\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Sherlock Season Four!

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ wonderful series Sherlock returned in 2017 for a three-episode series four.   I have adored this series, a modern-day reinterpretation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, since the beginning.  I admire its intelligence and sophistication and the way the series has allowed us to fall in love with these wonderfully bizarre characters.

Sherlock.season4.the_final_problem.cropped

As always, three episodes feels like far too little after such a long wait for new installments.  Because of such a long wait between series (or seasons, in American parlance), and because we get so few new episodes each time, I feel like the producers put an impossible amount of pressure on themselves to make each of the rare new episodes perfect.

Well, none of the new episodes in series four are perfect, and there is a plot twist at the end of the first episode that I didn’t care for at all, and that colored this whole new series in an unfavorable way for me.  But these three new episodes remain wonderfully entertaining, impressively-crafted pieces of television entertainment.  The third episode is probably the most ambitious episode the series has ever done, with an extraordinary scope and amazing production design.

This is a darker season of the show than we’ve seen before. Generally, this show has been able to be fun while also maintaining true dramatic stakes for all the characters.  The plot twist at the end of episode one, though, throws all that out the window.  While I understand the show-runners’ desire to shake up the status quo and not just keep doing the same things, and while I was ultimately satisfied with how the story begun in that terrible moment resolves itself by the end of episode three, I felt that event unbalanced this season to a degree that bothered me.  It was hard to find much joy in Sherlock after that moment.  The writers clearly understood that and went there anyways.  For me, personally, I wish they’d have made a different choice.

OK, let’s take a deeper dive into these three episodes! Beware SPOILERS ahead.

The Six Thatchers We get several engaging mysteries in this episode.  First is the mystery of the college student found dead in a car in his parents’ driveway, despite his being abroad at the time and in fact having Skyped with his father at the moment he was apparently killed.  Then there is the titular mystery of a series of apparently unconnected crimes linked only by the commonality that a statue of Margaret Thatcher was destroyed in each instance.  Then there is the more important-to-the-series exploration of the backstory of John Watson’s wife Mary’s mysterious past, and the apparent resurrection of her former soldier/assassin partner … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

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:

Sherlock.AbominableBride.02.cropped

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!!)

X-Files.season10.03.WereMonster.sm

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]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Marvel Triumphs Again with Captain America: Civil War!

Marvel Studios is on a winning streak the likes of which I am hard-pressed to recall (the last decade of Pixar movies is the only thing I can think of that comes close) and Captain America: Civil War is even better than I had dared hope, an extraordinarily HUGE movie with astounding action and powerful emotional beats that pay off story-lines that have been building through the twelve (count ’em, TWELVE) previous Marvel Studios movies ever since 2008’s Iron Man started this whole crazy adventure.  I am a huge fan of the under-appreciated Avengers: Age of Ultron (click here for my review), but a strong case can be made that Civil War is what The Avengers 2 should gave been, a film that embraces the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, putting the characters through a wrenching emotional trial and eventually shattering the team that had come together in 2012’s The Avengers.

Captain-America.Civil-War.cropped

Following the events of Age of Ultron, Cap has been training and leading a team of Avengers consisting of himself, the Falcon, the Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision.  As Captain America: Civil War opens, we find that Avengers team hot on the trail of Crossbones (the mangled ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Brock Rumlow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  As the try to stop Crossbones from obtaining a deadly biological weapon, a fight breaks out in the crowded streets of Nigeria.  Though the Avengers successfully stop Crossbones and his mercenaries, a tragic accident leaves a dozen civilians dead.  This proves to be the last straw for a world that has suffered from a series of increasingly-escalating super-hero/super-villain battles (as seen in the previous twelve Marvel movies).  Over a hundred nations band together to create the Sokovia Accords (named after the nation destroyed by Ultron in the climactic fight of Age of Ultron), declaring that the Avengers will no longer be an autonomous entity but now one governed by a UN-appointed supervising panel.  Tony Stark, desperate to find some way to prevent future civilian deaths and ensure that the Avengers remain a force for good across the world, supports the accords.  Captain America, worried that the international politics at play might prevent him and other super-heroes from acting whenever they feel it is necessary in order to save lives, opposes them.  This philosophical debate becomes more urgent when Cap’s former partner and best friend Bucky Barnes, now the brainwashed hit-man code-named the Winter Soldier (as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) resurfaces and is apparently responsible for the murder of hundreds at the signing of the Sokovia Accords.  Tony begs Cap to let the world’s governments handle the subsequent manhunt but Cap refuses to … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Fargo (The Series)

When I first read that Fargo, the wonderful Coen Brothers movie, was being adapted into a TV series, I was not remotely interested.  Can you blame me?  When is the last time a good movie was successfully turned into a TV show that was remotely worth one’s time?  But then a funny thing happened.  This show I had completely dismissed started getting positive review.  Very positive reviews.  As 2014 drew to a close, I started seeing FX’s Fargo TV show listed on Best TV of the Year lists.  Again and again.  Had I made a mistake in writing off this show?  And so, at the very end of 2014, right before putting together my own Best TV of 2014 list, I watched the whole first season of Fargo.

Fargo.cropped

I was not at first bowled over by the pilot episode.  It was extremely well-made, gorgeously shot, and certainly filled with a wonderful ensemble of actors.  But I was surprised that this was the same show about which I had read such effusive praise.  I had two main problems with the pilot.

Number one, I wasn’t pleased by the way they seemed to take some of the iconic Fargo moments and characters and remove much of what, to me, had made them special.  A famous shot in Fargo is when a sleeping Marge (Frances McDormand) is awoken early in the morning.  We see Marge’s husband’s arm draped over her.  One of my favorite aspects of the film Fargo is the beautiful relationship between Marge and her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch), which is a reverse of the standard movie-cop archetypes.  It’s the woman who is the tough, smart cop, and the man who is in the stay-at-home, supportive role.  But in the show, when we see that shot, it seems that we’re back to the usual archetype with it being the woman’s arm draped over a man: the police chief Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle).  How boring to take that great Fargo flip and to flip in back to the original cliche!  Things got worse for me when we actually got to the Marge (Frances McDormand) character — in the TV show, the character is called Molly (and is played by Allison Tolman).  In the film, we first meet Marge when she is investigating an abandoned car and a dead body that have been found by the side of the road.  Marge is sharp and gets right to the important details.  She is way ahead of all the other cops.  In the show, we meet Molly in a similar way, but here, she makes some mistakes in her deductions and has to be corrected by the man, chief Thurman.  I was surprised … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

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:

Sherlock.SignOfThree.cropped

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.)

GameOfThrones.LionAndTheRose.cropped

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]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

There and Back Again: Josh Reviews The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies!

Endings are a difficult thing.  Sticking the landing of a long-form story is perilously challenging, and I’m sure we can all think of plenty of examples of failed endings, whether we’re talking about TV shows (Seinfeld and Lost both come to mind) or to movie trilogies (as the years pass, I become more and more disappointed by The Dark Knight Rises).

I am very pleased to report, then, that Peter Jackson’s third and final Hobbit film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, is an excellent conclusion to his Hobbit trilogy.  This film isn’t going to make anyone who disliked the first two Hobbit films change their mind, but if you did enjoy those films I suspect you will love this one.  I feel pretty confident in stating that it is the strongest of the three Hobbit theatrical editions.  (Like Mr. Jackson’s LOTR films, the first two Hobbit films were both improved by their Extended Editions, so a complete comparison of all three films isn’t really possible until next year when we get to see the extended version of The Battle of the Five Armies.  But in terms of the theatrical experience of the three Hobbit films, I think this one wins by a fairly wide margin.)

One of the reasons why?  This is the shortest of the three Hobbit theatrical editions.  (It’s also, unless I am mistaken, the shortest of the theatrical editions of all six of Mr. Jackson’s Middle Earth films.)  This helps a lot, as the biggest problem of the first two Hobbit films was a sense of bloat.  I don’t condemn those first two films for that the way so many reviewers have, but I certainly think those films were far longer than they needed to be, especially in their theatrical form.

But this film moves, boy.  It’s got the best pacing of all three Hobbit films.  For all that I enjoyed those two films, they both felt LONG.  But this film roars by.

We begin with a great James Bond-like pre-credits action sequence in which ol’ Smaug is dealt with.  I’d wondered how much of a factor Smaug would wind up being in this film.  The answer is not much, as he’s dispatched with fairly quickly.  It works, but I will admit to having expected a but more.  I felt like this sequence was missing a little something.  Maybe more of Smaug’s dialogue?  Smaug was surprisingly silent for the first several minutes of this sequence.  I’d expected him to be gloating or boasting as he attacked Lake Town.  It’s remarkable how Smaug comes to life once he finally speaks.  Credit to Benedict Cumberbatch for how much his voice clearly was a critical … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Sherlock Season 3!

I fell in love, last year, with the BBC’s modern-day reinvention of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, when I watched the first two seasons on DVD.  Starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, the show is a dynamic, clever spin on the Holmes mythos.  (Click here for my review of season 1, and here for my review of season 2.)  It’s been a long wait for season 3 (even longer for everyone who watched season 2 when it originally aired), and I was thrilled to have this great show back.  (Albeit briefly!  The show’s unique structure is that each season consists of only three hour-and-a-half long episodes.  I love that the show-runners focus on just telling three great stories each season rather than stretching things out.  Still, it’s hard not to wish for more!!)

Here are my thoughts on Sherlock season three:

“The Empty Hearse” — The first episode has the unenviable task, first and foremost, of resolving last season’s cliffhanger satisfactorily.  At the end of “The Reichenback Fall” we saw Sherlock apparently fall to his death.  In the two years since that show aired, fans have speculated endlessly as to how Sherlock could have possibly survived.  I suspect that the show’s ever-growing popularity combined with the unexpectedly long hiatus between seasons (caused primarily by the very busy schedules of stars Cumberbatch and Freeman) caused the fan-focus on that cliffhanger to have grown far more intense than the show-runners intended.  After so long, it’s hard to imagine their spinning a suitably satisfactory resolution without it feeling like a cheat, and, indeed, I don’t think they did.  I am of a mixed mind concerning the approach they took, that of showing us various possible answers without actually revealing which was the real one.  On the one hand, I think it’s a clever way to play with the audience’s expectations, and to deflect too much scrutiny being placed on the one “real” answer to the cliffhanger riddle.  On the other hand, it still feels like something of a cop-out to me.  I will say that Mr. Cumberbatch’s delivery of the line “You know my methods, John” (in response to Watson’s pushing Sherlock for the true answer as to how he survived) is magnificent and goes a long way towards justifying this approach to resolving the cliffhanger.

I also appreciated the episode’s focus, not so much on the mechanics of Sherlock’s survival, but on the emotional impact his feigning death would have had on his friends and allies, particularly Watson.  I was not expecting the show to emulate our real-time two-year wait for more episodes by jumping ahead two years following Sherlock’s apparent death, but I loved that approach and felt it led … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The years during which we saw the release of Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings remains one of the best cinematic experiences of my lifetime, and I don’t expect that to be equaled any-time soon.  Those three films are magnificent, but my memories of the years in which that trilogy was released encompasses not just the films themselves, but all of the excitement and anticipation and speculation, from the first-time I saw that initial teaser trailer (via a very slow download on my dial-up modem) that teased the three-film adaptation (that slow shot at the end, showing the entire fellowship, and gradually revealing the three-year release schedule for the three films, is so fantastic!!), through the release of each film and its subsequent extended edition, and of course all all of the same excitement in the years between the films, awaiting the next installment.

Peter Jackson’s first film in his three-part adaptation of The Hobbit, titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was criticized by many but I think it’s a very strong, under-appreciated film.  I have seen the film several times, in the past year, and I stand by my original review.  The second installment, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is very much of a piece with that first film.  The Desolation of Smaug improves on its predecessor in that, while one could accuse An Unexpected Journey of being occasionally slow or unwieldy as it was getting the story going, The Desolation of Smaug is a much faster-paced film, with far more emphasis on adventure and spectacle.

While I loved The Desolation of Smaug, there is no question that both of these Hobbit films are a far cry from the incredible quality of Peter Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy.  What made the LOTR films great cinema, rather than just being great fantasy/adventure films or being great adaptations, was the powerful emotional punch of the stories they told.  I am not ashamed to share that all three of those LOTR movies contained moments that brought me to tears when I first saw them in theatres.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, it was Sam’s declaration, in the elvish boat at the end, that he’d made a promise not to abandon Frodo.  In The Two Towers, it was the haunting glimpse into Arwen’s lonely fate that awaited her even if everything that she hoped for came to pass.  In The Return of the King, it was pretty much every moment that came after Aragorn’s statement, to the four kneeling Hobbits, that: “my friends… you bow to no one.”  (I’ve seen The Return of the King many times since that first viewing, and while … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The World’s End

I feel like ever since the release of 2007’s Hot Fuzz, there have been rumors of a third cinematic collaboration between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, a third and final installment in their jokingly-named “Cornetto Trilogy.”  (Both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz featured gags about that British ice cream treat, leading Mr. Wright to humorously coin that title for their collaborations.)  I was a little luke-warm on Hot Fuzz (click here for my review), but I love Shaun of the dead, and I think that Spaced (the British TV show the three men first collaborated on) is one of the greatest things ever.  (I watched the series when it was released on DVD in the States several years ago, and I loved it immediately — click here for my review of the series.)

And so I was excited by the news of a new movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.  And I am pleased to report that The World’s End does not disappoint!

Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who decides to reunite his old friends from the sleepy British town where he grew up.  His goal is to retrace the path of an epic pub-crawl that they began but never finished years ago.  The once-close lads have grown distant over the years, but somehow Gary corrals his former mates into the scheme.  This time they will make it to the final pub: The World’s End.  However, only a few pubs into their journey, they begin to notice something different about the town they once knew.  Is it just that they have grown older, and you truly can’t go home again?  Or are the people in the town somehow not exactly what they seem…?

The World’s End is a very funny film, with wonderful characters and some big laugh moments.  Even more pleasingle, the film feels very much of a piece with Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.  All three of these films are in some respect a parody of a specific genre of movie (first the zombie movie then the buddy cop movie, now the end-of-the-world sci-fi movie), but all three films also succeed at becoming an exciting version of the film they are having fun with.  Shaun of the Dead becomes a pretty awesome zombie film; Hot Fuzz becomes a pretty awesome buddy-cop movie, and finally The World’s End becomes a great end-of-the-world sci-Fi movie!

This is one of the most interesting trilogies I can think of, in that it is thematic rather than plot-driven. The three films are each stand-alone stories, with different characters and situations, but there is a similarity in tone … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Click here to read part one of my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2012, in which I listed numbers 15-11.  Now, onward!

10. Looper In this smart, original sci-fi flick written and directed by Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe.  Joe is a Looper, someone paid to kill guys the mob from thirty-years in the future send back in time to get whacked, long before the law might be looking for their bodies or any evidence of the crime.  One day, the guy sent back in time for Joe to kill turns out to be Joe himself, now played by Bruce Willis.  Old Joe gets away from Young Joe, and things spiral out of control from there.  Bruce Willis hasn’t been this much fun to watch in an action movie in years, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as well.  I loved watching these two play off of one another.  Emily Blunt (making her second appearance on my Best of 2012 list, as she also starred in The Five-Year Engagement) and Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels are all fun in supporting roles.  This is a twisty sci-fi tale that is mind-bending without ever losing sight of the character drama at the heart of the story. (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Though not the masterpiece that the three original Lord of the Rings films were, this first of Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is still a ferociously entertaining fantasy adventure.  At nearly three hours in length, this film is stuffed to the gills with extraordinary sights and thrills, with characters and with circumstance.  Martin Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo Baggins (inheriting the role from Ian Holm who played Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and who actually reprises his role as “Old Bilbo” in one of this film’s many prologues), a great every-man anchor to the story.  He’s great, and I also loved seeing lots more of Ian McKellan, who reprises his role as Gandalf and is magnificent as ever as the gruff, temperamental wizard.  The film is filled with many great new characters (all of the Dwarves) as well as the welcome return of many familiar faces from the original trilogy (Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and of course Andy Serkis as Gollum).  The “riddles in the dark” scene with Gollum alone makes this film worth seeing, but there are so many other wonderful moments, from the long opening scene in Bag End with all of the dwarves (highlighted by Richard Armitage as Thorin and the other Dwarves singing the somber “Misty Mountains” … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

“Far over the Misty Mountains cold…” Josh Reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

During the buildup towards the release of the first film in Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of The Hobbit, I found myself having a hard time imagining Mr. Jackson and co. being able to top the magnificent achievement that was his Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I’m sure there were times when Mr. Jackson himself had the same thought, which is why when work on the adaptation began in earnest, he was not originally slated to direct. The films (at the time the plan was for two films) were due to be helmed by Guillermo del Toro, but when the project hit the brakes because of New Line’s bankruptcy, Mr. del Toro left the project and Peter Jackson stepped in.  I’m pleased that’s how things worked out.  While I would have loved to have seen del Toro’s version of The Hobbit, that would have been a very different film indeed, and as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey began, I was delighted to find myself back in the world of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth.

Is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as good as any of the Lord of the Rings films?  At the moment my feeling is that it is not, but I have seen all three Lord of the Rings films so many times, and my love for them has only grown over the years.  Having only had one senses-pounding viewing of The Hobbit under my belt, the film hasn’t quite sunk in for me yet, and it’s definitely conceivable that the film will rise in my estimation once I have seen it a few more times.  But for now, while I would rank this film slightly lower than the Lord of the Rings films, I still found it to be an absolutely magnificent achievement, and a ferociously entertaining time in the theatre.  I’ve avoided reading too many reviews of the film before seeing it, but I’ve seen a lot of headlines that seem to describe the film as being just OK.  I am here to tell you not to believe that hogwash.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a spectacular fantasy adventure, huge in scope but also filled with rich character work and deep emotion.

The film feels fully of a piece with Mr. Jackson’s original trilogy.  Many characters recur, of course (Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman, Gollum, and others), and Mr. Jackson’s team have faithfully recreated many of the iconic locations that we first saw in The Lord of the Rings: Bag End, Rivendell, etc.  There are a ton of little nods and winks to the events of the original trilogy (when I write “original trilogy,” I feel like I should be talking about Star Wars!): Gandalf once … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews the BBC’s Sherlock Season One

Back in 2010, I started hearing about the BBC’s new Sherlock series.  The word was overwhelmingly positive — people seemed to love this new reinvention of the Sherlock Holmes character and mythos, set in modern-day London.  I was interested, but frankly having just recently seen and thoroughly enjoyed Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Junior’s own recent reinvention of Sherlock holmes, in the film Sherlock Holmes (click here for my review), I wasn’t sure I was really all that interested in yet another version of the characters.

Well, I’m kicking myself for resisting for as long as I did, because the BBC’s Sherlock is absolutely magnificent.  If you haven’t yet seen it, I strongly encourage you to seek it out!

Sherlock Season One, like most British TV series, is short.  It consists of three hour-and-a-half-long episodes, each basically a movie in and of itself.  Each episode adapts a different Sherlock Holmes short story.  Sherlock is set in modern-day London, and I found myself continually delighted by the way the writers adapted the Holmes stories to modern-day times, while still preserving the heart of the original stories (as well as their delightful complexities).  It’s great fun to see the way cell-phones, the internet, GPS tracking, and modern-day science and forensics evidence are seamlessly incorporated into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories.  It all works because the makers of this show are focused on preserving the core aspects of the original stories, rather than just jettisoning everything other than the character names.  Instead, it’s as if the writers have asked themselves, how could Conan Doyle have written this story had he been alive today?  Their answers are fiendishly clever.

The two leads are both excellent.  Benedict Cumberbatch has created, in just three episodes, an absolutely iconic portrayal of the great detective.  His Sherlock is an incredibly cold creature, someone who prides himself on not feeling normal emotions and, instead, seeking complete intellectual detachment from his cases.  The show is not afraid to dare the audience to dislike its main character!  But Mr. Cumberbatch always shows us the human heart beating beneath Sherlock’s intelligence and his often cruel demeanor.  Meanwhile, Martin Freeman (Tim from the original British The Office, as well as Arthur Dent from the film adaptation of The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy) adds another classic everyman character to his resume with his portrayal of John Watson.  When we first meet him, in the opening scenes of the series, Watson has just returned from military service in Afghanistan (just as the character had in the original stories — a canny bit of serendipity), and he is emotionally lost.  Of course, he eventually crosses paths with Sherlock, and a great partnership … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

From the DVD Shelf: Hot Fuzz (2007)

I consider Shaun of the Dead to be a near-flawless work of comedic genius.  I’m not a fan of Zombie movies, but that didn’t stop me from falling head-over-heels in love with the bizarre, comedic creation of Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright.  Shaun of the Dead lead me to seek out Pegg & Wright’s first collaboration: the 14-episode British TV series Spaced.  (Read my review here.)  Somehow, though, I had completely missed Pegg & Wright’s 2007 release: the feature film Hot Fuzz.  Oh, I knew of Hot Fuzz, and I had wanted to see it for some time.  I just hadn’t gotten around to it until now.

In Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg plays the tough, no-nonsense London cop Nicholas Angel.  He takes his job extraordinarily seriously, and he’s extraordinarily good at what he does.  So good, in fact, that the rest of the London police department hates him, and so they arrange to have him transferred out of London and to the sleepy little British town of Sanford.  Poor Angel doesn’t know quite what to do with himself in his bucolic, crime-free new home.

As was the case in Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, Pegg’s character is paired up with Nick Frost.  Mr. Frost plays Danny Butterman, the bumbling but well-meaning police officer with whom Angel is partnered in Sanford.  But while Pegg & Frost’s characters were, in their two prior collaborations, presented as life-long best-mates, here in Hot Fuzz the two take an immediate dislike to one another.  Well, Angel takes an immediate dislike to Butterman.  Butterman, though, idolizes Angel, who he looks up to as a “big city” tough-guy cop like he knows from the movies.  It’s a great pleasure to watch Pegg and Frost paired up yet again.  The two have a terrific chemistry, and they just dominate any scenes that they’re in together.  It’s fun to see them play characters who have, at first, a more antagonistic relationship towards one another.

Hot Fuzz is a very funny film.  Pegg and Frost are extraordinary natural comedians, and the film is filled with a number of other top-notch comedic actors.  There’s a great bit of business early on in the film in which we meet Angel’s supervisors in the London police department, played by Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, and Steve Coogan.  Jim Broadbent is a lot of fun as the jolly inspector Frank Butterman, Danny’s father and the head of the police department in Sanford.  But my favorite performance belongs to former James Bond Timothy Dalton, who is absolutely hilarious as the dashingly good-looking, possibly sinister Sanford super-market owner.  What perfect casting, and Dalton absolutely knocks the role right out … [continued]