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Josh Reviews Seinfeldia

My love for Seinfeld is deep and vast.  I started watching around the time of the show’s fourth season, back in 1992/93.  I remember being told that I absolutely had to watch “The Contest.”  I liked it, and by the end of that season I was watching regularly.  I think it was the fifth season episode “The Marine Biologist” that made me a fan of the show for life.  I can remember, like it was yesterday, that moment at the end in which George whips that golf ball out of his pocket.  (Kramer: “Is that a Titleist?”)  I don’t think I had ever before laughed so long or so hard at anything I had seen on TV.  Circa 1995, my friends and I started watching and/or taping the daily Seinfeld reruns at 11:00 PM, which allowed me to catch up on all the earlier episodes.  It was at this point, watching and re-watching those old episodes over and over again, that my Seinfeld love inched towards obsession, and I quickly grew well-versed in the minutia of the show.  I watched regularly until the end, and I have enjoyed regularly diving back into the show over the years.  When the DVDs were released, between 2004-2007, I enjoyed doing a complete re-watch of the show from start to finish.  So, yeah, I am a fan.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s new book, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, tells the story of the show.  The book begins with a look back at the life and careers, to that point, of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, and their fateful conversation in a Korean deli in 1988 in which they hatched the idea that would become Seinfeld.  We read about everything that went into creating the pilot episode, and the sporadic early episode orders from NBC that gradually led to the order for a complete, twenty-two episode third season in 1991.  Ms. Armstrong’s book moves through all nine Seinfeld seasons, right up to the controversial finale.  Along the way, we stop for spotlights on various members of the supporting cast and also the production team, in particular a variety of the show’s writers.  The final chapters follow the main Seinfeld players through their post-Seinfeld years, including Michael Richards’ unfortunate racist outburst and the cast’s reunion on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Seinfeldia is an enjoyable read, but it’s not nearly as in-depth as I had hoped.  Reading this so soon after The Daily Show (The Book), I found that Seinfeldia suffered significantly in comparison.  I loved the oral history format used in The Daily Show (The Book), and I wish a similar format had been used here.  It doesn’t appear to me that … [continued]

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News Around the Net: Comic-Con Edition!

Hi friends!  This past week was the San Diego Comic-Con, and as a result there has been an awesome flood of news about all sorts of geeky things.  Let’s review some of the highlights, shall we?

Here’s the first teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  I don’t love that title (is the second “the” really necessary?) and I think the “The Defining Chapter” tag-line they are going with in this trailer and on the posters is silly, but I dig this trailer.  These Hobbit films have not lived up to the expectations established by the phenomenal Lord of the Rings films, but I have still enjoyed them a lot and I am eager for the third and final film.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron footage that screened sounds cool.  I am intrigued by this glimpse of Ultron Mk. 1.

This is a pretty terrific interview with Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige.  Interesting stuff covered.  Someday the true story of what went down with Ant Man and Edgar Wright is going to be told, and it is going to be fascinating.

This description of footage of Batman v Superman sounds interesting.  Are they really using some of Frank Miller’s  designs from The Dark Knight Returns?  I’d love to see this footage.  DC’s plan of stuffing lots of Justice League characters into this Man of Steel sequel seems worrisome to me, but on the other hand this first image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is pretty great.

People seem to have been bowled over at the footage that screened from Mad Max: Fury Road.  (I can’t believe this movie finally got made and is being released!!!)  I am very, very curious to see what George Miller has crafted after so much time away from this franchise.  This first teaser, made up of some of the footage they showed at Comic-Con, is pretty great:

Here is a teaser trailer for Kevin Smith’s Tusk:

Just what the heck is this film going to be, and could it be any good???  I dunno, I am not hugely optimistic, but I’ll admit I am damn curious and that’s a pretty great trailer…

Ronald D. Moore (one of the best Star Trek writers and creator and show-runner of the modern version of Battlestar Galactica) just did a fantastic Q & A on reddit.  Prepare to loose a large amount of your time reading this.

Dr. Julian Bashir will be appearing on Game of Thrones?  Awesome!!  I grew to love Alexander Siddig’s work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favorite of all the Trek series) and I have often felt that he is a great … [continued]

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News Around the Net

So Seinfeld premiered twenty-five years ago last week?  Holy cow.  Here’s a great look back at the beginning of the show.  This is an interesting assessment of the show’s influence by noting, counter-intuitively, Seinfeld’s lack of imitators.  This is also worth your time: The New York Post’s list of Seinfeld’s 25 greatest contributions to the English language.

Somehow Community has once again escaped cancellation and is now so close to the attainment of the “Six Seasons and a Movie” dream.  Nice to see this much-loved (though I guess little-watched) show dodge death once again.

Devin Faraci’s reviews of the Transformers film series are absolutely hilarious.  His review of the latest debacle, Age of Extinction, is here.  After reading that, I encourage you to travel back in time through the terrible-ness, and enjoy his review of the third film, Dark of the Moon, as well as the second film, Revenge of the Fallen, which Mr. Faraci correctly identifies as one of the worst films ever made.  These are very funny pieces as well as astute dissections of why these films have been such disappointments.

Alan Sepinwall has another great “TV Rewind” column, this one looking back at “Thanksgiving Orphans,” a classic season 5 episode of Cheers.  (It’s the one that ends with the huge food-fight.)  Now I need to go back and re-watch that episode immediately.

Great article about a great movie: a look back at The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.  The movie is a minor miracle, something which should have been dreck but instead was gold.  I really love this film.

I still love listening to Kevin Smith spin yarns, but it’s been a bit of a stretch since I was last excited for one of his films.  (I still haven’t seen his last flick, Red State.  I’m curious to watch it one of these days, but it’s been a low priority for me.)  I don’t have any clue what to make of his latest film, Tusk, a horror film inspired by one of his podcasts.  Like the new poster, though.

The apocalypse is un-cancelled!  Pacific Rim 2 is actually happening?  I have mixed feelings.  I love Guillermo del Toro and if he has another story to tell in this universe then I’m game.  Still, while the first film was a visual feast and the action was amazing, I felt the story fell way short.  I hope the sequel, if it really gets made, has more interesting characters anchoring the story.

This is a fantastic interview with phenomenal actor Alan Tudyk, in which he discusses several of his roles in-depth, as well as his commitment to never … [continued]

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This “Modern Seinfeld” twitter feed is pretty amusing.  I guess the premise is these guys are coming up with Seinfeld ideas, if the show was being made today.  This one really made me laugh: George gets dumped for being a “toilet texter.” GEORGE: “What else are you supposed to do in there?!” JERRY: “I can think of a couple things.”

This is awesome: A New Yorker’s Tour of Ghostbusters.

Did you catch the second Robot Chicken DC Special earlier this month?  So funny.  This DC All Access video contains some of the great bits, and a peek behind-the-scenes:

This article about Police Academy sort of makes me want to re-watch it!  I haven’t seen any of those films in YEARS, but Police Academy #1-4 were HUGE parts of my childhood!!

How Gravity should have ended:

A new animated Batman short by Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary?  And it’s a retro pulp adventure?  And Kevin Conroy voices Batman?  YES PLEASE!

The funniest thing about this new trailer for 24: Live Another Day is the “red-band” text that opens it:

I have absolutely zero interest in the film Sabotage, but this article’s description of star Josh Holloway as “America’s Sean Bean” made me laugh and laugh.  HAS Mr. Holloway actually lived to the end of a movie he’s been in…??

I learned about Operation: Paperclip as a kid from The X-Files.  It was real, and represents a fascinating (and morally ambiguous) era of American history.  I was pleased to see it referenced as part of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra back-story in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  More on Operation: Paperclip and the Marvel universe can be found here.… [continued]

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This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together.  Enjoy!

This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films.  Great fun for the Bond fans out there!

Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball.  I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE.  My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE.  I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!

Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with.  First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry.  There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat.  Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans.  Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.

This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer.  I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5.  (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.

This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.  Oh man do I love those two … [continued]

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Let’s begin the day with this phenomenal article from badassdigest.com about how Optimus Prime’s death defined a generation of kids.  Do you want to understand the depths of my geeky heart?  Then read that article.  My parents wouldn’t let me see Transformers: The Movie in theatres, but I was allowed to rent it on video.  I didn’t cry, but I was shocked by the brutal deaths of all my beloved characters in the film’s opening minutes.  When Optimus Prime bought the farm I was changed forever.  I had loved the Transformers before, but one viewing of Transformers: The Movie sealed that flick’s place in my heart forever.  “Megatron… must be stopped.  No matter the cost.”

Boy, those crazy guys and gals at badassdigest.com have a direct line into my psyche these days, because while the experience of seeing Transformers: The Movie was seminal, so too was my discovery of Voltron.  This magnificent article examines the mysterious origins of Voltron, a show that combined and repurposed several different Japanese cartoons.  Oh my lord I loved Voltron.  The continuity of that show — the way story-lines flowed from one episode to the next — was a staggering discovery to me as a kid, and I fell in love hard.  To this day, I have a love for long-running continuing stories in any media (Movies, TV, books, comic books, etc.), and I think that began as a kid when I discovered Voltron and Robotech…

I just discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and it is magnificent.  I love stand-up comedy and I loved Seinfeld, so no surprise I think this series of shorts of Jerry hanging out with his very funny pals is phenomenal.  With this project, Seinfeld has inched even closer to truly having made a show about nothing.  Genius.  I have already watched them all.  If you haven’t seen this, click on the above link immediately.

Want to watch Ewan McGregor tell a hilarious story about filming the Star Wars prequels?  Jump to 7:50 below:

So far I am very, very excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.  My only cause for worry?  The film’s very unimpressive redesign of the Sentinels.  I wish they had stuck a lot closer to the classic, iconic original design by John Byrne.  The Sentinels aren’t just any robots, they have a very specific look, and this isn’t it.

As for this summer’s X-Men movie, I have already written my review of the good-but-not-great new Wolverine solo film, The Wolverine.  Click here for a fascinating interview with Chris Claremont, who shares his thoughts on the film.  Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men or Wolverine, but in … [continued]

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Though I think the quality of his films has dipped considerably in the last decade or two, I remain an enormous Woody Allen fan.  So I tip my hat to Juliet Lapidos from Slate Magazine who just watched every single Woody Allen film and summarized what she’s learned.  It’s a wonderful piece — well-worth your time.  (I’m also pleased that to learn that, after her massive re-watching project, she concurs with my long-held opinion that 1997’s Deconstructing Harry was Mr. Allen’s last truly great film.)

Here’s also a fascinating ranking of Mr. Allen’s films into categories (from the “masterworks” to the “bad”).  There’s not too much I can disagree with about this listing!  It’s pretty spot-on, I think.  A few quibbles: I think Hannah and her Sisters and What’s Up Tiger Lily should be bumped up to “great,” as should Play it Again Sam, Deconstructing Harry, and Zelig. Bananas deserves a spot in the “Masterworks” category, and I’d bump The Purple Rose of Cairo down one notch to the merely “great.”  And Scoop definitely needs to be shifted down into the “bad” category.  OK, I guess I did have some objections!  But still, over-all, a terrific list.

Speaking of obsessive-compulsive types, check this out: a complete guide to every single sneaker Jerry Seinfeld ever wore on Seinfeld.  Very cool (and just slightly frightening).

So, Rise of the Apes (which was originally called Caesar) is now Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Wow, the title just became simultaneously way more awesome and also way, way stupider.  I can’t wait!  (By the way, did you watch the new trailer???)

I’m not sure what makes me happier: that we’re actually getting a new Planet of the Apes movie this summer, or that in New Zealand right now they’re actually, finally, for-real, filming Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of The Hobbit. Have you seen the first new production diary? I have tingles.  I’m not kidding!  Peter Jackson was a true innovator with the video diaries that he posted back in the day, chronicling the making of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then King Kong, and I have fond memories of devouring those whenever they were released during the pre-production and production of those films.  It makes me so happy that they’re finally back, and that The Hobbit is at long last under-way.  CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE.

Are we really just a few weeks away from Thor? I really want that movie to be good, but I’m a bit nervous.  This very positive early review has me optimistic, though!

I’ll be posting a piece soon with my thoughts on the last few DC animated projects … [continued]

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George

May 13th, 2010

This is great — some classic Seinfeld moments rejiggered as a trailer for a weepy movie:

Thanks to my buddy Ethan K. for sending this my way!… [continued]

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They’re Back! (And They’re Spectacular)

September 3rd, 2009
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Wowee wow.  This week’s Entertainment Weekly has a lengthy cover story about the I-never-thought-I’d-see-the-day Seinfeld reunion that is taking place this season on Curb Your Enthusiasm.  (Kudos to EW not only for the great article, but also for the very clever cover headline.)  The full article doesn’t appear to be available on-line, but you can find a lot of details here.

I can’t wait!!!… [continued]

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Josh’s Least Favorite TV Series Finales!

Last week I waxed poetic about my favorite TV series finales.  Today let’s examine the other side of the coin — what I feel are the three WORST series finales that I’ve ever seen!

One quick note, before we begin: St. Elsewhere is renowned for having one of the most ludicrous series finales ever, in which it was revealed that the entire show was just the dream of an autistic child.  However, since that wasn’t a show that I ever watched, it’s finale isn’t on my list.

So what is?

The West Wing — “Tomorrow” — I thought the show would be lost after the departure of Aaron Sorkin at the end of season 4, and the limp season 5 didn’t do much to discourage me of that notion.  Season 6 started off just as badly, but about halfway through that season the show completely reinvented itself.  Suddenly the story focused on the race for the White House, following a variety of characters, new and old, through their involvement in the primaries and, ultimately, in the Presidential election.  Not only did this change bring a lot of new energy and intensity to the show, but by moving the show outside the confines of the White House and into new territory, it made it easier for viewers to stop comparing the new episodes to the Sorkin classics.  I got really into the show again, and was very excited for the finale to wrap things up in grand style.  Sadly, what we got was a tepid, boring hour in which nothing really happened.  The much-heralded return of Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) turned out to be barely more than a cameo.  Many long-running characters and storylines were ignored entirely (Toby doesn’t appear at all??  No resolution to the long-simmering Charlie-Zoey romance?) or handled in an entirely trivial, superficial manner (Gee, President Bartlett sees Charlie as his son?  That was obvious ever since the first season!).  Most disappointingly, the first episode of season seven had opened with an intriguing “three years later” flash-forward.  It had seemed clear to me that the questions raised in that scene would be addressed in a book-end scene at the end of the finale.  And yet, nothing!  Why include that scene at all in the season premiere if they weren’t going to go anywhere with it?  What a let-down.

The X-Files — “The Truth” — Although the show definitely should have ended after the seventh season, when David Duchovny (who played series lead Fox Mulder) left, I’m not one of those fans who thought the final two seasons to be entirely without merit.  There were still a lot of great spooky adventures to be had, and I … [continued]