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I loved Josh Gad’s Goonies cast reunion, and his Back to the Future reunion was just as much fun!

I always enjoy sampling Robert Myer Burnett’s Robservations show.  Recently he had a terrific in-depth interview with Melinda Snodgrass, a terrific writer who, among other credits, wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “the Measure of a Man”, which is one of the best TNG episodes of all time!

I also really loved Mr. Burnett’s recent lengthy interview with David A. Goodman.  Mr. Goodman is the current head of the Writer’s Guild of America, and as such he has been at the focal point of the WGA’s lengthy conflict with agents in Hollywood.  Mr. Goodman is also a terrific comedy writer.  I first fell in love with his work as the author of “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” the magnificent Star Trek-focused episode of Futurama.  Mr. Goodman has worked with Seth McFarlane on many projects, including Family Guy and The Orville.  This is a terrific in-depth interview:

Sad news this week: the passing of Jerry Stiller.  Jason Alexander wrote a wonderful piece about his Seinfeld father that is a lovely read.  Meanwhile, enjoy this classic Seinfeld blooper:

Click here for a fascinating, in-depth interview with Chronicle director Josh Trank, exploring what happened after his life exploded following the release of his dismal Fantastic Four film in 2016 (which he claims was taken away from him and re-edited) and his subsequent quitting or being fired from a Star Wars film.

This is a lovely look back at the career of Linda Cardellini.  I first became a fan of hers with her fantastic work as Lindsay Weir on Freaks and Geeks!

Lots of exciting Star Wars news has come out recently!  Hot on the heels of word that Ahsoka Tano will likely appear for the first time in live action on season two of The Mandalorian, played by Rosario Dawson, comes two additional cool announcements.  First, we heard that Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II (and whose voice was dubbed over as his cloned son Boba Fett in the currently-available versions of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), will play Boba Fest in The Mandalorian season two.  Even since Return of the Jedi, Star Wars fans have speculated that Boba might have found some way to escape from the Sarlacc.  It looks like that might finally be confirmed!  (Though Robot Chicken has already established the definitive version of Boba Fett’s final fate.)  Even more exciting to me as a huge fan of the Star Wars animated shows Clone Wars and Rebels comes news that Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff [continued]

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In yet the latest feat of I-can’t-believe-they-did-it, Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel have stuck the landing.  Avengers: Endgame is a deeply satisfying, profoundly moving, and incredibly fun culmination to a decade-plus of movie-making.  They have woven together threads and characters from across an astonishing twenty-one previous interconnected movies to create something which is oh-so-rare in entertainment: an ending.  Shall we dig in?  (My next several paragraphs will be free of any major spoilers, and I’ll indicate clearly when I start entering major spoiler territory.  But do yourself a favor: go see the film and then meet me back here, OK?)

I have always been impressed by the continuity between the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It’s at the core of why I love these films so much; why, in place of the usual franchise fatigue that sets in after multiple sequels, I only love these Marvel films more with each additional film.  Not only am I bowled over by the boldness of this enterprise, not only am I tickled by the incredible way in which these films emulate the interconnected feel of the Marvel comics I grew up reading (in which you’d often see, say, the FF’s Baxter Building HQ — or its later replacement, “Four Freedoms Plaza,” which was actually their HQ in the eighties when I fell in love with comics in general and Marvel in specific — in the background of a panel in a Spider-Man comic in which Spidey was web-swinging around NYC), but, as I have written about before, the cumulative power of these narratives build and build with each new film.  Because we have been following these characters across so many films across so many years, we invest more deeply in them and their struggles.  And so when we see heroes suffer and fall (as we did in Avengers: Infinity War and as we do again in this film), the impact of those moments is magnified immensely.

But, wow, this film took that continuity even more seriously than I’d ever dared to hope or expect!  Endgame is a love letter to the entire MCU, and the film is remarkable in the way it establishes that EVERY previous film in the MCU is important.  (Endgame is like The Wire: “All the pieces matter.”)  Holy cow, this film retroactively makes Thor: The Dark World — one of the MCU’s lesser entries (though I’ve always thought it’s a more enjoyable film than its reputation would suggest) — retroactively very important to the saga!  (I’ve had many delightful conversations recently with new Marvel fans, brought in by Black Panther or Captain Marvel, who wanted advice on what Marvel films they should watch to … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Green Book

Set in 1962, the film Green Book tells the story of the eight weeks that African-American jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Italian-American Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) spent on the road together.  The out-of-work Tony was hired as Don Shirley’s driver, as Shirley’s jazz trio embarked on a tour of the Deep South.  Tony’s assignment, from Don’s record label, was to make sure that Don made it to each of his pre-booked dates, and to take care of any trouble that might arise along the way.  The men at first seem like oil and water, but as their weeks on the road progress, they eventually strike up an unlikely friendship.

The film is based on a true story, and the screenplay was written by Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga, along with Peter Farrelly and Brian Hayes Currie.  The film’s title refers to the Negro Motorist Green Book, a handbook used by African-American travelers in that era

Green Book is a warm fable the likes of which is a little out of style these days, and I suppose one could find fault with the film for the way it follows very familiar beats.  You know from minute one that the very different Tony and Don will overcome their initial mutual dislike, and very different ethnic and class backgrounds, to become friends by the time the end-credits role.  Trust me, I’m not spoiling anything by revealing that here in the opening paragraphs of my review.

But while it’s story-beats might feel a little familiar, I found Green Book to be a delight, primarily because of the exceptional work of the two lead actors.

I have been a fan of Mahershala Ali’s since his days as the best part of The 4400 (a sci-fi show that was never quite as good as I’d hoped it would be).  Mr. Ali has been doing consistently great work for years, but he’s really shot into the spotlight recently with his amazing work in Moonlight and a fun recurring role on the first season of Netflix’s Luke Cage.  He’s terrific here as Don Shirley.  What I love about this film, and Mr. Ali’s performance, is that they have avoided the stereotype of the perfect, angelic African-American character.  Don Shirley is not Hoke (from Driving Miss Daisy).  No, Don Shirley is… well, an uptight prick.  He’s an extraordinarily talented, genius-level musician, but he’s also stuck-up, curt, isolated and lonely.  This is not an easy-to-like character.  Mr. Ali’s work (and the strong script), however, allow us to understand him and empathize with him as we gradually learn more about who Don Shirley is and why he is that way.  We see his daily struggles against vicious prejudice and … [continued]

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“Bravo.” Josh Bids Farewell to Mad Men!

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Mad Men season one was, I am pretty sure, the first TV show set I ever owned on blu-ray.  It was a gift, given to me soon after I bought my first blu-ray player.  At the time, I’d heard about but had never seen this new cable show, and also I wasn’t sure if I ever intended to own any TV shows on blu-ray (as opposed to the at-the-time far cheaper sets available on DVD).  Mad Men season one made me a fan of both the show and the format.  (Lord did that gorgeously filmed first season show off how beautiful a blu-ray image could look!)  It’s hard to believe that was almost a decade ago.

I was immediately captivated by Mad Men, and I was impressed by how complete a piece of work that first thirteen-episode season was.  In 2007, I feel like the idea of a short season of a cable show (as opposed to the usual 20-24 episode run of a network season) was still a fairly new idea (though of course the Brits had been doing short “series” of their shows for quite a while), and Mad Men dazzled me in how effortlessly it used that compact length to tell a complex story with a definitive beginning, middle, and end.  Had there been no more Mad Men after that first season, I would have been completely satisfied.

But, of course, luckily for us, we got a lot more.  I watched seasons two and three the same way I had watched season one — all at once when those seasons were released on blu-ray.  Season four was when I found I couldn’t wait any longer and started watching the show as it aired on AMC.  I’m not sure if it’s connected, but season four is also when I truly fell in love with the show.  I had always enjoyed it, and intellectually recognized the greatness of the show.  But I also found it difficult to watch in those early years.  With so many unpleasant and unhappy characters, I found Mad Men to be a tough show in which to invest.  There were few characters I found I could really root for, and whenever I found such a character it was painful to watch unpleasant things happen to him/her, or to watch said character brutally sabotage him/her-self in the way that so many Mad Men characters so often did.  So it took a little while for the show, and its characters, to really grow on me.  But by season four I was well and truly hooked.  I found I could love watching even the most scoundrel-like character on the show.  I also found myself discovering and enjoying … [continued]

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Marvel Studios is on a winning streak the likes of which I have rarely seen.  (The only recent comparison I can draw is Pixar’s incredible run from Ratatouille in 2007 through Toy Story 3 in 2010.)  Right before seeing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of my friends sent me a ranking of all of Marvel’s movies.  In response I created my own ranking (which I might publish on this site one of these days).  The bottom two films on my list were Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk.  What’s astonishing is that each of the rest of the eight Marvel films on the list were all pretty great films that I loved a lot — and even those bottom two films were pretty enjoyable!  There really isn’t a true failure in the mix!  Over the past eight years, since 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel has done what had not only never been done before, but really never even conceived of before: they’ve created a vast cinematic universe of interlocking films, with characters and story-lines flowing from film to film in an epic continuing saga.  What’s even more incredible is that, at this point, they make the whole thing look so damn easy!  It’s astounding.  I know Marvel is going to stumble one of these days, but for now I am sitting back and loving every minute of this ride.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is an amazing film.  I loved it.  Watching this film I had a huge grin on my face for the entire run time.  There are so many reasons this film could have been bad.  Sequels are hard and usually disappoint.  In addition to all of the main Avengers characters, this film introduced a number of new characters and we’ve all seen superhero films (particularly sequels — I’m looking at you, Spider-Man 3) collapse under the weight of too many characters.  Whereas The Avengers was the culmination of the first run of Marvel films, Age of Ultron needs to set up the next several years of story-lines, and that could easily have made the film feel unwieldy and unsatisfying (the fate that befell Iron Man 2).

But thanks to the incredible skill and talent of writer-director Joss Whedon and his astounding team of collaborators (overseen by Marvel Studios mastermind Kevin Feige, the guiding force behind all of these Marvel movies), Age of Ultron soars.  It’s a long-movie but it never drags, it is hugely enjoyable from start to finish.  It’s got enormous, staggeringly gigantic action sequences that astound, but it’s also deeply routed in character with some wonderful moments for every one of the film’s sprawling cast.  It’s serious and tense but it also … [continued]

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“Not Great, Bob!” Josh Reviews Mad Men Season 6

Yes, I know the sixth season of Mad Men wrapped up a few months ago already, but it’s taken me a little while to catch up with this, the penultimate season of the show.  What a fantastic season of television.

I have written before that I enjoyed Mad Men from the beginning, and always respected the hell out of it as a tremendously well-crafted show, but it wasn’t until around the fourth season when I really fell in love with the show.  The characters were all a little too unlikable, a little too off-putting for me at first.  But somewhere along the way I found myself growing quite attached to all of the flawed, selfish, insensitive bastards at Sterling Cooper (and then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and then SCDPCGC…).  And now I can’t get enough of watching these oh-so-human characters, and I am saddened that we only have one more season to spend with them.  (Matthew Weiner has stated repeatedly in interviews that season seven will be the show’s last.)

Season six was a hell of a season. First and foremost, the stories this year fulfilled the promise of the closing shot of season five, in which it looked like Don Draper was up to his old tricks again.  Indeed he was, spending much of this season involved in a new affair — with his downstairs neighbor, no less!  Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks’ Lindsay Weir, all grown up!!) was a tremendous addition to the Mad Men ensemble as Sylvia Rosen, Don’s new mistress.  Finally here was a woman who could say no to Don Draper.  Seeing Don get dumped (in “Man With a Plan”) was a first for the series, a great moment in a season filled with great moments.

The standout event of the season was, of course, the shocking merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce with their competitors Cutler Gleason and Chaough in the middle of the season (in the final moments of “For Immediate Release”).  Suddenly everything I thought the season was going to be about, and where I thought the stories were headed, changed completely.  I adored that plot-twist, and it gave a terrific narrative thrust to the back half of the season as we got to watch the chaos that seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time merger unleashed.

There were some great new characters this year.  I already mentioned Linda Cardellini’s terrific work as Sylvia Rosen, and I also loved seeing the always-great Brian Markinson in a terrific role as her brilliant but cuckolded surgeon husband, Dr. Arnold Rosen.  Mr. Markinson’s scenes with Jon Hamm’s Don Draper really crackled.  I was also terrifically impressed by Harry Hamlin’s great work as Jim Cutler, the Roger Sterling of Cutler, Gleason … [continued]