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Josh Reviews Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later!

I like David Wain’s 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer, but I absolutely adored the 2015 Netflix miniseries First Day of Camp.  The success of that endeavor clearly inspired creators David Wain and Michael Showalter to come back for another go.  The new miniseries, Ten Years Later, plays out the premise hinted at by the epilogue of the 2001 film, the idea that these camp friends would reunite ten years later to see how they’d all changed. While I don’t think this second mini-series has quite the laugh-per-minute ratio that First Day of Camp did, I can say that I quite enjoyed Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.  It’s a pleasure spending more time with this crazy band of characters and these incredible comedic performers.

Although it was made a decade-and-a-half after the original film, the previous mini-series (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp) was set BEFORE the film, on the first day of the 1981 summer camp season (while the film had depicted the last day).  I was endlessly amused by the sight of these forty-something actors playing even younger versions of the characters they’d all played back in 2001.  Expanding to an eight-episode mini-series allowed the series to let all the characters — played by this incredible array of very funny and talented actors — to shine, allowing all sorts of crazy comedic digressions that I found endlessly entertaining.  I also liked how David Wain and Michael Showalter used the expanded format to amp-up the lunacy of the story.  The original film is a crazy exaggeration of what actually goes on at summer camps (even what actually went on in the more out-of-control environment of many 1980’s summer camps, when the film is set), but the mini-series went way beyond that, bringing in government conspiracies, falling satellites, hand-to-hand combat, and all sorts of other nuttiness.  It all worked perfectly, a very-rare example of a sequel made years later that was as-good-as, if not better, than the original!

And so, having loved First Day of Camp, I was of course excited for another return to Camp Firewood.  David Wain and Michael Showalter have crafted another very entertaining show.  This eight-episode mini-series format works great for this sort of loose ensemble piece.  There is a LOT to enjoy here in Ten Years Later, with an extraordinarily talented ensemble clearly having a lot of fun.

There were, though, a few wobbly aspects of this second mini-series.  While I was impressed by how they got everyone from the original film back for First Day of Camp, the structure of Ten Years Later indicates that they might have had a little more trouble making the schedules of all these … [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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Catching Up on 2015: Josh Reviews Man Up

February 19th, 2016

Nancy (Lake Bell) is a single thirty-something who wants to find love but who, after a string of failed blind dates, is reluctant to continue putting herself out there.  But when a miscommunication results in Jack (Simon Pegg)’s mistaking her for the woman with whom he has been set up, Nancy decides to go with it and pretend to be his date.  The crazy evening that unfolds just might wind up changing both of their lives.

Man Up.cropped

I generally dislike romantic comedies.  But I love Simon Pegg, and Lake Bell’s magnificent In a World… (which Ms. Bell wrote, directed, starred in, and produced) made me a huge fan of hers forever.  So I was interested in this film which paired the two together.

Mr. Pegg and Ms. Bell are as terrific a pairing as I’d have imagined, and when Man Up works it works because of their great chemistry and comedic energy.  Watching these two bounce off of one another is a hoot.  They each have several very, very funny sequences in the film.

Simon Pegg plays more of a straight man to Ms. Bell’s wacky, neurotic Nancy, but the film still gives Mr. Pegg plenty of opportunities to cut loose and steal scenes.  Ms. Bell, meanwhile, is a riot.  She’s a great physical comedian and the film gives her a number of chances to shine.

I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that Ms. Bell, and American, played the entire movie in a British accent.  I guess British actors and actresses play entire movies in American accents all the time, and Ms. Bell certainly has a knack for putting on voices.  (Something showcased to great success in In a World…)  But I’m so used to Ms. Bell’s American voice that, in the opening scenes, I thought her character was putting on a fake British accent as a joke!  I kept waiting for her to drop the “fake” accent, but that never came.

Several familiar — and great — British actors pop up in supporting roles.  Rory Kinnear (familiar as Tanner from the recent James Bond films, and also unforgettable from his role as the British Prime Minister in the first episode of Black Mirror) gets to cut loose and got crazy.  Olivia Williams (Rushmore) and Ken Stott (Balin from The Hobbit trilogy) are also fun to see.

One of the reasons that I generally dislike romantic comedies is that I have little patience for the outlandish plot twists in which characters engage in lengthy misunderstandings/miscommunications (usually because one character is flat out lying to another for most of the movie) and otherwise behave in ways that most normal human beings would never do.  Man Up is very … [continued]

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Josh Reviews In a World…

Before I went to see In a World…, I knew who Lake Bell was.  I certainly recognized her face from here and there.  I had nothing against her as an actress, but mostly I knew her as someone involved in projects I had absolutely no interest in seeing (What Happens in Vegas, It’s Complicated, No Strings Attached, the TV show Surface, I could go on…).

Well, forgive me for under-estimating her, because I just saw the new film, In a World…, that Ms. Bell wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, and it is magnificent.  One of my favorite films of the year, no question.  Consider me now a huge fan of Lake Bell!!

In In a World…, Ms. Bell stars as Carol Solomon, a young woman trying to get work in the voice-over biz.  Carol is the daughter of voice-over legend Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), but she goes by a different last name in order to try to have her own identity, separate from her well-known (at least, well-known in the voice-over community) father.  Sam doesn’t believe there’s much room in the voice-over business for non-male voices, and so he has thrown his support behind, not his daughter, but a different hot-shot protege, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino).

The title of the film comes from the famous phrase that real-life voice-over artist, the late Don LaFontaine, used to begin many, many movie trailers.  The central dramatic moment in In a World… comes when the studio behind a blockbuster new epic decides that the time has come to bring back that famous phrase in the trailer for their new film.  Suddenly Carol, Sam, and Gustav are all competing for this one voice-over gig.

In a World… might sound very “inside,” in terms of its focus on the world of voice-over talents, something I suspect the vast majority of movie-enjoying Americans have never given a second thought.  And, indeed, for me a big part of the fun of In a World… was seeing the curtain thrown back on that world, that particular sub-culture of movie-making.  But as in all the best films, that extremely specific subject serves as the setting for a very universal story.  If you know who Don LaFontaine was and got a chuckle at the title of this movie, you’re going to love this film.  But even if you’ve never heard that name before and don’t care a whit about voice-over actors, you’re still going to love this movie.

Because at its heart, In a World… is really nothing more than a sweet, compelling character-study of Carol, a goofy, amiable, somewhat lost young woman looking for her place in the world and chasing after her father’s respect.  Ms. Bell … [continued]