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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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Josh Reviews Amazon’s The Tick

I read and loved The Tick way back when the first black and white issues of Ben Edlund’s super-hero parody masterpiece were published in the eighties, and I have followed the big blue goofball’s adventures through both of his two previous TV incarnations, an animated series in the nineties and the killed-way-before-it’s-time live-action series on FOX in 2001.  I was delighted when Amazon announced they’d be taking another swing at a Tick adaptation, and I loved the pilot episode they produced last year.  They released an additional five episodes a few months ago, and I am pleased to report that they are terrific!

The new episodes pick up right where the pilot left off, and maintain a wonderful consistency of look and tone.  (Strangely, the only major change I noticed was that they changed the look of the costume of the Tick himself. The version in the pilot did look a little, well, mushy, but the more blocky new version isn’t much better in my opinion.)

The show belongs to Peter Serafinowicz, who is fantastic as the Tick.  Mr. Serafinowicz is able to give the Tick all of the superheroic bombast that he needs, while maintaining the gentleness at the character’s core. Mr. Serafinowicz is very, very funny in the role.  At first I missed Patrick Warburton (who was so great as the Tick in the FOX version), but very quickly I felt Mr. Serafinowicz owned this role completely.  He makes every single line a comedic home run.  This is not an easy role too play — it could easily veer too far into the corny or the ridiculous.  But Mr. Serafinowicz is pretty much perfect.

Griffin Newman and Valorie Curry were both great in the pilot as Arthur and his sister Dot, and they continue to be great in these new episodes.  The pilot left open the possibility that Arthur really was crazy and the Tick was only in his head, which was an intriguing choice, and that continued at first in this new run of episodes. But the show did away with that pretty quickly and established that other characters could, indeed, also see the Tick.  I was a little sore to see that resolved so definitively so quickly, though that was probably the better choice in terms of the show’s longevity.  (The idea of other characters always just-missing the Tick would probably get old pretty fast.)  I liked the choice to make Arthur’s sister Dot a major character in the pilot, and I loved that Dot continued too play a major role in these subsequent episodes.  Ms.Curry is terrific, and I love the added dimension that this gives to Arthur and the show, by exploring Arthur’s … [continued]

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“Evil Wears Every Possible Mitten” — Josh Reviews Amazon’s The Tick!

December 19th, 2016
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I’ve been a fan of Ben Edlund’s wonderful superhero parody, The Tick, since (almost) the very beginning.  Friends in high school turned me on to the wonderful black-and-white comic, published by New England Comics, soon after those early issues were published in the late eighties and early nineties.  Mr. Edlund wrote and illustrated twelve hilarious issues between 1988 and 1993 that hold up wonderfully to this day as not just spectacularly funny but also, even more impressively, an on-the-nose parody of super-hero comic-book tropes that also manages to elevate into a unique creation in its own right.  (Sadly, issue twelve ended on a cliffhanger that Mr. Edlund never completed.)  The Tick comic-book series has continued in a variety of forms in the subsequent two-decades-plus, by a variety of other creators, but it’s never matched Mr. Edlund’s original twelve issues.

However, the series has, remarkably, been adapted for television THREE TIMES and, even more remarkably, each adaptation has been a creatively successful undertaking.  First came a three-season run of an animated Saturday morning cartoon version for Fox that ran from 1994-1996.  It’s been a while since I’ve revisited that show, but I recall it being a very funny and very faithful adaptation that had a great theme song and made some great additions to the Tick cannon, most notably the characters of Die Fledermaus (a Batman parody) and American Maid.  In 2001, Fox aired a short-lived live-action version starring Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton as the Tick and Lost’s Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel (a genius name for very funny new character, brilliantly performed by Mr. Carbonell).  The show was quickly cancelled but a complete series DVD release years later (that included unaired episodes) demonstrated the show’s tremendous potential that was sadly cut short.  The pilot was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) and the whole show was very clever and very funny.  So, of course, Fox killed it almost immediately.

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Which brings us to this almost unprecedented THIRD iteration of The Tick: a pilot episode produced by Amazon (that, I am pleased to report, has recently been announced as going to a series order).  You can watch the Amazon pilot episode here.

I very much enjoyed this pilot episode.  Written by Ben Edlund (the original Tick creator who has, incredibly, remained in a key creative role throughout all three of The Tick’s TV series permutations) and directed by Wally Pfister (the incredible cinematographer behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy), this series succeeds in bringing the big blue goofball to life.

The biggest difference is that while The Tick’s previous incarnations (both the original comic book series and the first two TV shows) placed the Tick … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Spy!

At this rate, I want Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy to never stop making movies together.

Ms. McCarthy killed in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, and then she stepped up into a co-starring role in Mr. Feig’s follow-up film, The Heat.  In Spy, Ms. McCarthy and writer/director Feig reunite for a third film together, and once again the collaboration proves to be absolutely golden.

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Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper.  She’s the CIA operative who, from her desk at Langley, serves as the voice in the ear of suave, handsome, James Bond-esque super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  But when Fine is killed on a mission to recover a rogue nuclear bomb, Susan finds herself thrust into the field, forced to go undercover to befriend the woman who killed Fine, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) in an attempt to locate the bomb before it can be sold to terrorists.

For a long time, Paul Feig (who created Freaks and Geeks and ran the show along with Judd Apatow) felt like something of a secret to comedy fans.  So it’s been a delight to see him achieve big-time success these past few years since Bridesmaids.  I hope this run continues for him for a long time!!!  (I am NOT excited by the idea of a Ghostbusters sequel/remake, but if anyone can make that interesting, it’s Paul Feig, so I am at least curious to see what he’s cooking up.)  There is some sort of magic when he collaborates with Melissa McCarthy.  Mr. Feig seems to know exactly how to use her, crafting characters for her that play right to her best comedic strengths.

What’s great about McCarthy in this role is that Susan Cooper isn’t a bumbling idiot.  She’s smart and loyal and tough.  This isn’t the story of a dour housewife transforming into a super-spy, which would have been the predictable route to go in a movie like this.  I was impressed that Paul Feig (who wrote the film in addition to directing) chose to tell a different story.  When we first meet Susan, we can already see her great qualities.  It’s Fine and her superiors at the CIA who don’t see them.  What happens in the film is that Susan is finally given an opportunity to show what she’s really capable of.  I love that.

Ms. McCarthy is so, so funny.  She’s equally as adept at physical comedy (there is a close-quarters fight in a dirty kitchen that is absolutely magnificent) and verbal comedy (in the early scenes when she’s just sitting at a desk and talking into Fine’s ear, she is still hilarious).  She and the film do fall back on a few familiar tricks — at one point, when … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Guardians of the Galaxy

I had a feeling this one was gonna be good.  I’m glad I was right.

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios has blown the doors off of their cinematic universe in a big, big way.  This is a huge movie, filled with crazy alien planets and creatures and hugely original characters and situations.  The opening few minutes takes place on Earth, and then the entire rest of the film takes place in a far-off corner of the galaxy, a one-hundred-percent immersion in fantasy cosmic craziness.  (Man, this is what DC’s Green Lantern should have been like.)  The film is exciting and funny and it looks gorgeous.  I loved pretty much every minute of it.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was born on Earth but was kidnapped and stolen from the planet as a boy.  He grew up among a band of thieves and ragamuffins to become something of a Han Solo type, a roguish scoundrel with a heart of gold.  When hired to find a priceless orb, Quill decides to double-cross his boss, Yondu (Michael Rooker).  But it turns out that the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace) also wants the orb, so he sends his minion Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to obtain it as well.  Gamora also double-crosses her boss, and just as she confronts Quill the two run afoul of Rocket and Groot, two alien mercenaries looking to cash in on a good bounty.  The four all wind up apprehended by the Nova Corps (an intergalactic peace-keeping force) and thrown in jail.  Somehow, these four criminals — soon joined by a fifth, the hulking Drax — find themselves forming a tight bond with one another.  And with the fate of the universe at stake, this motley five-some have to do the thing none of them ever expected to do: become heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy harkens back to the tone of the first Iron Man, a very silly, goofy sensibility crossed with a great fantasy action-adventure.  Iron Man had stakes, but it was also a whole heck of a lot of fun, and Guardians is exactly the same way.  The film is a riot, but this is not a spoof.  The characters are fleshed out, with fully-realized emotional arcs, and there is weight to the story being told.

Anyone who has been watching Parks and Recreation for the past six years knows that Chris Pratt is a star.  Now the whole world knows it.  Mr. Pratt has been perfectly cast as Peter Quill, the tough space-pirate who is also an innocent boy at heart.  Mr. Pratt absolutely dominates this movie, and he’s magnetic in every scene he’s in, even when standing along-side the ridiculously scene-stealing two-some of Rocket and Groot.  … [continued]