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Josh Reviews The Mandalorian: Season One

I loved the first episode of The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV show, and the rest of the eight-episode Disney+ series did not disappoint!

Creator Jon Favreau (who wrote six of the eight episodes) has accomplished an incredible feat.  He has created a series that feels completely, 100% like Star Wars, while also telling new stories with new characters.  This is what I want from my Star Wars, and it’s a needle that the movies have often failed to thread.

I love the retro feel of the show’s episodic structure.  It’s weird, I spent my childhood watching sci-fi and fantasy TV shows and longing for more continuity, rather than the “everything back to the status quo” episodic structure that was standard for most television for so much of its history.  But, as I have written about here before, I think many modern streaming shows have leaned too far into that direction.  The “10-hour movie” approach (or 8-hour, or 13-hour) results, too often in my opinion, in series that sag in the middle because they don’t quite have enough story to sustain viewer interest throughout the entire season.  And so I loved how The Mandalorian mostly told 1-and-done stories, with each episode having a satisfying beginning, middle, and end.  There were of course stories and charcater arcs that carried across all of the episodes, but each individual episode felt satisfyingly complete.  By the way, I also was very happy with the individual episodes’ relatively short run-time.  (Most episodes ran about 40-45 minutes.)  I appreciated the concision and efficiency of the story-telling.

Mandalorians and their armor have fascinated Star Wars fans since our first glimpse of Boba Fett.  I love the concept of this show’s main character being a Mandalorian bounty hunter, and I enjoyed the way the series explored and fleshed out the world of the Mandalorians.  I loved getting tidbits of information about Mandalorian society, their beskar armor and the rituals surrounding that armor.  I loved seeing the Armorer (the first female Mandalorian character we’ve seen in live-action).  I was delighted to see a group of Mandalorians in action and kicking ass in the climax of episode three.  (It was awesome getting to see them use their rocket packs!!)  We’ve barely scratched the surface in these first eight episodes; so I look forward to more.

The series was filled with memorable characters.  Pedro Pascal was very strong as the titular, unnamed (until the last episode) Mandalorian.  It’s amazing that “Mando” has characteristics that we can understand and connect with, despite Mr. Pascal’s face being entirely covered by his mask.  What a bravura acting performance!

The big secret of the show was “baby Yoda.”  I am so impressed … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Prospect

February 5th, 2020

Prospect is a brilliant, low-budget sci-fi film, written and directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell.  When the film begins, a teenaged girl named Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father (Jay Duplass) are dropped off on a jungle-filled planet.  Cee’s father is prospecting gems that he is able to extract from the flesh-like pods that are found — if one knows where to look — on that planet.  But Cee and her father are not alone on this alien world, and they soon run afoul of two ruffians who are also prospecting for gems.  When things turn ugly, Cee finds herself forced to pair up with one of them, Ezra (Pedro Pascal), in order to try to survive… but she knows that Ezra cannot be trusted…

Prospect is a magnificent achievement, a wonderfully original sci-fi story.  The film looks fantastic; I am staggered at how Mr. Earl & Mr. Caldwell and their team were able to execute this film without the resources of a big studio behind them.  I don’t know how they did it.  There are space-ships and alien worlds and it all looks great.  Nothing in the film looks cheap or unconvincing.

I love the retro, tactile, analog feel to all of the sci-fi elements in the film (the ships, the atmospheric suits, the tech).  It reminds me, in a very positive way, of the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s original Alien film.  (I’m also reminded of Duncan Jones’ wonderful film Moon, another fantastic original low-budget sci-fi film.)

The film has a very small cast, and each actor excels.  Sophie Thatcher is spectacular as the main character, Cee.  Ms. Thatcher is in pretty much every moment of the film, and she effortlessly carries the film’s story on her shoulders.  We experience the events of the film through her eyes.  Cee is smart and tough but still very much a kid.  I am glad the film doesn’t require her to do anything too super-heroic.  She remains a believable young girl throughout, even as she’s incredibly brave and heroic.  This is a great role, and a great performance.  I’ll be paying close attention to what Ms. Thatcher does next.

Pedro Pascal was great in Game of Thrones, and he’s made quite a splash this year as the lead of The Mandalorian.  He’s terrific as Ezra.  I love this character.  He’s written to be just like Mal Reynolds from Firefly, using flowery, archaic language (no one else in the film speaks like this), and he has that Han Solo-like mix of danger and good-humor.  His sounding so much like Mal Reynolds made me laugh — I have to assume it’s intentional.  The combination of the unusual dialogue … [continued]