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Josh Reviews Jupiter’s Legacy

July 28th, 2021
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Jupiter’s Legacy originated as a comic book series written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Frank Quitely, that ran from 2013-2017.  (In the middle of the two main five-issue mini-series came a separate twelve-issue story called Jupiter’s Circle that explored the backstory of the characters.) The story is about the children of the world’s greatest superheroes.  That first generation of super-heroes came onto the scene around the time of World War II (just like many of today’s most famous superhero comic book characters did).  Those heroes were honest and noble and brave.  But their super-powered children, living in the present day, have mostly grown up to be spoiled and narcissistic. The series was recently adapted into an eight episode Netflix series.

I enjoyed the Netflix series, though it wasn’t the superhero epic I’d hoped it would be based on the source material.  Pulling the rug out from under my experience watching the show, Netflix announced its cancellation when I was only 3-4 episodes in.  By the time I got to the end, I was enjoying the series enough that I was disappointed the show had been cancelled.

On the one hand, I was shocked that Netflix spent the money to produce and promote this high-profile show (which they were clearly hoping would be their next The Boys — and not without reason, because I think the Jupiter’s Legacy comic book series is superior to The Boys) and then cancelled it almost immediately after that first season dropped.  Because the showrunners and Netflix made the decision that this first season would only tell the very first portion of the story, they’re now left with a useless and incomplete series.  This isn’t a one-season-and-done show that tells a complete story and so can still be enjoyed for years to come.  It’s a tease for a larger story that now we’ll never get… so I don’t see this show having any future life.  Which makes the whole thing feel like a huge waste of time, which is disappointing on a lot of levels.

Like Invincible (another great comic book series that was recently, and far more successfully, adapted by Amazon into a TV show), there are some huge twists that come a few issues into the original comic book series that turn the whole story on its head.  I still remember reading issues #2 and #3 of the original Jupiter’s Legacy comic book and having my mind absolutely blown. I was so excited to see those moments brought to life on screen!  And yet, weirdly, Jupiter’s Legacy season one, despite consisting of eight one-hour episodes, never gets to that good stuff that came so early on in the comic book series!  I … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Black Widow

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have finally returned, after their longest hiatus since the earliest days of the MCU, with Black Widow!  I have not yet ventured back into a movie theater, but I was delighted to be able to watch Black Widow on Disney+.  Marvel’s Phase 4 was supposed to launch with this film back in May 2020, but it was of course delayed by the pandemic.  This Black Widow solo film shines a long-awaited spotlight on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, and it’s another strong outing from the fine folks at Marvel.  (Beware minor spoilers in this review — to go into the film completely unspoiled, you should watch the film first and then read this review!)

The film is set after the dissolution of the Avengers at the end of Captain America: Civil War, and before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.  I was wondering if the film would open with a framing sequence set after the events of Infinity War/Endgame (the “present” of the MCU, though I believe that Endgame takes place in 2023), but I was impressed that the filmmakers evidently thought that wasn’t necessary and that the audience would be able to quickly figure out this film’s place in the MCU timeline.

We’ve gotten hints in previous films, especially in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, about Natasha’s past as a Russian assassin who has a lot of “red on her ledger”.  It’s exciting to finally get to explore her backstory in more detail here.  I wasn’t expecting the film to open with a set-up reminiscent of the wonderful TV show The Americans, in which we see Natasha and her sister Yelena as young kids living in Ohio with “parents” who are actually undercover Russian agents.  I loved that whole opening sequence and the great car/plane chase sequence it builds to.  That was a great way to open the film!

I was a little dubious of Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Natasha Romanoff back when she first appeared way back in Iron Man 2.  Ms. Johansson is a great actress, but she seemed so American to me that she felt miscast, and that film didn’t make the best use of her.  But I loved her immediately in The Avengers, right from that wonderful introductory scene when Coulson interrupts her on the phone when she’s undercover… and then the terrific next scene when she makes contact with Bruce Banner.  Suddenly the character seemed to come into focus, and I’ve enjoyed following her story through the films, building to her very moving sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War.  I was sorry to see her go!  Thankfully, Marvel decided to give a gift to the … [continued]

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The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is coming to 4K!

July 12th, 2021

Good news, everyone!

At long last, Paramount has FINALLY greenlit the process needed to restore and update the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture into 4K!  Click here for more info!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was famously produced on an incredibly rushed schedule, because Paramount had committed to a release date (and would have had to pay a huge financial penalty to theaters if they failed to provide the film by the agreed-upon date).  As a result, director Robert Wise did not have the time required to properly complete the film.  He did not have the time needed to polish the edit, nor to complete the sound mix.  I am not the hugest fan of The Motion Picture (I far prefer the tone and style of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), and there are plenty of flaws baked into the movie (the dreadful pastel costumes, for one).  But there’s no question that this rushed production is to blame for many of the film’s flaws — most particularly the way I feel the pace sags dramatically in the middle of the movie, once the Enterprise actually encounters V’Ger.

(Like many Trek fans, I grew up watching a VHS recording of the ABC TV extended cut of the film, which incorporated many deleted scenes back into the film.  That version is fun, but it’s even more of a mess than the theatrical version.  It’s cool to see many scenes that were left out of the theatrical version.  But several of those unfinished scenes contain obviously unfinished special effects — you can clearly see the scaffolding at the edge of the set, for instance, in shots of Kirk donning a space-suit to go after Spock — and the pacing is even more sluggish than the theatrical edition.)

Back in 1999, David C. Fein and Michael Matessino contacted Robert Wise, and then Paramount, and proposed the creation of a true Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The result was one of the first truly great director’s cuts of the early DVD age, as Star Trek: The Motion Picture The Director’s Edition was released on DVD in 2001.  The team worked with Robert Wise to properly incorporate some of the great scenes from the ABC TV extended cut, while also trimming footage and scenes throughout the film in order to tighten up the pacing.  Visual Effects Supervisor Darren Dochterman and Foundation Imaging created a number of new VFX shots — meticulously designed to match the original visual effects work from 1979 — that expanded the film’s scope, corrected production errors, and better clarified certain story points.  (Highlights for me include a far better depiction of Vulcan than … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

July 9th, 2021

Sad news that the brilliant director Richard Donner has passed away.  Mr. Donner directed some of my very favorite films, including Superman: The Movie and The Goonies.  He also directed the iconic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of The Twilight Zone, starring a young William Shatner, as well as all four Lethal Weapon movies, Scrooged, The Omen, and so many more wonderful movies.  He was an enormous talent.  Click here to read more about his life and career.  Click here for some reactions to his passing.  Click here for a very funny story Gene Hackman had to tell about filming Superman: The Movie.

This looks interesting: a documentary called Val, exploring the life of Val Kilmer:

I’m sad to learn that Mr. Kilmer has throat cancer and can no longer speak.  Mr. Kilmer was a magnificent actor and in a ton of terrific movies.  He also apparently behaved rather shabbily behind the scenes on several of those movies.  But I’m very curious to see this documentary…!

So far these early trailers for the Apple TV+ adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation series don’t look much like the books… but they do look cool.  I’m very excited and really hope this is good:

I enjoyed this latest trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

This is fun: Nathan Lane wanders through the Criterion Collection’s closet of DVDs/blu-rays and waxes poetic about some movies he loves.  Gotta love his pitch for a musical based on Being There.

23 years after the show ended, a Seinfeld soundtrack collection is being released!  I am a huge Seinfeld fan, though I must confess I’ve never felt this was a show whose soundtrack I desperately needed to own.  But I must admit, I’m curious…

I have been a Conan O’Brien fan for decades, ever since I first noticed his name as a writer on some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons.  I’m still a fan today; his podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend is one of my favorites.  It’s a momentous event that he’s ended his talk show.  I can’t wait to see what else he does next.

This is cool: apparently, Professor Stefan Klein has invented a flying car.  Move over Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!!!

Thanks for reading, and please support this site by clicking through one of these links to enjoy a great Richard Donner movie:

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Josh Reviews In the Heights

I watched In the Heights on HBO Max and I loved it!  The film was directed by John M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), based on the musical by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  I’ve never seen the musical on stage, and I have been very excited to see this film version ever since it was announced.  It did not disappoint!

In the Heights follows a momentous handful of days in the lives of many denizens, young and old, of the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City.  Anthony Ramos, who played John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in Hamilton, steps into the starring role here as Usnavi de la Vega, a young man dreaming of returning to the spot in the Dominican Republic from where his family originated.  I loved Mr. Ramos in Hamilton, of course, but he blew me away with his fantastic work as the lead here.  Mr. Ramos effortlessly carries the audience through the story of the film.  He’s a remarkably engaging performer, and I immediately connected with Usnavi’s “who am I?” dilemma.

Shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Ramos stand two fantastic young women.  Melissa Barrera plays Vanessa, who works in the neighborhood salon but dreams of becoming a designer on her own.  It’s immediately clear that Usnavi has a huge crush on Vanessa; with a little help from young Sonny, Usnavi asks Vanessa out on a date.  But how can they start a relationship when Usnavi is planning on leaving the country?  Leslie Grace plays Nina Rosario; seen as a neighborhood success story, Nina is returning after her first semester at Stamford University, but Nina is embarrassed to admit she felt like an outsider at Stamford and doesn’t want to go back.  Both women turn in star-making performances here.  That’s something of a misnomer, actually, since both women have already had lengthy careers.  But I expect/hope that their work in this film will take them to new heights.  Both Ms. Barrera and Ms. Grace are fantastic singers and dancers, but more importantly they both imbue their characters with tremendous soul and depth.

Those three characters form the central trio of the film, but one of my favorite aspects of In the Heights was how large and well-developed the main ensemble was.  I love that the film explores the stories of many different people within the neighborhood, at different stages of their lives.  Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) is fantastic as Usnavi’s best friend Benny, who was in a relationship with Nina before she left town to go to school.  Mr. Hawkins has a gorgeous singing voice, and I really enjoyed his character.  Olga Merediz is fantastic as Abuela Claudia, the … [continued]