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News Around the Net!

Let’s begin today with this: the single best joke told by every president, from Obama to Washington.

Fox has greenlit 12 episodes of a 24 spin-off series, 24: Legacy.  It’s hard to imagine my watching that since I didn’t make it past the first two episodes of 2014’s 24 revival mini-series Live Another Day.  I watched 24 from episode 1 of season 1, and at first I was evangelical about this amazing, intense serialized show.  But truth be told the only seasons I really loved were those first two years (and even those seasons had plenty of problems).  I stuck around for years afterwards and while there were some high points, I tended to find myself continually disappointed.  I finally bailed before the final season.  I had high hopes that Live Another Day would be a return to the show’s original greatness, but those first two hours just felt like more of the same.  Oh well.

Far more exciting: Netflix has announced a Wet Hot American Summer sequel!  The so-obvious it’s genius Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later will be eight episodes and, you can be assured, high on my must-watch list.

Was this seriously going to originally be the opening shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens???  Love it!

So this is awesome: the Language Creation Society has just submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Paramount’s suit attempting to halt production of the Star Trek fan-film Axanar.  Seems this Language Creation Society objects to Paramount’s contention that they can copyright the Klingon language.  You’ve got to read this article, it is nerdy and hilarious and wonderful.  To restate my position, I strongly object to Paramount’s heavy-handed effort to squash this fan-made film.  (After creating the amazing fifteen-minute Prelude to Axanar, this group of Trek fans fund-raised on Kickstarter — full disclosure: I have donated — to create a full feature-length film telling the story of the Five Years’ War between the Federation and the Klingons.  This is an event that is part of the backstory of Star Trek: The Original Series.  The planned film would focus on telling the story of Starfleet Captain Garth of Izar in the years before he became a crazy villain, as seen in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”)  To be clear, it is probably true that the Axanar folks are in violation of Paramount’s copyright, but who really cares?  These fan films are not a competition with Paramount’s official Star Trek efforts.  These fan-made projects are done by Trek fans who love Trek.  I absolutely guarantee you that every single Trek fan who donated to Axanar is going to buy a ticket (perhaps many!) to see Star [continued]

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Josh Reviews Sin City: Dame to Kill For

For me, growing up, Frank Miller was one of the gods of comic books.  He seemed to be a master of the form of a super-hero comic-book, crafting some of the finest mainstream super-hero comic-book stories I had ever read (his long run on Daredevil; Batman: Year One; The Dark Knight Returns; and many others) before moving into less-mainstream, even more interesting work (Ronin, Give Me Liberty, and of course Sin City).  I loved Sin City as a kid.  It was a potent distillation both of Mr. Miller’s incredible drawing style (boiled down into deceptively simple black-and-white with bold shapes and brush-strokes) as well as his writing.  Plus, it had that edge of transgression (Violence!  Nudity!) that made it impossible for a kid to resist.

I enjoyed Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 film Sin City, which adapted three of Mr. Miller’s Sin City yarns: The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard.  The film wasn’t perfect.  I thought it moved too fast, not giving the stories enough of a chance to breathe.  I also thought that in places Mr. Rodriguez was too literal in mimicking Mr. Miller’s comic-book panels for the screen in a way that weakened the film.  Example: early in the film, Marv is being cornered by the police, so he busts through his door before they can come in and arrest him.  Mr. Miller drew that like Marv exploding through the door, and it’s a great panel.  But in the film, where Mr. Rodriguez copies that image exactly, it feels like Marv set off a bomb on the door, or like he’s a super-human like Superman.  I don’t think Marv is a super-hero.  He doesn’t have super-powers.  He’s just an incredibly tough lug.  A more naturalistic moment of him breaking down the door would have worked better for me than the super-hero-like explosion we got.  There are lots of little examples like this all through the film.  It’s a question of taste, I guess.  You don’t want to remove all of the craziness and idiosyncrasies of Mr. Miller’s stories, but when translated so literally there were a number of moments that would up reading as too comic-book-silly to me, in a way that undercut the threat and drama of the story being told in the film.

On the other hand, the genius of Mr. Rodriguez’s film, and the reason I loved it as much as I did, was the way he really did bring Mr. Miller’s comic book panels to life.  Making extensive use of computer-generated effects, Mr. Rodriguez created extraordinarily simplified looks to the sets and characters in a way that exactly, and I mean exactly, mimicked Mr. Miller’s drawings.  The whole film was … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Machete Kills

October 28th, 2013

First of all, let me put your mind at ease.  I know you were all worried, but even though Machete Kills represents a dramatic expansion of the Machete mythos, I promise that you will be able to understand all of the film’s complexities even if you haven’t seen the first film.


It’s pretty hard to believe that this silly, bloody, ridiculous, so-over-the-top-you-can’t-even-see-the-top-anymore movie actually exists.  Like Machete himself, the bad-ass Mexican who cannot be killed, this silly concept just won’t die and has somehow evolved from a jokey fake trailer into two full motion pictures with the promise of a third.

Machete began life as one of several fake trailers in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse, a joyful (and vastly underrated) salute to the exploitation films they both grew up loving.  People responded so well to the trailer than Mr. Rodriguez decided to expand the concept into a full feature-length film: 2010’s Machete.  The film was a fascinating exercise in reverse-engineering a movie, because rather than starting from zero, Mr. Rodriguez decided to make Machete be the actual movie from which their fake trailer had theoretically been assembled.  Meaning that they created a narrative that stitched together all of the random crazy shots in the trailer, which had been created without ever intending for those shots to actually cohere into an real full-length movie’s story.  Machete was not exactly great cinema, but I found it to be a very fun romp, filled to overflowing with tongue-in-cheek mayhem, violence, and sexy girls.  (Click here for my review.)

And now, somehow, that film has spawned a sequel: Machete Kills.  Without the constraints of having to work backwards from a pre-exisiting trailer, Machete Kills is a more linear movie, without the all-over-the-place feel of its predecessor.  Which isn’t to say the film makes a single lick of sense.  The story gleefully defies any sort of logic or sanity, it’s just an unabashed excuse for Mr. Rodriguez to squeeze in all sorts of crazy action scenarios.  The film opens with Machete (Danny Trejo) and Sartana (Jessica Alba) on the trail of some evil-doers.  I was surprised to see Jessica Alba’s character in the film, as I sort of figured she’d be ignored in the sequel, because Machete works best as a loner.  Well, I wasn’t too far wrong, because the bust goes bad and, yadda yadda yadda, spoiler alert, pretty soon Machete is a lone wolf once again.  But he’s quickly roped back into action, when the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen, amusingly credited in the film as Carlos Estevez) assigns him to track down a Mexican revolutionary threatening to launch a missile at Washington.  Machete quickly finds … [continued]

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First of all: Arrested Development.  Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season.  But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts.  Hopefully very soon!!

This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.

I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film.  I hope that happens.  No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!

This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more.  Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.

Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series.  Sigh.  I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!

Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.

I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version.  Check it out.

Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim.  This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:

I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV.  I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished.  Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?

I’ll leave … [continued]

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News Around the Net

If you’ve ever watched an enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you must read this short blog post by Wil Wheaton about his e-mail exchange with a former Next Gen castmate.  So funny!!

Speaking of Wil Wheaton, this behind-the-scenes pic from Stand By Me is wonderful.  Makes me want to go re-watch that spectacular film right now.

I am counting the minutes until The Avengers opens.  For all the Marvel Zombies out there, this interview with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is full of intriguing hints at the next few years of the Marvel movie universe.  It’s a good read.  Also a good read:  this Q & A with Joss Whedon on reddit.

So, they’re really making a sequel to the 1988 film Twins? And Eddie Murphy will play the newly-discovered third sibling to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito?  This is a joke, right?  That can’t possibly be real, right??

The Dude abides.

I had quite a lot to say about Disney’s adaptation of John Carter.  (Click here for my review.)  I enjoyed the film far more than the horrible reviews and terrible box-office performance would suggest, but the film had some serious problems.  I cited the senseless withholding of the tragedy in John Carter’s past until late in the film as an example.  It would have FAR strengthened the story and the character had the audience UNDERSTOOD the reasons for John Carter’s behavior right from the beginning.  Well, FILM CRITIC HULK over on badassdigest.com had a similar reaction, and he wrote a magnificent (albeit LENGTHY) dissection of John Carter’s story problems that focuses on precisely that example.  It’s a great piece about film screen-writing and narrative, and is well worth a look.

My buddy Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a great review of The Hunger Games film, which you can check out here.  My review will be posted on Friday!

Does Mel Gibson want to Kill Machete?  The Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For, is finally actually happening??  Please don’t let me down, Robert Rodriguez!!

I really dug the “Franchise Me” (from CHUD.com) look back at the four Lethal Weapon films that just wrapped up.  These articles are fantastic.  Boy, I loved those Lethal Weapon films as a kid, but I haven’t seen them in years.  I just haven’t had any real interest in re-watching them.  Mel Gibson’s recent shenanigans haven’t helped.  But reading those articles makes me wonder whether I’d still like those films if I watched them today…

A remake of Total Recall? Really?  This trailer actually looks surprisingly OK, but it’s hard for me to imagine this is going to wind up being … [continued]

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Yesterday I began listing my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010.  Here’s the rest of my list!

5. Batman: Under the Red HoodBruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series knocked me for a loop when I first saw it back in the ’90s, and I’ve been a huge fan of his many DC Universe animated projects in the years since.  The recent series of animated DVDs that he’s been masterminding have been a bit hit-or-miss, but this film (adapting a storyline from the Batman comics written by Judd Winick) is really tremendous.  The story has a GREAT hook: Batman’s life is uprooted when he discovers that the new crime-lord in Gotham City just might be his former partner, Robin.  What unfolds is a surprisingly dark, surprisingly violent tale.  Whenever Mr. Timm returns to Batman, I’m a happy camper, but this grim little film really grabbed me.  I think it’s a particularly great depiction of the Dark Knight Detective.  A superlative voice cast (including Bruce Greenwood, Neal Patrick Harris, Jensen Ackles, Jason Isaacs, and Futurama’s John Di Maggio) is just the icing on the cake.  (Click here for my original review.)

4. Family Guy: It’s a Trap! The folks at Family Guy conclude their trilogy of extended episodes parodying the three original Star Wars films with this warped version of Return of the Jedi. The animation is absolutely gorgeous (it’s shocking that I would write that about an episode of Family Guy, but believe me, it’s true.  These artists have painstakingly recreated shot after shot from Return of the Jedi. Their version of the Battle for the Second Death Star is astounding).  The jokes are very funny.  (I was particularly taken with their depiction of the speeder-bike chase sequence, but on tricycles.)  It’s Family Guy Star Wars.  What more could I ask for?  (Click here for my original review.)

3. Grindhouse (Blu-Ray) — I was very afraid that this would never see the light of day, but at last one can now own the original theatrical version of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double-feature, complete with all of the fake trailers.  I love the extended versions of the two films that were released on DVD a few years back, but I’ve been aching to be able to experience what I saw (and so loved) in theatres back in 2007.  Ignore the nay-sayers — this film is genius, and it is phenomenally entertaining viewing.  It’s not for everyone (there’s a lot of sex and violence), but damn do I think it’s a lot of fun.

2. Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure (Blu-Ray) Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite films.  I didn’t … [continued]

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The Top 10 Movies of 2010 — Part One!

2010 was not a great year for new movies, in my opinion.  For the first ten months of the year, I saw far fewer movies in the theatre than I had in years past.  Part of that was due to how busy my life has gotten these days, but it was also because there just weren’t that many movies that came out that really interested me!  Things started to turn for the better towards the end of the year.  A number of very interesting films were released in the end-of-the-year Oscar crunch, and as those of you who’ve been following along with my “Catching Up On 2010” series of articles know, I also made an enormous effort in December & January to track down on DVD many of the smaller films that I hadn’t been able to see in theatres earlier in the year (films like Cyrus, The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone, etc.)

So in the last two months I’ve added quite a few films to the list of “good 2010 films” that I keep in my notebook.  But what’s fascinating to me, as I looked through that list in preparation for creating this Top 10 list, is that while there did wind up being quite a few 2010 films that I found to be really GOOD, there weren’t so many that I felt were truly GREAT.  Looking back at my Top 10 Movies from 2009 list, I think that every single one of the ten films I chose is really spectacular.  I own all 10 films on DVD or blu-ray.  But as I considered all of the new movies I saw in 2010, there aren’t that many that I can see myself buying on disc.  (And since I buy a LOT of movies on disc, this is a telling statement about my feelings regarding the overall quality of the films I saw this year.)

But enough negativity.  Though it was a harder list to assemble than it was last year, assemble it I have.  The following ten films are the ones that I found to be truly superlative from 2010.  It’s an eclectic mix, but I stand by my choices.  If there are films on this list that you never saw, I strongly encourage you to check them out!

Before we begin, I like to make note of the 2010 films that I WANTED to see but didn’t.  I think I see a lot more movies than your average Joe, but despite that, there are always films that I missed for whatever reason.  This year these include: Tiny Furniture, Animal Kingdom, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Company Men, The Tempest, The Myth of the American [continued]

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Josh Reviews Machete!

September 15th, 2010

Boy, it’s hard to believe this movie really exists!  Originating as a fake trailer from the start of Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse (FINALLY coming to DVD/Blu-Ray!  Thanks the gods!), Mr. Rodriguez and his team at Troublemaker Studios have expanded the trailer into a full-length film.  Machete is just as much crazy, silly, violent exploitation fun as the original trailer promised.

In a pretty fascinating game of connect-the-dots, Mr. Rodriguez and co-screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez have created a story that somehow includes pretty much every shot and scene from the original fake trailer.  For me, a big part of the fun of the film was watching to see how and when all of those scenes, that were never originally intended to connect, have all been incorporated into the movie.

Danny Trejo kills in the title role as a tough Mexican who shouldn’t be f–ked with.  Trejo’s Machete is one of the most unflappable characters I’ve ever seen on film — the man seems to take everything in stride, whether that be a confrontation with a crowd of armed bad-guys or an opportunity to sleep with the wife and daughter of an evil politician.  The performance is hilarious in its complete dead-pan affect.  Jeff Fahey and Cheech Marin also reprise their roles from the Grindhouse trailer.  Fahey plays the politician who hires and then foolishly double-crosses Machete, while Marin is Machete’s priest brother who’s not afraid to pick up a shotgun and kick some ass when necessary.  Both are phenomenal.  Fahey is all smarm and sleeze, whereas Marin brings a surprising amount of warmth to his small role.

In fleshing out the story from the original trailer, Mr, Rodriguez and co. created a number of new characters, and they filled those roles with a wonderfully ludicrous assemblage of actors.  Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez play the two tough-and-amazingly-beautiful women who find themselves in orbit of Machete.  Alba is Sartana, a cop whose job is to bust illegal aliens, whereas Rodriguez is Luz, the head of “the Network,” a secret organization set up to help Mexicans enter the country and find work.  I’m not a huge fan of Jessica Alba.  I think Rodriguez uses her well in his films — she was perfect in Sin City, and certainly has some opportunities to look stunning and crack some heads here — but the scenes where she’s called upon to deliver some serious, heart-felt dialogue fell a little flat to me.  (I do blame the script for some clunky lines, as much as her performance.)  But Michelle Rodriguez is just phenomenal (perfectly cast) as Luz — she’s fun and tough and vulnerable all in one.  And let me just … [continued]