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Josh Reviews Val

September 29th, 2021
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The documentary Val, directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, explores the life and career of Val Kilmer.  Utilizing the epic trove of home video footage that the actor has recorded throughout his life, both at home and on the sets of many of the movies in which he has performed, the documentary is remarkably intimate.  It’s also bittersweet, as Mr. Kilmer has lost the use of his beautiful voice due to throat cancer (something I had no idea had happened until I saw the first trailer for this film).  Val is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Mr. Kilmer is without question an extraordinary actor, and I’m a big fan of his work in films such as Heat, Pollock, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and many others.  At the same time, Mr. Kilmer has been someone dogged by controversy throughout his career for being difficult or hard to wrangle.

I enjoyed the film’s look back at Mr. Kilmer’s fantastic career in the movies, and I was also very interested to see some of what his life is like now.  It’s fascinating, and a little sad, to see this passionate, driven performer as an old man, robbed of his voice.  The Val Kilmer we see in the present-day footage of Val is a much more mellow fellow than his “bad boy” reputation of old.  He has had to make a new life for himself now that work as an actor seems to be out of his reach.  That must have been enormously challenging for him to deal with, but the film presents a Val Kilmer who seems at peace.  I wonder if this is truly the case?  I’d like to believe it is.

But of course, it’s hard to be sure because this is not exactly an impartial view of Mr. Kilmer.  While the film was directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, it sort of feels as if the film was directed by Mr. Kilmer himself.  That’s the film’s strength, and also perhaps a weakness.

This is not a documentary with lots of talking head interviews.  No, the film is mostly comprised of footage taken from the uncountable hours of video footage that Mr. Kilmer has apparently been shooting his entire life.  This encompasses home movies of his family from when he was a kid (including amazing clips from the elaborate mini-movies that he and his brothers made growing up together), as well as fascinating behind-the-scenes footage of his many movies.  This footage is extraordinary, and it feels incredibly intimate to be given this peek behind the curtain into Mr. Kilmer’s life and work.

The film is narrated by Mr. Kilmer’s son Jack, who reads his … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

September 27th, 2021
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In Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, the two “hetero life-mates” get out of an arrest for selling pot, but while in court they discover that they’ve lost the rights to use their names “Jay and Silent Bob.”  It turns out that the “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book movie franchise based on their characters is being rebooted by Hollywood, and so the studio wants full control of their names.  (The “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book, based on Jay and Bob, first appeared in Kevin Smith’s 1997 film Chasing Amy, while the movie based on that comic book was at the center of 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.)  And so, in a meta revisition of the plot of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the two stoners once again travel across the country from New Jersey to Hollywood in an attempt to stop the movie from being made.  Along the way, they meet up with a group of kids also heading to Hollywood.  One of them, named Millennium (played by Mr. Smith’s real-life daughter Harley Quinn Smith), turns out to be Jay’s daughter with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), the former diamond thief he got together with back in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  This unexpected revelation might force Jay to maybe, just maybe, have to grow up for the first time in his life…

There was a time in my life when Kevin Smith was one of my very favorite filmmakers.  I loved all five of his first films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back).  But 2004’s Jersey Girl was a big disappointment to me, and since then I haven’t cared for any of Mr. Smith’s films.  I thought 2006’s Clerks II and 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno were both OK but not great.  I never saw the 2011 horror film Red State (it didn’t interest me).  I thought 2014’s Tusk was dreadful, and I skipped 2016’s Yoga Hosers because it was described as a spin-off of Tusk and it looked like more of the same.  But when I heard that Mr. Smith was writing and directing a new film bringing back his and Jason Mewes’ Jay and Silent Bob characters, I was interested.

I’m pleased to report that Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is easily Mr. Smith’s best film in two decades.

Is it as good as any of those first five films that I used to love?  No.  Is this a brilliant and innovative new comedic masterpiece?  For sure no!  But it’s a delightful reunion with these two characters who I’ve long enjoyed, as well as many other familiar faces from Mr. Smith’s interconnected “View Askewniverse”.

I really … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

September 24th, 2021
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I adore the first two Godfather movies.  They’re certainly on my list of my ten favorite movies.  It’s hard to say which one I like better; they’re both masterpieces.  I’ve never hated The Godfather Part III.  A sequel made so long after the original films is always a difficult task.  Part III is certainly far weaker than the first two films, but being weaker than two of the greatest movies of all time is not a sin.  I’ve always said that if The Godfather Part III had a different title and the characters had different names — if it was an original crime drama film not connected to the original Godfather films — that it would be much better thought of.  I’ve been intrigued that in recent years Francis Ford Coppola has been revisiting and tweaking many of his films.  There’s the recent “Final Cut” of Apocalypse Now, as well as his completely reworked version of The Cotton Club (now titled The Cotton Club: Encore, which has been sitting on my to-watch shelf for a while; I really need to get to that!).  When I heard that Mr. Coppola would be going back in and making adjustments to the third Godfather film, I was intrigued to see what he would do with that film!

First off, this new version of The Godfather Part III has been retitled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.  I recall watching interviews with Mr. Coppola a decade or two ago (perhaps on the special features of The Godfather trilogy’s original DVD or blu-ray release) in which he said that his original intention had been to call the film The Death of Michael Corleone, but the studio mandated the Part III title, and that he did not at the time have enough power to insist on his preferred title.  So it’s fun to see Mr. Coppola finally get his original title restored.

The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is still, at its essence, the same film that The Godfather Part III always was.  How could it not be?  But I was delighted by the many adjustments Mr. Coppola has made to the film.  There’s no question in my mind that this is a superior version of the film.  It’s essential viewing for any fans of this series.

Some SPOILERS ahead as I dive into this new version.

There are some weaknesses baked into this film that no re-edit can address.  The absence of Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen hurts the film.  (Mr. Duvall declined to participate in the film, apparently due to a salary dispute.)  The Romeo and Juliet doomed love story between Mary (Sophia Coppola) and Vincent (Andy Garcia) is not … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

September 22nd, 2021
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For a huge sequel coming out in just a few months, we’ve seen surprisingly little promotion for The Matrix Resurrections… but here now at last is a trailer:

Color me intrigued!  I quite like the first Matrix film (though perhaps I didn’t love it as much as as most of the rest of the world seemed to, back when it was released), and I was disappointed by the two sequels (though I didn’t loathe them as much as much of the rest of the world seemed to, back when they were released).  It’s difficult to mount a successful sequel so many years later — many have tried and failed — but I’m certainly interested to see whether this sequel/reboot will be any good…

Here’s the first substantial trailer for Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series:

I’ve never read the books, though I’ve long thought I should give them a try.  So I have no connection to the source material, but I’m intrigued by the trailer and I’ll probably give this series a watch…\

I love this first trailer for the next Disney+ Marvel TV show, Hawkeye:

That looks so fun!  I’m all in on these Marvel Disney+ shows.  I can’t wait for Hawkeye.

Speaking of Marvel, I somehow missed this new trailer for The Eternals that was released a couple of weeks ago:

I’m so intrigued that Marvel has chosen to adapt this very obscure title as their next big thing.  The cast is fantastic, and there are some gorgeous visuals in that trailer.  (And we finally get to see a true Jack Kirby style Celestial!!!  Amazing!!)  I can’t wait.

I didn’t know Robot Chicken was still in production, so I was delighted to see this trailer for their upcoming eleventh (!!) season:

I’m intrigued by this trailer for Among the Stars, a documentary series coming next month to Disney+…

I’m a nut for stuff regarding NASA and the space program, so I’m definitely interested in checking that out.

Last week was the 55th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek.  Wowsers.  Paramount used that “Star Trek Day” to promote many of the currently in-production Star Trek shows.  Here’s a trailer for season two of Picard:

Here’s a look at the in-production first season of the Original Series era show, Strange New Worlds:

And here’s the first full trailer for the animated Star Trek: Prodigy:

Oh how I wish I could be excited about all of this new Star Trek product.  The wild thing is that Paramount is doing what I’ve for decades been wanting to see happen with the Trek franchise: instead of being locked into one single show in one single era, … [continued]

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Josh Bids Farewell to Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine really grew on me.  I watched right from the start, and I always thought the series was a great deal of fun.  But slowly, the series developed from an enjoyable comedic trifle to a true comedy great.  In my mind, Brooklyn Nine-Nine stands tall among the greatest comedy TV series ever.  That’s a bold statement, but I stand by it!  The two-part “The Last Day” capped off the series’ shortened eighth and final season in grand fashion.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that I think is easy to underestimate or dismiss.  It might not have the dark edginess of, say, The Larry Sanders Show or Seinfeld or 30 Rock; it might not have the big ideas of, say, The Good Place; it might not have the boundary-breaking innovativeness of, say, Arrested Development or Newsradio.  But Brooklyn Nine-Nine slowly developed into a unique and wonderful show with a style and flavor all its own.

First of all, the show is tremendously funny.  It was funny right from the get-go, and as the writers and actors refined their craft and characters, the humor got better and better.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a gentle, upbeat show.  This might make it less “cool” than other shows, but I love TV shows that can be sweet at the same time as they’re funny.  (This is something that has been a hallmark of the work of both co-creators, Dan Goor and Mike Schur.)

For any TV show to be truly great — and this is especially critical for a comedy show — the ensemble cast must be great.  Here is where Brooklyn Nine-Nine truly shines.  The ensemble cast of this show was truly spectacular.  Andy Samberg was a big comedy star when the show was launched.  He’s been funny all the way through the series’ run as Jake Peralta, a great detective who is also a classic sort of TV man-child.  Mr. Samberg and the writing team were wise enough, though, to ensure that this show wasn’t just “The Andy Samberg Show.”  They surrounded Mr. Samberg with a team of comedy killers, each of whom could easily be a fan-favorite character.  Probably the biggest break-out surprise of the show was casting the phenomenally talented dramatic actor Andre Braugher (renowned for his run on Homicide: Life on the Street) in a comedic role as the ultra-serious police Captain Raymond Holt.  Mr. Braugher’s gravitas, and stentorian voice, because fierce comedic weapons on the show.  The series allowed Holt to get sillier as the years went on, but Mr. Braugher’s deadpan delivery could always be counted on to deliver a hilarious laugh-line.  (In fact, Mr. Braugher gets what I think is the show’s last huge laugh in the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Madi, the Graphic Novel Conclusion to Duncan Jones’ Moon Trilogy

September 15th, 2021
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Duncan Jones has described his 2018 film Mute as the second part in trilogy of loosely-connected sci-fi films set in the universe of his breakout 2009 film Moon.  Mr. Jones has spoken of being unsure that he’d be able to raise the funds to make his third planned film; instead, last year he and co-writer Alex de Campi launched a kickstarter to create a graphic novel of this story.  Madi: Once Upon a Time in the Future is a 260 page graphic novel published by Z2 Comics that is available here from that publisher or here from Amazon.

Madi is set in the near future; it introduces us to a young woman named Madi, a former British soldier who has had much of her body replaced with cybernetics so as to be a better soldier.  Madi is no longer in the military, but she’s still paying off the cost of those implants, and so she and several of her fellow enhanced former soldiers have become a group of mercenaries for hire.  After a job goes wrong, Madi goes off on her own and gets herself hired by the head of a corporation to steal secrets from a rival company.  Those secrets turn out to be embedded in a cybernetically-enhanced young boy named Dean.  Rather than turn him over to be taken apart, Madi and Dean and a hacker named Ted wind up on the run.

I quite enjoyed Madi!  This would make an awesome movie.  As it is, it’s an extremely enjoyable graphic novel.  (Click here for an in-depth interview with Duncan Jones & Alex de Campi in which they discuss the decision to create Madi as a graphic novel, and the process of doing so.)

I love the world-building in the book.  The story is set in a futuristic world that has lots of fun details and idiosyncrasies to be discovered.  At the same time, the tale of battling corporations who treat people as disposable feels extremely relevant.  That’s a compelling balance!  I love exploring the world of this story.  Clearly a lot of thought was put into creating and developing this near-future setting.  The world of Madi feels real and thought-out in a way that enhances the best sci-fi stories, in any media.

Madi is set in the same world as Moon and Mute, but the stories are completely stand-alone.  The connections are actually extremely tiny, little more than seeing the “fly meal” packages (fast-food delivered by drones) that we saw in Mute.  However, having seen those prior films, particularly Mute, it’s fun for me to see how, for example, what we glimpsed of a future city in Mute (in that case, Berlin) is expanded … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mute, the Second Film in Duncan Jones’ “Moon Trilogy”

I was blown away by Moon, Duncan Jones’ 2009 directorial debut.  It’s a fantastic original sci-fi film, featuring Sam Rockwell in a terrific leading performance.  (Well, actually multiple terrific leading performances… watch the movie!)  Unfortunately, I haven’t been nearly as taken by the follow-up films directed by Mr. Jones that I have seen, such as Source Code and Warcraft.  In 2018, Mr. Jones’ film Mute was released on Netflix.  I was excited.  I’m always interested in original sci-fi premises, and the film looked like it had an incredible cast.  Even better, Mr. Jones described Mute as a “spiritual sequel” to Moon, and so of course I was eager too see what that meant.  But Mute’s reviews were atrocious, and for one reason or another I never caught up with the film until recently.

The titular mute is Leo, played by Alexander Skarsgard.  Leo was horribly mangled in a boating accident as a boy, rendering him unable to speak.  He works as a bartender in a futuristic Berlin, and is in a relationship with one of the waitresses at the bar, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh).  When Naadirah vanishes, Leo begins a relentless hunt through the scuzzy underbelly of the city in an attempt to find her.  This brings him into contact with Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), an AWOL American G.I. working as a surgeon for a local crime-boss, as well as Bill’s scumbag friend and fellow surgeon Duck (Justin Theroux), and many other sketchy and dangerous characters.

I really wanted to like this film; I was hoping that it’s bad reputation was unearned.  It’s definitely not a catastrophe, but unfortunately in the end I felt it was a misfire.  It just didn’t work for me, though there was a lot that I enjoyed.

I loved the film’s imaginative futuristic setting: the cool, gritty, dirty, Blade Runner-esque future Berlin.  The film and all of its sets/locations were beautifully well-designed.  The world-building is top-notch.  The film is set in an unnamed near-future year, and I loved that what we saw of Berlin was futuristic but at the same time very real and grounded.  That was very cool.  This is a much larger-scale film than Moon, and it’s fun to see Mr. Jones and his team stretch their wings to bring this sci-fi setting to life.  I’m sure this film was made on a budget that’s a fraction of a big studio epic, and Mr. Jones and his team really made the most of their resources.  The film looks great.

The film’s cast is strong.  Alexander Skarsgard cuts an imposing and memorable figure as Leo.  Mr. Skarsgard’s expressive face helps us bring us inside this silent and closed-off character.  Paul Rudd … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Bad Batch Season One

September 7th, 2021
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I’m a big fan of the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars and Rebels.  There’s a lot of terrific Star Wars storytelling in those series.  It’s a huge section of the Star Wars story that remains under the radar for many Star Wars fans.  (Though that’s starting to change, with many characters and story-elements from those animated series being incorporated into the second season of The Mandalorian…)  When Dave Filoni and his team were able to return to The Clone Wars and present a proper final season of that show (which had been cancelled back in 2013 when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney) onto Disney+, the first story-line introduced the Bad Batch: a group of unusual clones whose mutations made them different than the regular Clone troopers.  (This story had been written for The Clone Wars before it was cancelled; I’d actually watched those four episodes in rough animated form back in 2015, when they found their way onto the internet.)  Now, The Bad Batch, the new animated series for Disney+, focuses on this group of Clones, and explores what happened to them in the days after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.

I liked but didn’t love the Bad Batch characters when they were introduced on The Clone Wars.  They were fun characters, but I wasn’t exactly clamoring for them to be the center of a spin-off show.  However, I was overjoyed when The Bad Batch show was announced.  I was excited to see Dave Filoni and his team continue to tell more great Star Wars animated stories, and I think this time period is a fertile ground for stories.

I quite enjoyed the first sixteen-episode season of The Bad Batch, though it didn’t match the highs of the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels or the brilliant final episodes of The Clone Wars.  This first season felt more like the early seasons of those shows rather than the greatness to which they both eventually reached.  On the one hand, that makes sense.  It takes time for a show to develop.  On the other hand, I must admit to being a little disappointed that The Bad Batch opted for a more episodic formula and one whose storytelling seemed aimed more towards a younger demographic.  I enjoyed watching every episode of this first season, but it didn’t reach the emotional intensity I’d been hoping for.

The animation is spectacular; easily besting any previous Star Wars animation.  The lighting, in particular, has taken a huge leap forward from the previous animated shows.  There are sequences in this series that were gorgeous and memorable in a way that had me … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Loki Season One!

Loki picks up the thread of the alternate Loki who, in Avengers: Endgame, picks up the Tesseract and escapes after our heroes bungle their “time heist.”  This “Variant” Loki quickly finds himself apprehended by the TVA — the Time Variance Authority — a bureaucracy tasked with keeping the timeline secure and correct.  TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) attempts to convince Loki to help the TVA track down a villain who is attacking their agents — who is apparently yet another Loki variant.

Marvel Studios’ third TV show for Disney+ is another winner, and at this point I have completely accepted these TV shows as essential pieces of the larger MCU.  I feel rather spoiled, actually.  Now, instead of waiting months and months between new MCU feature films, we can get new installments on a weekly basis?  I am completely in.

Loki is a delight.  I think it’s my favorite of the Marvel Disney+ series so far!  (Though I’ve really enjoyed all of them, so there’s not an easy winner.)

The show was created by Michael Waldron, who wrote several of the episodes.  (Mr. Waldron was a writer for Rick and Morty and wrote the script for the upcoming Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness film.)  All six episodes were directed by Kate Herron.  I was very impressed by the writing and direction of this series.  Everything seemed to click, even better than they did in WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  This was an impressive achievement all around.  I love that we’re getting feature-film quality product each week in Disney+!!

Tom Hiddleston was great right from minute one (the first Thor movie) as Loki, and he’s only gotten better and better — and the character richer and richer.  Because this Variant Loki begins as the villainous version of Loki from the first Avengers film, I worried that we might lose some of the wonderful development the character has gotten in subsequent films.  Thankfully, the show finds a way to quickly make this Variant Loki the most interesting version of the character we’ve seen to date.  I love the journey Loki goes on in these six episodes.  It’s fun to see him challenged and put in his place — Mr. Hiddleston is fantastic at showing Loki getting his bluster punctured — while still remaining the slightly dangerous character he’s always been.  I’m glad they didn’t file away all of his sharp edges.

Owen Wilson is a magnificent addition to the MCU as TVA agent Mobius.  He is an absolute delight pretty much every second he’s on screen.  Mr. Wilson’s comedic timing serves the series very well.  At the same time, he gives Mobius … [continued]