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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part Two!

On Friday I began my list of my Favorite Movies of 2018!  Onwards:

15. The Year of Spectacular Men Madelyn Deutch wrote and stars in The Year of Spectacular Men as an upbeat but somewhat lost young woman, Izzy.  The film co-stars Madelyn’s sister, Zoey Deutch, as Izzy’s far more successful and together younger sister, Sabrina, and it was directed by their mother, Lea Thompson (who also plays Izzy & Sabrina’s mother in a supporting role in the film).  I love that this film is a family affair!  But the joy of discovering that American treasure Lea Thompson is also a great director is only one reason this film is on my list.  I found the movie to be pleasingly endearing; a warm, good-hearted look at a young woman’s fumbling journey towards taking some control of her life as she steps into adulthood.  (Really, I should say the film is about three women’s journeys, because while Izzy is clearly the focus, the film takes the time to flesh out Sabrina and their mom Deb’s stories as well.)  I love how fully-realized all of the women in this film are.  And I also enjoyed that, while none of the many men who Izzy bounces between during the year chronicled by the film are worthy of her (the film’s title is, ahem, sarcastic), I appreciated that they, too, were fleshed out and presented as (mostly) three-dimensional human beings with strengths and weaknesses.  The film is very well-written (there are some very funny sequences!) and I was impressed by the strong acting of both Deutch sisters.  Emotionally honest but never too downbeat, I found the film to be an enjoyable, funny delight.  (My full review is coming soon.)

14. Incredibles 2 Fourteen years after the spectacular first film, we finally got a sequel to The Incredibles!  And while it doesn’t, perhaps, match the fierce originality of that first film, I was pleased by how effortlessly Incredibles 2 was able to draw us right back into this world and these characters.  The film is fast-paced and very funny, with lots of fantastic and entertaining super-heroic derring-do, along with a strong focus on these rich, complex characters.  It’s a delight to get to spend more time with everyone in the Incredibles world, and I was pleased that the film was able to find interesting ways to move each character’s story forward.  The animation is gorgeous, the cast is terrific, and Michael Giacchino’s score is top-notch.  Bring on Incredibles 3…!  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Song of Back and NeckPaul Lieberstein (Toby from The Office) wrote, directed and stars in this wonderfully bizarre and idiosyncratic movie about … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Movies of 2015 — Part One!

Overall, I think that 2015 has been a pretty terrific year for movies. Perhaps not as spectacular as originally predicted, though.  In the months leading up to 2015, there were a flurry of articles about how 2015 was going to be insanely, unprecedentedly over-stuffed with exciting new movies.  That didn’t quite happen the way I’d expected.  Some films I’d been highly anticipating proved to be disappointments (SPECTRE, Tomorrowland, Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Kingsman: The Secret Service).  Also, so many interesting films were crammed into release at the very end of the year that several of my anticipated 2015 films won’t be open around where I live until some time in 2016 (films like The Revenant or Legend or Carol or Anomalisa or Listen to Me Marlon).  This glut of end-of-the-year films also meant that while I have been able to see a ton of new movies in the past few weeks, there were several that I didn’t get to (films like Joy, Brooklyn, Trumbo, The Danish Girl, and Sisters).  Still, as I assembled my Best Movies of 2015 list, I found that it was incredibly easy to do.  There were so many movies that I loved in 2015.  I’d expanded my list to twenty films last year, and I could have easily listed thirty films this year!  But twenty feels like plenty, I think.

These are twenty films that I loved deeply, films that spoke to me and that I look forward to revisiting in the years ahead.  There are many other films that I saw and enjoyed in 2015, films such as Tig, I Am Chris Farley, Misery Loves Comedy, Sicario, The Night Before, Spy, Slow West, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Man Up, and many others.  (As usual, I spent a lot of time in the final weeks of 2015 trying to catch up on as many 2015 films as I could that I’d wanted to see but missed.  In the coming weeks I’ll have a lot of “Catching up on 2015” reviews of those films.)  As many films as I saw in 2015, and I saw a lot, there was still, as always, a humongous list of films that I’d wanted to see but missed.  Films such as Beasts of No Nation, Call Me Lucky, Room, Love & Mercy, 99 Rooms, Irrational Man, She’s Funny That Way, True Story, 7 Days in Hell, Do I Sound Gay?, De Palma, Adult Beginners, Irrational Man, and more.  So if you’re wondering why any of those films aren’t on this list, well now you know.

OK, onward!

Honorable Mentions: Selma[continued]

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Josh Reviews The Big Short

Back in 2010, Adam McKay wrote and directed the film The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.  I found the film to be mediocre, but one of my favorite things in the movie was the end credits, which featured animated graphics presenting many upsetting statistics related to the 2008 financial meltdown.  It felt random and not-at-all-connected to the movie I’d just watched, but on its own that end-credits sequence was terrific and very powerful.

I guess this has been a topic that has been on Mr. McKay’s mind for some-time, because that random end-credits bit has blossomed into his latest film, The Big Short.  This film is a triumph, a movie that is equal parts funny and heartbreaking, bringing to life many of the complicated details behind the financial collapse in 2008.


Mr. McKay is mostly down as a writer and director of comedies such as the two Anchorman films and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.  It might at first seem like an unusual move for him to helm a drama about the financial collapse, but as it turns out Mr. McKay is the perfect man for the job.  His comedic sensibilities bring a tremendous amount of wit and life to The Big Short.  Mr McKay fills the film with funny and creative filmmaking choices that keep the film lively and the audience engaged.  Characters break the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience; there are random interludes (such as The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie in a hot tub, definitely a winner) in which random celebrities use different methods/analogies to explain certain aspects of the intricate banking terms and issues being discussed in the film; and lots more.  These varied techniques and approaches give the film a propulsive creative energy and help Mr. McKay make the points he is trying to make.

And make no mistake, Mr. McKay and his team have a lot they want to say.  The Big Short is very funny at times, but this is an angry film that is designed to get its audience angry.  The financial meltdown of 2008 was not, Mr. McKay argues, an unavoidable tragedy, but an event that a) was caused by the greed, short-sightedness, and corruption of many, and b) was in fact predicted by a few lone voices who nobody listened to.  The Big Short tells the story of several of those lone voices in the years and months leading up to the 2008 collapse.

The film’s cast is spectacular.  Ryan Gosling has never been funnier than he is here as the fast-talking, uber-confident trader Jared Venett.  While Adam McKay is a man usually associated with comedies who is dipping his … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Ant Man!

Marvel’s Ant Man seems to have had the most tumultuous development process of any of the Marvel Studios films so far.  Or, at least, its behind-the-scenes dirty laundry has been the most public.  Edgar Wright spent years developing the film for Marvel, but then when the project was finally, officially put on Marvel’s Phase Two slate, he walked away from the film.  Many wondered if the film was still worth making without Edgar Wright at the helm.

Well, I am pleased to report that director Peyton Reed, working from a screenplay credited to Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (who were involved with Ant Man’s first iteration) as well as Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (who got involved once Mr. Wright left and Mr. Reed took over), has succeeded in crafting a wonderful addition to the Marvel cinematic universe.  It’s a far smaller-scale film than any of the other Phase Two films, but it works.  There’s some lovely character work and a nice dollop of humor, some cool concepts and fun visual effects, and a lot of clever nods to the wider Marvel cinematic universe.  This is a film that feels very much of a piece with the solo films that kicked off Marvel’s Phase One, films like Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor.  Just like with those films, I was originally dubious that those very comic-booky characters could succeed as movies, but once again Marvel Studios has proven me wrong.


The greatest strength of the Marvel movies so far, and the secret to their success, has been the films’ impeccable casting, and Ant Man continues that trend.  I love the concept that this film features two characters who have been in costume as the hero Ant Man from the comics — Hank Pym and Scott Lang — with the hook here that Hank Pym was Ant Man many years ago, but has long-since retired.  Michael Douglas is perfect as the now-elderly Hank Pym, a man far past his physical prime but someone whose mind is still sharp.  He brings wonderful gravitas to the character, and to the film as a whole.  His sincerity gives the sometimes-wacky shenanigans of the film an important grounding in reality.  Mr. Douglas is tasked with carrying a lot of the film’s exposition, but Mr. Douglas makes those verbose speeches sing the way few others could.  And he absolutely nails one of the most important scenes in the film, the flashback that he narrates in which he finally reveals the secret of what happened to Janet van Dyne (an important character from the comics who is missing/presumed dead in the film).

Paul Rudd, meanwhile, is also terrific as the new young hero of … [continued]

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“Who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don’t follow the NBA!” Josh Reviews Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Comedy sequels are incredibly hard.  Don’t believe me?  Name your top five favorite comedy sequels.  Go.  Having trouble coming up with five?  Having trouble coming up with ONE great comedy sequel?  I rest my case.  (For the record, I have some love for Ghostbusters 2, The Naked Gun 2 1/2, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, though all three of those films are, in my opinion, markedly inferior to their predecessors.)  Adding to the challenge of a successful Anchorman 2 is the long decade that has passed since the first film’s release.  In that ten years, the modestly successful Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has grown ino a huge cult hit, beloved by many and joyfully quoted ad nauseam. Now that the longed-for-by-fans sequel has finally arived, it is hard to imagine any actual filming living up to all those expectations built up over the last decade.

I didn’t enter into Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues with too much of an attachment to the first film, which might make me something of a rarity.  Truth be told, I didn’t much care for Anchorman the first time I saw it.  While its pleasures and sublime silliness have grow on me over the years (I laughed quite a lot when I re-watched the film last week, in preparation for seeing the sequel), and I certainly think it’s a very funny film, I wouldn’t rank it amongst my favorite comedies.  My tastes tend to range towards the goofy comedies of my youth (films like Airplane!, Fletch, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Naked Gun, LA Story, etc).  I also unabashedly love the work of Mel Brooks (particularly Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs), Albert Brooks (particularly Modern Romance), Christopher Guest (particularly A Mighty Wind), Kevin Smith (Clerks through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and Judd Apatow and Mr. Apatow’s circle of collaborators (including films like Superbad, I Love You, Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder).   I love Monty Python (particularly The Holy Grail) and Woody Allen (particularly Annie Hall, Bananas, Zelig, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, though I could go on).  I love Waking Ned Devine and My Blue Heaven and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Aristocrats (the most profane film ever made) and Bull Durham and The Frisco Kid and Shaun of the Dead and High Fidelity.  Have I established my comedy leanings sufficiently?  Even among the sillier films headlined by Will Ferrell (which I tend to enjoy, though not as much as any of the other films I have just listed), I have always found Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to be a far funnier film than the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Other Guys

September 3rd, 2010
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In this summer of bad movies, I suppose The Other Guys must be considered a great comedic success — and, I will freely admit, there is a lot of fun to be had in this film — but it’s not quite the home run I’d been hoping for from a cast and filmmakers of this pedigree.

Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a quiet, bookish police officer who is more accountant than cop.  He’s been partnered with Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), a tough guy who’s been demoted and humiliated after accidentally shooting Derek Jeter during the World Series.  The two men both must live and work under the shadow of super-celebrity cops Highsmith and Danson (the perfectly cast Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).  While those two Lethal Weapon-type cops get all the glory (no matter how much chaos, violence, and property damage they might cause in their movie-style city-wide chases), when compared to them, Gamble and Hoitz are just “the other guys.”  But when Gamble’s eye for details notices some discrepancies in the financial reporting of Wall Street big-wig David Ershon (Steve Coogan), Hoitz sees a chance for glory if they can successfully make the big bust.

The Other Guys has a great cast.  I love the pairing of Ferrell and Wahlberg — that’s an inspired team-up, and watching the two of them bounce off one another is the greatest pleasure of the film.  There are some wonderful digressions over the course of the film (particularly during the first half) in which the story takes a back-seat for a minute for the two to engage in some sort of ridiculous debate, and those scenes are hysterical.  Steve Coogan is all smarm as the surprisingly pathetic Ershon, and he can wring a laugh out of a flummoxed look like nobody’s business.  I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Keaton as the put-upon police captain.  Mr. Keaton hasn’t had a lot of strong roles in the last decade or so, but the man is a riot.  It’s nice to see that he can still bring the funny when well-used in a film.

For the first hour, I was really loving The Other Guys.  The film was filled with zany scene after zany scene, but it was all anchored by a believable story about two good cops having to live in the shadow of the showboating super-stars of their department.  I’m not sure quite what went wrong, then, in the film’s second half, but in my opinion things seemed to peter out.  It might be that the story doesn’t seem to really go anywhere.  As an example, I felt that the momentum of the film grinds to a halt during … [continued]