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Josh Reviews Game of Thrones Season Seven!

August 30th, 2017
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It’s hard to believe that we have arrived at the endgame of Game of Thrones.  It wasn’t so long ago that I remember watching the first few episodes of the show, and slowly falling in love with its vast array of characters, its wonderful fantasy world-building, and its ruthless style of “no one is safe” storytelling.  (Seven years and many TV imitators later, it’s easy to forget how shocking GoT’s willingness to kill off major characters was back at the beginning; this might be the show’s most lasting influence on television as a whole.)  Around season three and the Red Wedding I started to get impatient with the show, with the way it frustrated the audience by torturing and killing all the characters we loved and denying them, and we viewers, any reunions or happy developments.  But the show has managed to remain consistently thrilling and entertaining throughout, broadening the scope of its visual effects (to create epic fantasy spectacle of a type never before seen on TV) while at the same time bringing its characters and story-lines together in a way that demonstrates the storytelling potential of well-made serialization.  Season seven of Game of Thrones was the show’s shortest season, clocking in at only seven episodes (though many of those episodes ran well over an hour).  Having moved well past the events of the books published by George R.R. Martin, the season represented a different type of story-telling, far more rapidly paced than ever before and filled to the brim with long-awaited reunions and incredible action sequences.  There were times when this faster-paced story-telling didn’t work for me, and it felt like the show was skipping important steps and moments in its breakneck race to the finish.  But as a whole this seven-episode season was ferociously entertaining and gives me confidence that the show will be able to stick its landing and bring this vast saga to a satisfying conclusion with its final six episodes (to air who knows when, probably over a year from now).

As the season began, I worried that this seventh season would be all wheel-spinning, holding back all of the “good stuff” until the show’s final season.  The show seemed to twist itself around in circles to keep giving Daenerys reasons to stay on the island of Dragonstone as opposed to marching her Unsullied and Dothraki troops and flying her dragons directly to King’s Landing to end this “Game of Thrones” in one fell swoop.  While the season six finale showed us that Dany had also allied with the Iron Islands as well as Dorne, the show quickly stripped those allies from her in a series of tactical errors that made … [continued]

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News Around the Net

“There’s always money in the banana-stand!”  I am thrilled that, four long years after the release of season 4, Arrested Development season 5 is officially happening!!  Yes, season 4 was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m hoping Mitch Hurwitz and this amazing cast can turn things around with another time at the plate.  I can’t wait.

A brief follow-up to my recent analysis of the teaser trailer for the new Star Trek show, Discovery: I’d noted in my review that it looked like they had adjusted the look of the actual starship Discovery since the initial teaser a year ago, though it was hard to get a good look at the ship in that new trailer.  However, eagle-eyed on-line fans noticed what I didn’t, which is that Jason Isaacs had previously been announced as the captain of the Discovery.  This means that much of what we see in the trailer between the first-officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green and the captain played by Michelle Yeoh all probably happens in the first episode as a prologue to the events of the series itself.  Therefore, the starship seen in this trailer is not the Discovery at all.  So we don’t know yet whether the Discovery is really going to look like that blocky, angular design seen in that first trailer.  (As I commented a year ago, I like the idea of basing the starship’s design off of an unused-by-famous-to-Trek-fans Ralph McQuarrie design for the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture more than I like the execution as seen in that teaser, which looked chunky and without any of the art of Matt Jefferies’ original Enterprise design.)  Also, this likely means that Michelle Yeoh, who I liked so much in the trailer, is probably going to have a very small role on the show itself, assuming that something bad is going to happen to get first-officer Burnham (played by Ms. Green) assigned as the first officer to another captain on another starship, rather than getting her own command.  That is a bummer, since I really liked the dynamic between Ms. Yeoh and Ms. Green in that trailer.

Ordinarily we’d be well into the new season of Game of Thrones at this point in the year, but we all need to wait two more months.  This substantive new trailer will ease the pain (or make it worse!!):

Let’s also join in lamenting that the shortened seven-episode seventh season will be followed by an even-shorter final season, which will reportedly only be six episodes long.

Jon Williams recently received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, and one of the school’s a cappella groups, the Din and Tonics, … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Episodes of TV in 2016 — Part Four!

We’re at the end of my look back at the best TV of 2016!  Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.

And now, here are my Top Five Episodes of TV in 2016:

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5. Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride” (aired on 1/5/16) – I was tickled by the idea of taking Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s modern-day interpretations of Sherlock Holmes and setting them in the Victorian era from which the Holmes stories originated.  Had this been an entirely out-of-continuity caper — as I thought it would be, going into the episode — I’d have been happy.  But I was delighted to discover that, instead, this story connected directly to the cliffhanger ending of season three, and allowed us to explore the idea of Sherlock’s “mind palace” that was first raised back in the season two finale.  This episode was filled with many fun little moments, from Mrs. Hudson’s complaining that John never gives her any lines in his stories to the 19th century version of Holmes and Watson’s first meeting (as originally depicted in “A Study in Pink”).  And things got suitably mind-bending as the episode progressed and the story began jumping more frequently between the Victorian setting (happening inside Sherlock’s brain) and the modern-day events on board the plane, with Moriarty’s apparent return from the dead presenting a frightening new threat.  I adore this series and, if we couldn’t get a full three-episode new season of Sherlock in 2016, this one-off was a fine substitute.  (By the way, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the recently-aired season four of Sherlock soon!!)

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4. The X-Files: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (season ten, episode three, aired on 2/1/16) – I had hoped and dreamed for years that The X-Files, one of the great, unfinished stories of the modern pop-culture landscape, would one day be given the conclusion that once-great show so dearly deserved.  I rejoiced at the announcement of a new six-episode run (a superior format to a movie, in my mind, for the show’s return), though the relaunched show wound up mostly disappointing me.  With this one notable exception.  Darin Morgan wrote four episodes during the original X-Files run, and they were among the very best episodes the show ever did.  “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is without question my favorite episode of the entire series.  And so I was ecstatic when I learned that Mr. Morgan would be writing one of these six new X-Files episodes.  He directed this episode, too, and boy did he not let me down.  This episode is so joyous, so funny and so … [continued]

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The Winds of Winter: Josh Reviews Season Six of Game of Thrones!

August 15th, 2016
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I am hideously late in posting this review, but I had a lot to say about season six of Game of Thrones.  First and foremost, while I have read a lot of criticism of this season online, I found season six to be thrilling, with the show as good as it has ever been if not better.  How many shows demonstrate such storytelling strength this deep into their run?  For me, Game of Thrones has been getting better and better with each season.  The show briefly threatened to lose me in the third season, as I began to tire somewhat of the endless misery being forced upon the characters I had grown to love, and impatient with the way the show kept pulling the characters further and further apart from one another.  But with season four I was happy that some of the show’s disparate story-strands and characters began to at last be drawn together, and the show has been on a narrative build since then that is tremendously impressive.

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With Jon Snow’s death in the final moments of season five, the event fans had wondered about since the very beginning finally happened: the show caught up with George R.R. Martin’s novels.  As pretty much everyone knows, with season six the show burst ahead of the novels to venture into unexplored territory.  It will be fascinating, in the years ahead, to look back at season six of Game of Thrones (as well as the not-yet-made seasons seven and eight) and compare it with Mr. Martin’s final two (or more?) novels to see how similar or dissimilar they wind up being.

For me, the most noticeable difference between season six and the previous, adapted-from-a-book seasons was that the pace of the storytelling felt dramatically sped up.  Back in season one, it took Catelyn Stark half the season to journey from Winterfell to King’s Landing.  I loved that about the show, that it took the time to dig into the details and develop the reality of the world of Westeros.  But here in season six characters bounced all over the place in no time at all.  For the most part this worked, as this deep into the show I was eager for the story to start reaching some conclusions and din’t want to see characters knocked out of the story-telling for lengthy amounts of time as they traveled from place to place.  (The one bridge to far for me, though, this season was the silliness of Varys’ getting from Dorne to back on Daenarys’ boat in the final few minutes of the finale.  That stretched my credibility a bit too far…)

The highlight of the season for me was unquestionably the … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015 — Part Three!

Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen.  Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.  Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)

This week I began listing my Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.)

And now, my Top Five Episodes of TV in 2015:

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5. Daredevil: “Cut Man” (season one, episode two, released on 4/10/15) — I really, really loved the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil show.  It was a bold announcement of the type of Marvel show that Netflix would be creating, something far darker, more complex, and more adult than almost every other super-hero TV show out there.  This, the show’s second episode, is filled with greatness.  I was particularly taken by the conclusion in this episode of the flashbacks, begun in episode one, of the death of Matt’s dad Battlin’ Jack Burdock, and the repercussions of the accident that blinded Matt but gifted him with super-normal powers.  I love this show’s depiction of the relationship between Jack (wonderfully well-played by John Patrick Hayden) and his young son Matt.  This enhances the gut-punch of the moment we all know is coming when Jack gets killed.  I like that the show takes the time to develop Jack, as his presence will continue as a shadow over Matt Murdock for the rest of the season.  I also enjoy the way this episode introduces Claire (Rosario Dawson) and begins to develop her relationship with Matt in the present day.  But the reason this episode is on this list is because of the magnificent one-take action sequence that closes the episode.  This incredible action set-piece absolutely blew me away.  In one long, slow take, the camera slowly glides down a long, dingy corridor, as Matt Murdock battles his way to rescue the young girl being help captive in the room at the end of the hall.  The sequence is a triumph of staging and stunts, as Daredevil and an array of bad-guys crash in and out of rooms, in and out of doors, sometimes in view of the camera and sometimes not, as Daredevil fights his way down that hallway.  (It’s also a triumph of sound-editing as there are times when we can’t see what’s going on in the rooms beyond the corridor, but the soundtrack tells us everything we need to know.)  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Game of Thrones: Season Five!

August 14th, 2015
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I fell in love with Game of Thrones fairly early in its first season.  I keep waiting for the show to falter, but I am continually impressed and amazed by this spectacular show which seems to continue building and deepening the characters and the world.  No show in years has held me as spellbound from start-to-finish each week, and as desperate for the next episode the instant the one I am watching finishes.  Season five was a terrific ten hours of entertainment and, as usual, it also felt far too short and left me head-spinningly crazy with desperate anticipation for the next season, which is a long ten months away.  Sigh.

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For its first several years, Game of Thrones’ storytelling was all about taking the characters we liked, most of whom were together at Winterfell in the first episode (even Tyrion was there!), and scattering them to the winds.  Towards the end of season three I started to get a little weary of the show’s delaying of any gratification in giving us any reunions of these loved but terribly-tortured-by-the-events-of-the-show characters.  One of the chief delights in season five was in seeing some of these characters finally starting to get drawn back together.  The season was filled with wonderful character pairings, from Stannis and Davos at the Wall hanging with Jon Snow; to Jaime and Bronn, Varys and Tyrion and then Jorah and Tyrion, Sansa’s reunion Theon (now Reek), and, of course, to the absolutely delightful bringing together of Tyrion and Daenerys (pictured above).

The pairing of Tyrion and Daenerys was one of my very favorite aspects of the season.  It’s a brilliant move (particularly considering that, apparently, the characters have not yet met in George R.R. Martin’s books).  I was excited when, in the season premiere, it became clear that Varys was steering Tyrion towards Daenerys, and I was thrilled by how quickly Tyrion actually arrived at Mereen and met Dany.  I’d been expecting far more delays, and was impressed that this was one time when the show didn’t put a billion obstacles before a character, preventing him/her from getting to the place that we the viewers desperately wanted him/her to get.  Bringing Tyrion to Mereen was a genius move, as it uses the best character on the show (Tyrion) to suddenly up the interest factor of the show’s longest-running storyline (that of Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons) that has been almost totally disconnected from everything else happening since the very first episode of season one.  One of my main complaints with the season five finale is that, despite how right it feels to have Dany back with Dothraki, it felt like a pretty silly way to again separate Dany … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

It’s Comic-Con in San Diego, and so lots of cool stuff has been popping up all over the web lately.  Let’s take a look!

I am a little dubious about Batman v Superman, but damn if this lengthy trailer isn’t pretty cool:

I mean, come on, who ever thought we’d actually see a Batman vs. Superman movie??  I love that this trailer showcases the Man of Steel supporting cast — I’m glad they’re being included in this film.  And I do love the liberal usage of imagery from Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns.  I just hope this film tells a good solid story and doesn’t waste too much time building up a future DC film universe to compete with Marvel.  (I was surprised they included Wonder Woman in this trailer, and I wonder how large a role she plays in the film.)

I cannot wait for Netflix’s Jessica Jones series!!  Love this first look.  Glad to see Luke Cage is involved.

This is a great write-up of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel.  Sounds cool.  Hey, the entire panel is on-line!

I can’t quite believe this is real!  Here is (a very shaky recorded version of) the profane, violent Comic-Con trailer for Deadpool!  Fox is really releasing this??  Wowsers!

I’m also intrigued by this shaky leaked version of the trailer for DC’s Suicide Squad.  This movie is either going to be completely lame or unbelievably awesome.  I don’t think there’s much chance of a middle ground… I hope we get an official release of this trailer soon so we can get a better look at all of these characters.  UPDATE!  Here’s a high-rez version:

A trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse was shown but sadly hasn’t yet found its way on-line.  Too bad, the trailer sounds cool.  (Though I really feel like Days of Future Past was a wonderful conclusion to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films and I think it’s time to re-set these films and start telling new X-Men stories set in the present day (or, as the first-film was so wonderfully captioned, “in the not-too-distant future”…)  And Hugh Jackman, please stop teasing me with the possibility of an Old Man Logan film!  ‘Cuz that would be AMAZING!!!

The Game of Thrones panel sounds like it was fun.  Here’s even more info.  Aww, heck, just watch this!!

In other news…

This is a wonderful first article from Birth.Movie.Death’s Devin Faraci from The Jerusalem Film Festival.  He makes a fascinating point about the stories of Jerusalem connecting to the stories told in films.  It’s a really thoughtful article.  I can’t wait to read more about Devin’s experiences at the festival.

I … [continued]

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“The date is set!” — The X-Files returns to TV on January 24, 2016!  Please don’t disappoint me, Chris Carter!!

This is a great article listing 10 Making-Of Documentaries That Are Better Than The Actual Movie.  In many of these cases I don’t actually agree with the “Better Than The Actual Movie” part, but these are certainly ten of the very greatest documentaries about the making of specific movies.  These are all essential viewing for movie fans.  (The only one of the ten listed that I haven’t seen is Cleopatra: The Epic That Changed Hollywood.)  Hearts of Darkness is endlessly fascinating, one of the best movies about movies ever made, period.  I wrote about The Sweat Box, the documentary that Disney doesn’t want you to see about the making of what became The Emperor’s New Groove, here.  It’s fascinating and heartbreaking.  The documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy are magnificent, particularly the staggeringly no-punches-pulled version on the Alien 3 blu-ray.  (The doc on the original DVD release was edited by the studio who felt that some of the behind-the-scenes material was too honest and raw.)  I have written endlessly about the amazing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Appendices (elaborate, hours-long making-of documentaries) on the Extended Edition DVD/blu-ray sets.  (Click here for my thoughts on the behind-the-scenes material from An Unexpected Journey and here for my thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug.)  And I am glad this list also included two of the many magnificent making-of documentaries on the DVDs and blu-rays of Ridley Scott’s films, all of which was masterminded by Charles de Lauzirika.  Dangerous Days is an exhaustive look at the making of Blade Runner, and though Prometheus was a bomb, the four-hour long look at the making of that train wreck, titled Furious Gods, from the Prometheus blu-ray set, is amazing.  (By the way, Charles de Lauzirika also masterminded all of the Alien documentaries on the Quadrilogy set, making him the king of this list of making-of documentaries.)  I highly recommend all interested film fans track down these documentaries, they are wonderful.

I recently read Jerry Weintraub’s terrific memoir: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead.  Mr. Weintraub was a music producer who worked with Elvis and Sinatra, and in his later years he became a movie producer as well, most notably working with Steven Soderbergh on Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.  The book is terrific — Mr. Weintraub is a wonderful raconteur and, man, does he have some great stories to tell. I highly recommend it.  Here’s a link.  In a related story, birthmoviesdeath.com recently posted this loving look back at Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy.  I never thought too highly … [continued]

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I hope you’ve all been enjoying my journey back through the great TV of 2014!  Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.

And now, the conclusion.  Here are my five favorite episodes of TV of 2014:

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5. Sherlock: “The Sign of Three” (season 3, episode 2, aired on 1/5/14) — Each hour-and-a-half-long installment of the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock series is an event in and of itself, as each episode is really it’s own movie.  All three episodes of the show’s third season (or series, as those in the U.K. prefer) were strong, but it was the middle one, “The Sign of Three,” with which I was particularly taken.  The set-up is pure gold: it’s John (Martin Freeman) and Mary’s wedding, and Sherlock Holmes is the best man.  Combine Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)’s usual discomfort in normal polite society with a mystery regarding an attempted murder and you have a classic episode.  I love the structure of the episode.  Almost the entire run-time is structured around Sherlock’s bizarre, weird, funny, awkward, rambling Best Man toast to Watson.  In addition to the main mystery, we get tantalizing glimpses into a number of Sherlock & Watson’s other cases; we get an oh-so-brief return of the wonderful Irene Adler; we get suspense and comedy (I adore the flashback reveal of Sherlock’s intimidation of Mary’s friends and family) and so much more.  I was pleased by the balance between mystery/suspense and the show’s joy in exploring its characters and watching them play.  This episode leans more strongly towards the latter, and it works because of how sharply written the show is, and the incredible talent of all the performers, most particularly, of course, the incredibly talented duo of Mr. Freeman & Mr. Cumberbatch.  Gold.  (Click here for my review of Sherlock series three.)

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4. Game of Thrones: “The Lion and the Rose” (season 4, episode 2, aired on 4/13/14) — Game of Thrones episodes usually jump all over the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, usually only spending a few minutes at a time in one location, and with a certain set of characters, before leaping elsewhere.  As the show has gone on and its cast of characters has grown ever more sprawling, this narrative structure has begun to chafe with some fans.  I’m not one of them, but I do nevertheless cherish the show’s habit of using the penultimate episode of the season to tell an important story in just a single location.  (This was most notably done in season two’s “Blackwater,” though this season’s “The Watchers on the Wall” was also … [continued]

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The Top 15 Episodes of TV in 2014 — Part One!

A few years ago, I had a hard time writing my list of the Ten Best Episodes of TV for that year.  I felt I had a hard time coming up with ten truly great episodes, and I was also discouraged because I was way behind on much of the TV that everyone else seemed excited about that year.  Well, this year I still feel like there is so much great television that I have not had a chance to watch.  I still haven’t finished Breaking Bad (my wife and I are currently in the middle of season three), and I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, The Americans, Hannibal, and several other shows that sound amazing.

But, for all the probably-great TV that I HAVEN’T had a chance to watch this year, there is so much great stuff that I DID have a chance to see.  So much so that, just as I felt the need to expand my usual Top 15 Movies list to a Top 20 this year, I have expanded my usual TV Top Ten list to a Top Fifteen.

And so, without further delay, here is my list of the Top Fifteen Episodes of TV of 2014!

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15. Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” (season 4, episode 8, aired on 6/1/14) — I keep waiting for Game of Thrones to slow down or to loose some of the intensity that was so intoxicating when the show began, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Thank goodness!  Season four was incredibly strong, and almost any episode could have made this list.  There are a lot of great moments in “The Mountain and The Viper.”  Arya’s explosion of disbelieving, cathartic laughter when she and the Hound arrive at the Eyrie only to discover that her aunt, Lysa, has just perished, is amazing.  I loved Tyrion’s conversation with his brother Jamie about their slow-witted cousin.  It was incredible to, FINALLY, see Sansa Stark take control of her destiny for the first time on the show, as she puts on a magnificent act in front of the ruling council of the Eyrie in order to convince them that Littlefinger, who murdered Lysa, is in fact innocent of the crime.  But the reason this episode is on my list is because of this episode’s crazy cliffhanger, a standout even for this show that excels for its crazy cliffhangers.  After a season of build-up, Tyrion’s trial by combat begins as Oberyn Martell and the Mountain do battle.  It is an incredible action sequence, one that had me on the edge of my seat as I wondered just what the heck would happen.  I … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s begin today with these fantastic clips from The Simpsons Live, the recent Simpsons musical extravaganza at The Hollywood Bowl featuring Conan O’Brien, Jon Lovitz, Hank Azaria, and others.  These clips are amazing.

Prepare to lose several hours from your day perusing this ranking of the 114 greatest characters from The West Wing.  The ranking is ridiculous, but the character write-ups are great and the videos accompanying many of the write-ups are phenomenal, wonderful highlights of some of the best moments from that great show.

This is awesome: What Star Trek the original series would have looked like in widescreen.  Check out how gorgeous that 48-years-old television show looks!!  Unbelievable!!

Speaking of Star Trek, with the amazing HD remastering project of Star Trek: The Next Generation nearly completed (the seventh and final season comes out on blu-ray in December), I am desperate for CBS to do the same with Deep Space Nine, my favorite of the Trek TV series.  I really mean desperate.  Bill Hunt from the phenomenal web-site The Digital Bits has an excellent editorial on the topic, addressing this question of whether or not CBS will take the plunge and remaster DS9.  When I first started buying blu-rays, as astounded as I was by the picture and sound quality, I looked at my vast collection of DVDs and vowed to myself that I wouldn’t go out and re-buy blu-rays of films I already owned on DVD.  Many years later, and I am proud of myself for sticking with that vow, almost 100%.  With one huge glaring exception.  I have bought every single blu-ray set of a Star Trek TV show released so far.  The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise.  I am such a huge Trek fan that I just couldn’t resist.  The improved picture quality was irresistible.  Even more so were the INCREDIBLE special features on Next Gen and Enterprise, produced by Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett.  (Those special features really set the standard for what I wish EVERY great TV show or movie had on their DVDs/blu-rays: exhaustive documentaries made with love, along with lots of other fun stuff including deleted scenes and out-takes.)  CBS, I am ready to give you my money!!  PLEASE release a re-mastered version of DS9, and DOUBLE PLEASE let Mr. Lay & Mr. Burnett continue their efforts to finally produce substantial making-of special features for this, the greatest of the Trek TV shows!! #ds9onblurayplease

Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny has released another phenomenal installment of his series Film Nerd 2.0, in which he discussed his approach to guiding his two young sons through the world of media, when and how he introduces them to … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Game of Thrones Season Four

I keep waiting for Game of Thrones to stumble, but so far show-runners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have continued on an impressive winning streak, with each season successfully building on what came before.  I wondered, in my review of season three, how the show would continue after it seemed like all of the main characters who I had been rooting for had been killed off.  I knew the show would go on, but I worried that I wouldn’t be as invested in the continuing narrative as I had been.  Thankfully, this didn’t wind up being an issue for me at all.  Season four gave us ten episodes filled to the brim with extraordinary drama on a small and large scale, and an array of incredible moments that I still cannot quite believe all happened in one ten-episode season.  There are some SPOILERS ahead in this review, friends, so beware!

Season four had so many spectacularly gasp-inducing and/or nail-bitingly suspenseful moments.  Joffrey & Margaery’s wedding.  Tyrion’s trial.  The Mountain versus Oberyn Martell.  Brienne of Tarth versus the Hound.  Arya’s laughter at the news of Lyssa’s death.  Mance Rayder’s army’s attack on the Wall and the Battle at Castle Black.  The revelation that Littlefinger’s role in the death of John Arryn, and as such the start of the whole Game of Thrones story.  Our first glimpse of Braavos.  Sword-wielding skeletons.  And so much more.  Did all of this really happen in just one season??

As I have written before in my previous Game of Thrones reviews, I have not yet read any of George R. R. Martin’s novels.  I am definitely interested in doing so, but I am enjoying the show so much that I don’t want to read the books until the show is finished.  That might sound weird, but I can’t recall the last time I have been this gripped by a TV show, one that has been able to so consistently thrill me with the story’s unpredictable twists and turns and with so many shocking deaths.  I don’t want to be spoiled by the books!  I want to continue to enjoy this show without having any fore-knowledge of what is going to happen next.

While there is a lot that is great about Game of Thrones, my favorite thing about the show is this way that it is able to continually shock me.  As I noted above, I worried about a decrease in my investment in the story and characters following The Red Wedding and other events of season 3, but if anything I have become even more invested in what happens to my favorite (surviving) characters.  As an example let’s take two moments from the season … [continued]

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Ok, I thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was awesome, but this new one is even better.  I cannot wait for this!!

The only good human…!!”  I can’t wait for July 11th!!

I’m also really loving this peek at Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar:

Oy vey, this is what they’ve decided to call the Batman vs. Superman movie?  Devin over at badassdigest has it exactly right.  (Devin also has some very smart things to say about the state of the Spider-Man film series here.)

For the longest time it seemed like Marvel Studios was doing everything right with their film series, while the Marvel properties at the other studios (like Spider-Man), not to mention Warner Brothers with all their DC Comics properties, were floundering.  But the last week has seen quite a lot of alarming news coming out of Marvel.  First was word that Drew Goddard was out as show-runner of the Netflix Daredevil show, which was a huge disappointment to me.  (I really loved Mr. Goddard’s collaboration with Joss Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods.)  Then came the collapse of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man film.  There’s a behind-the-scenes story that none of us know yet, but whatever went down, Edgar Wright has left the film that he’s been planning for literally YEARS.  The only reason Marvel is making an Ant-Man movie is because of Mr. Wright’s passion for the character.  (Ant-Man isn’t exactly a big name character!)  With Edgar Wright (the talented director behind Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, a film that I absolutely adore) directing and Paul Rudd cast in the lead, Ant-Man was a film I was super-excited about.  But with Edgar Wright out and word that they have also thrown out the script he co-wrote with Joe Cornish, I don’t know why Marvel is continuing with the film.  With the movie’s announced release date just a year away, this looks like a huge train-wreck in the making.  Is the golden age of Marvel Studios already over?  I hope not, but I am definitely worried.

A new Elmore Leonard adaptation?  With an awesome cast?  Yes, please:

OK, one more trailer for you, an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ comic book series The Secret Service:

I’m not quite sure why the film has been re-titled Kingsman, but whatever.  The comic book was awesome and that trailer is promising.  I’m loving Colin Firth as the James Bond-esque character.  This could be a lot of fun.

This past June 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  Wow.  Here’s a wonderful retrospective piece on the film[continued]

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It’s interesting that the only two network half-hour comedies that I watch these days… happen to be run by the same individual, Mike Schur.  He made his bones on The Office (where he also played Mose), and he’s one of the show-runners of both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Here’s are two wonderfully detailed interviews with Mr. Schur, the first of which looks back at the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the second of which looks back at season seven of Parks and Rec, with a focus on the season finale.  These are great interviews and well-worth your time if you’re a fan of either show.

This is a terrific, in-depth interview with Mel Brooks, discussing Blazing Saddles.  Get comfy and enjoy.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger.

I was sad to read of the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.  He had many great roles but for me he will always be the iconic voice of Alfred from Batman the Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated projects.  He was absolutely perfect as Alfred, and when I read the character’s dialogue in any comic book I always hear Mr. Zimbalist’s voice.  I am really heartbroken that we’ll never again get to hear him voice Alfred in any future DC animated film or show.

Speaking of Batman, I’ve gotta say, this first official glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman (in Zack Snyder’s upcoming untitled Superman Vs. Batman film) is pretty great.  Love the costume.  Love the small bad ears.  Love Ben’s Batman chin.  Love that classic look of the Batmobile.

So, I bashed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my review.  I’ve been glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment with the film.  Click here to read Film Critic Hulk take the film apart.  Click here for io9’s very funny list of Amazing Spider-Man 2 FAQs.  (Their one-sentence answer to the question “What is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about?” is hysterical and 100% spot-on.)  Finally, this article No One Cares About Peter Parker’s Parents is also 100% spot-on and echoes a point I made in my review.

This is cool: apparently back in the day, Criterion released the first three James Bond films on laserdisc, with commentary tracks featuring candid comments from many of the people involved in the making of the films.  When Bond producer Albert Broccoli objected, the discs were recalled from stores.  Here’s the full story.  Now the commentaries have re-surfaced and are available to download for free here!  I have downloaded them all and look forward to giving them a listen soon.  Should be fun!

This is a cute article, tracking the many appearances of … [continued]

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Is a TV-show adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic-book series Powers finally going to happen?  This project has been developed for YEARS, most recently at FX, but now it seems there’s a 10-episode order from Sony Pictures TV for Playstation, whatever the heck that means.  Powers is a phenomenal comic about cops in a world of super-heroes (click here for my detailed thoughts on the series) and, if done right, this could be a fantastic TV show.  I hope this actually comes together.

Is the new 24 twelve-episode mini-series going to be more like seasons 1-2 of 24 (good) or seasons 3-8 of 24 (not-so-good)?  Dunno.  Nice to see this first trailer, though there’s not much here to get me excited, just yet:

We also, at last, have our first glimpse at the long-in-the-works Sin City sequel.  The trailer is good but not great.  Here too, I need a little more to really get me excited.  I desperately want this movie to be good, but I think the time for a sequel may have passed.  Crossing my fingers on this one.

Each year, when I read about Paleyfest, I am insanely jealous and wish I could go to all of the panels.  Here’s a phenomenal rundown of the Parks and Recreation panel.  This is required reading for fans of Parks and Rec.  Lord I love that show. I can’t believe it’s survived cancellation as many times as it has, and it was just renewed for another season!

So, they’re really truly going ahead with Ghostbusters 3?  Without the participation of Bill Murray?  With Harold Ramis having just recently passed away?  With Ivan Reitman now saying he WON’T return to direct the film?  You know, for years and years I wanted this movie to happen, despite the huge risk that, so many years later, it’d be impossible to recapture the alchemy and make a film that was any good.  But now I’ve really soured on the whole idea.  Is it in any way conceivable that a Ghostbusters 3 could be any good?  Not to me.  This lengthy interview with Ivan Reitman is a fascinating look at the process behind this eons-in-development sequel, but I just think it’s a totally misguided notion.

Now, Brad Bird working to develop The Incredibles 2?  That is a sequel I can get behind!!!  I would love to see that come together.

I am absolutely tickled at the idea of Marvel Studios moving to a pattern in which they’d release one new movie each quarter.  That is an awesome dream!

Then there’s Fox, who still owns the rights to several Marvel series, including … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 — Part Two!

Last week I posted my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.  Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013!  Click here for part one of my list, numbers 10-6.

Claudette has rules. Janae does not appreciate them

5. Orange is the New Black: “Imaginary Enemies” (season 1, episode 4, released on Netflix on 7/11/13) — Piper Chapman has a new roommate in prison, Miss Claudette, and the stern Claudette is not happy that Crazy Eyes has just peed on their floor (at the end of episode three).  Chapman attempts to adjust to her new living situation at the same time as she does her best to fit in at her new work assignment in the electrical shop.  But when she foolishly leaves the shop with a screwdriver still in her sweatshirt pocket, she sets off a prison-wide incident as the guards search frantically for the potential-weapon that is unaccounted for.  In flashbacks, we see a glimpse of Claudette’s life, from her childhood up to the incident that landed her in prison.  The present-day stuff with Chapman is great, and we get some tense drama (as Chapman wonders how the heck she is going to be able to get rid of the screwdriver without anyone knowing that she took it) and also some nutty comedy.  But it’s Miss Claudette’s sad story that made this one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the first season.  (Click here for my review of Orange is the New Black season one.)

GameofThrones.RainsofCastamere.04.cropped

4. Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” (season 3, episode 9, aired on 6/2/13) — Game of Thrones has shocked me before (most notably with the death of you-know-who in the penultimate episode of season one), but I was dumbstruck by the craziness that went down at the climax of this episode.  I managed to get to the Red Wedding without being at all spoiled for what was going to go down, so the events of this episode were a huge shock to me.  But while the shocking death in season one made me fall in love with the show, the brutal killing-off of numerous beloved main characters in this episode made me deeply angry.  Which was of course the point.  This episode HURT, so much so that I am not at all eager to ever watch this episode again.  Just thinking about it makes me deeply angry.  That George R.R. Martin and show-runners David Benioff & D. B. Weiss could affect me so deeply with the goings-on in their fantasy show is a mark of how extraordinary this series is.  My … [continued]

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News Around the Net: Comic-Con Edition!

Lots of cool news coming out of Comic-Con this week!

Let’s begin with the hilarious Game of Thrones “In Memoriam” video:

Look!  It’s Caesar and his Ape Council!  Awesome.

The Simpsons is going to do a crossover episode with Family Guy?  Awesome!  Even more exciting?  The Simpsons is also going to do a crossover with the cancelled-again Futurama!!!  Oh boy I can’t wait for that.

Speaking of crossovers, in news that I found VERY surprising, DC/Warner Brothers have announced that the follow-up to Man of Steel is going to be a Batman/Superman film.  As much as I love all the allusions, in the announcement, to the seminal Superman-Batman grudge match in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (and I love the Frank Miller-inspired Batman/Superman logo that you’ll see if you scroll down this article) I must confess to not be so excited that they are rushing into a crossover film.  I felt that Man of Steel had a lot of flaws, but it was a terrific reintroduction of Superman.  I’d love to see them get a little deeper into exploring this new incarnation of the character, before throwing him into a Batman crossover film.  Plus, since it seems clear that Christian Bale will not be reprising the role, wouldn’t it be weird to introduce a new Batman in this crossover film, without a stand-alone film of his own under his belt?  The whole thing feels to me that they are rushing things in order to combat Marvel’s success with The Avengers.

Still, if done right, a Batman/Superman film could sure be awesome.  I must admit that despite my qualms, there is some geeky excitement there.

I feel similarly about Marvel’s announcement that The Avengers 2 will be called Age of Ultron The deadly, humanity-hating robot Ultron is a classic Avengers villain, and the thought of seeing him realized on film should be tremendously exciting.  And it is, for sure.  It’s just that I am really thrown for a loop since after seeing Thanos at the end of The Avengers, and with the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy set as one of Marvel’s Phase 2 films coming before Avengers 2, it seemed like Marvel was setting the stage for a big cosmic story with Thanos as the main bad-guy.  I thought that was such an awesome plan.  I am very uncertain, now, as to how Ultron is going to play into all that.  Is Thanos going to be held until The Avengers 3?  That is a looong way away!

Adding to my uncertainty is the specificity of the subtitle of Age of Ultron.  That is actually the title of a Marvel Comics crossover series that … [continued]

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John Connor and the Hound

This is my favorite thing I have seen all week:

[continued]

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OK, this is the greatest thing I have seen in a long time (BUT BEWARE SPOILERS IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE WITH GAME OF THRONES!!!)

I love The Princess Bride!

I’ve completely lost faith in M. Night Shyalaman over the past decade, but that being said I still think Unbreakable is his best film, and I would so love for the long-rumored sequel to someday happen.  The one flaw with Unbreakable, in my mind, is that the story feels incomplete — it feels like the first act of a larger story.  So every time Mr. Shyamalan talks about a possible sequel, I am happy.

So this is interesting: in the months after the success of Skyfall, there was a lot of talk that Bond 24 and 25 (the next two Bond films) would be two connected films.  That was denied by the Bond producers.  But amidst the recent news that Skyfall Director will be returning for the next Bond film, the 24th, comes this rumor that Mr. Mendes is going to commit to helm the 25th Bond film as well!  I love the idea of a two-part Bond film, that would be super-cool if that happens.

Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) are collaborating on a Superman short film in honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary?  Awesome!

I have Superman because of my huge anticipation for The Man of Steel (which I hope to see this weekend!!), so now’s as good a time as any to read this terrific piece looking back at Superman II!  That film was a HUGE part of my childhood…!!

There’s been a lot of rumors flying in recent weeks about the inclusion of the character of Quicksilver in both Fox’s upcoming X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, as well as the Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers 2.  It will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out!

(Speaking of Days of Future PastNixon!  Love it!)

Anytime anyone is talking about Escape From the Planet of the Apes, I take notice!

And with that, my friends, I wish you all a great weekend.  I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Man of Steel, season four of Arrested Development, and cartoons making fun of Star Trek Into Darkness.  Hope to see you all back here soon!… [continued]

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“You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” — Josh Reviews Game of Thrones Season 3!

It seems like the third season of Game of Thrones began just a few minutes ago and now, ten pretty terrific episodes later, it’s over and the long, long wait until next spring and the next season begins.

Overall, season 3 of Game of Thrones was another phenomenal season of this spectacular show.  I have found the first three seasons of the show to be remarkable consistent in style and quality.  If you really made me list my favorites, I’d say that season 1 still remains my favorite season of the show, with season 3 coming in just a hair better than season 2.  (By the way, friends, as I often do, I will try to avoid any outright spoilers in this review, but I can’t avoid discussing certain plot twists when discussing the season, so please be warned.  There be spoilers here!!)

In season 2, my two biggest complaints were how uninteresting I found the stories of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.  I had loved both characters in season 1, but in season 2 it felt like both of their stories were just treading water.  Their stories felt totally disconnected from all of the other story-lines in the show, and I found it hard to really care about what was happening to them.  I was pleased that, in season 3, both characters were given far better story-lines.  I loved watching the evolution of Jon Snow’s relationship with the wildling Ygritte.  The actress playing Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is dynamite, and I felt Jon Snow’s character came to life when paired up with her.  Suddenly I cared about Jon Snow again, because I was invested in his relationship with this girl.  Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, I was also more interested in Deanerys again, mostly because they managed to incorporate some great visual effects sequences and some fun action into her story.  I loved getting to see her dragons wreak havoc in episode 4, “And Now His Watch is Ended” when they destroyed Astopor, and I also loved getting to see Sir Jorah, Grey Worm, and Daario kick some ass at Yunkai in episode 9, “The Rains of Castamere.”  I also loved the return of Ser Barristan (last seen in season 1 being unceremoniously shown the door by Cersei and Joffrey).

Speaking of “The Rains of Castamere,” that shocking episode is, of course, the heart of season 3, and I suspect one’s feeling about that episode will affect one’s over-all judgment of the season.  The Red Wedding (which I had heard mentioned, but about which I remained, thankfully, totally unspoiled) arrived and quite a few of the show’s most beloved characters were brutally massacred.  It was an incredibly shocking, brutal turn … [continued]

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Game of Thrones Returns!

I love the cable model of short seasons presented all in one burst, as opposed to the network model of 24-or-so episodes strung out over a whole year.  But boy, sometimes it is really hard to wait for the many months between seasons of those cable shows!!  After an excruciating wait, my favorite show on TV these days has returned — Game of Thrones season three launched this past Sunday!

It’s fantastic being back in this world, and season three’s premiere, “Valar Dohaeris,” is a strong return for the show.  Over the course of the hour, we check back in with many of our characters (though many major characters are absent.  I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to see Arya, Theon Greyjoy, Jamie & Brienne, and Hodor & the little Stark kids who fled from Winterfell at the end of last season).

Right away, the premiere episodes addressed two major gripes I had with the end of last season.  First of all, I was very disappointed that, after getting quite a lot of development over the course of season 2, Bronn was totally absent from the season 2 finale!!  That was a real head-scratcher to me, and I have been left for months to wonder about his fate.  (I have not yet read any of George R.R. Martin’s books, and at this point, I don’t plan to until the TV series is done.  I am relishing not knowing where this story is going, and I don’t want to lose that.)  So I was delighted to see Bronn reintroduced very early in the season 3 premiere, and I was happy that he got several very nice scenes in the episode.  I am glad his friendship/partnership with Tyrion will continue, at least for now.

Secondly, I was very pleased to see the return of the pirate captain Salladhor Saan.  There was a whole big scene in season two in which Davos brokered a deal for Salladhor and his men to fight with Stanis Baratheon.  And then, we never saw him again!  That really made me wonder why the heck they had wasted our time showing Davos and Stannis’ meeting with the pirate captain in the first place.  So I was very pleased to see the character re-enter the story.  That was a pleasant surprise.

There was quite a lot to enjoy in this episode.  I was thrilled to see the return of the old, former Captain of the King’s Guard Barristan Selmy.  That was a great surprise, and I am intrigued to see where this heretofore minor character is going to go. That Daenerys just loves to collect washed-up old soldiers, doesn’t she?  Ser Jorah better watch out!  Speaking … [continued]

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This high school-set Game of Thrones parody, School of Thrones, is fantastic.  Worth it for the awesome opening credits alone.

I often wax poetic about my love for the great, much-missed The Larry Sanders Show.  My buddy Ethan e-mailed me this link to a terrific interview with Jeffrey Tambor (who played Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley), filled with stories about his work on the show.  A great read.

Louis C.K. has a new stand-up special on HBO in April.  Love this trailer:

I must say I am shocked that, despite the BIG success of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie (I can’t believe it was that long ago, already!), they are not working on another one.  That’s a shame.

I have spent a long time looking at this awesome infographic that lays out the entire backwards-and-forwards structure of Christopher Nolan’s fantastic film Memento.  Wild.

I was VERY excited to read that an extended cut has recently been discovered of “The Wounded” and several other episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I hope some of this footage eventually makes it onto the blu-rays!  I LOVED the extended cut of “The Measure of a Man” on the season 2 blu-ray, and I would kill to see some more extended cuts of episodes in the future…  And “The Wounded” is one of my favorite TNG episodes!  (I love O’Brien!)

Speaking of Trek, a new teaser trailer was released a few weeks ago:

Solid trailer.  God I hope this movie doesn’t let me down.

Speaking of trailers — I still can’t believe they really made a movie of the deliriously unhinged, profane comic book Kick Ass.  And now they’ve made a sequel?  This new red-band trailer is great.  The kids have grown up, but this could still work.  (Though holy cow, how huge is Aaron Taylor-Johnson — who plays the titular geek kid turned super-hero, Kick Ass — now??  It’s weird to see puny Dave Lizewski so pumped.)  I LOVE that they used Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s super-villain name from the comics!  And Jim Carrey is in this???  This movie is going to be crazy.  I can’t wait.

I’ve never seen Veronica Mars, but if this is true that a Kickstarter campaign has successfully lead to the show’s revival as a movie, that is super-cool.  I am all for the rescue of fan-favorite, cult properties.  Serenity 2, anyone??  (No, says Joss Whedon.  Sigh!!)

Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) is masterminding a new show for HBO?  Yes, please!

Hmmm… are there any other HBO shows coming up that I’m looking forward to?  Oh, yeah, there is one:

[continued]

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At last!  Our first glimpse at footage from Game of Thrones season three!

This is a very funny article: Six Horrible Aftermaths Implied by Movies with Happy Endings.

Here is a terrific, in-depth interview with the show-runner of the phenomenal Parks and Recreation, Mike Schur.  It’s no coincidence that the first half-hour of last week’s Parks and Rec double-episode felt like it could have been a series finale — that’s because it was designed to have served as such, had NBC not ordered nine additional episodes for this season.

Kristen Wiig will be appearing in the new episodes of Arrested Development??  And she is playing a young version of Lucille Bluth?  Brilliant!!

I just wrote about Layer Cake the other day, and I am excited that Matthew Vaughn — who also directed Kick Ass (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) — in addition to producing the next X-Men film (the adaptation of the seminal Days of Future Past that will be directed by Bryan Singer, returning at last to the franchise he began) has also signed on to produce Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film (which will thankfully be a total reboot, scrapping the two lame films directed by Tim Story).  I love that crazy comic book writer Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book Kick Ass, which Mr. Vaughn directed as a film) will be overseeing Fox’s upcoming super-hero films (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) and I really love that his frequent collaborator Mr. Vaughn also seems to be stepping into a larger supervisory role.  It’s obvious that Fox is attempting to shamelessly imitate the success of Marvel Studio’s crossover Avengers film, but if it results in more great super-hero films for us, then I have no problem with that!

Speaking of Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men film, Days of Future Past, I really hope he’s serious about fixing what Brett Ratner did to the franchise in the catastrophically disappointing X3.  If they’re playing around with time-travel and alternate timelines, this is a golden opportunity to at long-last course-correct this franchise back to what worked in the first two X-Men films.  I home Mr. Singer can pull it off.

Sticking with super-hero movie news for a second, this is an interesting comparison of the Spidey-Suit in this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the far superior, re-designed look for the sequel.  (And I agree with the author of that post — MY cooler of haterade for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man ALSO runs deep!  Here’s hoping the sequel is better.)

And here is an AWESOME look at Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3!  I … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012click here for part one, listing numbers 10-6!

And follow these links to my other Best-of-2012 lists: my Top 15 Movies of 2012part one, part two, and part three, and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012part one, and part two!

OK, let’s dive into the rest of my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012!

5. Treme: “Promised Land” (season 3, episode 7, aired on 11/4/12) — David Simon’s criminally-underwatched series about post-Katrina New Orleans reached new heights of magnificence in season 3, and this episode embodies everything that is great about the show: the enormous, phenomenal ensemble of characters, each of whom is complex and compelling in his or her own right; the balance of comedy and tragedy; and above all, the spectacular music that is woven into the very fabric of the show.  It’s carnival time again, and “Big Chief” Albert struggles to march with his Indians despite his cancer, though for the first time we see his son Delmond fully suited up and a part of the tradition.  Davis hooks up with Janette; Colson struggles with his corrupt Homicide unit; Annie gets a high-paying but unfulfilling gig in Washington DC; Antoine tries to improve his skills on the trombone; LaDonna is threatened not to testify against the man who raped her; Sonny focuses on staying on the wagon despite the drunken Mardi Gras festivities surrounding him and receives unexpected support from his potential father-in-law Tranh; and Toni confronts her daughter Sophia’s older boyfriend, only to discover that Sophia had already dumped him a week ago.  Meanwhile, we get the double guest-star delight of Janette chatting with Emil Lagasse about the perils of moving from a small-time-chef into big business, AND her appearance on a Today Show cooking segment with Al Roker!  All this and DJ Davis (who began in series one as my least favorite character on the show, and is now one of my favorites, the compelling “every-man” character on the show) quotes The Wire! When he declared that “all the pieces matter,” I just about went to heaven.

4. Parks and Recreation: “The Debate” (season 4, episode 20, aired on 4/24/12) — The second Parks and Rec episode on my list!  In this installment, the climax of Leslie’s run for Pawnee city council approaches as all the candidates appear in a live debate.  There is so much comedic magnificence in this episode, I hardly know where to begin.  There’s Chris’ jovial declaration, in support of his amazing abilities to spin anything positively, that … [continued]

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“The Worst Ones Always Live” — Josh Reviews Game of Thrones Season Two

I have never read any of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels.  But I was hooked relatively quickly into HBO’s first season of Game of Thrones, and the masterfully crafted second-season, which just concluded, was equally enthralling.  (I am a bit torn, now, having enjoyed the show so much, as to whether I should start reading the novels.  Part of me thinks I definitely should — since I’m loving the adaptation so much, why not dig into the actual source material?  But on the other hand, I am having so much fun discovering the story through the show that I am reluctant to lose that thrill.  Game of Thrones is a story where anything can happen and no character is safe.  I’m LOVING the thrill of not knowing what is ahead for any of the characters, and I’m not sure I want to give that up…)

The first season of Game of Thrones was very strong, and it really built up a head of steam as the ten episodes progressed.  The last three-to-four episodes of that first season were absolute dynamite.  There’s no moment in season two that ever quite equaled, for me, that “Oh my god I am in LOVE with this show” moment of the shocking character death in the penultimate episode of season one, but that’s hardly surprising.  There’s a thrill of discovery that is hard to equal as a TV show goes on.  But I adored season two of Game of Thrones, and as TV fantasy spectacle goes, the Battle of Blackwater in the second season’s penultimate episode, “Blackwater,” was pretty extraordinary.

Make that VERY extraordinary.  That episode was an amazing achievement, capturing a huge-scale fantasy battle at sea and on land that was viscerally exciting and gripping and epic in scope.  It looked gorgeous, but more importantly than that, the show sold the life-or-death stakes for the characters, resulting in a nail-biting hour that was everything I’d hoped it would be.  This one is going to be hard to top.

The cast of Game of Thrones dramatically expanded in the second season.  Even though the show is fearless in knocking off major characters left and right, season two was still jam-packed with people and places.  It’s a huge ensemble, and the quality of the performances across the board is phenomenal.

While Ned Stark was clearly the main character in season one, season two belonged to Tyrion Lannister, played by the spectacular Peter Dinklage.  Mr. Dinklage does absolutely extraordinary work in the role, and Tyrion has already become one of the great, iconic TV characters of all time.  It helps that the writing for Tyrion always crackles — he always … [continued]

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“Winter is Coming” — Josh Reviews Game of Thrones: Season One

March 30th, 2012
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I’ve made various comments, here and there over the past several months, about how much I dug the first season of Game of Thrones, but I realized I’d never really written about it in-depth here on the site.  After recently tearing through the blu-ray release of the first season (in anticipation of the launch of season two THIS WEEKEND!), I figured now was as good a time as ever!

I have never read any of the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, but I was intrigued by what I had read about HBO’s epic adaptation.  After a good friend impressed upon me how much he loved the series, I decided to sample the HBO show, last year, to see if it struck my fancy.  I enjoyed the first couple of episodes but wasn’t exactly blown away.  But then something weird started to happen.  I slowly got more and more sucked in, and by the time the sixth or seventh episode rolled around I was good and hooked.  When a major character’s head got lopped off at the end of the penultimate episode, I became a fan for life.

Game of Thrones tells the story of a group of families all warring for power, influence, and control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  The titular throne is the “Iron Chair” — the seat of the king of the Seven Kingdoms.  The focus of this first season (adapted from Mr. Martin’s first novel in the series) is primarily upon the Stark family.  In the opening episode, Ned Stark is forced to leave his home in Winterfell (the Northern city his family has apparently ruled for generations) to serve as the Hand of the King.  It just so happens that the King is Robert Baratheon, Ned’s old friend and comrade-in-arms.  Ned was a key player in helping Robert to win the throne eighteen years previously.  But while Ned has little patience for politics, he is thrust into the scheming, back-stabbing world of King’s Landing, the empire’s capital city.  Meanwhile, threats to the kingdom have begun to brew on all sides.  Some sort of supernatural menace appears to be brewing north of the Wall, the humongous barrier at the northernmost tip of the “civilized” realm.  And in the East, the two surviving children of house Targaryen, the family who ruled the Kingdom before being deposed by Robert, have allied themselves with the fierce horse-riding nomads the Dothraki, with the apparent goal of raising a huge army to invade Westeros and recapture the kingdom.

My plot summary doesn’t do any justice to the series’ wonderfully rich, sprawling narrative.  Over the course of the first season’s ten hours, we meet … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

This was written before the film’s release, but I was fascinated by this piece from CHUD about about Disney’s staggering inability to market John Carter (of Mars). It’s a shame that the film has turned out to be such a colossal money-loser for the studio, but it’s shocking that the mighty Disney machine couldn’t figure out a way to sell this film.

Wanna waste a bunch of time today?  Click on over to this Seinfeld quote-a-day page…

GAME OF THRONES IS ALMOST BACK!!  In honor of the imminent launch of season 2, take the time to marvel at this spot-on homage to Game of Thrones’ opening credits by The Simpsons.  The days of my watching The Simpsons every week are long gone, but that brings me right back to when I loved the show…

Speaking of Game of Thrones, time to revel in this great preview of the upcoming season:

http://youtu.be/VVkr9oYsIbo

Have you seen the latest production diary for The Hobbit?

The wait to see this film is PAINFUL!!  But I am starting to think it’s getting to be time to re-watch the LOTR trilogy…

Every new tidbit of information about the upcoming Spider-Man reboot has me more and more worried…[continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2011 — Part One!

Well, we’ve finally arrived at my last Top 10 list for 2011.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous lists!  (Follow these links to check out my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, part three, my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two, and my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011.)

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to put together a Top 10 Episodes of TV list this year.  For a whole host of reasons, I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to.  I’m super-busy, and there just aren’t that many shows that interest me enough to want to watch religiously these days.  And a whole heck of a lot of the TV I watched this past year was OLDER TV — in the form of DVD box-sets (of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Party Down, etc.).  There’s a lot of current TV that interests me that I just haven’t had time to watch: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Community, Homeland, Louie (season 2 — I have watched season 1 on DVD and LOVED it — I’ll be posting a review soon), Bored to Death (I also just finished season 1 on DVD and loved it — I’ll be posting a review of this soon, as well, and I’m hoping to get to seasons 2 and 3 soon).  All of those shows look interesting and I do hope to eventually sink my teeth in them all via the magic of DVD.

So I felt weird putting together a list, seeing that there’s so much probably-great TV out there that I haven’t seen.  But when I sat down to start to compile the list, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the top ten choices manifested themselves.  I guess I DID watch some great TV this year!  But keep the above list of TV-I-haven’t-yet-seen in mind when perusing my choices.  OK, enough intro, let’s dive in:

10. Game of Thrones: “You Win or You Die” (season 1, episode 7, aired on 5/29/11) — I’ve never read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin, and I wasn’t immediately taken by the first few hours of the HBO adaptation.  But after a few episodes, the complex fantasy story started to get its hooks in me, and by the time I arrived at this stand-out episode I was loving this show like few other things on TV.  Pretty much all of the show’s continuing story-lines jumped to the next level in this installment, which left me absolutely desperate for the next episode … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Check out this sneak peek at Game of Thrones season two!  AARRGH, I can’t believe we have to wait until September!  (But I’m intrigued by the rumor that seasons 3 and 4 will shoot back-to-back and will comprise a two-season adaptation of the third book, A Storm of Swords.)

Speaking of waiting, looks like Star Trek 2 (or whatever they’re gonna call it) finally has a release date: May 17, 2013.  That’s a long four years after the 2009 release of the first (or eleventh, depending on how you’re counting) film (which was itself delayed from its originally scheduled release in December, 2008).  Here’s hoping the film is good after such a long wait, and that Paramount can get the third (or thirteenth!) film rolling with a little less down-time…

While we’re on the subject of Star Trek, check out these fascinating early-draft versions of the famous “space… the final frontier” opening monologue.

I love Devin Faraci’s recent piece on the increasingly crazy Frank Miller.  Click here to read The Devin’s Advocate: Frank Miler is an Asshole, but I Still Like His Work.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Interesting the hear that David Simon feels that four seasons is his ideal length for Treme.  God, I love that show.  Season three is definitely happening, so I really hope HBO give sMr. Simon and his team their desired fourth and final season.

There’s a new trailer out for John Carter (of Mars).  I wish I was more excited about this film.  The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous, but I am really not loving the glimpses we’ve seen of Taylor Kirsch so far in the lead role.  Maybe I am letting bad feelings from his appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as Gambit) get to me.  Or maybe it’s that Disney’s butchering of the title (it should be called John Carter OF MARS!!!) that has me uneasy.  We’ll see.  I’m crossing my fingers big-time on this one.

Speaking of movies coming out this spring, Joss Whedon’s film Cabin in the Woods looks like it’s finally, FINALLY getting released after sitting on the shelf for two years.  Love the new poster.  I don’t really know anything about this film other than the fact that Joss Whedon directed it, but that’s enough to get my butt in the theatre.  (UPDATE:  A trailer was just released and now that I’ve watched it I know MORE about this film than I wish I did!!  BEWARE SPOILERS, and watch at your own peril.)

And speaking of movie adaptations that I should be anticipating but aren’t (I’m referring back to John Carter (of Mars), now, not Cabin in the Woods!), comes word that the [continued]