots reminds me that I still need to watch season one…!!

I’m pleased to read that Richard Lewis will be appearing in an episode of the upcoming eleventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm!  Originally it had been announced that Mr. Lewis’ health was preventing him from being in the show.

Click here for a wonderfully in-depth oral history of the making of Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie.  I can’t believe that movie is 25 years old!!  I have a very warm spot in my heart for it.  It’s one of my favorite MST3K installments.

Speaking of MST3K, it’s not too late to back their kickstarter effort to make new episodes!  (I did!)

Here’s another interesting crowdfunding project: an indiegogo campaign for In Search of Tomorrow, which aims to be the definitive documentary about 1980s sci-fi films.  I backed this project, too!

I loved this small spotlight given to Peter Sanderson, who was the main writer for The official Handbook of the Marvel Universe as well as DC’s Who’s Who, two wonderful resource series from the eighties/nineties that I dearly loved.

Olivia Colman is in talks to join Marvel’s Secret Invasion Disney+ series with Samuel L. Jackson?  Right on!

Click here for a great Rolling Stone list of 25 essential jack Nicholson movies.  There are some great-sounding films on this list that I need to find time to see…!!

Thanks, as always, for reading!  Have a great weekend.

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Josh Reviews The New Mutants

The New Mutants film, directed by Josh Boone and written by Mr. Boone and Knate Lee, was originally filmed back in 2017.  It was meant to be a spin-off of Fox’s X-Men film series, telling the story of a group of teenagers trapped in a hospital for young mutants whose powers are out of control.  But the film’s release date was rescheduled multiple times, and there were lots of rumors in the press about plans for reshoots to adjust the direction and tone of the film.  (To the best of my understanding, those reshoots never happened.)  Then the X-Men series flamed out (with the very bad Dark Phoenix film).  Then Disney bought Fox.  Then the pandemic happened.  The film was finally released to theaters last summer, at the end of August, 2020.  I certainly wasn’t going to a movie theater during a pandemic, but a few months back I caught up with the film on streaming.

I wish I could report that this was a misunderstood film whose release was bungled, but I’m afraid I found it as mediocre as I’d expected it to be.  At the same time, the film isn’t the catastrophe one might have expected for a major studio movie that was buried for several years.  Josh Boone & co. clearly had a very specific vision for this film: to take these superhero characters and put them into a horror movie setting.  While the X-Men movies tended to be large-scale big-budget spectacles, The New Mutants was designed to be a very small-scale story, with a small cast in a confined setting, set very much in a real-world environment (with no super-hero costumes to be found).  I can understand the appeal of those ideas.  And it’s not impossible that this could have worked.

But as executed, I found The New Mutants to be underwhelming.  It’s disappointing to see these great comic book characters brought to the screen in this small-scale, low-budget way.  I might have been happy with this interpretation twenty years ago.  But now, after twenty-plus amazing MCU movies, it bums me out to see great super-hero characters depicted in this manner.  It feels as if the filmmakers didn’t have faith in the original characters and concepts, and so they felt they had to strip away all the super-hero, comic-book trappings.  That’s a disappointment.

But it still could have worked, if the character dramas were compelling and interesting.  Unfortunately, while I loved the cast (more on this in a moment), I didn’t find too much to grab hold of in the film.  The characters felt thinly sketched to me.  I didn’t lock into any of their stories or arcs nearly as deeply as I’d hoped.… [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

April 26th, 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the second MCU TV show to be released on Disney+.  In this six-episode mini-series, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles from the MCU as, respectively Sam Wilson (the Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier).  At the end of Avengers: Endgame, an elderly Steve Rogers gave his shield to Sam.  But as this show opens, we see that Sam doesn’t feel he’s worthy of stepping into Steve’s shoes as Captain America.  He thinks the shield should be put in the Smithsonian, but the government decides to give the shield to a new Captain America: a soldier named John Walker (Wyatt Russell).  Bucky, meanwhile, is still wrestling with guilt over the atrocities he committed as the Winter Soldier, and he’s hurt by what he sees as Sam’s shirking of the role Steve had given him.  Sam and Bucky are pulled together by the threat of a new terrorist organization, made up of people who feel disenfranchised and ignored following the return to existence of half of the world’s population (when the Avengers undid Thanos’ snap at the end of Endgame).

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a solid, thoroughly enjoyable series.  With WandaVision and now this, Kevin Feige & co. have successfully done what Marvel’s initial ABC experiment (which began with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the Marvel Netflix shoes were unable to do: create Marvel TV shows that are both entertaining and satisfying on their own, and at the same time fit seamlessly within the continuity of the MCU films.  This is an impressive achievement.

This show isn’t as groundbreaking as WandaVision.  That series was delightfully bold in the way it played with the conventions of the medium (of TV shows).  The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t nearly as adventurous.  This is a buddy-movie action-adventure.  It’s fun and enjoyable but not exactly groundbreaking in its storytelling.  (And its finale was wobblier than I’d hoped… more on that later…)

Just as WandaVision was able to give Wanda and Vision the type of focus and character development they hadn’t been able to get as peripheral characters in the movies, so too is it fantastic to see Sam and Bucky get to step front and center here in this show.  Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan really step up.  I love these characters, and both actors really shine in the show.

I was surprised and impressed by the degree to which this series explored the complexities of the idea of a black man becoming Captain America.  No previous MCU project has come anywhere close to digging into such real world issues.  But showrunner Malcolm Spellman and his team used the story of this … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time For War, A Time For Peace

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Time for War, A Time for Peace is the ninth and final novel in Pocket Books’ “A Time to…” series, released back in 2004, that depicted the year leading up to the events of the final TNG movie, Nemesis.  I’ve been enjoying this series, and Mr. DeCandido’s book brings the story to a very satisfying end.

This might be my favorite book in the series, despite the fact that not much that seems that momentous happens in the book.  All of the big, actiony, universe-shaking stuff happened in David Mack’s A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal duology.  This novel feels like an epilogue to the series.  But perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much.  This is a much less intense book than Mr. Mack’s previous two, but that allows Mr. DeCandido room to explore these characters as we dig into the repercussions of the events chronicled in the previous eight books.

My favorite aspect of this book was its focus on the behind-the-scenes politics of the United Federation of Planets.  Following the resignation of Federation president Min Zife at the end of the previous novel, we follow the campaign between two candidates for the presidency: Nan Bacco and Fel Pagro.  Now, going into this book, I knew who won.  One of my favorite Star Trek novels of all time is Mr. DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation, which chronicles the first year in Nan Bacco’s presidency, and was written a year after this book.  Articles of the Federation is an astonishing novel, one that explores a whole universe of Star Trek that we’d never before seen.  All of the Trek TV series focused on Starfleet and Starfleet officers, but Starfleet is just one branch of the United Federation of Planets.  Articles of the Federation digs deeply into an exploration of how the government of the Federation actually operates.  It’s magnificent.  I’d assumed that Nan Bacco, her Chief of Staff Esperanze Piniera, and many of the other characters in her administration were created for Articles of the Federation, but lo and behold, Nan and many of these characters actually originated here in A Time for War, A Time for Peace.  Wow!  I loved getting to read this previously unknown (to me, at least!) chapter of their story.  I love how Mr. DeCandido started building the stories here that he’d later explore more thoroughly in Articles of the Federation.

We hadn’t seen too much of Worf in this series so far, but this book gave him some great stuff, particularly the way he was able to single-handedly thwart a terrorist assault on the Federation embassy on Qo’noS.  It’s a great spotlight for Worf, the greatest … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Truth Seekers Season One

I’m a huge fan of Spaced, the British TV show starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and directed by Edgar Wright, that ran from 1999-2001.  And of course I enjoyed the “Cornetto Trilogy” of movies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End).  And so I was excited to see Nick Frost and Simon Pegg re-team for a new TV series: Truth Seekers, a horror/comedy series about a group of internet technicians who explore the paranormal.

Truth Seekers was created by Mr. Frost, Mr. Pegg, and James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders.  All four are the credited writers on the season’s eight half-hour episodes; all eight were directed by Jim Field Smith.

Nick Frost is the main character, the good-natured but slightly haunted (literally and figuratively) Gus.  Gus works for Smyle, a large internet company; he’s their best technician.  When not at work, Gus posts “Truth Seekers” internet videos, in which he investigates paranormal and other spooky stories and places.  It’s a lot of fun to see Mr. Frost in the central role!  He’s great; effortlessly funny and dramatic.  (The series calls on him to alternate between both tones, and he makes it looks beautifully naturalistic.)  Samson Kayo plays Elton John, the young Smyle employee assigned to Gus as his new partner.  Elton has no interest in the paranormal, but for some reason he seems to be a magnet for it, much to Gus’ delight.  Mr. Kayo is great fun as the beleaguered Elton; I loved his chemistry with Mr. Frost.  Emma D’Arcy plays Astrid, a young woman whose real-life experiences with ghosts brings her into the path of Gus and Elton.  I didn’t feel the show’s stories gave Astrid as much depth as Gus and Elton, but Ms. D’Arcy was very endearing and charismatic in the role.  These three actors together made a great group.  They made a solid core trio for the show.  Each was interesting in their own way, and I also liked how they felt more like normal every-day people than the main characters in TV shows often do.

Simon Pegg has a small role in the show as David, the head of Smyle.  Mr. Pegg is very funny as always, and I liked the way the show slowly broadened David’s role in the stories as the season progressed.  Then there’s the great Malcolm McDowell, who played Richard, Gus’ codger-like father-in-law.  Mr. McDowell was phenomenal!!  He was my favorite character on the show!  Mr. McDowell was absolutely perfect as this gruff old fellow who has a good heart buried deep down beneath.  I loved this character.  He’s a big reason to watch this show.

I also enjoyed Susie Wokoma as Helen, Elton John’s anxious … [continued]

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News Around the Net

April 16th, 2021

Here’s a trailer for Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a new documentary exploring the creation of Sesame Street!  I can’t wait to see this:

This new mini-trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife is… well… it’s something…!

Watching mini Stay Pufts cooking one another is certainly… memorable!

Here’s a new trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book series Jupiter’s Legacy:

That’s a decent trailer and it’s fun to see some memorable images from the comic brought to life.  But the trailer doesn’t do a great job, in my opinion, of selling the core concept of the comic, which is what happens when the spoiled children of world-saving super-heroes turn against their parents, thinking they can do better.  Is the series diverging from that set-up?  Or are they trying to keep that twist as a surprise?  I just wonder about this trailer which doesn’t seem so well-designed to interest people who don’t know the comic…

In other Mark Millar news, Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) has signed up to write and direct a film adapting Mr. Millar’s series Starlight, which was illustrated by Goran Parlov.  Cool!

Here’s a trailer for the upcoming animated direct-to-DVD/blu-ray Batman film, an adaptation of the classic story The Long Halloween:

Click here for a look back at the classic “steamed hams” bit from The Simpsons episode “22 Short Films About Springfield”.

This is an interesting interview with screenwriter Chris Terrio.  On the one hand, I’m not a big fan of his recent work (which includes the script for Batman v. Superman, Justice League, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker).  On the other hand, I have some sympathy for him; his work certainly wasn’t well-represented by the theatrically released versions of either Batman v. Superman or Justice League.  It’s interesting to read his perspective.

Click here for an interesting interview with John de Lancie, discussing his reprising the role of Q for the second season of Star Trek: Picard.

I think making a fifth Indiana Jones movie, at this point, is a terrible idea.  That being said, casting Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the film is a great way to get me interested!

It looks like the companies behind Robotech and Macross have finally worked out their differences!  I loved Robotech as a kid, and I’ve long wanted to see more of the original Japanese Macross shows and movies, which have been extremely difficult to watch legally here in the States.  I hope we’ll now see that start to change.

There’s a new Kickstarter campaign to make more episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000!!  I’ve backed it.  Can’t wait to see what they’re cooking up.

Thanks for reading!!

Click here to purchase [continued]

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Josh Reviews Godzilla vs. Kong

April 14th, 2021

Well, I have to admit to at least being somewhat impressed that the folks at Legendary powered through and made their monster-movie crossover, despite the somewhat lackluster box office performance of the previous movies in the series.  For myself, I thought Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla was OK, and I really dug 2017’s Kong: Skull Island; but I thought 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters was terrible.  But here we are, at the big smack-down between Godzilla and Kong.  Godzilla vs. Kong is fun to watch, but wowsers, the movie is eye-rollingly dumb.

For a movie called Godzilla vs. Kong, there isn’t nearly as much Godzilla versus Kong fighting as I’d expected.  The film makes us wait quite a while for their first tussle (a fight in the middle of the ocean that ends in a weirdly inconclusive way).  However, I did quite enjoy their big third act smackdown in the middle of Hong Kong.

This is a big-budget visual effects spectacle, and the film looks great.  Both Kong and Godzilla look terrific on screen; the CGI is very realistic.  I had an easy time accepting that these two huge crazy monsters actually exist.  There’s quite a lot of CGI carnage when the monsters battle.  I was impressed with the scale of the film, and I had fun watching these two famous movie monsters go at it.  When the movie pushes the boring human characters to the rear and lets Kong and Godzilla tussle, it’s a lot of fun!

The realization of Kong is my favorite aspect of the film.  I really like the look of Kong here.  He looks a lot older and more grizzled than he did in Skull Island.  (This film is set half a century later, so that makes sense.). Kong is insanely ginormous, but I guess that was needed so that he could match up against Godzilla.  I can go with with it.  Most importantly, Kong feels like a real character in a way that none of the human beings in the film actually do!

The movie has a great cast, though sadly none of them are given anything to do.  This film isn’t quite as ridiculously dumb as Godzilla: King of the Monsters… but it’s nevertheless disappointingly populated with one-dimensional characters and nonsensical plot twists.

The best character in the film is the deaf young girl Jia, played by Kaylee Hottle.  This young child actor is phenomenal; so emotive and naturalistic!  I was bowled over.  Rebecca Hall plays  Dr. Ilene Andrews, a Monarch scientist who’s been looking after Kong.  I love Ms. Hall, and she’s a charismatic on-screen presence, but we never really get to know her character at all.  Why is she … [continued]

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Josh Reviews On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola’s latest film, On the Rocks, stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.  So Laura enlists the aid of her wealthy, playboy-like father, Felix, to track Dean and get to the bottom of what’s going on.  Felix is played by Bill Murray, reuniting at last with Ms. Coppola for the first time since Lost in Translation.  This was one of my favorite movies of 2020!

On the Rocks is very funny.  The pairing of Mr. Murray and Ms. Jones yields as much comedic fruit as I’d hoped.  At the same time, On the Rocks is also a moving, sometimes sad story of the complicated relationship between Laura and her father.  I love how nuanced this film’s storytelling is.  No one is reduced to a simple character, a hero or a villain.  Everyone in this film is imperfect, and Ms. Coppola demonstrates an endearing amount of affection for these broken, flawed people.  I love that about the film.

Both Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are absolutely delightful in the film.  I love their chemistry with one another.  The film really takes off when the two of them are on-screen together, bouncing off one another.  Thankfully, the film’s loose, leisurely pace gives them plenty of time together to play.

This is not a film that is very heavy on plot.  In less-skilled hands that might have resulted in a boring, meandering story.  But what Ms. Coppola has created is a wonderfully engaging character study of these two imperfect people, and the many layers of their relationship with one another.  The film avoids the type of Big Dramatic plot twists or surprises that you might expect to see.  There are a few crazy situations, but for the most part the movie is pleasurably grounded in what feels like real life.

The film sings because of the performances of its two leads.  Bill Murray is magnetic; his charm and charisma show us how Felix has been able to dance his way so successfully through life.  (One of my favorite scenes in the film is the way Felix is able to almost effortlessly turn around what begins as a tense interaction with a policeman.  What’s unspoken yet omnipresent is that things might have played out very differently for Laura, a woman of color, had her wealthy white father not been there.)  And yet Ms. Coppola doesn’t allow Bill Murray’s likability to ever let Felix all the way off the hook for his bad behavior, the ripples of which Laura is clearly still struggling with.  Felix has left significant damage in his wake; and yet, at the same time, there’s … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

April 9th, 2021

I’m delighted by this new trailer for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad:

I hope it’s good!!  I have faith in James Gunn, and the film has a hell of a cast.  (And I smiled seeing Starro at the very end!!)  I’d really like to truly love a DC movie again one of these days…

This is a fun new trailer for the newest Star Wars animated series, The Bad Batch:

It’s a great surprise to see Fennec Shand from The Mandalorian in there!!  I was also happy to see Tarkin, and to get a glimpse of Rex (back at what looks like the location of the crashed Republic ship from the finale of The Clone Wars series… which begs the question: will Ahsoka appear in this series??  I hope so!).

Here’s a trailer for the Space Jam sequel:

That made me smile, even though I don’t remember much liking the original Space Jam.  

I do, though, have a lot of nostalgic love for the original Nike Looney Tunes commercial from 1992 that was the inspiration for Space Jam.  In case you’re not familiar with it, here it is:

Apparently, Gary Whitta (Rogue One) and Jonathan Betuel are hoping to mount a sequel to The Last Starfighter.  Their concept reel has made its way online:

For more information on this project, you can click here.  I loved The Last Starfighter as a kid!!  Though it’s hard for me to imagine this sequel ever actually getting made…

William Shatner turned 90 recently!!  Amazing.  In honor of his birthday, two of the very best William Shatner impersonators — Kevin Pollak and Maurice LaMarche — got together to honor the man:

Quite a few new Star Trek-related trailers dropped this week.  My favorite is this short look at Lower Decks season two:

I enjoyed season one a lot more than I’d expected to, and I’m eager to see new episodes.  Lots of fun nerdy Trek jokes in that trailer.

Here’s a new trailer for season two of Star Trek: Picard:

I wish I could get more excited about the return of Q.  I love John de Lancie, but I think Q has been played out, and I just don’t have any faith that the creative team behind Picard can tell a good new story that will be a worthy use of this once-great character.  I’d love to be wrong.

We also got a trailer for the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery (that is far more substantial than that Picard teaser):

That’s a pretty in-depth trailer for a season that I don’t expect we’ll actually see for some time (seeing as Discovery’s third season only finished airing a few months … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Greyhound

April 7th, 2021

Earlier this week I reviewed News of the World, one of two great Tom Hanks films released in the latter part of 2020.  The other was Greyhound.  Based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester, the film depicts several terrifying days in the middle of the Atlantic during World War II.  Mr. Hanks plays Commander Ernest Krause, who has been assigned to captain the Fletcher-class destroyer the USS Keeling (whose radio call sign is “Greyhound”).  Their mission: escort a fleet of 37 Allied supply ships across the Atlantic to England.  However, for several days, the fleet is out of range of air support, during which they are terrifyingly menaced by a pack of German submarines.

Greyhound is a taut, intense thriller.  It was one of my favorites of 2020!  This is a nail-biter of a film.  I was on the edge of my seat throughout this film’s short run-time.  It’s only 91 minutes long!  I can’t remember the last mainstream drama or action film that was so short.  It’s a nice change of pace, and the film zips along entertainingly.

Tom Hanks is spectacular, as always.  He imbues Commander Krause with an endearing nobility.  (This is yet another in the list of strong leaders of men who Mr. Hanks has played in his career.)  Mr. Hanks’ skill at bringing complete verisimilitude to his characters serves him well here.  It’s Mr. Hanks’ focused commitment to the role that draws in the audience and makes us fully believe the reality of the intense and dangerous situation in which the crew of the Greyhound find themselves.

I loved how thoroughly the film (written by Mr. Hanks, and directed by Aaron Schneider) immerses the viewer in the jargon and atmosphere of this ship at war.  We’re thrown right into the middle of the story, and the film doesn’t stop to hold your hand and spell out exactly what everything means and how it works.  Nevertheless, the storytelling is crisp and clear.  I didn’t know all of the terminology, but I was never confused about what was happening.  Mr. Hanks has not written too many films, but when he does he consistently demonstrates a confident hand, and Greyhound is no exception.

Mr. Schneider and his team did a great job of realistically recreating the world of this film — the ships, the uniforms, the props, etc. — on a relatively low budget (around $50 million).  The film looks great and it never felt fake or stage-bound to me.  There are a handful of expansive, presumably CGI shots that show us the geography of the fleet of Allied ships, but for the most part the film keeps us in just … [continued]

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Josh Reviews News of the World

In News of the World, Tom Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who now eeks out a living by traveling from town to town to read from newspapers for the townspeople’s entertainment and edification.  Captain Kidd winds up entangled with a young girl named Johanna, who was kidnapped from her family years ago and raised among a tribe of Native Americans; now she is alone and Captain Kidd sets out to reunite her with her surviving family members.  This was one of my favorite movies of 2020!

News of the World was adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles and was directed by Paul Greengrass, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Luke Davies.  I thought the film was a delightful departure for Mr. Greengrass.  It’s far more slowly paced and elegiac than the intense dramas and action films for which Mr. Greengrass is best known (The Bourne films, Green Zone, Captain Phillips).  But Mr. Greengrass’ skill is on display in every frame of this beautiful, melancholy film.  His eye for composition is well evident.  This is a gorgeous film to look at; the vistas of the American frontier are dazzling.  Mr. Greengrass’ skill at character drama are front and center.  And he remains an expert at crafting an action sequence, such as the tense mid-movie shoot-out between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Kidd, and the three criminals who try to steal Johanna away from him.

There’s nothing earth-shatteringly surprising or original in the film’s story.  I’ve seen many previous versions of this story, in which a tough older man gradually bonds with a younger child thrust into his care.  And yet I was pleased by how well the film drew me into this tale, despite the familiarity of its overall structure.  I quite enjoyed this film; I was invested in these characters’ story.

A good deal of the credit must go to the strong two main actors.  Let’s start with the great Tom Hanks, who gives yet another spectacular performance.  Now, admittedly, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking territory for Mr. Hanks; he’s played the grizzled guy with a heart of gold before.  But the power of his charisma and persona shine through the screen in a way that is quite remarkable.  And when Mr. Hanks really brings it, there are few who can match him.  I’m thinking in particular of a scene, late in the film, in which Captain Kidd finally faces the grief he’s buried.  It’s an extraordinary few moments of film.  That scene stuck with me long after I’d finished watching this movie.

Helena Zengel plays Johanna.  She’s gotten a lot of acclaim for her performance (including being nominated for a Golden … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Vast of Night

April 1st, 2021

In a small New Mexico town in the 1950’s, on a night in which most of the town is gathered in the local gymnasium for a basketball game, the young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick), and her friend, local radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz ), hear a mysterious sound that they come to believe is extra-terrestrial.  In the time it takes for the basketball game to be played, Fay and DJ find themselves drawn into a tense adventure, as they seek to uncover the truth of what’s been happening in their town.

I was completely blown away by this film!  (I listed it as one of my favorite films of 2020!!)  First-time filmmaker Andrew Patterson has exploded onto the scene with this wonderful sci-fi drama.   Mr. Patterson also co-wrote the film (under the pseudonym James Montague), along with Craig W. Sanger.

The film was made for a tiny budget (less than a million dollars), and it is beautifully simple, featuring a very small cast.  But Mr. Patterson and his team have stretched their resources with incredible skill to create a wonderfully fully-realized film that feels much larger than it actually is.  This is a completely professional-looking, polished piece of work.  If you’d told me this was made for $50 million for a studio, I’d have believed you.

Mr. Patterson’s camera-work and technical virtuosity is impressive.  The film is structured around a series of lengthy takes that are visually stunning and that also do a terrific job at ratcheting up the tension.  Time after time, I found myself giddy with delight as I realized that I was watching what looked like an extremely lengthy, uncut take.  The film opens with a jaw-dropping sequence in which we watch DJ walk through the packed school gymnasium, as the basketball game is about to begin, moving throughout the crowd and jumping in and out of various conversations.  I was astounded watching this sequence unfold, as I started to realized we hadn’t yet seen a cut.  It’s a bold announcement of the film’s ambitions, and things only get more impressive from there.  In particular, there’s one tracking shot that moves through a huge stretch of the town that absolutely blew me away.  (I’m sure there was some hidden editing in that shot and some of those others, but I was looking carefully and, if they were there, the edits were flawlessly hidden.)

The film’s two young stars, Ms. McCormick (who plays Fay) and Mr. Horowitz (who plays DJ), rise to the challenge of having to perform in these long, theater-like takes.  There’s one especially stunning sequence in which Ms. McCormick performs a lengthy sequence, all alone, while she’s working the switchboard; I had … [continued]