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I have been reviewing My Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!  Click here for part one, and here for part two.  And now, onward to part three:

15. The Tick: “Party Crashers” (season one, episode four, released on 8/25/17) — Just as Arthur is getting drawn deeper in the world of super-heroes (embodied by the Tick and the vigilante Overkill) and super-villains (Miss Lint and the Terror), he has to attend his step-father’s birthday party in the suburbs.  Of course, both the Tick and Miss Lint crash the party, and the result is the comedic highlight of this very funny first batch of episodes.  Peter Serafinowicz is amazing as the Tick, and he’s particularly funny when placed into the very non-superhero-like setting of a birthday party in the suburbs.  This was also the episode in which I fell in love with the beleaguered former super-villain hench-woman Miss Lint.  (The scenes with her ex-husband Derek, with whom she is apparently still sharing an apartment, were so funny.)  Miss Lint is the best new character in this version of The Tick.  I was also so happy to see François Chau (Pierre Chang from Lost!) as Arthur’s stepfather Walter.  I have loved The Tick since its humble beginnings as an independently published black-and-white comic book in the eighties, through all three (!) of its TV incarnations.  This Netflix version might be the best one yet — if your’e not watching it (and most of you aren’t), you should remedy that immediately.  (Click here for my full review of The Tick: season one, part one.)

14. The Good Place: “Dance Dance Resolution” (season two, episode two, aired on 9/28/17) — The season finale of The Good Place’s first season (which, ahem, I will discuss in detail later on in this list) upended the show’s status quo in a magnificent and surprising way.  I thought that meant that the second season would tell a similar, season-long story in this new set-up, but this second episode of season two threw that all out the window in a spectacularly audacious manner.  I am reluctant to say too much, because if you haven’t yet seen this show I don’t want to spoil any of the fantastic surprises that await you.  Let me say that this wonderfully insane episode takes place over the course of hundreds of years and demonstrated that this is a show in which anything can happen, one in which the writers will fearlessly take the characters and the show in dramatically new directions when you least expect it.  Narratively bold and, as always, absolutely fall-on-the-floor funny (I laughed so hard at Michael’s description that the time when even Jason was … [continued]

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Summer Movie Catch-Up: Josh Reviews Funny People

I read somewhere a reviewer refer to Judd Apatow’s new film, Funny People, as his “James L. Brooks movie.”  Well, if James L. Brooks isn’t making James L. Brooks movies anymore (his last film was 2004’s Spanglish, which not coincidentally was also the last time, before Funny People, that I enjoyed a movie starring Adam Sandler), then I for one am more than happy to see Judd Apatow fill the void!

I’ve been hearing a lot of disappointment from people who have seen Funny People.  I suppose if one goes in expecting the laugh-a-minute experience of The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, one would be disappointed.  There is a lot of very funny humor in Funny People, but also some lengthy stretches without any laughs at all.  This would be a big problem if what was happening in those laugh-free-zones wasn’t compelling — but I found everything to be VERY compelling.  Funny People is a much more adult, nuanced film than Mr. Apatow’s first two movies, and while I positively ADORED those first two films, I am also thrilled to see him exploring some deeper territory here.

Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a wildly successful comedian and star of many hugely popular and sort-of-juvenile, well, Adam Sandler-type movies.  Despite his success, he is all alone in his huge mansion (except for his house-keeping staff, of course), and struggling to deal with the news that he has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia.  Seth Rogen plays Ira Wright, a young man trying to break into the brutally tough world of stand-up comedy.  Their paths cross one evening when George drops by a comedy club where Ira is waiting to perform, and Ira quickly gets sucked up into George’s orbit.  Ira is star-struck by getting to spend time with his idol, and desperate to taste some of the massive fame to which George has become inured, and George — though he’d never admit it — is lonely and looking for some sort of companionship, having driven away all of his former friends, girlfriends, and family.

Rogen and Sandler are both at the top of their games, creating fully believable, lived-in characters that feel completely real.  I have often said that I really like Adam Sandler’s comedy, but that I can’t stand his movies.  This remains true for me.  But I have really enjoyed the few films in which Sandler has actually tried to ACT — films like Spanglish, and Punch-Drunk Love.  In those movies, I was quite impressed that Sandler could actually create a real, sympathetic character, and he does similarly high-quality work here.  Rogen too turns in probably his most … [continued]

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When Good Series Go Bad

I watched Alien Vs Predator: Requiem this weekend on DVD.   Sigh.   Has there ever been a franchise that started off as incredible, and then became so abysmal, as the Alien and Predator series?

(A certain series about a family named Skywalker does come to mind, although I consider the prequels to be apocryphal thus allowing the Original Trilogy to maintain its luster in my mind…)

The first Alien was a ground-breaking work.   H.R. Giger’s creature design was a marvel of originality – truly unlike anything that had ever been seen before.   The script was smart, the cast was terrific, and director Ridley Scott created a compelling, fully-realized world for his characters to inhabit.   The “look” of Alien is imitated almost as much as Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. The visual effects hold up and the film remains a white-knuckle suspense roller-coaster even today – a pretty stunning feat for a movie made in 1979.

The sequel, Aliens, was directed by another visionary – James Cameron. He wisely avoided creating a simple retread of the first movie.   Instead, he made a balls-to-the-wall action movie that is intense, exciting, and scary from the first scene to the last.   But what makes the action work is the great screenplay and attention to character development.   Cameron, aided by a terrific ensemble of actors (Sigourney Weaver, Paul Reiser, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and a star-making performance from Bill Paxton – “maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events but we just got our asses kicked, man!”) created a group of distinct, interesting characters that are enormous fun to watch.   These characters aren’t stereotypes – they all (at least, the ones who survive – and even many of the ones who don’t) grow and change as the film moves forward.   The relationship between Ripley and the little girl Newt is the heart of the movie.   When bad things start to happen (and they do), this makes all the action that much more gripping.   And the action and (pre-CGI) visual effects are spectacular.

Then there’s Predator. Gone With The Wind this ain’t, but it is a staggeringly entertaining action film.   As with Alien and Aliens, part of the magic of this film is the way the combination of script, director, and actors creates a group of characters that are extraordinarily watchable.   That’s the key to a good they’re-gonna-die-one-by-one sort of movie – the viewer really needs to invest in the ensemble of characters.   And what an ensemble we have here:   Arnold Schwarzenegger at his ripped-bicep monosyllabic best; Carl Weathers at HIS ripped-bicep monosyllabic best; Bill Duke and his intense eyes; and Jesse “The Body” Ventura chewing his cigar and all the scenery.   Fine actors they … [continued]