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Josh Reviews I Am the Night

In between making Wonder Woman and the upcoming sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins and Chris Pine continued their collaboration with the six-episode TNT mini-series, I Am the Night.  The series was created by Sam Sheridan, who wrote five of the six episodes.  Ms. Jenkins directed the first two episodes, while Victoria Mahoney directed episodes 3-4 and Carl Franklin directed episodes 5-6.  Set in the 1960s, the series follows the journey of young woman Pat Atman (India Eisley) to discover the truth about her family.  Pat, who was raised by a single African-American woman, appears to be white, but has grown up believing herself to be bi-racial.  However, when she finds a birth certificate with another name — Fauna Hodel — in her mother’s belongings, she realizes that she was adopted.  As she starts looking for her birth mother and family, she is swept up into a dangerous world of crime and privilege in Los Angeles.  Pat/Fauna’s unexpected ally in her search for the truth is a washed-up, drug-addicted reporter, Jay Singletary (Chris Pine).  Jay’s life was destroyed when he wrote a series of articles attempting to expose some of the secrets that Pat/Fauna’s birth family have been hiding.  Jay sees in her a chance to perhaps finally be able to prove the truth.

I Am the Night is an interesting bird.  It’s a competently made series.  The mystery is twisty and engaging.  The acting is top-notch.  (Chris Pine is particularly great.)  The direction is compelling and the production design is terrific; the series looks great, beautifully bringing to life a variety of different locations of the era.

The series’ main weakness is that its mix of true and fictionalized events felt somewhat uneven to me.  After watching the first episode, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly this series was about (though that did eventually become clearer), and I found myself wondering whether this was supposed to be a true crime series or a fictionalized story.  There wasn’t any text at the beginning saying that this series was based on actual events or anything like that… but then at the end of the episode (and every subsequent episode) we saw several of what looked like photos of the characters who were played by actors on the show.  The on-screen credits say that the series was “inspired by the life of Fauna Hodel.”  What exactly does that mean?  After watching the series I did some reading about it and was able to shed some light on this.  The series is based on Fauna Hodel’s memoir One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.  Fauna really existed, and much of the story of her quest to uncover the truth about … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is a delight, a thrilling spectacle whose heart is 100% in the right place, focusing on a hero who is fierce and brave, a skilled warrior, who nevertheless prizes loyalty and love above all else.  It’s hard to believe it’s taken so long for a Wonder Woman movie to get made (or for any female super-hero, for that matter, to have an opportunity to headline their own big-budget film) (and no, I’m not forgetting about the dismal Elektra or Catwoman, try though I might).  It’s fantastic that this movie exists, and even more exciting that it’s so great, washing away the stink of Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad.  Yes, the movie has flaws (most notably the lame CGI punch-fest of an ending), but what works far outshines any chinks in the armor.

DC and Warner Brothers, clearly jealous of the success that Marvel Studios has had with their interconnected cinematic universe, tried to jump-start a DC universe with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad.  Rather than having the patience to introduce their characters one-by-one in their own films, before then building to a crossover film (like Marvel’s The Avengers), Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad threw the audience into an already-existing universe in media res.  Had the films been good, that approach might have been an exciting way to differentiate the DC films from the Marvel ones.  It might have been cool to jump into a DC universe that was already well-underway, with lots of backstory and characters for us to discover.  But sadly, both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad stunk, with nonsensical plots and nonexistent characters.  They were also painful in their desperate desire to be “adult.”  It’s interesting to imagine a DC cinematic universe in which Man of Steel had been followed up, not with those two turkeys, but with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.  The one-two-punch of those films would have left me chomping at the bit to see where the DC universe would go from there.

Wonder Woman has a brief framing sequence that acknowledges the wider DC movie universe, but thankfully the rest of the film is a completely stand-alone story that stands on its own two feet as opposed to being an advertisement for future adventures.  (Part of me wishes even that short framing sequence wasn’t in the film, though I can understand why DC/Warner Brothers wanted it there.)

I applaud whoever had the courage to make this film a period piece, rather than setting it in the modern day.  And setting the film in WWI, rather than WWII, is even better.  This gives the film a flavor and texture that differentiates it from so many … [continued]