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News Around the Net! UPDATED with Avengers 4 Trailer!

UPDATE: The first trailer for Avengers 4 has finally dropped!

First off: the title.  Endgame.  That’s… OK.  Not a bad title, but it’s a bit generic.  I think the phrase “endgame” is a bit overused in genre circles, and Dr. Strange’s line in Infinity War that “we’re in the endgame now” frankly wasn’t my favorite piece of dialogue in the film.  I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to keep this title so top-secret for the last few years!  After such a build-up, this title is a bit disappointing.  But it’s fine.  The title underlines the importance of Dr. Strange’s line of dialogue in Infinity War that there was only one way in billions to defeat Thanos.  I’d commented in my original review that I suspected that Strange’s choice to give Thanos the Time Stone wasn’t a defeat but, in fact, the key to victory.  From this title, it looks like I was right, big time.

As for the rest of the trailer — excellent!  We don’t actually see very much, but it’s a great tease.  The first half with Tony Stark is fantastic and strikes the right “hopeless” tone.  I like seeing this more substantial clip rather than just fast-paced shots.  I love the way the Marvel logo dissolves just like everyone dying at the end of Infinity War.  I’m delighted to see Hawkeye (who appears to be dressed up as Ronin from the comics — that’s an interesting touch and a nice reference for comic book fans) and Ant Man in the trailer, since they were the two main characters left out of Infinity War.  (Looks like Scott escaped from his perilous situation in the post-credits sequence of Ant Man and the Wasp!)  I love what I am seeing so far.  I really hope Marvel can stick the landing on this one.  I am counting the days.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled post…!

Stop what you’re doing and please watch Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s new short PSA about how the motion-smoothing setting on most HD-TVs ruins movies.  Their life-and-death, super-serious tone is sort of hilarious. But also, I agree!! I am evangelical about this, though most of my friends and family just shake their heads. Turn off this setting so that you can watch movies properly!!

Then, for follow-up reading, this is a great piece on Tom Cruise and Mr. McQuarrie (author of The Usual Suspects)’s many recent collaborations.

This is an inspiring interview with architect Frank Gehry on how he got started.

I’m impressed and awed that, after more than a half-century, Doonesbury continues.  Here’s a great interview by Rolling Stone with Garry Trudeau.

Red alert: Nicholas Meyer, one of the … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Movies of 2016 — Part One!

I am very excited to present my list of my Twenty Favorite Movies from 2016!  While I don’t think 2016 was quite as strong a year for movies as 2015 was, there were still a heck of a lot of great movies released this year!  I debated cutting back and presenting a list of my fifteen favorites this year, but I found that I was easily able to fill a list of twenty, just as I did last year.

Though I have seen a ton of movies in 2016, as always there is still a boatload of movies that I wanted to see but didn’t get to.  These include Silence, Live By Night, Fences, Twentieth Century Women, Collateral Beauty, Moonlight, The Edge of Seventeen, Rules Don’t Apply, Hidden Figures, Everybody Wants Some!, Keanu, Denial, War Dogs, American Pastoral, Frank & Lola, Cafe Society, Whisky Tango Foxtrot, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and more.  So if you’re wondering why any of those films aren’t on this list, well, now you know.  I am hopeful that I will be able to see many of those films I just listed in the coming weeks, but I couldn’t wait any longer before publishing this list.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of wonderful 2016 movies that I did see and enjoy and yet didn’t make this list.  Those include Jackie, Green Room, The Lobster, Midnight Special, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Office Christmas Party, For The Love of Spockand many others.  (In a few weeks, after I finish posting my Best of 2016 lists, I’ll be posting reviews of many of the films that I saw in my end-of-the-year rush to catch up with as many 2016 films as I could.)

Honorable Mention: Brooklyn This was a 2015 film that I didn’t get to see until well into 2016.  But if I had seen it earlier, it surely would have been one of the top films on my 2015 list.  This gentle story of a young Irish immigrant to the U.S. in the nineteen-fifties was gorgeous and very moving.  Saoirse Ronan makes an extraordinary impression in the lead role, elevating herself from great character actor to true movie star.  In a modern era in which so many American politicians like to demonize the “other,” fostering suspicion and mistrust of anyone not born in the United States, Brooklyn tells a story that brings the immigrant experience to life in a positive way.  This is an important film, and one that is truly alive with joy and pain and a wealth of human emotion.  I loved it.  Click here for my full review.

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20. The Jungle Book[continued]

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Josh Reviews The Jungle Book

When Jon Favreau shifted from directing smaller character-based films (like Made) to larger, more special-effects-driven films, he at first did so with a strong attachment to using traditional practical effects over CGI.  (I never saw 2005’s Zathura, but I well remember all of the pre-release interviews with Mr. Favreau in which he spoke of his love for the power of practical effects.)  Both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 featured some incredible CGI effects, but I think the effects in both films worked as well as they did because they were skillfully combined with many practical effects, thus creating an immersive illusion for the audience.  And so it’s fascinating now to see how Mr. Favreau approached the creation of The Jungle Book, a film that, other than the performance of one young boy, has been almost entirely created in the digital realm, including all the animal characters and all of the jungle settings.  This approach, overseen by Mr. Favreau and clearly involving the hard work of hundreds of artists and technicians, has resulted in an extraordinary achievement.

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Just like the Disney animated version, this new The Jungle Book tells the story of the young boy Mowgli.  As a baby, he is orphaned in the jungle, but the panther Bagheera saves him and brings him to be raised by a pack of wolves led by Akela and Raksha.  This “man cub” grows up in the jungle.  But when the vicious tiger Shere Khan threatens the wolves for protecting him, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle and allows Bagheera to escort him to the nearby man village.  But Shere Khan will not give up his vendetta so easily.

I don’t have any strong attachment to Disney’s animated The Jungle Book.  I remember liking it as a kid, but it’s not one of the Disney movies that I watched over and over, and it’s been well over twenty years since I have seen it last.  I remember the basic story and some of the songs and not much beyond that.  So while Disney studio’s modern desire to create live-action remakes of seemingly all of their classic animated films puzzles me, I was totally open to a new version of this story.

And to call this a live-action remake is somewhat disingenuous, because, as noted above, other than the real boy Neel Sethi as Mowgli, this is an almost entirely animated film.  It’s just that it has been animated using cutting-edge CGI techniques, rather than traditional hand-drawn animation.

The result is astounding.  Mr. Favreau and his team have crafted an almost perfectly photo-real creation.  You completely believe that you are in the jungles of India, not a studio in Hollywood.  And each and every … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Chef

I’m a big fan of Jon Favreau the actor/performer, and I’ve also become a big fan of Jon Favreau the director.  It’s easy to forget, now that the Marvel movies have become such a successful juggernaut, just what a minor miracle the original Iron Man was.  That movie was far from a sure thing, and the reason it took off was mainly because of Mr. Favreau’s consummate skill at balancing the movie’s tone.  The story was exciting, with real dramatic and emotional stakes, while also being an unabashedly fun, funny romp that was a hugely enjoyable ride for the audience.  Few directors could have pulled that off, and I give all the credit in the word to Mr. Favreau for his accomplishment.  Every time you enjoy a new Marvel movie, you should thank Mr. Favreau for his work on the film that got the whole ball rolling.

But ever since 2008’s Iron Man, I can’t saw that I’ve been bowled over by Mr. Favreau’s work.  Iron Man 2 was underwhelming, and it has aged particularly poorly.  Cowboys & Aliens was a mess, an enormous waste of a great premise and a stellar cast.  But I’ve remained a fan of Mr. Favreau, interested in his work.  I want to enjoy his films.  And so I was intrigued when I heard about Chef, which Mr. Favreau wrote and directed, in addition to starring in.  This seemed like an appealing step back into the type of film Mr. Favreau used to be involved in, a film more like Swingers — a smaller-scale, more personal story with humor and with heart.

I am pleased to report that Chef is exactly that.  This isn’t a film that is going to set the world on fire, and it’s a film that, in some ways, feels just a little bit retro. But it’s endearing in the good-natured way the film wears its heart on its sleeve.  It’s got a great cast and a strong premise, and while there are no big surprises in the film, that’s fine by me as I quite enjoyed the small tale being told.

In the film, Mr. Favreau plays Carl Casper, a talented chef working at a successful California restaurant.  He’s a workaholic, and his family life has suffered.  He is also starting to feel stymied by the business-oriented owner of his restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman).  Carl prepares an elaborate menu for the evening when a well-read food blogger (played by Oliver Platt) is visiting the restaurant, but Riva insists that he serve their regular menu of old favorites.  Not surprisingly, this earns Carl a lousy review.  Carl responds poorly, starting a twitter war with the blogger and eventually getting … [continued]