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Josh Reviews Truth Seekers Season One

I’m a huge fan of Spaced, the British TV show starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and directed by Edgar Wright, that ran from 1999-2001.  And of course I enjoyed the “Cornetto Trilogy” of movies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End).  And so I was excited to see Nick Frost and Simon Pegg re-team for a new TV series: Truth Seekers, a horror/comedy series about a group of internet technicians who explore the paranormal.

Truth Seekers was created by Mr. Frost, Mr. Pegg, and James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders.  All four are the credited writers on the season’s eight half-hour episodes; all eight were directed by Jim Field Smith.

Nick Frost is the main character, the good-natured but slightly haunted (literally and figuratively) Gus.  Gus works for Smyle, a large internet company; he’s their best technician.  When not at work, Gus posts “Truth Seekers” internet videos, in which he investigates paranormal and other spooky stories and places.  It’s a lot of fun to see Mr. Frost in the central role!  He’s great; effortlessly funny and dramatic.  (The series calls on him to alternate between both tones, and he makes it looks beautifully naturalistic.)  Samson Kayo plays Elton John, the young Smyle employee assigned to Gus as his new partner.  Elton has no interest in the paranormal, but for some reason he seems to be a magnet for it, much to Gus’ delight.  Mr. Kayo is great fun as the beleaguered Elton; I loved his chemistry with Mr. Frost.  Emma D’Arcy plays Astrid, a young woman whose real-life experiences with ghosts brings her into the path of Gus and Elton.  I didn’t feel the show’s stories gave Astrid as much depth as Gus and Elton, but Ms. D’Arcy was very endearing and charismatic in the role.  These three actors together made a great group.  They made a solid core trio for the show.  Each was interesting in their own way, and I also liked how they felt more like normal every-day people than the main characters in TV shows often do.

Simon Pegg has a small role in the show as David, the head of Smyle.  Mr. Pegg is very funny as always, and I liked the way the show slowly broadened David’s role in the stories as the season progressed.  Then there’s the great Malcolm McDowell, who played Richard, Gus’ codger-like father-in-law.  Mr. McDowell was phenomenal!!  He was my favorite character on the show!  Mr. McDowell was absolutely perfect as this gruff old fellow who has a good heart buried deep down beneath.  I loved this character.  He’s a big reason to watch this show.

I also enjoyed Susie Wokoma as Helen, Elton John’s anxious … [continued]

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News Around the Net — UPDATED with Bond 25 Title

UPDATE: The Title of Bond 25 has been revealed:

It’s an OK title.  A bit generic, but also sort of classic Bond sounding.  I just hope this movie is better than SPECTRE, which I found to be heartbreakingly disappointing.

Recently I shared the exciting news that Brandon Routh would be reprising his role as Superman from the underrated Superman Returns in the upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover that will be running through the DC “Arrowverse” TV shows in the fall.  Now there’s even more exciting news: Kevin Conway, who voiced Bruce Wayne/Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and who is, for me, the definitive actor to play Batman, will finally be playing the character in live action!  Mr. Conway will ALSO be appearing in this “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, apparently playing the elderly Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond!  I am so excited for this!!  I have never before watched any of these “Arrowverse” shows, but it sure looks like I’ll be needing to tune in for this one…

The Matrix is heading back to theaters 8/30-9/5 in celebration of its 20th anniversary!  Cool!  Speaking of The Matrix: Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are all apparently involved in making a new fourth Matrix film??  Wow, I did not expect that!!

This is interesting: apparently Stephen King himself has written a new “coda” for the ending of The Stand miniseries adaptation!  I am very curious to see what Mr. King has added to the end of his famous story.  (I’m actually in the middle of reading the novel for the first time, right now!)

Speaking of Stephen King, this is a great look back at The Green Mile, Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s serialized novel.  I love The Green Mile and think it’s a hugely underrated film.

This trailer for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix film The Irishman looks spectacular:

Oh, man, that looks like classic Scorsese.  Great cast.  Intriguing story.  I’m excited.

I didn’t know anything about Eddie Murphy’s new film Dolemite is My Name before watching this trailer, but now I can’t wait to see this:

That looks great!  It’s fantastic to see Eddie Murphy back on the big screen in an interesting-looking movie, and the ensemble cast of the film looks amazing.  (By the way, I highly recommend Eddie Murphy’s appearance on the newest batch of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Netflix show!)

This is great news: Atlanta has already been renewed for a fourth season, even though season three is still months away from release!  I loved season one and season two, and I can’t wait for more.

CBS and Paramount are merging, which … [continued]

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Catching Up on 2015: Josh Reviews Man Up

February 19th, 2016

Nancy (Lake Bell) is a single thirty-something who wants to find love but who, after a string of failed blind dates, is reluctant to continue putting herself out there.  But when a miscommunication results in Jack (Simon Pegg)’s mistaking her for the woman with whom he has been set up, Nancy decides to go with it and pretend to be his date.  The crazy evening that unfolds just might wind up changing both of their lives.

Man Up.cropped

I generally dislike romantic comedies.  But I love Simon Pegg, and Lake Bell’s magnificent In a World… (which Ms. Bell wrote, directed, starred in, and produced) made me a huge fan of hers forever.  So I was interested in this film which paired the two together.

Mr. Pegg and Ms. Bell are as terrific a pairing as I’d have imagined, and when Man Up works it works because of their great chemistry and comedic energy.  Watching these two bounce off of one another is a hoot.  They each have several very, very funny sequences in the film.

Simon Pegg plays more of a straight man to Ms. Bell’s wacky, neurotic Nancy, but the film still gives Mr. Pegg plenty of opportunities to cut loose and steal scenes.  Ms. Bell, meanwhile, is a riot.  She’s a great physical comedian and the film gives her a number of chances to shine.

I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that Ms. Bell, and American, played the entire movie in a British accent.  I guess British actors and actresses play entire movies in American accents all the time, and Ms. Bell certainly has a knack for putting on voices.  (Something showcased to great success in In a World…)  But I’m so used to Ms. Bell’s American voice that, in the opening scenes, I thought her character was putting on a fake British accent as a joke!  I kept waiting for her to drop the “fake” accent, but that never came.

Several familiar — and great — British actors pop up in supporting roles.  Rory Kinnear (familiar as Tanner from the recent James Bond films, and also unforgettable from his role as the British Prime Minister in the first episode of Black Mirror) gets to cut loose and got crazy.  Olivia Williams (Rushmore) and Ken Stott (Balin from The Hobbit trilogy) are also fun to see.

One of the reasons that I generally dislike romantic comedies is that I have little patience for the outlandish plot twists in which characters engage in lengthy misunderstandings/miscommunications (usually because one character is flat out lying to another for most of the movie) and otherwise behave in ways that most normal human beings would never do.  Man Up is very … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The World’s End

I feel like ever since the release of 2007’s Hot Fuzz, there have been rumors of a third cinematic collaboration between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, a third and final installment in their jokingly-named “Cornetto Trilogy.”  (Both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz featured gags about that British ice cream treat, leading Mr. Wright to humorously coin that title for their collaborations.)  I was a little luke-warm on Hot Fuzz (click here for my review), but I love Shaun of the dead, and I think that Spaced (the British TV show the three men first collaborated on) is one of the greatest things ever.  (I watched the series when it was released on DVD in the States several years ago, and I loved it immediately — click here for my review of the series.)

And so I was excited by the news of a new movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.  And I am pleased to report that The World’s End does not disappoint!

Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who decides to reunite his old friends from the sleepy British town where he grew up.  His goal is to retrace the path of an epic pub-crawl that they began but never finished years ago.  The once-close lads have grown distant over the years, but somehow Gary corrals his former mates into the scheme.  This time they will make it to the final pub: The World’s End.  However, only a few pubs into their journey, they begin to notice something different about the town they once knew.  Is it just that they have grown older, and you truly can’t go home again?  Or are the people in the town somehow not exactly what they seem…?

The World’s End is a very funny film, with wonderful characters and some big laugh moments.  Even more pleasingly, the film feels very much of a piece with Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.  All three of these films are in some respect a parody of a specific genre of movie (first the zombie movie then the buddy cop movie, now the end-of-the-world sci-fi movie), but all three films also succeed at becoming an exciting version of the film they are having fun with.  Shaun of the Dead becomes a pretty awesome zombie film; Hot Fuzz becomes a pretty awesome buddy-cop movie, and finally The World’s End becomes a great end-of-the-world sci-fi movie!

This is one of the most interesting trilogies I can think of, in that it is thematic rather than plot-driven. The three films are each stand-alone stories, with different characters and situations, but there is a similarity in tone … [continued]

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Have you seen the fake Arrested Development shows that have been popping up around Netflix?  (Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, anyone?)  Brilliant!!

I have long ago lost all faith in M. Night Shyamalan, but my goodness this trailer for his new sci-fi film, After Earth, looks terrific:

“Fear is the mind-killer.”  Heh heh.

Here’s a trailer for the new end-of-the-world comedy, This is the End, featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a heck of a lot of other very funny people (Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, and more), apparently all playing themselves:

In a similar end-of-the-world vein, here’s the first photo from Simon Pegg’s The World’s End, re-teaming him with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).

Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey are dueling Las Vegas magicians?  And the film also stars Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin?  OK, I’m in!  Here’s the trailer for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:

Well, I wrote about the first one-minute “announcement” teaser for the new Star Trek film, Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, I mean, Into Darkness), and I wrote about the nine-minute IMAX preview that was shown before The Hobbit. But I didn’t write about the first full official teaser trailer that was released a week or so ago:

That’s because there’s not that much more to say.  There’s not much in here that’s too terribly different than what we saw in the announcement teaser.  It’ll be interesting to see the full context of Pike’s ominous declaration that “there’s not an ounce of humility” in Kirk.  Pike was Kirk’s biggest champion in the first film, and while I agree that the Kirk we saw in that film DIDN’T have an ounce of humility in him — he thought he was the smartest/toughest guy in the room at the beginning of the film and all the way through — it’ll be interesting to see how/why Pike changes his view.  I hope this results in some growth and mellowing for this version of Kirk.  The Captain Kirk I remember was definitely an alpha male, but that didn’t often tip over into outright arrogance.

Boy, for five seasons of Lost I thought Damon Lindeloff was the MAN.  Then came that last season of Lost. And Prometheus. And so I think it’s good news that he will not be returning to script the Prometheus sequel (if that ever actually gets made).

I’ve got lots and lots of new movie reviews coming soon, my friends!  See you back here soon!… [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

I really enjoyed the Brad Bird-directed fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series (click here for my review), and that made me want to go back and watch the third installment.  I’d really enjoyed Mission Impossible III back when it was released, and it was great fun to re-watch.

I have some issues with the first Mission: Impossible film, but overall I think it’s pretty successful.  I think the first 40-45 minutes of Mission: Impossible II are pretty great, but then the whole thing collapses into a big awful mess.  The third and fourth M:I films have been far more successful than the first two, in my opinion — J. J. Abrams and Brad Bird have crafted films that are much closer to what I’d like these Mission: Impossible films to be.

Mission: Impossible III represents J. J. Abrams’ theatrical directorial debut, but you’d never know it by watching the film.  The movie looks amazing, and is directed with incredible confidence and grace by Mr. Abrams.  His camera is constantly active — not to the degree that you’re distracted by it, but in a way that throws the audience right into the middle of the visceral action.

And boy is this film action-packed.  I had forgotten just how many spectacular action set-pieces there are in the film.  There’s that helicopter chase through a field of wind-powered turbines.  There’s the complex break-in and kidnapping staged in the middle of the Vatican.  There’s the brutal helicopter and drone attack on the IMF convoy traveling across a bridge.  There’s the death-defying break-in to the skyscraper in Shanghai.  I could go on!  Each of those sequences could be the centerpiece of another action movie, they’re that good.  Each sequence is a delight of twists and suspense, marvelously well-orchestrated by Mr. Abrams and his team.

Although there’s plenty of super-spy craziness in the film, all of the action in Mission: Impossible III feels far more gritty and grounded than that in the first two films.  J.nJ. and his team make clear, right from the start, that they have set out to create a different type of M:I film.  I love the very scary and very intense scene that opens the film (in which we see Ethan Hunt captured and tied to a chair, while Philip Seymour Hoffman counts down ten seconds before he says he will execute Ethan’s wife in front of him).  It’s a terrifying moment, and also a very simple one — just three people and a gun in a darkened room.  It’s not at all the way I’d expect this big-budget, fantasy super-spy movie to open.

The other strength of Mission: Impossible III is that, for the first time … [continued]

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The Top 15 Movies of 2011 — Part One!

So last year I really struggled to come up with my Top 10 Movies list.  I had a hard time finding ten films that I felt were really GREAT.  What a difference a year makes!  This year there were so many films that I loved that I wanted to include on my list that, for the first time, I decided to expand my Top 10 list to a Top 15 List!  AND I cheated even more and made my number 15 a three-way-tie!

I thought 2011 was a really terrific year for movies, and there were a lot of great films that didn’t make it onto this list.  I really enjoyed Moneyball, 50/50, The Ides of March, Like Crazy, The Descendants, 30 Minutes or Less, Your Highness, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, The Rum Diary, The Muppets, Midnight in Paris, and Our Idiot Brother, but they didn’t make the cut in this strong year.  (Follow the links to read my reviews of those films.)  But, wow, those films could have been on my Top 10 list and that would have been a really strong Top 10 list, one that would have held up quite well in comparison to my previous years’ Top 10 lists!  That’s how good a year this was.

I saw a lot of films in 2011, and particularly in the last month I’ve crammed in a lot of movie-watching, trying to catch up on all the 2011 films I wanted to see.  There are a lot of films that I saw in the last few weeks that I didn’t think warranted inclusion on this list, but about which I’ll be writing reviews on this site in the coming weeks.  These include My Idiot Brother, The Help, Tree of Life, Horrible Bosses, and more.  So you can look for those reviews soon.

As I always do, before I dive into my lists I want to mention the films I wanted to see, but never got to: A Dangerous Method, Shame, The Debt, Drive, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, Larry Crowne, Beginners, The Trip. So if you loved one of those films and want to know why they’re not included on my list — well, now you know.  Hopefully I’ll get to track down some/all of those films in the near future.  (They’re all on my Netflix queue, so all I need is time!)

15.  Marvel’s Summer Movies: Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and X-Men: First ClassI do love me a good super-hero movie, and this summer mighty Marvel gave us three of ’em, each one a really terrific, fun … [continued]

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A Steven Spielberg Double-Feature Part I — The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg has only directed one film since Munich (click here for my review) in 2005, and that was the tragically disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008 (which I prefer to pretend never happened).  That’s a long dry spell for one of the masters of modern cinema.  Luckily for us all, Mr. Spielberg burst back onto cinema screens in a big way, late last month, with the release of not one, but TWO new films, released just three days apart from one another: The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. I saw them both during a terrifically fun late-night double-feature.  I’ll be back here soon with my thoughts on War Horse — for now, let’s dive into The Adventures of Tintin.

The film is, of course, based on the long-running French-language comic-book series written and illustrated by the Belgian artist Hergé.  It draws upon material from several of the Tintin books, including The Secret of the Unicorn (which was, at one point, the sub-title for this film — I’m not certain when that was dropped), The Crab with the Golden Claws, and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Tintin, Boy Reporter, purchases a model of a three-masted sailing ship, The Unicorn, at an outdoor market and immediately finds himself embroiled in a globe-trotting adventure involving various parties’ search for the wreck of the actual ship The Unicorn, which is rumored to contain an enormous treasure.

The film is magnificent, a viscerally entertaining romp all the way through.  When the film ended and the lights went up, I couldn’t believe it was over — the time had passed so quickly.  I’ve heard people comparing The Adventures of Tintin in tone to Raiders of the Lost Ark. While Tintin doesn’t equal that masterpiece, there certainly are similarities in terms of the film’s pulp-inspired adventurous spirit, and the rapid pace in which we (and the hero character) are thrown from one exciting action-sequence into the next.

Actually, what the Adventures of Tintin reminds me of, even more than Raiders, is the prologue to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, depicting one of young Indy (played by River Phoenix)’s adventures.  Not only is our protagonist a fairly young boy who is surprisingly tough and clever for his age, but there’s a delicate balance between intense action that features peril for our hero and an almost slapstick comedic sensibility.

That’s a tough balance to find, but with Steven Spielberg’s hand at the helm (not to mention producer Peter Jackson’s), it’s a balance that The Adventures of Tintin makes look effortless.  There are so many thrilling sequences that stick out in my mind, from the film.  There are the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (and the Dark Knight Rises Prologue!!)

I’ve really enjoyed all three Mission: Impossible films, though none of them quite reached perfection in my mind.  Probably my favorite part of all three films is the first 30 minutes of the first one, where we got to see an awesome team of super-spies engaged in some really fun, twisty covert operations.  Then, of course, they all get killed off and the film (and the sequels) turns into the Tom Cruise super-hero show.  J.J. Abrams’ third installment was a big step back in the right direction, but even in that film I felt the team was too-quickly sidelined.

What a delight it is to report, then, that I think the latest installment, Ghost Protocol, is the strongest film in the series so far!  I saw the film in huge, glorious IMAX, which is how I highly recommend that you see it as well.  People are all atwitter about 3-D these days, but I think that seeing a film in IMAX represents a far more immersive experience than the often-distracting 3-D effects.  (Although I did just see Martin Scorsese’s new film, Hugo, in wonderful 3-D — check back here on Wednesday for my full review).  Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible film takes full advantage of the huge canvas that IMAX has to offer.

I’ve long-worshipped Brad Bird, from his work on The Simpsons to his amazing animated films The Iron Giant (GO SEE IT right now, you won’t regret it), The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is Mr. Bird’s live-action directorial debut, and it represents a triumphant announcement of an incredible talent.

The action in this film is phenomenal.  Ghost Protocol is alive with action, from start-to-finish.  This film MOVES.  There are so many gleefully inventive set-pieces that I hardly know where to begin.  There’s the opening break-out from a Russian prison, with the film’s playful withholding of the identity of the man being rescued.  There’s the fiendishly clever way the IMF team infiltrates the Kremlin.  (I LOVE the screen employed by Ethan and Benji in the hallway.)  Then there’s the gangbusters sequence in which Ethan (Tom Cruise) is forced to scale the exterior of the tallest skyscraper in Dubai.  In the trailers, I actually thought that scene looked rather silly.  But in the film I found it to be a bravura sequence of phenomenal special effects and mounting tension.  Here is where seeing the film in IMAX really pays off.  There’s a terrific shot in which Ethan steps out of the window onto the side of the building.  Suddenly the camera follows him out, and we the viewers are right there vertiginously hanging off the building right along with him.  As the sequence escalates and things … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Paul!

It seems to me like Paul, the new film from Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, has been flying far under the radar.  That’s too bad, because the two men (who, along with Edward Wright, were responsible for Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) just might be the finest comedy duo working today.  They’re each great individually, but there’s something magical that happens when the two get together.  Paul doesn’t reach the comedic heights of Shaun of the Dead, but it’s pretty great nonetheless.

Pegg plays Graeme and Frost plays Clive, two geeky Brits who have traveled to the US to attend the San Diego Comic-Con and then take a driving tour of the locations of famous UFO sightings.  The last thing they expect is to actually encounter a real-live extra-terrestrial: the fast-talking, good-times-loving alien named Paul who is on the run from mysterious government forces.  Will the nerds be able to help Paul escape the men in black and meet up with the space-ship sent to take him home?

The movie hits the geek jokes a bit hard in the early-going (making fun of the costume-wearing crazies who attend Comic-Con is a pretty easy joke) but the film quickly settles into a nice rhythm… and then builds towards a frenetic, hilarious finish.  I like comedies that are also able to get audiences to invest in the adventure story being told (I hold up Ghostbusters as a prime example of this), and I was quite pleased by how engaged I was by the film in the third act, when the chase was really on.

Although I missed Edgar Wright, it’s hard to complain with someone as talented as Greg Mottola at the helm.  Mr. Mottola directed Superbad and Adventureland (a vastly underrated film that I just re-watched last week and loved as much as the first time I saw it).  The man is a keen comedy director, giving his cast room to play but also keeping the film moving at a fast clip.

One could play a fun game connecting the dots from Mr. Mottola’s past work to see how he assembled such a terrific ensemble to surround Frost and Pegg.  From Superbad, he brought in Seth Rogen.  Mr. Rogen voices the alien Paul, and it’s brilliant, inspired casting.  Once you hear Mr. Rogen’s voice emanating from the short, big-headed alien, you know what type of a film you’re in for.  Rogen really sinks his teeth into the role, and his line delivery is impeccable.

By the way, I should also note that the visual effects work on Paul himself are incredible.  This isn’t a movie that I expected to dazzle me with state-of-the-art visual effects, but … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Hot Fuzz (2007)

I consider Shaun of the Dead to be a near-flawless work of comedic genius.  I’m not a fan of Zombie movies, but that didn’t stop me from falling head-over-heels in love with the bizarre, comedic creation of Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright.  Shaun of the Dead lead me to seek out Pegg & Wright’s first collaboration: the 14-episode British TV series Spaced.  (Read my review here.)  Somehow, though, I had completely missed Pegg & Wright’s 2007 release: the feature film Hot Fuzz.  Oh, I knew of Hot Fuzz, and I had wanted to see it for some time.  I just hadn’t gotten around to it until now.

In Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg plays the tough, no-nonsense London cop Nicholas Angel.  He takes his job extraordinarily seriously, and he’s extraordinarily good at what he does.  So good, in fact, that the rest of the London police department hates him, and so they arrange to have him transferred out of London and to the sleepy little British town of Sanford.  Poor Angel doesn’t know quite what to do with himself in his bucolic, crime-free new home.

As was the case in Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, Pegg’s character is paired up with Nick Frost.  Mr. Frost plays Danny Butterman, the bumbling but well-meaning police officer with whom Angel is partnered in Sanford.  But while Pegg & Frost’s characters were, in their two prior collaborations, presented as life-long best-mates, here in Hot Fuzz the two take an immediate dislike to one another.  Well, Angel takes an immediate dislike to Butterman.  Butterman, though, idolizes Angel, who he looks up to as a “big city” tough-guy cop like he knows from the movies.  It’s a great pleasure to watch Pegg and Frost paired up yet again.  The two have a terrific chemistry, and they just dominate any scenes that they’re in together.  It’s fun to see them play characters who have, at first, a more antagonistic relationship towards one another.

Hot Fuzz is a very funny film.  Pegg and Frost are extraordinary natural comedians, and the film is filled with a number of other top-notch comedic actors.  There’s a great bit of business early on in the film in which we meet Angel’s supervisors in the London police department, played by Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, and Steve Coogan.  Jim Broadbent is a lot of fun as the jolly inspector Frank Butterman, Danny’s father and the head of the police department in Sanford.  But my favorite performance belongs to former James Bond Timothy Dalton, who is absolutely hilarious as the dashingly good-looking, possibly sinister Sanford super-market owner.  What perfect casting, and Dalton absolutely knocks the role right out … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews Spaced (The Complete Series)

A little over a year ago, I wrote that I was excited to have begun watching the newly-released (and long-anticipated) DVDs of Spaced: The Complete Series.  Well, I can’t believe how long it took me to finally finish the set (despite there only being two seasons of seven episodes each, Steph and I decided to draw out our viewing to savor the enjoyment — we didn’t want the series to end!), but I’ve finally done so.

I am happy to report that the series is every bit as wonderful and weird as I’d been hearing for all these years!!

Spaced was a short-lived British TV show that had two seasons (or “series,” as they like to call them across the pond) of seven episodes each (with the first batch coming out in 1999 and the second in 2001).  It was written by and starred Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and now Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) and Jessica Hynes, and was directed by Edgar Wright.

Simon and Jessica played Tim and Daisy, two mismatched North Londoners who pretend to be married in order to qualify for renting an affordable flat that they both had their eye on.  The series follows the misadventures of Tim and Daisy and their small and bizarre group of friends: the military-loving Mike, the delightfully daft Twist, the depressed conceptual artist Brian, and Tim and Daisy’s droll, alcoholic landlady Marsha.

What’s so wonderful about the series is the way that it doesn’t idealize the lives of these sort-of-lost (mostly) young people.  This isn’t Friends, where everyone is perky and lives in extraordinarily large and beautiful apartments.  Tim and Daisy are both unendingly lazy and unambitious, and their flat is endearingly small and believably cluttered.

But the series isn’t depressing — rather, it is a ridiculous amount of fun.  Though each character is filled with quirks, they all quickly become surprisingly lovable, and it is great fun watching them go through their little day-to-day adventures.  Also, the series is practically built around an ever-increasing number of rapid-fire references to (and parodies of) a wide variety of movies, TV shows, and all sorts of other aspects of sci-fi, comic books, and lots more geeky stuff.  The closest thing I could compare all of this silliness to is the fantasy sequences found in Scrubs — though the fantasies here are much more elegantly done and more intricately woven into the narrative.  It is great fun spotting all of the little winks and nods included in each episode.  (There’s even an homage-o-meter included as a special feature on the DVDs.)  Some of the references are a little dated (there are … [continued]

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Death in the Shadow of New Life — Josh reviews J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek!

It’s been a long road.  After walking disgustedly out of the opening weekend screening of the catastrophically terrible Star Trek: Nemesis back in December, 2002, I knew that Trek was at a low point.  It seemed uncertain what, if any, future the franchise had after the release of that bomb and the subsequent cancellation of the last Trek TV show, Enterprise.  Then, about 3 years ago, word came that a new Trek film was in the works.  Gradually news began to leak out, some very exciting, some rather worrying, and I soaked up every tidbit with great anticipation, some nervousness, and extremely high hopes that one day Star Trek could be great again.  A few hours ago, I watched the result of J.J. Abrams and his team’s efforts: the simply-titled Star Trek.

Abrams and his brain-trust — consisting of Damon Lindeloff (one of the top minds behind Lost) and screen-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman — dared to do what no man has done before: to re-cast the iconic roles of the Original Series characters.  As everyone knows by now, instead of creating new characters and situations and moving the Star Trek universe forward beyond the adventures of Picard-Sisko-Janeway-etc., they decided to go back and tell an Original Series story, with new actors playing younger versions of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and all the other familiar characters.  This was an incredibly risky move.  While similiar “how it all began” prequels such as Batman Begins and Casino Royale worked well, audiences had already become accustomed to seeing lots of different actors take on the roles of Batman and James Bond.  But could someone other than William Shatner play Kirk?  Could someone other than Leonard Nimoy play Spock?

Although sadly this film fails in some powerfully annoying ways (more on that in a few moments), I am happy to report that, in this respect — that is, in regards to the viability of rebooting and recasting Star Trek — the film succeeds magnificently.  Bravo to the choice of talented actors selected to be the new command team of the Enterprise — there is not a weak link in the bunch.  None of the actors resorts to mimicry, and yet they all, somehow, truly manage to embody their characters!

Let’s start with Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk.  He’s got the swagger, he’s got the arrogance, and yet he’s able to also convey a tremendous likability.  You can see that this is a man that others will follow.  The film doesn’t shy away from the “lady-killer” aspects of Kirk’s persona, but Pine never crosses the line into camp or, on the other hand, into boorishness.  Rather, there’s terrific fun to had … [continued]