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So, how about this gorgeous new Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer??

Wowsers!  I’ve been waiting for months for another peek at this new film after the terrific first trailer, and this sure delivered.  There’s a lot to take in.  I cannot wait for this to come out in two short months.  My tickets are purchased!  (For a great analysis of the trailer, click here.)

So it seems that 2016’s six-episode X-Files mini-series was not the end, and an additional ten episodes are coming our way later this year.  Here’s the new trailer:

I have been a huge X-Files fan since the very beginning, so I have to admit that trailer gets me excited for new episodes.  (That “Mind is I smoke?” line is great.)  We’re getting ten episodes this time, which feels like a real season, so that feels like a good thing.  However, I thought the 2016 six-episode re-launch was mostly a disappointment (click here for my over-all review, and click here for my episode-by-episode analysis) and with basically the same creative team behind the scenes I am not that optimistic the quality will improve.  I’d love to be wrong.  This once-great series deserves to go out on a high note.

Speaking of things about which I am not hugely optimistic, here comes a new trailer for Justice League:

With all the behind-the-schenes meshugoss at DC/Warner Brothers, I am certainly curious to see what kind of movie this winds up being.  Just how much influence will Joss Whedon wind up exerting over the finished product?  We’ll see very soon…

Last month was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and I posted links to some wonderful articles looking back on that phenomenal show.  Here’s one more, a great oral history of the show.

So James Cameron is going to be involved with the next Terminator sequel, and it will star both Arnold Schwarzenegger AND, for the first time since 1991’s T2: Judgment Day, Linda Hamilton??  Is it still possible to make a good Terminator film after so many failed attempts??  I am dubious, but with James Cameron’s involvement I can dare to dream.

Here is a link to two video clips of Jerry Seinfeld on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, in which Mr. Kimmel asks Mr. Seinfeld whether he can still enjoy Bill Cosby’s comedy now, knowing all that we know now.  Mr. Seinfeld has long spoken of Cosby as one of his main comedic heroes (this came up a lot in the movie Comedian).  It’s interesting in these clips to see Mr. Seinfeld wrestle with this question, at first giving an automatic answer and then changing his mind as … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Latest DC Animated Film: Batman and Harley Quinn

The character of Harley Quinn is extremely popular these days, with a much-loved solo series published by DC comics and a leading role in the recent (terrible) Suicide Squad film.  And so it’s not a huge surprise that the folks behind the series of DC direct-to-DVD/blu-ray movies would want to put Harley at the forefront of the latest new animated adventure.  What made this of more interest to me was the involvement of Bruce Timm, one of the key creative voices behind Batman: The Animated Series and the co-creator of Harley, along with Paul Didi, for Batman: TAS back in the day.

In Batman and Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and another plant-based villain, the Fluoronic Man, have teamed up with a mad scheme to transform all of humanity into plant-based creatures.  Batman and Nightwing turn to Ivy’s former friend and confidante Harley Quinn to help find and stop her.

I love that this film returned to Bruce Timm’s classic Batman: The Animated Series character design style — I vastly prefer this to the over-designed look of most of the recent DC animated films.  And it’s a pleasure to hear Batman: The Animated Series veterans Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester back voicing Batman and Nightwing.

But unfortunately that’s about the only good thing I have to say about this new animated film.

The tone is all over the place.  There are times when the film feels like it’s trying to be a noir mystery, like Batman: The Animated Series was at its best.  But at other times it veers into wacky comedy that is a) usually not funny and b) wildly incongruous with the attempts at drama that surround those moments.  Some of the drama actually works.  There’s a moment in which Harley grieves at the unnecessary death of a scientist, and it is genuinely moving.  But it’s undermined by the wacky shenanigans that came before.

Unfortunately, the film is filled with the type of juvenile jokes and sexual innuendo masquerading as “adult” content that has plagued so many of these recent DC animated films (and the live-action ones as well!).  Watching Harley slink around in a nightie in the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode “Mad Love” was sexy and adult.  Watching Harley strip down to her undies and wiggle her barely-clad butt in Nightwing’s face in this film was, well, kind of gross.  (Just look at this screencap.  Or, better yet, don’t.)  That Nightwing and Harley seem to have sex at the start of the film feels wrong for a lot of reasons, and it throws off-balance the bantering between the Batman-Harley Nightwing threesome for the rest of the film.  The Harley character has often been wildly … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s begin with this awesome new trailer for season 4 of Black Mirror:

I cannot wait!!  The original British episodes of this series are works of near-genius, and I thought the recent Netflix-produced season was pretty great.  I am so glad that this show lives on via Netflix!  I can’t wait for these next six episodes.

So, wow, Colin Trevorrow is out as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX I loved Mr. Trevorrow’s first film, Safety Not Guaranteed, but his next film, and his first foray into the world of big-budget filmmaking, was the terrible Jurassic World.  So I am sort of breathing a sigh of relief at this news, though I feel bad for Mr. Trevorrow.  What is up with Lucasfilm firing all of their directors??  Josh Trank was fired from one of the stand-alone films.  Gareth Edwards apparently had the final cut of Rogue One taken away from him, and was replaced for the film’s reshoots by Tony Gilroy.  And just recently, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired from the solo Han Solo film in the middle of production, and replaced by Ron Howard.  I give Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm some credit, because whatever behind-the-scenes machinations went on in the making of Rogue One, the final film was a masterpiece.  We’ll see how these other films turn out.  But for now, I am hoping this news will turn out to be good news for Episode IX.  We’ll see…

This new trailer for Star Wars: Rebels season 4 looks great:

X-wings!  Thrawn!  The first animated appearance of Thrawn’s manservant/assassin Rukh (from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire)!  Mon Mothma!  Forest Whittaker returns as Saw Gerrera (from Rogue One)!  Yavin IV!  Tarkin!  Project Stardust!  I’ve grown to quite like this show, and I am excited for the fourth and final season.

I am super-excited that The Wire’s David Simon and George Pelecanos have a new show on HBO, The Deuce!  I can’t wait to see it.  Any new work from this team deserves immediate attention.  In the meanwhile, here is a fascinating interview that TV critic Alan Sepinwall conducted recently with Mr. Simon.  It’s a great read.

This is a great interview with Lake Bell, discussing her new film I do… Until I Don’t.  I loved her debut film, In a World…, which she wrote, directed, and starred in, and so I am very excited to see her second film.

In honor of the release of the film adaptation of It, which I am dying to see, here is a list of all forty Stephen King movie adaptations, ranked from worst to best.  I haven’t seen most of … [continued]

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This “Modern Seinfeld” twitter feed is pretty amusing.  I guess the premise is these guys are coming up with Seinfeld ideas, if the show was being made today.  This one really made me laugh: George gets dumped for being a “toilet texter.” GEORGE: “What else are you supposed to do in there?!” JERRY: “I can think of a couple things.”

This is awesome: A New Yorker’s Tour of Ghostbusters.

Did you catch the second Robot Chicken DC Special earlier this month?  So funny.  This DC All Access video contains some of the great bits, and a peek behind-the-scenes:

This article about Police Academy sort of makes me want to re-watch it!  I haven’t seen any of those films in YEARS, but Police Academy #1-4 were HUGE parts of my childhood!!

How Gravity should have ended:

A new animated Batman short by Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary?  And it’s a retro pulp adventure?  And Kevin Conroy voices Batman?  YES PLEASE!

The funniest thing about this new trailer for 24: Live Another Day is the “red-band” text that opens it:

I have absolutely zero interest in the film Sabotage, but this article’s description of star Josh Holloway as “America’s Sean Bean” made me laugh and laugh.  HAS Mr. Holloway actually lived to the end of a movie he’s been in…??

I learned about Operation: Paperclip as a kid from The X-Files.  It was real, and represents a fascinating (and morally ambiguous) era of American history.  I was pleased to see it referenced as part of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra back-story in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  More on Operation: Paperclip and the Marvel universe can be found here.… [continued]

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“I am the Night” — Music From Batman: The Animated Series!

I can’t believe that Batman: The Animated Series is over twenty years old.  Oy vey, that means I am getting pretty old myself!  I immediately loved Bruce Timm’s animated Batman series, and as a kid I watched and re-watched those episodes incessantly.  To this day, I think that Batman: The Animated Series remains the finest on-screen depiction of Batman, and so many of the show’s versions of Batman’s familiar supporting cast and cadre of villains still stand as the most iconic, most definitive version of those characters.

One of the many ways in which Batman: The Animated Series excelled was in its gorgeous music.  Overseen by Shirley Walker, each episode of the series had its own fully-original, scored-by-an-orhcestra soundtrack.  The music of the series was so rich and expressive and memorable.  It was a HUGE element of the series’ success.

Back in 2009, I was delighted by La-La Land Record’s 4-disc CD collection of music from the series.  Click here to read my thoughts on that release.  The CD set was labeled “volume 1,” leading me to hope that a “volume 2” would be on its way.  Sure enough, last year La-La Land released volume 2, and I must say I think this collection is even stronger than the first.

Disc One — This first disc begins with music from “Beware the Gray Ghost,” the wonderful episode in which 1960’s Batman Adam West portrays Simon Trent, an actor who years earlier played a Batman-like TV superhero “The Gray Ghost,” who inspired Bruce Wayne as a boy.  I love how the peppy “Gray Ghost” TV theme heard in track 2 turns forlorn and mournful when we catch up with washed-up actor Simon Trent in the present day.  This theme becomes a haunting motif that runs through the rest of the episode.  The two-parter “The Cat and the Claw” (which, although it was the fifteenth episode made was actually the first episode aired — I remember watching it that first night!) begins with a great four-and-a-half minute-long piece of music (track 13) that scores the depiction of Batman and Catwoman’s first encounter.  It’s a great piece of music that introduces the show’s playful Catwoman theme.  In track 33 on the disc, which contains music from the Scarecrow episode “Nothing to Fear,” it’s interesting to hear Shirley Walker quote Danny Elfman’s Batman theme from Tim Burton’s Batman movie.  Then, a little later in that episode, in track 37 we hear the Elfman Batman theme transition into the Batman: The Animated Series Batman theme, which is very cool!  The disc concludes with music from “Heart of Ice,” one of the finest episodes of the entire series (it was written by Paul Dini, … [continued]

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Let’s begin the day with this phenomenal article from badassdigest.com about how Optimus Prime’s death defined a generation of kids.  Do you want to understand the depths of my geeky heart?  Then read that article.  My parents wouldn’t let me see Transformers: The Movie in theatres, but I was allowed to rent it on video.  I didn’t cry, but I was shocked by the brutal deaths of all my beloved characters in the film’s opening minutes.  When Optimus Prime bought the farm I was changed forever.  I had loved the Transformers before, but one viewing of Transformers: The Movie sealed that flick’s place in my heart forever.  “Megatron… must be stopped.  No matter the cost.”

Boy, those crazy guys and gals at badassdigest.com have a direct line into my psyche these days, because while the experience of seeing Transformers: The Movie was seminal, so too was my discovery of Voltron.  This magnificent article examines the mysterious origins of Voltron, a show that combined and repurposed several different Japanese cartoons.  Oh my lord I loved Voltron.  The continuity of that show — the way story-lines flowed from one episode to the next — was a staggering discovery to me as a kid, and I fell in love hard.  To this day, I have a love for long-running continuing stories in any media (Movies, TV, books, comic books, etc.), and I think that began as a kid when I discovered Voltron and Robotech…

I just discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and it is magnificent.  I love stand-up comedy and I loved Seinfeld, so no surprise I think this series of shorts of Jerry hanging out with his very funny pals is phenomenal.  With this project, Seinfeld has inched even closer to truly having made a show about nothing.  Genius.  I have already watched them all.  If you haven’t seen this, click on the above link immediately.

Want to watch Ewan McGregor tell a hilarious story about filming the Star Wars prequels?  Jump to 7:50 below:

So far I am very, very excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.  My only cause for worry?  The film’s very unimpressive redesign of the Sentinels.  I wish they had stuck a lot closer to the classic, iconic original design by John Byrne.  The Sentinels aren’t just any robots, they have a very specific look, and this isn’t it.

As for this summer’s X-Men movie, I have already written my review of the good-but-not-great new Wolverine solo film, The Wolverine.  Click here for a fascinating interview with Chris Claremont, who shares his thoughts on the film.  Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men or Wolverine, but in … [continued]

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Following the much-ballyhooed death of Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis, in 2009 DC Comics re-launched all of their Batman books, with former-Robin Dick Grayson assuming the mantle of Batman, while young Damian Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s son as seen in Son of the Demon from 1987, and brought into modern-day DCU continuity by writer Grant Morrison) became Robin.

You can follow these links to read my previous reviews of the last several years of Batman continuity: Part 1 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, part 2 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, Batman: The Animated series’ Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics, and the post-death-of-Bruce-Wayne stories that culminated in Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?.

Batman #687-691Batman #687 is a stand-alone issue, written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter.  It covers pretty much exactly the same ground as the three-part Battle for the Cowl mini-series (and rather more effectively).  We see our characters’ grief over the death of Bruce Wayne (such as the powerful moment in which Alfred tells Superman and Wonder Woman that “my son has died”), and we see Nightwing’s resistance to stepping into the cape and cowl, and ultimately his acceptance of the role of Batman.  Long-time Marvel comics illustrator Mark Bagley (who had terrific, lengthy runs on The Amazing Spider-Man and then on Ultimate Spider-Man, one of the longest uninterrupted runs ever) joins Mr. Winick for Batman #688-691, in which we see Dick Grayson’s early days in the role of Batman.  We see the differences in style between Dick Grayson’s Batman and Bruce Wayne’s, and we see Dick’s attempts to forge a partnership with the difficult, stubborn Damian.  More interestingly, at least to me, is that we see the villains’ reactions to this new Batman — specifically Two-Face, who notices immediately that this new, more-smiley Batman must be a different man than the Batman he had known.  I love Two-Face’s plan for utilizing that knowledge, and I think Mr. Winick gave him a clever scheme for gaining access to the Bat-cave.  Mark Bagley’s art was solid, and I was sorry that he didn’t continue as regular artist on the book.

Detective Comics — Amidst the re-shuffling of the Batman: Reborn story-line (the banner given to all of the post-death-of-Bruce-Wayne Batman books), Greg Rucka returned to Detective Comics (Mr. Rucka had written a memorable run on the book several years earlier), replacing Paul Dini.  But rather than telling new Batman stories, Detective Comics now focused on the new Batwoman character who had been introduced in DC’s weekly series, 52.  Lavishly illustrated by J.H. Williams III, this run of Detective Comics quickly became my favorite Bat-book, … [continued]

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Re-Reading Batman the Animated Series’ Paul Dini’s Run on Detective Comics!

I am digging deep into some old Batman continuity, friends!  After starting a project to re-read Grant Morrison’s years-long run on Batman (click here for part one, and click here for part two), I decided to also re-read some of the other Batman comics of that era.  Parallel to the beginning of Mr. Morrison’s run on Batman, Paul Dini, one of the major creative forces behind Batman: The Animated Series (still my favorite non-comic book depiction of Batman), took over Detective Comics.  Right now I am having a heck of a time re-reading Mr. Dini’s run on Detective!

While most comic books of the day favored lengthy, multi-issue stories (something that is still the case today, a style which I quite enjoy when done well), Mr. Dini took the opposite approach.  In a deliberately retro choice, Mr. Dini decided to tell a series of done-in-one single issue stories.  This is a surprisingly difficult task to do well.  To introduce a compelling mystery and/or character story-line, provide several twists and turns for the reader and complications for our hero, and then to resolve everything in a satisfying conclusion, all within the span of just twenty-two pages is fiendishly difficult.  Mr. Dini, thankfully, proves a master at this form of story-telling.  Each issue is a little gem all of its own, an entertaining Batman short-story.

I was particularly heartened to see how seriously Mr. Dini took the comic book’s title.  This isn’t Batman, this is Detective Comics.  Almost every one of Mr. Dini’s stories has a mystery aspect, in which the Dark Knight Detective must use his brains, far more often than his fists, to solve the mystery and foil the villain’s plot.  I love this more cerebral take on Batman.  There are super-villains galore in Mr. Dini’s run, and there are certainly some great fight scenes.  But the joy of each issue is in the slow unraveling of each new mystery, as the reader races with Batman to solve the caper.

Mr. Dini’s run gets off to a terrific start in Detective #821, illustrated by the great J.H. Williams III.  In my post about Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, I commented that the Black Hand three-parter (in Batman #667-670) was my first exposure to Mr. Williams’ amazing art, but I now see that I was wrong, as I definitely read Detective #821 first.  All of the characteristics of Mr. Williams’ spectacular work is on display: the brilliant way he shifts his art style to differentiate different characters and different situations, his dynamic page-layouts (including some particularly jaw-dropping double-page spreads), and a gorgeous, lushly painted depiction of Batman himself.  I wish Mr. Williams had illustrated more than … [continued]

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Did you enjoy the new Hobbit trailer I posted last week?  If you haven’t seen them, here are all of the other alternate endings to that trailer.

Uh oh.  Looks like Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has dropped out of work on the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apparently because Fox is rushing the film to meet the release date the studio had chosen.  This is not a good sign.

This past weekend, on the eve of Treme’s season 3 premiere came the good news/bad news that HBO had renewed the show for a fourth and final season (four seasons was apparently David Simon’s ideal length for the run of the show), albeit a shortened season.  The exact length of this shortened fourth season, what Mr. Simon refers to as “season 3.5,” is TBD.  I’m bummed the show couldn’t swing a full final season, but I’m thrilled that HBO is at least giving Mr. Simon and his team some episodes to bring their television masterpiece to a conclusion of their choosing.

Well,  now I know why Robot Chicken did a DC Comics special this year, rather than a fourth Star Wars one.  It’s because Seth Green and many of the rest of the Robot Chicken gang are working on a whole new Star Wars parody show, Star Wars Detours. This first trailer is funny, though I’m not sure why this is a whole new show and not just more Robot Chicken…

Speaking of Star Wars, it looks like Episode II and Episode III will be getting a 3-D theatrical re-release in 2013.  I sat out the Episode I re-release (I must admit I was a little tempted, but that film is just so bad I couldn’t see spending the money, even though I was curious about the look of the 3-D), and I’m not that much more interested in seeing Episode II. But seeing Episode III back on the big screen, and in 3-D?  That just might have my ticket.  But I am really waiting to see if they re-release the Original Trilogy.  Any excuse to see those films on the big screen again is exciting for me, no matter how much new digital fiddling Mr. Lucas and his minions have done…

This is an interesting list of the Top 5 Best-Acted Moments in a Steven Spielberg Film.  I definitely agree with numbers 5, 4, and 1, not so sure about 3 and 2…

I was already interested in Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, and this interview with Robert Smigel and Albert Brooks, both of whom are appearing in the film, has … [continued]

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The (Animated) Dark Knight Rises

OK, I already posted a link to a “sweded” version of The Dark Knight Rises trailer.  Now check out this version of the trailer created entirely from re-edited footage from the seminar and still-amazing Batman: The Animated Series:

I love that so much!!… [continued]