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Josh Reviews Ghostbusters: Afterlife

November 29th, 2021

I think the original 1984 Ghostbusters is one of the most perfect movies ever made.  I adore that film.  It’s a brilliant comedy whose jokes still hold up decades later (and even after so many viewings that I have most of the movie memorized).  At the same time, it’s also a thrilling adventure movie that’s actually scaring and thrilling, with real stakes for the characters.  And it’s also blazingly original, jam-packed with wild ideas that no one had ever seen anything like before.  While the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2 is far inferior to that first film, and it smoothed out many of the first film’s more anarchic rough edges into a more family-friendly tone (which I don’t see as a positive), I have a real soft spot in my heart for it.  I really like Ghostbusters 2 a lot; I think it’s very funny with some extremely memorable sequences.  Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters reboot wasn’t quite everything I’d hoped for, but I’m nevertheless a staunch defender of that film.  I wish that film had been set in the continuity of the original films, rather than being a start-from-zero reboot, and I just wasn’t quite as captivated by the story or the characters as I’d wanted to be.  At the same time, it’s a very funny movie with a spectacular cast, and I think it gets funnier every time I see it.  (I also think the film’s extended version is superior to the theatrical cut.)  The 2016 film, unfortunately, became a touch-point for an insane culture-wars argument, with many “fans” filled with rage at the idea of an all-female version of Ghostbusters.  The film’s female stars were subjected to outrageous, horrible online harassment.  (Leslie Jones, who had the temerity to be not just a woman but an African-American woman, suffered the worst of it.)  When the news broke about this new attempt to craft a Ghostbusters sequel, one that would go back to the continuity of the first two Ghostbusters films, I was torn.  I was excited to see a return to the beloved world of the original Ghostbusters, and I was eager to see what Jason Reitman (the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original two Ghostbusters films) could do with this franchise.  At the same time, I hate the idea that the “bros” won and the all-female Ghostbusters lost.  I tried to go into this new film with an open mind and an open heart.  I truly would be so excited for a great new Ghostbusters film!

While I enjoyed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this is still not the great Ghostbusters sequel that I’d been hoping for.  I think I prefer the 2016 Ghostbusters, though I’m not sure … [continued]

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Star Trek Coda Book Two: The Ashes of Tomorrow

I’ve been reading Star Trek novels since I was a kid.  For the past two decades, these books have gone to the next level, and I’ve been captivated by the vast interconnected universe of Star Trek stories that has developed.  What began as a few books set after the events of the last canonical on-screen Star Trek adventures (the finale of Deep Space Nine and the movie Nemesis… and later also the Voyager and Enterprise finales) has grown over the years into a tapestry of interconnected stories, an epic saga that I love dearly.  But the Picard show presented a very different version of events in the Star Trek universe, thus suddenly rendering all of these wonderful stories out of continuity.  Rather than abandoning this universe immediately (as happened with the Star Wars books when Disney started making new Star Wars product), I am pleased that the authors and readers were given an opportunity for closure with this three-book Coda series.

In book one, Moments Asunder, an alien threat from the TNG series returned, attempting to destabilize and eventually destroy the entire timeline in which these Star Trek novels have taken place.  An aged Wesley Crusher from the future returned to attempt to warn his friends and family.  Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E attempted to mobilize their allies to mount a defense, but at the end of the first book, things looked grim.  Here in The Ashes of Tomorrow, the scope of the story expands even further.  Captain Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Aventine (the starship formerly commanded by Ezri Dax, as established in previous novels) attempt to rally Starfleet to the cause, only to be stymied by Captain Riker and the U.S.S. Titan, who unexpectedly find themselves in opposition to Picard.  Meanwhile, Benjamin Sisko (once again a starship commander) and Kira Nerys (now a Vedek on Bajor) both receive warnings from the Prophets that the Celestial Temple/Wormhole is about to become a critical battleground in this time-spanning conflict.  Sisko and Kira return to Deep Space Nine and attempt to gather their friends and comrades to do what they can to protect Bajor… and the Prophets themselves.

The Ashes of Tomorrow is a terrific book, even better than Book I: Moments Asunder.  I love the epic scope of this story, featuring a wealth of characters from across the various Trek TV shows as well as many characters created just for the books.  Author James Swallow really knows how to build tension, as he tightens the screws on our heroes as the story unfolds.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

My main two complaints about this novel are the same I had … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

November 24th, 2021

Here’s the latest (final?) trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home.  It’s an awesome trailer and it has me very excited for the film!  But there are some spoilers in here, so if you want to go into the movie totally clean, you might want to skip this:

I haven’t loved the Apple TV+ Foundation show nearly as much as I’d hoped, but one of the best aspects of the show are its gorgeous visual effects.  I really enjoyed this short video exploring the making of those effects.  Who knew the show was actually using some old-school miniatures??

There were some big announcements on Disney+ day earlier this month.  Probably the most surprising was the announcement of a continuation of the X-Men animated series from the nineties!!  Wow!!  (I enjoyed that show when it originally aired, but I haven’t ever gone back to rewatch it.  Does it hold up??)

This is a very funny introduction to the cast of the Willow TV show (which I am super-excited for!!):

Hang on a second… have we all been mispronouncing Warwick Davis’ name ever since Return of the Jedi...????

Here’s a first look at the upcoming Ms. Marvel series for Disney+:

I can’t believe there’s a Moon Knight show in our future!!  Here’s a first look:

Just like I can’t believe there’s a She-Hulk show in our future!!  Here’s a first look:

I’m pleased that Disney has confirmed the Agatha Harkness show, spinning out of WandaVision, to be called Agatha: House of Harkness.  Click here for the logo.  I’m also excited for the Echo show, focusing on the deaf Native American super-heroine.  Click here for the logo.

I laughed at this trailer for Baymax, the upcoming TV show spin-off of Big Hero 6:

I dream that someday there will be another great Predator film.  (Just as I dream that someday there will be another great Alien film.)  The bad taste of 2018’s The Predator has barely left my mouth, and apparently there’s already a new Predator film heading our way: it’s called Prey and it’s set 300 years in the past.  It’s hard for me to get excited about this.  Though I loved Director Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, so maybe there’s hope that he’s the one to finally make a good Predator sequel…?  We’ll see…!

It’s been a long wait for the fourth season of Stranger Things.  I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer.  Here’s a trailer:

Sad news of the recent passing of Dean Stockwell, who was of course so magnificent as Al on Quantum Leap, not to mention Brother Cavill on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica in the oughts.

This is an [continued]

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Josh Reviews Pretend It’s a City

I am head over heels evangelical about the Netflix documentary series Pretend It’s a City.  Stop reading now and go watch it!

OK, do you need a little more information?  The series is seven half-hour episodes, in which Martin Scorsese chats with his friend, author Fran Lebowitz, about life.  More specifically, life in New York City.

I must admit that while of course I knew the name Fran Lebowitz, I was not tremendously familiar with her or her work before watching this series.  But by the end of the first episode I had fallen in love with this sharp-written, fast-talking, opinionated woman.  I couldn’t stop watching this show and I wound up watching all seven episodes within 24 hours.

The series has a very loose structure; basically Martin Scorsese winds up Ms. Lebowitz on a topic and then lets her go.  The series is a love letter to her and her opinions on, well, everything.  It’s also a wonderful love-letter to New York City and everyone crazy enough to live there (despite Ms. Lebowitz’s frequent complaints about her fellow New Yorkers.  The series’ title comes from her very funny exhortation to people who don’t pay attention when walking around the city to “pretend it’s a city!!” and look where you’re going!).  (The love for New York City pouring out of Ms. Lebowitz and this series reminded me of the equally wonderful HBO series How To with John Wilson.)

The series gives a little background information on Ms. Lebowitz and her work and career.  There are some fun clips of Ms. Lebowitz being interviewed over the years; I particularly enjoyed the snippets of her appearances on David Letterman’s show.  But for the most part, the series is a spotlight on Ms. Lebowitz today and her many opinions.  The series jumps around from an extended conversation with Mr. Scorsese in a restaurant with various other appearances and Q&A sessions, as well as Ms. Lebowitz being interviewed by other celebrities including Alex Baldwin, Spike Lee, and Olivia Wilde.  All of which basically serve as an opportunity for Ms. Lebowitz to give us her very funny opinions on a variety of subjects.

As joyous as it is to listen to Ms. Lebowitz hold forth on a variety of topics, it’s almost equally joyous to listen to Mr. Scorsese laugh at her comments.  It tickles me to see the friendship between these two.  (Apparently Ms. Lebowitz got her start writing reviews of bad movies for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.  I can see why these two are friends!)

I had a ball watching this series.  I wish there was more!

Click here to purchase my “Maclunkey” Star Wars/Highlander mash-up t-shirt!

Please support MotionPicturesComics.com by clicking [continued]

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Josh Reviews Oxygen

November 19th, 2021

In the film Oxygen (available to view on Netflix), Mélanie Laurent plays the main character (whose name we don’t at first know), who wakes up trapped in some sort of futuristic medical pod.  She doesn’t know who she is or how she got there.  The pod has an A.I. called M.I.L.O. (Medical Interface Liaison Officer) with whom she can communicate, but she doesn’t seem to have the needed authority or codes to order M.I.L.O. to unlock the pod and release her.  But she does know that the oxygen within the pod is rapidly running out…

I really enjoyed this film!!  It’s a tour de force performance by Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), who is basically the only human being we see on screen for the entire film.  Not only is she the only person on screen, but she’s basically trapped lying down inside this sci-fi apparatus of the medical pod.  It’s an extraordinary performance, electric and gripping and completely compelling.

I always love original sci-fi stories, and I was impressed by the way director Alexandre Aja and screenwriter Christie LeBlanc were able to create a great sci-fi premise.  I love the way the film is structured as a mystery, with Ms. Laurent’s character and the audience gradually putting together the pieces of the puzzle.  At the same time, it’s also a race-against-the-clock thriller as the oxygen in her medical pod slowly dwindles away.

Every now and then a great film comes along that basically only has a single character on screen.  (I’m thinking about films like Locke, starring Tom Hardy, or All is Lost, starring Robert Redford.)  Those sort of cinematic live-wire acts are always exciting for me, because there are so many ways they could go wrong and become a dull slog.  But I found Oxygen to be thrilling.  The great script was supported by skilled directing and editing that keeps the film tense and exciting and never boring, despite our basically watching one mostly immobile woman lying in a tube for an hour and a half.  It’s all driven by Mélanie Laurent’s riveting performance.  She commands the screen, and the viewer’s attention, with the power and emotional truth of her performance, despite the wild sci-fi set-up.

And, wait, did I mention the film is subtitled?  Yet another potential obstacle to an exciting thriller!  Yes, Oxygen is a French-language film.  (Note: when I started watching it on Netflix, the film defaulted to an English dub.  It was weird and distracting to me.  A few minutes in I realized what was happening and switched over to the original French language track, with English subtitles, and I vastly preferred that.)

I also want to make note of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Only Murders in the Building

In Only Murders in the Building, Steven Martin plays Charles Haden Savage, who years ago starred in a popular TV crime show called Brazzos as the titular detective.  Martin Short plays Oliver Putnam, who used to be a successful Broadway producer before several outlandish flops sunk his career.  And Selena Gomez plays Mabel Mora, a young woman living in her aunt’s mostly gutted apartment building.  The three are total strangers, but they all live in the same luxury Manhattan apartment building, the Arconia, and they’re all huge fans of true-crime podcasts.  When a young man named Tim Kono dies in their building, the three of them doubt the police’s determination that it was a suicide.  They suspect foul play, and set out to find the truth, charting their investigation in a true-crime podcast of their own.

I adored this first season of Only Murders in the Building.  It’s a near-perfect concoction.  It’s a very funny show that is also a compelling drama and an engaging mystery, whose twists and turns are perfectly paced to carry us through this first ten-episode season.

Steve Martin and Martin Short have been comedic collaborators for many decades, and it is tremendously joyous to me to see that not only are they continuing to work together on new material, but that they both still demonstrate such fierce comedic powers.  Watching these two men play off of one another is like watching two master musicians at work.  To say their comic timing is flawless would be to understate matters.  Is this edgy, groundbreaking comedy?  No.  It’s something very different: it’s two grand masters at work.

Pairing these two older comic actors with Selena Gomez is an inspired idea, but it’s also one that I could have easily seen sounding good on paper but failing in execution.  But I was delighted by how wonderful Selena Gomez is in this show, and how seamlessly her energy and style meshes with that of Steve Martin and Martin Short.  The three very quickly become a magnificently synchronized trio, and the show is always at its best when the three of them are on screen together.  I’m impressed with Ms. Gomez’s ability to go toe-to-toe with these two comedic giants, and with how skillfully she’s able to create a fascinating character in Mabel; someone mysterious and also someone for whom the audience never loses empathy.  It’s a terrific performance and I was immediately captivated.

If this was twenty years ago, Steve Martin and Martin Short would be collaborating on a new movie.  But because it’s 2021, this project is a TV show, and I am impressed at how smoothly these two talents have been able to apply what worked on the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Eternals

The latest MCU film, The Eternals, brings Jack Kirby’s cosmic creations to the big screen for the first time.  The film introduces audiences to the Eternals, a group of immortals who have been living on Earth for around seven thousand years.  They were planted on Earth by gigantic space gods known as the Celestials, in order to defend burgeoning humanity from the threat of the monstrous Deviants, who hunt down and destroy intelligent life across the universe.  While the Eternals thought they’d wiped out the last of the Deviants on Earth millennia ago, as the film begins they discover that the Deviants have returned, at the same time as a new menace emerges that threatens the entire planet.

The Eternals is a fun film, filled with all sorts of wild stuff from the comics that delighted me to see on screen.  At almost two hours and forty minutes, the film is longer than it needs to be.  (I wish the section in the middle of the film in which Ikaris, Sersi and Sprite set out to gather the rest of the scattered Eternals was shorter.  I understand why it’s not; all the individual scenes are great and it’s nice to allow each character in this large ensemble to get time in the spotlight, but taken as a whole it means we basically see characters receive the same information several times over.)

I like that the film’s tone is a little different from what has become the standard adventure/jokey tone of the MCU.  There are some funny moments in The Eternals, but as a whole this is a more somber, elegiac film that the average MCU movie.  I like that director Chloé Zhao and her team have brought a sense of epic scope and beauty to the film, as well as a focus on an exploration of the characters, as well as the broader cosmic universe of the MCU.  The film is beautiful, with a memorable “on location” feel in beautiful settings across the globe, a credit to the work of Ms. Zhao and her crew.

I love that Marvel’s Phase Four is focusing on introducing new characters and new concepts into the MCU.  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brought all sorts of new characters and ideas into the MCU, and The Eternals is an even bigger swing for the fences, as the movie involves the origin story of all life on planet Earth and introduces a variety of ancient cosmic characters.

The Eternals represents what is by far the most obscure characters to headline an MCU film by far (topping what I’d say is the previous champion, and also the last MCU film released: Shang-Chi and the [continued]

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Josh Reviews A Simple Favor

In Paul Feig’s 2018 film, A Simple Favor, we follow the unlikely friendship between tight-laced, goody-two-shoes single mom Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and the mysterious, dynamic, sexy Emily (Blake Lively).  When Emily disappears one day without a trace, the determined Stephanie sets out to find her, only to get drawn into a web of twists and turns, lies and murder.  The film was written by Jessica Sharzer, and it’s based on the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell.

I’m a huge fan of Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy).  He’s a master of comedy, but A Simple Favor represented his first foray into drama in quite some time.  Still, those of us who knew and loved Freaks and Geeks have always known that Mr. Feig could handle drama just as skillfully as he could handle comedy.

Still, for the first twenty-or-so minutes of A Simple Favor, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a film I would like at all.  I found Stephanie to be so over-the-top annoying that I wasn’t sure I could take watching this character for an entire film.  But I should not have doubted Ms. Kendrick’s skill as an actress or Mr. Feig’s careful hand on the wheel.  Once Stephanie meets and befriends Blake Lively’s Emily, the film takes the first of many right-hand-turns, and the story quickly started to heat up.

This is a film that constantly kept me guessing.  I was never sure what was going to happen next or what type of movie this was going to be.  It’s so rare that I can be surprised by a movie these days!  I loved that about A Simple Favor.

I was also impressed by Mr. Feig’s deft handling of tone.  There is comedy in A Simple Favor — some very funny moments, in fact, such as Stephanie’s encounter with fashion mogul Dennis Nylon, or her supremely uncomfortable conversation with a private eye while dressed in one of Emily’s sleek black dresses.  But at heart this is a mystery/thriller, and those aspects work like gangbusters.  It’s what sucked me into the film, even though at first I wasn’t sure this was a film I’d be into.  The mystery works great, and the film’s twists and turns are fun and surprising.

Both Ms. Kendrick and Ms. Lively are fantastic.  The two are dynamite on screen together.  Their oil-and-water combination is a hoot to watch.  It’s a credit to their work that they made me believe that these two supremely different women could perhaps become friends, which is key to the film’s story working.  I wrote above that I was annoyed by Anna Kendrick’s depiction of Stephanie for the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Batman: The Long Halloween Parts One & Two!

The latest direct-to-DVD/blu-ray DC animated film is a two-part adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween. This comic book story was originally published as a 13-issue mini-series back in 1996-1997, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale.   The story is set soon after the events of Batman: Year One, the re-telling of Batman’s origin written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli in 1987 (and subsequently adapted into a pretty excellent animated film in 2011).  In The Long Halloween, we follow the development and then destruction of the friendship and alliance between Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent.  As the story opens, the three men – the vigilante, the Police Commissioner, and the District Attorney – agree to work together to take down the mobs that control Gotham City.  Over the course of the story, which takes place over a full year, we witness the transition of Batman’s villains from mobsters into colorful supervillains… as well as Harvey’s descent into madness and transformation into Two-Face.  Weaving among all this, we see all of the characters in the story seeking to identify the mysterious Holiday Killer stalking Gotham, who commits a new murder on each holiday.

The Long Halloween is a famously great Batman story, so it was ripe for adaptation.  While I myself am not the hugest fan of the original comic book series (I got a little impatient with the storytelling, and I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown), I for sure acknowledge that it’s a much-loved story, and I was excited to see what an animated adaptation might look like.  The folks at Warner Animation made a terrific choice to stretch this adaptation into two films, giving the story plenty of room to breathe.

The result is one of the best of these DC animated films in years!  (Or TWO of the best, if you want to count the two parts separately!)  I thoroughly enjoyed this two-part adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween.  It’s an excellent, very faithful adaptation of the original comic.  I was impressed with the way that the filmmakers molded the original story to work as a (two-part) film, making changes that I felt mostly strengthened the film.  Allowing this story to be told over two films gave the story the room it needed to flesh out and develop the characters and give the drama time to build.  One of the main conceits of the original story was that it took place over the course of a whole year, and this two-part adaptation gave the story the time required to maintain that structure without feeling rushed or edited down into just a Cliff’s Notes version of the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Hacks

November 8th, 2021
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In Hacks, Jean Smart stars as famous comedian Deborah Vance.  Ms. Vance was a groundbreaking female comedian and has settled into a luxurious life doing her regular act at a Las Vegas casino.  But after years of being king of the Vegas hill, she’s in danger of losing her spot at the casino.  At the behest of her agent, she hires a young comedy writer named Ava to write her some new material.  Ava has strong opinions but no job prospects after an unfortunate Twitter joke torpedoed her career and her life.  Ava resents having to write jokes for someone she views as an over-the-hill hack, while Deborah resents this young nobody’s suggestion that her comedy needs any sort of reinvention.

Wow has this been a hell of a year for the great Jean Smart.  I’ve been a fan ever since seeing her on 24 years ago; she impressed me with her spectacular work on the HBO Watchmen miniseries and she blew me away with Mare of Easttown.  It was great fun to move onto Hacks immediately after finishing Easttown.  I am left with the inescapable conclusion that there’s absolutely nothing Ms. Smart cannot do.  She’s 100% the reason to watch this show.  Deborah Vance is a fantastic character for her to play, and Ms. Smart really sinks her teeth into the role.  The title of the series suggests that Deborah Vance might really be the type of hack that Ava clearly thinks she is at first.  That could have been a funny comedy premise for a show.  But the show never settles for that easy approach, choosing instead to gradually explore Deborah’s life as a groundbreaking female super-star, and all of the challenges that came from that.  The show doesn’t shy away from exploring Deborah’s difficult experiences as a woman in the boys club of Hollywood and then comedy.  But it also doesn’t dwell on that either, or use that as an excuse for Deborah’s bad behavior.  I love that the series clearly has great empathy for this woman, while also allowing her to be a nuanced and real human being who can be heroic and flawed all at the same time.  It’s a beautifully written character and wow does Ms. Smart just knock the hell out of this performance, absolutely commanding the screen every second she’s in a scene.

In what is basically her first major on-screen role, Hannah Einbinder is tremendous as Ava.  For anyone to share the screen with Ms. Smart in this role would be a challenge; for a relative newcomer I can’t imagine how hard that must have been and how highly the odds were stacked against her success.  But I thought … [continued]

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News Around the Net — UPDATED with Book of Boba Fett Trailer!

November 5th, 2021

Lots to discuss!  Let’s dig in!

This is a great trailer — at last! — for The Book of Boba Fett:

I am excited to see this expansion of the Star Wars TV universe!  I hope this is awesome.  I am excited by the idea that Boba Fett will finally get the cool, bad-ass storyline I’ve been waiting for since the eighties.

Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and I love Denzel Washington.  So I am very excited for this:

This is an interesting trailer for The Batman:

I love director Matt Reeves (his Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is my all-time favorite Apes film!) and I believe he can make a great Batman movie.  I’m not sure about Robert Pattinson in the lead role, though.  I will say that this film looks pretty bad ass.  It’s an interesting choice, after Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, to apparently try to go even more grounded (and also even more grim and gritty).  That’s not the approach I’d ideally have wanted DC/Warner Brothers to have taken… but I can’t wait to see what they’ve created here.

Here’s a first-look at the Flash feature film (which they apparently have actually gone and made after years and years in development):

That’s a solid teaser though I can’t imagine it means much to any non-comic book fans out there.  I can’t wait to see Michael Keaton reprise his role as Batman, but we don’t actually get to see any of that here yet.  It’s wild that both Marvel and DC are making multiverse movies in the next year or so!!!

I thought James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad film was terrific.  (I highly recommend it, if you missed it this summer.  Forget the terrible first Suicide Squad film, this reinvention by Mr. Gunn is tremendous!)  I can’t believe Mr. Gunn and John Cena have actually made a Peacemaker spin-off TV series!!  This looks amazing, and absolutely bonkers.  I can’t wait.

Circling back to Batman, here’s an interesting look at the in-production new animated Batman cartoon, called Batman: Caped Crusader, by Bruce Timm, one of the masterminds behind Batman: The Animated Series.  I have high hopes for this series!!  Can Mr. Timm recapture the glory of Batman: The Animated Series with this new project?  Here’s hoping:

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to The Bendis Tapes on Jon Siuntres’ Wordballoon podcast — Mr. Siuntres’ multi-hours-long Q&A sessions with comic book author Brian Michael Bendis.  I’m delighted a new Bendis Tapes was just released!  This is a must-listen for all comic book fans.

I have fond memories of Smallville, which I enjoyed watching when it originally aired (even though the show never lived up … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Two

The animated Star Trek comedy series Lower Decks focuses on the lower-ranked crew members aboard the small, not very well thought-of Starfleet vessel the U.S.S. Cerritos.  I enjoyed the first season of Lower Decks, but I absolutely LOVED this second season!  All the pieces fit into place here in the second series, resulting in a show that brought me tremendous joy.  This is by FAR the best of the current Star Trek series, and season two of Lower Decks was my favorite season of any Star Trek show since the fourth (and, really, only great) season of Enterprise back in 2005.  (That was almost two decades ago!)  I can’t stand most of what passes for Star Trek these days, but for someone who loves TNG and DS9 — and who has a deep nerdy knowledge of those series, as well as the Original Series — Lower Decks feels at times like it’s been made just for me.

I’ve really grown to love all four main characters over the course of these two short (10 episode) seasons.  That’s not a lot of time, but these characters have gotten way more development then, say, anyone on Star Trek: Discovery.  The standout for me in season one was Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner, the self-described “Kirk-style free spirit who kicks butt”, but who has trouble following the rules and operating within Starfleet protocols.  Beckett continues to be a hoot in season two.  It’s been fun to watch her struggle with finding some sort of way to understand and work with her mom (who just happens to be the Captain of the Cerritos).  It’s been satisfying to watch the bumbling “everyman” Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) actually grow a bit into a better, more confident officer here in season two.  I loved the scenes early in the season with him on Will Riker’s U.S.S. Titan — where Boimler actually sort of did an OK job!  I loved getting to see him give a rousing captain’s speech in “The Spy Humongous” and then to save the day at the end (albeit in a perfect Boimler fashion, by taking repeated pratfalls)… and then he actually shows some true bravery in the season finale, down in Cetacean Ops.  I didn’t feel as connected to Tendi and Rutherford in season one, but that quickly changed here in season two.  I loved how the show has explored and developed those two characters, and now I love them just as much — if not more!! — than Mariner and Boimler.  Noël Wells is fantastic as Tendi, giving her a wide-eyed optimism and infectious goodness, combined with a deep nerdiness, that is incredibly endearing.  I loved getting to learn more about … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mare of Easttown

November 1st, 2021

Soon after watching The Queen’s Gambit, I moved on to enjoy another magnificent seven-hour TV miniseries: Mare of Easttown.  I think I liked this even more than The Queen’s Gambit!  The series was written by Brad Ingelsby (who has written the screenplays for a number of films, including Out of the Furnace and The Way Back) and directed by Craig Zobel (who, among his other directing credits, directed the “International Assassin” episode of The Leftovers!!).  It stars Kate Winslet as the titular Mare.  Mare is famous in her close-knit small town because she scored the winning point in a high school basketball championship game 25 years earlier.  Now she works as a police detective.  But her life is a mess, she’s been unable to solve a year-old case of a missing teenaged girl (the daughter of one of her friends, no less), and now another teenage girl has been found murdered.

I adored this series.  I was immediately captivated by Kate Winslet’s performance.  There are a lot of tremendous actors on this show, but Mare of Easttown rests on Kate Winslet’s performance, just as The Queen’s Gambit rested on Anya Taylor-Joy’s.  It is an absolute joy to watch Ms. Winslet’s work in this series.  Is there any doubt that she is one of the best actors working today?  She brings such richness and nuance to her work as Mare.  I grew to love and root for Mare over these seven episodes; she’s the hero of the show and I was invested in her journey.  But what makes this so compelling is the way Ms. Winslet (and the wonderful script by Brad Ingelsby) presents Mare as such a fully-realized, flawed human being.  She’s bad-tempered and stubborn and she drinks a lot and eats junk and I loved her all the more for all of that.  Once again, this well-made mini-series format is perfect for telling this type of story, because we get to spend so much more time with Mare over the course of this seven-hour series than we could in a two-ish hour feature film.  Ms. Winslet fully commits to this role, and the result is an extremely memorable, affecting performance.  (Ms. Winslet also fully commits to Mare’s very specific accent.  I can’t really speak to how accurate that accent is or isn’t, but I was impressed by how completely Ms. Winslet was able to inhabit that accent.  As my wife knows, I quickly became completely obsessed by how Ms. Winslet — and the other actors on the show — pronounced the “o” in “home”…)

One of the most compelling aspects of the show is how we gradually learn how interconnected the characters and families of … [continued]